Of course, there has always been a tension between virtue and liberty. But at some point, America ceased emphasizing community values and began valuing extreme individualism. More and more, Americans — including many conservatives — now believe that individuals should do whatever they want so long as it isn't hurting anybody else.
But the cultural conservative says that there is a "tragedy of the commons" problem with this — that the "if it feels right, do it" mentality will eventually hurt society collectively.
And while social conservatives attempt to argue this point on purely secular grounds, the truth is that it makes little sense without God. As Dr. Benjamin Wiker writes in his new book, Worshipping The State, "For liberalism to make sense, we would have to live in a world without ends — to put it in technical philosophical terms, in a non-teleological universe (telos means "goal" or "end in Greek), where, since there are no ends written into nature (including human nature) by God, we are free to create them ourselves."
Absent a higher purpose, laws are arbitrary. Never was this spelled out more clearly than in the Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe v. Wade: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."
In a moral relativist world, aborting an unborn child becomes "giving a mother the right to pursue happiness." Making divorce easy becomes "unburdening individuals to pursue happiness."
Almost every hot-button issue we wrestle with can fundamentally be traced to the struggle between what traditional conservatives deem to be virtue (based on tradition and Judeo-Christian teaching) and the desire to satisfy the individual's desire for extreme freedom.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Society and Virtue
Matt Lewis continues to reflect on some of the broader conceptual stakes of the "culture war":
Posted by Fred Bauer at 9:49 PM