The American Founders did not romanticize democracy. They were liberal democrats, which means they were liberals first and democrats second. They thought that liberal principles such as the rights to life and liberty and the freedom of thought and speech were more fundamental than democratic principles such as elections and majority rule. In our time, …
The Iron Law of Oligarchy?
Americans tend to have a romantic view of democracy as government of the people, by the people, and for the people. They imagine that democracy is identical to freedom and self-government. They forget that democracy is primarily rule of the majority. They forget that the majority can be hoodwinked by the propaganda of demagogues, oligarchs, …
The Christianization of Liberalism
Ever since the debate between Patrick Devlin and John Stuart Mill in the nineteenth century, conservatives and liberals have been arguing over the proper role of law in society. Devlin thought that the function of law is to uphold the moral values of society. In contrast, Mill thought that using the law to enforce the …
Disenchantment and History
The cyclical view of history is not just a testament to human folly but to human limitations.
Is the GOP Fit for Liberal Democracy?
Many GOP ideologies are profoundly illiberal or staunchly undemocratic—or both.
Sigmund Freud and the Mystery of Psychoanalysis
Frederick Crews’s new book paints Freud as a swindling purveyor of pseudoscience.
The Silver Lining in Fake News
Don’t lament the loss of the “free media.” On the contrary, embrace the post-truth world as a wake-up call.
The Blight of Monotheism
Like other U.S. presidents before him, Donald Trump has vowed to defend Western civilization against the menace of Islam. Other presidents defined the values of the West as liberty, democracy, and the rule of law, but Trump has defined them as Christianity, culture, and tradition.
Conservatism and Calamity: From Plato to Bannon
“Conservatives yearn for the fixed, unchanging order that belongs to God or nature, but their actions often precipitate radical disruptions.”
Celebrating the Post-Truth World
“The media should affirm the post-truth world as an antidote to the childishness of the feel-good propaganda in which they have basked for so long.”
The Foxification of American Democracy, Part 2
“Fox News legitimizes violent insurrection—and invites calamity. How did it come to this?”
The Foxification of American Democracy, Part 1
Fox News is fact-free. Yet some of its critiques—only some—cannot be dismissed.
Will the Neoconservatives Lose Their Grip on the GOP?
It’s a long shot, but Donald Trump might cut the GOP’s ties to a toxic neoconservatism.
Foreign Affairs and the Culture of Shame
“. . . Being the strongest and wealthiest nation in the world is not an occasion for self-aggrandizement or self-congratulation. On the contrary, it means being the custodian of international peace and order”
Why John Hick’s Solution to the Problem of Evil Makes God Monstrous
Far from defending the goodness of God, Hick’s portrait of God is so repellent that human decency requires denouncing him without reservation.
Fear of the S Word and the Undoing of America
American democracy needs sweeping and, yes, socialistic reform, or the nation will stumble into empire.
The Christian concept of grace has pernicious effects for morality—and for world affairs.
Beheadings for Postmodernity
Postmodernism is inclined to embrace the Islamic State’s demand for submission and its reliance on terror. This is not a virtue!
Must Liberalism Be Suicidal?
The massacre at Charlie Hebdo highlights not only the menace of religion but also the shortcomings of liberalism.
Vanquishing evil cannot be the goal of any state or empire for the simple reason that evil, violence, and injustice are the foundation blocks of every state, not to mention empires.
Closet Atheism and Tyranny: The Case of Critias of Athens
Critias believed not in religion but only in its utility. His closet atheism made him more reprehensible than many tyrants who were honest theists.
“. . . Despite all its successes, liberalism suffers from debilitating flaws that incline it to self-destruction.”
Is Democracy a Threat to Liberty?
Liberalism and democracy are very different things. Failure to grasp that underlies America’s failed attempts to “export” “liberal democracy.”
When the Devil Tells the Truth
Did Putin say anything outrageous? Not in the least. What he said was almost platitudinous.
On Lewis, Mice, and Witches
In a desperate effort to whitewash the Christian burning of witches, C. S. Lewis argued that the triumph of reason over the Dark Ages is not necessarily a triumph of a superior morality over an inferior one.
Exposing Christian Propaganda
It is no exaggeration to say that the invention of monotheism has been the greatest misfortune of humanity. In the polytheistic world, every city had its gods, who were deemed to be its protectors against very real threats such as floods, famines, crop failure, volcanoes, military defeat, and other disasters. Even when a city was …
The Decay of American Democracy, Part 2
The Decay of American Democracy, Part 2 In the first part of this essay (FI, October/November 2012), I argued against the American inclination to think that democracy is the best form of governmen t and that all good things come with democracy. Instead, I maintained that like any other form of government, democracy needs at …
Freedom of Speech and Muslim Rage
Shadia Drury’s two-part column “The Decay of American Democracy,” Part I of which appeared in the October/November issue, will be concluded in a future issue – Eds. The display of Muslim rage in over twenty countries that was triggered by an American-made video insulting the prophet Muhammad has once again turned the conflict between religion …
The Decay of American Democracy, Part 1
It is ironic that America has embarked on the monumental project of teaching the world about democracy at a time when its own democracy is in a state of decay and degeneration. It seems to me that the most important lesson that America can teach the world in the twenty-first century regards the conditions that …
American Conceit: The Case of Iran
It is hard to imagine a greater misfortune for the world than being saddled with a superpower whose exaggerated perception of its righteousness and innocence fuels its belligerence. The only thing worse is having an enemy that is just as arrogant, self-righteous, and belligerent. There is nothing new about such smug, myopic self-righteousness of course. …
Is Freedom of Religion a Mistake?
Freedom of religion is a hard-core American value that is rarely questioned. It was supposed to be the ultimate solution to the grisly wars of religion that ravaged Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But religion is rarely satisfied with liberty. It invariably seeks dominance. It is akin to a wild beast that cannot …
The Problem of Evil, Part 2: When the Only Defense Is a Fierce Offense
If God is powerful enough to stop earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and tsunamis, then why doesn’t he? In the first part of this essay (FI, October/November 2011), I argued that C.S. Lewis, in his efforts to resolve this “problem of evil,” ends up defending a hideous God who purposely inflicts gruesome suffering and death on innocent …
The Problem of Evil: Part 1: Defending a Hideous God
The so-called problem of evil belongs to Christianity in a way that it does not belong to Judaism or Islam. In Judaism and Islam, God’s power is fundamental, but his goodness is questionable. When the God of the Old Testament behaves badly, the Israelites usually talk back. Every time God decides to slay the Israelites …
Have the Arab Revolutions Defeated the Orientalist Discourse?
Although exaggerated and flawed, the “Orientalist discourse” contains an undeniable kernel of truth. What is the Orientalist discourse? What are its flaws? And has it been dealt a death blow by the revolutions in the Arab world? The Orientalist discourse is a fancy term that was popularized by Edward Said in his celebrated book, Orientalism …
Is Liberalism the Heir of Christianity?
In an effort to defend religion against the well-aimed broadsides of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, some have argued that the “new atheists” are liberals who are disturbingly unaware of the debt that their values owe to Christianity. In particular, John Gray and Terry Eagleton maintain that the celebration of liberty and individuality has its …
Is Religion Like Sex?
Some defenders of religion have argued that religion is like sex—efforts to repress or eradicate it are futile, unrealistic, and inhuman because it’s part of human nature. Repressing religion is like repressing sex—it is not only impossible, it’s disastrous. Like sex, religion doesn’t go away; it comes back with a vengeance in the most outlandish …
From the very moment of its invention by Jesus of Nazareth, Christianity has been in need of reinvention. So unpalatable was the religion of Jesus that the overwhelming success of Christianity could not have been possible had it not been for the ingenuity of the Catholic Church. To triumph, the Church had to obscure the …
Are American Values Universal?
In an effort to distinguish his administration from the rhetoric of global tyranny characteristic of his predecessor’s, President Barack Obama has repeatedly claimed that America’s foreign policy is not bent on imposing American values and culture on the world. Instead, he says that the goal of American foreign policy is to defend universal values—values that …
Irving Kristol and the Radicalization of American Conservatism
The death of Irving Kristol on September 18, 2009, at the age of eighty-nine is a reminder of the long and tragic journey that American conservatism has taken. Kristol is the founder of American neoconservatism, which replaced the old-fashioned conservatism associated with the so-called Rockefeller Republicans. The latter was not ideological: its policies were not …
Against Grand Narratives, Part 2
In the first part of this essay (Free Inquiry June/July 2009), I argued that the three main ideologies involved in World War II—liberalism, communism, and fascism—were secular grand narratives modeled on the so-called great religions. I focused on the concept of a grand narrative and on liberalism and how its progressive conception of history as …