Krauthammer’s legacy: tribalization foretold

"In this essay, 'The Tribalization of America,' he was early to diagnose and give name to the quickly metastasizing disease, at the time only beginning to rip our nation asunder." - Acton

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Aaron Blumer's picture

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From CK's essay...  It helps illustrate why political philosophy is not separate from or irrelevant to theology:

The French revolutionaries decided to start the world anew. They decreed not just a new state, but a new religion, a religion of pure reason to overthrow Christianity, and a new calendar to go with it. The calendar, too, would abolish everything that was before. Even the week had to be replaced – by a 10-day stretch (10 being a far more rational number than seven) called a “decade” and free of Sundays!

Steve Davis's picture

The French Revolution was not a single event but took place over a period of about 10 years before the rise of Napoleon and his Concordat with the Vatican in 1801. When he talks about "a religion of pure reason to overthrow Christianity," we need to keep in mind that it was Catholicism, the burdensome, intolerant, and oppressive State religion which was overthrown (temporarily) and its civil functions transferred to the State. For the most part, Protestants welcomed the Revolution (apart from the later excesses and Terror). They benefited from the Edict of Tolerance in 1787, two years before the Revolution. The short-lived 1795 Constitution separating the Church and State was a precursor for the separation that finally took place in 1905. Was the French Revolution good or bad? Im my opinion it was both, but necessary. Its Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen with freedom of conscience, to believe or nor believe, is the basis for much associated with human rights today. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I see the French Revolution's response to the Roman Church as arising more from enlightenment philosophy than from flaws in RC itself, though I don't dispute that those flaws made them a more attractive target than they would have been otherwise.

But the whole concept of authoritative handed-down truth was replaced with the authority of human reason. So, the radicals would have thrown off​​​​ whatever church happened to be dominant, including Protestantism, if it had taken hold there more fully by then. 

Steve Davis's picture

The "flaw" was the marriage of the altar and the throne under the Ancien Régime. The "flaw" was the oppression of the peasantry by the nobles and clergy. Many of the revolutionaries were anticlerical but not necessarily anitreligious. Yes, Enlightenment thought contributed to the Revolution. But much of the "authoritative handed-down truth" was not truth. Actually with the Edict of Nantes in 1598 which granted limited rights to Protestants (following the Wars of Religion, St. Bartholomew Day massacre (1572), etc. there was relative peaceful coexistence between Catholics and Protestants until the Revocation of the the Edict of Nantes in 1685 restored the position of the Catholic Church. One king, one faith, one law. (un roi, une foi, une loi). 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I don't disagree that the problems in the RC Church were many and serious. Also don't disagree that some of the revolutionaries were not as irreligious as others.

Can the case be made that rage in response to uniquely RCC abuses was the driving force behind the revolution? Sure.

My point is that the enlightenment philosophers (especially the French ones) rejected the entire concept of authoritative, handed-down truth.... From any version of Christianity. The degree to which the revolutionaries did likewise depends on how logically consistent and well informed they were of their own philosophical roots... Admittedly, it was a pretty chaotic time intellectually as well as all the other ways, so... not super consistent. That was a mercy.

Sounds like we are only disagreeing about which factors were primary and which were secondary. And this is just how it looks to me based on what I've read so far. I'm open to evidence to the contrary. 

Steve Davis's picture

I think we're in general agreement with different emphases. The FR has been a fascinating study for me that has been part of recent research I've done for the past few years. One day it might become a book. One day, maybe.

Some of the Enlightenment philosophers were theists/deists (Voltaire, Rousseau), others atheists (Diderot), who all opposed a coerced Sate religion not always religion itself. I found it interesting that even Voltaire, who died shortly before the Revolution, extolled the religious situation in England when he was exiled there. In his Philosophical Letters Voltaire contrasts religion in France with the religious tolerance he found in England during a period of exile there. He states, “If one religion only were allowed in England, the government would very possibly become arbitrary; if there were but two, the people would cut one another’s throats; but, as there is such a multitude, they all live happy, and in peace.”[1]

In France, during the time of Voltaire, tolerance became a positive virtue. "The great emancipating project for the freedom of conscience and the freedom of expression, inaugurated in the 16th century and generalized in the century of the Enlightenment, continues to be fought throughout the world. . . . The very conceptions of tolerance have evolved from one century to another up until now, but their final object remains the same: tolerance is that which leads to religious pluralism, whatever may be the nature of relations between Churches and the State."[2] The FR had many noble objectives. Obviously it got off track in the Terror and the guillotineers became the guillotined (i.e., Robespierre). [Interesting that the guillotine was considered a more humane way to execute people.] 

[1] Voltaire, “The Presbyterians,” in The Works of Voltaire, vol. XIX (Philosophical Letters),

1733, http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/666.

[2] Denis Lacorne, Les frontières de la tolérance (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 2016), 9. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It's a book I'd like to read, I think. I hope you get it written... and put on audio.

From this distance, it's easy to collapse the varieties of thought coming from the Enlightenment philosophers into a single monolith. I get that in reality there was more complexity to what was going on. Still, I can't help but think that though some of them looked somewhat favorably on religions in general (if kept from having too much power) and on religious freedom, the view of truth they were mostly embracing could only eventually see religions as, at best, somewhat useful human inventions...  to prop up public morality and so forth.

(And it looks to me like the ones more hostile to religion were being more internally consistent with their beliefs.)