Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post Reply
User avatar
thoreau
Posts: 31538
Joined: 06 May 2010, 12:56
Location: Back to the lab again

Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by thoreau »

Our country has something of a civic religion about (parts of) the Bill of Rights, and on net that's a good thing. Like any religion, it is poorly-understood by most of its adherents, their reasons for respecting it are often incoherent, often its dictates are honored only in the breach, and many people view it as increasingly quaint in the modern world. Still, this civic religion means that there are a lot of people who will, if pushed on it, walk back some of their condemnations of offensive speech. The common folk might get muddled in their application of free speech principles to private situations vs. public ones, but at least there's a tendency to recoil from certain violations.

I was thinking about this because over the holidays I was talking to a friend about some free speech matters involving things more extreme than a Seth Rogen movie. Out of respect for my friend, I won't detail the sorts of things he'd be willing to curtail. I'll just say that during the conversation I supplemented the usual free speech arguments with something about the dangers of weakening the civic religion around free speech. Part of his response was to point out all of the ways in which that religion was fraying and often abandoned, and all of the things that you could get people to agree ought to be censored.

One obvious response was that if the civic religion is already fraying and weak, that's all the more reason to be vigilant. But another response is that the measure of a civic religion is not what you can get people to say in a telephone poll about some shocking statement or video or whatever, or even what sorts of disturbing things you can get a smart, thoughtful friend to say over holiday dinner. Rather, the measure of a civic religion is what happens when you go from idle questions to a decision point and say "OK, an actual, live candidate is running on this platform, or an actual, live legislator has put a bill before the Assembly; are you willing to support the actual, existing Government having this new power?" And in those cases, the civic religion often seems to maintain its hold on an operating majority of the public. Not the same majority in every case, but that's OK. Any robustly liberal system will be one that can maintain certain fundamentals even in the face of shifting opinions and with a public composed of fallible and often hypocritical humans. On a systemic level, I don't care if you get a different 51% in favor of free speech when you switch the context from an Evangelical Christian to an angry Muslim to a loud-mouthed atheist to a Charles Manson fan to a Communist to a Koch-funded think-tanker to whoever, as long as you can get 51% or more each time. (Well, ideally I want a lot more than 51%, but you know what I mean.) I might be pissed off at the individuals who hypocritically change sides, but at a system-wide level I figure that the civic religion is (more or less) working.
"...if that monkey gets any smarter it's going to start shorting TSLA."
--JD
User avatar
D.A. Ridgely
Posts: 21242
Joined: 26 Apr 2010, 17:09
Location: The Other Side

Re: Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by D.A. Ridgely »

I don't know what the standards may be for robust democracy, but one of the reasons politicians don't repeal the Bill of Rights is that their constituency is far smaller than the voting, let alone voting eligible public, and I'd argue this is true for presidents as well. If there are any advantages in republican government, this has to be one of them because I am confident that if we made it easy enough for eligible voters to vote on individual statutes or constitutional amendments the result would soon be an evisceration of protected rights and liberties.

Also, one obvious cause of the decline in active, loyal and robust adherence to our civic religion is that the mythology surrounding its establishment has been eroded by the rise of identity politics, which is bad, and the increased awareness of how that establishment has worked primarily to retain political power in an upper class, which is sorta good. Sorta because the principles, themselves, are splendid candidates for universal application; it's just that, as an obvious historical matter of fact, most of them never have been. And if, for example, by virtue of being black or gay or a member of some minority religion, it seems to me likely that one will have at the very least mixed feelings about those principles.
User avatar
Eric the .5b
Posts: 15810
Joined: 26 Apr 2010, 16:29

Re: Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by Eric the .5b »

We can't even get 51% on "torture is bad", and there's no meaningful interest in doing anything about torturers.

Free speech has the advantage of the hassle of the courts, at least when the courts disagree. Who knows how long that will last.
"Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."
Cet animal est très méchant / Quand on l'attaque il se défend.
User avatar
Mo
Posts: 25919
Joined: 26 Apr 2010, 17:08

Re: Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by Mo »

I will note that the Catholic Church that sponsored the nativity scene in the Florida statehouse was upset about the fallen angel diorama being destroyed rather than the opposite. So there's still hope.
his voice is so soothing, but why do conspiracy nuts always sound like Batman and Robin solving one of Riddler's puzzles out loud? - fod

no one ever yells worldstar when a pet gets fucked up - dhex
User avatar
thoreau
Posts: 31538
Joined: 06 May 2010, 12:56
Location: Back to the lab again

Re: Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by thoreau »

I think DAR makes a goof point about the extent to which the civic religion involves reference for Founders who will (for not entirely bad reasons) be less subject to worship in our modern era.
Eric the .5b wrote:We can't even get 51% on "torture is bad", and there's no meaningful interest in doing anything about torturers.
That's because the founding texts of the civic religion on silent on due process and cruel....wait, never mind.

OK, your point is correct (and depressing).
"...if that monkey gets any smarter it's going to start shorting TSLA."
--JD
User avatar
Jennifer
Posts: 26871
Joined: 28 Apr 2010, 14:03

Re: Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by Jennifer »

thoreau wrote:I think DAR makes a goof point about the extent to which the civic religion involves reference for Founders who will (for not entirely bad reasons) be less subject to worship in our modern era.
Eric the .5b wrote:We can't even get 51% on "torture is bad", and there's no meaningful interest in doing anything about torturers.
That's because the founding texts of the civic religion on silent on due process and cruel....wait, never mind.

OK, your point is correct (and depressing).
Every religion, civic or otherwise, has worshipers who will promote the exact opposite of what the religion claims to be about, and not even notice any contradiction -- look at what Jesus actually said about poor and rich people, compared to how professional Christians (including politicians who wear their religion on their sleeve) actually live, for example.
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b
User avatar
Hugh Akston
Posts: 20373
Joined: 05 May 2010, 15:51
Location: Elev. 5280 ft

Re: Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by Hugh Akston »

Like any death cult, your civic religion has a very comfortable priest class whose job it is to offer empty praise to those who die defending the faith, and to encourage others to do the same, knowing full well that the clergy themselves will rarely if ever be in danger.
Today, America’s heart has been broken by the tragic and heroic death of one of our Capitol Police heroes: Officer William Evans. He is a martyr for our democracy.
"Is a Lulztopia the best we can hope for?!?" ~Taktix®
"Well if they're blaming libertarians again then things must be going back to normal." ~dbcooper
User avatar
dead_elvis
Posts: 2005
Joined: 01 May 2010, 15:26

Re: Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by dead_elvis »

I've always held that the *actual* martyrs/heros for democracy, or our civil rights, however you want to put it, are people who are victims of criminals who were let off because we insisted on enforcing those rights. Anyone who has been subsequently murdered by someone let off on a technicality should have a fucking statue on The Mall.
"Never forget: a war on undocumented immigrants by necessity is a war on all of our freedoms of association and movement."
User avatar
Number 6
Posts: 3543
Joined: 26 Apr 2010, 16:41

Re: Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by Number 6 »

I don't think that would be taken as you hope.
Middle America is bestest America
User avatar
thoreau
Posts: 31538
Joined: 06 May 2010, 12:56
Location: Back to the lab again

Re: Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by thoreau »

Number 6 wrote: 04 Apr 2021, 12:46 I don't think that would be taken as you hope.
This. Celebrating martyrs often turns into revenge. Hence the Good Friday tradition of pogroms.
"...if that monkey gets any smarter it's going to start shorting TSLA."
--JD
User avatar
Warren
Posts: 31110
Joined: 26 Apr 2010, 17:03
Location: Goat Rope MO
Contact:

Re: Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by Warren »

thoreau wrote: 04 Apr 2021, 13:02
Number 6 wrote: 04 Apr 2021, 12:46 I don't think that would be taken as you hope.
This. Celebrating martyrs often turns into revenge. Hence the Good Friday tradition of pogroms.
Kids today have no respect for tradition.
THIS SPACE FOR RENT
User avatar
dhex
Posts: 16693
Joined: 05 May 2010, 16:05
Location: 'murica

Re: Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by dhex »

Bean pies will not be served at the memorial.
"i ran over the cat and didnt stop just carried on with tears in my eyes joose driving my way to work." - God
User avatar
lunchstealer
Posts: 19621
Joined: 26 Apr 2010, 17:25
Location: The Local Fluff in the Local Bubble

Re: Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by lunchstealer »

Number 6 wrote: 04 Apr 2021, 12:46 I don't think that would be taken as you hope.
He forgot to include sarc tags.
"Dude she's the Purdue Pharma of the black pill." - JasonL

"This thread is like a dog park where everyone lets their preconceptions and biases run around and sniff each others butts." - Hugh Akston

"That's just tokenism with extra steps." - Jake
User avatar
dead_elvis
Posts: 2005
Joined: 01 May 2010, 15:26

Re: Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by dead_elvis »

lunchstealer wrote: 04 Apr 2021, 15:24
Number 6 wrote: 04 Apr 2021, 12:46 I don't think that would be taken as you hope.
He forgot to include sarc tags.
Certainly the statues are hyperbole, but c'mon guys, I would have thought it uncontroversial to say that if our culture bent towards venerating the people who bear the negative consequences of a society that actually respected peoples' rights, rather than venerating the people who shit all over those rights, we would get more of the former and less of the latter. Sure, our culture is not that right now, and it's hard to see how to get there from here, but a man can dream and culture can change.
"Never forget: a war on undocumented immigrants by necessity is a war on all of our freedoms of association and movement."
User avatar
Shem
Posts: 8967
Joined: 27 Apr 2010, 00:27

Re: Thoughts on our Civic Religion

Post by Shem »

dead_elvis wrote: 05 Apr 2021, 15:44
lunchstealer wrote: 04 Apr 2021, 15:24
Number 6 wrote: 04 Apr 2021, 12:46 I don't think that would be taken as you hope.
He forgot to include sarc tags.
Certainly the statues are hyperbole, but c'mon guys, I would have thought it uncontroversial to say that if our culture bent towards venerating the people who bear the negative consequences of a society that actually respected peoples' rights, rather than venerating the people who shit all over those rights, we would get more of the former and less of the latter. Sure, our culture is not that right now, and it's hard to see how to get there from here, but a man can dream and culture can change.
I'm going to need an example of a larger culture venerating martyrs that didn't lead to said martyrs being used as fodder for pogroms before I can believe what you're saying is anything other than "communism can work in an economy with scarcity" levels of naïvté.
"VOTE SHEMOCRACY! You will only have to do it once!" -Loyalty Officer Aresen
Post Reply