The costs to society when sex is cheap (especially for men) – Mark Regnerus

5 May

From Slate Magazine

Why young men have the upper hand in bed, even when they’re failing in life.



The 1776 Project

5 May

Can political liberalism and religious liberty (accommodation) coexist?

29 Apr

Can political liberalism and religious liberty (accommodation) coexist?

Similar argument made in Smith’s game-changing book Pagan and Christian in the City: “The Supreme Court might soon address this issue. Four Supreme Court justices (led by Justice Samuel Alito) began 2019 by suggesting their willingness to revisit a landmark decision with stark views on this question. In the 1990 case Employment Division v. Smith, a five-justice majority (led by Justice Antonin Scalia) made it virtually impossible to secure, under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, religious-based exemptions to laws that apply to everyone and do not overtly or covertly discriminate against religion (what lawyers call “neutral laws of general applicability”). The Smith decision presumes a deep tension between religious exercise and the common good. In Smith’s view, the democratic process must almost always resolve that tension. Courts, therefore, almost always deny religious accommodation requests. Justice Alito and his colleagues, however, said Smith “drastically cut back on the protection provided by the Free Exercise Clause,” and effectively invited requests to reverse it.

Revisiting Smith possesses significant cultural salience. Many of today’s progressives, conservatives, and libertarians share — knowingly or not — Smith’s critical shortcoming: a failure to explain why religion in particular and religious exercise in particular should shape the common good, even when they go against the grain of secular visions adopted in law. Revisiting Smith provides an opening to address this shortcoming. The Court should take it, as this oversight puts the American tradition of self-government at stake.

Smith and many elements of the modern American left and right possess this shortcoming because they evaluate the social worth of religious pluralism against some set of liberal values that, in their view, should supersede religious duties. For Smith, the superseding value is majoritarianism: Religious pluralism is good when democratic majorities decide it is worth their solicitude. For progressives, religious pluralism is good to the extent it supports what law professor Mark Movsesian calls “equality as sameness.” Any religious practice, institution, or tradition that understands equality differently is publicly unacceptable. For some conservatives and libertarians, religious pluralism is good simply because self-expression is good. On this view, religious liberty deserves protection simply because self-expression deserves protection — nothing particular to religion here does any work. Finally, for other conservatives who dispute that the common good is served by diverse religious expression, religious liberty is part of the common good only to the extent it establishes a particular religion’s orthodoxy.

It is not surprising that what Stanford’s Michael McConnell called “the most thoroughly liberal political community in the history of the world” would strive to define even religion around liberal ideals — but it is problematic. Liberal democracy, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed, is “particularly liable to commit itself blindly and extravagantly to general ideas.” This is partly because liberalism is, as Samuel Huntington put it in Conservatism as an Ideology, an “ideational” ideology. It “approach[es] existing institutions with an ‘ought demand’ that the institutions be reshaped to embody the values of the ideology.” This “ought demand” is present in social-contract theory, and it poses a particular problem for religious liberty. More often than not, religious exercise is manifested in rituals and institutions that are prior to — and claim to outlast — political liberalism. Reshaping religious exercise around liberal values can therefore dilute religion.

The consequences of dilution are not limited to religion. As our founders recognized, diluting religious exercise poses a problem for political liberalism; self-government presupposes certain moral virtues that religion cultivates and liberalism does not. In a culture that does not appreciate a distinct contribution from religious exercise, engagement with religion, both personally and in public life will erode — along with the corresponding cultivation of religious exercise’s personal and public goods.”

Read the rest from National Affairs (and definitely read Smith’s book Pagan and the Christian in the City).  Smith argues that there has been and always will be a vying for supremacy between the transcendent religion of Christianity and the immanent religion of modern paganism.  Compromises in the name of political liberalism are at best short-lived and at worst preferential towards modern paganism.  Any worldview that finds meaning and purpose and epistemological grounding in this world rather than another will always marginalize the transcendent religionists to the outer periphery of society (it’s a logical necessity of sorts).

Let’s Not Miss Solomon’s Point These Days…

8 Apr

Engraving by Gustave Dore (1832-1883)

No photo description available.

Let’s not miss Solomon’s sober discovery these days:

Ecclesiastes 2:1 “I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.”

It is becoming clearer to me, thanks in part to this virus, how looking for satisfaction in a life focused totally on that which is “under the sun” is pointless. It’s time to focus on what is beyond the sun instead, for “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Best to store up for ourselves “treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:19-21) where moth and thief (and viruses) can not destroy or rob us of that “pearl of great price” (Matt. 13:46). Augustine got where Solomon was coming from when he wrote in his Confessions, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Time is fleeting in this mortal life; better to believe, realize and experience what the true “chief end of man” is now rather than later (or never). Beats chasing after the wind.


Christians tempted by the Democrats, don’t believe the myth that abortion restrictions don’t work. They do.

19 Feb

From Professor Kyle Blanchette (excerpt):

many pro-choice advocates, especially among the rank-and-file, have a more moderate view. They concede that abortion is (at least usually) morally wrong or bad, perhaps even seriously so — even if women are often not blameworthy for having them. And yet they still believe that abortion should be legal. I would venture to say that this is the most common pro-choice position.

Pro-lifers are often baffled by this combination of beliefs, but some moderate pro-choicers have an explanation at the ready: Abortion restrictions don’t work. Instead of lowering the rate of abortion, they simply replace safe abortions with roughly the same number of unsafe “back alley” abortions. If a law does not reduce the incidence of the problematic behavior that it targets, and it also has costs attached to it — such as creating unsafe conditions for women seeking the procedure, or imposing unfair burdens on women in a society that often treats them unjustly — then that law is unjustified, even if abortion is morally wrong or bad.

The logic of this argument is above reproach. But the factual assertion at its heart — that abortion restrictions don’t work — does not stand up to scrutiny.

Full article

Predestination and Church History (prior to Calvin)

11 Nov

From Professor Shawn Wright writing for Desiring God:

Luther’s and Calvin’s Catholic contemporaries argued against Reformed doctrine because it disagreed with the teaching of Rome. The Reformers argued, first, that their doctrines agreed with Scripture, but they also appealed to church history. Predestination and the other doctrines of grace were, according to them, not novel teachings, but teachings held as far back as the church fathers — especially Augustine.

Full article

JAMA Conversion Therapy Study (that isn’t)

8 Nov

From Mark Regnerus at Public Discourse:

In a “study” that arrived to much media fanfare last week in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers affiliated with Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital purported to offer convincing proof that “conversion therapy” predicts longstanding toxic outcomes among Americans who self-identify as transgender, including greater recent suicidality and more severe psychological distress in the past month. Its results, the authors state, “support the policy positions” of such medical professional organizations as the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics.

I am agnostic on the topic of “conversion,” though I suspect the subject is more diverse and complicated than political soundbites let on. But I’m not agnostic about the new JAMA Psychiatry study. There are at least four good reasons for being leery of the results appearing therein.

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