Subject: Religious Revival? No, Desecularization
Re: " Culturebox: Is Lieberman's God Thing a Problem?"
From: Wilfred M. McClay
Date: Thu Aug 17 3:23 p.m. PT
First, I was very gratified that Judith Shulevitz really seemed to understand my article in the Wilson Quarterly. I respectfully disagree with her assertion that I underestimate the Christian Right's dangers to religious (and irreligious) minorities in this country. I don't think so. That was the whole point of my introducing the extended discussion of India's religious wars. I did this to show why secularism, rightly understood, is indispensable to religious freedom in America. And notwithstanding the overheated claims to the contrary sometimes made about them, conservative religious groups in America such as the Christian Coalition do not come even within a mile of saying, or believing, anything remotely like the chillingly theocratic assertions of the Hindu nationalists. The point of the comparison, then, is not only to remind readers of the dangers of religious groups whose energies are not countered by other expressions of (secular) power. It's also to highlight how far we are from having such worries in contemporary America.
Nothing in history repeats itself. The current "return to religion," if that's what's going on, is not a simple reprise of the past. Instead, it brings along with it some of the admirable features of the secularism it's displacing. That's why the term "desecularization" (which sociologists like to use) is actually a very useful term for what's going on. The religion of the 21st century in the West has passed through secularism, has absorbed its insights, but also recognized its inadequacies. The return to religion is not going to mean a return to theocracy. I think almost everyone knows that. What I've tried to provide in my article is an explanation for why this is so.
But what I end up suggesting is that, just as liberalism played a necessary historical role in the past, in countering the domineering of the historic religious faiths, so we are now at a point in human history in which religion will play an indispensable role in helping us recover, and stand for, the meaning of human life, as over against a domineering secularism—a positive secularism which was genuinely liberatory in its day, but whose hyperextension may have the effect of reducing us to endlessly manipulable blobs of protoplasm.
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Strange that Moneybox would spend so much time analyzing these two ads, and not mention that actual point of their message: "We need a different kind of software."
There is nothing very subtle about this. IBM is saying that we need to dump Microsoft Windows, and turn to an alternative operating system. They even offer the replacement—Linux. How hard is this to see, and why does Moneybox miss it entirely?
I don't think IBM is intending to win anyone over just yet. They are just preparing the groundwork for a major campaign against Microsoft, apparently sensing that Microsoft may never be as vulnerable to attack as it is right now. Whether IBM has any real meat to go with the sizzle remains to be seen, but it definitely shows that IBM's marketing people are doing better than in the OS/2 days, when what many thought was a product superior to Windows got shafted by Microsoft's superior marketing skills.
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If we take seriously Robert Wright's thesis that the Internet has made protests so easy that they will be with us always, and add Joshua Foer's " Diary" about the anti-breast feeding protesters, it strikes me that the Internet may be the death of protest (especially when we stir in David Plotz's wonderful description of the animal-rights protest against other protesters).
Protests used to matter because they were difficult. The difficulty of marching against segregation or against the war in Vietnam implied a) that there were many others of similar views who couldn't make it to the demonstration and b) that the protesters were earnest and serious because they had gone to the trouble of protesting. Easy protests, by contrast, imply that you see before you all the people who feel the same way. The anti-breast feeders don't represent the people who feel that way; they are the people who feel that way. Similarly, instead of grudgingly respecting the intensity of the anti-breast-feeding concerns, we have to wonder how many would have showed up if the event had demanded intense feelings as a prerequisite for participation. We may be about to see endless protests, but we may never again see a protest that matters.
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Subject: Race Matters
Re: " Everyday Economics: The Crazy Incentives of the Drug War"
Date: Tue Aug 15 8:10 a.m. PT
Steven Landsburg writes:
[I]t's not blacks but Hispanics who have cause for complaint. Stopped Hispanics are only about a third as likely to be carrying drugs as stopped whites or stopped blacks. Why would the police stop a Hispanic who has a one-ninth percent chance of carrying drugs instead of a black or white who has a one-third percent chance of carrying drugs? Arguably, it's because they have something against Hispanics.
Hispanics aside, the evidence strongly favors the hypothesis that the police are looking to arrest and convict as many drug dealers as possible, regardless of race.
Translation: "There is strong evidence that goes against what I'm trying to argue. But if we ignore it, I'm right." Landburg is basically arguing that drug stops are race-neutral—if we simply ignore one of the races against whom the police discriminate. That's not very convincing.
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