Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Liberal Nation Versus Illiberal Nationalism in the Russo-Ukraine War

In the struggle of the Ukrainians to defeat the Russian invasion of their country, we can see the conflict between two kinds of patriotism: the patriotism of a liberal nation versus the patriotism of illiberal nationalism.  To see this, we need to understand that the idea of a nation is distinguishable from the ideology of nationalism, because a people can feel a patriotic attachment to their nation without the xenophobic feelings of nationalism.  Liberal democracy supports a patriotic sense of national identity but denies the illiberalism of xenophobic nationalism.  The nationalist critics of liberalism are wrong when they say that liberalism must dissolve any sense of national patriotism.

As I have indicated in a previous post, Ukraine is a far more liberal country than Russia, at least as measured by the Human Freedom Index, although Ukraine has far to go in moving towards the liberalism of countries like Estonia.  As Putin has clearly stated, the purpose of his invasion is to prevent Ukraine from moving towards the liberalism of the "Atlantic" world and to advance the illiberal vision of a Russian Eurasian Empire opposed to the liberalism of the West.

The courage of the Ukrainian people in risking their lives in defense of their liberal nation shows how liberalism can sustain national patriotism.  But this Ukrainian liberal patriotism shows none of the xenophobia of malignant nationalism.  This Ukrainian patriotism is not based on a national identity defined by race, religion, ethnicity, or language. One of many signs of that is that while Zelensky belongs to the small Jewish minority in Ukraine, he was elected president with over 70% of the vote.  Ukraine must be one of the few countries in the world--other than Israel--where that could happen.  And even as they fight this war against the Russian invaders, the Ukrainians have not shown any hatred of ethnic Russian, Russian-speaking, or Russian Orthodox citizens.

In thinking about how liberalism can be compatible with the human desire for national identity, one needs to raise a fundamental question: what does the existence of nations say about human beings?  My thinking about this question has been stimulated by Steven Grosby, in his book Nationalism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2005), although my answer differs slightly from his.

First, we must ask what we mean by "nation."  The Oxford English Dictionary defines "nation" as "a people or group of peoples," or "a large aggregate of communities united by factors such as common descent, language, culture, history, or occupation of the same territory, so as to form a distinct people."  Notice the ambiguity in that a nation shows the unity of "a people" and the multiplicity of a "group of peoples."  

Grosby conveys this ambiguity in saying that a nation exhibits "only a relative cultural uniformity" that is not absolute, because every nation will territorially encompass a number of different localities, regions, cultural traditions, languages, religions, and legal systems.  Sometimes that will lead to separatist movements like that of Quebec in Canada, Scotland in Great Britain, or Catalonia in Spain.  Consequently, every nation must try to manage the conflicts that arise from this diversity.

Grosby's brief definition of nation is "a territorial community of nativity."  More elaborately, he explains:

"A nation requires a relatively extensive, bounded territory or an image of such a territory, the existence of which usually involves the following: a self-designating name, a centre (with institutions), a history that both asserts and is expressive of a temporal continuity, and a relatively uniform culture that is often based on a common language, religion, and law.  Still, it is more faithful to the historical evidence to realize that each of these characteristics is rarely found to be absolute or complete; rather, they are processes in the development of interests, practices, and institutions, all of which are beset with ambiguities and tensions" (20).

The word nation is derived from the Latin word natus for "birth," which Grosby conveys by speaking of "nativity."  Membership in a nation arises from being born into it.  But then there are different ways to be born into a nation.  According to the "ethnic" criterion of birth, one joins a nation by being born to parents who are recognized as members of that nation.  According to the "civic" criterion of birth, one joins a nation by being born in the territory of that nation.  According to the "naturalization" criterion of birth, the laws of immigration and citizenship can set procedures by which immigrants become "naturalized" citizens--that is, they are treated as if they were natural-born citizens. 

What this shows is that membership in a nation is a social reality that human beings create and maintain through the language of collective recognition or acceptance: someone belongs to our nation when we agree to designate them as such.  This means that the standards for membership in a nation are always changing as we change the institutional facts of citizenship.  This is an example of what John Locke called "mixed modes" and what John Searle has called "institutional facts."  (I have written about this previously.)

Our standards for membership in our nation will depend upon what we believe to be the best standards for promoting the well-being of our nation, and there will be debate over this.  Liberals like Locke will argue for general laws of naturalization that make it easy for foreigners to immigrate to our nation.  (I have written about Locke's open borders immigration policy as cultural group selection.)  But illiberal nationalists like Trump, Le Pen, and Viktor Orban will argue that the well-being of the nation requires strict barriers to immigration.

This debate over open borders versus border walls depends ultimately on what we think the existence of nations says about human nature.  For example, if you agree with someone like Frank Salter that people need to live in nations to satisfy their natural desire for ethnic identity, then you will probably agree with him that every nation should practice ethnic nepotism that favors its ethnic group over others.  

But I have argued against this by claiming that while there is evidence for evolved instinctive tribalism or coalitional affiliation by which we distinguish between in-group and out-group, the cues for identifying who belongs to which group are set by social experience that is not instinctive but learned.  Consequently, we can decide that the well-being of our nation requires a broad sense of national identity that does not depend on ethnicity, race, religion, or other narrowly exclusive forms of identity.

According to the ideology of nationalism, the existence of nations shows us that human beings naturally desire to live in a national community that is uniform and fixed in its biological and cultural identity as defined by race, ethnicity, religion, or language, which defines those who belong to "us" against those who belong to "them"--or the "people" against the "enemies of the people."  There are the true Americans and those who are not.  There are the true French and those who are not.

This ideology of nationalism makes two mistakes.  First, no national community is absolutely uniform and fixed biologically or culturally.  Even the most seemingly homogeneous country will have some cultural diversity that will create potential conflicts that have to be managed.  So, for example, Putin is forced to recognize this problem in that while he often appeals to Russian nationalism based on a shared Russian ethnicity and religion, he also has to admit that Russia is a multiethnic and multireligious society, and so Russian national identity must somehow recognize that diversity.

A liberal nation will manage those multicultural conflicts by looking for compromises and promoting civility.  One way a liberal regime does that is by distinguishing state and society and saying that while the state will coercively enforce those criminal and civil laws necessary to secure individual liberty, but without enforcing a tight moral community based on some conception of the best way of life, people will be free in civil society to form such moral communities organized around families, churches, schools, neighborhoods, and other voluntary associations.  One example of this is how the Amish immigrated to North America so that they would be free to establish and maintain their tightly organized moral communities without being persecuted.  I have spoken about this in my responses to the communitarian critique of liberalism coming from people like Patrick Deneen and Rod Dreher.

The second mistake made by the ideology of nationalism is the assumption that human beings cannot extend their sense of affiliation beyond their own nation.  In fact, human beings engage in all kinds of activities, occupations, and organizations that bind them into global networks of cooperation and affiliative attachments.  The monotheistic religions, global charities, international commercial trade, scientific research, human rights organizations, and all of those millions of global networks of cooperation show how we extend our social concern beyond our nations to all of humanity.

We see that displayed now when people around the world wave the Ukrainian flag, sing the Ukrainian national anthem, and come to the aid of Ukraine in its war against Russia, because they see that the victory of this liberal nation in defending its liberal social order from conquest by an illiberal power will serve the interests of many nations by showing the resoluteness of liberal patriotism in defense of national liberty.

Friday, April 22, 2022

The Macron/Le Pen Debate: Le Pen's Continuing Silence About Counter-Revolutionary Catholicism



Here is the full debate between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen from two days ago.  It's long--almost three hours--followed by commentary.  The presidential election is coming up on Sunday.

As I have indicated in my two previous posts, I have been trying to understand the intellectual grounds of the French far right conservatives.  On the one hand, some of the French conservatives--particularly, those writing for the journal L'Incorrect--say that they are in the French intellectual tradition of Joseph de Maistre and Charles Maurras, who embraced an illiberal counter-revolutionary Catholic theocracy as the foundation of French national identity.  On the other hand, the French conservatives contradict this when they endorse the idea that the French state must always be secular, which suggests that they are actually very liberal conservatives, and thus not counter-revolutionaries at all.  I see no way to resolve this incoherence in their thinking.

I was reminded of that in watching the debate.  Le Pen stressed economic issues--particularly, the popular complaints about inflation and the other concerns about economic security and preserving France's welfare state.

She did speak about the importance of preserving French national identity against the threat of Islamic immigration, which is where we might see evidence of her far right illiberalism.  She reaffirmed her promise that she would ban Muslim women from wearing Muslim veils in public.  Macron criticized that proposal as unconstitutional and warned that it could provoke a "civil war."  Notably, writing in L'Incorrect, Alexander de Galzain saw this as most important moment in the debate.

Le Pen also affirmed her proposal for having a national referendum to change the French Constitution, including an amendment to prohibit the settlement of a "number of foreigners so large that it would change the composition and identity of the French people," which is a rewording of the far right "Great Replacement" theory.

But notice that she never suggests that the "identity of the French people" should be tied to French Catholic Christianity, and thus she never challenges the secularism of French public life.

Jacques de Guillebon, editor of L'Incorrect, would say that this shows how the French conservatives do not understand the "metaphysics of power"--the idea that political power depends on supernatural authority, which in France means restoring Catholic theocracy.  Thus, far from being too reactionary, the French far right is not reactionary enough.

Le Pen could show herself to be a true illiberal reactionary by embracing Putin and supporting his invasion of Ukraine, which he has justified as a reclaiming of the Russian Orthodox Christian civilization as the alternative to a decadent liberal West.  She has in fact been a supporter of Putin in the past.  But she has tried to reverse her position in recent weeks by declaring her support for Ukraine.  Her leaning towards Putin has become her biggest weakness in the election.  In the debate, Macron criticized her Russian connections, particularly in taking a loan for her party from a Russian bank linked to Putin's circle of oligarchs.  She appeared vulnerable at that moment.

That illustrates how the Russian invasion of Ukraine has become a huge liability for the European far right, which has long seen Putin as their ideological ally.   

Remarkably, in the last few days, in her last campaign swing before the voting, Le Pen has said the French people have a clear choice: "Macron or France?"  So defining the national identity of France is easy for Le Pen: she is France!

I should say, however, that the French liberal voters don't have a good choice in this election: Macron is only a little less authoritarian than Le Pen.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Macron, Le Pen, and Zemmour: Does the French Far Right Need Catholic Integralism?

 As expected, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will face each other in the presidential runoff April 24.  In a field of 12 candidates, Macron received 27.4% of the votes cast yesterday, and Le Pen received 24.3%.  Eric Zemmour, the other far right candidate, received only 7%.  He has immediately pledged his support for Le Pen in the runoff.

Zemmour's defeat was predicted by Jacques de Guillebon in his April 6th editorial for L'Incorrect.  He predicted an 8% vote for Zemmour.  Guillebon scorns Zemmour for his decision to run for president, which took far right votes away from Le Pen.  Even Marion Marechal betrayed Le Pen (Marechal's aunt) by campaigning for Zemmour.  Guillebon still hopes that Le Pen can win, but he gives off a tone of pessimism.

The reason for his pessimism is suggested by his editorial, which has the title De Profundis Droitibus (To the Depths of the Right).  He points out that in some public opinion surveys, 45% of the French identify themselves as right-wing.  But somehow the French right has failed to fully mobilize those voters to win power.  Why?

Guillebon says "this identity right has completely forgotten its people."  The right has offered the French people "to rid them of scum and Islamists, a healthy idea but oh so incomplete."  He laments that the French right is "far from the time of Thomism and organic Maurrasism."  "In truth, this right will not have been too reactionary, it will not have been reactionary enough."

He concludes with a remark that I quoted in my post yesterday: "In truth, if we knew anything about our history, we would know that one never seeks temporal power without having taken spiritual power: without Saint Remi, no Clovis. We demand a right of the soul."

As I said yesterday, Guillebon is intimating here that the French far right could be far more successful than it has been so far if it embraced the French Catholic Integralism of Maurras.  Neither Le Pen nor Zemmour has done this.

Both Le Pen and Zemmour have warned about the threat to French cultural identity coming from the increasing number of foreign people immigrating to France, with Muslim immigrants being the greatest threat.  Le Pen has proposed to ban Muslim women from wearing head scarves and to fine them if they do.  She has said there is "a choice of civilization," in which "the legitimate preponderance of French language and culture" should be protected and full "sovereignty reestablished in all domains."  She has also argued for changing the French Constitution to ban any policies that lead to "the installation on national territory of a number of foreigners so large that it would change the composition and identity of the French people."  But notice that she does not define the "identity of the French people" as rooted in Catholic Christianity, which is what the Catholic Integralists want.

French Catholic Integralism would require the repeal of "The Law of December 9, 1905, on the Separation of the Churches and the State."  This law was enacted during the Third Republic to establish state secularism and the freedom of religious exercise in civil society.  After repealing this law, Catholicism could be established as the state religion of France, as it was before the Revolution of 1789.

Is this what Guillebon wants the French far right to do?  If so, then it's striking, as I have said in my post yesterday, that none of the writers in Guillebon's magazine clearly endorses this.  As I suggested, the reason for this is probably that they know that there are not enough "counter-revolutionary Catholics" in France to support this.

We thus see that even those people on the French far right turn out to be liberal conservatives who reject the illiberal conservatism of Maistre and Maurras.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

The Incoherence of the French Far Right. The Pretense of Catholic Integralist Theocracy



                                                                      Marion Marechal

Today the French are voting in a presidential election.  If no candidate receives a majority of the votes today, there will be a runoff election on April 24 with the top two vote getters on the ballot.

Emmanuel Macron is running for his second term of five years.  He is a political centrist.  Five years ago, he won easily in a runoff against the far right Marine Le Pen.  Until recently, it was assumed that Macron in this election would repeat that easy victory over Le Pen.  

But in recent months, polls have suggested that the race is tightening and that Le Pen could win, which would be a shocking far right turn for France.  Elisabeth Zerofsky has written a good essay for the New York Times on what this could mean for the French far right.  Zerofsky highlights the role of Marion Marechal (Marine Le Pen's niece) in pushing the far right towards a French Catholic nationalism that roots French national identity in Catholicism, which can sound like a move towards French Catholic theocracy in the tradition of Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821) and Charles Maurras (1868-1952).  (I have put a picture of Marechal up at the top to show you one reason for her popular appeal.)

This is what I have called a "metaphysical conservatism," which says that human social order must be grounded in a divinely ordained political order.  But while Marechal and some others in the French far right talk in ways that suggest this, I think this is not the case because they are actually liberal conservatives who reject the illiberal conservatism of Catholic theocracy.  If I am right about this, then a victory for a far-right candidate in this election would not be a radical right turn for French politics.

I first began to think about the French far right four years ago when I was interviewed by Benjamin Demeslay, a journalist writing for the French right-wing magazine L'Incorrect.  I wrote a post about that.  The magazine is edited by Jacques de Guillebon, a Catholic conservative who is good friends with Marechal and who has brought her into a circle of far-right Catholic conservatives.

Here is Demeslay's first question for me:

"You defend a 'Darwinian conservatism' against 'metaphysical conservatism.'  These expressions are enough to surprise the French reader.  The French conservative tradition remains strongly impregnated by Catholicism, a certain counter-revolutionary and anti-liberal tropism (from Joseph de Maistre to Charles Maurras), even a mistrust of 'the Technique' (the essays of the Christian Jacques Ellul or the last Heidegger).  English conservatism, heir to Edmund Burke, is now attracting renewed interest, with the translation of the philosopher Roger Scruton.  There is nothing comparable to your conservatism in France.  How would you define it?"

I explained my "Darwinian conservatism" as a liberal conservatism that is a fusion of classical liberalism and traditionalist conservatism, which is opposed to the illiberal conservatism of people like Maistre and Maurras.  I also argued that Demeslay was mistaken in identifying the sort of French conservatism manifested in L'Incorrect with the "anti-liberal tropism" of Maistre and Maurras.  (In a previous post, I have elaborated on what I mean by distinguishing Darwinian conservatism and metaphysical conservatism.)

In reaction against the French Revolution, Maistre initiated a Counter-Enlightenment tradition of thought based on a theocratic authoritarianism--the idea that all government comes from some unquestioned coercive authority that is divinely infallible and that all such authority is derived from the Pope as God's representative on Earth.  He proposed a restoration of the Bourbon monarchy to the throne of France, ruling under the supreme authority of the Pope in both temporal and spiritual matters.  Atheists, Jews, and heretical Christians (such as the Protestants) should be suppressed.  He claimed that the rationalist rejection of Catholic Christianity and theocratic monarchy was responsible for the disorder that followed the French Revolution of 1789.

Carrying on the tradition of Maistre's thinking, Maurras became the organizer and primary philosopher for Action francaise, a French far-right Catholic royalist organization, advocating the restoration of the House of Bourbon and of Roman Catholicism as the state religion of France.  Oddly, Maurras was himself an agnostic, although it was claimed that he had a death-bed conversion and received the last rites at his death in 1952.  Even though he was an agnostic, he argued that Catholicism was necessary for the social order and national identity of France.  This purely utilitarian view of Catholicism as politically useful for legitimizing monarchic authority alienated some conservative Catholics.  In 1926, Pope Pius XI condemned Action francaise.  Later, some of Maurras's writings were put on the Catholic Church's list of prohibited books.

If you look at the writing in L'Incorrect over the past four years, you will see many references to Maistre and Maurras; and you might assume, therefore, that these French far-right conservative writers have embraced the Catholic theocratic authoritarianism of Maistre and Maurras.  But if you look carefully at this writing, you will see that these gestures toward Maistre and Maurras are vague, and there's no explicit affirmation of Catholic theocracy.

In recent weeks, Guillebon's editorials for L'Incorrect have expressed a frustration that the far-right candidates for the presidency--Le Pen and Eric Zemmour--and French conservatives generally do not understand the "metaphysics of power"--the idea that political power depends on supernatural authority (see the editorials for March 8 and April 6).  The French far right should find their foundation in France's "Christian virtues."  But since they lack a Maurras, they "obviously lack metaphysics."  Guillebon looks to "the depths of the right" to reveal "a right of the soul," but he cannot find it, because the right has no "organic Maurrasism."

"In truth," he observes, "if we knew anything about our history, we would know that one never seeks temporal power without having taken spiritual power: without Saint Remi, no Clovis."

Remi was the Bishop of Reims who, on December 25, 496, baptized Clovis I, King of the Franks, which initiated the Christianization of the Franks and the Frankish empire.  Beginning in 816, each French monarch was coronated in the Reims Cathedral and anointed with the Holy Spirit, so that the French kings ruled by divine right.  Is Guillebon intimating that the French far right needs to revive this tradition of Catholic royal theocracy?

Strangely, however, neither Guillebon nor his writers ever say this explicitly.  And most of what they say indicates that they endorse the liberal principle of separating church and state and reject any reestablishment of Catholicism as the state religion for France, which thereby rejects the theocratic authoritarianism of Maistre and Maurras.

For the past few days, I have been reading all of the articles in L'Incorrect that mention Maistre or Maurras.  I have found a few that come close to endorsing their ideas.  For example, Luc-Olivier d'Algange wrote an article (May 7, 2020) on the political thought of Juan Donoso Cortes (1809-1853), who was a Spanish Catholic counter-revolutionary whose thinking was shaped by his reading of Maistre.  D'Algange groups Donoso Cortes together with Maistre and Rene Guenon as "good masters" for French Catholic conservatives.

According to d'Algange, Donoso Cortes "refutes this first and fatal modern error, which consists in thinking that religion, politics, and philosophy are separate, autonomous domains, which would belong to their respective occupations as impervious to each other as academic specialities, with their jargons, their particular and unusual ends.  For Donoso Cortes, not only is religion not absent from politics or philosophy, but they are always religious."  Against the corrupting materialism of modernity, Donoso Cortes should teach us that "the only possible right is divine right."

But then d'Algange never draws from this the conclusion that Donoso Cortes drew--that the only good form of government is a divine right monarchy that enforces Catholicism as the state religion and persecutes other religions, including Protestant Christianity.

Moreover, L'Incorrect also publishes articles that denigrate appeals to divine right.  For example, consider the recent interview of Renauld Camus (April 7, 2022), who is famous for his "great replacement" conspiracy theory--the idea that globalist conspirators are pushing for waves of immigrants--particularly Muslims--into Europe so that in a few years native Europeans will be outnumbered by foreign immigrants, which will mean the disappearance of European civilization.  (Many of the Trumpist Republicans in the United States have been promoting this same idea.)

In the interview, Guillebon asked Camus: "Is the solution to return to God?"  He answered: "Personally, I do not think so, but I understand it.  Even historically and philosophically, this is very conceivable.  This is probably what Charles Maurras thought.  Yet, it seems to me that this is a somewhat trivial conception of religion.  I am no Maurrasian at all.  Conceiving God as a social necessity testifies to a certain spiritual triviality.  I find that quite undignified.  Certainly, however, it made things a lot easier."

When the question of whether Catholicism should be made the state religion of France is raised, this is rejected.  One can see that, for example, in Guillebon's interview of Pierre Manent and Remi Brague, which Guillebon calls a "dialogue of giants" (January 4 and 9, 2018).  They were discussing Manent's book The Situation of France, in which he argued that Muslims should be welcomed to live in France as long as they respect the religious identity of France as a Christian nation.

Here's the first question that Guillebon asked: "Michel Houellebecq recently told Spiegel that solving the problem of Islam in France would imply that Catholicism would become a state religion.  What do you think?"

Manent answered: "The idea seems to me to be fundamentally correct.  Not that Catholicism is recognized as the state religion, no one is seriously thinking about that, but that the role of the Catholic religion in the history of France, but also in the social life of the country, in the consciousness of the country, is recognized in public forms.  Now, for thirty years, we have agreed to endorse the big lie that there is no Muslim problem by postulating that there can be no problem posed by a religion in our country since we have found the solution to all problems of this kind: secularism. . . . We have become prisoners of a far too restrictive definition of the French regime by reducing it to secularism.  We must broaden our awareness of ourselves, and in this enlargement make an adequate place for Catholicism, which plays such a great role in the history and consciousness of France.  Of course, this cannot take an institutional or constitutional form, and this is where Houellebecq's proposal crosses the boundaries of political reasonableness, as he knows very well."

Manent goes on: "In order for Muslims to be welcomed decently and to be able to live happily in France, it is important that they know that they are not in a Muslim nation, that this nation is of Christian character, that the Jews play an eminent role, that religion does not command the State and that the State does not command religion.  We have a complex operation to carry out: to persuade Muslims that we want to welcome them in reasonable numbers, that they have their place in society, and that . . . this nation as a human whole is not, does not want to be and will not be a Muslim society but will remain and wants to remain a nation of Christian brand where the Jews play an eminent role, and where the state and religion know a regime of secularism."

Remi Brague then answers Guillebon's question: "I did not know this interview with Michel Houellebecq, in which it is clear that he overstepped his thought.  Speaking of Catholicism as a state religion, I think he was thinking above all, not of the state, but of civil society, of how a nation should understand itself and how it understood itself until relatively recently."

Notice how Manent seems to contradict himself--first rejecting secularism but then endorsing it.  And notice how both Manent and Brague are liberal conservatives in separating civil society (as a realm of voluntary religious belief) from the state (as a secular public realm separated from religion).  I have written about Brague's metaphysical conservatism--herehere, and here.  But in this interview, he contradicts himself in embracing liberal conservatism.

Notice also that while Manent identifies France as a Christian nation, many of the writers for I'Incorrect identify France as a Catholic nation, so that Jews and Protestants in France would have to be considered as a foreign element along with the Muslims and other religious believers.

Can the French far right plausibly identify France as a Catholic nation?  Of course, in the Ancien Regime before the French Revolution, Catholicism was the state religion, often enforced by the persecution of those who were not Catholics.  But that is no longer true.  Many of the writers for L'Incorrect would say that the tradition of Catholic belief still prevails in French civil society, even if the French state is officially secular.  Is that really true?

For answering this question, Guillebon's interview of Yann Raison du Cleuziou is pertinent (October 29, 2019).  Cleuziou has written a book about the history of "counter-revolutionary Catholics" in France explains the Manif Pour Tous (Protest for All) protests against legalized same-sex marriage in 2013.  Across France, many French people turned out for mass demonstrations against the law that legalized same sex-marriage.  In Paris, one demonstration drew over 100,000 protesters. This was encouraging for the French far right because it seemed to show that support for the far-right cultural agenda was much greater than most people had thought.

In defining what he means by "counter-revolutionary Catholics," Cleuziou quotes from Maistre: "The counter-revolution will not be a revolution in the opposite direction, but the opposite of the revolution."  Many conservative Catholics in France have followed Maistre's lead in adhering to a traditionalist Catholicism that is the opposite of the French Revolution of 1789 and everything that the Revolution represented.

But although there seemed to be a large number of such Catholics in the Manif Pour Tous protests, Cleuziou concedes that their number as a proportion of the French population is actually very small.  According to one public opinion survey in 2019, 41% of the French identify themselves as Catholics, and the representation for other religions is much smaller.  But then roughly equal to the Catholic population is the 40% of the French who identify as "no religion."  It seems that the French are not very religious at all.  Moreover, of those who identify as Catholics, only about 2% attend mass weekly.  The "counter-revolutionary Catholics" turn out to be a very small group after all.

That probably explains why the far-right candidates in today's presidential election are not promoting counter-revolutionary Catholicism, because it doesn't have a broad appeal in France today.

That probably also explains why the far-right Catholics at L'Incorrect do not generally embrace the Catholic theocratic monarchism of Maistre and Maurras.

To find that full endorsement of Catholic theocracy, one has to turn to the "integralists" in the United States--"integralism" being the term first adopted by Maurras.  Edmund Waldstein has nicely summarized Catholic integralism in three sentences:

"Catholic Integralism is a tradition of thought that, rejecting the liberal separation of politics from concern with the end of human life, holds that political rule must order man to his final goal.  Since, however, man has both a temporal and an eternal end, integralism holds that there are two powers that rule him: a temporal power and a spiritual power.  And since man's temporal end is subordinated to his eternal end, the temporal power must be subordinated to the spiritual power."

Some integralists have suggested that the "Sacramental Kingdom of St. Louis IX" in 13th century France is the model for the illiberal regime that they want to see established, although it's not clear as to how serious they are about this.  I have written briefly about this at the end of a previous post.  I am hoping to write more about this sometime soon.

Like the French far right conservatives, the American far right conservatives (like Patrick Deneen and and Rod Dreher) show the same intellectual incoherence: both endorsing an illiberal Catholic Christian theocracy and endorsing the liberal principle of religious liberty.

They could be coherent if they consistently pointed to the medieval Catholic theocracy of Louis IX as the best regime and then argued for a counter-revolutionary overthrow of liberalism to establish a regime like that of Louis IX.  King Louis of France (1226-1270 CE) was canonized in 1297 by the Catholic Church, and thus the ruling family of France, the Capetians, became joined to Heaven, thereby adding religious legitimacy to their dynastic rule.  Various parts of the saintly King Louis were placed as relics, in different monasteries throughout the territory of France, thus providing religious support for the territorial unity of the kingdom.  By recognizing national saints, an otherwise universalistic, transnational monotheistic religion sanctifies the territorial identity of a nation.

Why don't the far right Catholic integralists in France and the United States strive to restore such a sacramental national kingdom based on a state religion?  Is it because that would be too illiberal for them?

Sunday, April 03, 2022

Nature's God: Why Christians Should Accept the Theory of Evolution. An Article in "Skeptic"

 Skeptic magazine is one of my favorite journals, and its editor--Michael Shermer--is one of my favorite writers.  The most recent issue has an article by me: "Nature's God: Why Christians Should Accept the Theory of Evolution" (pages 41-50).

American Christian fundamentalists tend to reject Darwinian evolution for at least two reasons.  The first is their belief that the Bible is God's Revelation and that part of that Revelation is its clear teaching about the divine creation of the world that denies Darwinian evolution.  The second reason is their belief that Darwinian evolution contradicts the foundational principle of the American creed that human beings have been created equal and endowed with rights by their Creator, as affirmed in the Declaration of Independence.

In my article, I argue that both beliefs are mistaken, and that Christians should all accept the theory of evolution.  My general aim here is to promote peace between science and religion.  I am especially interested in persuading American evangelical Christians to see that evolutionary science does not necessarily deny their faith.  My motivation for this probably comes from the fact that as a young man I was an evangelical Baptist who denied the truth of evolution.  

My article incorporates some material from some of my blog posts--herehere, and here.

In this same issue of Skeptic, there is another article that takes a position similar to mine in looking to reconcile science and religion.  Nathan Lents (an atheist and evolutionary biologist) has an article ("Mytho-History: The 'Evolution' of Adam and Eve") on William Lane Craig's book In Quest of the Historical Adam.  Craig is one of the most influential philosophers and theologians in the evangelical tradition of Christianity.  

In this book, he argues that the Biblical story of Adam and Eve as the first human beings created by God can be understood as compatible with the truth of evolutionary science.  His argument has two steps.  First, he claims that the creation story of Genesis should be identified as "mytho-history."  It is a "myth" like other creation myths in the Ancient Near East in that it was not intended to be taken literally in all of its details, because it employs poetic imagery or allegory.  But it is still a true myth insofar as it asserts that Adam and Eve were true historical persons who were the ancestors of the entire human race.

His second step is to claim that there is scientific evidence to support this as historically true, because there is scientific evidence for the historical Adam as a real individual of the species Homo heidelbergensis that lived in central Africa about 750,000 years ago.

In this way, Craig promotes a peaceful relationship between science and religion, in a way similar to the position taken by the theistic evolutionists at Biologos (Francis Collins and his colleagues).

Craig concedes, however, that two parts of the Genesis creation story that are essential for evangelical Christians are theological articles of faith that are unfalsifiable and thus outside the realm of science.  The first is the belief that Adam and Eve rebelled against God, and God cursed them for this.  The second is the belief that this sin of Adam and Eve has been transmitted to all human beings by inheritance as "original sin."

As Lents indicates, Craig has provoked opposition from both of the evangelical camps debating the question of whether the historical reality of Adam can be reconciled with evolutionary science.  The traditionalist camp says that Adam and Eve really existed and that this cannot be compatible with evolutionary science.  The revisionist camp says that the story of Adam and Eve is purely allegorical and thus does not contradict the evolutionary science of human evolution.  Craig irritates the traditionalists by claiming that there is an evolutionary explanation for the historical reality of Adam and Eve.  And he irritates the revisionists by claiming that Adam and Eve are not purely allegorical.

I have written previously about the evolution of Adam and Eve and about Craig's argument that the scientific idea of the universe coming out of the Big Bang supports the cosmological argument for the existence of God.

I have also written about what Darwin thought about the Bible here and here.