Brooks is that pseudo-conservative who haunts talking head shows, and he’s the one who is just slightly less Leftist than the other people on the panel. That qualifies him as the token right winger, although it’s debatable whether he has ever actually seen one, himself. In this particular article, Brooks analyzes Atheists, who he mislabels as “secularists”. One can be a secularist without being an Atheist, of course. But apparently to Brooks, secularists are exactly Atheists but without that pejorative moniker.
Brooks has some insights which miss, and some come close yet fail to satisfy. For example, he thinks that it must be difficult, perhaps stressful, to come up with one’s own moral system:
” But I can’t avoid the conclusion that the secular writers are so eager to make the case for their creed, they are minimizing the struggle required to live by it. Consider the tasks a person would have to perform to live secularism well:Brooks has applied his own moral twist on Atheism. He doesn’t seem to realize that Atheists desperately want to create their own “sacred convictions”, which basically just match their habitual behaviors, desires, and make them comfortable in their self-perception of elitism. It’s no sweat, it’s a labor of love, this self-adornment with elitist moral authority and the perception of moral privilege which that entails. It’s not that they are “called upon” to do so; it’s that they crave doing it, escaping from external moral rules and controls, escaping external moral authority, and escaping external authority of all other types, too. (Death and Taxes can be reduced to just death; why pay taxes?) Doing so is what Atheism is all about. Brooks' concern is, well, absurd.
Secular individuals have to build their own moral philosophies. Religious people inherit creeds that have evolved over centuries. Autonomous secular people are called upon to settle on their own individual sacred convictions.”
Not stopping to think about Atheist morals for too long, Brooks charges into “community”:
” Secular individuals have to build their own communities. Religions come equipped with covenantal rituals that bind people together, sacred practices that are beyond individual choice. Secular people have to choose their own communities and come up with their own practices to make them meaningful.”Atheists have no problem finding like-thinking people. They love their echo-chambers on the web, their political affiliations, and even their own “churches”. There are humanist organizations, free-thinker organizations and Atheist groups in every town of any size. And finding one’s own community applies to everyone, doesn’t it? Why should Atheists be burdened more than anyone else? It’s absurd.
On he goes:
” Secular individuals have to build their own Sabbaths. Religious people are commanded to drop worldly concerns. Secular people have to create their own set times for when to pull back and reflect on spiritual matters.”No. Nonono. No, they don’t. They don’t even have to acknowledge any spiritual component to their existence at all. Is there another term for absurd? I seem to be using it a lot here.
Only in the following does he get close to half right:
” Secular people have to fashion their own moral motivation. It’s not enough to want to be a decent person. You have to be powerfully motivated to behave well. Religious people are motivated by their love for God and their fervent desire to please Him. Secularists have to come up with their own powerful drive that will compel sacrifice and service.”Atheists are motivated somewhat by what is legal, and no more than that. But there is no motivation even possible which can create empathy in those who are elite, moral, and superior in every way already. For such people, the concept of decency merely means that they should share their superiority with others in a fashion which others cannot refuse without being condemned as morally evil. So Atheists, who are tautologically moral under their own systems of personal morality, are already “decent”, in the same sense that they are “empathetic”: it follows because they are perfect, according to their own standards. But these aren’t the actual motivators for Atheist activism. That’s up next, though.
Skipping down in Brooks’ article, we see that Atheists need to gen up a little more passion for their belief set:
” It seems to me that if secularism is going to be a positive creed, it can’t just speak to the rational aspects of our nature. Secularism has to do for nonbelievers what religion does for believers — arouse the higher emotions, exalt the passions in pursuit of moral action…Well, Atheism is already an emotional, passionate pursuit of autonomy… and personal superiority. So they don’t really need an “enchanted secularism”. They already have their enchanted Leftist Utopianism, the three-class system for Class War, a defined set of Victimhood and Oppressor Classes, and university/political forums from which to fight the Class War, which is waged on a society which is inferior to themselves. And they are quite happy in savaging dissenters with high volume hatred, in the form of name-calling and personal assassination, followed up with legal definitions of hate crimes.
The only secularism that can really arouse moral motivation and impel action is an enchanted secularism, one that puts emotional relations first and autonomy second.”
Brooks is out to lunch. Or maybe he should GO out to lunch and meet some of the folks he’s trying to analyze. His viewpoint seems to come from being too cloistered, himself.
I didn’t read the legions of comments, but I bet he got some hot ones.