Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Wager of the American Experiment (or, Why We Can't Keep Thinking We're a Christian Nation)

Leave it to an Irishman born in China to offer the most succinct insight into the matter that I've ever encountered.

Video is embedded below. Start at 53:13 for context. Or click here for an external link to that precise point. Or just read the most important part:
There's two places on which America is a gigantic wager, or gamble. Put it like this: On the one hand, the republic requires ultimate beliefs. It requires them. Otherwise, there's no roots to the rights. On the other hand, the republic rejects any statement of what those ultimate beliefs are. There is no orthodoxy. There's no heresy.

How do you bring those two together? The republic requires them; the republic rejects anyone saying what they are. The only way you bring that together is, the republic wagers that in the free democratic debate the best beliefs—the most human, the most true, the most just, et cetera—win the argument!

And it's foreseeable in two ways that you might have trouble. One is if there are so many views that nobody cares about everything. You have such tolerance that it becomes indifference. We all just . . . slump. And clearly, parts of the country are towards that today.

The other view is, in the open pluralistic games, someone plays the game to get power who doesn't believe in pluralism and puts everyone else out of business. And if you've read the stuff of the extreme Islam-ism—not Islam, Islam-ism—they want to replace the Constitution with a caliphate. And they're in essence openly trying to exploit pluralism to get the power to put others out.

Another way of putting it is like this: Constitutionally, there's absolutely no limit to what anyone in America can believe, is there? First Amendment: Constitutionally, no limit. Sociologically and culturally, there is a limit. As I've just said, you could have beliefs arise that endanger the whole thing. How do you bring that tension together, once again? Democratic debate.

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