…an unholy alliance between a bunch of atheists and evangelical Christians was born.
A conference was recently held at the Gladstone Library: Speaking Truth to Social Justice. The conference brought together the atheists behind the so-called Hoax papers (Helen Pluckrose, Peter Boghossian, and James A. Lindsay) alongside Michael O’Fallon, the evangelical Christian founder and editor-in-chief of Sovereign Nations.
At stake, it seemed, was the complete takedown of liberalism and, with it, Western civilization.
The issue is the post-modernist tidal-wave aimed at taking down the grand narratives that have guided Western discourse and replacing these with social justice based on weaponized identity.
The hoax papers were bogus – but published – research papers on topics of gender studies, queer theory, critical race theory, intersectional feminism, fat studies and postcolonial theory. The purpose was to highlight the lack of academic integrity in such topics – as long as the subject was the “right” topics. Topics like “canine rape culture” and the like.
While this conference is identified as an “inaugural conference,” it is a topic that has been discussed across the lines of this same unholy alliance going on several years now. One must look only to Jordan Peterson for kicking off this discussion; if he wasn’t the first, he was certainly the one to bring it to broad public attention.
From here, conversations have been ongoing between and among Peterson, John Vervaeke, Paul VanderKlay, Bishop Barron, Bret Weinstein, Eric Weinstein, Jonathan Pageau, Peter Thiel, the leadership at Liberty University, Sam Harris, and dozens of others.
On the list you will find Christians and atheists, Jews and Gentiles. All are working through the meaning crisis that is the child of our times, with this social-justice-intersectional god being merely a result or unavoidable outcome of the extreme individualism derived from liberalism.
This most recent conference was held in a venue named after the ‘Grand Old Man’ of liberalism: William Ewart Gladstone. The focus was to come together to defend the ‘rules of engagement’ and cognitive liberty.
Principled-based rules of engagement create an environment in which dialogue can be fostered and cultivate a culture that values freedom of speech and dialectics that eschew ad hominem attacks and mischaracterization. … this is the way to preserve all that is good and effective about free liberal societies that tolerate and welcome differences of opinion.
That’s good enough as far as it goes, but it won’t be the end of the road. Some of the grand narrative must be taken down – and in this, the post-modernists aren’t completely wrong. Western intellectuals and political leaders – both Christian and secular – have brought this on themselves by upholding too many lies.
But it must go further. If the participants in this conversation want to succeed in cultivating “a culture that values freedom of speech and dialectics,” they will sooner or later have to deal with something much deeper and much more foundational than materialism and humanism. A few critical bridges must eventually be crossed.
First, we need not invent some new man-made ethic as the New Atheists desire. The Golden Rule – or versions thereof – have been known to men in all major civilizations almost from the beginning of recorded history. Second, this rule must be applied to all men and women – as all men and women are created in God’s image (a very Christian concept). Third, this reality leads one to Natural Law in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition.
All of these must underlie any Western society that wants to defend true freedom of speech and live in liberty. But even this is still not enough. It was in the birth of Western Liberalism that Western man killed God. And by killing God, reason and the individual were lost, and the first three bridges have been burned.
In other words, if the final objective of the conversation is to have conversation then the participants in such conferences will never achieve their objective.
It is this spirit that these evangelicals and atheists are fighting to restore. Faith or no faith is no longer the dividing line here. Bad faith is. And you don’t need to be religious to argue in bad faith.
This is only the first step. Even if one assumes arguing in good faith is the proper end or purpose of man, arguing in good faith is not sufficient to defend arguing in good faith. There are – and must be – first principles that are not subject to question. From C.S. Lewis:
All the practical principles behind the Innovator’s case for posterity, or society, or the species, are there from time immemorial in the Tao. But they are nowhere else. Unless you accept these without question as being to the world of action what axioms are to the world of theory, you can have no practical principles whatever.
There are principles that must be accepted as given – to be discovered, not invented. Continuing with Lewis:
The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of imagining a new primary colour, or, indeed, of creating a new sun and a new sky for it to move in.
It is these first principles that many atheist thinkers refuse to accept and many Christian leaders refuse to defend. And it is on these first principles – and nowhere else – where liberty can be built.