A couple of new thoughts from Mac Donald with Knippenberg responses:
President Bush says his belief that "God wants everybody to be free" informs his foreign policy. This declaration is disquieting, for it means that the presidents war-making decisions are not wholly amenable to worldly evidence. Even if the Iraq adventure were to appear to human minds as patently counterproductive, reversing course would violate a higher mandate.
That "God wants everyone to be free" clearly doesnt imply that it is always and everywhere my duty to bring freedom to everyone. There is room for prudence, informed by reason and evidence, to respond to this sort of demand. And of course, what GWB has repeatedly said is that freedom is Gods gift to humanity, which at most affords us a principle for evaluating regimes and for informing our action, rather than supplying an imperative that we must fulfill, posthaste, here and now.
And theres this:
Conservative atheists and agnostics vigorously support the two-parent family because the life chances of children raised by both their biological parents are demonstrably superior to children raised by single mothers. Moreover, when marriage disappears as a community norm, so do civilizing constraints on male behavior. It doesnt take Bible study to see this. Conservatives do not need God to prove the value of marriage; the sad state of the inner city is testament enough.
As a matter of public policy judgment, shes right, but people dont choose to get married (or not), or divorced (or not) in response to public policy judgments. Those judgments might lead us to create some incentives and disincentives to inform these choices, but lots of people take their vows seriously because of the setting in which they made them (and Im not thinking of city hall or the Elvis wedding chapel on the Strip in Vegas).
Mac Donald concludes (following Richard Rorty, that exemplary conservative): "Invoking God in the political realm is a conversation stopper, not an invitation to robust debate." In some circumstances, I agree, but so is denying the relevance of faith (and religious duty) in some circumstances. Religious folk should be humble, and they should offer reasons as well as religious witness. Secular rationalists, too, should be humble, though whether and how theyre open to being humbled remains to be seen.