Appropos my last post ...
To go along with the passage I quoted from Berger, James Wolcott fires hard against cause celebre spectacle and hypocrisy in his latest blog post, railing against the usual suspects - Peggy Noonan, Tom Delay - quoting liberally (no pun intended)(...no, honest!) from Alexander Cockburn and Paul Craig Roberts, and including this passage from The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, by Sam Harris:
Faith drives a wedge between ethics and suffering. Where certain actions cause no suffering at all, religious dogmatists will maintain that they are evil and worthy of punishment (sodomy, marijuana use, homosexuality, the killing of blastocysts, etc). And yet where suffering and death are found in abundance their causes are often deemed to be good (withholding funds for family planning in the third world, prosecuting nonviolent drug offenders, preventing stem-cell research, etc). This inversion of priorities not only victimises innocent people and squanders scarce resources; it completely falsifies our ethics.
Harris' book was recently skewered in a review on reasononline, and perhaps justifiably: bad enough this comment is flatly anecdotal - which is okay when I do it - it's also, I think, flat wrong. This might be fixed by a little qualification: "Faith tends to drive a wedge between ethics and suffering..." or "The faith of some - maybe even most - people tends to drive a wedge ..." Something like that. I think this is why Wolcott includes this passage in his post; he means to be saying "The faith of scum like Tom DeLay and Rick Santorum never seems to succeed in anything but driving these wedges..."
Taken as such, the passage makes its point. Speech about morality sounds always empty to me when it is busy naming pariahs, creeps, freaks and dangerous characters; when it is busy circumscribing "family values" and declaiming outsiders and degenerates to that hallowed version.
To me, individual morality would consist in never- or seldom-flagging humor ... love, patience, curiosity and tenderness to all (or all possible). Social morality must probably consist in the old, forgotten liberal values: eradication of poverty, respect and protection for the least among us ... that kind of thing.
So, for now at least, I guess you can count me out. I'm crabby, not very patient, not fighting to alleviate the scourge of want and constant social care. These beliefs of mine, if true, only include me in the number of those who recognize something like the extent of their own depravity, and to a small degree, among those like, in this case, Wolcott, Roberts and Berger, and among those like the good people at Sojourner's (check out The Budget is a Moral Document) who want, I think, not only to say, "hey! we're moral too!!" but to kick over the tables in the temple and clearly call the money-changing moralists immoral.