Totalitarian reason

Rod Dreher sees what is essentially the same connection between PZ Myers and reason-based totalitarianism that I drew between Jean Meslier, the French Jacobins, and the Marxist atheist horrors of the 20th century in TIA:

Back in the 1990s, during the Congressional fights over arts funding, Hunter says he was invited to a top-secret meeting in NYC, in which the heads of various arts groups and foundations, as well as an ACLU lawyer, gathered to strategize. They invited Hunter to speak to explain the conflict from a sociologist’s point of view. Hunter said he began by saying that in a pluralist liberal democracy like ours, how you say and do things is as important as what you say and do. His point was that given human nature and human passions, we have to be very careful to watch how we say and do things, because it’s very easy to spark unnecessary conflict. Preserving the political order that guarantees us individual freedom, including freedom of speech, requires a certain standard of behavior, especially when you share the public square with people who believe things radically different from what you believe.

Hunter said after he spoke, Sidney Blumenthal, then in the Clinton White House as an adviser, came to the podium to give his advice to the group. Hunter quotes him as saying, “You know how to deal with this? Seize power!”

To think that reason can be a replacement for religion is to make a serious category error. It’s akin to suggesting that what the Vikings really need this season is a good second baseman. As either GK Chesterton or CS Lewis has pointed out – I can’t remember which – the madman’s evil is all the more horrifying for its cold and cruel rational calculation. Scott Hatfield asked me last week what was the result of inputting bad information into an intelligent machine capable of pattern recognition; I told him that GIGO applied.

Reason is like the machine. The quality of the result depends entirely upon the quality of the input. Religion, on the other hand, is not a machine, it is more akin to information. One could reasonably liken it to either the input or the output, but not the machine itself.