Conflict with the Middle East has generated literature about the “clash of civilizations.” Ostensibly this would be between liberal western civilization and Islam in particular. The war on terror, plus mass emigration from the Middle East to Europe is adding urgency to the concern.
Does order with liberty require deep, cultural adherence to institutions and practices with historical roots not found in Islamic countries? Is order with liberty the product of a specific set of beliefs to which a rational person can and would subscribe?
Ordered liberty is fundamentally a matter of thought. Encouraging or discouraging thought comes from the nature of one’s intellectual tradition. What are reason, faith, and the struggle for western civilization? Aren’t they an attempt to lay out for our progeny the reasons western civilization is uniquely favorable to human dignity and freedom?
Rising or declining?
People of the West have forgotten or have come to despise the tradition of rational thought. Rational thought is foundational to ordered liberty and western civilization. This shortcoming is leaving Western Civilization and rational thought vulnerable to decline. And it is declining.
It also opens the possibility of conquest. Those who reject the reasonableness of human dignity and ordered liberty would like nothing more. Our misunderstanding of the relationship between reason and faith stands in the way of retention of western civilization. The misunderstanding generates hostility toward rational faith, adherence to false faiths, and a failure to confront religious irrationality.
The organization of western civilization centers fundamentally around rational inquiry into the good. The reason for this? Western religions within the Judeo-Christian tradition view God as divine reason. This vision has shaped western culture. Its definition is; that which we adorn, cultivate, protect, and worship.
If we want to understand what is central to a civilization’s culture, we must ask: What does it seek to uphold. What does it revere? What ‘cult’ is at its heart?” In the West, the answer is “reasoned inquiry in search of truth.”
All belief systems make truth claims. Jewish and Christian truth claims emphasize each person’s capacity to use practical reason. Each of us must discern right and wrong, good and evil. From this capacity, western civilization has developed limited government. It stands n stark contrast to the dictates of conformity.
Government must be respectful of the rational persons it governs. The problem is that today’s dominant belief systems, including those in the west, lack rational bases. They do not encourage their adherents to reason through to what is true and right. Dogma acceptance and submission are requirements. Conformity or morality, the choice faces us daily.