Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, Simon Blackburn (a philosopher) and Lawrence Krauss discuss what is moral and what science can tell us about human values.
In the birth of the American experiment there grew different roots. One root is the secular enlightment that was nurtured by Paine, Jefferson, and Franklin types and the other root is the puritan instinct that the Christian fundamentalists nurtured. One root is based on a secular Constitution influenced by the Enlightenment and the other is based on the Bible influenced by thousands of years of religious thought in pre-enlightenment society. These two roots have battled for the soil and the ability to grow to fruition in the same pot. They have been bumping clumsly into one another and making entwining compromises along the way.
Modern conservatism with its relatively recent success in politics has grown a taste for power and this power is easily corrupting the movement. It has become a form concerned with power rather than with the actual individual lives of its members. It is more interested in the spoils of power than the purity and principle of its own people.
History seems to indicate that religion is corrupted by state and government power and vice versa. Christianity seemed to be at its highest point in purity when it was persecuted and alienated. When the Emperor Constantine infused the church with money and power it is plain to see the corrupting impact it had on the church and its hierarchy. Once the church lost its vision to change and reach people on the inside through persuasion and integrity and switched its emphasis to political power and influence to change people on the outside through force and bullying it became a decadent form and a bastard child of its actual foundation.
Dante's Lamentation - "Ah, Constantine, how much evil you gave birth to, not in your conversion, but in that Donation that the first wealthy Pope, Sylvester, received from you!"
The New Testament Jesus seemed more concerned with judging those inside his flock than those outside. His target was not Pilate or Roman politicians but rather the spiritual leaders of his day. If Jesus of Nazareth entered the American scene it seems rather obvious that his targets would be greedy television preachers and sexually abusive priests than the likes of Obama or the Democratic party. His mission seemed more keen on changing peoples hearts than a political grab for power in Rome. To get really technical the historical Jesus, a bearded man who originated from Palestine, spoke Aramaic, and whose appearance would resemble very few people in the American South would ironically be a liability to the modern conservative politician on image alone. The irony itself is proof of its shallowness and decadence. It has lost its claim to universal truth when it has limited itself to only a specific time and a specific place in America.
Modern American conservatism has become so superficial and xenophobic that they would judge the historical Jesus as an outsider, "not like us", other, different, and perhaps a secret terrorist. The obvious truth is that the Palin rallies in Columbus Ohio in 2008 are very far away from Palestine 2,000 years ago. A modern American Chrisitan is altogether a different creature than the original faithful in ancient Palestine. This is a rather straight point but the fact that these people who claim to know and represent this Jesus cannot even think on this is a sign of the bankruptcy and intellectual dishonesty of this unexamined movement. It lacks "metacognition" the ability to think about itself in context and instead relies on the narrow limitations of its immediate surrouding. The decadence of American conservatism is that it has traded away its internal integrity for a play at power to force a standard of living on others that it fails to uphold in its own homes and congregations. It resembles not the historical Jesus or the New Testament version but a Jesus that is somehow an english speaking American that revels in power politics and money making schemes. Charlatans and political power lead the way to the frugal and passive Nazarene?
The hypocrisy is there to see but there is also another injustice. The murder of wisdom for the sake of the appearance of morality. So much wisdom is censored in the cause of this puritan instinct that aims to hide from human reality and break the mirrors that reflect ugly truths. To the christianist the mirrors are the enemy not the actual moral failings in the dark. Tupac Shakur was attacked for his raw music and language and he stated, "You censor me you censor the lessons I learned." He once told a person who confronted him about his harsh lyrics that when the community starts to clean up the ghetto he will start to clean up his language. Until then he was going to hold up the mirror and not suppress the injustice and ugliness that went on in the daily lives of people. Tupac despised Victorian polite society that had no problem doing the deed but dare not say it in public.
Hiding human frailty in the dark is corrupting because it censors lessons and wisdom and opens the door to more hypocrisy and ignorance in the day light. If American conservatism has the courage to expose itself in the light and risk political power for doing so it might be able to make its way back to the road of credibility. Until then the politics and the money reign supreme in the movement and the pursuit of bigger church memberships and the political will to power will override personal and private integrity as the priority.
A Victorian would be offended if one spoke of adultery openly but would be comfortable with performing the act in secret. Carrie Prejean is a good example of this. She speaks publicly about political and public morality but when lawyers showed her a tape of a woman masturbating on camera her response was that this was disgusting but then the lawyers let her know that the woman on the tape was her. I suppose it became less disgusting to Miss Prejean. This Neo-Victorianism is hyper compartmentalization. It cannot see beyond its bubbles of illusion and is so bent on hiding from its own humanity.
The Values? The main value is to deny the reality of the human being and body. It is the denial of human reality. They are hiding from the fragility and reality of humanity through the will to religious and political power. They hate the mirror of reality that exposes their compartmentalization and hypocrisy. They want to silence the artist, the scientist, and the intellectually honest who are facing the fragility and reality of what it means to be human.
There is a glorification of humanity with no reflection or contemplation of the real limits of humanity. There is a rush to judgment and a lack of curiosity.
There is a phobia of sex education but plenty of sex in the lives of their community and children. There is skepticism not of Religious Dogma but of Scientific Inquiry. There is morality but it is political not personal morality. There is a push for education as a means to job production not as a means to pursue the knowledge of reality and truth. There is a love of religion for making humans fallen angels who are the center of Gods attention but a hatred for Evolution which shows the reality of risen apes who are not the center of the Universe.
To be an intellectual and cosmopolitan is somehow anti-American but to celebrate ignorance and tribal identity is somehow patriotic. It is the corruption of Neo-Victorianism in American Culture and it is the enemy of those who love truth and the march of progress.