Religion, ideology, and philosophy are but the beginning of wisdom, not the end. There is no religion, ideology, or philosophy that renders inert the inherent responsibility to think and reason for yourself, and anyone who tells you there is is lying to you.
As conservatives we are inherently self-reliant. This self-reliance not only colors how we interact with the world, but it also informs how we think about the world around us. We don’t like to be told what to think. We don’t like to be told someone else’s idea of what the answer is. We want to see the information being presented, all the information being presented, and reach conclusions for ourselves. Sometimes those conclusions will be right, other times not so much. But they will be ours.
It is a rare occasion that we trust in things which are simply handed to us, because we know that There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, and thus there is always a catch. Our natural caution and prudence in these matters cause us to always be on the lookout for the other shoe to drop.
This, incidentally, is a big part of the reason why we are inherently distrustful of government intervention on any level. With government intervention comes bureaucracy, and with bureaucracy comes the Iron Law. It’s the Iron Law that’s the real kick in the pants.
(For those who are unaware, Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that any given bureaucracy is populated by two types of individuals: those who are dedicated to the task that the bureaucracy was intended to carry out, and those who are dedicated to perpetuating the bureaucracy. Group one will always be outnumbered by group two.)
Thus, this inherent self-reliance calls upon us to think for ourselves, to reason for ourselves. It is not enough to think in party-approved talking points that have been carefully vetted and edited by people who are much smarter than we are. For starters, I doubt that those people are actually smarter than the people that they are trying to guide and manipulate. Even if that wasn’t the case, these individuals obviously have an agenda, and that agenda may not be yours.
Do you really want to invest yourself so completely in an agenda that is not yours?
Our inherent self-reliance calls upon us to ask questions, to never take anything at face value. Recall the words of the great philosopher Gregory House: Everybody lies. And even if they’re not outright lying then whatever point of view they’re trying to put forth is heavily colored by their own inherent beliefs and ideology. We forget that at our peril.
Nobody does our thinking for us. We think for ourselves, and we reason for ourselves.
But there’s a catch. There is always a catch.
The moment that we decide that we’re going to think for ourselves, that we’re going to always question and never take anything entirely at face value, is also the moment that we decide that we alone are responsible for our thoughts, ideas, philosophy, ideology. And because everything we say or think or do has consequences, then this means that we have to take responsibility for those consequences.
Our personal sense of honor requires this of us.
Honor requires that if our point of view or our beliefs offend someone, then we apologize for offending them. There is no need to apologize for having the beliefs in question, but apologizing for the fact that someone has been offended is, if nothing else, useful social lubrication and a means to not only promote but perpetuate something approximating reasonable, peaceful relations between people with wildly diverging opinions.
Honor requires that if our actions, which are fueled by our beliefs, have an adverse effect on our neighbors then we must make amends. If that means we have to sacrifice and bleed, then that means we have to sacrifice and bleed.
Note, our Honor does not require us to roll over and expose our belly when we have been wronged. Far from it. Under those circumstances not only our Honor but also our self respect would require us to defend ourselves with any and all means at our disposal in order to right the wrong that has been done to us.
However, in defending ourselves we must also remember that our actions should be fueled by an inherent respect not only for the lives, property, and well being of the people who have dishonored us, but also for the lives, property, and well being of those who are close to them. In the end we have to live side by side with these people. Sometimes we will have to work side by side with them. We need to be able to say that when honor has been satisfied then the matter is closed, never to be opened again.
It is one thing to remember what has been done to you, and to learn from the experience. It is another entirely to hold a grudge. The one and only thing that holding on to anger does is pollute your soul.
Thinking for yourself is the ultimate freedom. The responsibility that goes along with that freedom is the price we pay for having it.
There are those amongst the evangelical community who insist that this freedom to think for yourself is dangerous and harmful. They believe that doing do can only cause you to deviate from the path that God has placed in front of you, and that the one and only way to keep your feet firmly on the path is to surrender to God’s will. They will argue that everything you need to know is contained between the covers of the Bible, and that any work or thought not derived from the contents of this holy tome constitutes blasphemy of the highest order, that it is nothing more or less than sin.
From their point of view they’re absolutely right. But consider the source for a moment. These individuals are perfectly happy to meander their way through the world around them wearing blinders, willfully ignoring or ruthlessly attacking that which does not fit into their narrow world view.
If this way of life, if this way of thinking is appealing to you, then Moderate Conservatism is not for you. In that case I suggest you find your enlightenment elsewhere, perhaps within the confines of your own church or community.