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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

C.S. Lewis

Uno dei maggiori pensatori cristiani del XX sec., C. S. Lewis fu all’inizio uno studente e in seguito un docente molto apprezzato all’Università di Oxford per quasi 29 anni, prima di diventare professore di Letteratura Rinascimentale e Medievale presso l’Università di Cambridge fino alla fine della sua carriera.

Ateo per tutta la prima parte della sua vita, adottò il teismo nel 1929 e si convertì al cristianesimo nel 1931. Nonostante fosse un oratore nonché scrittore molto dotato – scrisse una gran quantità di opere di carattere narrativo, didattico e devozionale senza considerare la sua considerevole produzione accademica – Lewis non divenne mai famoso come commentatore...

C.S. Lewis

One of the greatest Christian thinkers of the twentieth century, C.S. Lewis was a respected scholar and teacher at Oxford University for 29 years and then a professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge University to the end of his career. An atheist throughout his early life, he adopted theism in 1929 and converted to Christianity in 1931. Although a talented debater and writer-Lewis wrote many fictional, didactic, and devotional works in addition to his sizable academic production-he is not known as a political commentator. He avoided partisan commitments; indeed, he turned down a title offered him by Winston Churchill, thinking his critics would use it to accuse him of being...

Civil Religion and Political Theology

What role should Christianity play in the life of the polis? This question has engaged Christian thinkers for two millennia and, judging from this volume, we are no closer to agreement now than we were at the time of the early Church fathers. The contributors to this recently reissued collection of essays, which is comprised of lectures delivered in the mid-1980s at Boston University’s Institute for Philosophy and Religion, all wish to affirm the relevance of Christian faith to public life, but they differ markedly in how they understand this relationship. The editor casts the discussion in terms of two main approaches: civil religion and political theology. The most interesting contributions, however, are those that question the adequacy of these alternatives and point the reader in a different direction....

The Theme is Freedom

M. Stanton Evans, former editor of The Indianapolis News and chairman of the American Conservative Union, is now director of the National Journalism Center, in Washington, D.C. His exposition here of the place of religion in American public life is a remarkable synthesis of history, sound philosophy and political judgment.

In the classic phrase of Fr. Francis Canavan, the great Fordham Jesuit, the present stage of Western culture can be described as “the fag end of the Enlightenment.” For three centuries, philosophers and politicians have tried to organize society as if God did not exist. They sought to govern man according to the Enlightenment premises of secularism, relativism and autonomous individualism. The result has been not an increase, but a contraction of freedom and an...

Learning from Victorian Virtues

R&L: Let’s begin by discussing your latest book, The Demoralization Of Society. In it you state that Victorian society stigmatized the recipients of government assistance. Tell us about that.

Himmelfarb: Well, it stigmatized them in several ways: first, it stigmatized them rhetorically. The recipient of relief was called a pauper, not a poor man. The Victorians made a great attempt to keep the distinction between pauper and poor. The word poor was synonymous with the working classes or the “independent laborer”; “pauper” was a term of stigmatization.

Another way was through the principle of “less eligibility”. This principle stipulated that the pauper should always be in a less eligible, that is to say a less desirable, condition than the...

The Accumulation of Moral Capital

By now most readers of this journal are familiar with arguments that the charitable impulse is not well-served by institutions of the modern welfare state. Indeed, many are persuaded that the modern state feeds itself from the fount of charitable feelings that have been created by the Judeo-Christian tradition. The state, by exploiting this ethos, has created a situation in which people feel more like suckers than Samaritans. In this article, I will argue that the economic significance of the Western religious traditions extends far beyond the creation of an ethic of sharing or neighborly charity.

The first example is the economics of cooperation. The theoretical problem is, why should people cooperate for mutual benefit in a situation that presents possibilities of greater personal gain from ignoring other...

Economic Crime and the Necessity of Morality

At present an alarming crime wave is engulfing Russia and is threatening to spiral out of control. Professor Mikhail Gelvanovsky of Moscow’s Orthodox Charity Center of Social Protection reflects a widespread fear when he points out, “In the past we had the Iron Curtain; now people need iron doors to protect themselves against the growing number of thieves.” Three to five thousand gangs now control some 40,000 businesses. Post-Soviet organized crime is rapidly commandeering an entire nation’s assets: factories, businesses, real estate, and exportable natural resources. Never before have criminal elements had such ready access to natural resources remotely approaching the wealth of a prostrate Russia. Investigative reporter Claire Sterling has noted, “There are fifty ways of saying ‘to steal’ in Russian,...

Is Welfare Compassionate?

Many of our current economic problems have their roots in the moral crisis of our day. In these times of moral turmoil many have mistakenly equivocated government sponsored welfare with the virtue of compassion. Compassion is an adjective frequently used to describe state supported social programs. The question needs to be raised: Is State welfare truly compassionate? Are we really serving the human needs of the people with state handouts?

The theory behind today’s welfare state is that people need material provision. Without denying the fundamental importance of material provision, we cannot forget other aspects of human life. In our minds we have reduced all giving to material giving. One result of this materialism is our belief that the more money we allocate for specific programs the more...

John Bright

Son of an English self-made textile manufacturer, John Bright entered his father's business after leaving school. Upon the death of his wife in 1841, Bright and his colleague Richard Cobden began the Anti-Corn Law campaign (1838-1846) which ultimately succeeded in lowering import tariffs, producing freer trade. He became a Member of Parliament in 1843 and accepted appointment to the Board of Trade in Gladstone's administration in 1868. In contrast to Cobden, who favored the Southern free-traders, Bright supported the Northern states during the Civil War because of the slavery issue. Wary of tyrannical government, Bright opposed the manufacture of...

The Politics of Envy

In this wide-ranging sequel to his The Politics of Plunder (Transaction, 1990), Cato Institute senior fellow Doug Bandow draws together essays, columns, and articles to illuminate statism’s rising threat to freedom and religion. A Christian libertarian, Bandow rightly insists that “liberty–the right to exercise choice, free from coercive state regulation–is a necessary precondition for virtue. And virtue is ultimately necessary for the survival of liberty.” Only choices freely made have moral or religious import. Markets work better if people are virtuous and treat each other fairly, and a virtuous population foils statist encroachments on freedom. Christians should eschew statism, even for promoting virtue: “The punishment of most sins should be left to God.”

While many...

On Catholic Communitarianism

These twelve essays that compriseCatholicism and Liberalism were originally read for study sessions at Georgetown University in 1989 and 1990 under the auspices of the Woodstock Theological Center and Georgetown’s Department of Government. The distinguished collaborators in this project convened to explore ways to improve relations between the historically antipathetical forces of liberalism and Catholicism. At the threshold of the 1990s both traditions looked vital and promising.

Emboldened by the West’s triumph over the Soviet Empire, Francis Fukuyama celebrated “Western liberal democracy as the final form of government.” Catholicism’s heightened prestige rested on its central role in the defeat of communism. Its quarter-century of Ostpolitik culminated in Mikhail...

Michigan Welfare Reform has Long Since Begun

R&L: Many conservative leaders, including yourself, have referred to the “paradigm shift” that is occurring in the nation’s approach to welfare. What does that term mean to you?

Engler: “Paradigm shift” is a much better word than “reform” to describe the dramatic changes we see taking place in this nation’s thinking about welfare. No one defends the current welfare state anymore, which discourages mothers from marrying, encourages fathers to abandon their children, and puts no value on work and thrift.

The current broken system is the legacy of the so-called Great Society, which was in many ways a great mistake. After three decades’ experience with this social disaster, people are coming to realize that we cannot just...

Morality as Cooperation

Living a “moral” life is often contrasted with living a “prosperous” life. Major philosophers, ancient and modern, have tended to praise the virtuous life of personal sacrifice for the public good, while discounting the moral worth of the individual’s pursuit of individual happiness. When an individual’s pursuit of his own interests generates socially desirable outcomes it is understood as a mere accident, and when attempts by political leaders to achieve a defined social virtue result in degradation (economic and moral) of the people, it is explained as an accident of history or the corruption of an ideal by unscrupulous individuals.

If in the aftermath of a natural disaster that knocks out electricity, the local hardware dealer increases the price of battery-run electric generators,...

Single Mothers Deserve Better

In a peculiar ideological twist, some opponents of abortion are opposing cuts in aid to single mothers. Many prolifers including National Right to Life, fear that such reductions in benefits will lead to an increase in abortions. Even Henry Hyde has joined Patricia Shroeder in being skeptical of welfare reform.

If this argument persuades, it could weaken ties between the Republican party and the anti-abortion movement.

But is their concern legitimate? Should we continue to subsidize single motherhood for fear that poor mothers might otherwise terminate their pregnancies? The answer is no on both counts.

State subsidies to single mothers encourage promiscuity. The point of removing the subsidies is to restore the natural penalties of risking...

Free Market Environmentalism

In the decade or so preceding her death this past spring, the noted scientist and occasional politician, Dr. Dixy Lee Ray, earned a reputation as the nation's most insightful critic of modern environmentalism. In a letter written three years before her death, she summed up what she had learned, observing that environmentalism, “as we have come to know it in the waning years of the twentieth century,” is “anti-development, anti-progress, anti-technology, anti-business, anti-established institutions, and, above all, anti-capitalism.”

Many in the environmental movement would agree. A published report in the newsletter of the Earth First! environmentalist group, for example, says “industrialism [is] the main force behind the environmental crises.” One noted environmentalist, Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich, says...