Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Population Growth Benefits the Environment

R&L: You have written extensively on the subject of population growth. Could you explain the thesis of your argument that population growth and density are beneficial for countries in the long run.

Simon: Population growth does not have a statistically negative effect upon economic growth. We know that from 30 years of careful quantitative scientific studies-just the opposite of what the public believes. Because human knowledge allows us to produce more finished products out of fewer raw materials, natural resources are becoming more available. The air and water in rich countries are becoming cleaner. Most importantly, human beings are living much longer than ever before.

R&L: Yet we hear the fear that if there are too many...

The Ecological Gospel

David Brower is, by wide agreement, the most influential environmentalist of the past 50 years. In the 1950s and 1960s he pioneered many of the tactics later used by environmentalists to stop the construction of dams, roads, shopping centers, and all manner of projects all over the United States. He was the executive director of the Sierra Club for seventeen years, and later founded another environmental organization, Friends of the Earth.

Brower was also a leading figure in a book by one of the most observant chroniclers of our time, John McPhee. In Encounters with the Archdruid, McPhee wrote in 1971 that “Brower, who talks to groups all over the country about conservation, refers to what he says as The Sermon.” McPhee found that, “to put it mildly, there is something evangelical about Brower. His approach...

On Coercive Environmental Education

In The Religion of Environmentalism, John K. Williams wrote “Extreme environmentalism ... is a decidedly dangerous religion. Its vision of the world and of humanity's place in it reeks of superstition. The pattern of behavior it prescribes is morally grotesque....”

Williams' sentiments are hardly unique. A growing number of people are disturbed by the methods and strategies used by the environmental special interest movement, particularly in the realm of environmental education. In a previous special edition of Religion & Liberty (Fall 1992), I wrote of how environmentalism is being taken to extremes--extremes in which man is viewed as intrinsically evil or incapable, having failed miserably at caring for the earth. As a result, nature worship and the elevation of “nature” above man are...

John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman, probablemente el hombre de iglesia de más relieve en la Inglaterra del siglo XIX, nacido en la ciudad de Londres proveniente de una madre hugonote y un padre de orientación religiosa bastante tolerante. Siendo miembro de la Iglesia de Inglaterra, sus ideas sobre la religión comenzaron a desviarse paulatinamente de aquellas de la Iglesia Evangélica de Inglaterra para convertirse en aquellas del ala más conservadora de la Iglesia Católica hasta que se convirtió definitivamente al Catolicismo Romano en 1845; poco después, fue ordenado sacerdote, y más tarde, fue elegido cardenal...

John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman, probabilmente l’uomo di chiesa di spicco dell’Inghilterra del XIX sec., nacque a Londra da una madre ugonotta e da un padre di orientamento religioso molto tollerante.

Ancora membro della Chiesa d’Inghilterra, le sue idee in fatto di religione cominciarono a deviare gradualmente da quelle della Chiesa Evangelica d’Inghilterra per abbracciare quelle dell’ala più conservatrice della Chiesa Cattolica finché non si convertì definitivamente al Cattolicesimo Romano nel 1845; subito dopo, venne ordinato prete, ed in seguito eletto cardinale da Papa Leone XIII nel 1879.

Quando era ancora un prete...

John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman, perhaps the most prominent churchman of nineteenth-century England, was born in the City of London to a Huguenot mother and a father of religiously broadminded sentiments. While a member of the Church of England, his views began to move gradually from low-church evangelical to high-church catholic until his conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1845; soon after, he was ordained a Catholic priest, and was made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879.

While an Anglican priest, he spent much of his time, both on and off the Oxford University campus, fighting a form of liberalism he called the “anti-dogmatic principle”:...

Candles behind the Wall

Since the collapse of the Soviet empire, legion has been the number of studies and theories seeking to explain how and why its end came about as it did. However, few are as convincing as that put forth by Barbara von der Heydt in her new book, Candles behind the Wall: Heroes of the Peaceful Revolution That Shattered Communism. Von der Heydt’s thesis can be summed up in a phrase: communism failed because it was unable to make people forget about God.

To explain why the Iron Curtain came crashing down, most commentators have sought to focus their gaze through the conventional lens of economics and politics. In doing so, however, they have overlooked the fact that the political and economic crises paralyzing Eastern European communism by the late 1980s were the direct consequence of a prior...

When Austrians Came to America

Economists of the Austrian school in recent years, writes Karen Vaughn, “present no less than a fundamental challenge” to how members of their field view their work and the world around them. “At the very least,” she says, “Austrian economics is a complete reinterpretation of the methods, substance, and limitations of contemporary economics. At most, it is a radical, perhaps even revolutionary restructuring of economics.”

So she writes in the introduction to her splendid book, Austrian Economics in America: The Migration of a Tradition, the latest in a spate of books that signify the resurgence of interest in Austrian economics.

The publication of this book couldn’t be more timely. With the unparalleled collapse of socialist regimes in Eastern Europe and the...

The Time has Come to Reevaluate Strategy for Change

R&L: How valuable are mediating institutions to community life?

Higgins: They play an extraordinarily valuable role. The family is probably the most important institution. Yet it cannot flourish without communal support. Just the other day I was talking with a cab driver who works 12-plus hour days, as does his wife, in order to keep their children in private school which they believe is essential for their children’s success. But, while the parents were working outside of the home, the children had fallen in with some very bad company which led to parental discipline. The government then stepped in and told the parents to refrain from disciplining their children or they would be taken away and placed in foster care. This couple had already lost one child to this...

The State that Justifies

Many thought that a clear lesson about the size and function of the state had been learned from twentieth-century history, particularly with the collapse of communism. Human well-being required a very limited state. The state itself had turned into man’s greatest enemy, so its purpose and centrality needed rethinking. Economic prosperity could be best achieved through the free operation of the market.

Most institutions of culture should be left in the hands of voluntary agencies. These organs of culture–museums, galleries, and theaters–should not be administered by state bureaucracies. Education and the press should not be state-run monopolies. Religion should be free and encouraged. The state’s jurisdiction should be limited to general purposes like the common defense, policing,...

Reflections on the Bell Curve

Publication of the controversial book The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray has opened a much-needed discussion about what we should do about the increasing stratification of our society.

Without trying to do violence to a thoughtful and detailed book by attempting a too-facile summary, I would outline the authors’ challenge as follows: It is clear that a “cognitive elite” and a permanent underclass exist at opposite ends of a bell curve of intelligence. It is equally clear that our economy is continuing a three or four decade trend to eliminate many (probably most) employment opportunities for those on the disadvantaged side, while three decades of social welfare programs have failed to help, and have probably worsened,...

This Delicate Fruit, Liberty

We are everywhere reminded that liberty is the “delicate fruit of a mature civilization,” as Lord Acton wrote. Thus we find that freedom, responsibility, and even manners, seem to wax and wane together. The Founders, schooled in ancient and modern history, intended to keep the state in its proper sphere, to prevent it from invading domains suited to the church, family, and individual.

But they also knew their institutional structure was not sufficient to sustain a free society. In their private correspondence and their public speeches, they frequently remind us that liberty cannot sustain itself absent a moral commitment to the ideal of liberty itself. Tragically, today that commitment is not as strong as it once was. The state has marched with a determination, while the defenders of liberty have lacked...

J. Howard Pew

Born in Pennsylvania to a devout Presbyterian family, J. Howard Pew was taught at an early age the value of freedom. His father, Joseph Newton Pew, with Edward O. Emerson, established in 1876 what eventually became known as Sun Oil Company. After graduating from Grove City College, young Howard went to work for his father at Sun Oil and later became its President. Once retired, he continued to influence the company as member of the board, and later Chairman. Under his leadership, Sun Oil grew nearly 40 times over.

Howard became one of the most vocal and articulate defenders of freedom in America....

The Churching of America

The award winning book The Churching of America, is a dramatic rewriting of American religious history with a free-market bent.

The authors write: “[the] most striking trend in the history of religion in America is growth–or what we call the churching of America.” Making use of a traditional church-sect distinction, Finke and Stark argue that historians have seen religion in decline in America because their assumptions led them to look at the wrong religious institutions.

Finke and Stark charge that “frequently, a lack of religious activity is asserted when all that is lacking is the preferred brand of religious activity.” What they mean by “preferred brand” is the theologically sophisticated church institutions which are not in great tension with society. The...

A Jewish Conservative Looks at Pagan America

Don Feder reminds me of Paul Caplan, a Reform rabbi in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and of Peter Himmelman, perhaps the only practicing Orthodox Jew to carve out a career for himself in rock and roll.

Like Rabbi Caplan and Peter Himmelman, Feder exhibits a palpable joy about his faith–and a passion strong enough to attract people in search of God. Feder, who writes editorials for the brassy tabloid The Boston Herald, writes about one experience at the office:

When I started keeping kosher, I stopped eating the food in our company cafeteria and brought my lunch instead. I refrained from dining out with colleagues, unless it was a kosher restaurant. Quite naturally, my friends and co-workers were curious.

When they discovered my motivation, they were...