For those who just can't get enough Linker, here's a recent interview in Shared Sacrifice: A Journal of Progressive Thought. I discuss the future of the religious right, Obama's efforts to woo religious voters, the "new" atheists, and related subjects.
Sam Tanenhaus's essay on the death of ideological or "movement" conservatism is unquestionably today's must-read. Herewith a few disconnected, preliminary thoughts on the piece. 1. I eagerly await Andrew Sullivan's post on the essay, since it criticizes (quietly but devastatingly) much of what Sullivan himself has come to detest in movement conservatism and defends, instead, an unideological, pragmatic form of conservatism that sounds very much like Sullivan's "conservatism of doubt." 2.
My post on how to end the culture war has understandably inspired a lot of discussion around the web. For positive-to-mixed responses, see Chris Dierkes and his colleagues beginning here, and Bryan Pick here. Meanwhile, Daniel Larison contributes some characteristically intelligent criticism here and here. For those looking for a particularly charming example the anyone-who-would-propose-giving-an-inch-to-opponents-of-abortion-is-either-an-ignoramous-or-a-rich-white-guy-(or-both) style of liberalism need look no further than Scott Lemieux's post on the subject.
This item about whether Obama will bring the culture war to an end has inspired two thoughtful posts -- one by Tim Fernholz at Tapped, and another by Ed Kilgore at the Democratic Strategist. Tim's post concludes by posing the following question: "So, Damon, how does one end the culture wars?" Good question. One option is to demoralize the other side to such an extent that they effectively give up and go home. This is pretty much what fundamentalists did after the humiliation of the Scopes Trial in 1925.
I've kept silent so far about Pope Benedict's decision to de-excommunicate four Lefebvrist bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X, at least one of whom is a virulently anti-Semitic Holocaust-denier. My silence is a product of uncertainty about what I might add to the discussion. I agree with Andrew that the pope's action demonstrates very clearly that the pope is far more interested in reaching an understanding with ultra-traditionalist dissenters than he is with feminist or homosexual Catholics.
Elsewhere at TNR readers will find Jerry A. Coyne's illuminating review essay on the incompatibility between science and religious faith in a personal, providential God.
Writing over at NRO, theocon Michael Novak expresses some concern with the new president's intention (expressed on the revamped White House website) to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act and to grant some legal rights and privileges to same-sex couples.
Peter Beinart (like E.J. Dionne and Jim Wallis) thinks he just might -- by continuing to reach out to conservative evangelicals (as he did with the Rick Warren pick for the inaugural invocation) and by depoliticizing divisive cultural issues (as he did by postponing his revocation of the so-called global gag rule on federal funding of overseas abortion providers until the day after the thirty-sixth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade, which was last Thursday). Now, I'm all for trying to undercut the political salience of culture-war issues.
As the last couple of posts make clear, the pause in blogging I announced in this post is now officially over, thanks to the TNR home-page link to this blog. I'm happy to be back. (For those waiting for the next installment of my proposed series of posts on liberal neutrality, I've decided to hold off until an issue presents an occasion to return to the discussion.)
Ross Douthat needs no help from me in taking on the illiberal dogma of so many contemporary atheists. But this post reminded me of a favorite passage from (yes, it's true) Leo Strauss on the true (and perhaps ineradicable) foundations of religious belief. God's revealing himself to man, his addressing man, is not merely known through traditions going back to the remote past and is therefore now 'merely believed' but is genuinely known through present experience which every human being can have if he does not refuse himself to it.