Robert Tracinski makes this point in a post about the massive and surprising return of statism this year in TIA Daily:
…this crisis is a clear refutation of the claim, made in some Objectivist circles, that the intrusion of religion into government is the central political issue of our time. If religion were really the central issue, politically or culturally, we would expect large numbers of people to turn to God—and to religious politics—in a crisis. Instead, when the crisis came, people turned to the state.
This is a boldly stated refutation of Leonard Peikoff’s 2006 statement:
How you cast your vote in the coming election is important, even if the two parties are both rotten. In essence, the Democrats stand for socialism, or at least some ambling steps in its direction; the Republicans stand for religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, and are taking ambitious strides to give it political power.
Socialism—a fad of the last few centuries—has had its day; it has been almost universally rejected for decades. Leftists are no longer the passionate collectivists of the 30s, but usually avowed anti-ideologists, who bewail the futility of all systems. Religion, by contrast—the destroyer of man since time immemorial—is not fading; on the contrary, it is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government.
Is it, as Tracinski says, either/or — God or state? Could it be, rather, that Republicans turned so readily to the state because they had already turned to God? After all, Bush’s entire presidency, with his compassionate conservatism, has been big government brought on by the altruistic ethics of Bush’s religion.
In an economic crisis, one would expect the state — even a religious state — to look for economic solutions. People might react to bankruptcies on Wall Street by turning to God, although it’s more likely after a major terrorist attack or natural disaster. Church attendance might rise in addition to the bailouts and increasing state intervention in the economy. It’s not either/or.
There is a larger point to be made. I suspect that both Peikoff and Tracinski have been misled by the propaganda of the two major political parties. Yes, the Democrats are the home of the socialist/nihilist left and the Republicans are the home of the religious right, but they’re both big government parties. The welfare state has turned them into two gangs fighting for power so they can distribute the loot stolen from producers to their favorite pressure groups.
The rise of religion could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to socialism in America. Religious ethics are socialist ethics. In the Sermon On the Mount, Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and wealth.” Monks who take a vow of poverty follow the logic of that statement. On this premise, socialism, which redistributes wealth from the rich to the poor, is moral; capitalism, in which individuals selfishly pursue wealth, is immoral. American Christians twist themselves into pretzels to rationalize the pursuit of wealth, but if you take Jesus’s words seriously and cut the crap, you have to side with socialism.
We’re lucky Marx was an atheist and that he created, under the influence of Hegel, a bizarre fantasy about history going from feudalism through capitalism to culminate in communism — a kind of heaven on earth. Were it not for all this, religion would have allied itself with socialism to fight capitalism long ago.
The New Left has shifted the emphasis from economics to culture — multiculturalism, feminism, environmentalism, animal rights, etc. No longer saddled by Marx’s fantasies, it will be easier for the left to integrate with religion.
I wait in dread for what I call the Grand Rapprochement, in which the left and right come together to form one big statist party. I imagine the deal being something like: the right gets to enslave man’s spirit and the left gets to control the economy. The two sides will mutually reinforce one another as the religious right gives them morality and the left gives them a veneer of practicality in this world.
The biggest sticking point to the Grand Rapprochement would be abortion, and here someone will have to lose. I think it would be the feminists because their arguments are weak. Religionists argue against abortion with righteous moral fervor. Abortion is murdering babies! The moral high ground always wins. Women will get screwed again. So to speak.
What is the greatest threat to America, the socialist left or the religious right? The answer is both. And the big loser will be freedom.