Friday, July 24, 2015

Anti-clericalism has been a constant factor in the history of liberalism.

In the early 20th century, France, then under the control of the liberal French parties, passed legislation outlawing Catholic religious orders, depriving nuns of occupations and driving the religious orders out of France. In 1870, German liberal parties waged the Kulturkampf, resulting in the imprisonment or exiles of most Catholic bishops and priests.  Mexico waged a war filled with atrocities against priests, and the poor who supported them, in the 1920s in the name of anti-clericalism.

This is, as they say, "serious shit" if history is any guide.

"This polarization is worrisome. Up till now, America has been spared the bitterness of religious politics. Unlike some countries in Europe, we have not had clerical and anti-clerical parties. True, particular religious groups have gravitated toward one or another political party. In New England, for example, Irish Catholics were historically Democrats and mainline Protestants Republicans, a conflict memorialized in films like John Ford’s The Last Hurrah.

But we have never had secular and religious parties as such. Both parties saw religion, in general, as a good thing, and religious liberty as a fundamental American value. Tocqueville noticed this and found it refreshing. “In the United States,” he observed, “if a politician attacks a sect, this may not prevent the partisans of that very sect from supporting him; but if he attacks all the sects together, everyone abandons him, and he remains alone.”//


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