Yet another study came out over the weekend, in this case in the Friday release of the journal Science, that equated rational, analytic thinking with a decreased likelihood of religious belief. This comes after previous studies have equated high intelligence with liberalism and atheism, and conservative beliefs with a tendency toward doctrinaire rigidity. That last study, which came out back in 2008, was the subject of one of my first blog pieces for the Huffington Post. It was also one of the most buzzed about posts I wrote for that outfit. Less than 24 hours after it went up, I had a phone interview with public radio in Kansas City, and the piece had been passed around the liberal blogosphere like a joint at a Phish show.
Taken in total, studies such as these have begun to paint a picture that liberalism tends to foster free thought and attract people who value reason over faith, rationality over rigid dogma. To liberals, these are ideas that have already largely been taken at face value. One of the problems liberals and conservatives immediately run into when talking about politics is the nagging suspicion on the part of conservatives that liberals have a sense of smug superiority, a sense that they are smarter and more grounded in reality than their conservative counterparts. The problem on the liberal side is that conservatives are correct in this assumption.
This is why conservatism, as a movement, could not exist in the space as liberalism. It is why by the late 1970s people like Paul Weyrich were founding groups like the Heritage Foundation, to try to somehow justify gut-instinct dogma to a world based in rationality. It is why conservatives had to form an entirely separate newsgathering system, flowing from the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal to magazines such as the National Review and the Weekly Standard, and then filtered out to the masses through the conservative information clearing house that is Fox News. It is why Fox News can constantly carp on gas prices, to this day, when they’ve dropped eight cents a gallon in the last month. Because, hey, doesn’t gas feel like it’s more expense than it was a month ago?
For a political belief system that gets its kicks accusing its opponents of being weak and suffering from an abundance of sentimentality and emotionalism (recall the several female Republican candidates that advised their male opponents to start acting like men or putting on their big-boy pants in the 2010 election cycle), conservatism relies heavily on a dose of the very poison it sees in others. Our previous president’s faith-based initiatives make perfect sense, coming as they do from a politics that is faith-based as well.