Guest post: For religion ignorance is bliss, for liberals ignorance is fear

Originally a comment by Bruce Gorton on To be found superficial and contemptible.

The conviction that tyranny and persecution are aberrations in human affairs is at the heart of the liberal philosophy that prevails today. But this conviction is supported by faith more than evidence.

Bollocks. The heart of the liberal philosophy that prevails today is that it is relatively easy to ignore persecution so long as you aren’t the one being persecuted, and tyranny is relatively easy for the one who holds the power to be the tyrant.

The liberal philosophy of today is that human affairs are fundamentally malleable, and can cover a wide range of possibilities – therefore we have to work hard to make sure that it is the possibilities that get realized are the ones that we most want to live with.

This is the central core to the concept of privilege and the main reason liberals tend to oppose too much power being concentrated in too few hands, whether that be via dictatorship or the economic hegemony of major corporations.

It is also the central core to the value of education and access to reasonably accurate information. From a liberal perspective the more people have power the harder it is for a tyranny to form, as more people have the ability to oppose it.

Knowledge is power, and it is religion that tends to consider ignorance to be the same as innocence. Adam and Eve were rendered sinful because they ate of the tree of knowledge.

Liberalism tends to associate ignorance more with racism, sexism, homophobia and various forms of xenophobia.

For religion ignorance is bliss, for liberals ignorance is fear.

From a “New Atheist” perspective, the core issue with religion is that it gives a small group of people in the form of clerics unearned authority, with which they can devolve towards tyranny and thus harming other people. Religion is not the root of all evil, but it is an enabling factor for much of it.

And one must further note it is not the nature of a tyrant to simply gain power, but also to deny it to others. Arguments which center around controlling the masses “to maintain order” or some sort of ill-defined “social good” are generally about depriving the masses of their power, and thus enabling the tyrant presenting the arguments.

We have to be exceptionally careful with the power we grant, because we know that it is within ourselves to misuse it.

Tyranny and persecution are not aberrations within the heart of human affairs, from the liberal perspective they’re the status quo – hence the need to be liberals.


  1. karmacat says

    What also helps against tyranny is having a strong middle class. They tend to have a bit more time to fight against injustices. People who are poor just don’t have that luxury

  2. chrislawson says

    Thanks, Bruce, for this post. John Gray has become a writer I can’t stand to read because even when he has a reasonable point (which is rarely), he smothers it under a thick layer of slimy apologetics. And here, as you say, it is not and never has been a part of the liberal agenda that people are naturally anti-heirarchical. The liberal agenda is about the constant struggle for individual rights against the power of tyranny.

    I’m sure you could find a few liberals here and there with the naive view that Gray describes, but it certainly isn’t true of Voltaire, Twain, Hitchens, Locke, Hume, Diderot, Kant, Paine, Bentham, Thoreau, Emerson or any of the liberal thinkers I’ve read — not even the liberals I strongly dislike, e,g. Sartre and Milton Friedman. It wasn’t true of the suffragettes, the abolitionists, the anti-apartheidt activists, the anti-Jim Crow protestors, or Martin Luther King. It isn’t true of the ACLU, Amnesty International, MSF, NAACP, or NOW. Frankly, even if Gray can dig up a few examples, it’s certainly not true that this is at the core of liberalism, now or historically.

  3. says

    Tyranny and persecution are not aberrations within the heart of human affairs, from the liberal perspective they’re the status quo – hence the need to be liberals.

    I totally agree — and, thankfully, so did the Founders. They understood from day one that liberty, democracy, and rational policymaking were the exception, not the rule, in human political behavior, and they did what they could to harden our relatively-rational democratic system against the people’s irrational natural tendencies.

    There are too many well-meaning liberals, mostly in my parents’ generation IME, who have forgotten this important truth; and that is why liberals have been so incompetent and unable to defend decent values, and innocent people, against the recently resurgent forces of backwardness, tyranny, bigotry and ignorance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *