Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Liberalism and Faith (Or Lack Thereof)

So I spent my Saturday catching up on cleaning and media I had neglected. I have been a neary brainwashed disciple of filmmaker Kevin Smith for a while now, and was listening to a nearly week old (at the time) episode of SModcast. Meanwhile, percolating in the back of my brain, as so many thoughts do, was some of the discussions I've been having over faith with liberals, like this one. And then I remembered the article on why conservatives are happier than liberals. So here's the results:

The reason given in the article as to why conservatives are happier was: "Conservatives rationalize social and economic inequalities." Now, viewed from a purely sociological perspective, this makes conservatives look like coldhearted bastards, or as a fellow blogger put it:
I read that report in the link, and I came away with the idea that as long as conservatives say "That's the way the cookie crumbles" when it comes to inequalities and socio-economic problems, conservatives will always be happy--"Hey! That's not my problem!"
But, this is where faith comes in. Most people of faith believe a few common things. First, they believe that there is something greater and better than the world we live in. Second, they believe that thereis a reason or plan for why things are the way they are. And third, they believe that their actions determine things in both the physical and spiritual world. The study left out things like faith, which gives us confidence that things will get better if we dedicate our lives to making it so, as well as the "rationalization" as to why bad things happen to good people.

Now some of the liberal bloggers that have commented have identified themselves indirectly as either agnostic or wholly atheist. And my realization was that these people are unhappy about the inequities of society for a couple of reasons. First, they believe, or (more accurately) have no reason to believe that there is anything beyond this mundane and rather pointless life and that life and any meaning to it dies with you. And second, without the belief in some metaphysical reasons for why things are and that there is hope beyond the mundane for righting wrongs, it is up to individuals, groups, and ultimately, the government to resolve the inequalities that are a natural occurrence. So with nothing beyond a bleak and oppressive world to find comfort and solace in, a person can grow bitter, angry, or resentful.

Now I do need to make it clear that this is not my opinion of any specific person, but just an application of some concepts to explain the happy conservative articles from a perspective that includes faith. I still stand by the rational worldview that conservatives look at the world as a place of opportunities and challenges, while liberals tend to look and see inequities and barriers. But I also recognize that many people ask the fundamental questions like, "Is this all that I am?" and come up with wildly different answers.

And the results are different views of the same world.


Dave Miller said...

Greetings Patrick, I am not sure where I fit on your continuum of faith, liberalism, happiness, and conservatism.

I think I generally have a pretty positive outlook on stuff. And yes, generally I am a lib. But my attitude comes from my faith. Because I know that whatever happens, I walk with God.

But I am not happy when people are hungry or hurting. It greives me and I want to be part of the solution.

I do think that by and large, the haves of this world are not living the humble, consider others better than your selves lifestyle that is taught in the New Testament, even though many profess 9at least in the US) to believe in those teachings.

Maybe that speaks to your conservatives rationalize statement.

I think a certain amount of introspection comes when you try and live in that conflict area.

Toad734 said...

Perhaps religion can make one happier in that they think their "life" will be better once Jesus comes for them. Sure, that might be something.

The reason conservatives are happier than liberals are many fold. I don't know how they defined "happy". But seeing how it’s a relative term it’s not an exact science. Here are my main explanations for this study without analyzing the study itself to see who was included in the study, who conducted the study and what slices of the population were polled.

A. Liberals will more than likely have a more stressful life. Liberals tend to live in large urban areas and have to deal with traffic, pollution, higher cost of living, crime, etc. That doesn't make them unhappy but it makes them stressed out. Urbanites also are able to walk to great restaurants and bars, go to theaters, sporting events, cultural events, etc. They may not be unhappier but they have aggravations that someone in a small town or rural area would have. And ye, liberals can look at someone on the street who is starving and feel bad for them where as conservatives would blame the person for not taking care of himself and relieve themselves of any responsibility to their fellow man or the responsibility they may have felt for voting for the guy who closed down the mental hospital, the V.A. hospital, stopped funding drug treatment facilities and put a cap on public housing. I guess liberals are more inclined to think as Jesus would.

2nd, being that liberals live in urban areas and that you would consider anyone in the lower 9th ward a liberal because they don't support Republicans, their living conditions, economic conditions could be too much to overcome. The crime problem in an area such as that, Gary, W. Side of Chicago etc is going to take a toll on people who have to dodge bullets or loose family members to gangs and violence. As most people who would live in a place like New Bremen, OH, you are conservative and in New Bremen you don't have to worry about such things.

The third point is that Liberals are more educated and better read than conservatives. Liberals are furious about what our government has done in Iraq where as most conservative think all Muslims are the same and that Saddam was the one who attacked us on 9/11. Ignorance is bliss.

Dave Miller said...

Pretty broad strokes Toad.

I have just returned from a trip through Oregon. I run the gamut from the liberal urban areas of Portland (Pearl and Hawthorne Districts) to the conservative rural outbacks (Harney County).

I have found that people of all stripes face plenty of stress about life. The daily struggle and worry about the next meal, is not relegated to the city and urban areas.

I met plenty of white rural folks who live in an area where unemployment is chronically over 15%, home and land values are depressed, drug use is rampant, and marriages are failing everyday.

I know the stereotype of these areas is Pleasantville, but it just does not wash with reality.

To me, people are happier when they have something to live for. It gives them hope. And for many, as you pointed out, that hope is Jesus.

Patrick M said...

Dave: It's your conscience that separates your liberalism from that of the hardcore liberalism exemplified by people like Toad. You desire equality because of your beliefs. However, I doubt you are in favor of forcing everyone into equal misery. Your conflicts are from someone who sees the inequality and wants to solve it because you have a compassion for people that exceeds mine by a long shot. But you are more of an exception than the rule in the liberal continuum.

You remind me of some of the liberals I've known around here. They have several progressive ideas and lean toward government solutions, but their ideas are grounded in faith and in traditional values, not in an alteration of the current social structure. That's probably why you appear so civil compared to other bloggers on the left.

Toad: I'd comment more, but Dave has done so with so much eloquence, I don't need to. One thing you definitely need to learn, though, is to not put everyone in one big-assed box.

Toad734 said...

Those are broad strokes sure but so is "Conservatives are Happier than Liberals". I answer a broad stroke with a broad stroke.

I didn't say anything about poorer or richer when it came to urban vs. rural. Sure poverty, unemployment, drugs, divorce and crime all exist in rural communities and smaller towns. What they don't generally have is the type of crimes, like murder and shootings, which can happen as much as 30 times in one weekend in Chicago. When is the last time Vincennees Indiana had 30 shootings in one weekend, 2 hour traffic jams, Asthma causing Smog, gendrification, high cost of living, etc? I am just saying that all those things, in addition to what 99% of the people in America experience, adds to a more stressful life. And if you are defining "liberal" as poor, black, democrats in the lower 9th ward, of course those people are going to be unhappy. I might also point out that i live in the same neighbor hood as people who live in homes worth 700k -over a million dollars. Next door to me is an apartment building with small studio and one bedroom apartments. In a small town, everyone is more likely to be in the same situation or at least the differences between the haves and have nots aren't as great. Being a part time waiter and living next to someone in a million dollar home could be stressful to the urbanites who experience that. I am not saying I am a part time waiter...

Patrick M said...

Toad, we find happiness in whatever situation we are in. You can be broke in the ass end of Chicago, yet live a fulfilling life, or you can sit in the more rural parts of the great state of Ohio and still be ensconced in bitterness and anger. I can think of at leas one person whose mindset is as angry as yours appears to be, and she lives in a small town just like mine.

Again, it's a matter of outlook and not situation. You seem to believe that people are defined by their situation. I, and probably Dave as well, both believe that a person can determine their happiness with their life even if they live in crippling poverty.

That's a difference between the classic liberalism (Dave) and modern Marxist-style liberalism.

Toad734 said...

Yes its possible either way but still more likely that someone who lives in poverty with bullets whizzing over their heads are going to be a little less happy than a conservative rich guy in the far suburbs.

There are very few liberals who subscribe to Marxism. Thats like saying since you are a republican you share the views of David Duke.

Patrick M said...

Toad: To repeat: A person creates their own happiness.

And Duke is a racist. What that has to do with economic theory is beyond me. And Marxism IS the most extreme of the left wing. But I thought the fanatical conservatives were more along the lines of Machiavelli....

Toad734 said...

A person is partly responsible for their happiness and their environment also shape that.
When it's the environment, everything is relative. I'm not unhappy. Quite the opposite. I am so content that I am afraid of making changes such as kids and marriage because I think those things (mainly the kids) will keep me from doing the things I like to do. Would I hate my kid if I had one, no, would my life be unbareable if I had a kid, no, but I certainly wouldn't be able to live the lifestyle I live now and that could be depressing. It would open up new doors which could make up for that but generally I don't think I would be as happy. That isn't me, thats my environment affecting my happiness.

Patrick M said...

I'd argue with you, but my kids are messing with the mouse.