We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Here's Part 4 of Charles Murray's intervew with Peter Robinson on social capital. When I first heard Murray discuss social capital, I did a Venn diagram of the positive communities (even including the virtual community of Maggie's Farm) of which I am a part. It was illuminating, and I think I can say that I am quite involved in my community and in many sub-communities and thus have a good store of social capital in Murray's use of the concept.
Of course, my religious communities are there, too. Mead discusses here: Religious Are Key to American Revival. I don't particularly enjoy apologetics for religion which include things like "it's good for society," or "it's good for you," but he makes some points.
I and some friends have a long time email debate/discussion in which we recently talked about the question of Mitt Romney's religion and how it will be presented or exploited by various parties in the runup to the election.
I thought I would append an email my brother sent me today which disputes the idea that religion is not a key part of a social contract in a successful society. I have removed the name of our liberal friend to whom this was addressed.
Men and brethren:
Quoth Our Liberal Friend:
"There is nothing in Romney’s governorship that indicates that anything he did was unduly influenced by Mormonism, as opposed to reason and judgment. He may have some good moral values as a result of his religion, but then I think that you and I have good moral values without religion. History would be poor support for claiming that there is any clear relationship between religion and morality."
Quoth George Washington:
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity...And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
No doubt you are aware that Thomas Paine tried to make the same argument as you, i.e. that men don't need religion to be moral. He sent a manuscript to Ben Franklin which attacked religion and wanted Franklin's approval. But Franklin rebuked him, saying:
"You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantages of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security. And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is, to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself"
The last sentence is the key. It's easy for you to say that you have good values without religion. But you have grown up in a culture shaped by religion, and in that culture you have developed "a clear perception of the advantages of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice." And yet, like Paine, you foolishly think you would have assembled the virtues you possess had you grown up in a culture devoid of any religious influence. Franklin went on to say, "If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it?"
I'm going to stand with Washington and Franklin on this. If he becomes the President, I hope that Romney is abundantly influenced by his religion.