From the avalanche of vehement and ignorant attacks on Bush v. Gore and the oft-made and oft-refuted allegation that the Bush administration lied about WMD in Iraq, to the remarkable lack of interest in Mr. Obama’s career in Illinois politics and the determined indifference to his wrongness about the surge, wide swaths of the media and the academy have concentrated on stoking passions rather than appealing to reason.
Some will speculate that the outbreak of hatred and euphoria in our politics is the result of the transformation of left-liberalism into a religion, its promulgation as dogma by our universities, and students’ absorption of their professors’ lesson of immoderation. This is unfair to religion.
At least it’s unfair to those forms of biblical faith that teach that God’s ways are hidden and mysterious, that all human beings are both deserving of respect and inherently flawed, and that it is idolatry to invest things of this world — certainly the goods that can be achieved through politics — with absolute value. Through these teachings, biblical faith encourages skepticism about grand claims to moral and political authority and an appreciation of the limits of one’s knowledge, both of which well serve liberal democracy.
In contrast, by assembling and maintaining faculties that think alike about politics and think alike that the university curriculum must instill correct political opinions, our universities cultivate intellectual conformity and discourage the exercise of reason in public life. It is not that our universities invest the fundamental principles of liberalism with religious meaning — after all the Declaration of Independence identifies a religious root of our freedom and equality. Rather, they infuse a certain progressive interpretation of our freedom and equality with sacred significance, zealously requiring not only outward obedience to its policy dictates but inner persuasion of the heart and mind. This transforms dissenters into apostates or heretics, and leaders into redeemers.