I also suspect that a very large number of people suffer from cognitive dissonance and think they believe in God but at the same time live their lives on a daily basis as if they do not. I don’t have evidence handy at the moment, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. And I think this reality results in a lot of people disliking or resenting authentically religious people for a constellation of reasons, high among them envy. ~Jonah “Lie For a Just Cause” Goldberg
Hm, that sounds an awful lot like what Rod and the various and sundry traditional conservatives were saying at the Crunchy Cons blog a few months ago on a closely related topic. The question then wasn’t whether people believed in God or even professed Christianity, but how they lived in an apparently materialistic way while nonetheless claiming to be very sincere believers (what was in doubt was never their sincerity, but the coherence of their beliefs and their way of life). Except that it wasn’t applied to some generic band of “agnostics,” but was focused on conservatives and Christians who seemed to be unduly preoccupied with consumption, materialism and the things of this world for people who ought to have been adhering to convictions that emphasised the priority of the life of the spirit and the practise of the virtues. At the time, Goldberg was, shall we say, less than amused by the whole idea and said that we were falsely accusing people of suffering from “false consciousness”:
How is one supposed to read this as anything but an invidious slap at conservatism? Not only is Rod saying here that non-crunchy conservatives are grotesque materialists concerned only with “wealth and power,” not only is he questioning the sincerity of their religious convictions, but he is also saying that these conservatives are fools, suffering from a kind of Marxist false consciousness, if they deny that they are only concerned with wealth and power. Because, you see, “that’s not how they live” — because Rod says so.
Might it be that the hysterical reaction against the entire crunchy conservative idea at NRO was a result of the sort of “envy” towards the authentically religious folks whose examples Rod cited in his book and on the blog? In any case, what’s good for the agnostic goose is good for the mainstream conservative gander, so I’ll take this as an unwitting admission that Goldberg simply hadn’t thought the problem through or, more likely, was engaged in a strident ideological defense of consumerist capitalism and its works because he was unwilling to countenance the possible alternatives. But maybe I’ve missed something. Perhaps he can explain how the charge of “cognitive dissonance” is perfectly acceptable to apply to people who claim to believe something and act in a contrary manner, while what Rod was doing was an insulting, reductionist caricature. One of the main flaws with the book and the entire crunchy argument, Goldberg assured us, was that we lacked evidence, which is different from his view on agnostics, where he says: “I don’t have evidence handy at the moment, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.” So Rod went out and collected a sizeable amount of anecdotal evidence, but was engaged in “making up” an entire phenomenon, while Goldberg has no evidence but is “pretty sure” he’s right. That makes sense.
Is it simply a difference of the groups of people being described? If so, that doesn’t say much for the integrity or coherence of the anti-crunchy position.