I’ve been pondering the necessity of religion and law. Both apply past principles to new, changing circumstances. They create predictability, encourage a strong civic skillset, and they support social trust. And, I would argue, they are co-equal. In America, you need both religion and law for healthy communities.
Law is a complicated rulemaking process that balances interests and maximizes legal principles that are, ultimately, discretionary; religion is a process where individuals maximize their adherence to what they understand to be God’s eternal principles and His purpose for their life. Religion is to morality as law is to commercial life. Like law, an important purpose of religion is resolve disputes (in the case of religion, moral disputes).
There is an alternative to religion: ethnic groupthink. Monoethic communities seem to engage in a form of groupthink that (imperfectly, in my opinion) replaces the functions of religion. Has anyone ever heard of a healthy, secular community that was diverse? And I don’t mean the simplistic racial divisions of white, black, and Hispanic, but also the ethnic subgroups within these traditional categories.
It is a fantasy of much of our elite–across the political spectrum (including secular libertarians)–that you can have healthy, diverse communities that are secular. I would argue there are two paths to strong communities with high social capital: segregation and religion. There is no third option. It is my belief that this contradiction explains much of the social breakdown across the Western world.