…He rejects the western assumption that while freedom makes us vulnerable to terrorist attack, it ultimately gives us the strength to triumph. “You can’t build civilisation on freedom alone, it’s just a welcome by-product. If you just have freedom it degenerates into mob rule, which abolishes freedom. Freedom has to be within the framework of institutions that demand obedience. There has to be a culture, therefore, that encourages obedience.”
Liberals argue that successful societies don’t need rigid Christian rule books: it is up to capitalists, artists et al to make of a country what they will. But Scruton contends that our institutions, built on Christianity, are collapsing because they now have no guiding principles.
Though he’s advocating religion, he’s against fundamentalism:
“It’s dangerous to say this these days, but religion requires the erosion of the original sentiment by the friction of society,” he says. The problem with Islam is nobody dares check its religious fervour unlike, say, the Church of England, that has so brilliantly educated us to understand that God doesn’t really exist. “Once you get the fundamentalist, who thinks only the Koran is the authority, you have problems. And all Islam is fundamentalist.”
So much like Hitchens, Scruton is reacting to 9/11 and to “my religion is right” militancy, and he even claims that “any religious text is a bundle of contradictions,” but instead of wanting to do away with the whole business, he lays the blame on our having “lost touch with Christian roots, which have been usurped by our worship of celebrity” which led “the West to ‘propagate its achievements and temptations around the world, seducing people away from pious ways, offering a merely materialist substitute.”
Overall the article is rather rambling and merely lets out a provocative quote to rouse the reader then moves on to something else before it can be explained, so I left this with no real sense of what Scruton’s philosophy is about, i.e. what makes it philosophical as opposed to that held by many a political hack. The exception is what appears to be his ambivalence towards religious influence in politics: religion is instrumental for keeping people in line but perhaps needs to be tempered by a power struggle with other social elements. In other words, institutions are vital, but distributed power keeps any one institution from messing things up.