What should I ask Ross Douthat?

I will be having a Conversation with him December 4th, by the way, you can register here.  His forthcoming book is spectacular, but we will talk about everything under (and above) the sun, what should I ask him?


This should be fun. I doubt either one of you need help with topics of conversation. But I suppose you could ask him about the Eurocentrism of Catholicism for the hell of it. Ask a couple questions Robert Wright might have done.

Did Neanderthals have souls?

He'd probably say yes. The fact that there are humans alive today who are about half as divergent from other humans as Neanderthals,(Congo pygmies and Bushmen) who don't seem all that different from other humans weakens the theory that neanderthals would be fundamentally different from us. Homo erectus on the other hand...

Us gingers also have souls.

A soul is the "form" of a living thing, so cats, dogs, and corn stalks all have souls, though these souls probably do not have parts which survive death.

+1 Gen 2: 7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Aquinas taught that every living thing has a soul. So he would certainly answer in the affirmative.

If the established global liberal order to does not last, what will replace it?

Ask him what he thinks of crispr.

1. Is it even possible to have any form of conservative politics that does not have faith / religion as an important element of it? Is "secular" conservatism an oxymoron?

2. Conservatism in US is not of the Burkean variety that defers to tradition and history. But instead it is liberal in its premises. More Straussian than Burkean. A lot of "conservatives" in US aren't really gradualists or defenders of custom, but radicals who want to "save" liberalism from liberals - the so-called "classical liberals". Is there room for the more old fashioned non-liberal non-dogmatic conservatism of the Burkean variety in modern liberal democracies?

3. Political discourse in the West focuses on catchphrases that are value-free. "Progress" is the catchphrase preferred by liberals while conservatives prefer "growth". Both mean roughly the same. Is there room for a politics that eschews this talk of progress and growth but instead focuses on virtue? And can that focus on virtue come about in a secular world where most people are irreligious.

shrikanthk for President

1. Russia had secular conservatives in the 1980s. It all depends on what you are conserving.

Many argue that adherence to the ideals of The Party had all the hallmarks or religious behavior.

Very interesting point. The last chapter of Hayek’s the Fatal Conceit suggests religious structure are essential for “conserving” civilizational order. Good religions for good societies, bad religions for bad ones?

Why would you say Straussian instead of Lockean?

I'm feeling somewhat slighted by that comment, also.

Mill was a liberal in every sense. And I think his influence on American conservatism is minimal.

I could've used Locke. But prefer Strauss. The emphasis on natural right and American moral superiority suffuses American conservative politics. Something that was absent in pre-1960s US conservatism.

American moral superiority suffuses basically all American politics since the creation of the United States.

"His almost chosen people . . ."; "the last best hope of earth . . . ."

You said conservatives are classical liberals. I've influenced lots of liberals, both the classical and vulgarized kind.

"Is there room for the more old fashioned non-liberal non-dogmatic conservatism of the Burkean variety in modern liberal democracies?"

The kind which prevents poor people from voting?

1. Clearly yes if you look at majority irreligious societies like East Germany, Japan, or Estonia.

2. Well let enough time pass and what was liberal becomes traditional and historical.

3. "Progress" and "growth" do not mean the same thing. That's a favorite of libertardians who try(and fail) to convince liberals that economic growth is progressive. Sex-change operations have nothing to do with economic growth. Affirmative action has nothing to do with economic growth. Reducing prison terms has nothing to do with economic growth. I could go on and on.

How can we improve the quality of the Opinion section of the NYT?

Fire Paul Krugman

Honestly, fire everyone but Douthat.

Ugh. Fire him too.

Why he doesn't like The Thin Red Line as much as other Terrence Malick films. How Thin Red Line compares to Dunkirk, which Ross Douthat did enjoy per his NR review, and which Nolan has stated influenced his own movie.

Dunkirk was incredibly overrated.

It was both overrated and good. And it's a film you are probably glad you say, which is also a valuable metric.

Ask him if he is ever surprised that, after waterboarding the facts with gallons of printers' ink, they do confess that he is right.

The Great Commission: Jesus told his followers to go and make disciples of all nations. How have we done? How are we doing? What are the challenges now as compared to the early years of Christianity? You are smart and have arrived at Catholicism. Why hasn't Tyler Cowen?

How does his early Pentecostalism inform his later Catholicism? Why was Grand New Party so wrong, or was it right (the Republican candidate won the (white) working class but for reasons entirely at odds with Douthat's prescription)?

4. Is Eurocentrism a liberal vice in origin, picked up by conservatives? The early conservatives in the western tradition were not Eurocentric. Burke for instance campaigned against Warren Hastings and wanted to end East India Company rule in India. Somewhere down the line, Eurocentrism became the default position of both liberals and conservatives. What contributed to that?

5. Was the Civil war necessary? The British Empire ended slavery without war. How were the circumstances of the American South uniquely different which necessitated a war?

Why do Indian people poop in the street? Would Edmund Burke have thought this was funny or sad?

I think it's both.

Why are most Americans fat and ugly? Would Jefferson with his finely tuned sense of the aesthetic find this sad?

#5 is an interesting question. +1

5. The missed opportunity to do a phase-out of slavery, of the "everyone born into servitude after this date is emancipated at age 21" variety, was the 1790s. It could have been done at the Constitutional Convention. From Pennsylvania north, they were doing that already where they weren't doing outright abolition, the Maryland-Virginia contingency at the Convention were philosophically embarrassed by the place of slavery in a free society even if they didn't care enough to rock the boat back home, and could have convinced on any plan that was gradual enough. Georgia was concerned enough about Spaniards and natives to go along with anything that would fund a national army, leaving South Carolina as the primary holdout. And the union could have been established without South Carolina.

A generation later, the historical moment had passed, and the economic interests around cotton more established.

The embarrassment of the Virginia-Maryland contingency was not shared by the voters in those states.

And a United States without South caronlina is a United States that loses Georgia to a spanish-South Carolinian alliance in less than a year. I'd love to see how you'd supply an army in Georgia through a narrow strip of backwoods North Carolina. And that's best case scenario. Worst case scenario England simply reconquers South Carolina and arms the Indian tribes throughout the south in addition to the northern tribes. Never mind that Charleston was probally the second most important port in the US and by kicking South Carolina out you ensure it falls into the hands of the Spanish or english.

The bloodiest year of the revolutionary war was the last when the English geared up for the aftermath of independence by arming Indians tribes to the hilt. The early United States barely survived this with South Carolina.

I think the Maryland-Virginia contingency liked their plantations/homes and would not have liked then burned. Its fantasy that Virginia especially would have agreed to abolition, no matter how delayed.

England could abolish slavery easily because it was not practiced In England proper.

1. Does the project of social conservatives, of trying to restore the institutions of religion and family, amount to trying to squeeze the toothpaste back into the tube?

2. What advice would you give a Ross Douthat about to enroll at Harvard in the fall of 2018 about how to navigate the political climate on campus today?

3. Are you secretly relieved that Trump beat Hillary?

4. Does the NYT give you statistics to indicate which of your op-eds gets the most buzz? Do you react to those statistics?

5. is the latest wave of sex scandals over-rated or under-rated?

6. Assuming our society comes to some sort of consensus moral code concerning sexual behavior, what will it look like? Will conservatives or religious figures play any role in shaping it?

Guy who wants to roll back the New Deal asking question one is sad and funny like indians pooping in the street.

1. It has been nearly five years since Bad Religion came out. What is the update?

2. If there is a clash of civilizations between Islam and the liberal political orders of Europe and America, what does he think about the third way Russia and Poland seem to be seeking (especially their use of the Church and nationalism)?

3. He has done well for himself with a bit of (classical) liberal education. What's the future of liberal education in the US look like?

4. What do you think of Mark Lilla's center-left critique of identity politics? Where could the center-right and center left most effectively work together against the wings?

6. Is conservatism always particularist and local? Can there ever be a universalist conservative position? Isn't conservatism in its purest sense, a revolt against universalism and a defence of moral diversity? That being the case, does he see conflict between conservatives of different cultures as inevitable? For eg : A conservative in India might vote Democratic in US. A Republican in US may go to India or China and take radical positions in those countries.

In other words, shouldn't conservatism in essence mean a rejection of the idea of "natural right" and an acceptance that morals are not universal and always culture-specific?

Granting that natural right teachings originate as radical positions, conservatism in "its purest sense" can't be reactionary. The reactionary sense would have to be derivative from whatever came before the challenge to which reactionary conservatives are responding. It seems to me conservatism in its purest sense has historically been some form of divine right of kings (ancient or modern). There was indeed considerable conflict about which kings serve the true god(s) or religion, especially since religious beliefs tend to have a peculiar "universalism" of their own. Natural Right emerged partly in response to these bloody battles. If or once natural right has been "discovered," what's wrong with defining conservatism in terms of preserving adherence to it and avoiding unnatural innovations or inventions?

The misuse of the idea of the divine right of kings is the strobe light advertising ignorance. The divine right of kings is a classic creation of panicked bourgeoise liberals that realized their antinomianism was giving the wrong people ideas.

Conservatives and reactionaries for the most part hated the divine right of kings especially in the ancient form- which didn't exist but whatever.


You're a pretty reasonable commentator, so let me walk that back and grant that "divine right of kings" isn't the best phrase. I tried to qualify by "some form of" for that reason, which evidently wan't strong enough.

My main point is that conservatism "in it's purest sense" will trace itself back to ancestral traditions and those traditions will be religious. The political order will be shaped by a religious order. It would be anachronistic to say ancient kings ruled by divine right, but surely you won't dispute that kingships in the ancient world were thought to have divine origins, if the kings were not thought to be gods themselves. For the purposes of a brief exchange on an economics blog, is that a good enough formulation?

As an aside, when Locke attacks Robert Filmer's idea of Divine Right in the First Treatise, you're claiming that Locke's assignment of that view to Filmer is wholly the fabrication of a panicked bourgeois liberal? I would find that pretty surprising, but confess I've never read Filmer.

Lockes characterizations of Filmer is notoriously slanted and filmers arguments for divine right are rather unique seeing as how they build upon traditional notions of authority rather than tear them down as did Hobbes (who filmer criticized). What Locke was attacking in Filmer was already being eclipsed by Hobbesian view of divine right.

I definitely can stand to tone it down a bit and my response didn't need to be as aggressive as it was, but the divine right of kings was a polemical concept targeted directly at traditional authority while trying to grope for some kind of concept that would protect property and wealth while tearing down everything worthy in the architecture of authority. this is why conservative and traditionalist English thinkers despised Hobbes despite his formulating a version of the DRK.

Your second paragraph is precisely why I so forcefully objected to the term. Divine right of kings is what the reckless revolutionaries and reformers reached for after they had taken a buzz saw to the architecture of tradition. The first formulation of DRK in a modern sense is in Luther's response to the peasant revolt. This is the archetype of DRK evocation. Someone rips down a bunch of tradition and then panicks when the plebes want in on the action and runs off calling for a strongman to make things right.

In other words I agree with what you are saying and that's why I think the DRK isn't a good term. Throne and alter absolutely. Sacred kingship too.

1) What are the prospects for unification of the Catholic and Orthodox churches in the 21st century? What would Pope Francis have to do for you to leave the Catholic Church?

2) Should conservatives in the U.S. take seriously the work of those on the "Alt-Right" or "New Right" (construed as broadly as possible) to reawaken a sense of ethnic ties, particularly among White Americans? What is the relationship between race and ethnicity, and can one be a faithful Catholic while advocating for a more ethnically aware politics (not to be construed as the nonsense of a Richard Spencer-ian ethnostate)?

1. "What are the prospects for unification of the Catholic and Orthodox churches in the 21st century?"

The same as they were in the 11th century.

"What would Pope Francis have to do for you to leave the Catholic Church?"

If Pope Francis did something like infallibly declare an obvious falsehood, it would more likely lead to adaptation rather than defection. A Western Orthodox Church with the pope as the first among equals would still look an awfully lot like the Catholic Church.

How much money would it take for him to never write a word about Europe again?

Or, more politely, how hard is it to write about countries where you don't live and don't speak the language? (the recent National Review piece he retweeted on Merkel is terrible and poorly sourced for example)

Also, how much is his political project dependent on some of the very dark aspects of the republican base and what's his thoughts on appealing to those instincts?

Also, how much is his political project dependent on some of the very dark aspects of the republican base and what’s his thoughts on appealing to those instincts?

Looking forward to your evisceration of the Black Lives Matter cretins.

Douthat has been critical of Pope Francis. Yet, the Church teaches that the cardinals are led by the spirit with respect to selecting the bishop of Rome. Did God get it wrong with Francis?

If you gon troll know dem facts better.

The Church certainly does not teach such a thing; if that were the case, several popes cold not have been acknowledged by the Church as heretics (as they have). Here is Pope Benedict refuting the idea: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2013/02/does-the-holy-spirit-pick-the-pope-ratzinger-didnt-think-so/

1. Ross believes in the Catholic church's flavour of Aristotelian/Thomist metaphysics. I think you believe in Pragmatism as described in Scott Alexander's Categories Were Made for Man post. I'd like to hear you discuss the conflict.

2. Ross believes the Catholic Church can't change its teaching. But it has done in the past, e.g. allowing the charging of interest and the swearing of oaths. Those two changes get regarded as 'development of doctrine', rather than actual changes. I'm curious to hear if there's any change that couldn't potentially fall under 'development of doctrine'.

Douthat has said that allowing remarriage, in doctrine rather than mere tolerance in practice, would do it.

I guess my follow-up is what separates this from the previous examples. Does the Church merely tolerate the charging of interest or has it changed its mind? And if the Church hasn't changed its mind, and still thinks charging interest is wrong, but never mentions it or does anything about it, does it matter what's doctrine and what isn't? Seems like what precisely is doctrinally allowed doesn't really matter if it has little bearing on what the Church says and does.

Charging interest on a mutuum loan aka usury is still a sin.

And yet the Church isn't telling you to dump your credit cards, and isn't refusing communion to those issuing them.

And? It sets its own priorities. It also doesn't sanctify credit cards but it does weddings.

I mean I get it you fucked up your marriage and your kids won't talk to you and you meet someone on 50+ singles dating site. Just go be a Protestant if you don't like the rules don't follow them. Don't make other people abadon their standards cause you couldn't hack it.

I don't like that I max out at about 12 miles of running. But I don't go and bitch and try and get all marathons shortened- I just don't run in fucking marathons.

It might not sanctify credit cards, but it does give communion to those who issue them. If giving communion to the remarried is not permitted, than neither is that.

Nope. Troll failed.

Ross believes the Catholic Church can’t change its teaching.

No, it cannot change its defined doctrines which are the issue of the ordinary or extraordinary magisterium. Teachings on usury have long been protean and confused.

Have you a list of defined doctrines? I'm pretty sure the Church in the 14th century thought the usury issue was quite settled really. And re-affirmed as recently as Vix Pervenit.

How does he reconcile his Catholicism with that of fellow convert Newt Gingrich and his Vatican ambassador third wife

But his first Catholic wife - it makes a world of difference.

There is only one Catholicism, so there is nothing to reconcile. The question at had is whether or not Gingrich's marriage is valid and regular. GIngrich's 1st wife is dead and it's a reasonable wager his 2d marriage was canonically invalid.

The Church has always permitted people to remarry after the death of a spouse ("til death do us part"). Gingrich's first marriage was (apparently) valid, his second was null from the beginning because his first wife was alive when he married the second (and thus never a marriage at all); when his first wife died, the marriage to his current wife was therefore valid. Gingrich went through the proper procedures in the Church to recognize this.

David Brooks recently wrote about "The Siege Mentality Problem" among Conservative Protestants. Douthat: Do you believe a "siege mentality" explain the current state of American Catholics on the Left, American Protestants on the Left, the non-religious left, or any other subgroup, (religious or otherwise?). Do you see any flavor of religion (or lack thereof), writ broad, as a bulwark against a siege mentality? Tyler - do you?

1. Is there any hope for salvaging the vision of reform conservatism articulated in Grand New Party. If not, what alternatives are most likely?

2. What does he think of Dreher's The Benedict Option?

3. What does he think of Levin's The Fractured Republic

4. His fellow NYT op-ed columnist David Brooks seems to be advocating for a kind of spiritual revival to temper civil society and democratic political dynamics. What do he make of all that?


1) Why has the birth rate across the globe fallen so much across all nations? (Africa is falling but a couple generations behind.)

1a) The competitive sane nation with a your preferred healthcare system is Singapore which has a very low birth and high abortion rate? Is this reality two sides of the same coin?

2) You have stated the middle class still supports marriage but they avoid early marriage while focusing career and education? Would you advise young people under 25 to get married?

3) Why should progressives go to Church?

4) Do the small c conservative really have a say in the Republican Party outside of abortion?

5) Why did crime drop in the 1990s so much? (Literally nobody has answered this one well.)

6) Why has Trump not governed the way he campaigned?

Where are you getting that Singapore has a high abortion rate? Its rate is lower that that of the US or the UK even if you don't account for medical tourism:


If you are trying to promote marriage, as is the goal of many conservatives and cuckservatives, associating it with the middle/upper middle class is a good strategy. Don't worry about divorce, they say, if you are educated your rate is much lower.(Only 25 percent, why worry about something that has only a 25% chance of happening?) Telling us that much of that low divorce rate among the educated is due to their practice of waiting until age 35 to get married and then pumping out 1.2 children complicates the narrative. Divorce is less of a temptation to those whose hair is falling out.

Do you oppose marriage?

Well I'm married myself so I wouldn't say I'm opposed to marriage, but I am opposed to the cucky marriage-boosting that dismisses all of mens concerns about it.(And when they complain about low marriage rates, it's only ever men who are blamed for it.)

I don't think that's at all accuarte but fair enough. I've seen a noticeable rise in people telling women that mr perfect isn't out there and they need to be less choosy.

7) With a future of less work, is this an opportunity to return to a single income family? Not necessarily just house wife.

5. Decrease in lead levels across the environment/water supply in a new generation of young men and women. High levels of lead exposure at a young age are toxic by nature and lead to substantially lower IQ, larger degrees of impulsive decisions, anger, etc.

Given the polarization of media sources, it's quite likely that there exist thousands of liberals (if not more) who never read conservative editorials except those published in the New York Times. Thus, Ross Douthat might be the only conservative voice these people ever hear.

Yet, Ross and David Brooks (the other token conservative there, supposedly) do not attempt to present a general "here is what conservatives think" type view, but instead present their own idiosyncratic views, which are perhaps more right than left but are often quite divergent from mainstream conservative views. Are they denying the NYT readership an insight into what conservatives, the typical conservatives, actually think? Should the token conservatives employed by the NYT try to present the views of the conservative movement and not just themselves?

What about Brett Stephens?

Douthat actually does a good job of apologetically presenting conservative views that he ostensibly disagrees with.

He's kind of an ideological Google translate in that regard:

Douthat's written many, many columns about how the Catholic church can't change its teachings on divorce. But, as trads like to point out, Vatican II's teachings on religious freedom flatly contradict the theology on religious (un)freedom of the old heretic-burning, falsehood-surpressing Catholic church. So what gives?

Was it a sin to burn heretics? Was it a sin for the Hebrews to stone gays?

"Was it a sin for the Hebrews to stone gays?"

God destroyed a whole city over the practice. What is a few stones with that precedent.

Two cities notice the and... and that's not why he destroyed them.

The doctrines of the Church on religious freedom were not changed; in fact Vatican II's document on religious freedom explicitly stated "Indeed, since people’s demand for religious liberty in carrying out their duty to worship God concerns freedom from compulsion in civil society, it leaves unchanged (integram) the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral obligation of individuals and societies towards the true religion and the one Church of Christ.” Vatican II's documents on religious freedom only reaffirmed the Church's traditional view of the state's lack of power over religious doctrine; the Church has that power, including to punish heresy, and may use the state as an instrument in doing so, but the state on its own has zero authority there. See here for thorough explanation: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/08/conscience-and-coercion

And the Church has always interpreted the Old Testament laws in the light of whether they were ceremonial (circumcision, kosher requirements), moral (homosexuality is wrong, murder is wrong), or judicial (sodomy punished by death, etc). Only the moral laws are binding in all circumstances (this is why Christians are not required to be circumcised or keep kosher). God cannot be "immoral," but those ceremonial and judicial laws were for a particular people at a particular time and place, and were correct in those circumstances.

What status can American feminism enjoy today and henceforth, now that we begin to know just how many male progressive Democrats and celebrity journalists have modeled feminist pieties so imperfectly?

7. Is the word "Christian conservative" an oxymoron, because Christianity (like Islam) is a universalist faith which seeks to convert every soul on earth. Isn't the word "conservative" better suited for more aloof, inegalitarian, less aggressive religions like Hinduism, which are less insistent on "natural right"?

Hinduisms resistance to toilet training is bad ass. It is cute how Hindus having created a religion that is unpalatable to every other people on earth then pat themselves on their back for being aloof. I'm sure all the Indian Americans you bitter complain about never getting dates on dating apps are just being aloof too.

How is universalism at odds with conservatism especially when like Douthat you insist on a traditional form of religion which doesn't alter its dogma to pursue converts. Methodism did an amazing job of increasing the conservatism of the British working class I'm sure Douthat thinks the same thing about Christianity in general.

Nowadays even Catholic churches have Yoga classes in them. Possibly a majority or a large minority (depending on which survey you consult) believe in reincarnation. Hows that for unpalatable? True it's a very watered down Hinduism by my standards but do you think a Jehovas witness in Papua New Guinea is studyng St. Augustine?

I grew up in a small English village with a Methodist chapel and C of E church. Schools assemblies began with a prayer, all the major Christian holidays were observed and we were all marched into church on Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee. (She is by the [Christian] Gods grace, Defender of the [Protestant, Christian] Faith as it says on the coins.)

Yet I am an orthodox Brahmana today. While I'm sure there were microagressions aplenty, I don't recall any racist or bigoted incidents in the whole time I lived there. It was accepted that my family were foreign and therefore we would be doing foreign things. As long as it didn't interfere with their things they didn't care. I never had anyone try and convert me until I came to America. For that remember I don't remember anyone being curious about my beliefs until I came to America. I suspect this kind of mentality is what Shrikanth means by a "non-universalistic" conservatism. And as the above anecdote shows it can be Christian.

This is the equivalent of saying that everyone who takes Sunday off is a Christian. Yoga in the developed world is entirely shorn of any Hindu elements. In fact early proponents deliberately obscured its Hindus roots and tried to conflate it with Zen and other Buddhist concepts which is the high status eastern religion in the developed world. Hindu is super low status and associated with pooping in streets and gods with tons of arms.

Reincarnation is not exclusive to Hinduism and caste based reincarnation would probally come in less popular than Hitler in the rest of the world.

it seems a non-universalist conservatism would have politely declined to admit your family and sent you home. Also the notion that you are an Orthdox Brahmin despite not living in India would have been laughable to pretty much ever other OB in history. Clearly India wasn't good enough for you and universalism was. I know if i had abandoned the land of my birth I proablly would just keep my mouth shut when it came to the topic of universalism.

"Yoga in the developed world is entirely shorn of any Hindu elements"
"Hindu is super low status and associated with pooping in streets and gods with tons of arms"

Besides particularism / localism, some of the other conservative ideals include humility in matters outside one's area of expertise.

Yea you do comment ignorantly on a lot of stuff.

We Christians have a saying practice what you preach- admittedly not something that would appeal to a soi disant Brahmin where religious jockeying for status has long supplanted any effort to live up to the precepts of your religion.

I can recommend you some books by the early populizers of yoga in the United States but their blatant syncretism (combined with your fervent hatred for Buddhism) would likely just enrage you.


All the early popularizes of Yoga in the United States were a far far cry from being Buddhist and were students of the Brahmin Yoga guru - TT Krishnamacharya. His students include Indra Devi, Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar. The great Indologist Edwin Bryant, arguably the foremost authority on Yogic philosophy and Patanjali in the world, also was initiated in the Vaishnava sampradaya of Northern India (which is very much Brahminical and anything but Buddhist).

The founder of Yoga, Patanjali, himself was very much a theist. Buddhist atheism would be anathema to him.

" religious jockeying for status has long supplanted any effort to live up to the precepts of your religion. "

This is funny coming from a Christian. Because Christianity is the one religion that places the least emphasis on actual practice among the five great religions of the world.

"where religious jockeying for status has long supplanted any effort to live up to the precepts of your religion. "

That's funny coming from a Christian.

Christianity is the religion that places the least emphasis on actual practice and behavioral norms / guidelines among the five great religions of the world.

That's not who popularized the practice in the US. Yoga was entirely a product of New Age syncretism in the United States. I'm sorry but that's the case.

I know it sticks in your craw that European culture seeped into the bones of India (producing what little is decent and worth sustaining) whereas Indian culture in the US is basically a bunch of dishes that give people diarrhea. But thems the facts.

I don't even like dwelling on them but when Indian chauvinists like you show up it's great to rub a little salt in the wound. Humility is the well spring of progress. And people shitting in the streets should be a well spring of humility.

Now you're just quibbling and attempting to move the goalposts. You said Hinduism was unpalatable to every other people on Earth and I showed you that's not true.

But that's irrelevant anyway. We were discussing a non-universalist Conservatism. I mentioned the Silver Jubilee. The major objections in the run up to that even came from the Dissenters (Methodists.) They resented the position of the Queen as head of the Church of England. Some of them had ancestors who fought for Parliament in the Civil War. (The Methodism came later but that area was part of the Puritan heartland in the Stuart era.) Yes in the early 1980's the divine right of Kings was still a topic of debate! That's a conservative culture - one that is firmly rooted in history and place. Regardless of whether Hindu, Methodist, Atheist or Druid (to this day, the true religion of English countryfolk) we were all marched into Church for the Jubilee because Those Are The Rules. And there may have been muttering and grumbling about it in some quarters but everyone went along because You Have To Follow The Rules. That's conservative culture.

So as long as you observed the public rules of the place you were in which I did, what did it matter what I did on my own time in my own home? (And it was my home. I was born nearby. It was my parents who immigrated and considering your obsession, I should add not for defecation related reasons.) This is what is meant by non-universal conservatism. There is no Great Plan or One True Way that everyone has to follow. You just mind your own business and I'll mind mine.

Now is this compatible with Christianity? The U.S. Evangelical Mullet and Microphone variety maybe not. (Which is why that variety is low status and not very palatable in most of the world.) But in one English village at least they made it work.

Bathing was just something intuitive to is Christians so we kind of skipped all the ritual abulations that make up about 50 percent of that so called religious practice and behavioral norms. But leave it to a soi disant Brahmin to confuse a shit ton of religious rules with the notion of self control and personal redemption offered by Christianity. But I guess the fact your wipe your ass the right way makes up for the millennia of Brahmin misrule. And look I get that you are almost certainly not a Brahmin but I'll do you the tiny honor of pretending to believe that you are.

I mean the results kind of speak for themselves. You are in my country not me in yours.

You are losing it, Mr Haysom. Take a deep breath.

We were discussing whether universalism is always at odds with conservatism. Jaldhar, despite being an orthodox Hindu, came to Christianity's defence in this forum dominated by conservatives and claimed that a "conservative Christian" is not an oxymoron.

And you respond by engaging in racist rhetoric.

That's just bad taste.

Haha yea nice try. I'm have the time of my life deflating Indian chauvinist (who don't even like the country enough to live in it).

Neither of you are in any position to make the rhetorical argument you are trying to make. You are both strangers in a strange land- you wiped your ass with any notion of localism ages ago. The fact a completely deflected your troll attempt hardly means I'm angry it just means I cut to the chase. Admittedly hypocrisy has always been a vice very pleasing to soi disant Brahmins but one that we Christians have always seen as particularity corrosive to a moral life. White washed tombs and all that.

"And you respond by engaging in racist rhetoric."

Gotta admit it's perversely satisfying when Brahmin racists (who call themselves "conservative" and wish to sell their ideology to "white conservatives") just end being abused and trolled by white racists instead. Imma munch some popcorn next time.

8. How does he feel about the obsession with "healthcare" in modern societies? Has the obsession with physical health come at the expense of a concern for the health of the soul? The term "soul care" is practically extinct. Does he feel sad about that?

The current opioid addiction for instance is not a healthcare issue but a "soul care" crisis.

In April 2014 Ross published a great article/review ("How to Study the Numinous") of Barbara Ehrenreich's memoir in which he made the claim that we need more comparative religious philosophy and psychology, and less 'brain scans' and "spiritual phrenology." I'm curious to know which writers, philosophers, and psychologists writing today merit Ross's attention.

Also, how does Ross Douthat practice "the Numinous"?

Which virtue is most prevalent in our country's current public life? Which one is least prevalent?

His favorite alternative history novel.

+1, another quick and yet interesting question

Is there room in his worldview for increased immigration of any kind? Skilled? How and when with unskilled? How does he reconcile his views with most economic studies of immigration? How does it reconcile with his Christian faith, which should put people above nations? Why would an aging, economically stagnant Germany be better for all of us? Too many of the anti-immigration opinions lack experience "on the ground". As an engineering manager in the bay area, I see about one qualified applicant born in the US every year, out of hundreds that I review. And the few US-born applicants I do see are the children of immigrants themselves. Given the high salaries we pay, how can this be reconciled with any anti-immigration policies? We fight like the dickens with the DOL to get and keep good people and couldn't dream of paying anyone less, based on their country of origin.

"As an engineering manager in the bay area, I see about one qualified applicant born in the US every year, out of hundreds that I review."

You are living in a bubble and/or you have the worst HR department on the planet. Or alternately you are paying rates well below the norm.

"in the bay area," Oh yeah, bubble. Never mind.

No, I'm calling concern troll on that. Bay area tech workers are a third to a half foreign born, it's nowhere near 99%. This guy's "bubble" is mom's basement.

I think Jesus would probably be more concern led with your restrictive hiring practices than Americas immigration policy. I imagine after gently rolling his eyes at your comment he would respond with some parable illustrating the fact that it's super cynical to import more people when not everyone has a job.

Charles Salmon,

If the American hitech industry would offer a viable lifelong career path then more native-born Americans would choose it.

You can't expect normal people to choose a low status career path that requires working around the clock and getting thrown out at age 40 - while the vcs, managers, and marketing/business people make the real money, have the real status, and have a real career path.

I say this as someone who has been there..

After a harrowing political season, countless sexual harassment scandals, the rise of the neo-Nazis and the degradation of general discourse, do you still believe shame can shape behavior?

How does he react to allegations that he is a "court" or "pet" or "tame" conservative token at the NYT?

Hopefully with sheepish half denials.

— What American demographic will start the next Great Awakening?

— Will the Catholic Church eventually recant the views on religious freedom stated in the Vatican II documents? Is the 'Americanist synthesis' over?

— Has he ever met Steve Bannon? What did they discuss?

overrated or underrated: John Dewey

Best American novel?

Name a movie or novel that you love, that you constantly find yourself having to defend?

What he thinks of Peter Singers drowning child thought experiment

"Why should I, Tyler Cowen, become a Catholic?"

To what extent is he influenced by Nietzsche, and how?

"like David Brooks, you have been highly critical of Donald Trump. As a conservative, do you accept any responsibility for his rise? Do you think Brooks or other allegedly serious conservatives bear such responsibility?"

If you mean did David Brooks by epitomizing the milquetoast stuff shirt centricism pretending to be conservative in order to play the domesticated token cause people to entirely reject mainstream conservatism. Then yea david Brooks is basically completely responsible.

I'm not a fan of Brooks, but it wasn't Brooks that led to Trump. It was the Left wings nutty (yet effective) attacks on Mitt Romney. When it was obvious that someone as inoffensive as Mitt Romney would be widely lambasted on ridiculous grounds, the Republican base decided they wanted somebody that would ferociously fight back. In addition, those and other similar attacks convinced the swing voters that much of the press had repeatedly cried wolf and could be ignored.

JWatts - I had not thought of it that way before. That was Scott Adams level explanation.

When Kathleen Kennedy Townsend stole an election in Maryland, totally playing the Republicans for incompetent fools, I knew all the details, and I knew who the players were.

When the Florida fiasco happened, the same players showed up.

I knew the Republicans would not let it happen again, and they didn't. So Bush, the son of the dishonest but (when young) heroic Bush, won.

I did not realize until I read your comment that Trump understood, in his heart, the eventual weakness of the anti-Romney playbook, the way I understood the Maryland - Florida connection, what people thought about the tactics.

So Mitt Romney was basically the guy who taught Trump how to win an election. I like that. Something Satchel Paige-ish, or Willie Winkle (hit it where they ain't) about it.

I voted for Romney but he was fundamentally unsound. God gave him an amazing number of gifts and still he has held pro-choice positions throughout his life. From the Mormon point of view, I assume he (Romney) is considered a lesser brother, someone amenable to the temptations of the world. It is almost miraculous that a man who supported legalized trivially elective abortion could have so many wonderful grandchildren: well, the mercy of God is more abundant than we can imagine. Trump of today (leaving aside the Howard Stern-friendly Trump of yesteryear) is a better Mormon than Romney, if the defense of the innocent is considered a strong tenet of Mormonism.

And it is. Everybody knows that.

For the record, I called Willie Keeler by the wrong name for a purpose.

"When Wodehouse was young, he overheard a conversation about the best English prose. James Joyce, who later competed with Wodehouse (until the earlier death of the Irish bard) for the title of funniest wielder of the English language, once noted that Cardinal Newman had a prose style that, nuestro mundo estando reflecion de caelo, seemed more near to perfect than any other prose style. All this has been forgotten, as everything will be forgotten, except that which people who care about each other remember." Heart speaks to heart. "Cor ad for loquitur." Literature - journalism - making other people laugh - how can that be more than straw unless what Aquinas, the metaphysician with the heart of a saint, considered straw, was not completely straw (footnote - Aquinas, shortly before dying, great-heartedly told a friend that, compared to the wisdom of the Lord our creator, all his very good writings were straw) (his own writings - with a few mistakes, particularly in the area of respect for better saints than himself, were very good for their day, and would be very good for any day - but his Mariology was fundamentally unsound, everyone knows that, and he fumbled the essential question of the relationship between the individual soul and the individual being inherent in each creature, child of Eve or not, and the hearts of the angels who communicated with those souls - not saying anything particularly controversial here, just saying). Back in the day I spent half a week's salary, every year, on a subscription to Spectator magazine, and one of the art critics of that magazine - I quote from memory - published advice that was worth the week's salary. The High Renaissance, in painting, was even better than we thought, he said (Ekserdjian, Auty? Ekserdjian, I think). I have, in the years following, learned much about the painting of the High Renaissance. And ... not one of the famous painters of the day - not Raphael or the other usual names - ever painted straw in less than a boring way. (Caravaggio - not a High Renaissance painter, having missed it by a few years - has a very good painting of hay, still standing - but hay, still standing, is not straw (the Flight into Egypt, by Caravaggio.)). (Raphael obviously could have painted hay in a way that was not boring , but he chose not to paint hay in any other way but a boring way. Bringing the discussion back to Aquinas - I wish he had been right about everything, He was close - for God's sake, believe me when I say I mean that as a compliment - but still....). But so many evenings I have walked past the urban semi-wastelands of my very-much-not-High-Renaissance mid-Atlantic neighborhood and seen straw, in mid-afternoon light, or in evening light, that would make even Aquinas reconsider what he said, unkindly, about straw, in a stubborn hour. The way the afternoon sun makes golden straw more beautiful than gold, as if gold were not gold but what gold would be if people cared about each other the way God wants us to ... well, there's that.

I used to own, but I gave them all away, many valuable copies of the George Theodore Topps baseball card.

To be clear - Aquinas botched the entire question of the eternal consciousness of all of God's creatures, with the exception of three of the nine hierarchies of angels, as described by Pseudo-Dionysius, and with the exception of all (actually, to be slightly more accurate, most) of the human beings directly descended from the children and grandchildren of Adam and Eve. I am sure i did not need to explain that for most people reading this, but it is always worth while trying to clearly say what one has to say.

For the record, what Aquinas missed was this - if an angel, closer to God than Aquinas or any other human of his day, communicates with any creature, there is no reason the creature in question (no matter how humble) will not have access, in its creatureliness, to the eternal life the angel participates in (cor ad cor loquitur). (Aquinas missed the distinction between human rationality and angelic rationality as it relates to passing along the gift of praying, with success, for the beloved to participate in eternal life. Really.) He also misread, and incorrectly explained, the Biblical verses about the Mother of God, but he died young, and probably would have corrected himself, given more years of life.

The implosion of the campaigns of Scott Walker and Jeb Bush suggest that what led to Trump was catering to Republican donors at the expense of Republican voters. North of 70% of the ballots in the Republican donnybrook were cast for candidates (Trump, Cruz, and a scatter of others) quite alien to the Capitol Hill nexus. Trump added to his net appeal by refusing the play the media's game and issue craven apologies when they tried to stir up trouble. Note that the exemplary Capitol Hill capon-crook, Addison Mitchell McConnell, now has approval ratings somewhere below 20% at home and across the nation.

9. Is it more important to look virtuous or be virtuous?

What's wrong with Glaucon's argument in Book II of the Republic, where he claims that the man who "looks" virtuous" but acts viciously gets better results than the truly virtuous man who looks vicious and creates all the wrong impressions.

Talk about mormons and whether you should both become Mormon (or what the country would be like if everyone converted to Mormonism).

Nothing would change. The bulk of new Mormon converts already reject most of the characteristic "Mormon" prohibitions.

Why does he think Trump supporters call him and people like him "cuckservatives"?

Ask him how the discovery of extra-terrestrial life--whether intelligent or as simple as a single bacterium--would affect his understanding of the Creation. What would be the implications for Christianity specifically and earth-based religion in general?

Ask him if God can dunk on Joel Embid?

This sadly is better than at least 50 percent of the other questions.

For the over-rated and under-rated portion, I would ask him about the Enlightenment and also about Martin Luther. Maybe also something about Frank Capra. Also, it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on the Sopranos and the morality/spirituality of prestige television. Maybe ask him what art forms he thinks are most conducive to educating a (Christian) soul. Maybe also ask him why religious institutions are so weak at shaping people's soul or psyche in the US? Also, maybe ask him if television or the automobile have had a bigger impact on the practice of religion in the US.

How has the theism of Trump, Obama, Bush and Clinton impacted policy and culture in diametrical ways?

Ask him whether he ever prays for you.

When I read his book I wanted to ask this:
You make a strong case that following a Catholic philosophy is good for people and society. Yet that belief system is based on certain truth claims. If you were to come to understand that some basic truth claim (e.g. virgin birth) is false, would you reject the whole edifice or try to make a utilitarian argument for continuing the belief. In other words do you believe in Catholicism or do you believe in belief?

Thanks, love your conversations!


Which Playboy centerfold did you consider overrated, rather than merely underdressed?

Actually, a question for Tyler:

Tyler places a low probability on Catholicism being true.

Hardly anyone seems to care about theological squabbles anymore outside the Muslim world and sub-Saharan Africa (and most Catholics merrily shack up, contracept and divorce).

Finally, the rise of Trump has shown that Ross's tribe of principled, intellectual, 'Summa Theologica'-reading religious conservatives had much less power over the Republican party than anyone thought.

So, are we overrating the importance of Ross Douthat?

Sydney or the bush? Peguy or Proust? (the answer can be found on Peguy's wikipedia page, at least for now). Also, if he is that guy in Connecticut on the train, with the hipster goatee, that I lent 7 bucks to back in the day, without even knowing him, so that he would have enough cash to finish that train ride to Boston - instead of being asked to leave the train at Providence - if he is that guy, will he please direct the 7 bucks to a good charity? I have been pretty impressed with the ASPCA and the Humane Society lately.

The Pope is supposed to have the keys to the kingdom of heaven and what he allows on Earth is endorsed in heaven. Ask him how dare he question the Pope's prerogative on this matter

Ask him how dare he question the Pope’s prerogative on this matter

That you misunderstand papal infallibility is not a reason for him to waste his time asking a Catholic layman one of your dumb questions.

Art Deco, this is from Catholic answers web page : " A pope’s private theological opinions are not infallible, only what he solemnly defines is considered to be infallible teaching. ". Now if the Pope solemnly defines the sacrament of marriage in a way that endorses gay unions, a devout catholic has to accept it.

Again to quote from Catholic Answers: "Therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly held irreformable, for they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, an assistance promised to him in blessed Peter." So if he in an appropriate way pronounces endorsement of gay marriage, he did it under inspiration and a devout catholic however conservative cannot ask the Pope to rethink. If you can call into question the authority pf the Pope, it means you can think for yourself and don't need a Pope to think for you

Is he a Catholic puritan?

There is no such thing.


I believe 95% of catholic universities are Catholic in name only. Does he agree and what direction does he hope for the future of Catholic Universities.

There are a small corps of Catholic colleges, most founded in the last 50 years, which are a residue of the 200-odd set of foundationally Catholic institutions. There were only ever about a dozen Catholic research universities. There are some redoubts of Catholicism at Notre Dame and Seton Hall &c. The only one that's salvageable is Catholic University and only if Catholic bishops are willing to follow some disciplinary principle more elevated than 'don't screw with the money'. Fat chance.

1. What is the purpose of religion?
2. Why do so many intelligent people neglect/reject religion(s)?
3. If he could ask Jesus a question, what would it be?

Ask him about the Marquis de Sade and what a conservative like Douthat can learn from Sade's study and view of human nature. Any lessons for Christian conservatives there?

If Ross Douthat was made king of America (ignoring the weird complications that implies), and he could pass any policies he wanted, what would be his policy prescription for the US? What is his utopian (or at least, gradualist) vision for the US?

As long as you're reading Lateran 649, why don't you ask him if modern-day Roman Catholics like him, who are unhappy with the current bishop of Rome, can draw any lessons from the formal condemnation of that city's bishop, Pope Honorius I, at the sixth ecumenical council (Constantinople III) in 681, which was the follow-up council to Lateran 649?

In his recent talk with Rebecca Traister, why didn't he bring up and insist the Pres. Clinton's impeachment was about perjury over Monica, in a sexual harassment suit by another (Paula Jones)?

A big part of the Dem hypocrisy then, and now, is to focus on Monica instead of Bill's lies about Monica AND Bill's treatment of ... Paula Jones. Who did NOT consent.

When freedom is enabled by structure, how much freedom should people have to undermine the structure?

Does he think that the success of The Shack, with its message that relationships are more important than religious, political or economic institutions, is merely indicative of our Bad Religion, or does he see in it a common ground from which the religiously inclined could build better institutions?

Does he see a link between sexual freedoms and the right to bear arms? It seems like both have their dangers, but that people advocating for sexual liberty believe in gun control, and people advocating for laws restricting sexual practices and birth control options do not want to see any restrictions on the right to bear arms.

What are the drawbacks, signs and/or symptoms of love and hope without faith? Can one tell if a professed agnostic/atheist actually has faith? Are faith and hope really like wings where it takes both of them for love to soar?

Who does he see as today's leading Catholic intellectuals? Overrated or underrated: Pope Francis, Bishop Barron and his Word on Fire efforts, Matthew Kelly and his Dynamic Catholic organization.

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