Cormac McCarthy and the Possibility of Faith

Cormac McCarthy, who passed away today, gives readers reason to suspect that he did not shut the door on God before his life ended. His last two novels, The Passenger and Stella Maris, offer more than just an artistic representation of reality’s inescapable brutality. They forcefully struggle with the greatest questions of human existence. Like any good work of art, these books don’t allow any reader—religious, atheist, materialist, Christian—to walk away feeling perfectly comfortable in their understanding of the world.
The Soviet regime is formally gone, but the legacy of its formidable security apparatus lives on. There was never a “decommunization” process in the wake of the USSR’s collapse. The vast majority of those who had participated in its structures and atrocities escaped punishment, and many of them created political careers in the post-communist era. People like Vladimir Putin were deeply marked by their socialization within that apparatus.
Although a committed progressive, through his novels, Todd Gitlin hedges his commitments by both recognizing the limitations of his worldview and portraying the merits of his political adversaries. No matter one’s own views, Gitlin’s intellectual virtues and fairmindedness displayed in his work are deeply instructive.
Racial disparity is really only a derivative result of the larger social abandonment of a set of norms which manifests itself most immediately and most severely in the African American population, but which really is a larger question for all Americans.
In her recent book The Genetic Lottery, Kathryn Paige Harden makes flawed assumptions about the nature of moral agency and generalizes about how people value social status.
Freedom is certainly a value conservatives cherish, but its application has limits. It is not conservative to assert an individual right to act without considering the welfare of his community. Conservatives should choose to get vaccinated and boosted because doing poses almost no risks to their health and is in their community’s interest.
The greatest challenge to my teaching is the relativist, anecdote-dominated view of knowledge many of my students have absorbed by the time they enter my classroom. Too many of their teachers embrace the view that relativist, subjectivist, and ultimately personal experiential knowledge is the only kind available to us—or at least that it trumps other kinds of knowledge.
Today, sociology is overwhelmingly dominated by the radically individualistic and gender–feminist ethic that drives contemporary American culture. Yet it was not always so. Émile Durkheim, the Frenchman whom many call the founder of sociology, offered a rigorous scientific and philosophical account of sexuality, marriage, and the family that affirms the traditional view.
Nations have cultural and moral foundations, and religion is historically at their core. The secular multiculturalist fails to see why a Christian and a Muslim cannot agree to disagree and fall into peaceable line in a republic. This is because he imagines Christians and Muslims who do not take their respective faiths seriously. Only if neither adheres to basic principled claims of their faiths is it plausible to imagine all potential religious and cultural conflict between the two disappearing.
Fifty years after Altamont, no clear-eyed observer of American culture can doubt that the demonic spirit of 1969 is still very much in the air in our country. This is how the evil of cultural destruction presents itself. It would be so easy to turn aside from it if all collapsed into ugly, nauseating chaos instantly as soon as the old cultural rules and restrictions were abandoned. But such things take time to materialize in their full wreckage.