The French have a penchant for absolutism, for thinking that things are all one way or all another, which is why their politics are marked by a general inability to compromise and why they tend to hold their personal opinions until the bitter end, even after they have clearly lost an argument.
Religion and ethics were not always - or even frequently - mutually compatible. The demands of religious absolutism or fundamentalism or rampaging relativism often deflected the worst aspects of contemporary culture or prejudices rather than a system which both man and God could live under with a sense of real justice.
I saw in States' rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy.... Therefore I deemed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization, and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.
Peace cannot be built on exclusivism, absolutism, and intolerance. But neither can it be built on vague liberal slogans and pious programs gestated in the smoke of confabulation. There can be no peace on earth without the kind of inner change that brings man back to his "right mind." p. 31
If we move in the direction of biblial absolutism how can we escape turning the New Testament into a Christian Torah and the gospel into a new law? Once we do that, religious fascism with all its sectarian ugliness cannot be far away. Far better a mistaken Christian (a heretic) who has somehow caught the Spirit of Christ, than an orthodox Protestant who thinks that the Spirit is mediated to him through the letter of correct theology.
Robert D. Brinsmead
Above all, creators remain drawn to the age-old paradoxes that philosophy grapples with [and]...that art occasionally resolves...the problem of the one and the many; unity and variety; determinism and freedom; mechanism and vitalism; good and evil; time and eternity; the plenum and the void; moral absolutism and relativism... These are the basic problems of human existence, and as far as we possibly can we arrange things to forget them.
For centuries it was never discovered that education was a function of the State, and the State never attempted to educate. But when modern absolutism arose, it laid claim to everything on behalf of the sovereign power....When the revolutionary theory of government began to prevail, and Church and State found that they were educating for opposite ends and in a contradictory spirit, it became necessary to remove children entirely from the influence of religion.
We had principles in mathematics that were granted to be absolute in mathematics for over 800 years, but new science has gotten rid of those absolutism, gotten forward other different logics of looking at mathematics, and sort of turned the way we look at it as a science altogether after 800 years.
Atheism ... in its philosophic aspect refuses allegiance not merely to a definite concept of God, but it refuses all servitude to the God idea, and opposes the theistic principle as such. Gods in their individual function are not half as pernicious as the principle of theism which represents the belief in a supernatural, or even omnipotent, power to rule the earth and man upon it. It is the absolutism of theism, its pernicious influence upon humanity, its paralyzing effect upon thought and action, which Atheism is fighting with all its power.
George Bush made a mistake when he referred to the Saddam Hussein regime as 'evil.' Every liberal and leftist knows how to titter at such black-and-white moral absolutism. What the president should have done, in the unlikely event that he wanted the support of America's peace-mongers, was to describe a confrontation with Saddam as the 'lesser evil.' This is a term the Left can appreciate. Indeed, 'lesser evil' is part of the essential tactical rhetoric of today's Left, and has been deployed to excuse or overlook the sins of liberal Democrats, from President Clinton's bombing of Sudan to Madeleine Albright's veto of an international rescue for Rwanda when she was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Among those longing for nuance, moral relativism-the willingness to use the term evil, when combined with a willingness to make accommodations with it-is the smart thing: so much more sophisticated than 'cowboy' language.
The ancient sages of Kashmir Shaivism did not look for the truth only in logic and intellectual speculation. They relied much more on their experiences during deep yogic states to guide them in understanding and clarifying age-old philosophical dilemmas. They discovered the Absolute within themselves and found that they were one with it. They studied the Self that lay beyond the mind and the ego, and found that It was divine, creative energy. God was not some distant ruler or some inert entity. These sages realized and recognized that He was within everything, was the vitality of life itself, and was always the one transcendent Reality as well. In this way Kashmir Shaivites taught the principle of theistic absolutism. For centuries Indian philosophers have been debating whether this world is real or an illusion. In the process of watching the unfolding of their own creative energy during meditation, the sages of Kashmir found the source of all creation, and witnessed how everything in this universe evolves from this one absolute Reality into manifestation which is also real. Because all creation exists within the Absolute, they established the principle of spiritual realism. - B. N. Pandit, Specific Principles of Kashmir Shaivism (3rd ed., 2008), p. x
The lives of thousands of young Frenchmen were ready for this literary bath of blood and sentiment in the 1830's. Their fathers and grandfathers had had their romanticism in the raw: the drama of the French Revolution, the glamour of the Napoleonic campaigns in Europe and in Africa had filled their lives with colour; now the young people, listening with envy to reminiscence and tradition, knew they were living in a world that had become flat and dull. For the unshackling of the Revolution and the pageantry and devotion of the Empire had been succeeded by two colourless Bourbon kings, who had learned nothing from the times and were so stupid as to insist on absolutism without providing any splendour to justify it; and when their line was expelled in a minor revolution in 1830 they were replaced by their even more colourless cousin, Louis Philippe of Orleans, a constitutional monarch whose virtue was that he was more bourgeois than the bourgeois and whom the newspapers caricatured unendingly, strolling with his family past the shops he owned, carrying an umbrella under his arm. In placing him on the throne the French bourgeoisie consolidated the gains it had begun to make forty years before, and his prime minister gave the watchword of the day when he urged his fellow-citizens to make as much money as they possibly could. The French bourgeois - the revolutionaries of 1789, the conquerors of Europe under Napoleon - became rich, smug, tenacious, and fearful of change; and their children and grandchildren, the young men of Flaubert's generation, were raised in an atmosphere of careful, commercial materialism, of complete lack of interest in literature and the arts, and of complete distrust of impulse and imagination.