Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The intelligence of so-con women

It seems that last night's post about BnR (as well as the link to my blog) generated quite a bit of discussion. There are so many issues addressed, so little time to address them all.

One issue that was raised which really struck me is the intelligence of so-con women.

The general consensus of the crowd is that so-con women are dumb OR so-con women can have some intelligence, but whatever intellectual depth they may have had or could have is negated by their religious belief, to one degree or another.

I think that intelligence of so-con women can vary, just like it can for socially liberal women. I think that the feminists of the BnR variety do not appreciate the intellectual sophistication of social conservatives in general, let alone so-con women. When you adopt an ideology, you tend to skim the surface of statements from the opposing camp. I strongly doubt that women like Gwen Landolt, who's a lawyer by profession, or Mary Anne Glendon, the Vatican's lead on Women's Issues, could have gotten to where they are without some capacity for intellectual sophistication.

Social conservatism is heavily inspired by religion-- of course-- but I don't think that the ladies on BnR really have a grasp of the intellectual underpinnings of social conservatism-- especially from a Catholic vantage.

I can see how they might consider some so-cons to be not very bright. I've met some fairly intellectually unsophisticated so-cons in my life. I ran an interfaith religious discussion board for several years, and there's a subset of religious conservatives who adhere to what I consider to be an "easily marketable" form of Christianity. The message of Evangelical Christianity can be so simple, so reductionist, that you can see how Evangelicals-- with the right marketing-- can be so successful in attracting adherents. That's not to say all who adopt a "simple" Evangelical Christianity are stupid, but it can be appealing to those who aren't prone to really make an intellectual effort in investigating the intellectual edifice of Evangelical theology.

And so you get people who adopt blatantly ridiculous theories like the "Trail of Blood" theory (which claims that the Catholic Church persecuted the True Christians-- like Cathars, Bogomils, Arians and other completely unrelated sects) or the Jack Chick version of anti-Catholicism, which call the Eucharist a "death-cookie". That kind of easily refutable junk.

But then you have so-con women who are educated, manage to have a career and are capable of nuance, reading other points of view, erudition even.

One argument that I've seen atheists use against the intellectual foundations of Christianity is that Christians are proportionally underrepresented in higher education, especially at the graduate level.

I think this contributes to the impression that so-cons aren't very bright, therefore their beliefs are not sophisticated. I don't think that follows.

For one thing, there's a question of socialization and self-exclusion. For instance, I did one semester of grad school in English literature. I will never go back. I am certain that many so-cons reason in the same way. Intellectually, I found the post-modernism and the political correctness such a massive waste of time, that there just seemed no point in continuing. Why pay hundreds (at that time) of dollars to learn crap?

And young people, when they enter university, don't necessarily have any ideological grounding. When they go through university, they meet up with predominantly left-wing professors, and absorb predominantly left-wing values, and then they derive the impression that true education, intelligence, and sophistication must come from, and produce, a left-wing point of view. Many people who enter the "real world" drop that stance as they come to know various kinds of people, but others continue to cling that idea. This attitude is reproduced in the greater world outside of academia, and contributes to the perception of so-cons not being intelligent.

Most major world religions (not to say all, because I haven't looked at them all) have produced a sophisticated world view. By that, I mean an intellectually nuanced, more or less logically consistent manner of looking at the world. It does a require certain deal of intellectual power to grasp, absorb and reason through Thomism and Torah scholarship (to name two systems I have some familiarity with). There are simplistic Bible Thumpers who interpret Scripture in ignorant ways. But it doesn't follow that all so-cons are that way.

I find it a little bit ironic that some of the people who condemn conservative religion for its gross oversimplications, are the same ones who make gross oversimplifications about religion or religious views, sometimes getting it downright wrong.

It's a bit tough not to take negative generalizations about so-con women personally. I was always the smartest, most knowledgeable kid in class (though not always the best student), I've informally tested my IQ on a number of occasions, and I usually come out in the genius range. I've always been known for being outspoken and marching to the beat of my own drum (which includes taking my faith seriously when just about everyone else doesn't).

There are lots of Catholic women like that out there.

In the end, it's not really about me, it's about perceptions. Some of those perceptions are based on experience, but a lot of it is based on the media and ideology. Because the feminist perception of so-con women does not ring true with me.