Misunderstanding the Culture Wars

William Saletan does not really understand what the culture wars are all about when he writes of ending them. The culture wars are  a consequence of the religious right believing they can use the power of government to impose their religious views upon others. Other Republicans such as Karl Rove in recent years and Richard Nixon in the past found that they can mobilize these voters over wedge issues for political gain regardless of whether they really care about their issues.

Saletan promotes contraception as the alternative but fails to understand that the same people who oppose abortion rights are also the ones against abortion. They support making it more difficult for women to obtain contraception and support laws giving conservative pharmacists the ability to refuse to dispense contraception.

It will do no good to argue to conservatives that opposing contraception is counterproductive if they oppose abortion. Conservative base these positions on their religious views and this is not open to rational debate. Similarly, social conservatives will not accept his arguments with regards to the benefits of children being raised in stable marriages with same sex couples.

Saletan’s views on liberals are out of a conservative stereotype, not reality. Liberals who defend a woman’s right to choose do not condone irresponsible sexual decisions. We are just realistic enough to know that there are lots of Bristol Palins in the world. Planned Parenthood does advise women about contraception,  not only abortion. They are seen as the enemy by the religious right on both counts.

With all the talk recently of ending the culture wars, the only hope for an end will come if more Americans understand why the Founding Fathers wisely attempted to form a secular state with a strict wall of separation between church and state. While everyone is free to hold whatever religious views they choose, and worship as they choose, religious views must never be the sole justification for public policy. There will be culture wars as long as any group believes they can impose their religious views on others.


  1. 1
    Fritz says:

    Much as I would like to do so, I cannot fully blame the culture wars on the Religious Right.  Politically-stupid and highly-visible efforts of the left, like speech codes on college campuses and prohibitions on Christmas-related images in elementary schools, have made their contribution in drawing battle lines.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    While I’m sure there have been incidents from people on the left which are also objectionable, these are far rarer than the polices from the right which fuel the culture wars. Many of the claims from the right regarding such incidents have turned out to be untrue when investigated. The Democrats have never pursued referendums to ban Christmas-related images in the way that the Republicans have used referendums opposing gay marriage to get out the vote from their base.

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