And of course, he slips (without knowing it) into a bizarre circular self-erasing logic. I'll explain.
If Barack Obama read Karl Marx less, and Arthur Brooks more, he might not be in such hot water.So you can see where this is going. The book is "Gross National Happiness" by Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks. We'll get to him in a minute.
Here's Jack's quotation from the now infamous "bitter" answer from April 6:
"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them ... it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who are not like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations," Sen. Obama famously told fat cats at a fund raiser in San Francisco.Note the not-so-subtle cut at the "fat cats" in San Francisco. I'm surprised he didn't note how the number of miles it takes to drive from San Francisco to Berkeley, Ca (via google maps, it's a skosh over 15).
By the way the complete transcript of that quotation can be found here (just scroll down a bit).
Now this is where it gets fun. Jack writes:
Mr. Obama's comments reek of the watered down Marxism that passes for thought on college campuses these days. "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of a soulless condition. It is the opium of the people," Marx wrote.Actually there's more to that sentence, much more (it's from Marx's "Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right"):
Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man—state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.But I want you to notice something about Jack's rhetoric. here He connects Obama's line to Karl Marx. The connection being that what Obama said sounds (to Jack's "many commentators" at least) like it agrees with Marx and because since anything that Marx wrote, by virtue of its source, was just plain dumb if not dangerous, then what Obama said was just plain dumb, if not dangerous.
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people [Emphasis added]
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
It's the "by virtue of its source" part that interests me here.
Who is Arthur Brooks? Jack labels him "a professor at Syracuse University" and that's true. He is. In fact he's the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy there as well as a Professor of Public Administration and a Senior Research Associate, Alan K. Campbell Public Affairs Institute among many other things. How did I know that?
Because it's on his bio page at the American Enterprise Institute, where Brooks is also a visiting scholar. Without knowing that, though, you might be left with the impression that Professor Brooks is a neutral party in our on-going political discussions and not a scholar at one of the Nation's important conservative think tanks.
Something Jack doesn't tell you.
If you're still unconvinced about things, take a look at the description of the book at AEI:
And now look at the sets of "values" set in opposition to each other. Does that look like a fair and balanced opposition or does it look skewed to the conservative right from the onset?
Who are the happiest Americans? Surveys show that religious people think they are happier than secularists, and secularists think they are happier than religious people. Liberals believe they are happier than conservatives, and conservatives disagree. In fact, almost every group thinks it is happier than everyone else.
In this provocative new book, Arthur C. Brooks explodes the myths about happiness in America. As he did in the controversial Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism, Brooks examines vast amounts of evidence and empirical research to uncover the truth about who is happy in America, who is not, and--most important--why.
He finds that there is a real "happiness gap" in America today, and it lies disconcertingly close to America's cultural and political fault lines. The great divide between the happy and the unhappy in America, Brooks shows, is largely due to differences in social and cultural values. The values that bring happiness are faith, charity, hard work, optimism, and individual liberty. Secularism, excessive reliance on the state to solve problems, and an addiction to security all promote unhappiness.
But let's get back to the Marx/opiate/religion stuff. What does it mean? Austin Cline over at about.com writes:
In the above quotation Marx is saying that religion’s purpose is to create illusory fantasies for the poor. Economic realities prevent them from finding true happiness in this life, so religion tells them that this is OK because they will find true happiness in the next life. Although this is a criticism of religion, Marx is not without sympathy: people are in distress and religion provides solace, just as people who are physically injured receive relief from opiate-based drugs.So right or wrong, Marx's position on religion is that it offers an illusory fantasy about finding true happiness in the next life if economic realities make it difficult to find happiness in this one.
And what does Jack Kelly say about Arthur Brooks' book? Take a look:
Religious people are happier than secular people in part because we think we're going to go to a nice place when we die.Uh, I'm sorry, but doesn't that sound dangerously close to something Karl Marx wrote?