Randal Rauser constantly attacks both Calvinism and the Bible because it offends his liberal sensibilities. He tries to canonize his liberal sensibilities as "moral intuitions." He also lodges a faux populist appeal, in which he imagines that what he’s pleased to call his “moral intuitions” mesh with what most folks believe or feel.
It’s kind of amusing to observe the massive disconnect between his sweeping, populist appeals and his highly selective, provincial outlook. He seriously acts as though his radical chic pacifism, bolshevism, Veganism, and deep Green environmentalism is the default position of the masses. Like a hippy whose world geography begins and ends at the outskirts of Haight-Ashbury. The summer of love.
But let’s take a few obvious counterexamples. Before it was watered down by political correctness, 24 was a very popular TV show. Now the first few seasons represent the antithesis of what Rauser allegedly stands for. Now doubt he’d be appalled by the “Islamaphobia,” militarism, torture, bloodlust, and so on.
But that makes my point. What he finds repellent is what many viewers found appealing.
Take another example. Revenge movies are a stock cinematic genre. Some revenge movies are better than others, but there’s always an audience for revenge movies, which is why this genre never goes out of fashion.
Sometimes the plot involves the protagonist reducing his enemy to financial ruin. But oftentimes it’s a good deal gorier.
One standard plot involves a woman who survives a horrific assault. Maybe the psycho mistakenly leaves her for dead, or maybe she escapes before he can finish her off.
She goes to the authorities, but they are bleeding-heart liberals like Randal Rauser who don’t do anything. So she takes matters into her own hands. She goes from being the victim to being the avenger.
Another standard plot involves a man whose wife and kids are brutally murdered by a psychopath. That’s the set-up or provocation for the rest of the movie, in which he plots his revenge and takes his revenge.
A revenge movie is unashamedly vindictive. The avenger doesn’t just kill the psycho. That would let him off too easy. Instead, the avenger taunts the psycho, like a cat toying with a bird. Little nicks and cuts. Terrorizing the psycho. Making him suffer. Dragging it out.
My point is not to assess the morality of revenge films. My point is that revenge films have a popular following despite the fact that they offend Rauser’s moral sensitivities. The audience for revenge movies doesn’t share his “intuitive” revulsion. Just the opposite.
The popular appeal of a revenge film is vicarious. The moviegoer gets to indulge his own vindictive impulses through a fictional character. Rauser may think that’s appalling, but he can’t condemn it on populist grounds. He can’t plausibly say that offends our universal moral intuitions.
Finally, let’s take a more refined example. C. S. Lewis was an Oxford Don. Very civilized.
Yet in Perelandra he stages a fistfight between the Un-Man and Ransom. Ransom pounds the Un-Man to a bloody pulp. And Lewis uses this scene as a pretext to justify revenge. He’s saying there are situations in which revenge is admirable. And not just abstract moral satisfaction, but something very physical, brutal, and gory. The bloodier the better.
BTW, I wonder if Lewis was bullied as a child, at those all-male boarding schools he hated. I wonder if this scene doesn’t reflect the helpless rage he felt. Just a thought.
Once more, my point is not to evaluate his perspective, but just to document his perspective. Lewis is going out of his way, in the most in-your-face manner that an understated Englishman could command, to quash the very attitude which Rauser epitomizes.
And this is fiction. Consider the reality. Consider all those warrior cultures, from little bands of hunter-gathers to Assyrians, Aztecs, Mongols, and so on.
At best, Rauser might claim that people who enjoy this fare are suppressing their moral intuitions. If so, how does he know that?
Where his empirical evidence for these innate, universal moral intuitions he imputes to humanity? If he already knew that to be true, then he could chalk up the apparent counterevidence to suppression, but if he’s just going by the prima facie evidence of how people act or what they enjoy, then his operating premise is grossly underdetermined by the available evidence.