This assimilation of American Catholics to Protestant attitudes about governance has, of course, facilitated religious-right coalition building, and it helps to account for the newfound hostility many conservative Catholics, especially intellectuals, feel for the theory of evolution.

My root objection to Protestantism of this kind is political-philosophical: it’s the principle of mass opinion or personal opinion over disciplined knowledge, of mass taste over good taste, and of constant schism, resentment, and fracture, attitudes that far from leading to freedom actually enslave the state to the demands of well-organized groups….

But keep in mind that authority systems are dynamic. Catholic authority can lend itself to obscurantism if the clerical authority of priests is opposed to the clerical authority of scientists. And Protestant freedom — the complementary habits of making up one’s own mind and of working things out as a group rather than everyone accepting a higher, narrower authority — can also work in many circumstances. But each extreme must be tempered by its opposite: Protestants, if they’re not to turn obscurantist, must recreate hierarchies and must not be anti-clerical, even if they need not become clericalists; similarly, Catholics can remain clerical but must not neglect thinking for themselves or reasoning outside of established authority. Either of these mixtures might work well. But as an absolute principle anti-clericalism is deadly to the mind. It results in Todd Akin believing that a uterus can decide when to get pregnant.