Strauss's attempt to muscle out Christianity as a formative principle of Western Civilisation led him to posit an alternative. For Strauss, that alternative was Athenian Philosophy.
Philosophy, as Strauss asserted, was categorically different to revealed faith and two could be considered as operating in separate domains: influential, but not binding on each other. While the faith could inspire or challenge, it was the role of philosophy to determine what was the correct way to live. Furthermore, Strauss asserted that there was difference between the philosophy of the "ancients" as opposed to the "moderns". The poisons of modern philosophy, according to Strauss, found their origin in the radical reaction to the Christian synthesis of faith and reason, resulting in reason being taken to the extremes. Strauss saw modern philosophy--with all of its ills--as a sort of Hegelian "reactionary anti-Christianity" rather than an separate thing in itself. Ancient Greek philosophy, on the other hand, was uncontaminated by the Christian faith and represented a purer and more universal philosophy that could stand alone outside the Hegelian Christian/Anti-Christian dialectic.
As I understand it, Strauss saw the classical world as being more moderate and prudent when it came to rationalisation and reason. The ancient world never made the mistake of the Christian West, of trying to harmonise faith and reason, nor did it make the mistake of the radical Enlightenment, in trying to eliminate the faith. The "reasonableness' of the ancients was a sort of "check and balance" on rationality and helped stop philosophy/reason from becoming too extreme. Strauss felt that by adopting this approach a moderate secularism could be achieved, and hence his call for a "return to the ancients."
However, if you think about this for a bit, the terms "excess", "prudence" and "radicalisation" are all relative terms which are subjectively contingent, and what Strauss was advocating in his depictions of Classical philosophy was a "moderate" or dispositionaly conservative, secularism, i.e. "go slow secularism". Strauss may not have admired Burke but he was effectively advocating a secularism along Burkean lines; a prudent, cautious secularism which didn't push things too far. And I think that his advocacy of a "moderate" secularism is what gave Strauss his appeal among the "feelz" based "Right" who found the radical secularism of the Left intuitively repugnant.
As mentioned in the previous post, Straussian conservatism's acknowledgement of the importance of religion, without any definite obligation to it, bought the allegiance of the cognitively-lite religious crowds. Taking Strauss at his word, it does seem that Strauss thought that religion was important, but its role seemed to be "influence' and "challenge" reason without reason having obligation to respond. Straussian paeans to the faith reassure the relgious lambs who felt that they could lay next to the secular lions under the Straussian tent.
Perceptive readers who have suffered this blog will see that there is an automatic metaphysical tension built in the Straussian hermeneutic between it and the Christian one. Gottfried lays it out;
Christians may appropriate for themselves bits and pieces of the Straussian method but they would be wrong to imagine that the corresponding belief system is congruent with Christian truths or with any other form of revealed religion. If devout Christians find nothing objectionable about the Straussian hermeneutic, then they should be willing to reconsider their position. They should recognize the fit between the the two worldviews is more problematic than they have been willing to admit. This reassessment may be all the more necessary give the still widespread appeal among Catholic traditionalists.
In the battle between Athenian philosophy and Christian revelation, Athens always wins. Furthermore, the practical application of Straussianism in the multi-faith environment that is America--or the Anglosphere--everyone's faith gets "respected" but no one's faith gets to put the brakes on Athenian philosophy. The end result is the relentless push of secularism, albeit at a pace slower than that advocated by the radical Left.
Furthermore, as Athenian philosophy was an exercise in abstract "reason" and "sound judgement", its cognitive operations were not really contigent upon local circumstances, tradition, or identity, something Strauss dismissed as Historicism. Being abstract and purely rational, "above" time and place, the conclusions of Athenian philosophy were transnational and trans-historical, in essence universal. Just as "one plus one equals two" is universally valid, according to Strauss, anyone, thinking like a "sound" Athenian philosopher, be they Arabic, Hindu or Japanese would come to the same conclusions as to what was the "philosophically" right way to live. Implicit in Straussian conservatism is a universalism in its applicability. i.e. it was globalist in scope.
According to Strauss, when Greek philosophy was put to the task of politics, the "best possible" political system that resulted was Anglo-American democracy. Although I may be expressing it impolitely, it's not far off the mark to say that Straussians believe that within every Gook, Chink, Sand nigger, Wop, etc., there is an American waiting to get out.
There's a couple of important points here;
Firstly, As Strauss attempts to write out Christianity from the political history of the West, he redefines Western as being equivalent to its secular liberal manifestation. By this logic, countries like South Korea, Japan and Israel are Western. The West ceases to be a particular time, person, or place. Anyone can be part of the West provided they achieve "Athenian" illumination and embrace secular democracy.
Secondly, there is an implicit tension between the utopia of secular democracy and the forces which impede it. For the Straussian conservative, a Christianity which imposed limits on secular democracy would be just as objectionable as a Confucianism or Islam which did the same. The uncoupling of religion, as expressed though culture, if not theocracy, means that Straussian "Conservatism" relentlessly pushes Left, the limits only being what "reasonable" Athenian rationality deems reasonable.
Take "Gay Marriage" for instance. A Catholic, sound Protestant, or Orthodox religious culture would prohibit the political realisation of the concept, no matter how well argued a case in support of it. The prohibition would be moral and binding. A Straussian, on the other hand, would argue that religion is a "challenge" to our conceptions of marriage but for the good of the "polis" it may be necessary to be be flexible and magnanimous to those under the spell of the "Helenic Eros." They talk the religious talk but walk the secular walk.
Thirdly, Straussianism had its gestation in the Wiemar republic and the Cold war period, where there were real threats to the existence of secular liberal democracy. Straussian conservatism sees the aggressive defense and expansion of this type of democracy as an inherent good. The consequence being that there is an implicit expansionary dynamic in the ideology. War is a feature, and not a bug, of the system. Making the world safe for democracy means getting rid of the threats to democracy, be they political, cultural or local. Anyone who is not with the program is a potential threat.
Fourthly, many of the factors which prevent a particular country from achieving the utopia of modern secular democracy are precisely local and historical. Straussian conservatism is inherently oppositional to them. Straussian conservatism therefore acts as a homogenising social force by hostility to the local insofar as it impedes the universal, implicitly pushing towards a global monoculture and is a facilitating factor of the current globalist agenda.