C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre: c’est de la folie.
It is magnificent, but it is not war; it is madness.
This blog’s primary focus is religion and politics. Either subject is inherently controversial, but no results are more controversial than when the two are mixed to create their explosive cocktail.
I guess I’m lucky. Few bloggers have such a blatant pretext to professionally stir up controversy.
Many atheists seek to champion the cause of secularism when they commentate on political matters. While I have no objection to what they do, I find that their actions are a precarious path, given their atheism will be seen as their motive, and so it is easy for those atheists to be accused of hypocrisy in choosing to promote secularism. As I argued in my recent feature article, “Tolerant Christians vis-à-vis Evil Islam?”, individuals motivated by anti-religion are just as religious as individuals motivated by religion. Any position, whether for or against, responding to a religious tradition is a religious position. Any lawmaker who accuses a religious community of being errant or problematic is making a religious value judgment, whether or not the individual is himself a member of a faith tradition.
US politicians who single out Islam as a threat to America – something certain conservatives like to do – are violating the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution. The purpose of separating religion from politics has never been to keep irrationality or even bloodthirsty fanatics out of politics (indeed, irrational and bloodthirsty nationalism is still the basis of almost all politics, and became even the more so because of the Enlightenment). The only purpose such a separation serves is the protection of religious groups from lawmakers. In other words, the Establishment Clause is all about leaving religious people alone and allowing them to practice peacefully without fear of persecution. This is as it should be. If an atheist lawmaker were to incorporate anti-religion into his political ideology or to propose laws that would outlaw religious activities of any kind, such a move would violate the required separation of church and state.
In my participation at the Mont Order Club’s discussion panel in February, I stated that I have no religious background, despite the Mont Order’s seemingly religious name and other facets and my premier involvement in publicizing that group. In fact, I have actually written fairly vitriolic “atheist” posts at other publications in my diverse background as a writer on the net. Nevertheless, I also emphasized at the Mont Order that I bear no hostility towards religious groups. If anything, when it comes to religious disagreement and controversy, I bear hostility towards the people who attack and slander religious groups.
As with the atheists who promote secularism as if it will somehow eradicate religion, there is a similar misunderstanding among religious people – especially the Christian right in the United States – that secularism is about eliminating religion. However, as I have argued, it is about protecting religion.
The same assessment can be made about terrorism. There is religiously motivated terrorism by religious people, and then there is religiously motivated terrorism by anti-religious people (usually they are against a particular religion, Islam being the usual target of hate and the target of Anders Breivik’s terrorism in Norway). Whether an attack is based on an errant reading of holy scripture or based on a prejudice against a religious community or sect that is believed to be in error, the attack is religiously motivated. Hence, one doesn’t need to be a member of any religion to be a religious fanatic.
Beyond criticizing religious groups and individuals and trying to conflate them with terrorist groups or acts, or misrepresenting secularism as an attack on religion rather than a measure aimed at protecting religion, there is the matter of nationalism. It too, has almost all the dangerous properties of a religious cult. In fact, as I and many antistatists argue, nationalism is the real death cult, and it is right under our noses. Why do people decry the idea of a theocracy, a political system based on one group’s concept of God, but feel it appropriate to obey authority figures who make the prejudiced argument that our geography needs to be defended – – with world-destroying nuclear weapons?
It is widely accepted now that human beings have inalienable rights and that we are all equal. How is it possible that there could still be cavemen among us who believe that “nations”, based on convoluted arguments about cultural and value differences, are worth dying for? When one looks objectively at all the different kinds of madness and war in the world, it is shortsighted indeed to single out religious extremists as the challenge. We are lied to by terrorist governments, who malign racial and religious minorities and perpetuate the lie of the nation as a way of mobilizing the youth to war. The solution to a false doctrine is the destruction of its idols, hence the destruction of the idols of nationalism is necessary and inevitable. It will become a fact of life as our countries lose the social cohesion they once had and cave in to the forces of social globalization. Furthermore, the major religions in the world aren’t going anywhere, but our false nations are going to go.