Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Coming religious wars?

The Short Cut quotes a nice passage from the New York Observer:
The cost of destroying a secular public life will, if allowed to proceed, undermine the stability of American democracy. All these people on their knees holding candles may not appreciate it, but public religion, not private religious formation, is the enemy of our kind of government. Even in the long-past era when most Americans were some brand or other of Calvinist, religion had to be pushed into the corners of politics so that a nascent secular culture could nourish democracy. In the first half of the 19th century, the battle to drive religion out of the political forum and into the home was not easily nor ever entirely won. Waves of religious mania battered the country and threatened democratic institutions and practice. They still do.

The Christians and their churches, which are using their temporary, strategic, electoral-minority position to gain majority dominance, will live to wish that they hadn’t labored so long to put "people of faith" in the driver’s seat. Other than dogmatism and a built-in resistance to reason, logic and science, sectarian religions have nothing in common except a potential antagonism for each other—one which holds the threat of someday ripping the country to shreds. "Religion" and "faith" are pushing ahead on a common front now, but in due course they will fall on each other with mortal fury. History teaches that the one thing religions hate more than secularism is other religions. With each year that religions are encouraged and given a preferential place, they become more demanding and more truculent in claiming more power and deference. As more members of more religious organizations adopt peculiar and distinguishing forms of dress, headgear and hair, the lines harden and the probability of physical conflict between these groups of faith-based fanatics grows.
There are good reasons why late twentieth century Europeans opted for secularism: the bigotry of the religious establishment, and the inter-faith hatred spawned by religion itself -- oh yeah, and the welfare state, too, thank God.

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