Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

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In the West: a crippling failure to understand religion

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Some of us may be able to will God out of existence, but religion is not so accommodating.

The virtue of the following excerpt—from a March 2011 interview with Bruce S. Thornton—is not only in its ability to condense so much controversial subject matter into three paragraphs, but also in its prudent suggestion to “take religion seriously.”

We in the West assume our ideals and goods are universal. They are, but only potentially: there are many alternatives to our way of living and governing ourselves, most obviously Islam and its totalizing social-political-economic order, sharia law. Suffering from this myopia, we fail to see those alternatives or take them seriously, usually dismissing them as compensations for material or political goods such as prosperity or democracy.

Worse yet, our enemies are aware of this weakness, and are adept at telling us what we want to hear, and using our own ideals as masks for their own agendas. Just look at the misinterpretations of the protestors in Egypt and the Muslim Brothers, not just from liberals but from many conservatives, who have been duped by the use of vague terms like “freedom” or “democracy.”

An important factor in this bad habit is our own inability to take religion seriously. Since religion is mainly a private affair, a lifestyle choice and source of private therapeutic solace, we can’t imagine that there are people so passionate about spiritual aims that they will murder and die in the pursuit of those aims.

Written by M. James

April 4, 2012 at 1:12 am