Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When Secularists and Fundamentalists Agree, Part Deux

I've already blogged on this before, see when secularists and fundamentalists agree, so I hope not to detain you too long here.  But this latest kerfluffle between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck over Islam really has me in swivet.  Not that either of these two really know much about religion or that they deserved to to be listened to at all (although Affleck presumably has gained familiarity with the subject from his role as Bartleby, the fallen angel, in Dogma).
But, we find once again this unholy alliance between Christian defenders of the faith and the  militant atheists joined in the common mission of denouncing Islam.  Here, as Exhibit 1 (and the only exhibit) is an article from Townhall.com (a website self-described as "the leading source for conservative news and political commentary and analysis"), in which Dennis Prager in essence defends Bill Maher, along with Sam Harris, in their wholesale attack on Islam.  See Bill Maher, Ben Affleck and Islam.  Of course, the article is nonsense.   For one, because it invokes the Nazis -- right off the bat we can invoke Godwin's Law and discount it. 

But the depth of Prager's ingorance is revealed in his question: "Where, sir, are the Christian and Jewish jihadists?"  While I confess that, because Judaism is a relativist and not a triumphalist religion, it doesn't have a tradition of killing heretics.  It accepts that not everyone believes as Jews do.  But, like Islam, Christianity is a triumphalist religion and it would be interesting to conduct an historical study on which religion has more blood on its hands.  Although, it's not really fair because Christianity had a 600 year head start.

In any event, the violence of Chritianity is well-documented.  Even thoughtful Thomas Aquinas believed in the execution of heretics:
With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.
And, any student of history is well aquainted with a many examples of Christians putting this principle into practice.  For a quick review, see European wars of religion.  As late as 1899, Pope Leo XII issued an encyclical condemning the Heresy of "Americanism," a term used to describe the American principles of separation of church and state and freedom of religion.  It was not until Vatican II (1965) in the publication of Dignitatis Humanae, that the Church officially came out in support of the idea of religious freedom.

Anyway, now we get to the real reason for this post: here is a much more thoughtful approach to the issue of Islam and violence, and worth reading.  Bill Maher's Dangerous Critique of Islam, written by Peter Beinart.  I can't really improve on this, so here it is.


James R said...

I'm afraid to comment here other than saying the post with "Bill Maher's Dangerous Critique of Islam" is extraordinarily appropriate reading—especially for intelligent, educated, prosperous thinkers who have been educated in countries which have been most influential in writing history for the last few hundred years.

Big Myk said...

I'm not quite sure that I understand where you were going with this comment (especially the reference to "prosperous thinkers who have been educated in countries which have been most influential in writing history for the last few hundred years"), but I detect cynicism. Is this the artilce you were looking for (written back in 2009 and originally appearing in Foreign Policy magazine): Why they hate us: How many Muslims has the U.S. killed in the past 30 years?

James R said...

Reading your post and the accompanying article "…Dangerous…" is what I'm trying to promote…for all the reasons listed in those articles. My comment won't add anything. The posts cover a lot of territory.

Commenting rationally (with the articles in my head) is risky business. Supposed smart, knowledgeable people get things wrong. Reason has its limits. Our environment is inescapable in forming our ideas. People who don't read theologians are in danger of devastatingly faulty thinking. When commenting, "…somehow we're exempt from these things because they're not really a reflection of what we believe in." And they are not what we believe in because "nations, like individuals, are often unable to acknowledge the degree to which selfish interest infects their supposed pursuit of high principle." "The pride and self-righteousness of powerful nations are a greater hazard to their success then the machinations of their foes."

As we have written history for the last few hundred years we have begun to believe it. In a thousand years our history may be perceived quite differently.

Big Myk said...

I may need another vacation. I just completely misread your orignal comment, and I'm not sure how that happened, Anyway, as Emily Litella used to say...Nevermind.

James R said...

I've read over my comments and neither makes a whole lot of sense. The sense is in your post and article with many nuanced points, including:
1. Be precise about what you're opposing
2. Don't get carried away with your own virtue so you end up justifying terrible crimes.