Monday, August 27, 2007

The fourth force

In her series "God's warriors," Christiane Amanpour covered extremists of the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. But, one group was conspicuous by its absence, namely secular "warriors."
As one interviewee mentioned "moderates" don't produce extremists because by definition they are "moderate." There are no secular terrorists, prepared to blow up and kill people in the name of ...what ...non-religion! (Of course, there once were "Godless Communists," but they have virtually gone from the scene)
Yet, extremists of all the three religions mentioned the secularization of society, the "degradation" of culture and the emphasis on sex and freedom of expression as a major basis for their renewed activitism. In fact, in the Christian segment it was the major source for all the activities of the religious right, the moral majority, the so-called "pro-life" movement and the youth groups such as Battlecry. Yet, noone was a spokesman for the good that secular Western civilization has done, the toleration, the freedom of expression, the peaceful resolution of conflicts, the "pursuit of happiness," the economic independence, the scientific innovations, etc. It was the missing fourth force, absent by default.
So it is an omission not to include those who strongly support secular Western society in a series about extremism, and many of the religious extremists blame it for their actions, blowing up and beheading people, such as journalists who tell the unpalatable truth. The fact is that all religions are fighting a losing battle, a rearguard action, against the success of liberal, democratic secular society. And the "warriors" of this persuasion although not extremists are very powerful because they control the power of the state, the police, the army and they are supported by the majority of its citizens in most Western countries. That is why the Muslims are so activated, they fear the growth of the power of secular society, they fear the freedom and the loss of control over their women and their culture, that is why they fight so vociferously. Separation of Church and State is the most successful dogma, not religion, and civil society rules.
When the US Army and its allies overthrew the Taliban in Afghanistan, it was a success for secular society against religious extremism and totalitarian oppression. When the allies try to instal a democratic government in Iraq, this is a secular action, not that of a Christian force, that the Muslims confuse with the crusades, or do so deliberately in order to raise ignorant Muslim opposition. In fact, they don't really understand democracy, the idea of a loyal opposition and minority rights. As far as they are concerned any opposition is unacceptable to their rule and all minorities must be suppressed. They have not kept pace with the transformation of Western society from a Church-dominated culture to a "free" secular culture. The Pope now only controls the Vatican, the Archbishop of Canterbury is a figure of amusement, wrapped in purple cloth and unsure of his dogma, and in the US even though it is the most "religious" Western country, the patchwork of so many different religions makes it sure that no one of them can dominate.
In the Christian segment of her uneven series, Amanpour includes evolution as an "irritant" in the secular-religious war, with creationsists calling for equal time in schools for "intelligent design" with scientifically based evolution. However, a judge ruled that "intelligent design" is not scientific, it is purely based on subjective belief, and has no place in school science courses. I agree with him, the universe is millions of years old and has evolved, both physically and biologically, and most intelligent people accept that and move on. The fact is that religion is wrong about many things, and its adherents should stick to their personal belief system and leave politics alone and stop trying to impose their views on the rest of us.


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