Wednesday, 21 September 2011
At some point, we must recognize that the real battlefield in this world is not between Muslims and non-Muslims but between extremists of any stripe and the anti-extremists of all faiths.
- Feisal Abdul Rauf, A Call to Religious Moderates, Published in the Wall Street Journal 09/09/11
Perhaps in terms of ideas, the one that Christians and religious people all over the world have accepted from secularist without questioning the most is the above statement. I don’t think it’s true though. The problem is it largely ignores religion in practice. Like many theories it sums up a verily messy reality in a succinct way that is not entirely devoid of truth but also simple minded.
The idea seems to be that there is a direct correlation between how secularized one is and how willing one is to be tolerant, non-violent and live in a pluralistic society. This squares very poorly with reality. Granted it’s hard to imagine the prospect of angry Unitarian mob rising up in political violence. At the same time though many of those involved with Al Qaeda weren’t especially devout. In fact research actually indicates that those who have been part of stable religious environments for long times are more likely to reject violent ideologies than recent converts or the moderately religious.
In the U.S,. probably the most extreme large Christian group, the Mennonites and Amish, heirs of the Quaker tradition, are not only not violent but also thoroughly anti-violent. In fact in most ways their communities are probably far more in line with extreme liberal views of how people should live and think than conservative views. Consider the contrast between the stereotype of the gun-totting, SUV driving, obese Texan evangelical who is more secularized and the Amish Indianan who is non-car driving, pacifist, without electricity and who likely makes most of their own food or buys it from their neighbors. Now, ask yourself why at least some liberals think that religious moderation is a definite way to shape our society?To be clear the point isn’t that we should all live like Amish. The point is it’s hard to say what exactly the results of religious extremism can be; it certainly isn't always violence as some both on the right and left would like people to think. In Christendom it’s not those wacko ‘Fundamentalists’ who have been responsible for most of the religious violence in the world but their more collegiate Catholic, Calvinist and Lutheran counterparts.
Do you think that religious extremism naturally results in violence? If yes, then how do you explain extreme yet pacifist groups like the Amish? If no, then why do we lump religious extremism and violence into the same category?