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Cathy Young: Modernity’s threat – February 14, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, News and politics, philosophy & politics, Religion.
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Cathy Young: Modernity’s threat –

Freedom from religion

In a New York Times column (IHT, Feb. 10), David Brooks wrote that the West, with its “legacy of Socrates and the agora” and its “progressive and rational” mindset, is open to a multiplicity of arguments, perspectives, and “unpleasant facts,” while radical Muslims cling to “pre-Enlightenment” dogmatism and shrink from the “chaos of our conversation.”

Yet Brooks overlooks the fact that a large segment of the population in the West, and especially in the United States, rejects the progressive, rational mindset and embraces pre-Enlightenment values as well. Fundamentalist Christians, traditionalist Catholics and ultra-Orthodox Jews do not, with very few exceptions, call for violence in response to heresy. But they too often equate criticism (let alone mockery) of their beliefs with “religious bigotry” or “hate speech.” And they, too, often seek not simply to protest but to shut down offensive speech.

The truth is that modernity, with its “chaos of conversation,” its chaos of lifestyles, its attitude that there is nothing more sacred than freedom of expression, is profoundly threatening to many religious traditionalists of different faiths. (Last year, quite a few American conservatives applauded Pope Benedict XVI’s assault on “the dictatorship of relativism.”)

At present, for a variety of historical and cultural reasons, radical fundamentalism holds a particular sway in the Muslim world, where it is wedded to political violence in ways that have no parallel in other religions. To ignore this difference and this danger would be foolish. But it is also unwise to ignore the religious backlash against modernity in the West, and its own tensions with individual freedom.

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