Monday, March 13, 2006



There was a great opinion piece in the Sunday Times by Slavoj Zizek (behind the subscription firewall here). An atheist from the former Yugoslavia, Zizek criticizes the "Karamozov fallacy" in which Christians have long-argued that without God everything is permitted. As he points out, the Enlightenment principles in Europe that led to large numbers of atheists over the past few centuries (a demographic that is still fast growing) has shown the opposite to be true. Post-Enlightenment humanistic principles have contributed substantially toward gains in human rights, free speech, greater understanding and tolerance of other faiths, and liberal democracy. But increasingly, Christian and Muslim fundamentalism -- flip sides of the same coin -- have brought us to the point where under God everything is permitted. Here's the money quote:
“Fundamentalists do what they perceive as good deeds in order to fulfill God's will and to earn salvation; atheists do them simply because it is the right thing to do. Is this also not our most elementary experience of morality? When I do a good deed, I do so not with an eye toward gaining God's favor; I do it because if I did not, I could not look at myself in the mirror. A moral deed is by definition its own reward.”

Religion was supposed to bring peace but it has brought a sword. Fundamentalists, shouting "God is great!", are gunning down anyone they perceive to be an infidel or a heretic. In the name of God, other religious zealots are strapping bombs to themselves and blowing up thousands of innocents. Everything immoral and evil does seem to be permitted but it is not due to the lack of religion; rather because of it.


When a Christian like me reads a piece like this, it’s hard to assign any charitable motive to the author. There’s a kind of ambivalent reaction: Surely still can’t really that clueless, so he must be malicious.

I’m reminded of all the Jew-hating Muslims. They really believe every word of the paranoid propaganda about blood libels, the Protocols of Zion, the International Jewish Conspiracy, the “fact” that the Mosad was behind 9/11, and so on and so forth ad nauseum.

Now, Muslims are not, on average, any dumber than the rest of humanity. What is more, educated Muslims often believe the very same moonshine.

How do we account for this?

Well, it’s like this. If you move in a certain social circle, then you simply have no incentive to find out where the truth lies. You begin to swallow palpable falsehoods because it’s the path of least resistance. Where there is no motive to be rational, irrationality seems rational.

Takes this hit-piece by Still. “Fundamentalism” was originally a Christian term with a Christian history behind it. It has a complex history, with a shifting identity, and multiple tributaries feeding in and out of it. But however you parse the term and the movements or theological traditions with which it’s associated, it was, until fairly recently, a Christian designation.

Then the liberal media took it over. Because the liberal media is irreligious, it is indifferent to elementary religious distinctions. So the media began to apply the term to any Bible-believing Christian. An anti-Catholic like Bob Jones and a Sedevacantist like Mel Gibson are both branded as “Fundamentalists.”

Then, if that were not sufficiently incompetent, the media extended the term to any conservative religious adherent. Hence, the adjectival use of the term for jihadis and Hindu nationalists.

By this promiscuous use of the term, it picks up all of these invidious and adventitious associations.

Finally, you have someone like Still, whose knowledge of “fundamentalism” is evidently derived, not from any first-hand experience, but the debased, thirdhand coinage of the mass media, who reapplies it to conservative Christians, complete with all of the non-Christian baggage. He therefore uses “fundamentalist” as a synonym for Christian fundamentalists and jihadis alike.

This is hopelessly inept.

Christian fundamentalists are not sending waves suicide bombers into the streets. Christian fundamentalists are not gunning down infidels or heretics while shouting Allahu Akbar (“God is great”).

So why does Still make statements that are so obviously and demonstrably false?

Because he’s used to conversing with fellow unbelievers where you can get away with that sort of thing—where, indeed—it’s expected: to show that you’re one of them. The same way you’re supposed to use racial slurs at a Klan rally.

And then, which is also typical of unbelievers, he lumps everything into the anonymous heap of “religion,” and then attributes anything by one religion to another religion.

He does this because, as an irreligionist, he’s indifferent to religious distinctions.

But, of course, this is just as anti-intellectual as equating a Fabian socialist with a Bolshevik.

There is no such thing as “religion.” There are only religions.

“Religion” is just a high-level abstraction or generic term to cover a variety of religions. We use general terms for ease of reference, but they are no substitute for the varied historical phenomena which they designate under one convenient, collective noun.

What religion was supposed to bring peace? Was Islam supposed to bring peace? Have you read the Koran lately?

Was Hinduism supposed to bring peace? Have you read the ancient Hindu epics or the Gita?

Was Buddhism supposed to bring peace? Remember the Shogun?

Is pacifism a central tenet of any or all these religions?

Was Christianity supposed to bring peace? Well, that’s a question of timing.

If you’re a postmil, then you believe it will bring peace at some point towards the end of the church age, while, if you’re an amil or premil, you reserve that for the return of Christ.

Still entered the blogosphere before he was ready for prime-time. He needs more shakedown time.

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