Does the violent reaction to anti-muslim cartoons make Christopher Hitchens right?
For most of human history, religion and bigotry have been two sides of the same coin, and it still shows. - Hitchens, The case for mocking religion
Of course I find it rather ironic that for all his accusing religion Hitchens forgets that people putting together anti-muslim illustrations are not expressly religious which would suggest that bigotry, religion, and secularism are all going to be somewhere together on that coin of his.Still, religious things do give a group of people something in their relation to another group of people to be upset about. Cartoonist Doug Marlette recounts his experience with religious groups:
I have outraged Christians by skewering Jerry Falwell, Catholics by needling the pope, and Jews by criticizing Israel. Those who rise up against the expression of ideas are strikingly similar. No one is less tolerant than those demanding tolerance. Despite differences of culture and creed, they all seem to share the notion that there is only one way of looking at things, their way. What I have learned from years of this is one of the great lessons of all the world's religions: we are all one in our humanness. - Marlette, I Was a Tool of SatanThat's a victory for secular humanism against religion.
But then we come back to Denmark, a country that the Spiegel's Jürgen Gottschlich says has Europe's most xenophobic government. There Danish voters, perceiving Muslim immigrants as social welfare freeloaders, elected a government to impose stricter immigration controls. This isn't religious bigotry, this is secular bigotry.Jurgen goes on to consider the bankruptcy of secular values,
Instead of participating in a disingenuous battle for free speech, it is high time for some in Europe to return to the virtues of Enlightenment to help them find reason. The situation is difficult enough already and there are idiots on all sides. Indeed, neither is free of guilt.The Telegraph's John Casey hasn't forgot history nor the culpability of the Enlightenment's nation states in today's violence.
Have we in the West become so historically ignorant that we forget how closely, within living memory, Christian attitudes to the sacred resembled those of Muslims? ... There is little doubt that only a generation ago the blasphemy laws would have been used against Jerry Springer, the Opera. They would certainly have been used against Gibbon had he not concealed his assault on Christianity in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire under layers of irony.
The current political violence by Muslims can be traced to two quite clear events. The first was the fatal decision of President Sadat of Egypt to bring the Islamists into politics as a weapon against the Left. The second was the creation by the Americans of the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. This Frankenstein's monster has stalked the world ever since. - Casey, This is folly, not a clash of civilisationsGive Islam some time to evolve, says John Casey, accusing the badly drawn cartoons as inhibitors of progress.
But where are we going, Casey? That's the question progress poses. And that may only be a question that religion can answer, unless we start to claim that secularism actually has an eschatology other than that day when religions will exist no more. Because that would just be intolerant and bigotted.
Casey mentions Gibbon. To what end did he work? I know a little about Gibbon and his "irony". Joseph Levine in his Autonomy of History draws a number of similarities in his comparisons of Gibbon's historical method with that of Erasmus in his work The Autonomy of History. Erasmus came to similar conclusions as Gibbon (centuries before Gibbon) and was called blasphemous for chopping off the Johannine Comma and among others little work entitled The Praise of Folly.