Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Coming Age of Religious War

It may seem like all-out religious warfare is thing of the past one can only find in history books of the Middle Ages. Certainly, we wouldn’t fight for the same irrational causes that needlessly cost so many lives, right? Well, I don’t need to tell you about how the Muslim world has embraced fundamentalism. To say that only a small percentage of Muslims believes in the strict fundamentalism proscribed by al-Qaeda and the Taliban seems to be nothing more than wishful thinking. Just look at the support Iranian President Ahmadinejad has for his hard line, faith-based policies. Look at the growing fundamentalist universities throughout Pakistan. Look at the unending religious divisions that unendingly frustrate our efforts in Iraq. Look at the seething unrest that erupts in the Middle East when even the slightest affront to Islam appears in the West. I think we need to stop fooling ourselves and realize that the Islamic world has embraced the idea of militant fundamentalism, especially amongst the youth, meaning the problem will not go away any time soon.

What’s worse is that this rise of fundamentalism is not unique to the Middle East. All you need to do is look at America itself. Christian Fundamentalism is on the rise throughout this country and wants nothing more than to impose its “values” on the rest of the nation. The enormous growth of massive churches preaching strict interpretation of the Bible has risen to the point where they have become political forces all their own while the more moderate and reasonable churches have gone on the decline. These fundamentalist megachurches such as Focus on the Family have become some of the most powerful and vociferous constituencies and lobbyists of the Republican Party. They funnel millions of dollars towards Republican political campaigns, thereby forcing the Republicans to bend to their will. What’s worse is that a growing majority of Republicans come from the far Christian right as well. All told, they hope to enforce their strict moral code on the rest of the nation. You just need to read the news to see their campaigns: anti-gay rights, absolute abolition of abortion (even for rape victims), intelligent design, the banning of sex education in schools, and the list could go on.

Now what does this have to do with religious war you ask? Well, those policies extend to foreign policy as well. Just look at how our born-again President views the War on Terror. He sees it as a battle of good vs. evil. Even in Iraq where the mistakes are apparent, President Bush wrote, “My faith frees me,” revealing his certainty that his faith cannot allow him to make the wrong choice. If that doesn’t terrify you, then maybe you shouldn’t be reading this. Hopefully, America will return to rationality sometime soon and start electing leaders who are more interested with actual right and wrong rather than Christian right and wrong. Otherwise, we could hopelessly escalate the current conflict creating a massive clash of civilizations and religions between unyielding fundamentalists convinced of their divine righteousness.

For a good opinion piece on this subject from a more spiritual point of view, read Andrew Sullivan’s article from Time Magazine.

And for the typical dogmatic response, check out this blog entry.

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