Rebirth of Reason


Machan's Musings - Religion, Ideology, and Terrorism
by Tibor R. Machan

General Robert L. Caslen, Jr., one of Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld’s policy crafters, told US News & World Report (August 1, 2005) that, "It’s important that we point out that it’s not a religious or cultural clash ... It is a war to preserve ordinary people’s ability to live as they choose."

A more confusing statement than this is not easy to imagine from someone who is entrusted with America’s military strategy against those who would just as soon bring the country to its knees. Imagine if someone said that the Cold War had nothing to do with ideological or cultural clash, but only with whether people may choose to live as they want. Surely every intelligent, educated person would have considered this rank ignorance. In fact, there is no international, geopolitical strife that isn’t grounded in some kind of religious, ideological, political, philosophical, or similar system of thought.

The very idea that people ought to have the "ability to live as they choose" comes from a variety of religious, philosophical, ideological, and similar sources. It rests, in other words, on a set of ideas. Religions are sets of ideas, as are political theories, ideologies and so forth, and all result from intentional human effort to conceptualize how they ought to live, especially in their communities. Contrasting religion or culture with an idea of wanting to live in peace as one chooses is utter nonsense, since that itself is one among numerous competing religious and cultural ideas people have come to embrace and use to guide their lives. Institutions such as laws, practices, customs, and the rest all stem from such ideas. Religion and culture have everything to do with how we understand we ought to live, whether by choosing our own way or getting pushed around by others.

What is it that could lead a presumably intelligent man such as General Robert L. Caslen, Jr., to utter such balderdash? I suggest it is yet another religious, cultural or ideological notion, nothing less. General Caslen is probably guided by the ideology of multicultural tolerance, and so he would like to discourage people from considering any religion, ideology or similar systematic worldview as unacceptable, as constituting a threat to Americans. But this is wrong.

There are religions, ideologies, and cultural viewpoints that preach peace and mutual respect because they embrace the idea that one must choose to embrace a creed and not have it shoved down one’s throat. And there are religions, ideologies, and cultural viewpoints that preach the opposite. The former can be supported, and the latter cannot, by anyone who wants "to preserve ordinary people’s ability to live as they choose." The idea that all religions are equally decent, that any belief is as worthy of respect as any other is bunk. Unless we embrace the nonsense of post-modernist anti-logic, this simply cannot be. (And if we embrace that anti-logic, then anything goes anyway and nothing makes any sense at all.)

There are, in fact, vicious people around the globe, many of them terrorists, who will use any form of destruction to vent their dissatisfaction with whatever displeases them, and some of these people are part of a very sizable faction of Islam. They are often called Islamists and follow a religiously-based ideology of mass violence and disregard for individual rights and due process of law. To deny this with the nonsense about how it has nothing at all to do with religion and culture is to pluck out one’s eyes as one is supposedly poised to try "to preserve ordinary people’s ability to live as they choose." It is to disarm oneself in the war against such vile sorts around the world.

Instead, it is vital that we know which religions and ideologies encourage (and indeed, even insist upon) conformity with a program of indiscriminate global violence. That shouldn’t be a novel project since, throughout human history, several different religions and ideologies—the Holy Inquisition, Fascism, Nazism, and Communism come to mind—have spawned exactly that kind of program. It’s shameful to deny this just as the same kind of thing is engulfing us today.

(For more on the Islamist threat, see London Lessons Lost, by Alex Alexiev of The Center for Security Policy.)
Sanctions: 14Sanctions: 14Sanctions: 14 Sanction this ArticleEditMark as your favorite article

Discuss this Article (4 messages)