Sam Harris, writing in the LA Times, may be mistakenly obsessed with the idea that the rise of jihadism has as much to do with Christians as it does with Islamists. I have yet to hear about Christians rioting over Madonna’s cruci-fiction or the burning of the Pope in effigy, for example. No beheadings in Rome or in South Carlina have come to my attention. I’d say Harris is trying to salvage some of his earlier work after passing too near an epiphany, if he’ll excuse my use of the term.
Whether he has every quacker in line or not, he presents some powerful criticisms of his fellow travellers. He’s almost got it, and that is a hopeful thing. I present some extracts, but read the whole thing.
On questions of national security, I am now as wary of my fellow liberals as I am of the religious demagogues on the Christian right.
This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that “liberals are soft on terrorism.” It is, and they are.
…This is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims. But we are absolutely at war with those who believe that death in defense of the faith is the highest possible good, that cartoonists should be killed for caricaturing the prophet and that any Muslim who loses his faith should be butchered for apostasy.
Unfortunately, such religious extremism is not as fringe a phenomenon as we might hope. Numerous studies have found that the most radicalized Muslims tend to have better-than-average educations and economic opportunities.
Why should their university educational system be any less radical than ours? Where do Juan Cole and Peter Singer and Ward Churchill come into sustained contact with impressionable rich kids? Imagine the equivalents in Iran. It’s the religious fervor of those American “educators” Harris is missing. Harris thinks it has to do with G-d.
Here, he comes close to recognizing what it actually has to do with:
…At its most extreme, liberal denial has found expression in a growing subculture of conspiracy theorists who believe that the atrocities of 9/11 were orchestrated by our own government. A nationwide poll conducted by the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University found that more than a third of Americans suspect that the federal government “assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East;” 16% believe that the twin towers collapsed not because fully-fueled passenger jets smashed into them but because agents of the Bush administration had secretly rigged them to explode.
Many of the people who believe this have been educated in American Universities, and 99% of the rest have been subjected to the tender mercies of the public school system. … “It’s a wonder they can think at all.”
Such an astonishing eruption of masochistic unreason could well mark the decline of liberalism, if not the decline of Western civilization. There are books, films and conferences organized around this phantasmagoria, and they offer an unusually clear view of the debilitating dogma that lurks at the heart of liberalism: Western power is utterly malevolent, while the powerless people of the Earth can be counted on to embrace reason and tolerance, if only given sufficient economic opportunities.
Took you a long time to recognize this, Sam. Liberalism has been declining precipitously since WWII and dragging Western Civilization with it.
It isn’t Christians, Sam, or any particular instance of a supreme being that has been preserving Western Civilization. It is, or was, an educational system informed by judeo-christian values.
It’s the values, stupid. You guys wrecked that long ago. Maybe you’ll come out for school choice next?