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May 7, 2006

Religious War: Courtesy Reuters, or Christian Catch-up?

Perhaps it's merely the juxtaposition of his thoughts with those that had been swimming through my head for my previous post, but I'm inclined to guffaw when Robert Bidinotto, a proclaimed Objectivist, issues such breathlessly italicized statements as this:

In other words, [Cardinal Arinze believes that] the government should bring in its armed officers to FORCE people to "respect" other people's religious beliefs -- specifically, belief in Christianity and Jesus Christ. Leaving aside the practical problems of compelling an emotion like respect -- and also leaving aside the ominous question of exactly what might be viewed as signs of "respect" or "disrespect" -- consider the other Orwellian implication: that government should take sides in matters of religion, and throw its coercive weight behind politically-favored belief systems.

But what else should we have expected? Given the virtually unanimous capitulation of Western media, politicians, publishers, and other "cultural leaders" to militant Islamists who demanded "respect" for Muhammad and Islam, on what grounds can these same "cultural leaders" now resist demands that Christianity be afforded the same "respect"?

More to the ugly point: What will happen to anyone who dares to criticize any of these religions, or their iconic leaders and symbols?

Personally, what I find noteworthy is that the Cardinal would be so bold as to allude to "some other religions which if you insult their founder they will not be just talking." African Christians — as any American churchgoer who has listened to visiting clerics knows — are keenly aware of what "other religions" are capable of. Pending further incidents, therefore, I'd say it remains a bit offensive for Glenn Reynolds to declare that Christians' resorting to "sawing off people's heads with dull knives" is only a matter of time.

Given the necessary Reuters bias filter, it remains a possibility, as far as I can see, that by "legal means" Cardinal Arinze meant "means that are legal," not means that "bring in [the government's] armed officers." But even so, if Bidinotto is correct that the Catholic Church is asking "that Christianity be afforded the same 'respect'" as Islam, how can he simultaneously see it as asking the government to "take sides in matters of religion, and throw its coercive weight behind politically-favored belief systems"?

In a culture in which Christianity cannot be taught in public schools with anymore than passing hints that it might actually be true and in which Church-related organizations are being driven out of such missions as providing adoptive homes, even as Islam receives the full minority-group handling, we must, at some point, cease to pretend that Christians are seeking the special treatment of a favored group.

Writes Eugene Volokh:

I had hoped that the Catholic Church had learned that it's wrong to try to use legal coercion to suppress religious views that one disapproves of -- and that no religion should have a legal right to be free from criticism or disagreement (or for that matter novels it dislikes).

Volokh has been remarkably fair-minded on church-state matters, so I've no doubt that he and I agree more than disagree across the board of such issues, and I do agree that a religious leader's urging "legal coercion" — as opposed to "coercion that is legal" — would be worthy of criticism. Still, while the Catholic Church has enough experience in the West that, as an institution, it ought to know better, we might mitigate matters somewhat by pondering whether recidivism would be a relapse or an acknowledgment that the old errors are now common practice — for secularists as well as other theists.

There can be little doubt that in both groups can be found people with a penchant for, in Cardinal Arinze's words, "exploiting the Christian readiness to forgive and to love even those who insult us."

Posted by Justin Katz at May 7, 2006 8:36 PM

I'm still trying to get over the fact that Bidinotto thinks respect is an emotion. While an emotion cannot be compelled, the action of respect can be. It also seems to me that respect is compelled toward lots of other people, practices, and beliefs. Bidinotto seems to equate the practice of respecting with preferential deference. Of course, preferential deference is what Islamist extremist expect as do some militant GLBT activists, whereas the Cardinal more than likely equates respect with the practice of not infringing on our rights to practice our religion. Does Bidinotto have a problem with GLBT activists using legal means which can be taken in order to get the other person to respect the rights of others in pursuit of their goals? Probably not, unless he's willing to assume they are calling for the government to bring in its armed officers to FORCE people to "respect" other people's religious beliefs.

I wonder how much exercise Bidinotto gets from jumping to all the conclusions he does.

Posted by: smmtheory at May 7, 2006 11:32 PM