Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Thursday, January 27, 2005  

Democracy Destroys Religion or just false religions?

The Belmont Club posts an inquiry into:

. . . that while there are two competing explanations for Islamic extremism, only one explanation is provided by the Islamic extremists themselves.

In the audio Zarqawi cursed democracy because it promoted such un-Islamic behavior as freedom of religion, rule of the people, freedom of expression, separation of religion and state, forming political parties and majority rule. Freedom of speech was particularly evil because it allowed "even cursing God. This means that there is nothing sacred in democracy."

The sick Zarqawi is probably right in wondering if Islam can survive liberal (classic sense) democracy.

Look at Judaism. It has fared very poorly in both America and Israel as far as being the dominant system of belief among Jews.

There are many reasons for this. Some will say secularization of Jews being a natural event. Others might point out that the tribal character of Judaism discourages prosyletizing and gaining adherents from outside the ethnic group; but the largest aspect of the matter, I believe, is that the confrontation of Judaism with Enlightenment principles, rational inquiry, and American pragmatism cuts the legs out from under Judaism.

An Islam which would be subjected to rational and free examination can't stand up to such scrutiny any more than Judaism can.

People, of course, defy reason all the time, but societies which have secular principles as their foundation do not easily maintain arguments based on authority which religions like Islam and Judaism tend to assert.

Christianity, though, which is based on an Absurd revelation seems marvelously equiped to survive secular rationalism. Christianity, although certainly dogmatic, is such after the fact. The fact being that individuals continually experience for themselves the revelation of Jesus as the risen God.

Secular inquiry can argue about the reliability of texts, the mythical qualities in religious storytelling, the nature of God, and point out contradictions and inconsistencies in text and practice. It can demand proofs which cannot be produced.

Prove that Mohammed is God's prophet, for example; or that Moses really existed, or that the Jews wandered in the Sinai, and so on. While the demand from Christians to prove Jesus is God is just as daunting, the answer a Christian can make - because I've met him and I know it to be true - has a great challenge in it to the skeptic (not to the hostile one, though).

Thus, Christianity can bear the strain of a liberal democracy (and has) so much better than other religions. India today has a great problem with a reactionary Hinduism that fears disintegration from inroads by Christians. It has just begun to form a liberal democracy that promotes separation of religion and state.

When you begin to have Arab speakers in Muslim countries free to assail Mohammed as a charlatan, a pedophile, a murderer, a crackpot, a power mad polygamist and so forth -- what answer can Islam make? It can say - NOT SO! - in the loudest terms it can, but that is all it can say while invidious speakers insinuate their reasoning into the culture without fear of reprisal.

Islam cannot say - taste and see the goodness of Mohammed because he is dead and no longer speaks to anyone. They cannot point to the Koran without acknowledging the Koran is a mess. What kind of holy book written by God is one third grammatical gibberish?

Islam will probably exist for a long time to come but with ever diminishing influence if the Muslim world democratizes.

Some may ask about Turkey which has had a resurgence of Islam in politics, but it proves the point. It is a reaction by believers to the assault secularism makes on the religion, and seeks to stem the tide. Also, while governments are very incompetent and corrupt, religion with its moral principles maintains an appeal.

The Taliban were empowered by a need for order and better morals in Afghanistan. Governments which function poorly in providing essential services to its people will suffer religious spasms out of the frustrations and anger they generate in the people.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 10:59 AM |