June 28, 2017

Embracing Christian Extremism to Fight Islamic Extremism

Stop Terrorism

I don't think that the optimal strategy for dealing with the threat posed by Islamic extremism (i.e., Islamism and jihadism) is to double-down on Christian extremism and establish a Christian theocracy. Secularism strikes me as a far more desirable solution than attempting to replace one form of religious extremism with another. I suppose I might be wrong. Perhaps there is some reason I'm not thinking of as to why Christian extremism is a more effective approach, but I seriously doubt it. And even if Christian extremism was somehow successful in defeating Islamic extremism, then we atheists would still be left with Christian extremism. It seems like less religious extremism of all varieties would be preferable.

I bring this up, at least in part, because I've been seeing some conservatives arguing that the only (or at least the best) way to defeat Islamic extremism is to fully embrace our Judeo-Christian traditions, something many believe we have largely abandoned. Their idea, as I understand it, is that we are vulnerable because we have turned out backs on the religious traditions that were in place throughout much of our history. They suggest that this has made us less capable of dealing with Islamic extremism and that we should reclaim this aspect of our history (i.e., doing so is a key part of making us "great again"). Many combine this with nationalism, some add a dose of anti-immigrant sentiment, and others sprinkle in more than a bit of explicit Christian extremism for good measure.

Although I reject the suggestion that we embrace Christian extremism, I do acknowledge that we have a problem in need of solutions (i.e., religiously motivated violence). And I'd also acknowledge that secularism by itself does not appear to provide the sort of protection we might like. Whether a religiously-motivated terrorist is "home-grown" or an immigrant, the fact that the nation he or she targets is secular seems to do little to deter violence. I suppose what is at issue here is not how secular the target may be but how religious the aggressor is.

I think it would be a mistake for us to abolish the separation of church and state and erect a Christian theocracy in order to fight Islamic extremism. And yet, our failure to find other solutions - secular solutions - makes it seem at least somewhat more likely that we will eventually head down such a path. Finding effective solutions is something that would be in our collective interest.
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