March 17, 2011

Religion + Power = Danger

Behead those who insult islam

When I see Muslim extremists calling for violence against whoever drew the latest "offensive" cartoon or wrote the latest book they didn't like, I initially marvel at how incredibly violent this "religion of peace" seems to be. Not only is their treatment of women and LGBT persons abhorrent, but they seem to leap to violence at the slightest provocation. All it takes is someone criticizing their silly religion, and they are out in the streets demanding blood.

While I understand that not all Muslims advocate violence against people who offend their religious sensibilities, it seems that there are quite a few who are willing to do so and that their numbers are concentrated in places where Islam and government are blurred together. My initial thought about the violent nature of Islam is almost always followed by another, one that helps put Islam into a context with which I am much more familiar:

Given the same state power, Christian extremists would behave every bit as badly. That is, Christian extremists would be doing most of the same things in the name of their preferred form of Christianity as these Muslim extremists are doing in the name of their preferred form of Islam.

I think this is a fair assessment for at least two reasons. First, history shows that when Christianity enjoyed the same sort of state power that Islam has in many Muslim nations, Christians did in fact behave every bit as badly. If the Pope still had an army, there is little question that he would be even more detrimental than he is at present. Second, in listening to what modern Christian extremists say, one can learn a great deal about what they would do if only they had the power to enforce their will. Give Pat Robertson, Bill Donohue, Mike Huckabee, or Fred Phelps the power to make and enforce laws, and see what happens.

Islam is a problem. But a big part of what makes it so problematic is the power attached to it. Specifically, state power which inevitably includes violence. The more power attached to any particular religion, the more dangerous it becomes. Those who have managed to infuse the American military with evangelical fundamentalist Christianity know full well what they are doing. They are looking to Muslim theocracies with envy and trying to figure out how they can achieve a Christian theocracy.