Sunday, May 17, 2015

Historical credit vs. Ready Made Explanations

by Gary Berg-Cross

 penned a WaPo article called The violent narrative of religious rivalry (aka Love Thy Neighbor)

Gerson, "the guy who is credited with penning the "smoking gun/mushroom cloud" lie line that helped enable the Iraq war", wanders around the topic of the narrative of the West vs. Islam and ideological containment. He uses a very broad brush with a bit of historical interpretation for the reason that our favored "Westernized" religions are better than the more recent creation  - Islam:

When monotheism is tied to dualism — the belief that history is a cosmic conflict between the children of light and the children of darkness — it becomes “the most dangerous doctrine ever invented,” allowing people to “commit evil with a clean conscience.”
Both Judaism and Christianity have made progress over the centuries in weeding out dualism — reinterpreting their violent scriptural texts and finding resources of “respect for the other.” For Christianity, this transition wasn’t easy, involving the Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War. But this bloody, chaotic process eventually produced a flowering of powerful ideas in the 17th century: the social contract, human rights and liberty of conscience."
There are any number of arguments in here that one may dispute, but a central one is, "what caused this flowering in the 17th century that we are so proud of?"
An insightful view on this, I think, was penned in a letter response in the Post by Elliot Wilner of Bethesda, who wrote:
"In his May 12 op-ed column, “Love thy neighbor,” Michael Gerson provided an intelligent argument for preserving the American tenet of religious tolerance. Curiously, however, he credited the Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War with having eventually created the “flowering of powerful ideas in the 17th century: the social contract, human rights and liberty of conscience.” Those ideas should be credited mainly to a succession of secular humanists, opponents of organized religion, such as Baruch Spinoza, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine and John Stuart Mill. “Love thy neighbor” was preached and practiced as much, if not more, by these secular humanists as by religious sectarians."
Right on as an additional step to understanding what it takes to move a culture.  The follies of war and the ideologies that birth them and give them sustenance provides teachable moments when we may move ahead, if we listen to the best among us.

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