Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hostility toward believers

I was going to comment on New York Times columnist David Brooks' column of a couple of days ago in the Times' own comments area but was unable to do so due to an odd technical glitch. Here's what I would have written.

Kudos to David Brooks for once again pleading victimhood for those poor oppressed religious believers out there.

Brooks spends his entire column talking about how "[t]here is a yawning gap between the way many believers experience faith and the way that faith is presented to the world" and trying to explain what faith means to believers. All well and good, but the point he made at the very start of his column — as the very first sentence, in fact — was:

There is a strong vein of hostility against orthodox religious believers in America today, especially among the young.
Yet nowhere does he address what is almost certainly the primary reason for that alleged hostility (for which he doesn't provide a citation, by the way, though I believe he's correct that it exists).

Religion simply isn't that big a deal until it's linked to politics. Or, more accurately, until religion starts throwing its weight around in politics.

Now, you can argue that religion and politics have been linked for ... well, forever, really. The very idea of "separation of church and state" didn't exist until the seventeenth century in Europe. Even today, many nations are implicitly associated with a particular faith simply because it never occurs to most of their inhabitants that things could be otherwise.

Yet it's one thing for religion to be so much a part of the fabric of life that it's as ubiquitous and invisible as air. It's another for religion to stake out a place in a nation's polity. When that happens, strife is guaranteed — because it's already present.

When a particular faith is ubiquitous, its adherents and leaders never need to announce their presence in politics: the faith is already there in every decision. A faith only announces political positions because it senses those positions aren't universally shared and therefore certain to be reflected in state policy. If that's true, the nation is divided on religious lines.

The moment one religious group takes a political position, other groups are likely to take one, too. And since we're talking about religious faith, the source of many people's deepest beliefs, we're automatically talking about a contentious issue, no matter what it is.

Orthodox religious believers hew to a particularly stringent view of their faith, and are likely to be among the most passionate in defending and advancing it. When defending and advancing their faith affects governmental policy, is it any surprise that it provokes a strong opposing response from those who don't share that faith?

And if, as has been true for at least thirty years in the U.S., those "orthodox religious believers" have experienced much success in elevating elements of their belief system to the level of law, is it any surprise that those who don't share those beliefs feel hostile?

Brooks conveniently also leaves out the flip side of his argument, the incredible hostility by many believers to non-believers. Hostility to other faiths is one thing; hostility to lack of belief is a far more virulent problem, as this Atlantic piece from last September shows. Heck, such hostility is the only thing that unites many believers of different faiths.

By leaving out politics and focusing only on the putatively beleaguered and misunderstood people of faith, Brooks implies that it's the rest of us who are the problem. That's nonsense.

... Oh, why am I pussyfooting around; this is my blog. Scratch "nonsense".

That's horseshit.

No comments:

Post a Comment