Thursday, August 18, 2005

Column on Religion, Ideology & Terrorism

Religion, Ideology, and Terrorism

Tibor R. Machan

General Robert L. Caslen, Jr., one of Secretary of State Donald
Rumsfeld?s policy crafters, told US News & World Report (August 1, 2005)
that ?It?s important that we point out that it?s not a religious or
cultural clash?It is a war to preserve ordinary people?s ability to live
as they choose.?

A more confusing statement than this is not easy to imagine from someone
who is entrusted with America?s military strategy vis-à-vis those who
would just as soon bring the country to its knees. Imagine if someone said
that the cold war had nothing to do with ideology or cultural clash but
only with whether people may choose to live as they want. Surely every
intelligent, educated person would have considered this rank ignorance. In
fact, there is no international, geopolitical strife that isn?t grounded
in some kind of religious, ideological, political, philosophical or
similar system of thought.

The very idea that people ought to have the ?ability to live as they
choose? comes from a variety of religious, philosophical, ideological, and
similar sources. It rests, in other words, on a set of ideas. Religions
are sets of ideas, as are political theories, ideologies and so forth, all
resulting from more or less careful human effort to conceptualize how they
ought to live, especially in their communities. Contrasting religion or
culture with an idea of wanting to live in peace as one chooses is utter
nonsense since that itself is one among numerous competing religious and
cultural ideas people have come to embrace and use to guide their lives.
Institutions such as laws, practices, customs, and the rest all stem from
such ideas. Religion and culture have everything to do with how we
understand we ought to live, whether by choosing our own way or getting
pushed around by others.

What is it that could lead a presumably intelligent man such as General
Robert L. Caslen, Jr., to utter such balderdash? I suggest it is yet
another religious, cultural or ideological notion, nothing less. General
Caslen is probably guided by the ideology of multicultural tolerance and
so he would like to discourage people from considering any religion,
ideology or similar systematic worldview as unacceptable, as constituting
a threat to Americans. But this is wrong.

There are religions, ideologies, and cultural viewpoints that preach
peace and mutual respect because they embrace the idea that one must
choose to embrace a creed and not have it shoved down one?s throat. And
there are religions, ideologies, and cultural viewpoints that preach the
opposite. The former can be supported, the latter cannot be, plain and
simple, by anyone who wants ?to preserve ordinary people?s ability to live
as they choose.? The idea that all religions are equally decent, that any
belief is as worthy of respect as any other is bunk?that very idea has its
opposite, namely, ?Don?t tolerate any idea that conflicts with your own,?
and then that, too, would be just fine. Unless we embrace the nonsense of
post-modernist anti-logic, this simply cannot be. (And if we embrace that
anti-logic, then anything goes anyway and nothing makes any sense at all.)

There are, in fact, vicious people around the globe, many of them
terrorists, who will use any form of destruction to vent their
dissatisfaction with whatever displeases them, and some of these people
are part of a very sizable faction of Islam. They are often called
Islamists and follow a religiously based ideology of massive violence and
disregard for individual rights and due process of law. To deny this with
the nonsense about how it has nothing at all to do with religion and
culture is to pluck out one?s eyes as one is supposedly poised to try ?to
preserve ordinary people?s ability to live as they choose.? It is to
disarm oneself in the war against such vile sorts around the world.

Instead, it is vital to know what religions and ideologies encourage,
indeed even insist upon, conformity with a program of indiscriminate
global violence. That shouldn?t be a novel project since, after all,
throughout human history several different religions and ideologies?just
think of the Holy Inquisition, Fascism, Nazism, and Communism?have spawned
exactly that kind of program. It?s shameful to deny this just as the same
kind of thing is engulfing us today. (To check whether I am on solid
ground here, please read at [

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