WTF? - "Suppressing religion is not the key to world peace"
This editorial was in today's St. Louis Post Dispatch from a local contributor.
The writer basically states that placating religion is the way to achieve world peace. She asserts Europe is in serious trouble because of their efforts to keep society secular and encouraging religious beliefs to be private.
I found it interesting that she asserts muslims in secular societies only have a choice between militant atheism or militant islam. This is a complete non-sequiter, the article pretty much started my morning off right by completely pissing me off.
"Suppressing religion is not the key to world peace
BY COLLEEN CARROLL CAMPBELL
Thursday, Jun. 07 2007
I recently returned from a cultural exchange program in Switzerland, where I
spent my days admiring alpine vistas, eating too many truffles and trying to
explain American religiosity to puzzled Europeans.
Gently — but persistently — my Swiss interlocutors pressed me for answers: Why
are Americans so religious? Why does faith play such an important role in
American debates? And why, in an age in which terrorists murder in God's name,
do Americans affirm the value of religion in public life?
Implicit in many of these questions is the view that religion is a divisive
force best quarantined from public life. For many Europeans, this view is
confirmed by their continent's history of religious wars and by the assumption
that all religions and religious beliefs are essentially the same: that is,
essentially irrational and inherently dangerous.
Although atheist regimes from
Stalin's to Mao's made the 20th century the most murderous ever, many
secularists still believe that suppression of religion and rejection of theism
are the keys to world peace.
Attempts to eradicate religion's influence appeal to secular Europeans facing
the threat of Islamic extremism. After witnessing bombings in Madrid and
London, riots in France and worldwide violence to protest Danish cartoons, many
Europeans believe such incidents can be combated only with aggressive
secularization laws such as France's ban on religious apparel in state
That law, which sparked a fierce Muslim backlash, illustrates a deeply rooted
distinction between contemporary American and European approaches to religion.
Unlike Europeans, Americans never have had an established national church. Our
democratic experiment began as a quest for religious and political freedom, not
as a rejection of religion. Our founding documents explicitly refer to God and
draw on a Judeo-Christian worldview to assert the dignity and equality of all.
This heritage of defending religious freedom while affirming religious faith
explains our American tendency to see faith as a source of liberty rather than
tyranny and as a marker of individual identity that still allows for a common
civic heritage. From this heritage came our tradition of welcoming the diverse
religious beliefs of immigrants, while insisting that they accept the
fundamental values of our democratic society.
Our nation and its immigrants have not always achieved this assimilation ideal.
But a key factor in our success has been our vibrant religious marketplace.
This marketplace tends to marginalize and moderate extremist voices by forcing
them to compete with more reasonable religious voices and appeal to shared
values in the public square.
Our insistence on dealing with religious conflicts through vigorous debate,
rather than through state-sanctioned gag rules, makes life messy, but it also
undercuts the appeal of violent extremism. While Muslims in rigidly secular
societies must choose between militant atheism and militant Islam, Muslims in
America have other alternatives. Not surprisingly, they tend to be more
assimilated, tolerant and content than their European counterparts.
A recent Pew poll confirmed this, finding that most American Muslims have a
positive view of society, believe they can be devout Muslims while living in a
modern society and report no religious discrimination.
The picture is not entirely rosy: Eight percent of American Muslims and 15
percent of American Muslims under 30 believe suicide bombings are justified at
times. Those are alarming numbers, but the fact that they are significantly
higher in Europe suggests that Islamic extremism flourishes more in the vacuum
of Europe's staunch secularism than in the competitive marketplace of America's
As we confront Islamic extremism at home, we should remember the heritage of
religious freedom that has taught us that the best way to fight bad ideas is
with better ones.
Colleen Carroll Campbell is an author, television host and St. Louis-based
fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Her website is