Do Westerners Have Feelings Too?
I think I understand now. Secular humanistic, traditional liberal types (John Stewart Mills liberal not Pee-Wee Herman in a theater liberal) like me are being told that we just do not understand how strongly people feel about their religion. Political Christianity has been telling us this for years they tell us all sorts of crazy things. You see, those of us who feel that modern western society had been built on concepts like freedom of speech, expression and conscience and other values like reason, personal liberty, transparency in government and open societies, have made a mistake. We assumed that the rest of the world would believe that we were just as committed to these values as they were to theirs.
It turns out however, that the world judges the depth of your conviction and the sincerity of your passion, on the rashness of your actions. People who tie homosexuals to fences, bomb abortion clinics, riot in the streets, burn down embassies, cut off heads, lie in court, abuse their authority in elected office and threaten and intimidate their detractors, are passionate about their beliefs. It is plain to see how passionate they are; how committed they are.
So here is the problem. If you really do feel as strongly about your secular humanistic beliefs; if you are passionate about the separation of church and state; if you are just as angry as the Muslim world about the cartoon issue but because of the attack on your own values rather than the honor of some prophet, what do you do?
Are you morally obligated to be violent and hateful in the support of your beliefs even if such action is also against your beliefs? In a world that only takes extremism seriously are you obligated to be extreme even in the cause of moderation? If so, how does one go about it? Do you start a radical secularist group that perpetrates anti-fundamentalist Islamic/Christian vandalism and threats? Do you campaign to institute discriminatory measures against religious people? Should we demand that no one from third world Christian or Islamic countries be allowed to immigrate? What about burning flags and throwing stones at the embassies of countries which do not keep religion and state separate? Do we really need to go as far as everyone else does before we are allowed to pursue our own values?
People with radical belief systems like those who favor theocracy, Che/Stalinism/Marxism, and Baathists feel that the people of western society are different than other human beings. We are, in their eyes, lazy, lacking values, passion less, concerned with nothing but ourselves and our wealth. We are sheep waiting to be herded once the time is right. Seeing how quickly people in the west have sided with those who condemn us for blasphemy in the name of sensitivity, they may be right. Since secular humanists do not generally have the tools of violence and intimidation at our disposal, resistance is of maximum importance. Unfortunately, resistance requires strength of character, willingness to accept risk and a certain degree of self-esteem. We may just be screwed.