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Tolerance and Southern Baptists

One example among many of how tolerance works: Baptist Pastor Attacks Islam, Inciting Cries of Intolerance. A past president of the Southern Baptist Convention called Muhammad a “demon-possessed pedophile” (he apparently consummated his 12th and final marriage when the lady was 9 years old), and declared that Muslims worshiped a different God than Christians. He also “attacked American pluralism” by saying that pluralism wrongly equates all religions.

The article cites with evident approval claims that the talk illustrates how hate speech against Muslims has become a staple of conservative Christian political discourse, bemoans intolerance and “open scorn” of Islam, mentions protests over Southern Baptist condemnation of homosexuality and “open proselytizing” of members of other religions, and comments on the political involvement of the denomination and other developments that threaten Muslims in America. The article in substance constitutes an attack on the Southern Baptists.

How does one interpret this? It appears that for a Christian leader to say that Christianity is better, or there is something seriously wrong with another religion, is hate speech and an attack on the adherents of that religion. The reverse does not hold, although the article does not quite make that clear. (The point can be proven by considering other attacks on Christianity, in particular Catholicism.) What the article does make clear is that it is OK to attack religion that is “fundamentalist,” that asserts anything different from what liberal modernity asserts. It’s OK, for example, for Trinity Church Wall Street to take advantage of 9/11 by presenting a conference on “fundamentalism and violence”. Don’t like what the fundamentalist hijackers did? Go after the Southern Baptists, they’re fundamentalists too.

There is no mystery to any of this, nor is it particularly inconsistent when viewed properly. It follows from the basic principle that authoritative truth is found only within scientific liberal modernity. Legitimate religion is therefore a personal spiritual expression of no public authority, although one often pursued in voluntary community with others. All historical religions must be treated as legitimate since they must be interpreted—by main force if need be—as personal expressions. Since every legitimate religion is strictly personal, to attack it is simply to attack its adherents. And since adherents of historical religions are free to view their faith as a personal expression of no public authority and practice it as such, their religious freedom is safeguarded.

In contrast, religion that asserts anything of its own—that is fundamentalist—is not legitimate religion. It can be attacked as intrinsically murderous because it rejects liberalism, the basis of peace and public order. It is to be treated as an ignorant distortion of the true nature of religion, which is always consistent with the truth of liberal modernity.

But why the special animus against Christianity, and why does Islam seem to get a free ride as a “religion of peace”? The reason is that the goal is to abolish the authority of religion, and to induce all religions as far as possible to give up their objective claims. Christianity is the inherited religion of the dominant civilization, so it is especially important to abolish its authority. Hence open season on the Bible, the Catholic Church, the Crusades, fundies, what have you, and hence the favor shown Islam, which is to be treated as an ally in the abolition of what remains of Christendom. In addition, it is necessary for the ultimate success of liberalism to promote a new legitimate Islam that accepts demotion to the status liberalism accords religion generally. Hence the emphasis on Islam as the religion of peace and tolerance with an assured equal place in Western countries. In essence it’s a bribe to Muslims, especially those who live in the West, to accept the substantive abolition of their faith in exchange for material benefits and the opportunity to contribute to the abolition of Christianity.