Monday, September 06, 2010

Religous intolerance: is it completely unwarranted?

Uh, oh. It’s time for another controversial posting: thinking the unthinkable.

With reference to the nation-wide hostility that has recently surfaced with regard to the building of mosques, the media have now fastened onto the notion that such things are nothing new. American history, we are told, shows a long nativist history of negativity towards “foreign interlopers” in the realm of religion. Fortunately, this opposition generally proves to be temporary. Indeed, Catholics and Jews, who were once widely decried, are now assimilated into the mainstream of American life. (Mormons, though, do not seem to have quite made it, as seen in the resistance to Romney’s candidacy for president.)

Was this resistance, however, totally irrational and unjustified? As recently as 1960 John Kennedy felt it necessary to deny that, as president, he would be influenced by the Vatican. If Catholics were in fact regarded as harmless, why would he need to do so? The recent history of the cover-up of abuse by pedophile priests, sometimes in contravention of American law, shows that there are still some reasons for concern about the subculture of the Roman Church.

For their part Protestants have not been so wonderful, as shown by their history of burning Catholic churches in the nineteenth century and their record of anti-Semitism.

While anti-Semitism persists, it is now widely denounced, and rightly so. Still, there are concerns about the degree to which some, in fact many American Jews place the interests of the state of Israel over those of this country.

In the light of these phenomena, why is it wrong to wonder whether Islam, that soi-disant “religion of peace,” could bring trouble to our shores?

Some would say that the best solution is essentially to bid good-bye to religion, as is occurring, by and large, in Western Europe. However, this retreat is not likely to happen here. As long as the major Abrahamic religions are strong in North America, we are entitled to ask questions about them. This goes for Islam, just as it does for the others.



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