Monday, November 15, 2004

clash of civilizations?

The Lost Nomad writes:

Hi Kevin,

With you having studied religion, I'm curious what your take is on this:  Article Link

Touchy subject (for some), I know, but you hear about the divide between Islam and the West (Christianity?) more and more.  Makes me wonder if this could end up being the catalyst for the next world war...far fetched?  I don't know if it is, at the rate this is going.

Lost Nomad

Bernard Lewis, in his Islam and the West, notes the asymmetrical nature of the dichotomy, "Islam versus the West." The West includes areas with a heavy Muslim influence, and much of the Muslim world has absorbed Western memes. Also, the term "West" is cultural and political, while the term "Islam" is, arguably, religio-political (at least from the Western perspective). Lewis notes further that Muslims and Christians use terms familiar to the other, like "infidel." Each knows what the other is charging; each understands the other's exclusivistic language.

I tend to think, especially now that we're focusing on the question of theocracy, that whatever huge conflict lies in store will be between religions, not between the awkward dichotomy of Islam and the West. Nigeria, with its extensive interreligious conflicts (Christian-Muslim), is an example of what may be ahead. The Third World is likely to be a missionary's battleground, and to the extent that America allows itself to be charmed by visions of Christian theocracy (I don't see this happening anytime soon, but do think it should be dealt with now, before it becomes a real problem), the First World might see its share of religious strife, too-- though I think this will flare up in Europe far sooner than it will in the US.

I have no idea what shape the conflict will take, but it's a good guess that it'll be almost the exact shape of the geographic borders of the Muslim world, especially as long as the moderate Muslims continue their silence. The Nomad's linked article, on Thailand's growing Muslim problem, talks about the growing rift between moderate and radical Islam, partly attributable to the rapid spread of ideas through modern communication technologies. The article, disappointingly, doesn't explore the question of why moderate Muslims are largely silent about religious violence.

Speaking of silence and moderates: are mainstream Republicans disowning Bob Jones III?

How about Bill Bennett?

I doubt they'll disown the latter; if Dr. Vallicella's recent post is an indication, admiration for Bennett is alive and well in the GOP mainstream. I'm sorry, but I don't find the pro-Bennett arguments convincing: Bennett's life doesn't appear to conform to the virtues he advocates. While I agree with Dr. Vallicella that people too easily use the word "hypocrite," I think it does apply to someone like Bennett. Bennett's gambling wasn't a one-time thing: it was a vice. His repeated inability to admit the true extent of the vice was telling, not to mention contrary to the virtue of honesty. These aren't "wobbles"; they're indications of an enormous internal disconnect between what is preached and what is practiced. Bennett is the parent who admonishes, "Do as I say, not as I do." If you're a public figure advocating higher standards of behavior, it's only natural that the consistency of your own conformity to those standards will be scrutinized. Bennett, in my opinion, has betrayed people's trust. His message might be a good one, but he's an awful messenger.


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