Sunday, May 14, 2006

There's been an ascending pyramid of books on the danger of religion (none of which I'm likely to read anytime soon) from an assortment of village atheists: first, Sam Harris' The End of Faith, then Daniel C. Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon and, coming in October, The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, who sounds in interviews sort of the way Flannery O'Connor's Hazel Motes would sound if he had discovered evolutionary biology.

From the reviews I've read, I gather they've all been largely energized by 9/11 and suicide bombers to focus on religion as a dangerous force.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright apparently takes a slightly different approach in her new The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs, which seems to argue not so much that religion is dangerous but that failure to understand it is and has been -- particularly as foreign policy is concerned.

From the Washington Post review by Noah Feldman:

... Albright espouses a skeptical theology according to which we should tolerate other people's religious views because they might turn out to be right, after all. As a proof text for this approach, she quotes Clinton himself: 'It is OK to say you believe your religion is true, even truer than other faiths, but not that you are in possession in this life of a hundred percent of the truth.' This cautious doctrine is appealing -- even characteristically American. But it is by no means shared by all people of faith, many of whom believe the Bible or the Koran contains the whole truth. In a democracy, the votes of the true believers weigh just as heavily as the votes of the skeptics. To welcome religion into the making of our foreign policy is to acknowledge that certainties, not just well-meant aspirations, are going to play their part.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My, my, doesn't that "cautious doctrine" sound rather quaint in 2006? When did Clinton say that, by the way? It's rather amazing how much credence is now given to the "true believers" both here in the States and abroad.

The idea that religious certainties are to have a role in the making of our foreign policy sounds nicely pragmatic on the one hand and deeply creepy on the other.