August 12, 2005

Do we need more religion? No

Recently there have been some calls for a revival in Christianity in order to face the challenge of Islamism. Obviously going for the take a fanatical cult to beat a fanatical cult approach. Pub Philosopher asks if a Christian rival is a good idea. His conclusion is not it is not, nor even particually British. His review through history points out a few nice examples to back up his claim, such as during the peak of British supremicy we where also less religious than some might claim, and also less than any of our rivals. The more telling one is the story of Muslim Arab civilisation which after centuries as a centre of scientific learning started to decay, and was accelerated by their taking up more fundimentalist forms of Islam in an attempt to retrieve their glory days:
There is an interesting parallel with medieval Islam here. As Bernard Lewis points out in his excellent book "What Went Wrong?" , Islamic fundamentalism began to reassert itself in the later middle ages, after the Arabs began to lose wars, first to their Iranian and Berber vassals and later, to Turkish and Mongol invaders from central Asia. Religious conservatives explained these defeats as punishment for abandoning traditional Islam. As a result, the Muslim world retreated from modernity and abandoned its pursuit of scientific knowledge. Thus began Islam's decline into the medieval ignorance and superstition that still holds it back today.

A reassertion of religion as a way of revitalising society and recapturing the glories of the past did not work for the Arabs. It is unlikely to work for us either, for the simple reason that our glorious past wasn't as religious as we think.
Anywhere throughout history if you look to the most advanced and powerful civilisation in a region you will almost always find it to be the most liberal. With out liberty people are unable to pursue their dreams, which is what generates the artistic abundance that marks out a great civilisation, and spurs on the technological innovation that creates a powerful one.


Blogger chris said...

Neither Athens nor Rome was secular as we understand it today, Socrates was executed for introducing new Gods and corrupting the young. However I'll see if there is anything in Project Gutenburg on the subject for a bit of reading.

In fact there is only two states that I can think of that where founded with secularism in mind, revolutionary France and the USA. One foundered quickly in the morass of The Terror, while the other has reached heights never before seen.

3:17 pm  

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