Monday, December 22, 2008

More on Secularism

A truly fine post by Timothy Sandefur.
Great question:
Why did these deeply peaceful men do this?

And great answers.

They felt it their obligation to defend the values of individualism and freedom of the mind against an aggressive ideology of ignorance, dogma, compulsion, uniformity, and authoritarianism. If the representatives of that ideology obtained the bomb first, they would win the war, and science itself might literally be wiped from the face of the earth, to be replaced with something they were unafraid to call by the names of “savagery” and “barbarism.”

And today?

Today, the west is confronted by an ideology of dogma, chauvinism, nationalism, and brutality—an ideology whose practitioners brutalize women and children, commit unimaginable acts of savage brutality, and who, if they had the power, would wipe away all free scientific inquiry, all freedom of speech, all dissent. This ideology is the aggressive Islam-inspired ideology loosely termed Islamofascism. Headquartered in Iran and Saudi Arabia, practitioners of this ideology are working aggressively toward obtaining a nuclear weapon with which to blackmail the free, secular nations of the world—and, not incidentally, to exterminate the Jewish nation of Israel.
What is the reaction of the secular liberal community? While there are a good many of them who have spoken out eloquently and powerfully in defense of the same human values their fathers defended—people like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens—a many others refuse to do so. They point their accusatory fingers instead at the west. They condemn American society as fundamentally racist and exploitative, and a pro-democracy foreign policy as "imperialistic" because it is “forcing” “our way of life” (i.e., freedom) upon other nations. Many of them even hesitate to use words like “terrorist” when describing terrorists. One rarely hears expressed the view that scientists and other secular intellectuals have any obligation to oppose the forces of barbarism—a word many of them would indignantly refuse to employ.

The bottom line is that I believe we will soon face, if we do not already face, a choice not unlike that faced by Szilard and his contemporaries: a choice to put ourselves on the line in defense of universal human values. That defense may take many forms; for now, I believe simply articulating and intellectually defending them would be enough. But if we fail in that, we will find ourselves faced with that same choice in a far more terrible form.


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