As usual, Paul Belien of Brussels Journal cuts to the core of the argument. And, as seems to be coming usual, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten is behind the publication of the controversy.
This time it is the manifesto, Together facing the new totalitarianism, signed by twelve varied “ writers, journalists, [and] intellectuals” who have banded together to issue their creed. Here is the opening salvo:
We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.
The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.
Belien, however, sees things differently; he thinks the signers have missed the point:
The above paragraphs clearly display the manifesto’s defects. While Islamism can be considered the perversion of religion, the three scourges of the 20th century – Fascism, Nazism (National-Socialism) and Stalinism – were secular ideologies. Neither Adolf Hitler nor Joseph Stalin were theocrats. It takes “French intellectuals” to use mankind’s experience with National-Socialism and Stalinism as motivation for a rallying cry to oppose “religious totalitarianism” and a call for “secular values,” which they hold to be “universal values.”
He then discusses the furor that one of the signers, Hirsi Ali, raised last year when she suggested that religious schools in the Netherlands ought to be abolished. Gates of Vienna discussed this in December, pointing out that Ms. Ali, for all her courage and principles, is perhaps culturally blind to the idea of true pluralism:
Ms. Ali has not learned or experienced true pluralism so she cannot see past the limits of orthodoxy, she can only move the chairs around.
Secularism is as much a religious point of view as any denomination. It is worse, in some ways, because its intolerance is so virulent that it spreads and occupies its hosts, who are often unaware of having been invaded. Paul Belien shows how it works, even among those professing another religion or allegiance:
it is no coincidence that the manifesto avoids referring to “Socialism” (and even “Communism”) among the scourges of the past century and prefers to speak of “Nazism” and Stalinism” instead. Half the manifesto’s signatories are probably Socialists, which explains why the manifesto obfuscates the secular, Socialist roots of these scourges.
While in America a cultural war is going on between “blue” (liberal) and “red” (conservative), the cultural war in Europe is a three-way war between the European equivalent of the American “blue” (socialist), the European equivalent of the American “red” (conservative, though Europeans often use the term “liberal”) and Muslims. I prefer to refer to the first group as “secularist” (although I realise this is a generalization and many Christians belong to these “secularists,” including – unfortunately – most of our bishops and priests) and to the second group as “Christian” (although many agnostics belong to it). The reason why I make this distinction is because the second group is prepared to acknowledge the importance of the cultural traditions of the West, rooted in the Judeo-Christian values without which classical-liberalism could never have evolved.
As Mr. Belien notes,
…The battle that is being waged today is a battle between those who defend the right of individuals against the right of collectivities.
The Islamists and the secularists (including the priests and bishops among them) have more in common than the Islamists and the Christians (including the agnostics among them), because the latter acknowledge that at the heart of Christianity is the individual with his individual responsibility before God. Without Christianity, individual responsibility would not have become the centre of European civilization. It was the French Revolution that jeopardized this tradition and that became the root of collectivism, with its socialist, fascist, national-socialist and communist excesses. From this perspective even Jihadism is more a child of secularism than of religion.
Never have I seen the French Revolution, that bloody, frenzied dismissal of all tolerance, better shown up for what it was and remains: the glorification of the collective. This idol exists also in America, wherever the politically correct brutally oppress those with whom they disagree. These destroyers of careers and reputations run amok in the ivied halls where once Larry Summers roamed. They live and prosper in our political institutions. They move and have their being wherever the individual and his conscience are not the prime consideration, the ultimate value.
When the Christian creed proclaims that “Jesus died for me” it is stating the primacy of Me as I am subsumed under the exigencies of the Golden Rule.
What a shame: a brave manifesto not for the individual rights of each of us but for the collective “universal” values which, when allowed full play, obliterate the individual…including the individual signers of that sad declaration.
We have traveled so long to have arrived only at this pathetic junction where once again voices and fists are raised to the glory of the group.
Hat tip: Peter Fleming in the comments section of The Belmont Club.