Religious Freedom Is What Makes America

We live in weird times. There is still plenty to criticize radical Islamists about, and we really should be wary of efforts to bring political Islam special favors and acceptability in the United States and elsewhere. These rational arguments, however, are doomed to be misunderstood thanks to the efforts of Newt Gingrich, Bill Kristol and other right-wingers. Thanks to them, anyone who critiques political Islam will be faced with the assumption that they’re a reactionary who wants to forbid Muslims the freedom to worship. Thanks alot, Newt.

Columnist Richard Cohen took Gingrich to task in a recent column:

Gingrich noted that there “are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” True enough. However, it is not the government of Saudi Arabia that seeks to open a mosque in Lower Manhattan, but a private group. In addition, and just for the record, Saudi Arabia does not represent all of Islam and, also just for the record, the al-Qaeda terrorists who murdered nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001, would gladly have added the vast Saudi royal family to the list of victims. In recompense, the Saudis would just as gladly apply some dull swords to the necks of al-Qaeda’s leaders. It is the way of the desert, or something like that.

The fact that Muslims can set up shop freely in America shows how different we are. Would conservatives rather we be more like Saudi Arabia? I honestly wonder, with their talk of “moral crusades” and other creepy religious window-dressing, if perhaps they should. It’s often said that people tend to hate those that are the most like them. In this regard, Islamic and Christian fundamentalists share a great deal in common.

Bill Kristol was equally incendiary:

Contemporary liberalism means building a mosque rather than a memorial at Ground Zero—and telling your fellow citizens to shut up about it.

Goodness gracious. The case of the NYC mosque is religious freedom on private property. If that’s not something conservatives support, then conservatism literally stands for nothing anymore apart from being ridiculous.

Additional: It looks like Hezbollah is more religiously pluralistic than our boy Newt:

Gingrich seems determined to drag Saudi intolerance into the debate over the Cordoba Center. I’ll bite. Three years ago, I was studying in Israel and took a trip to Beirut to see the city for myself. There I encountered the Magen Avraham Synogogue in Wadi Abu Jamil, a neighborhood that used to be the Jewish Quarter in Beirut. The synagogue was dilapidated and decrepit. Plants grew through the floor and the building looked as if it were about to fall apart.

Recently, with Hezbollah approval, what remains of the Lebanese Jewish community and several outside sources have begun a restoration project. You can read about the project here and here. You can follow it on facebook here. If even Hezbollah allows a synagogue to be built in Beirut, maybe Gingrich should lay off the mosque in lower Manhattan. Surely that’s not too high a standard.

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  • Mendler

    Michael,

    Let me start by stating, that I had to read your article a couple times and was in total shock. I mean here is what seems to be a very well rounded intellectual person with the ability to stat his points of view. What I found shocking was the simple fact that you totally missed the mark on Conservatives/Christians. You seem to know a lot about us, but you speak of us like we are your enemy and Islam is your friend. I see your slant and I see how you move and think and for one it is very disturbing to me, only because you are holding a Gun and you are looking down the barrel with your hand on the trigger waiting for your finger to pull the trigger and yet you are blind to the hold fact.

    Let me say this, and I will try and make a point or get a point over to you without seeming like a jackass to you. This is very hard for me and I try for the most part to stay out of the way of others and keep my opinion to myself unless it directly effects me.

    First and foremost, Christians are a very tolerant people. They built a country based on Freedom of all type’s of people. I will point this out first before I continue. In the founding of this country, all the founding fathers where Christian. Most of the people that come to the Americas come to escape religious persecution from the Pope. Now, on to my point, like I was saying we are a very tolerant people but where most of the exception comes into play is the fact that Muslims are not. They have no desire to walk hand and hand with either you as a non-believer or me as a christian.

    That is the point that most political Christians are tying to make. That the building is not about Religious tolerance but the exact opposite, that Muslims consider it the beginning of domination in America. You can skirt this all you want and you can twist it and slant it as you will, but in the end if this is posted most people that read this will understand. If you lack the understanding then consider this. Hop on a plane and head to North India where it is dominantly Muslim and walk into a mosque there and on the appointed time as the men are leaving after their prayer and stop the first one coming out of the mosque and tell him you would like to sit down and talk about Jesus Christ and that you are a devout Christian and see just how fast it will take for you to be beat down if not killed on the spot.

    If you want to know how I now this, it is simple, I know two Christian Indians that live in the southern part of India that have told me of Christian’s that try and spread the Gospel there never coming back. It is not about us being tolerant of them but of them being tolerant of you and us.

    You see if you even went to a Muslim controlled city and stated there is no God or Muhammad worshiped a God that didn’t exist then you would be a target. Your chances of survival would be greater if you went out into a shooting range with a target on your chest. This you can count on.

    I leave you with this to think about as you race for religious tolerance.

    I will get on my knee’s tonight and I will ask God to come into your dreams and show you truth, it is up to you to accept what he show’s you. I will pray for you brother because the road ahead of you is long and the journey will only get harder for you and people like you.

    I would love to see you when the day comes and all are present and what you see is bad will be shown that it was good. And that what makes things like religion bad is bad men, not bad religion. God never intend for us to live like we are, but we chose it ourselves because with out being able to chose for ourselves then what good is it to be loved.

    You desire to be loved by your kids or your wife or your parents, but if for one moment you felt unloved it would break your heart. You don’t want to force them to love you and you have to let your kids make choices because in the end this is how we learn.

    I only ask that you open your eye’s for one moment and think about what you say, before you say it. The gift that God has granted us is great what we do with it makes other men like you either like or dislike it. Don’t Judge religion based on a couple bad people. Instead take the path I took and search for God, and seek him for yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to attend a church and look to someone else for understanding of him but rather you look for yourselves and leave others to there own demise.

    In the end, you are accountable for your actions and your deeds not others.

    God bless you and may his healing hand and his angles watch over you and your family.

  • Procopius

    Christians and Muslims alike are both very intolerant and both are founts of jackassery. I’m so glad society is slowly entering the post-ancient-religious age and storybooks from 2000 years ago are losing their grip on our minds.

  • Michael O. Powell

    Well said, Procopius. The children of Abraham need to stop making us suffer for how their father abused them.

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  • Procopius

    I was too harsh then. Really I wish a person were only intelligent enough to both have a religion if it’s important to himself and his community, but having the fucking discernment to understand that the power elite outside of his community needs to play religious distortion in order to get him and his community’s resources thieved for a completely non-religious purpose.

    Religion does keep people grounded and is human heritage and has a real state when it’s not tainted by power structure. This is like so many other things, that are pure before extra-community power distorts it.

    You could say “well, what if some stupid community has a religion that’s totally fucked up and a few guys are sitting around abusing everything and making a dark backwoods Hellscape of life?”

    Well, that goes back to the argument that a man is not capable of recognizing justice unless a supra-community, a state power structure is there to shepard communities to perceive the structure’s “religion.” At that point everything is over.

    I just don’t think religion is important as is it the power structure’s control of the perception of religion and its dissemination to communities. It all boils down to my faith in humanity and my faith in individual discernment, and to be frank the faith is not there.

    I blame mass media for most of the world’s ills. Because even in the dark ages, men could act like men. Make sense? no. But whatever.

  • http://prosebeforehos.com alec

    Long story short, religion is a manifestation of productive forces that dilute the ability of workers to reject the concentration of capital.

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  • Michael O. Powell

    Procopius,

    Somebody reprinted your comment over at their blog. I must admit that that is the first time I’ve seen that, at least in the sense of someone reprinted a comment because they liked it. The closest I’ve seen is people reprinted YouTube comments for the inaneness.

  • Michael O. Powell

    As for Mendler, please go look at my other posts. I got in a virtual flame war with Muslim readers over my criticism of Islamic fundamentalism. It is possible to be an equal opportunity offender.

  • janice l baker

    this same style discussion is happening on Anne Rice recent statement on leaving Church and Christians behind while keeping Jesus much as Ghandi said-its been on par with those who want to defend the dogma and belief system they assume they much about and that others cannot comprehend
    The Bible if they disagree with the Christian sect
    interpretation they hold or eveyone is headed to hell but them and once saved always save by the grace of unconditional loving god- if anyone disagrees then they are condemn and so on/ Close
    mind of the blind faith kind.