Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Fighting the Enlightenment

Here's another article Grandma sent me some time back -- while I'm catching up on blogging, I might as well go for it. Besides, it rather goes along with what I said in the previous entry. Here's the heart of it:

What's under siege here is nothing less than the Enlightenment. Please recall that what we benignly remember as the Renaissance coexisted with centuries of vicious religious persecution -- Christians persecuting heretics like Galileo, expelling and slaughtering Muslims and Jews, then doing bloody battle with each other following the Protestant Reformation.

The philosophers of the Enlightenment were men of science who understood that faith could not be disputed but that reason could be subjected to the test of logic and evidence. The American Revolution was a triple triumph -- for political democracy, religious tolerance, and for the free inquiry demanded by the scientific method.

Today's religious extremists are not only trying to use the state, with all its power, as religious proselytizer. They oppose science when it happens to conflict with their version of revealed truth. They twist history to claim that the Republic's freethinking Founders, like Jefferson, Adams, and Madison, were really theocrats like themselves. They long for the predemocratic world of absolutes circa 1500.

Virtually all fundamentalists I've ever heard hate the Enlightenment, either implicitly or explicitly. The only difference with Baha'i fundamentalists is that they seem to think that going back is going forward i.e. that returning to a pre-Enlightenment state of society where religious authority had the power of the state at its disposal is a step forward for humanity, and this will somehow be conducive to the unity of mankind. Sometimes, to hear them talk, one could get the impression that they think the major part of Baha'u'llah's mission was to undo the Enlightenment -- which is ridiculous if you read what He said.

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