At the Library of Law and Liberty this morning, I have a post on the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom of 1786, the anniversary of which America marked last week. Among other things, I describe how Jefferson deftly combines Enlightenment and Evangelical Christian arguments to support religious freedom. Here’s a sample:
It’s fascinating, therefore, to go back and read the statute in its entirety. Three things stand out. First is the skillful way Jefferson combines two dramatically different strands of thought to justify religious freedom—Enlightenment Liberalism and Evangelical Christianity. (As a good lawyer, Jefferson knew how to make an argument in the alternative). “Truth is great and will prevail if left to herself,” the preamble declares; “she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error.” Through free debate, people could reason their way to truth, in religion as in other matters. No justification existed, therefore, for prohibiting people from expressing their religious opinions and trying to persuade others.
This Enlightenment defense of free inquiry was not likely to convince everyone, though, so Jefferson added an argument from Evangelical Christianity as well. Religious freedom was the plan of “the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either.” Establishments had resulted in “false religions over the greatest part of the world,” including, presumably, Catholicism and Islam. The point was clear: a good Evangelical Christian should support religious freedom, for Christianity’s sake. This combination of Evangelical and Enlightenment reasoning is a major theme in American church-state law, and it’s interesting to see how far back it goes.
That Jefferson, he was one shrewd lawyer. You can read the whole post here.
In February, McGill-Queen’s University Press will release The Islamic Challenge and the United States: Global Security in an Age of Uncertainty by Ehsan M. Ahrari (Strategic Studies Institute). The publisher’s description follows:
On September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden declared “global jihad” on the West. In response to the day’s attacks, the United States has waged its own global war on terrorism, which the Pentagon has described as a generational conflict similar to the Cold War.
In The Islamic Challenge and the United States, Ehsan Ahrari takes a close look at this ideological conflict, focusing on the Middle East, Africa, and South and Central Asia. Arguing that the war on terrorism is founded on secular fundamentalism (an ideology that envisions Islam as dangerous and volatile because it mixes religion and politics) and the Enlightenment narrative, Ahrari suggests that the United States sees global jihadists as absolutist, irrational, obscurantist, and anti-modern. While violence on behalf of the Muslim community – ummah – is thus framed as reprehensible, violence on behalf of the Western nation-state is seen as sometimes necessary and often praiseworthy. Unsettlingly, this framework does not encourage careful scrutiny of America’s historical dealings with the Muslim world. The belief that religion causes violence, Ahrari argues, may blind the West to its own forms of fanaticism.
A timely analysis of one of the most contested issues of our times, The Islamic Challenge and the United States is a must-read for global security practitioners, policymakers, and general readers.
This month, Penguin Random House released the paperback edition of The Myths of Liberal Zionism by Yitzhak Laor. The publisher’s description follows:
Yitzhak Laor is one of Israel’s most prominent dissidents and poets, a latter-day Spinoza who helps keep alive the critical tradition within Jewish culture. In this work he fearlessly dissects the complex attitudes of Western European liberal Left intellectuals toward Israel, Zionism and the Israeli peace camp. He argues that through a prism of famous writers like Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, the peace camp has now adopted the European vision of “new Zionism” promoting the fierce Israeli desire to be accepted as part of the West and taking advantage of growing Islamophobia across Europe. The backdrop to this uneasy relationship is the ever-present shadow of the Holocaust. Laor is merciless as he strips bare the hypocrisies and unarticulated fantasies that lie beneath the love-affair between liberal Zionists and their European supporters.