religion has no place in public life

Having grown up in a diverse area as the San Francisco Bay Area, I have imbibed a tolerance for differences. Perhaps that is what frustrates me the most about New Mexico, the dearth of diversity. Each time that I sat outside of the small and posh deli at the Stanford Shopping Center, my mind was taxed by the attempts to decipher the languages that would feed my curiosity. And there were always foreigners around, adding to this affluent but otherwise all-too-unimaginative place the chrome of exoticness, of that cosmopolitan-like feel that this learning metropolis possesses. So I would listen to conversations, seeking for any clue that would help me in solving these linguistical mysteries.

But linguistical differences are not of my concern here, what concerns me is religion. Lately I have been perplexed by religion, or to be exact, Islam. Before I proceed, I must express that I believe Islam is very much like Christianity, that is, it started off as a good idea but because of the vicissitudes of those things of which man is the artifice, it went wrong.

Being ethnically Catholic, I possess an admiration for all things foreign. I admire Islam, not that it is foreign per se, it is a clarification of Scripture. Let’s be frank, Christianity is nominally monotheistic. In reality, it is a polytheistic system. There is a Deity who is composed of three; this Holy Trinity not only confounds the human mind, but ridiculous it by asserting Oneness. The mystery that shrouds the Christian theological system cannot hide the truth. Methinks that Christianity was corrupted by its contact with Greek thought. Christianity, has always been an ecclectic superstition, how could it not be defiled by paganism?

Growing up, there were always Muslims around. They were diverse as any other group. I always felt an uneasiness at the girls wearing headscarves. I did not understand it, perhaps it was the foreigness of it that produced this feeling. But I realize that women being covered up is not foreign to the Western experience, .e.g, nuns, we have simply been led to believe this.

Historically, Muslims were tolerant to a degree of the Jewish and Christian communities within their domain; as long as they paid the stipulated tribute. And historically, Christian deviants flourished with greater success under the yoke of the Muslims than they did under their own brethren; Christian history is marred by the intestine conflicts spurred by banal differences of faith. The Arab Christians seemed to breathe with relief each time they returned to the control of the Muslims; they were much too oppressed under the Latins, though they ostensibly were of the same faith!

So I concluded that if the Muslims were able to allow people of other faiths, i.e., People of the Book, to practice their respective faiths and abide by their own laws and traditions, shouldn’t Muslims be given the same treatment in the West. Yet, I was not quite convinced of this tolerant and honorable conclusion. I still felt an uneasiness.

As I was reading an article on the BBC’s news site (Muslim anger at Danish cartoons) my uneasiness became more clear. I am not opposed to women wearing headscarves because I believe that is oppresive. No, I am against that because I firmly believe that religion has no place in the public sphere. The current Pope (I add the qualifier current because I like many of my ethnically Catholic friends cannot bring myself to accept this reality) recently said:

A tolerance which allows God as a private opinion but which excludes Him from public life… is not tolerance but hypocrisy.

To this I would retort, a tolerance that allows God both as a private and a public opinion errodes tolerance and replaces it with intolerance, persecution … genocide.

The venerable Pope goes on to say:

When man makes himself the only master of the world and master of himself, justice cannot exist.

Under the watchful eye of God via the Church, thousands of human beings perished. How many Christians were tortured and burnt for audaciously believing that Christ was not divine? How many souls were fed to the fires of the Truth Faith simply because they craved the austerity and commonwealth of the original Christians? If justice can only exist under the guardianship of God, where was his justice? Why was this god quiet, this god of love, through the madness?

No, religion has no place in public life. The West has sacrificed too much, too many lives for the sake of freedom. The decadence of the Muslim world is due in part to its religion, or rather, to its connexion with the public sphere. Some of us Westerners would say the solution is a separation of Church and State, that this would solve some of the problems afflicting the Muslim world. But we must recall that initially, there was a separation between these two entities in the Western experience; the State persecuted the Church! Then these two deadly enemies were joined, to the detriment of the latter! Oh and how bloody, how virulent was the separation! I am not saying that we have fully achieved it, nor that we will ever achieve it.

Though we have vanquished Christianity into the shadows of a cave, its might can still be felt; we cannot rest or deceive ourselves into believing that we have been victorious. Such separation has never existed in the Muslim experience; the State has been the Church! If anything, a different solution must be contrived.

Christianity, as well as Islam, are the enemies of democracy. They make use of the liberties that democracy allows to set themselves up. But we cannot deceive ourselves, their aim is full domination. Their victory is our demise. Toleration of religion in the public sphere is to abnegate democracy, to relinquish freedom and accept servitude.

History is there, we cannot ignore it.

In the West, we can criticize our governments. We are allowed many liberties that our brethren in the Muslim world simply are not. So, these Muslims that are in an uproar at the fact that the Prophet was depicted in an unflattering manner, i.e., fundamentalist, what’s all the fuss? Honestly, stereotypes exist for a reason. I of all people, upon seeing the Twin Towers collapsing, one first and then the other, I asked myself, “What did we do to them?” now find myself asking, “What the …!?”

I ask, if Christ has been portrayed crucifix and all in a vile container filled with urine, why should the Prophet be free from such desecration? After all, is he not just a mortal? As Abubeker said to Omar upon the death of Muhammed, “Is it Mahomet or the God of Mahomet, whom you worship?”

The West is not perfect, but one of the reasons of our success is the restraints we put on religion in our public life. If we succumb to the pressures of outraged religious and pious people, then we will reduce ourselves to a condition similar to the one experienced during the Middle Ages, when under the rule of God qua his Vicar, man had no rights; there was no justice, save for the powerful.

We suffered much, endured much to obtain our liberties. We mustn’t be afraid to do so again in order to retain them. Nor must we permit countries like Iran or Pakistan to tell us how to act. Ought they not criticize themselves first?