Samir’s Selection 02/14/2015 (a.m.)

  • [N]o doctrine or national ideal exists pristinely, outside the practices of its believers… The job of the good historian is to balance understanding with indictment; it’s the polemicist who tries to use history only to plead innocent. The acts of the Crusades, like the facts of slavery, happened. Fanatics acting in the name of a faith murdered thousands of helpless people. That nobody else did better in the period of the Crusades is not the point; it is exactly the problem. It’s why we feel now that all the fanaticisms and ideologies at large in the period were equally horrible, and why we thank our stars, and our enlightened forefathers and foremothers, that we have (mostly) escaped from them.Bad acts may rise from good causes: faith may never be the enemy; fanaticism is always the enemy. But faith has always been the first seedbed of fanaticism. That’s why, when people commit acts of horrible cruelty for political purposes, we say that they’ve made a “religion” out of their politics, or have succumbed to a mad ideological dogma. Fanaticism is the belief that a single faith or ideology contains all the truth of the world, and that others should at best be tolerated. Liberalism is the belief that toleration is not enough, that an active, affirmative pluralism is essential to social sanity. Pluralism is the essence of liberalism-including the possibility of self-reproach for things that liberalism has done badly. America is not responsible for My Lai only to the degree that America renounces the self-righteous “exceptionalism” that put those murders in motion and then prevented those who caused them from being blamed. Excessive scruples-liberal guilt-are as sure a sign of sanity as excessive sanctimony is a sign of the opposite.

    tags: religion violence killing history Islam Christianity Obama extremism liberal secularism AdamGopnik

  • tags: Hubble anniversary astronomy photography

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