After bidding farewell to blogging, Eric MacDonald decided that it’s really in his blood after all, and he’s restarted Choice in Dying, promising to contribute semi-regularly. I’m very pleased about this—though also a tad annoyed because I bid him a lachyrmose farewell on his last post. Eric’s always worth reading, for he’s erudite, thoughtful and mostly right (though he still thinks that there are ways of knowing beyond science!).
Anyway, visit his redesigned site here, and have a look at his latest post, “Radical Islamic violence or anomie and self-radicalisation?” It’s a trenchant indictment of religious “fundamentalism,” arguing that such fundamentalism falls more naturally out of Islam than other faiths.
Here’s a snippet, in which he defends Anthony Grayling against Jonathan Rée’s criticism that Grayling ignores the subtleties of Sophisticated Faith when arguing against religion:
Suggesting that religious texts can “flourish as many-layered parables, teeming with quarrels, follies, jokes, reversals and paradoxes” is all very well, and it is doubtless true. But the texts themselves, as sacred, can be used in a much more single-minded fashion, as Christian fundamentalists and Muslim radicals demonstrate, and it is this use to which religious fervour is most likely to be attached. And the point is that religion, at its worst, is a form of ideological zealotry. This is what drives religious belief. No one who thinks of the scriptures of any religion as “teeming with quarrels, follies, jokes, reversals and paradoxes” will ever capture the religious imagination, which teems with unreflective passion and fervour instead, and looks to holy writ to support actions prompted by such religious emotion. Anyone who has managed a congregation of religious believers knows this. Academic discussion of the complexities of the scriptures is all very well, but it doesn’t bring in dollars, and it is dollars and numbers of ardent believers that allow religions to flourish or to be seen to flourish. And this leads to people who murder abortion providers or blow up people who are enjoying the exhilaration of watching a marathon. And dismissing those who do such things as outliers, or as individually radicalised, simply overlooks a central feature of all religion: that it is driven by a universalising enthusiasm that gives meaning only to the extent that others share it. Fundamentalism thus lies at the heart of religion, and no amount of clever hermeneutics will change that. Religions whose texts provide the occasion for violence — as Islam does with almost monotonous repetitiveness — will in fact produce people whose religious fervour will be expressed in violent and destructive ways.
Welcome back, Eric, the Official Website Uncle™!