President Obama just paid his first visit to a mosque, which is good insofar as it lets people know that Muslims are Americans too, that they enjoy the same rights as other Americans, that demonizing Muslims as individuals will not be tolerated in a diverse society, and that all religions enjoy the same Constitutional freedoms. What I didn’t like was this bit:
“An attack on one religion is an attack on all religions,” President Barack Obama says while visiting a U.S. mosque for the first time as president.
Seeking to rebut what he views as perilous election-year bombast about Muslims, Obama spoke at the Islamic Society of Baltimore on Wednesday.
If by “attack” Obama meant “physical attack,” it just isn’t true; in fact, it’s meaningless. Besides, there’s no physical attack on a religion: there are physical attacks on believers or religious structures or books.
But I don’t think he meant that; I think he meant “verbal attack.” And if that’s the case, then he’s dead wrong. You can attack one religious doctrine without necessarily attacking other religious doctrines, as not all religions make the same claim. Nor are all religions equally pernicious. If you attack Catholicism for its stand on abortion, or Islam for its stand on homosexuality, you’re not attacking Quakers or Buddhists. In fact, because not all Catholics or Muslims believe the same thing, or even the accepted dogma of their sects, you’re not even attacking the beliefs of every adherent to a given faith.
There’s only one way that what Obama said can be construed as true. If he meant that “attacking the basis for belief in one religion is attacking the basis for belief of all religions,” then what he said is largely true. For, with a very few exceptions, the basis for belief in all religions is dogma, revelation, authority, and wish-thinking.