May 2003 Archives

I sent this letter to The Atlantic in response to David Brooks' "Kicking the Secularist Habit" from their March 2003 issue:

I read David Brooks’ “Kicking the Secularist Habit” with a certain bemusement. His argument is akin to that of an addict fresh out of rehab deciding to “kick the methadone habit” because the number of addicts is increasing. Many commentators, not all from the far right, have used September 11 as an excuse to advocate religion and bemoan secularism – ignoring the fact that terrorism is largely the result of religious fervor and the disavowal of secular principles. The past century has seen triumph after triumph for varieties of religious fundamentalisms, but has all this devotion to the unknowable helped humanity?

Brooks is perceptive in condemning secularist arrogance, such as it is, but spectacularly blind in missing the larger forest of religious arrogance. Claims of ultimate knowledge, ubiquitous in religion, are useless when they can neither be tested nor proved. While religion may be personally comforting and inspirational, its broader societal applications are frequently destructive and divisive; humanity’s other pursuits have led to knowledge while religion has splintered humanity into warring factions. Religion holds an important place in our common development, but is now largely an impediment to peace and progress.

The modern era is truly a religious one, as Brooks points out, but I eagerly await the next Enlightenment. Humanity’s eyes need to be opened to the wider world, not closed in contemplation.

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