About Me

My photo
Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Edmund Standing on the far left's campaign to suppress criticism of Islam

This article by Edmund Standing should be compulsory reading. Standing does a great job of exposing the totalising narrative of the far left, with its quasi-religious apocalypticism and its comprehensive prescriptions for human behaviour. Not all religious positions are dangerous to our liberties (the syncretic polytheism of the ancient Romans wasn't so bad, for example), and not all dangerous ideologies are religious in the sense of postulating supernatural entities. However, many current religious positions endanger our freedoms because they have strong totalitarian, dogmatic, apocalyptic tendencies, and they attempt to use the power of the state to suppress contrary views. These positions should be critiqued and resisted. The same applies to quasi-religions such as Marxism and Nazism.

In this case, we see hardline Marxists attempting to characterise any criticism of Islam, as a body of beliefs and sanctioned practices, as something akin to racism. It is nothing of the sort.

Hardline Marxists are not friends of liberal secularists. Marx did have some worthwhile sociological insights, but a dogmatic and comprehensive Marxist worldview shares all the worst characteristics of the monotheistic religions.

1 comment:

Steve Zara said...

There is a mirror image of the problem that has to be understood as well: Uncritical and emotional demonisation of all who identify as Muslims. This is something I come across regularly. And, there is without doubt in some countries at least some attacking of Islam that really is racist. This is because there is a very strong correlation in some countries, such as the UK, between Islam and race/skin colour. For the far-right, outspoken atheists are sometimes seen as 'useful idiots' in the battle against a racial group. In the UK this has been seen with the BNP's use and promotion of Pat Condell's videos (Condell himself does not share their extreme politics).

The following phrase from the B/W article:
a political delusion based on faith in the existence an imagined 'racist imperialist' conspiracy and a conviction that they are a morally pure elite who will one day lead ' an aroused people' to revolutionary glory.

Describes perfectly the attitude of far-right groups that can attempt to piggyback on the "less thoughtful" and more emotional attacks on Islam.

There can be useful and productive criticism of reactionary and oppressive religion. (There has to be!) But I think for this criticism to be most effective, the ways that religion and opposition to religion are seen by those on both the far left and far right has to be understood.