3/13/2005

Salman Rushdie: Keeping faith out of public life

From the Toronto Star:
For those of us who grew up in India in the aftermath of the Partition riots of 1946-1947, following the creation of the independent states of India and Pakistan, the shadow of that slaughter has remained as a dreadful warning of what men will do in the name of God.
...The simple truth is that, wherever religions get into society's driving seat, tyranny results. The Inquisition results, or the Taliban. And yet, religions continue to insist that they provide special access to ethical truths and consequently deserve special treatment and protection. And they continue to emerge from the world of private life — where they belong, like so many other things that are acceptable when done in private between consenting adults but unacceptable in the town square — and to bid for power.
...In today's United States, it's possible for almost anyone — women, gays, African-Americans, Jews — to run for, and be elected to, high office. But a professed atheist wouldn't stand a popcorn's chance in Hell. Hence the increasingly sanctimonious quality of so much American political discourse: The current president, according to Bob Woodward, sees himself as a "messenger" doing "the Lord's will," and "moral values" has become a code phrase for old-fashioned, anti-gay, anti-abortion bigotry. The defeated Democrats also seem to be scurrying toward this kind of low ground, perhaps despairing of ever winning an election any other way.
...Maybe America's Democrats will come to understand that in today's 50/50 America they may actually have more to gain by standing up against the Christian Coalition and its fellow travellers, and refusing to let a Mel Gibson view of the world shape American social and political policy.

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