2005 July 24 Sunday
Full Religious Freedom Seen As Impossible

Christopher Caldwell argues that the Protestant framework for religious freedom does not work for all religions.

But how secure are these traditions in the first place? Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, a scholar of religion and law at the University of Chicago, has just published a smart – and in the present circumstances, sobering – little book called The Impossibility of Religious Freedom (Princeton University Press). Her argument implies we have overestimated the amount of real religious difference that even a tolerant democracy can handle. Freedom of religion can be called a “basic” right, but it is not one that goes without saying.

The Protestant Christian view of religion as a private voluntary affair is not shared by all or even most religions.

Most of the plaintiffs in the case were Catholics, with a scattering of Jews, and the judge was Protestant. That may or may not have been important. What was important was that the entire legal idiom in which cases like these get argued in America is a Protestant one. For the court’s purposes, writes Ms Sullivan, true religion “came to be understood as being private, voluntary, individual, textual, and believed. Public, coercive, communal, oral and enacted religion, on the other hand, was seen to be ‘false’.” Religions with a large role for ritual or community or sacred objects – such as American Catholicism in the 19th century or Islam today – are not always intelligible to this system.

Attorneys on both sides of the Warner case were uncomfortable talking about religion, and preferred to address the issues as if they were the same as those in free speech cases. Ms Sullivan notes that they often spoke of religious “views” and “expression”. But protecting expression or views or opinions cannot be the aspiration the American founding fathers had in mind when they included freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights. It if were, then protecting freedom of speech would have been sufficient. The problem is that not all people understand religious freedom as freedom of speech about holy things. For many, religion is primarily a matter of allegiance and custom.

It is great that Ms. Sullivan has written this book. Far too many Protestants in the West and also non-believers who are descended from Protestants fail to grasp in other religions just how far religious authority is seen as extending into the public sphere and into politics. Even some Protestant denominations take positions that bring them into moral debates in the public sphere over what is a human life (e.g. on abortion and euthanasia) or what is protected speech (e.g. on pornography). But the political claims and demands by religious authorities in other religions go far beyond what we see today in the United States coming from the vast bulk of Protestant Christian sects.

Many Muslims believe they have religiously ordained duty and right to enforce public morals and public customs on a wide range of subjects.

Linked to the desire for increased political power are attempts by some radical Muslims to begin a process of Islamicizing British cities.

Last month, Muslim groups in Glasgow petitioned the City Council to ban an Italian restaurant from serving alcohol to diners seated at outside tables. Hospitals in Leicester considered banning Bibles from hospital wards to avoid offending Muslim patients. In Birmingham, a group called Muslims Against Advertising began a campaign of painting over billboards that they deemed offensive to Islam - targeting ads for Levi's jeans, perfume, and lingerie.

But these small campaigns are polarizing public opinion along ethnic and religious lines - and creating support for Britain's far-right groups, who present themselves as defenders of Britain's hard-won freedoms.

Iraq is serving as yet another demonstration of how religious beliefs can very directly conflict with beliefs in individual rights. The editorial writers of the New York Times are shocked that majority rule in Iraq is creating an atmosphere where religious beliefs about morality are superceding Western ideas about individual rights.

Most chilling of all are the prospects for Iraqi women. As things now stand, their rights are about to be set back by nearly 50 years because of new family law provisions inserted into a draft of the constitution at the behest of the ruling Shiite religious parties. These would make Koranic law, called Shariah, the supreme authority on marriage, divorce and inheritance issues. Even secular women from Shiite families would be stripped of their right to choose their own husbands, inherit property on the same basis as men and seek court protection if their husbands tire of them and decide to declare them divorced.

Less severe laws would be imposed on Sunni women, but only because the draft constitution also embraces the divisive idea of having separate systems of family law in the same country. That is not only offensive, but also impractical in a country where Sunnis and Shiites have been marrying each other for generations.

The elected Iraq Shia leaders are busy stripping many rights from Iraqi women which they had under fairly secular and thoroughly undemocratic dictator Saddam Hussein. The idea that democracy operates to defend individual freedom is obviously false. Whether democracy supports individual rights depends very much on the beliefs and preferences of the majority. In Iraq's case Saddam Hussein was a defender of the individual rights of Iraqi women while effectively by their actions George W. Bush and the neocons have made themselves the enemies of Iraqi women's rights. they can protest that this was not their intent. But the result was predictable.

Perhaps the editorial writers of the New York Times are carping at Bush partly for partisan reasons and partly out of frustrattion. If they think Bush can do anything to stop the decay in rights for women in Iraq they are quite mistaken.

There is a lesson here for Americans and Westerners: Just who is allowed to move to a society and who makes the babies determines what rights will be recognized and protected and whether a society's government will even consider rights protection a top priority. If a society contains enough people who do not recognize, say, a right of women to walk around bareheaded and if the opponents of such a right feel strongly enough about it then women will be forced to cover up or risk rape, kidnapping, beating, and dousing with acid.

The ideological Libertarian Open Borders argument assumes that the vast bulk of immigrants are economic actors but not political actors - or at least not political actors who differ from the existing population in any way that affects rights. However, this assumption is so obviously wrong as shown by empirical evidence in this world that to believe it requires an act of faith even greater than the faith required to believe religions. The belief in political ideologies requires a greater act of faith than the faith required to believe in supernaturally oriented religions because some religious beliefs are not disprovable in this world. Though evidence against many elements of religious beliefs exist in this world as well.

Update: Muslims in Britain To some Muslims Islam is beautiful and violent.

"Some of the people tell you Islam is a religion of peace because they think that then you'll want to convert," says Dublin-born convert Khalid Kelly, who soaks up Abu Osama's sidewalk sermon. "But you cannot possibly say Islam is a religion of peace; jihad is not an internal struggle."


"All we want to talk about is how beautiful Islam is," says an Iraqi immigrant, who, like others standing here, mingles lyrical spirituality with a blunt advocacy of violence. "Zarqawi is showing the way," he says, referring to the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of the radical faction of foreign fighters in Iraq.

Like many, his dedication to Islam arose from a messy flirtation with a Western lifestyle, including drinking and taking drugs. "When reality hits you, you come back to Islam," he says. "If you read the Koran, you see that Allah gave us the right to terrorize the enemy."

His disillusionment with Britain became complete when he was sacked from his IT job "for telling a kafir [unbeliever, or non-Muslim] woman to cover up." Ironically, only Abu Osama dons religious garb. The others wear jeans and shirts. Kelly would look at home in an Irish pub.

Muslims in Western countries are more likely to become radicalized than Muslims in Muslim countries. There's a lesson there for anyone who wants to see it: Keep Muslims in Muslim countries. Don't let them come to the West.

Update II: You can read the first chapter of Sullivan's book online.

Religious freedom and the legal disestablishment of religion, as political ideas, find their origin in the early modern period in Europe.11 With other markers of modernity identified by scholars--the rise of the nation state, the maturing of an international market, the invention of modern warfare, the advent of printing and literacy, the emergence of a middle class, among others--a new relationship of religion to political governance was created with the breakup of the monopoly of the Roman Church.12 For perhaps the first time since Constantine, religious affiliation in Europe began to be detached again from political identity. National and religious identity no longer necessarily went hand in hand. To be sure, at first, new national religious establishments were created to take the place of the continental monopoly of the Roman Catholic Church, but over the centuries religion was both consciously and unconsciously remodeled to accommodate the new secular political order and new ideas of citizenship. Religion was thereby politically and legally divided into modern and antimodern, long before the reappearance of "fundamentalism" in the 1970s.13 The precondition for political participation by religion increasingly became cooperation with liberal theories and forms of governance.14

As a result, the modern religio-political arrangement has been largely, although not exclusively, indebted, theologically and phenomenologically, to protestant reflection and culture.15 Particularly in its American manifestation. "Protestant" is here spelled with a small "p." I use "protestant" not in a narrow churchy sense, but rather loosely to describe a set of political ideas and cultural practices that emerged in early modern Europe in and after the Reformation; that is, I refer to "protestant," as opposed to "catholic," models of church/state relations. (According to this use, Protestants can be "catholic" and Catholics can be "protestant.") Religion--"true" religion some would say--on this modern protestant reading, came to be understood as being private, voluntary, individual, textual, and believed. Public, coercive, communal, oral, and enacted religion, on the other hand, was seen to be "false." The second kind of religion, iconically represented historically in the United States, for the most part by the Roman Catholic Church (and by Islam today), was, and perhaps still is, the religion of most of the world. Indeed, from a contemporary academic perspective, that religion with which many religion scholars are most concerned has been carefully and systematically excluded, both rhetorically and legally, from modern public space. Crudely speaking, it is the first kind--the modern protestant kind--that is "free." The other kind is closely regulated by law. It is not incidental that most of the plaintiffs in the Warner case, the case considered in this book, are Catholic.

This book, to reiterate, is about the impossibility of religious freedom. Not the impossibility of societies in which persons are free to believe what they want and to associate themselves freely with others who believe in similar ways. Or in which persons are free to speak of religious matters openly and freely. Or in which government is prohibited from disfavoring one group of citizens for invidious reasons. These are rights that belong to all peoples. What is arguably impossible is justly enforcing laws granting persons rights that are defined with respect to their religious beliefs or practices. Forsaking religious freedom as a legally enforced right might enable greater equality among persons and greater clarity and self-determination for religious individuals and communities. Such a change would end discrimination against those who do not self-identify as religious or whose religion is disfavored. It might also force religious groups to fend for themselves politically, economically, and philosophically in a new world of radical normative pluralism.16

If someone has a right to do something because they believe a particular religion then it has to follow that someone else who does not believe that religion then does not have that right. For example, if a certain type of headstone can be placed on a grave only if one is religious then suddenly all the non-believers don't have headstone choices that believers have. Well, how can that be the case in a society where everyone is equal before the law?

Update III: Some people argue that the British Muslim bombers are unrepresentative of British Muslims. But if even a small percentage of British Muslims support terrorism that creates huge security problems and more attacks will take place. 100,000 British Muslims think the London tube and bus bombers are fully justified.

YouGov sought to gauge the character of the Muslim community's response to the events of July 7. As the figures in the chart show, 88 per cent of British Muslims clearly have no intention of trying to justify the bus and Tube murders.

However, six per cent insist that the bombings were, on the contrary, fully justified.

Six per cent may seem a small proportion but in absolute numbers it amounts to about 100,000 individuals who, if not prepared to carry out terrorist acts, are ready to support those who do.

Moreover, the proportion of YouGov's respondents who, while not condoning the London attacks, have some sympathy with the feelings and motives of those who carried them out is considerably larger - 24 per cent.

A fifth of British Muslims feel little or no loyalty toward Britain.

For example, YouGov asked respondents how loyal they feel towards Britain. As the figures in the chart show, the great majority say they feel "very loyal" (46 per cent) or "fairly loyal" (33 per cent) but nearly one British Muslim in five, 18 per cent, feels little loyalty towards this country or none at all.

If these findings are accurate, and they probably are, well over 100,000 British Muslims feel no loyalty whatsoever towards this country.

The proportion of men who say they feel no loyalty to Britain is more than three times the proportion of women saying the same.

A third of British Muslims want to see a collapse of Western civilization.

However, nearly a third of British Muslims, 32 per cent, are far more censorious, believing that "Western society is decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end".

An earlier poll from January 2005 found that most British Muslims favor the introduction of Sharia courts in Britain.

The special poll based on a survey of 500 British Muslims found that a clear majority want Islamic law introduced into this country in civil cases relating to their own community. Some 61 per cent wanted Islamic courts - operating on sharia principles – "so long as the penalties did not contravene British law". A major part of civil cases in this country deal with family disputes such as divorce, custody and inheritance.

Right after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon 4 in 10 British Muslims said Osama Bin Laden is justified to wage holy war against the United States.

Of course, Muslims are as entitled to question or criticise the bombing campaign as are Labour MPs such as Paul Marsden or George Galloway. But their opinions call into question their very identification as British citizens. Mohammed Abdullah, a 22-year-old accountant from Luton, told The Times: "We don't perceive ourselves as British Muslims. We are Muslims who live in Britain. All Muslims in Britain view supporting the jihad as a religious duty."

Other Muslims insist these views are unrepresentative. But are they? A Sunday Times survey has found that four out of 10 British Muslims believe Osama Bin Laden is justified in mounting his war against the United States. A similar number say that Britons who choose to fight alongside the Taliban are right to do so. In another opinion poll, conducted for the Asian radio station Sunrise, 98% of London Muslims under 45 said they would not fight for Britain, while 48% said they would take up arms for Bin Laden.

When Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City his actions elicited very little support among the American public. Muslim support for terrorist attacks is orders of magnitude greater than that of other groups in the United States or Britain.

Update IV: For an explanation of why bombers struck Britain and also a great essay on the historical accomplishments of the British people see Anothony Browne's article from The Spectator entitledThe Left’s war on Britishness (requires free registration which is worth your time).

A more pressing question, however, is: why Britain? Not why was Britain attacked, because the list of countries targeted by Islamist terrorism is growing so fast it will soon be quicker to list those unaffected. But rather: why did Britain become the first country in the developed world to produce its own suicide bombers? Why is Britain just about the only country in the world to have produced suicide bombers who sought to kill not another people but their fellow citizens? Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland were all part of the war on Iraq, and have not produced suicide bombers. The US and Spain had to import their terrorists. For those who think that Muslims in Britain are particularly oppressed and poor, try visiting Muslims in France or Italy.

For all our concern about Islam, Britain is one of the least Islamic countries in Western Europe. There are more Muslims, as a percentage of the population, in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark. It is true that Britain, more cursed with political correctness than most, has shown a joyfully optimistic tolerance of Islamic extremists. The BBC, the Guardian and the Metropolitan Police promote groups like the Muslim Association of Britain, even though it openly supports terrorism (just not in Britain).

No, the real answer to why Britain spawned people fuelled with maniacal hate for their country is that Britain hates itself. In hating Britain, these British suicide bombers were as British as a police warning for flying the union flag.

Britain’s self-loathing is deep, pervasive and lethally dangerous. We get bombed, and we say it’s all our own fault. Schools refuse to teach history that risks making pupils proud, and use it instead as a means of instilling liberal guilt. The government and the BBC gush over ‘the other’, but recoil at the merest hint of British culture. The only thing we are licensed to be proud of is London’s internationalism — in other words, that there is little British left about it.

Read the whole thing.

Update V: Over on the Gene Expression blog see Razib's reaction to Sullivan's argument. Also, on the subject of how problematic it is to define what is part of a particular religion see Razib's The "concept" of a "religion".

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 July 24 05:28 PM  Religion Freedom

Stephen said at July 24, 2005 10:12 PM:

I found myself nodding throughout Randall's essay. However, I'm not sure that quarantining the country works. It seems to me that the proselytising disease has already spread into the broader population, so the question becomes one of finding a way to fight a disease that exists in the hearts of some citizens? Its doubly difficult in the era of modern communication - an era where the latest spewings of an imam, priest, rabbi etc (name your poison) is a mere internet address away.

Being a child of a liberal democracy, I'm not convinced that more laws will really solve the problem. In fact, I suspect that more laws might create a pressure cooker situation that will inevitably explode (note that France is trying a 'no religious symbol' strategem, but that's happening in a society that is not a liberal democracy and which also has strong taboos about displays of overt religious adherence).

Stephen said at July 24, 2005 10:18 PM:

Oh, another thing, I don't think the problem can be characterised as a Muslim thing. In fact, I've been waiting for some of the Christian evangelical groups to take this route - an inevitable escalation to blowing up abortion clinics etc. Evangelical Islam is just the latest incarnation of an age old problem.

razib_the_atheist said at July 24, 2005 10:25 PM:

In fact, I've been waiting for some of the Christian evangelical groups to take this route - an inevitable escalation to blowing up abortion clinics etc.

evangelical christian groups are descendents of the radical protestant reformation (that is, post-lutheran, post-calvinist) who have never really been able to dominate any country and are historically conditioned to having to tolerate sinful depravity from the authories. even in the USA where their power is strongest in the west* the leadership tends not to identify with radical protestant sects, even if they mouth various platitudes. to give specific examples, jerry ford, ronald reagan and g. h.w. bush were episcopalian, even though they sometimes made appeals to evangelicals. jimmy carter and bill clinton were baptists, but they usually had better relations with mainliners (that is, they were part of the more liberal and less radical wing of their sects). g.w. bush is a methodist who talks about islam being a religion of peace. in contrast, sunni islam has been able to dominate and enforce public morality in many societies.

* there are some african countries where radical protestantism is pretty powerful and starting to emerge as the dominant force in the leadership. also, the christians of china tend to be radical protestants, we'll see how it plays out.

Randall Parker said at July 24, 2005 11:53 PM:


If we stop letting in more Muslims we stop making the problem worse. The first step to getting out of trouble when you have dug yourself into a hole is stop digging.

You state:

Oh, another thing, I don't think the problem can be characterised as a Muslim thing.

It sure is from a practical statistical standpoint. The odds of becoming a religious terrorist are orders of magnitude higher for Muslims than for Protestants. Ditto for advocating theocracy. Look, groups are different. Differences in beliefs matter. Islam is more hostile to secular liberal society than a number of other religions.

Braddock said at July 25, 2005 4:30 AM:

Yes it is a muslim thing. Through and through. It is all about Islam, jihad, and bloody world dominance. Bush and the imams can try to whitewash the harsh reality but not everyone is willing to fool themselves, not even muslims. Randall is right to try to limit the damage. Even the muslims who do not consider violence now will in the future consider themselves muslims first before any allegiance to the western nation that let them in and gave them freedom. Violence is always a consideration since it has always been Islam against the rest of the world. Islam uber alles.

M.Robinson said at July 25, 2005 5:22 AM:

All forms of religious extremism are dangerous whether muslim(osama and his type), christian(christian coalition) jewish(kahane) or hindu(VHP, bajrang-dal), but also there are what could be considered 'secular fundamentalists'. In each form there lies extremes rather than the middle path. This is dangerous for the public at large in any nation. In Britain we have religious tolerance, in a pseudo secularist society. In the house of Lords we have ministers from the church of england(about 5 ) who sit and deliberate on various issues. They have a role to fulfill in the debate, but do not have undue infleunce.

If you consider this in relation to the USA, senators openly espouse their 'religiosity' in the open, and you have evangelical christian ministers trying to infleunce their 'flocks' in the political world.

The concept of BEING is difficult in the least, I am English, living in United Kingdom, Which is part of the European Union. I am strongly of british persuasion, but I do not like the idea of a european federal state(if it came about during my life time), and would still define mysel as English(or British).

We in Britain have 1.5 million british muslims, and they are quite hardworking and family orientated, they have their fare share of problems. Now I do not denigrate the whole of British muslims through the actions of a few, as there were bombings carried out by the IRA, and we as a society did not denigrate all British/Irish people.

In the USA there seem to be a concerted efort by certain individuals and groups to play the anti-muslim theme on the basis of security. TIMOTHY MCVEIGH was not muslim.

Kenelm Digby said at July 25, 2005 6:23 AM:

One of the everyday ironies of British life is the ubiquity of the Muslim owned "corner-shop".Called "corner-shops" in Britain, because they are literally placed at virtually every street-corner in Britain's towns and cities, these small shops deal in all of the necessary victyals in life, from newspapers and magazines, cigarettes, tobacco, bus tickets, snack foods, toiletries, and especially children's candy,(hence the other popular name "sweetshop").
For the past 40 years now, almost all have been owned by sub-continental Indian immigrants, many apparently strict Muslims, who are outwardly "pillars of their community" and major mosque contributors.
That said, this does nothing to stop the lucrative sale in their shops of hard-core pornography (featuring actual penetration/ejaculation, anal "erotocism") etc, they are probably the UK's leading source of print pornography),hard liqour and beer (they all appear to have alcohol licences) and lottery tickets.

Randall Parker said at July 25, 2005 9:14 AM:


Show me a poll where a few percentage of the American public approved of what Timothy McVeigh did. I can show you polls were single and double digit percentages of British Muslims show varying degrees of support for attacks on Britain and the United States by Muslim terrorists.

razib said at July 25, 2005 11:56 AM:

tim mcveigh was an atheist btw. i disavow him!

Roy said at July 25, 2005 12:39 PM:

The idea that members of the Christian Coalition are anywhere near as big a danger as "osama and his type" is patently ridiculous. I loathe Jerry Falwell, but I've never heard him call for anyone's death. Furthermore, even simply writing a book critical of Islam gets you sent into hiding to avoid death (Salman Rushdie). Photographing a cross in a jar of urine (at taxpayer expense no less) only leads to calls for reforming or abolishing the NEA.

John S Bolton said at July 25, 2005 12:42 PM:

Milton, in the Areopagitica, says that we don't need to tolerate a religion that will not "unlaw itself". A faith that insists that it must become the law of the land, is not compatible with the freedom of other religions, and especially not any degree of irreligion. Foreigners applying for visas do not have any rights here, only such privileges as may be extended to those who are not part of our society. It doesn't matter how much property some may have here; if it did, then someone who had property in twelve countries could have as many citizenships, but that would entail a contradiction.

crush41 said at July 25, 2005 2:38 PM:

Forsaking religious freedom as a legally enforced right might enable greater equality among persons and greater clarity and self-determination for religious individuals and communities. Such a change would end discrimination against those who do not self-identify as religious or whose religion is disfavored. It might also force religious groups to fend for themselves politically, economically, and philosophically in a new world of radical normative pluralism.

Theoretically maybe, but pragmatically it seems to me impossible, unless it is expanded to "forsaking freedom of speech/thought" rather than nebulous "religious freedom." How would it possibly be enforced? A terse definition of religion: "A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion." That there is or is not a supernatural motivation for it is immaterial. Any normative belief is discriminatory and potentially "religious," including one derived solely through empirical means. Would the freedom to practice so-called "Critical Theory" also be infringed upon? It is in many ways more dangerous to a nation than any trinitarian sect of Christianity.

A more effective avenue would be to persecute seditious or violence-advocating speech irrespective of the context--a move that would de facto almost exclusively target Islam and not alienate the vast majority of Americans. I suppose in any case we'd move towards fascism, and I've seen you opine for some time that such moves are inevitable.

There's something more fundamental that I've not seen you talk much about. Religion and darwinian success ironically go hand-and-hand, because secular countries simply do not reproduce even at replenishment rates. The fix to militant religious beliefs is a brighter population, but the secularism that is borne out of higher IQs destroys itself by not repoducing--to me that appears the greatest threat to the West. You've dumbening on a global scale. The idea of secularizing Islam is a joke, as the various quotes from secondarly-educated professionals demonstrate. It isn't happening. Libertine secular liberalism is going to be but an asterisk in half a decade, as Euro-ancestry will by that time comprise less than 1/10th the world's population and unlikely be a majority in any country.

Jim said at July 25, 2005 2:50 PM:

i saw a bumber sticker that read: "Cultivate your inner peace. This alone will save the world"

In your post, you're discussing a blurring of the lines of religious freedom, for which a bright line divider is needed. I believe that the divider should be that you focus on yourself, not others. I am a Christian, and while I don't go to church very often, I certainly try to lead a life of being helpful to fellow human beings and avoiding malicious behaviors. I believe (which certainly can be argued against) that at the core of all religions, this is the message: cultivate peace with g-d in your heart. Different religions are simply illustrations of different paths one can follow, and typically were revealed to different peoples at differing times and circumstances in history. It's worth noting that one of the longest stretches of peace in the middle east is when muslims controlled the area, in which Jews and Christians were allowed to practice their own religions, and many great breakthroughs occured.

People who try to control the actions of others are searching for earthly power, and they are not acting for heavenly motivations, despite what may be said.

Many of these modern minions of the devil, cloaked in one religious garb or another (and yes, most commonly Islam is that cloak today) play on the anger and envy in the hearts of impressionable young men to convince them to commit terrible acts. The true motivators are racism, power, land, wealth, etc. - all earthly desires. Not many 40+ y.o. men are committing these acts of terror, because their emotions have settled enough to see through to the truth. I find it hard to believe that anyone truly believes in dousing women with acid in the name of g-d; it's really in the name of some evil shithead who wants control over other people in society through fear. Men/women of peace are good, regardless of the path they follow; and evil is evil, regardless of the lies they spin to justify their evil ways.

okay, reading this over, it's probably too esoteric to contribute much, but i'll post it anyhow.

Randall Parker said at July 25, 2005 3:09 PM:

Jim says:

In your post, you're discussing a blurring of the lines of religious freedom, for which a bright line divider is needed. I believe that the divider should be that you focus on yourself, not others. I am a Christian,

But Jim, that is a very protestant viewpoint. In some religions (Islam and to a lesser extent Catholic Christianity) the idea that religion is personal is contrary to core teachings of those religions. You can define someone else's religion that way. But if they don't believe your interpretation of their very unprotestant religion your interpretation only wins in the public square if your faction elects the majority of legislators and chooses the majority of judges.

You can't make people of other religions adopt a protestant viewpoint on what is public and not religious and what is private and religious. A Muslim is going to tell you that Islam is public and political and that government should be a religious institution obeying the will of God and his prophet.

Randall Parker said at July 25, 2005 3:18 PM:

crush41 correctly states:

There's something more fundamental that I've not seen you talk much about. Religion and darwinian success ironically go hand-and-hand, because secular countries simply do not reproduce even at replenishment rates. The fix to militant religious beliefs is a brighter population, but the secularism that is borne out of higher IQs destroys itself by not repoducing--to me that appears the greatest threat to the West.

crush41, I certainly think that who reproduces matters greatly. But the rate at which America is dumbing down due to dummies having more babies than smarties is much less than the rate at which America is dumbing down due to immigration.

To put it another way, I'd love to have the luxury of the problem that the biggest reason we are dumbing down is because the dummies are out-reproducing the smarties. I used to think more about that problem. But now I see immigration as such a larger problem that I focus more of my attention on immigration.

Of course on a global scale the picture is different. Globally the higher reproduction rate of the dummies is certainly lowering the frequency of alleles that raise IQ. On the other hand, improved nutrition and disease control is probably boosting IQ in many areas.

However, improvements in nutrition and disease treatment are going to do little to boost the number of people with the 120+ IQ levels needed to do engineering, science, medicine, law, and other jobs required for a modern economy and liberal society. The bulk of the genetic smarties have already figured out how to feed and protect their children from diseases. The problem is that the genetic smarties are having too few children.

Meet a very smart girl and convince her to have a half dozen children with you. Find a way to make enough money to raise them all.

Jim said at July 25, 2005 3:33 PM:

RP - a few comments to your follow-up:

1) yes, I realize that this is a very protestant approach. I'm proud of this approach and the amazing accomplishments throughout history following from it. I also realize that some Muslims feel the need to control other's actions (and I would debate with them the true source of their concern about the "sins" of others when the are full of "sin" themselves.... some bible quote along the lines of worrying about the speck in another's eye while having a plank in one's own eye comes to mind)
2) I don't think there is any other way to have freedom of religion for people of differing religious beliefs aside from this general approach. this American principle should be defended for its inherent value.
3) I don't think that all Muslims feel this way - i.e. those Muslim-run corner shops selling porn; 1000 A.D. Muslim middle east had religious freedom for Jews and Christians to practice as they saw fit
4) I think that the modern Arab world needs their own 'french revolution' (i.e. behead their dictators/sheiks/kings/whatever ruling authoritarian leaders) as well as their own reformation

Jim said at July 25, 2005 3:40 PM:

so how many kids do you have, Randall?

Randall Parker said at July 25, 2005 3:43 PM:


My point is simple: The protestant approach only works on protestants. American Catholics have adapted to this by becoming small 'p' protestants.

But Islam is far less susceptible to a protestant reformation.

First off, the average Arab Muslim is less smart than the average European Christian. Well, such a reformation is an intellectual process. But first you have to have religious intellectuals for it to work.

Second, the base texts and history of Islam are much less fertile ground for a protestant reformation. The biggest difference between Mohammed and Jesus was that Mohammed was a ruler and Jesus said "Render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's".

The Arab world has had plenty of beheadings of leaders over the years. But it has not had popular revolutions aimed at imposing European Enlightenment values.

Again, Islam is incompatible with separation of religion and state and it shows little signs of undergoing a change that will make it compatible. So we should keep out Muslims.

Jim said at July 25, 2005 4:24 PM:

RP- good point about the fact Mohammed was a ruler. I agree that the Muslim world is far from their 'french revolution' (and btw, i meant replace the beheaded ruler with a popular gov't, not just another dictator... in the spirit of the french revolution) and associated reformation. I think today's Muslims are led to believe that their lives suck because of outside forces. Possibly this blaming problems on outsiders is a remnant of colonialism. when they realize that their lives suck because of their rulers, i predict this will change.
I don't disagree with a thing you've written here (in fact i think you've again raised is quite an important issue to explore as I waste time at work), other than the American freedom of religion is uniquely suited to Christians. Medieval europe would have looked pretty imcompatible with it too, under the thumbs of kings insincerely using the Catholic church's convenient interpretation of the bible to their own evil benefits. while religious texts remain pretty constant throughout time, interpretations vary widely, often to suit the not-so-religious goals of those doing the interpretting.
Also worth noting - i have no problem keeping out Muslims since 9/11, if they are intellectuals so inclined for our brand of freedom, they can fight for it in their own countries.

Stephen said at July 25, 2005 6:49 PM:

There is an underlying tension throughout the middle-east. Social structures are under massive pressure, and that pressure is inexorably building. The pressure is like the wind, they cannot see it, but they see its effects. Their society does not have any of the institutionalised methods to allow the pressure to be converted to positive change. I suspect we will all pay for that flaw.

John S Bolton said at July 25, 2005 7:51 PM:

In any case, the right of free exercise of religion is a dead letter everywhere today. Some religions require racism for example, but countries which promise to protect free exercise of religion, do not protect that aspect of the religions of many hundreds of millions in the world. Therefore, also, the persecution of the exercise of the moslem faith is enjoined. Freedom for aggression is not real freedom and is not to be tolerated; the moslem faith commands aggression, and demands freedom for it, therefore it is not to be tolerated. Britain must now be severe in its intolerance of the moslem; anything less will be taken as appeasement, and bring on an intensification of the attacks. They must with speed uproot and cast away tens of thousands of moslems who have misdemeanors or more in their records, such as immigration offenses. Take and cast out the unworthy foreigners by the tens of thousands; nations come to greatness through raising their standards, not by lowering them to accomodate that which needs subsidy, special tolerance for aggression and compassion for evil.

crush41 said at July 25, 2005 10:23 PM:

I meant "half a CENTURY," not half a decade.


Immigration is a huge threat that offers a one-two punch in combination with lessening reproduction in developed nations. Yet immigration is, at least theoretically, something that is easily solvable. No children is not so simple. Dwindling birth rates are unique to secular countries and that's what concerns me. I realize that in your erudition religious beliefs must seem stupid, but I think your hostility may be misplaced. The end of religious belief in the West could be precursor to the end of the West itself. Grouping contemporary Christianity with Islam and then condemning all religious belief is more fallacious than simply coming down on the specific teachings or rhetoric emanating from one of them.

And religious belief, at least in the US, does not seem to have a significant negative correlation to IQ. Yet, according to Steve Sailer's baby gap, it appears that religion does have something to do with popping out children. Perhaps the crucial threshold is whether religious belief supercedes empirical evidence (a point at which it would be undesirable) or simply fills in the holes that science cannot answer (at least not yet). There is substantial variation in religiosity between states (bible-literate heartland and irreligious west coast) but not much difference in IQ levels (adjusting for minorities). Colorado, for example, is home of Focus on the Family and based on test score data and other IQ estimates I've seen it is among the brightest states in the Union.

Protestantism is more compatible than Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, or any other ecunemical religion because Protestant systems separate ethics from religion while the others make no such distinction. Lutheranism is the most extreme in this sense. Being raised Lutheran, I can tell you that the sermons never have a message for the secular world. They are exclusively focused on grace and making the believer aware of that grace--all esoteric stuff that makes you feel good. I've not once heard a mention of abortion, same-sex marriage, or stem-cell research. Unsurprisingly, the Lutheran Church was noticeably absent in the condemnation of slavery. Not because it condoned it, but because it doesn't deal with what Luther calls "the law" (that is, all things secular). Luther firmly opposed any sort of armed rebellion against the state in all circumstances. But as you and Bolton have said most religions are not inclusive (read Islam) because if you've a hold on the truth it seems silly to tolerate falsities! If that "truth" involves slaugthering infidels, we've an even bigger problem.

Catholicism is the other side of the coin in Christianity with emphasis on works, etc. The various Wesleyan faiths fall somewhere in between. If there were stats on birth rates by denomination in the US I might be able to make a point, although the rule probably holds even within Christianity that the more central the religious belief is to secular life, the higher the birth rate. Also, the encompassing nature of Congregationalism in the South may play some part in better behaving blacks in that region.

You and Stephen are right on Islam--the conditions do not permit a protestant-style reformation. In addition, those who advocate such change within the Islamic community are in lethal danger. Had Luther not been protected by Freidrich of Saxony, he would have certainly been assassinated. That may have scared Melanchton, Zwingli, and others as well. Modern means make it difficult for one to be visible and yet still safe.

As for the advice--consider it a work in progress!

Randall Parker said at July 25, 2005 11:44 PM:


The price for solving the immigration problem is literally orders of magnitude lower than the price for getting smarter people to have more babies. Plus, immigration is driving down average intelligence more rapidly than the smart people who don't reproduce. So I look at it and think I should concentrate my rhetoric on immigration. Plus, immigration makes the birth rate of higher IQ natives lower by driving up housing prices.

I'm not that hostile to most religions. Just because I think people believe false things doesn't mean I'm angry about it. Most false beliefs do not matter all that much. Some false beliefs even cause people to be better citizens, parents, workers. I concentrate on the false beliefs that do the most harm.

Actually, birth rates are dropping even in many less developed countries. Though there are glaring exceptions where the drop has reversed and a few nations whhich have amazingly high birth rates. The top two are Niger and Yemen with more than 7 kids per woman. I think Niger is even above 8 kids per woman. But generally the populations of countries with lower average IQs are having much larger families.

George Washington said at July 26, 2005 1:55 AM:

The time is near at hand which must determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves.

sr said at July 26, 2005 7:17 AM:

Ms. Sullivan's book represents a tactical retreat: the recognition that complete religious freedom is not possible is meant to rescue the project of "radical normative pluralism." If one opposes the dissolution of boundaries entailed by radical normative pluralism, if one opposes the extermination of difference in the name of diversity, then one cannot consider her an ally. Yet many a rout has begun as a tactical retreat; the book is a good sign.

M.Robinson said at July 26, 2005 7:30 AM:

The biggest difference between Mohammed and Jesus was that Mohammed was a ruler and Jesus said "Render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's".

Jesus was asked by certain individuals, should they pay taxes to the roman empire(if he had said no, he could then have been accused of agitation against roman rule).It was this that led to the reply of 'Render unto ceasar that which is ceasars', because the coins minted by romans with roman insignia on it was the 'property' of ceasar. The Pound coins in my pocket are minee ,but the metal/paper are the property of the state. Please do not quote out of context the verse in the bible.

Certain people do not have a monopoly on the bible, and as such should not misquote it for their own selfserving reasons.

S. Cormack said at July 26, 2005 7:50 AM:

I believe the limits of religious freedom in America have become fairly well-defined in the past 15-odd years due to 1)Employment Division vs. Smith (1990), 2)the federal government's failed attempt to overturn it by enacting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and 3)Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah (1993). SCOTUS has a long history of supporting religious BELIEFS while at the same time supporting the state's ability to limit religious PRACTICES ["Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. . . . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself." Reynolds v. United States (1879)]. So in effect, the protestant (majority) form of religious practices are almost always supported, since states invariably carve exemptions in otherwise neutral laws (i.e. minors can take communion and not violate laws against underage drinking) whereas minority or fringe religious practices are subject to invalidation (i.e. Mormons can't commit polygamy, some native Americans can't use peyote) due to lesser political representation. As a result most Protestants, Catholics, and Jews enjoy near-absolute freedom to practice their beliefs, while minority religions practiced by native Americans, Rastafarians, and presumably Aztecs [;)] do not. It seems to come down to political representation at the end of the day.

Randall Parker said at July 26, 2005 9:17 AM:


Selfserving reasons? So if I advocate any viewpoint I'm being selfserving. But if you come in here and argue a different viewpoint you are not being selfserving? I'm beginning to think you are a native Brit rather than a Muslim after all. The condescension of your upper class comes through with you. Even if you aren't from the British upper class you've learned to ape them.

As for why Jesus said what he said: I've heard multiple sermons by multiple preachers on the subject. Yes, the popular interpretation is that he was bein goaded to challenge civil authority in order to give a pretext for arresting him. But guess what? He did not choose to challenge civil non-religious authority. Plus, at least one of his disciples recorded the incident and the quote, being from Jesus after all, became a lesson that really did influence the character of Christianity to make it different from Islam.

So no, I did not misrepresent the historical importance of what Jesus said. Your interpretation does not in any way contradict the point I was making. Religions differ in ways that affect what demands their followers place on the political system and on non-believers living in the same country.

razib said at July 26, 2005 12:49 PM:

all blogs are "self serving." most of the time you pay for the bandwidth, do tech shit on the back end and spend time doing research. oh, and you set up a comment system. nevertheless, you always have the types who show up and behave as if they are dining at a high class restaurant where they are the boss, instead of accepting the reality that they chow-down on the sufferance of the host.

seelow heights said at July 26, 2005 2:57 PM:

"In the USA there seem to be a concerted efort by certain individuals and groups to play the anti-muslim theme on the basis of security. TIMOTHY MCVEIGH was not muslim."
You have to wonder about someone who brings up the case of Timothy McVeigh in the context of this post. Any other McVeighs out there? He didn't even belong to a "militia" or any other organized group; neither is there any evidence that he was a "racist" or "fascist". He seems to have been simply an anti-government fanatic who was appalled by the government attack on the Branch Davidians. BTW, the Davidians included many foreigners and non-whites.

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