Faith and Xenophobia

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Cal Thomas recently wrote a column about the rise of "no-go" zones in Britain -- Moslem enclaves where a de facto rule by Islamic law exists due to a failure by the government to protect individual rights throughout its territory. This failure is due in large part to the influence of multiculturalism on politics in Britain, as well as that of pragmatism on the part of many of its politicians.

Where there are large concentrations of Muslims in England, "no-go" zones are being established and, according to the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Church of England's Bishop of Rochester, non-Muslims who "trespass" in such neighborhoods risk attack.
This is depressing, but it's pretty old news. Where things get more interesting is the next paragraph:
Nazir-Ali, a native of Pakistan and convert to Christianity, writes in The Sunday Telegraph that a spiritual vacuum in Britain, along with its indifference to the rise of Islamic extremism and a growing "multi-faith" society, is robbing the nation of its Christian identity and putting its future in jeopardy. He is not alone. A poll of the General Synod -- the Church's parliament -- shows that its senior leaders also believe that Britain is being damaged by uncontrolled immigration. [bold added]
Although England does have a national church, unlike the explicitly secular United States, its government, like that of the U.S. and the rest of modern Europe, has (until fairly recently) better protected individual rights, including the right to profess whatever religion one wishes. The fact is that Moslems who take to threatening non-Moslems are violating their individual rights and they should be stopped on that basis. Your right to practice your faith ends where my nose begins.

Whatever Christian roots religious toleration might have, they arise from the fact that religious leaders who hold political power tend to persecute or kill members of other religions, and enough Christians began to catch on once Christianity began splintering into multiple sects. Tolerance certainly does not spring from the basic epistemological method of religion, which is faith. In other words, religious tolerance is, to the religious, a necessary evil.

Thomas approvingly cites the Bishop's claim that the Bible teaches "that we have equal dignity and freedom because we are all made in God's image", but not before he promotes the false notion that only religion can lead to the truth:
Multiculturalism, globalism, and an emphasis on "inter-faith" (which is really inter-faithless because in this view Truth does not exist) are contributing to the decline of the West just as paganism, hedonism and greed undermined past empires. Rather than learn from their mistakes, the West thinks it can engage in such practices without consequence. [bold added]
I don't have time to refute Thomas as fully as he deserves here, but even the most cursory glance at one past empire, the Roman Empire, will show that it was pagan during its ascent and peak, and fell after it adopted Christianity. A more thorough analysis will show that Christianity contributed greatly to its collapse.

Having shown by example that Thomas is wrong about the "need" of great civilizations for Christianity, I will note that his contention very nicely explains the inordinate fear of immigration shown by the Bishop in England and so many American conservatives here. For if religion is the basis of individual rights (which it isn't), there can be no way to make a rational case for individual rights and thereby persuade those not of one's faith of the benefits of respecting the rights of others.

Or, as Ayn Rand once put it in her 1960 essay "Faith and Force: Destroyers of the Modern World" (as reprinted in Philosophy: Who Needs It):
Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when mean deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, persuasion, communication, or understanding are impossible. Why do we kill wild animals in the jungle? Because no other way of dealing with them is open to us. And that is the state to which mysticism reduces mankind -- a state where, in case of disagreement, men have no recourse except to physical violence. [bold added]
This is why religious persecution exists in the first place and it is why Bishop Nazir-Ali and Cal Thomas, ignorant or evasive of the actual nature of individual rights, seek to restrict immigration to the West rather than make the sorely-needed case for its governments to start protecting individual rights from religiously-motivated infringement.

In their better moments, they don't see how to make the case for individual rights. In their worst moments, they see religious hegemony as a normal, desirable state of affairs, and want their religion to be the one doing the dominating.

The solution to the "voluntary apartheid" of the Moslem enclaves that Thomas decries is for Britain to begin consistently protecting individual rights again -- not to turn itself into an even bigger Anglican or Christian enclave.

Isn't it funny how the faith of Moslem and Christian alike results in the same end result: A political system devoted to excluding those not of the same faith and enforcing religious law?

-- CAV

PS: Pursuant to a comment, I realize that one thing I should have made more explicit about Britain's woes is that its problems are twofold. First, its own citizens do not generally grasp the nature of individual rights well enough to insist on the proper course regarding these enclaves by the government. (Otherwise multiculturalist politicians would not have a prayer of being elected.) Second, the government is not protyecting individual rights.

Neither Thomas nor the bishop understand or advocate individual rights and, since both want Christianity involved in government, they would likely oppose the full protection of individual rights by their governments if they knew what that entailed. Such a prospect would preclude religion dictating government policy.

Finally, The bishop does have a point, but as I indicate in my reply to the first commenter, the blame lies not with immigration, but with the failure of the British government to enforce individual rights, including the fact that it runs a bloated welfare state.


: Added a PS.


Neil Parille said...


You talk about "the inordinate fear of immigration," but the very situation mentioned here arose because of immigration. Second, if the UK had open borders, it could conceivablly become Moslem in our lifetime.

Yes a better case for freedom could be made, but millions of new voters would overwhelm any gradual change in outlook by British intellectuals.

Gus Van Horn said...

First, open immigration, which I advocate, is not the same thing as simply granting citizenship to any and all comers. (I do not know whether the British include members of the Commonwealth as citizens or have very lax requirements for citizenship, but I regard the question of whom to make a citizen is an integral part of open immigration.)

Second, Britain's huge welfare state lured many of these immigrants in the first place and sustains many of them now.

Britain may have doomed itself already, but the blame rests on statism and a general failure to make the country hostile to militant Islam by protyecting individual rights, not the mere fact that people moved into Great Britain.

Neil Parille said...

I don't blame it on the "mere fact" that people moved to the UK. However, the best system for protecting individual rights can't prevent millions of new voters from undoing that system.

Gus Van Horn said...

You have missed the following point: You have to be a citizen before you vote. Being careful about whom you make a citizen (and not systematically bribing irrational voters via the welfare state) is how you prevent what you describe from happening. (In addition to successfully passing on one's culture. But this last isn't the job of the government.)

Curtailing immigration is, at best a short-term slowing-down of a descent into tyranny. The real problem remains that the general public does not grasp individual rights well enough to elect a proper government. In a sense, they don't need "help" from Moslems.

Burgess Laughlin said...

An immigrant, as such, is not a voter--unless the state makes the immigrant a voter and the immigrant actually votes. Voters are citizens. No state has an obligation to make all immigrants citizens.

To claim fear of voters as justification for rejecting open immigration of peaceful, honest, responsible individudals (thus attacking immigrants' and their employers' rights) is to create a straw man argument--a fallacy.

Burgess Laughlin said...

In England, one of the founders of the 17th Century movement for political tolerance of religious differences (among Protestants, at least!) was John Locke.

The rationale he offered is based partly on skepticism. In his 1689 Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book IV, Ch. XVI, sec. 4, he says (with my annotations for greater clarity, I hope):

"The necessity of believing [in a religious doctrine, for example], without [rigorously proven] Knowledge, nay often upon very slight grounds, in this fleeting state of Action and Blindness we are in, should make us more busy and careful to inform our selves, than constrain others."

(Using his capitalization, spelling and punctuation.)

His skepticism in epistemology and two-worldism in ontology show up in phrases such as: "this fleeting state of Action and Blindness."

This wasn't his whole argument for rights, but this passage shows that the foundations of tolerance rested historically at least partly in skepticism, the sister of faith.

Kant (Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals) and his progeny, such as John Rawls (Theory of Justice), use essentially the same argument: We must respect others because they stand obscurely behind a veil of (our) ignorance. We can't know what they are really like, in their souls, so we need to be fair to everyone.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you for pointing me to John Locke's argument for religious tolerance.

It is interesting how its basis, skepticism, is flimsy enough that it now is used by many multiculturalists to justify tolerating barbaric behavior on the part of Moslems.

How dare we claim to know, after all, that their behavior is uncivilized!

Jim May said...

I don't blame it on the "mere fact" that people moved to the UK. However, the best system for protecting individual rights can't prevent millions of new voters from undoing that system.

Yes it can. It uses something called a "constitution" which constrains the power of government (including the vote) to certain narrow applications. Voters are only dangerous in a democracy, not a free society.

Of course, enough immigrants could simply overthrow such a free government, but how huge a buildup that would need to be -- and how deep a sleep the people would have to be to let it come to such a pass. Free societies would have many built-in protections that would kick in long before that could ever arise -- the right to think (recognize the danger), to speak (warn people), to associate (don't hire or associate with the belligerents except on proper terms) and to bear arms (to protect and/or re-establish the civil order). And the government of such a society, with no shortage of its own weapons, certainly wouldn't be sitting there like a duck paralyzed by multi-culturalist dogmas while all this goes on...

Gus Van Horn said...


Excellent point. You have just made explicit lots of things that underly (and I see that I was assuming in) my argument that "living somewhere" does not equal "being a voter".