As part of an end of the year review of some of articles that I wrote for this blog over the two years of existence, I am republishing here one of my all time favorites:
On the surface one could easily view a devout Muslim in Saudi Arabia and fundamentalist Christian in Georgia as polar opposites. How, one wonders, could they be more different? However, if you get below the surface of their belief systems and take into consideration their basic views of the world, you’ll find that they much in common.
We can start with the obvious, they are both likely to believe that their holy books, for the Christian the bible and for the Muslim the Koran, should be take literally, that every word ultimately came from the mouth of God. They are both likely to favor women in subservient roles. For instance women are unlikely to lead their religious services. They both believe that the rules of their religions should govern of how their societies should conduct themselves. Therefore neither is likely to be content to follow their religious rules themselves and let others go their own way. Both are likely to believe that everyone else should follow their religious rules as well they so push to have them incorporated into their government’s laws over the objections of others in their communities.
Devout Muslims are likely to believe that Sharia or Islamic law should replace the civil and criminal laws of their countries. Fundamentalist Christians in the United States find themselves restrained by the US Constitution which limits how much they can impose themselves on the civil liberties of others, but they try to still try to codify their religious rules into the judicial system whenever they can. Blue laws restricting shopping or which ban the sale of alcohol on Sunday are still common in many states. States laws based on the disputed religious belief that a fertilized egg is a person spawned antiabortion laws until they were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Moreover, law makers catering to the religious right continue to come up with innovative rationales for establishing new laws which continue try to limit the right of women to chose. That same belief is also the basis of laws which seek to abolish or at least limit stem cell research. Until recently sex acts between consenting homosexuals were considered criminal offenses. Adultery was illegal in some jurisdictions and in others even certain sex acts performed by husbands and wives in the privacy of their own homes were criminal offenses.
So you see devote Muslims and the fundamentalist Christians are very much alike when you scratch below the surface, but their most basic similarity is that they are both very conservative. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of conservative is: “Believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society: relating to or supporting political conservatism. Not liking or accepting changes or new ideas.” This longing for the old traditional values, the status quo, unites not only devout Muslims and fundamentalist Christians, but also all conservatives around the world. For instance a very conservative Jewish man is likely to have much in common with his Muslim and Christian counterparts. While belief systems and world views may differ dramatically, conservative Americans have much in common with conservatives in the Europe, Russia, Japan, the Vatican, Israel, and the Arab countries.
This conservative value system also unites conservatives throughout history though the actual beliefs of conservatives varied over time in the same manner that they can vary from place to place. For instance, as tensions grew between grew between England and her American colonies in the 1750’s, the conservatives back then would have been the Tories, the residents in the colonies that valued the status quo and who favored maintaining the existing relationship with English crown. Those who favored a break with England, even if it took a revolution, were the progressives of their day.
Of course times have changed. Today Tea Party conservatives worship our country’s founding fathers who were the mortal enemies of the conservative Tories in colonial America. In other cases, however, there are remarkable similarities in the way conservatives down through history have reacted to new, inconvenient scientific observations. The environmental warming deniers of today have a lot in common with conservatives who persecuted Michelangelo for pointing out that the earth is not the center of the universe and others who later disputed (and continue to dispute) Darwin’s theory of natural selection. (See my previous blog post at http://www.cajunscomments.com/global-warming-deniers/ for more on this.)
So my point is that while belief systems vary from place to place, from religion to religion, and throughout history, conservative people all over the world and throughout history have a lot in common. Even the conservative extremists around the world and throughout history have their similarities. While it is true that the concept of Jihad espoused by Muslim terrorist groups is alien to many people around the world, holy wars are not a unique to Islam. Several popes of the very conservative Catholic Church sent Christian knights and solders into battle to conquer the Holy Land and capture Jerusalem in the name of Christ.
There are also many other examples of conservatism taken to the extremes. The Nazis were the best example of an ultra conservative, ultra nationalist government. Even in this country ultra conservative militia members have bombed Federal buildings and entered into fire fights with police and federal officers. However, while there are radicals and extremist in many conservative movements, it is unfair to judge all conservatives by the actions of their radical cousins. But neither can it be said that extreme conservative elements only exist among the Muslim terrorist groups.
In closing I think that it would be interesting, even humorous, to point out their similarities to both the devout Muslims and the Fundamentalist Christians in our first example. Both are almost certain to be highly insulted at the very suggestion that they are probably more alike than then they are different. Yet, as you can see, such a conclusion is inescapable to the impartial observer.
Cajun 12/29/2015 (Originally published 7/17/2014)