Another casualty: Maverick Philosopher embraces tolerance

There’s something about Islam that turns generally right-leaning people into raving liberals.  Maverick Philosopher, in his attacks on Muslim “intolerance” has committed one of the few offenses grave enough to earn explusion from my blogroll:  he has praised the Enlightenment.  He writes

That is why both leftists and Islamists must be vigorously and relentlessly opposed if we care about our classically liberal values.

The trouble with the Islamic world is that nothing occurred in it comparable to our Enlightenment. In the West, Christianity was chastened and its tendency towards fanaticism put in check by the philosophers. Athens disciplined Jerusalem. (And of course this began long before the Enlightenment.)  Nothing similar happened in the Islamic world. They have no Athens. (Yes, I know all about al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, et al. — that doesn’t alter the main point.)  Their world is rife with unreasoning fanatics bent on destroying ‘infidels’ — whether they be Christians, Jews, Buddhists, or other Muslims. We had better wake up to this threat, or one day soon we will wake up to a nuclear ‘event’ in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles which kills not 3,000 but 300,000.

After affirming his commitment to liberalism, MP asserts that Christianity is a false religion.  Truth doesn’t need to be “chastened” or “checked”.  Since truth never contradicts itself, the only thing that can check truth would be falsehood.  Of course, we traditionalists know that falsehood, and falsehood of the most socially destructive kind, is exactly what the philosophes promoted.  Nevertheless, if God is God, and the Church is the new Jeruselem, then nothing outside and contradictory to it should “discipline” this holy City of God.  What I find most risible about MP’s statement is the way if equates the French philosophes with Athens.  It seems strange to me that materialists like Voltaire and Diderot should be regarded as the champions of Greek reason, while Platonists like Anselm and Aristotelians like Aquinas should be regarded as its enemy.  Perhaps MP believes that Anselm and Aquinas in fact spent their careers “checking” and “disciplining” Christianity.  I’m quite sure that if we would ask these illustrious thinkers, they would strongly disagree.

Later, MP asserts his dogmatic commitment to tolerance even against Christianity.

To the extent that Islam takes on Jihadist contours, to the extent that Islam entails its imposition on humanity, it cannot and ought not be tolerated by the West.  Indeed, no religion that attempts to suppress other religions can or ought to be  tolerated, including Christianity.  We in the West do, or at least should, believe that competition among religions in a free marketplace of ideas is a good thing. 

MP has rediscovered Rousseau’s compulsary religion of tolerance.  I’m always amazed that liberals never see the irony in their position.  What about the belief system that suppresses all belief systems that would suppress other belief systems?  “We tolerate all religions, but only to the exent that they understand themselves to be private hobbies without connection to any objective goods worth  public recognition.  You may affiliate yourself with any belief system you want, but you must act like atheist utilitarianism is the actual truth.  If you fail to do so, we will expell or kill you.  We don’t tolerate the intolerant.”

I have no idea where MP gets this idea that a free marketplace of ideas promotes an assent to the truth.  Our two century experiment with free expression has not been encouraging.  What we have seen is that the marketplace of ideas leads to a race to the bottom, with those beliefs always triumphing that best excuse the vices and flatter the pride of the masses.  As with other free markets, the product that wins is not the best but the cheapest.  In my essay on censorship, I explain why this will always be the case.

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