The throat-slitting murder of an 84-year-old Catholic priest today in France by two ISIS “soldiers” is just the latest in a horrific series of barbaric acts. We need to win the physical war against ISIS and other radical jihadist groups, but we also need to win the philosophical war for all of humankind. My next book explores a world in which religions compete for adherents peacefully and coexist with and challenge the secular world. Several principles underline how I’m thinking about the issue. I welcome your thoughts and reaction:
1. Because each of us has been provided with a unique mind, it seems self-evident that any God would want to have a personal relationship with each of us, not one filtered through the motivations of others.
2. The scriptures and teachings of every religion have fallen sway to the imperfections of man, meaning that no single writing and no single teacher should hold unconditional command over its subjects. (I recognize this one will draw objection from many, but urge you to read the rest to put the thought in context.)
3. Each of us has personal responsibility to consider whether the teachings of any faith, including faiths such as atheism that there is no greater power, coalesce with the reason inside our minds and to specifically search for and consider evidence that our beliefs may be wrong.
4. If there is a God, he certainly didn’t choose me as his purveyor of violence. If you believe there is no God, you still don’t get to force your beliefs on others.
5. If you truly believe in your faith (including absence thereof), you must have confidence that you will be able to change minds to comport with your views over time if you are truly dedicated and well reasoned in your arguments.
6. In my personal view, if even the best of humans is the most intellectually capable being in the world, we are in deep trouble, though I recognize that others have the right to disagree.
7. It is better to reform religions, or see some decline and others grow as better ideas attract away followers, than to forcibly remove religions from earth. (Except for those intent on and engaged in attempting to kill everyone else.) Religion can be abused to facilitate terrific harm, but the vast majority of faithful adherents across all faiths contribute to remarkable good.
8. Government and religion should never be synonymous. Governments must always challenge religions. Religions must always challenge governments and hold them accountable.
9. Our minds are our most vital temples; each worthy of protection, repair and expansion. Our bodies provide foundations for these temples, so we must also protect, nourish and strengthen our physical health as foundations supporting our mental and spiritual health and engagement.
Let me know what you think. Can these concepts help us win the philosophical war against radical jihadism and similar threats, allowing us to build unity without requiring uniformity?