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Democracy First?

John on March 15, 2006 at 10:15 am

I’m pretty much tired of pointing out that the Jyllands-Posten view of the world presupposes secularism as the only sure foundation. I’ve made that case here, here and here already.

Still, when I saw the latest from J-P stating that Democracy must Precede Religion for the West to survive I couldn’t resist commenting. Here’s a bit of the article:

Why is diminished Freedom acceptable when Religion is involved? Did not the Boers of South Africa call apartheid part of their faith? The Ku Klux Klan maintain their right to lynch black people as part of their faith – are they suddenly sacrosanct? No. None can be allowed to justify violations of Human Rights by invoking ‘Religious Beliefs’…

…Helle Thorning Schmidt said it succinctly: Democracy comes before Religion. That is necessarily the order of things in the part of the world that fancies itself Democratic. A prerequisite for Democracy is that all men and women have their spiritual freedom and the corresponding uncensored Freedom of Speech, answerable only to the courts; it presupposes that no power is above the Democratic power of the state and that all exercise of religion takes place within this framework.

First of all, identifying the Boers and the Klan as a religion is a bit fishy. I don’t think they’re a recognized denomination. In any case, if we’re going to point to the Klan as an example of religious Human Rights, let’s not forget the abolitionists who were working on the other side of the equation at the same time. They were, after all, the side that eventually won.

So democracy may come before religion in the legal sense. One can not have democracy under Sharia, for instance. However, religion in the form of fundamental values certainly precedes democracy in an historical and epistemological sense. The Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta found our human rights in our nature as beings created by God. The author says as much in his article above when he says that “A prerequisite for Democracy is that all men and women have their spiritual freedom…” But the concept of spiritual freedom can not be derived from Democracy. It has to come first.

Democracy is a means to noble ends, but one must have the ends in mind. That said, I think the author is right that Islam may not be compatible with Democracy. His mistake is broadening his argument to “religion.” Not all religions are alike. This is the lesson Europe needs to learn.

[HT: Wizbang]

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Category: Secularism & Socialism |

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