Sam Harris, a liberal writer who wrote a provocative book he described as “highly critical of religion,” is now highly critical of liberals, while still trying to be one. I am familiar with this struggle!
In the wake of my prior post describing the last years of feminist journalist Orianna Fallaci, you must read this op-ed Harris wrote for today’s LA Times. The response he got from thousands of readers of his last book, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, inspired him to panic. Here are a few chunks of what Harris has to say:
On questions of national security, I am now as wary of my fellow liberals as I am of the religious demagogues on the Christian right.
This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that “liberals are soft on terrorism.” It is, and they are.
Numerous studies have found that the most radicalized Muslims tend to have better-than-average educations and economic opportunities.
Given the degree to which religious ideas are still sheltered from criticism in every society, it is actually possible for a person to have the economic and intellectual resources to build a nuclear bomb — and to believe that he will get 72 virgins in paradise. And yet, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, liberals continue to imagine that Muslim terrorism springs from economic despair, lack of education and American militarism.
The truth is that there is every reason to believe that a terrifying number of the world’s Muslims now view all political and moral questions in terms of their affiliation with Islam. This leads them to rally to the cause of other Muslims no matter how sociopathic their behavior. This benighted religious solidarity may be the greatest problem facing civilization and yet it is regularly misconstrued, ignored or obfuscated by liberals.
We are entering an age of unchecked nuclear proliferation and, it seems likely, nuclear terrorism. There is, therefore, no future in which aspiring martyrs will make good neighbors for us. Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies.
While liberals should be the ones pointing the way beyond this Iron Age madness, they are rendering themselves increasingly irrelevant. Being generally reasonable and tolerant of diversity, liberals should be especially sensitive to the dangers of religious literalism. But they aren’t.
The same failure of liberalism is evident in Western Europe, where the dogma of multiculturalism has left a secular Europe very slow to address the looming problem of religious extremism among its immigrants. The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.
To say that this does not bode well for liberalism is an understatement: It does not bode well for the future of civilization.
There is still time for liberals to find a voice in defense of civilization, but the window is shutting. It will shut for good in 2008, when they can no longer use “Bush rage” as an excuse for their mindless opposition to waging a war that is being waged against us whether they want to acknowledge it or not.
I’m quite unhappy about a future in which liberalism, the belief system with which I’ve been affliliated for my entire adult life becomes marginalized and irrelevant, and where its adherents are considered unqualified to govern.
I don’t like the idea of having to choose between candidates with whom I agree on 90 percent of the issues, but who fail to have a supportable position on the single most important issue, and Republicans, who are mostly wrong, but right about the one thing that matters most.
And I’m furiously angry that half-witted partisans who run the left-wing, self-described “netroots” blogs are now seen as arbiters of true liberalism. They might be speaking for this generation’s liberals, I fear. But they don’t know what liberalism means, historically or intellectually. They’re so in love with their aggressive tone, they haven’t bothered to notice their positions are incoherent.
The Democratic Party should look at the liberal netroots like pre-adolescent children. You have to listen to them, because you can’t disown them, and because they’re loud and hard to ignore. But they shouldn’t be allowed to drive until they grow up.