Monday, February 06, 2006

The Enlightenment and Fanaticism

Maybe the most important triumph of the Enlightenment was the ability to understand that no one had a monopoly on the truth. This truism led to methodologies that allowed a proposition to be put forward and then to be debated through the prism of reason and empirically collected observations -- the scientific method to be precise. Essentially, you had to have proof for the statements you made. If you didn't, people, hopefully, wouldn't believe you. More importantly, people wouldn't kill and be killed for them.

The cartoon "outrages" show how intellectually progressive this notion was. As CNN is reporting, the protests sweeping the Muslim world have now turned deadly to add to the violence and intimidation of previous days. Here are the idiotic things that occur when you claim a monopoly on the right to being offended and then the resort to violence in response to that verbal or printed offence.
The protests came as Iran announced it had cut off all trade ties with Denmark.

A report on the state-run news agency IRNA said Iranian Commerce Minister Massoud Mirkazemi stopped trade with Denmark as the government's response to the cartoons.

It said that while trade has been stopped, certain machinery and medicine will be allowed in for another three months.

In Tehran, demonstrators protested outside the Danish Consulate and the Austrian Embassy. Austria is currently serving as president of the European Union. Reuters reported that about 200 people threw fire bombs and rocks. (Full story)

Meanwhile in Paris, France Soir -- a newspaper that published the cartoons of Mohammed -- was evacuated for nearly three hours Monday after receiving a bomb threat.

Police and bomb squads searched the premises and found no cause for concern.
More evidence that religion, while being the hope in a hopeless world for many, is a brutish force as each sect make their claims to absolute knowledge and therefore earthly rule. The values of skepticism and free inquiry and non-violent free expression run circles around this tyranny each and every time. It is a sign of the Enlightenment's strength and that of religion's weakness. So to the religious fanatics everywhere I call you out: Meet us, the free thinkers and skeptics and scientists, on the battlefield of ideas if you're so confident you're right. I have no doubt whose flag will flutter in the wind at the termination of hostilities.