The Curious Rise of Anti-religious Hysteria

The left must face its fear of faith

| January 26, 2006

To the outspoken British libertarian Frank Furedi, nearly everything that staunch liberals believe about conservatives is wrong. Simply looking at the terms we've cooked up for conservatives -- right-wing, fundamentalist, extremist -- betrays the amount of emotion and vitriol that has seeped into the left versus right debate. 'Until recently,' Furedi writes in Spiked, 'cultural expressions of religious faith were simply considered old-fashioned and gauche. But over the past decade, scorn has turned into bigotry and hatred.'

This 'bigotry and hatred,' Furedi argues, has created a skewed series of myths about the religious right that most liberals seem to hold dear to their hearts. Among these myths is that Hollywood pulp like the Chronicles of Narnia represents the religious right's attempt to push its doctrinaire agenda on everyone (on your children, even), and that evangelical Christianity is on the rise in this country (the numbers suggest it is not). Furedi argues that these commonly held beliefs are just that -- beliefs, with little or no evidence backing them up. Rather, they provide a scapegoat, allowing the left to find everything they dislike about our culture embodied in one identifiable political and cultural group. Beyond alliteration, however, there is no need for 'right' to constantly follow 'religious.' To highlight what the left has lost, Furedi quotes Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of TIKKUN Magazine: the 'last time Democrats had real social power was when they linked their legislative agenda with a spiritual politics articulated by Martin Luther King.'

Furedi sees the liberal mindset as blinded by its own dogmatic assertions and condemnations, deriding the conservative base as 'thick and gullible.' Furedi suggests that until the fear of religious sentiment is removed from the liberal platform -- and replaced by a more soulful, honest, and meaningful doctrine of true inclusivity -- liberals in the United States will remain in a position of embattled snobbery. That position resents both the public's need for larger meaning (through religion-laden politics) and their own party's inability to provide such meaning. However, Furedi cautions that the remedy he calls for will be useless if it is simply political opportunism that lacks substantive moral vision.
-- Nick Rose

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