How to Stop Religious Warfare
October 10, 2012
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by Nicholas Tampio
In the past few weeks, militants have tried to spark religious warfare around the world. In the United States, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian, made and posted on YouTube a crude video mocking the Prophet Muhammad. In Libya, Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad, an Egyptian national with ties to al Qaeda, helped orchestrate the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Many Americans have emphasized that the U.S. is committed to the ideal of mutual respect among existential faiths (along with the right to free speech), and many Libyans have let the world know that those who attacked the U.S. embassy do not represent their country or Islam. And yet many people suspect that militants are planning further episodes to incite hatred and violence.
What can history teach us about stopping religious warfare?
Steven’s death calls to mind a pivotal event in European history: the Defenestration of Prague. In 1618, Protestant aristocrats threw Catholic diplomats out a window, and by the time the Thirty Years War had ended, 20 percent of the population of the Holy Roman Empire had been killed.
For the next two centuries, the political philosophers of the Enlightenment sought to develop a political order that would end sectarian violence. Radicals such as Baruch Spinoza argued for a secular politics and culture. Moderates such as John Locke argued that believers needed to reinterpret, not abandon, their religion. Radicals sparked the debates, but moderates enacted the lasting changes, including providing the intellectual foundation for the US Constitution.
Two lessons from the Enlightenment remain timely. . . . READ MORE