Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Good Grief: "Blame London"

In his recent op/ed for the LA Times, Niall Ferguson falls into the trap of the simple minded by suggesting that somehow, Britain's decline in religious adherence played a role in the recent bombings in London.

Like so many addle minded dolts, he draws the line between the absence of religious practice and the absence of morals. I can't tell you how disappointed I am that a Harvard professor, no less, evidently displays the imagination of a rutabaga. This "no religion = no morals" dichotomy advanced typically by black & white fundamentalists is even more appalling when it falls from the mouth of an educator from one of the finest universities in the country.

He tries to be careful, though, to avoid coming off like a complete ass.
"Why have the British lost their historic faith? Like so many difficult questions, this seems at first sight to have an easy answer. But before you blame it on the '60s, the Beatles, the Pill and the miniskirt, remember that the United States had all these earthly delights too, without ceasing to be a Christian country. To be frank, I have no idea what the answer is. But I do know that it matters."

Matters how you ask?
"Over the last few weeks, Britons have heard a great deal from Tony Blair and others about the threat posed to their "way of life" by Muslim extremists like Muktar Said Ibrahim. But how far has their own loss of religious faith turned Britain into a soft target not so much for the superstition Chesterton feared, but for the fanaticism of others?"

This smacks to me of fundamentalist allegations that to abandon God is to invite catastrophe. Sure, he waters down the sentiment, trying to pass it off as scholarly head-scratching, but the insinuation seems clear to me. It's not enough to simply suggest that London was a target because of Blair's support for the Iraqi invasion, though suspects in the failed bombing attempt have effectively said as much. Instead, he advocates what is regularly advanced as one of the worst "liberal" biases - the "blame the victim" mentality, the "blame America, Britain first" syndrome.

I'll be happy to give credit to anyone that ties terrorist aggression to religious grievances, for to ignore the import of the latter in the former is to take an exceptionally myopic view. However, Ferguson and those like him take the concept to the Nth degree and conclude, absurdly, that agnosticism/atheism invites terror. Not only does the reasoning not hold up in the analysis of terror against Americans, given the popularity of Christianity stateside, but it presents little more than a sloppy straw man argument punishing Londoners for something they did not invite or provoke.

I really expected better from a Harvard history professor. My bad, apparently.

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