Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Religions and the Sanctity of Life

Neil Reynolds in the Globe reviews a book by David Brog which apparently argues that "the sanctity of human life" is more consistently believed in and defended in the world of "Judeo-Christian" beliefs than in other world views or religions; and of course such a belief is always extremely fragile even in that world--more or less Western civilization.

I'm pretty sure there is no such thing as a Judeo-Christian (maybe St. Paul, but surely not Jesus of Nazareth). On the other hand, there may be a meaningful proposition here: the Biblical religions, including Islam, clarify and/or elevate the sanctity of human life more than other religions. In other religions individuals can easily be sacrificed for a greater good--indeed it would be a sin not to make such a sacrifice. In the Biblical religions, there is at least an effort to specify the extreme circumstances in which such a sacrifice is justified. Liberal intellectuals are in the habit of mentioning the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the religious wars that are indistinguishable from the Reformation, as proof that Christianity may be as bloody as any belief system. If it holds off on routine slaughter, it could be argued, then, like a passive-aggressive person, once it gets going, it goes for wholesale slaughter. Of course the totalitarianisms of the twentieth century, and the deaths of civilians since World War II, could make previous religious wars look, almost literally, like a Sunday School picnic. Are these recent developments a complete departure from Christianity, or a development of it? Are they, as George Grant might have asked, thinkable without it?

At any rate, Islam has probably been about as pro-life as Judaism and Christianity. By not saying so, Brog and Reynolds may be feeding the notion that Moslems are the barbarians who must be fought in the name of civilization, etc.

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