Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents
Taming the Gods:
Religion and Democracy on Three Continents
by Ian Buruma
Princeton University Press
$19.95 List Price
There are two species of religious sentiment, David Hume declared in 1741, writing in bleak Enlightenment Scotland as the American colonies endured the brushfire of a first great religious revival: the superstitious and the enthusiastic. It can be tempting today to see the secular liberalism of contemporary Europe—a creed besieged by enthusiasts Islamic fundamentalist, American interventionist, and homegrown Christian nationalist—as a variety of gloomy superstition. As Ian Buruma chronicles in his slight Taming the Gods, many of the most vocal defenders of that agnostic, ameliorative tradition make their case with the docent-like outlook of guardians of an heirloom culture facing extinction. Commentators from novelist provocateur Martin Amis to hysterical historian Bat Ye'or have warned of the Islamic threat to Europe; gripped by a natalist panic, alarmists prophesy a continent overrun with Muslim hordes, a civilization dissolved by capitulation and appeasement into a nightmare sharia state known as Eurabia. Politicians, too: The resilient French reactionary Jean-Marie Le Pen has invoked a future in which a Muslim majority terrorizes a European minority, and the late Dutch populist Pim Fortuyn advocated, with relish, "a cold war with Islam."
"If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant," Karl Popper warned, just after World War II and the apparent triumph of liberalism over fascism, "if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them." Buruma is not