Guest / Limited Access /

Apparently, one proven blessing of democracy (at least where religious freedom is practiced) is "low levels of religious extremism." It ranks up there with peace and prosperity.

This has been said in many ways since 9/11, and Thomas Farr, a former American diplomat, said so once again in a recent Washington Post "On Faith" column. He was trying to push the Obama administration to put more muscle into advocating religious liberty, but along the way he noted the symbiotic relationship between democracy and religious moderation. Farr said that numerous scholarly studies have shown that religious freedom makes it possible for democracy to "yield its benefits—including economic opportunity, security, low levels of religious extremism."

But democracy will only tolerate religious freedom as long as religious extremists are kept in check. This is one reason political leaders and policy wonks disparage religious extremism, and why they're anxious to unearth moderate Muslims and sensible Hindus and non-fundamentalist Christians. Such religionists make the wheels of society run smoothly, so that we can "yield the benefits" of our way of life: "security" and "economic opportunity." Let religious extremism get out of hand, and there goes the neighborhood.

It's not just Americans who think religious extremism a bad idea. A recent Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life study of Africa discovered, not surprisingly, that 

Many Africans are concerned about religious extremism, including within their own faith. Indeed, many Muslims say they are more concerned about Muslim extremism than about Christian extremism, and Christians in four countries say they are more concerned about Christian extremism than about Muslim extremism.

Or take the Russians—more ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

SoulWork
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is Editor of Christianity Today in Carol Stream, Illinois.
Previous SoulWork Columns:
Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueGive Us This Day Our Daily Chores
Subscriber Access Only
Give Us This Day Our Daily Chores
Why even our smallest routines are the stuff of worship.
RecommendedThe Real Saint Nicholas
The Real Saint Nicholas
The story of Santa Claus's namesake.
TrendingWhy Do We Have Christmas Trees?
Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?
The history behind evergreens, ornaments, and holiday gift giving.
Editor's PickThe Bible Never Says ‘All Men Are Created Equal’
The Bible Never Says ‘All Men Are Created Equal’
How the New Testament offers a better, higher calling than the Declaration of Independence.
Christianity Today
Taming Religion
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

May 2010

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.