Most of us have been in this position before. You’re in a discussion with someone and it’s about a matter that is very important to you. You argue one side, she argues the other. At some point, it dawns on you that your argument is actually flawed, and that she is right. You have two choices; you can stop and admit you were wrong. Ha! Might happen if you’re arguing over which brand of cream cheese to buy, but if it’s a topic that you are passionate about, that is deeply embedded in who you are as a person, you will most likely press ahead, getting more heated as the clash continues and your position crumbles like a matchstick house in an earthquake.
If you expand this situation to a much larger scenario, like say, the world, you have a glimpse at what is going on around our planet of people. Throughout the history of humanity, new societies have evolved out of old ones. It’s never been easy, it is often met with obstructionism and sometimes violence, but we manage to move forward despite the obstacles. The Enlightenment didn’t emerge fully formed in a few days, it grew over decades and centuries, with many fighting against it, like the Catholic Church, yet it blossomed and grew stronger despite (and partly because of) the resistance.
Humanity is in a constant battle for the future with itself. Today’s battle is actually a continuation of the Enlightenment in my opinion. History books will tell you that this period ended in the late 18th century, but today, well over three centuries since it’s dawn, the battle between reason and superstition goes on. As advanced in some areas as we’ve become, this basic struggle is still at the heart of our worldview, and still being fought.
What is the war on terror? At its essence, it is a battle between religious fundamentalists and a world growing increasingly secular and reliant on science for answers. That same war, although less violent, is being played out in in the West as well. To be taken seriously by their party, American Republicans running for national office must espouse beliefs that are in alignment with Christian fundamentalists values and clearly at odds with science and reason. Just a few days ago, probable Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker said he would have to punt on whether he believed in evolution or not.
What makes me both hopeful and fearful is that the battle between superstition and reason seems to be entering a final stage. Violence throughout the Middle East and Eastern Europe is escalating. Fundamentalist Christians in Western countries are trying desperately to retain power and influence as they watch their numbers dwindle. Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, is continuously doing a tap dance between supporting scientific findings and sticking to orthodoxy on many issues. He’s no radical reformer, and only slightly less doctrinaire than many of his predecessors.
The argument between reason and science is without question heating up around the globe, and religious fundamentalists are behaving like the guy in the middle of an argument who just realized his position is weak. They will not concede without a fight, and so they do.