Thursday, July 15, 2004

The Cultural Tipping Point

I have a very close friend up in Seattle with whom I regularly chat over the phone and online. Recently, I called him up to discuss some personal issues that were bugging me, and as our conversation bobbed and weaved, we eventually got to the point where we were discussing the cultural "tipping point" I think we are rapidly approaching.

Much has been made about the "culture war" that has been underway for the past several years. In reality, I think we've been having a cultural shouting match. Whether the topic is abortion (and the use/abuse of birth control), the high rate of divorce, or, most recently, homosexual "marriage", I think we're approaching a significant cultural debate, the results of which will determine whether the United States will continue to be a great nation, or slide into a permanent, Euro-esque cultural malaise.

My own thoughts on this were prompted by Ramesh Ponnuru over at National Review Online (Highly recommended). Ponnuru comments on a recent American Prospect piece by Robert Reich, entitled "Bush's God." Here's Reich's conclusion:
The great conflict of the 21st century will not be between the West and terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, not a belief. The true battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernists; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is mere preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe in science, reason, and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism itself is not the greatest danger we face.
Ramesh responds:
This goes well beyond the common denunciation of "fundamentalism" where that term is meant to describe an ideology that seeks the imposition of religious views on non-believers. (That's what Andrew Sullivan means when he uses the term.) It is a denunciation — as a graver threat than terrorists — of people who believe that the world to come is more important than this world, or that all human beings owe their allegiance to God.
I join Ramesh in his prayers for peaceful coexistence, but I think Reich's comment points to a coming conflict that is unavoidable, particularly in a nation where a significant segment of the population classifies religious belief as a threat worse than terrorism; and where there is increasing tendency within US judiciary to craft law out of whole cloth, and to change basic cultural institutions without any regard for the electorate.

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