kw: book reviews, nonfiction, politics, theology
I must confess this one is simply too intellectual for me. I could not finish Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping Our World by Vinoth Ramachandra with any expediency. In ten days of reading I got halfway through. I'll review what I did read, and finish the book at a more leisurely pace, reading others in parallel. I really don't want to miss any of it.
The first three of six chapters discuss myths of Terrorism, of Religious Violence, and of Human Rights. The basic question to ask about Terrorism is: "Why is the terrorist always the other guy?" In the author's eyes, "shock and awe" are simply terrorism writ large. After a discussion of the basis for war, and whether there can ever be a "just war" (No), the author points out that self defense is sometimes required, if suboptimal. But "national defense" always seems to be carried out as "the best defense is a strong offense". As my Dad taught me, "Never start a fight. Just be sure you finish it."
In the second chapter, as the author makes refreshingly clear (and why are so few saying this), while "religious" violence does occur, by far the most heinous acts of mass violence were perpetrated atheistically, and frequently against the religious. According to what I know of "church history", the great abuses of Medieval Catholicism were perpetrated for political, not religious motives, by Popes who mouthed religious slogans but were themselves atheistic. But their abuses pale against the three greatest mass murders of history, perpetrated by Stalin, Hitler and Mao. Not many know that the Christian holocaust in all three cases exceeded that of the Jews or any other identifiable group, or that half of Christian martyrdoms exceeding a million victims each occurred since the year 1900.
In the third, rights are seen to be rooted in the Biblical truth that humans bear God's image. Liberal language notwithstanding, without belief in God, there is no reason to suppose the rights of all ought to be equal. Indeed, attempts to skew or remove the rights of the poor come from both right and left wings of the political spectrum, those for whom their adherence to a political ideology exceeds their devotion to any faith.
In time, I hope to complete reviewing the rest of the book. Although I am more conservative than the author, I find myself powerfully affected by his strong, if difficultly worded, theological views.