Religious Muck Run Amok

Jim Davila has two abnormally troubling posts on PaleoJudaica.com. The first concerns the disposition of per-Islamic religious artifacts in Saudi Arabia. It seems that the question is whether things like ancient crosses should be destroyed or just covered up. Read Jim’s post and the underling Huffington Post essay to get the background. Jim correctly observes,

Let me get this straight: if ancient Christian or Jewish religious artifacts are excavated in Saudi Arabia, it is not certain whether they should be destroyed? The most sympathetic way that I can read this is that Ms. Jawhar is personally opposed to their destruction (she doesn’t quite come out and say this), but finds it in any case to be an open question in Saudi society. The idea that religious artifacts should be destroyed because they belonged to another faith moves from the provincial into the barbaric.

The second abnormally troubling post concerns a decision by the Egyptian authorities not to publicly display the Coptic Gospel of Judas because it “contain[s] material deemed disparaging to the Christian faith.” Again, read Jim’s post the and article he links to for more details. On this Jim says,

This is political correctness run amok. Meanwhile, I think Coptic Christians would rather that their government expend more effort in protecting them from being murdered.

The premise behind both of these cases is the notion that governments have a legitimate role in defending religious sentiments or doctrines. They don’t. All sentiments and doctrines, including the ones I am expressing here, deserve open discussion; all historical artifacts deserve open access. Governments should promote both. That, out of an over abundance of religious fervor, the Saudis and, out of an over abundance of faux political correctness, the Egyptians both seem to think they should protect such sentiments and doctrines doesn’t make it so.
PS. Amok is not the alpha privative of muck but I like the way they sounded together.

4 thoughts on “Religious Muck Run Amok”

  1. I notice here how political correctness can be used by both conservatives and liberals alike to back up crazy decisions.
    “Governments should promote both.”
    Complete non-interference would be even better.

  2. You may disagree or I may have not said it correctly but I meant that governments should promote both the free exchange of ideas and access to artifacts.

  3. “I meant that governments should promote both the free exchange of ideas and access to artifacts.”
    Perhaps I should ask what you perceive by the words “government” and “promote”. Assuming a logical secular democratic government, the exchange of ideas or access of artifacts wouldn’t need to be “promoted” because people’s rights to access of information would be enforced from the beginning.
    So I certainly wouldn’t call that scenario “cultural promotion” so much as “competent societal maintenance”. “Promotion” carries with it the uglier notions of forced advertisement, sensationalism and historical revisionism. Semantics, I guess. I think we see eye to eye overall. I’m completely in favour of strict separation of Church and State.

  4. I’m not sure that Jim is correct when he says “This is political correctness run amok.” Anything viewed as disparaging to Jesus (`Isa) would be viewed as disparaging to Islam as Jesus is part of the Islamic faith/system. It wouldn’t necessarily be their concern for Christian perception of the material against Christian Jesus, but more likely their concern for Islamic perception of the material against Islamic `Isa. At least, this is would be my eduguess as to their primary motive.
    This post brings to mind the Taliban destruction of the Buddhas and the Waqf/Palestinian renovation (read “destruction”) of Jewish (and Christian) archæological materials on the Temple Mount. =(

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