The myth that all religions are basically the same—and basically benign—is a nonsense that could only flourish in a society that has little knowledge of the past and, for that matter, of the nature of religious belief. Naturally it’s an idea that is being actively peddled in both Europe and America today.
For a truly nauseating example of this phenomenon at work, pour yourself a calming drink and check out former nun Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion (it’s no great surprise to discover that the persistently irritating Ms. Armstrong is behind this venture). On the home page we read:
“The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves…We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies…”
And so on.
If you’re not on your knees after that, praying to your God for the cleansing hellfire to engulf all the simpering cretins in that advert, you’re spiritually dead inside.
It’s difficult not to agree.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Compassion is a marvelous thing and it’s splendid if people of different faiths are able to get along together. I’d add that so far as the latter is concerned, I’m profoundly skeptical that the constant ironic references to “the religion of peace” (complete with scare quotes) that we often see elsewhere achieve very much that’s very constructive. That said, the idea that the challenge of Islamic extremism (because that’s what this Charter is really about) can be defused with ahistorical mush of the type that Armstrong is promoting is dishonest, delusional and, I suspect, ultimately very dangerous.