Unfortunately, that’s the most hopeful sentence in the op-ed piece. The next line is the rim shot: “But they [Coptic Christians] may not survive the Arab Spring.”
Wonderfully, while showing how democracy (aka popular sovereignty) “has tended to unleash the furies and drive minorities into exile,” Douthat takes on “the Big Idea book of the moment,” Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Yes, violence is down in the Western democracies since the end of World War II, Douthat admits, but at what price? What ethnic cleansing took place (in Germany, for example) to arrive at such “harmony”?
Perhaps even more interesting than the op-ed piece are the on-line comments that are pouring in. Of the eleven comments I read before 6 am this morning, only one supported Douthat’s position. It was written by a Coptic Christian from Egypt. The other ten were mostly aghast at Douthat’s counter-intuitive pov while generally claiming that if we all could just get along, things would be fine.
As another NYT friend of the faith, David Brooks wrote here, about the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon, we need more than humanism to keep this world on its axis:
Brooks writes: No matter how special some individuals may think they are, they don’t have the ability to understand the world on their own, establish rules of good conduct on their own, impose the highest standards of conduct on their own or avoid the temptations of laziness on their own.
The religions that thrive have exactly what “The Book of Mormon” ridicules: communal theologies, doctrines and codes of conduct rooted in claims of absolute truth.
(Thanks to my friend Harry Henriques for bringing the Brooks piece to my attention yesterday.)