The Corner

Magical Thinking

One of the more grimly entertaining spectacles of recent years is the way that many on the left, usually so skeptical of religious and cultural tradition, have, in their self-loathing, seemingly turned into such enthusiasts for the religions and cultural traditions of the non-Western world. Over at the London Spectator, Matthew Leeming seems to have encountered a prime example of this in the course of a recent visit to Oxford University (he was criticized as describing an arranged marriage between an Afghan 38 year old and a 14 year-old girl was ‘legitimized rape.’). So far, alas, so standard, but, in its eloquence, Leeming’s conclusion is not:

“Afghanistan is a good place to ponder one’s good fortune in being born in the modern West and not in a culture where malaria is treated by yelling, or the best cuts of meat are reserved for the dead, or it is believed that the motions of the stars are controlled from the liver of a rogue elephant, or divine honours paid to shallow depressions in the ground. We have the Enlightenment to thank for this, the moment when the West achieved intellectual maturity (or rediscovered that of the classical world) and reduced religion to a matter of opinion and turned the mullahs into comic turns like Rowan Williams. The Orientalist witch-smellers and postmodernists at Oxford have the Enlightenment in their sights. It is a sobering thought that whole cultures and educated elites can commit intellectual suicide.”

Yes, it is.


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