I have long been grateful that I was born and grew up in the State of South Dakota. There is something quiet, and unassuming about the state, and the people there. It is a beautiful state, with an unbelievable variety of topography, from desert-style buttes in the northwest, to the mountains of the Black Hills and, of course, the world famous Mount Rushmore, to the Badlands, the open ranges of the western state, the plains and gentle rolling hills of the agricultural east. The people, too, are diverse, from the Lakota Nation which is indigenous to the state, and from whom I learned that gentle, mystical reverence for the beauties of nature, a reverence for “the Grand Father” who breathes in all living things, to the Dutch, Norwegian, and Germans who brought with them their love of philosophy, literature, music, and who instructed me and imparted a love for these things as well. From the Lakota sweat lodges of Rosebud and Pine Ridge to the Dutch festivals of Millbank, it is a rich diverse state, for its many cultures, and variety of scenery. I grew up having to learn about Chief Sitting Bull, Lewis and Clark, Dostoyevsky, Goethe…on and on I could go. There is a quiet, unassuming pride to the state and its people. People in South Dakota know that the rest of the country views them as “fly-over” people, and, frankly, most people in the state simply hope the rest just keep flying over. No income tax, low cost of living… cost of your yearly car tags? about $35.00. There is appreciation for the fact that, for all its faults, Western civilization grew from a complex set of circumstances, from a broad philosophical tradition, from long traditions of jurisprudence, and that these things, for whatever the faults of that civilization, are worth preserving.
I say all of this as background to the following article:
Well, judging from the comments posted in response to the article, I can assure the reader that there’s nothing in the water in South Dakota, nor is anyone there thinking about punishing adherence to Islam with 20 years in prison in some sort of Judeo-Christian mirror image of sharia. What there is, is the realization that, for all the talk about Islamic tolerance of other religions, it remains just that: talk. As my co-author (Dr. Scott DeHart) and I pointed out in Yahweh the Two-Faced God, sharia is the result of the “infallible consensus” of Muslim scholars… there is no room, in a fully Islamicized culture, for the tolerance of philosophical atheism, or agnosticism, or, when one gets right down to it, even for a kind of Neoplatonic hermeticism or anything else. And we have seen the attempts of some courts and organizations in this country to impose just that. And it is a dangerous precedent indeed, for once established, there is nothing to prevent the imposition of other forms of fundamentalist religious law – from Calvinist dominionism to a Catholic Opus Dei-like social teaching.
South Dakota is not a rich state, nor a large state, nor even a politically powerful state. But it has stood up, and said NO to those forces and groups that would turn their back on the heritage of Western civilization. To be sure, those religions, Islam included, have played a decisive role in the formation of that civilization. But they – their claims to the contrary – were not the only such forces. One may speak equally of the vast Graeco-Egyptian-Mesopotamian tradition of philosophy and Hermeticism, Of Roman and Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence, of the German Enlightenment and Kant, Feuerbach, Fichte, Schopenhauer, of the French tradition – Descartes and Voltaire, Montaigne, Pascal, of the British idealists and empiricists, of the Italian humanists… Of Newton and Darwin and Einstein… of Bach, Mozart, Haydn…. on and on we could go. From the sweat lodges of the western part of the state, to the churches and synagogues and coffee houses and universities, the symphonies and the pow wows, all of it in all its rich diversity, and ethic of tolerance, the people of South Dakota have said yes to, and a NO to attempts to roll back the clock.
For those interested, cut and paste this link for the PDF of the actual bill: http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2012/Bills/HB1253ENR.pdf
What is interesting is that this bill, considered carefully, is a response not only to sharia, but to the implications that have emerged from some courts being willing to entertain it in their deliberations, namely, that no form of religious code – be it sharia, Calvinist Old Testament dominionism, rabbinical Talmudism, or anything else – is to be considered. To this inherently Jeffersonian principle, I say, three cheers….
See you on the flip side….