How the 19th Century Saw “Spirituality” Begin to Compete with “Religiosity”

In The Religious Revolution, Dominic Green argues that “modern spirituality”—as opposed to more traditional religion—came into being in the second half of the 19th century. Green draws a line that runs from such figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Friedrich Nietzsche to the situation in the U.S. today, where ever-fewer people attend church but very large numbers practice yoga or believe in reincarnation. John Wilson writes in his review:

Green tells us, “I call the modern transformation of inner life the Religious Revolution,” and what he means by that includes much more than clichés about “spiritual but not religious.” Consider the concluding paragraph of the prologue: “This [that is, the period between 1848 and 1898], is the age of the Religious Revolution. It is also the age of science and race. This is the age of the Religious Revolution because it is the age of science and race.” Hence a book that includes Charles Darwin and Theodor Herzl.

Much as I learned from Green’s book and delighted in it (“The summer sensations of 1884 were the slow martyrdom of General Gordon at Khartoum and two images of feminine power, anonymous, mysterious, and dressed in black”), I couldn’t help but brood about the way he simply leaves out all sorts of things that might seriously complicate or even disable his thesis. After all, the 50-year period that he focuses on saw the explosive growth of Christian “foreign missions.” While Green mentions missionaries here and there in passing, one would hardly guess from his account the long-term impact of the missionary enterprise. If we are going to talk about “modern spirituality,” don’t we have to include the experience of Christians today in Africa and China and South Korea and Latin America (for instance) alongside that of the one in three Americans allegedly believing in reincarnation? And what about Islam in the 21st century?

Please don’t suppose that I am at all idealizing these religious communities, any more than I would idealize my own (evangelical!) Christian community here in the United States. But they are indisputably examples of “modern spirituality” that differ markedly from those Green prefers to highlight.

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Read more at National Review

More about: American Religion, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Spirituality, Theodor Herzl, Yoga

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism