The religious foundations of the new governments in Afghanistan and Iraq threaten to undercut the Bush administration’s war on terrorism. Being a champion of religion, however, Bush sanctions these developments that aid and abet America’s would-be destroyers.

The first three articles of Afghanistan’s constitution, for instance, assert that the nation is “an Islamic Republic,” Islam is its sacred religion, and “no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam.” In Iraq, the latest draft of the interim constitution establishes Islam as the state religion and “a source of inspiration for the law,” and the president of the Iraqi Governing Council wants Islamic law to be the “principle basis” of legislation.

This war is, at root, between militant Islam and Western Civilization. How then can Bush permit Islam to be the law of the land in these two nations he liberated from oppressive terrorist regimes, when militant, American-hating Muslims (such as the Taliban or their ilk) could grab control of their governments whose doors are opened by these religious measures? The answer lies, in part, with the false beliefs Bush holds about religion’s intellectual, historical and political roles in the West.

In essence, religion is defined by faith in and sacrifice to a supreme supernatural being; Western Civilization by rational inquiry, individual and independent pursuits, rational self-interest, and political freedom. The West’s shinning achievement is the United States. And it’s because America is, at root, based on these concepts — so contrary to all religions — and is history’s most this-worldly, human life-affirming nation, that fundamentalist Muslim terrorists hate and seek our destruction. Like the Christian Inquisitors before them, Muslim terrorists practice religion’s essence consistently, sacrificing reason to faith and thus peaceful persuasion to physical force.

Contrary to what religious conservatives such as Bush preach, America’s unprecedented freedom and subsequent prosperity were caused not by any religious foundation, but by the Founding Fathers’ unprecedented rational secularism, born of ancient Greece and the Enlightenment, not the Bible. Despite the Founders’ religiosity, the essentially rational, secular ideas of these ages formed the basis of the role of government: to uphold each individual’s inborn right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These ideas are what inspired John Adams to sign the Treaty of Tripoli (1779), which read: “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion,” and James Madison to write: “Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

Before America’s founding, when Christianity was at its height and church and state were inseparably mixed during the Dark and Middle Ages, the result was not freedom but religious oppression, stagnating poverty and endless wars throughout Europe and beyond.

Being a Christian conservative, however, Bush evades these fundamental facts about religion and America to preach the falsehood that America was founded on Judeo-Christianity and that God is the source of its freedom and prosperity. Convinced religion is innocent and good, Bush regards Muslim terrorists as merely “a fringe form of Islamic extremism” that “perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam,” he said days after they drove planes into the Twin Towers and murdered 3,000 innocents.

Yet the Middle East is dominated by Islamic states that suppress individual rights and generate and sponsor anti-Western terrorists. First, these states imprison or execute individuals who oppose its religious dogmas or champion freedom, and then stand poised to wag war against the freest, most secularist of nations — such as America. Iran, the premier Islamic terrorist state, oppresses, imprisons and murders its pro-freedom rebels, and for 20-plus years has unleashed routine terrorist attacks against Americans.

Moreover, Bush at home champions religious-based assaults against individual rights. He supports bans on abortion and gay matrimony to “protect the sanctity” of “life” and marriage, he crusades against the tremendously human life-advancing technologies of genetic engineering and cloning on the premise that their practitioners “play God,” and he seeks to confiscate people’s wealth for welfare programs grounded in “faith based” institutions.

Subsequently, after overthrowing anti-American terrorists regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush permits their new governments to draft constitutions based, not on individual rights, but on religious laws and “democracy” or mob rule. This means a majority of voters can empower militant Muslims to use their constitution’s religious decrees to sacrifice others to their faith, and ultimately turn their terror toward Americans. One minor but telling sign that Afghanistan is already stepping toward Taliban-style rule came when Miss Afghanistan, Vida Samadzai of California, wore a bikini at last year’s Miss Earth Contest and the deputy head of Afghanistan’s Supreme Court said she had thereby betrayed Afghan culture, possibly violated its laws, and could face prosecution on return to her native land.

If the Bush administration is serious about ending states that sponsor terrorism, then it cannot sanction the faith and self-sacrifice that is at the root of both religion and the terrorists out to destroy us. Bush must exercise more consistently the rational values that make America great, and demand nothing less of the Afghans and Iraqis.

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Joseph Kellard

Joseph Kellard is a journalist living in New York. To read more of Mr. Kellard's commentary, visit his website The American Individualist at americanindividualist.blogspot.com.

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