A demonstrator in Madrid, Spain.
  • Gerard Julien
  • A demonstrator in Madrid, Spain.

Here is a passage I wish I could believe. It showed up in Steve Chapman’s Tribune column, “Religious violence and the road to civilization.”

The war against Islamist extremism is a war between the ideals of free thought and the urge to enforce uniform beliefs at the point of a gun.

What most Westerners long ago realized is something Muslim extremists have not: In the battle of ideas, reason is the only weapon. For any cause to resort to murder and persecution against those who disagree is an admission of failure.

A war between thought and belief is not, I’m afraid, a war of ideas. It’s a war in which ideas are among the combatants. Reason is not the only weapon in these conflicts. Patriotism is a powerful weapon. Honor is another. So is faith. Religion is not alive and well among Americans because it wields reason adroitly. It exploits reason’s inadequacies.

It would be nice to think the assassins of Charlie Hebdo sped from the scene telling themselves in some small corner of their minds, we blew it. I doubt they did. Their admission of failure is our projection. It would come as news to them.