Monday, June 20, 2005

On protection rackets and religion
"To the extent that the threats against which a given government protects its citizens are imaginary or are consequences of its own activities, the government has organized a protection racket."

-- Charles Tilly, "War Making and State Making as Organized Crime," in Bringing the State Back In edited by P. Evans, D. Rueschmeyer, and, T. Skocpol. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1985.

A quote I found on Timothy Shortell's web site, a little tangential to his newsworthiness, but nice bulletin board material all the same.

Shortell is the professor at Brooklyn College in New York who was forced to resign the chairmanship of the sociology department because of this essay espousing a rather robust atheism. The essay was discovered, and Shortell was outed, by those arbiters of academic standards, the New York Sun and Daily News.

Shortell might have saved himself some bother by not describing religious people as "moral retards" in that essay, and he gives short shrift to such exception-proving-the-rule religious figures as Martin Luther King, the Maryknoll nuns in El Salvador, the Catholic Worker people, and the Quakers, to name just a few, for whom religion was the basis for strong positions against injustice and war, and for inclusion and tolerance.

But in the current atmosphere, he could be forgiven for impatience with the whole religious endeavor (and besides, the religious figures I mentioned are (paraphrasing John Prine) either "dead or in jail" precisely because their spirituality ran counter to the dominant religious grain).

Anyway, in spite of the fact that there were apparently office politics at play as well, it's absolutely appalling that Shortell should lose his job—in BROOKLYN, NEW YORK—over that essay.

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