Since Sept. 11, priests, mullahs, rabbis and ministers in the United States have officiated at ceremonies of grief. What no priest, mullah, rabbi or minister confesses is how religion has brought us to this terrible moment.
Instead, it was British Prime Minister Tony Blair (albeit within a war psalm) who rehearsed a commonplace about the history of religion: Men have, through centuries, blasphemed the name of God to justify human atrocity. Blair recalled that Christianity's Crusades against Islam amounted to little more than rape and pillage. In Washington, President Bush has been careful to distinguish Islam from crimes committed in the name of Islam. His tact is commendable and shrewd. European diplomats have repeated Bush's assurance that the West is not engaged in a religious war, is not at war with Islam.
The face of Osama bin Laden floats up from his cyber-cave to incite Muslims to war with the West, describing America as a "Jewish-Christian alliance." In Pakistan, in Indonesia, crowds of men cheer the prospect of jihad against the satanic West.
I am interested that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are alike religions of the desert. They are brother-faiths, more like one another than any one of them is like an Eastern religion. The religions of the desert are monotheistic, paternalistic. They are male in popular …