… in the sense of understanding religion. So says Damien Thompson of The Spectator, who contends that our leaders’ ignorance of religion, and how religion works, puts them at a great disadvantage in an age in which around the globe, politicized religion of all kinds (Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist) is giving rise to conflicts, the religious dimension of which we in the secularized West only dimly perceive.

Thompson is himself a religious believer of the conservative sort, and makes the important point that if we impose our own simplistic categories of “democrats” and “fundamentalists” on believers, we run the risk of misunderstanding them. He also says that religion’s strength — the social cohesion and sense of moral meaning it provides — can also “provide potent moral support for violence.” He singles out “ordinary believers who tell pollsters they ‘reject violence,’ but keep quiet when it’s perpetrated.”

Read the whole thing. It is not an anti-religion screed — far from it! He laments how the crude anti-religious bigotry of Ditchkins reduced those intelligent men to “spluttering incoherence.” Thompson is rather calling for us to get smart about religion, so we can not only understand what is happening in our own countries, but also overseas, and respond wisely.