Fairly frequently religious people say that atheists like me overstate the danger of fundamentalism. The argument goes, "What's the harm in religion? Everybody should be free to believe in whatever they want to, whether it be God or whatever."
Well, what's happening in Israel right now is a great example of why fundamentalism is so dangerous. Since Israel was founded after the horror of the Holocaust, there's no problem with the country being largely Jewish.
But right-wing Jewish fundamentalists are determined to go much farther than that.
They want to put the judicial system in Israel under the control of Parliament, which means that there would be no checks on the power of the Prime Minister, which currently is Benjamin Netanyahu -- who is under investigation for several criminal offenses.
A New York Times story, "Netanyahu Scores Another Victory, but at What Price?", describes the role religious fundamentalism is playing in the political turmoil Israel is experiencing.
Once again, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has pushed the limits, defying a nationwide protest movement to win new curbs on the Israeli judiciary’s power to pose a check to his far-right coalition government.
But after years of brinkmanship and chaos management by the Israeli leader, this feels different. Such is the rancor and rupture caused by this particular Netanyahu victory that many Israelis wonder whether the damage to society might not be fixable — and whether Mr. Netanyahu will be able to manage the aftermath of a showdown he set in motion.
...The passing of the vote, minutes later, provided a rare moment of certainty, after a seven-month period in which it was often unclear, even until Monday afternoon, whether Mr. Netanyahu would really dare to press ahead with his unpopular proposal.
It also took Israel into the unknown.
At home, it left one half of society wondering whether their country — under the control of Mr. Netanyahu’s alliance of religious conservatives and ultranationalists — would now slide slowly into a religious autocracy.
“These could be the last days of Israeli democracy,” said Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli author and historian of humanity. “We might witness the rise of a Jewish supremacist dictatorship in Israel, which will not just be a terrible thing for Israeli citizens, but also a terrible thing for the Palestinians, for Jewish traditions, and potentially, for the entire Middle East.”
...But to critics and supporters alike, questions remain about the stability and capacity of Israel’s armed forces, after a surge in protests from thousands of military reservists.
There is also the specter of social and economic turmoil, after major unrest broke out overnight in cities across the country, labor leaders warned of a general strike, a doctors’ union announced a daylong reduction in medical services, and high-tech businesses said they were considering moving to more stable economies, according to a new survey.
Abroad, the vote fostered greater ambiguity about the future of Israel’s alliance with the United States, after expressions of growing alarm from the Biden administration. It heightened the unease among American Jews about the trajectory of the Jewish state.
...For Israel’s secular protest movement, it was another blow, but one that many saw as a call to keep fighting. The movement’s seven-month struggle to delay the overhaul, through weekly marches and rallies, has helped re-energize a privileged sector of society that had at times been seen as apathetic or complacent about Israel’s political direction.
“This is some kind of consolation,” said Mira Lapidot, a museum curator and regular protest participant. “There is a sense of needing to decide what kind of life you want to live.”
But underpinning this rejuvenation is also a sense of fear. Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition includes a finance minister who has described himself as a proud homophobe, a security minister who was convicted of racist incitement, and an ultra-Orthodox party that proposed fining women for reading the Torah at the holiest site in Judaism.
For Israel’s Arab minority, which forms roughly one-fifth of the country’s population of nine million, the law feels like the harbinger of a dangerous new era.