The hooded man in the photograph above is from Uganda. He is seeking asylum in the United States, but he dares not show his face in public. Why? Because he is homosexual, and theocratic fundamentalists in Uganda have succeeded in instituting draconian laws against his sexual orientation (ranging, depending on the severity of the “offense,” from life imprisonment to the death penalty). A bit more on the context behind the photograph of this man is here.
What I think is a lesson to take from this photograph is this: religions, like other phenomena, are historically contingent. Depending on circumstances they may morph into liberal or authoritarian forms, and no religion is free of history, or more or less inclined to liberalism or authoritarianism than any other. In religion’s historical contingency is the seed of hope—and threat: hope that the world’s religions will evolve in directions that make for greater liberalism and peace in the world, and the threat that if we do not resist fundamentalism and vigorously push back against its claims, irrationalities, dogmatisms, and authoritarian impulses, then 21st century humanity’s liberty, intellectual integrity, and future is in jeopardy.