Monday, April 4, 2011

A pox on both houses ...

The mock trial and burning of the koran (or whatever is the preferred spelling for this 'sacred' document) has caused muslim violence, including the deaths of Americans. The christians responsible for this sequence of events, led by Florida cleric Terry Jones deny any responsibility for the consequences of their actions, naturally. If their actions had no consequence, wouldn't that be a failure for them? Provocateurs fail precisely when they can engender no response! Unfortunately the ignorant, delusional muslim fanatics know only one sort of response to provocation: violence. I certainly have no more love for the muslim version of religion than I do for the christian version.

In the same way that the Westboro Baptist Church is free to carry on their pseudo-protests (which are actually fund-raisers!) according to the doctrine of free speech here in the US, Terry Jones and his followers are free to burn a book as part of their protest. But, like the WBC crowd's protests at the funerals of American soldiers, or the marches of American nazis in Skokie in the mid-1970s, this is not the sort of activity that most people should support. No doubt exists that book-burning is a highly symbolic act -- and the symbolism is far more meaningful to most people than the act itself. The same is true for flag burning, etc. Responding to provocations with violence is precisely what the perpetrators of those provocations generally seek! The most compelling negative response is to ignore the provocateurs!!

But when people commit acts of violence in the face of provocation, they must be given the same punishment for that violence that we would administer in the absence of provocation. The muslim fanatics have learned that we in the US cannot ignore violence, and so they know we will retaliate with the very violence that the provocations are designed to produce. As I said sometime back, we're losing the so-called 'war on terrorism' by responding more or less exactly as the terrorists have hoped for with their despicable acts. We seem unable to come up with any response short of violence of our own.

The real problem here with this instance of violence in response for 'sacred' book-burning isn't insensitivity, or political correctness, or even the right to free speech. The most important aspect of this is the nature of religion itself. Christianity (in all its tens of thousands of forms) and Islam (also divided into multiple sects) share traits common to all the main monotheistic religions: they are convinced that their path is the only true path, and all those not with them are against them. Unbelievers, in the versions of righteousness common to both islam and christianity, are fit only to die and be consigned to eternal damnation. The bible and the koran are steeped in the blood of unbelievers resulting from these exclusionary principles common to both. Christian and muslim fanatics actually have a great deal of common ground, though both would be outraged at the very notion that they share anything at all.

So long as church and state remain separated, the fundamentalist christians and fundamentalist muslims can be seen quite clearly as what they truly are: fanatics, driven by their own delusions to be willing to commit any act to support their faith. It's where religion and government become intertwined and the state reinforces religious dogma that the 'moderate' believers, who might otherwise not be inclined toward violence, may have the binary choice: with us ... or against us (with all the consequences of the latter being pretty apparent!) forced on them with state power as well as that of their religion.

The very principle of free speech that figures in the book-burning by Terry Jones and his delusional followers surely would be at risk should the christians in this nation succeed in making the US a christian theocracy. The conflict with the muslim world would be amplified into Orwellian proportions -- a jihad on both sides -- and take on an ever-growing stridency when voices of moderation are forced to choose: us ... or them.

It's the widespread delusion of religion that's to blame for this series of events leading to violent deaths in Afghanistan. The pointless christian provocation and the inevitable, predictable response by muslim fanatics are the logical outcome of the exclusionary principles characterizing most religions. These actions threaten the freedom here in the US that has been the grand experiment envisioned by the framers of our Constitution, and that we've enjoyed since the end of the 18th century here. If a US citizen can't see why the separation of church and state is so important, I'm at a loss for understanding how such a person could have failed so utterly, so completely to grasp the essence of democracy: protection of the rights of minorities, especially when we find minorities disagreeable. Of course, Afghani muslims know little of respect for the expression of minority opinions. But neither would US residents if a christian theocracy is established here!

8 comments:

rdale said...

Good post... Christianity is the basis for protection of minorities. Left to its own, the last thing "nature" cares about is those unable to fend for themselves (when's the last time NatGeo filmed a lion making a kill and letting a starving hyena have the first bite? How do the least-Christian areas of the world like China do on the human rights issue? Coincidence?)

The days when the works of Jesus had the most impact on the world were when Rome made it quite clear there was a separation. There is no need to the church to be integrated into the state.

Anonymous said...

"It's the widespread delusion of religion that's to blame for this series of events leading to violent deaths in Afghanistan."

I don't think that's any more true than saying, "it's the widespread access to guns in the US that's to blame for all the gun-related violence." Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Similarly, any philosophy can be twisted to serve the agenda of those with an extremist mindset.

I grew up in Northern Ireland, and I can tell you for a fact that religion plays a negligible role in the minds of fanatics, even those who mobilize under the banner of religion. I knew of no instance of Protestants attacking Catholics simply because Catholics believe in the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Neither were there any instances of Catholics blowing up a bomb in a Protestant town just because those Protestants believed in the doctrine of Predestination.

No. All the violence I ever saw in Northern Ireland was due to fanatical tribalism, an extremely irrational and ignorant us-versus-them mentality that was perpetuated under the banners of religion and political freedom. Same thing goes for all the atrocities perpetuated by atheistic societies and movements, e.g., Communism, Nazism.

So, I think the foundation of your argument does not line up with reality. Religion does not engender or foster fanaticism. Rather, there seems to be a natural predisposition towards fanaticism among a large portion of humanity, and, as I've said, it occurs in areas that have no relation to religion (e.g., sports, politics, nationalism).

Perhaps you're just letting your bias against religion color your perspective. When you think about it, the beginnings of fanaticism lie in bias, ignorance, and an inability to see the complete picture. So, take care...

Chuck Doswell said...

Anonymous,

I appreciate your cautionary comment. Your arguments are interesting - yes, people will find ways to kill each other even without guns but it remains clear that guns make it easier. Is there evidence to show that the murder rate in countries with stringent gun laws is the same as in the US/

And yes, people would find other reasons to divide themselves from one another even if religion vanished completely. But this doesn't mean that religions get a free pass on inciting violence against those who don't adhere to their beliefs.

If you grew up in Northern Ireland, you apparently have intimate knowledge of the mindset of the factions clashing there. Is it logically possible, nevertheless, that religion is an important source for that rampant 'tribalism' rather than just a convenient way to rationalize violence they would commit even in the absence of religious motivations? How might you exclude such a possibility?

There is simply no basis for rejecting the notion that religion fosters fanaticism. The abundant evidence to show how religion, with its documented commitment to mindless obedience to religious authority, is all around you!

Just what is 'reality' to you? Do you suppose that your version of 'reality' might include a dose of your own mindset? I'm willing to admit that no one is ever unbiased -- every viewpoint is biased. Are you?

And I have the courage to speak under my own name.

theamericanheathen.com said...

I would like to add to Chuck's reply to Anon. Religion is the creation of man for the purpose of securing authority to commit any act necessary to control others for their own selfish agenda. What better way to secure authority by claiming that an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing entity is speaking to you, and giving you control over the masses?

I would also like to remind Anon that the Nazis were not atheists. Hitler was a christian. Try reading history. Facts cannot be disputed by rhetorical supposition.

Anonymous said...

Chuck,

"Is there evidence to show that the murder rate in countries with stringent gun laws is the same as in the US?

Well, countries such as Israel, Austria, and Switzerland have gun laws as liberal as the US's, but yet their homicide rate is much lower. So how can this be explained?

This illustrates my point quite well: you can't simplify complex relationships to correlations between two variables. It is a tendency to this exact kind of blinkered thinking which characterizes the mindset of a fanatic, and every kind of violent fundamentalism.

"If you grew up in Northern Ireland, you apparently have intimate knowledge of the mindset of the factions clashing there. Is it logically possible, nevertheless, that religion is an important source for that rampant 'tribalism' rather than just a convenient way to rationalize violence they would commit even in the absence of religious motivations? How might you exclude such a possibility?"

I can exclude such a possibility by examining the precepts of the religions involved. Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and most mainstream brands of Protestantism, have no specific doctrines that directly bring about a tribalist mindset bent on violence (e.g., where does Christ ever say that it's ok to put people to death just because they disagree with you?). The fact, then, that adherents of these religions still have committed violence under the banner of those religions must be due to a different cause.

In reality, the explanation for this phenomenon is a quite lot more complicated than what you are willing to admit.

"There is simply no basis for rejecting the notion that religion fosters fanaticism. The abundant evidence to show how religion, with its documented commitment to mindless obedience to religious authority, is all around you!"

It's easy to point to, say, radical Islam and militant Christian fundamentalism (of any kind, Protestant, Catholic, non-denominational, etc.), and then infer that religion fosters fanaticism. But, if you're willing to admit such logic, then you must also infer that sport fosters fanaticism, as does Darwinism, Communism, politics, economics, and so on. And that's just nonsense.

What really fosters fanaticism is, first of all, a fundamentalist mindset that thinks complex phenomena can be adequately described with simple linear relationships, and, secondly, an unwillingness to admit that they might have it wrong.

The cause of fanaticism is no more due to religion than it is due to the color of soccer team jerseys.

"And I have the courage to speak under my own name."

Does that make your opinions more truthful?

Chuck Doswell said...

So your point was that the relationship between guns and murder is complex? OK -- I'll give you that, but it doesn't change the fact that there such a relationship exists. Your "guns don't kill people" argument is as at least as oversimplified as you claim mine to be.

You exclude the possibility that a major cause for violence in Northern Ireland is religion because christianity has no "specific doctrine" saying you can put people to death because they disagree with you? Perhaps your version of the bible is very different from mine. The abrahamic religions share a common willingness to do precisely that because their chosen deities sanction such actions in their 'sacred' scriptures!

I'm perfectly willing to admit that there are other factors in sectarian violence beside religion, but I maintain that religious differences are, at the very least, a major factor. You seem just as adamant in claiming religion is innocent as you claim I am in accusing religion. At least I have the obvious evidence of a role for religion in Northern Ireland to draw upon, whereas only people with your 'deep insight' can validate your hypothesis that it's not really about religion at all, but rather 'tribalism'.

Just who is and who is not willing to admit they might have it wrong, here? I think you're the one who is oversimplifying at every opportunity.

No, having the courage to speak my mind under my own name doesn't make my opinions more 'truthful'. Nor did I ever claim anything of the sort. What it does say is that I can face up to the possibility that I might be shown to be wrong in a very public way. Apparently, you can't.

theamericanheathen.com said...

You have to love the cowardice of a keyboard warrior for jesus. Under the right circumstances, they will be the first to side with fanaticism in order to save their own hides! Freedom and liberty for all be damned!

Religion shouts as loudly as it can to drown out the voice of reason. When religion loses its voice for all its screaming, reason marches on. But, religion then takes another avenue. It resorts to violence to silence detractors and hide its hypocrisy.

Here's a great irony from Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892-1984)

"First they came for the communists,and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me."

Does Anon realize the dire implications of his rhetoric?

Chuck Doswell said...

Hmmmm ... I think RJ's response above is rather 'over the top' here. I know he's passionate about protecting freedom of (including from) religion, but I think Anonymous is staying on point so I don't mind the discussion. As a matter of fact, it doesn't bother me at all to say that there might be other factors in addition to religion involved in the topic of my original post, or in Northern Ireland, for that matter.

I maintain religion must be accountable for what it engenders in its followers and I still believe it's a primary factor in the violent muslim reactions to an incendiary (pun intended) act by a christian. "Tribalism" certainly is an issue but it's thorough convolved with religion in these cases.