Three Muslim students were gunned down by an atheist and somehow the more reassuring story is that the murders were not over religion, but a parking space?
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Tags: atheism, Islam, murder, parking, religion
Categories : Quick hits
I am not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew.
I am not Hindu, or Buddhist, or Jain, Taoist, Bahá’í, Wiccan, Yazidi, Shinto, Zoroastrian, Sikh, or any sort of pagan or animist.
I am not spiritual, and believe in neither demons nor angels nor supernatural vibes of any sort.
I am agnostic, which means I lack knowledge, along with faith and belief. I do not know if none, one, some, or all of the above traditions holds any or the entirety of truth. I do not know if some other tradition holds any portion of truth.
And I’m all right with that. I call myself a “doubter”, and that doubt works for me.
I’m also all right with others who have do have faith in some tradition or another, and, contra Hitchens, do not believe that “religion poisons everything”.
Or should I say, that religion uniquely poisons everything. I think religion is a powerful human invention and thus, like any powerful human invention, may poison its adherents or the course of events, but not that it necessarily or always does so.
It is also possible that religion (l.a.p.h.i.), may serve as an antidote to other invented poisons.
All of which is a rather long prologue to a rather convoluted post on the rather convoluted topic of the role of Islam in the world today, viz., is it uniquely bad in its effects on co-religionists and non-co’s alike?
There is today far more violence among Muslims and between Muslims and non-Muslims than there is in other world religions*. This doesn’t discount other intra- and inter-religious violence or aggression, nor other less-deadly forms of intolerance, but given conflicts across parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, it’s pretty clear that there are. . . issues in Islam.
Are these issues unique to Islam? A little trip through history points to “no”, and had pundits existed in the 16th century, they may have raised similar questions about the aggressiveness and intolerance of Christianity.
Are these issues endemic to Islam? Whatever the violent history of Christianity, it’s mostly not violent today*, which leads some to note that aggression is therefore not an essential part of Christianity. Can Islam work its violence out of its system as Christianity has, or is supremacism and aggression so interwoven in its scripture and traditions that it cannot transform itself as Christianity has?
Christianity is a sprawling complex of tradition and change and interpretation which has sometimes been violent, sometime intolerant, sometimes triumphalist, and other times, not. That Christianity is currently not at the center of strife in the world* does not mean that its aggressiveness has been bred out of its system. It’s sidelined, but extirpated? Eh.
Islam is also a sprawling complex of tradition and change and interpretation, and thus like Christianity, can find within that complex support for both aggression and tolerance. It is thus difficult to determine whether any one strand within is always and forever at the center of what it needs to be Muslim.
So, why trick questions? Because what counts as essential has been and is contested in history, and what must be interpreted in this way today may be interpreted in that way tomorrow. That is the condition of all human inventions.
None of this is to shield Islam or any other tradition (or human invention) from criticism, and that there may exist no absolute and eternal standards of how to treat one another doesn’t mean one can’t construct and apply our own provisional and worldly standards.
Which is a rather convoluted way to say: of course Islam may be criticized, as should be those who find in Islam justification for horrid acts.
That Muslims are not unique in their religious—or ideological—justifications is also no barrier to criticism: your mom probably pointed out to you long ago that “everyone else is doing it!” is no excuse for your own bad behavior.
One last turn around: If you’re going to go after an entire religious belief system and its effects on adherents and non-adherents alike, then fer-cryin’-out-loud, look at the entire belief system, not just at what you don’t like.
Is there poison in Islam? Yes. But that doesn’t mean Islam is all and only poison.
Or maybe it is. It’s possibly that after thorough study one might conclude nothing good has ever or will ever come from Islam—or any religion.
But I kinda doubt it.
*Crucial caveat: people living in countries having bombs recently dropped on them by Christians might contest this notion of Christianity as not-aggressive.
h/t for link to Sullivan, and this entire damned post was set off by the Maher-Harris-Affleck kerfuffle
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Tags: Christianity, criticism, doubt, history, Islam, morality, poison, religion, standards, tolerance, violence
Categories : Musing
All day long a post fermenting, only to end up boiling away to nothing.
Is Islam uniquely violent? That Christ died on the cross and Muhammed took up the sword—does that matter in some fundamental way?*
It does, I suppose, if you want it to. If not, then not.
This isn’t a slam against Christianity or Islam or belief (in anything. . . ); it is an observation of the condition of belief.
We construct our beliefs, believe because we want to believe, have to believe, believe how we want to believe. Or not.
We deprecate this and emphasize that, as is our preference, driven by yet other preferences.
I don’t mean to be a lazy relativist, even as this reads as lazy relativism. That is not my preference. No, it is just that beliefs arise from narratives, and the more complicated the narrative, the more beliefs can arise, and the more complicated the beliefs about the beliefs, the greater the likelihood that the beliefs and the beliefs about the beliefs can and will justify anything.
Hitchens said “religion poisons everything.”
Perhaps. But it is not the only source of poison. It is not the primary source. For if, as Hitchens believed, there is no God, and religion a construct of humans, then would it not be more accurate to say that the source of the source is the problem?
I’m tired and my thoughts are fading, and I do not wish to excuse ideologies and religions that celebrate or even excuse violence, but it seems rather too convenient for those who profess belief in Narrative C (of which some streams has in the past celebrated or excused violence) to claim that Narrative I (of which some streams currently celebrates or excuses violence) is inherently violent, while the former, only contingently or mistakenly so.
Shorter version: double-reverse No True Scotsman!
Be glad that my brain is flat, or else I’d ramble on trying to puzzle out if this means we are all Scotsmen or if there are no Scotsmen or how does one come to construct a Scotsman. . . .
*By way of Sullivan and Dreher
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Tags: belief, Christianity, constructs, Islam, narrative, no true Scotsman, preference, violence
Categories : Musing
The Texas State Board of Education adopted a resolution Friday that seeks to curtail references to Islam in Texas textbooks, as social conservative board members warned of what they describe as a creeping Middle Eastern influence in the nation’s publishing industry.
“Thai women are a lot like women in America were 50 years ago,” said Mr. Davis, before they discovered their rights and became “strong-headed and opinionated.”
“The women now know they are equal,” said Mr. Davis, a retired Naval officer who has been divorced twice, “so the situation is not as relaxed and peaceful as it is between an American and a Thai lady.”
The Obama administration urged a federal judge early Saturday to dismiss a lawsuit over its targeting of a U.S. citizen for killing overseas, saying that the case would reveal state secrets.
The U.S.-born citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, is a cleric now believed to be in Yemen. Federal authorities allege that he is leading a branch of al-Qaeda there.
Mr. Dooley said the F.B.I. broke down Mr. Kelly’s door around 7 a.m. and gave a search warrant to his companion. The warrant said agents were gathering evidence related to people “providing, attempting and conspiring to provide material support” to terrorist organizations, and listed Hezbollah, the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
The warrant also authorized the agents to look for information connected to the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and to unnamed “co-conspirators” and allowed them to seize items including electronics, photographs, address books and letters.
Mr. Kelly is known in Minnesota as a prominent organizer of the Anti-War Committee, a group that has protested United States military aid to Colombia and called for the removal of American soldiers from Afghanistan.
During the Republican gathering in 2008 he was a primary organizer of a march that drew thousands of participants.
Mr. Kelly was also served with a summons to appear before a grand jury on Oct. 19 in Chicago. The order directed him to bring along pictures or videos related to any trip to Colombia, Jordan, Syria, the Palestinian territories or Israel, as well as correspondence with anyone in those places.
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Tags: dissent, education, equality, FBI, Islam, terrorism, women
Categories : No comment
I’m a little fuzzy on the whole sin thing.
Yes, something about disobeying God, with apples, snakes, naked people, banishment, knowledge. . . really, if I were religious, I’d surely find this all fascinating, but as I’m not, well, it just seems curious to me.
But one thing I do like about the insistence on the sinfulness of humans is that those propounding on this corruption tend to see it as all-inclusive: Everyone is a sinner, everyone needs grace.
Handy to remember that.
I’d circled this issue in the last two posts, in terms of Christians and TeePers behaving badly, but one of the things I was too angry (!) to deal with in the Wars-of-Religion post and too politically-minded to deal with in confronting Howard Beale is my basic belief that almost all of us carry almost all of the possible characteristics any human being can demonstrate. The proportions may vary, sure, but outside of the exceptional few, I think we’re all capable of the same basic range of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
This doesn’t make us all the same: there are clearly differences in the mix, as well as what each of us brings to that mix in terms of conscious effort and habituation.
Oh, crap, I’m getting too windy.
Lemme put it this way: I didn’t post the extensive quote about rampaging Christians (in response to Peretz’s claim that ‘Muslim life is cheap, especially to Muslims’) as a way of saying See! It’s not just Muslims! Christians are bad, too! Boos, all around! No, the point—which I didn’t explicitly make—is that people behaving violently in the name of religion is unsurprising, given that people are capable of behaving violently.
Yes, there are belief systems which explicitly forbid violence, but the existence of pacifist belief systems proves the point: If the adherents weren’t themselves capable of violence and aggression, there’d be little need for a system to discipline them.
Again, another capacity of humans: to restrain ourselves from doing all that we can possibly do.
But why restrain or indulge? What leads Christians in one period to slaughter one another and non-Christians and in another to tolerate and even respect them? What leads Muslims to laud or condemn conquest? What makes rightists or leftists righteously angry and what will they do with that righteousness and anger?
Ask the question instead of assuming the answer.
It’s too easy to say Christians are peaceful and Muslims aggressive (or vice versa), or rightists are patriotic and leftists traitors (or vice versa), especially when the historical evidence indicates otherwise. Nor is it enough to say that x-behavior isn’t representative of true belief, especially when—again—evidence indicates that x-behavior in another time or place was treated as the sine qua non of true belief.
Do you feel the breeze? Sorry, getting windy again.
I just don’t think we humans are better or worse than we were before, nor that we can even define better or worse outside of a particular historical context. Best simply to try to understand what we mean by these terms, and to recognize what we are capable of.
For better and for worse.
Addendum: Perhaps this also the case for other creatures, and how we act towards and respond to them.
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Tags: being, belief, characteristics, Christianity, humanness, Islam, life
Categories : Musing
This is cheap, I know, but Martin Peretz doesn’t deserve the cost of real thought:
On a spring day in May 1631, Count von Tilly celebrated a mass to thank God for his conquest of Magdeburg, the chief city of the Protestant Reformation, boasting that no such victory had occurred since the destruction of Jerusalem. He was only slightly exaggerating—the cathedral in which the mass was held was one of three buildings that had not been burned to the ground. His Catholic League troops had besieged the city since November, living in muddy trenches through the winter snows, enduring the daily jeers and abuse of the Protestant inhabitants of the city. Once they stormed through the gates their zeal, rapacity, and greed knew no bounds. The slaughter was unstoppable. Fires were set throughout the city, children were thrown into the flames, and women were raped before being butchered. Fifty-three women were beheaded in a church where they sought refuge. No one was spared—twenty-five thousand Protestants were massacred or incinerated, and of the five thousand survivors some few were noblemen held for ransom, but all the rest were women who had been carried off to the imperial camp to be raped and sold from soldier to soldier. News of this atrocity quickly spread throughout Europe, hardening the sectarian lines of a conflict that had begun thirteen years before and that would rage on for another seventeen
. . . The slaughter at Magdeburg, for all its horror, was not the first nor the last such event. During the Peasants’ Rebellion in the 1520s, over one hundred thousand German peasants and impoverished townspeople were slaughtered, many of them when they rushed headlong into battle against heavily armed troops, convinced by their leader Thomas Müntzer that true believers were immune to musket balls. In 1572, seventy thousand French Huguenots were slaughtered in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. The Franciscan monks who had preached that killing heretics was the surest way to salvation were pleased, but apparently not as pleased as Pope Gregory XIII, who was so delighted to receive the head of the slain Huguenot leader Coligny in a box that he had a special medal struck commemorating the event. And finally, lest anyone imagine that the barbarity was one-sided, Cromwell’s model army sacked the Irish town of Drogheda in 1649, killing virtually everyone. They burned alive all those who had taken refuge in the St. Mary’s Cathedral, butchered the women hiding in the vaults beneath it, used Irish children as human shields, hunted down and killed every priest, and sold the thirty surviving defenders into slavery. Cromwell, without the least sense of irony, thanked God for giving him the opportunity to destroy such barbarous heretics.
Michael Allen Gillespie, The Theological Origins of Modernity, pp. 129-130.
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Tags: bigotry, Christianity, faith, fanaticism, Islam, Martin Peretz, Michael Allen Gillespie, religion, violence, war
Categories : Rant