I want a pistol in my hand

23 04 2013

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





No comment: a roundup

25 09 2010

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.

Huffington Post

***

“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.”

New York Times

***

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.

Washington Post

***

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.

New York Times





The expulsion from the Garden of Eden is the beginning of life as I know it

19 09 2010

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.





Are we not men?

13 09 2010

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.





It seems strange that she should be offended

24 08 2010

I  swear to god, this is my last post on this. . . and I swear to goddess, it won’t be long.

So, does anyone remember when people pundits used to ask ‘Where are the moderate Muslims? Why aren’t any moderate Muslims speaking out against terror?’

(Emily Hauser, over at In My Head, did a fine job of assembling at least some Muslim response to extremism, and in so doing, poking a stick in the eye of gently reminding those same pundits not to confuse their lack of attention for these folks’ lack of effort.)

And now here’s a man, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, who has been sponsored by both the Bush and Obama administrations to speak about the United States to Muslim audiences, who has a long history in the United States, who’s a Sufi, who’s praised by Jeffrey Goldberg fer cryin’ out loud!, who steps up and wants to make nice, and how is he treated?

Mm-hmm.

I don’t know this guy, and I don’t know if this center will ever actually be built, and as a non-but-only-very-rarely-anti-religious type who thinks pluralism is nifty, I don’t much care one way or the other if this joint is built. If it is, dandy; if not, okey-doke.

But. As a resident of New York City, as an American citizen, and as adherent to a kind of chastened humanism which sees the kind of hate-based intimidation which has been all-too-prevalent in this so-called debate as a danger to us all, I most definitely care that some among us are cast out out of public life not because of what they do but because of what it is feared that Those People will always and inevitably do.

This hatred diminishes us all, closes us down and corrodes our body politic. Damn those who revel in it.

*Update: Matt Finkelstein has more on the shit thrown at Rauf.

(h/t The Daily Dish)





Harry Reid is a fucking idiot

16 08 2010

“The First Amendment protects freedom of religion,” reads a statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office (D-Nev.). “Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else. . . .”

The fuck this has to do with Reno. . . ?

h/t: Huffington Post (because, as of 9:23pm EST, there is no mention of this statement on Reid’s senate website.)





Right through the very heart of it

3 08 2010

You may have heard: SHARI’AH IS COMING! SHARI’AH IS COMING!

All because a group of New York Muslims want to build a MOSQUE AT GROUND ZERO!

Only it’s not exactly a mosque—tho’ the Cordoba Institute will contain a mosque—and it’s not at the former World Trade Center site.

Still, I wondered just where this vessel of Mohammadean infiltration was—not just on the map, but in terms of the neighborhood.

This is the general area:

Stephen Van Dam, NY@tlas, 1998-2004, 5th ed

And a close-up:

If I had any kind of skillz, I’d be able to put a little doohickey in there to show you exactly where the building is, but you’re smart, you can see that it’s right at the tip of the red arrow on Park Place.

But what does it look like, really?

(Apologies for the poor quality of all shots to follow; I shot these on the fly over my lunch hour with my  point-and-shoot . Click on any of the shots or of the maps to make big. Or at least, visible.)

So here it is: 45-47 Park Place, located between Church and West Broadway, two blocks north of Vesey (which is itself the northern border of the re-construction zone).

I think the above shot is 45, and this one, 47:

Regardless, the building itself was denied landmark status today, which means it can be torn down for the HEADQUARTERS OF JIHAD!

And what else occupies such sacred territory?

To the east:

And to the west:

In short, a bar and a market—the ‘Amish Market’.

Lots of bars and markets in the ‘shadow of Ground Zero’:

SE Corner Washington & Cedar: Indian restaurant; O'Hara's pub a bit south.

NE corner Broadway (in view) & Park Pl

And sundry other shops:

NE Corner Cortlandt & Broadway

Park Place, between Church & Broadway (yes, the OTB is for 'off-track betting')

There are Starbucks and pizza joints, Chinese and Korean and French and Japanese restaurants. . .

Cortlandt, NW corner of Broadway

Trinity Place, at Liberty St

And, of course, let’s not forget this spot, south of Ground Zero:

You know that the Pussycat Lounge isn't a pet store, right? At least, not that kind. . . .

And that lingerie shop? Advertises ‘peep show’ in its window.

Where is this in relation to the site?

See the crane?

This is what you see from the proposed Cordoba Institute site:

This building takes up the south side of Park Place between Church & West Broadway

Not exactly ‘looming over’ Ground Zero.

And dhimmis have their places, too:

St Paul's Chapel, overlooking Church St, bet Vesey & Fulton

Church of St Peter, on SE corner Vesey & Church

Trinity Church, which takes up the block between Broadway, Trinity Pl, Rector & Thames

And the quiet spots:

Portion of the FDNY Memorial Wall, at FDNY Engine 10 Ladder 10, at Greenwich & Liberty

On grounds of Church of St Peter

What does this all mean?

I don’t know. What does it mean to have a department store—Century 21—-adjacent to the site? What does it mean you can buy t-shirts and baseball caps and coffee and pizza and sushi and hot dogs and pretzels and *gasp* halal food around and next to and overlooking the place where almost 3000 people died?

A place in the middle of the largest city of the country, a city which never stops, never sleeps, where people may pause and mourn and reflect—and live.

I have been so tremendously angry at those current- and former- and half-politicians and pundits and alleged civil rights organizations who and which spew fear and loathing, trying to make us afraid and mean and small.

So let me, uncharacteristically, respond to anger with affection, even love:

This is my city; this is New York City.

It is big and  it is tough, but it isn’t mean, and it shouldn’t be small.

Let us be large, let us be mixed-up and loud and jostling and gesturing and Jewish and Muslim and Christian and Hindu and Sikh and Voudou and pagan and heretic and agnostic and atheist and conservative and liberal and radical and apathetic and hustling and napping and dancing and falling down and flirting and singing and praying and chanting and arguing and mourning and laughing and embracing and letting go and everything everything everything that we have always been and always became and always will be.

Let us be all of that and everything more. Let us be New York City.

And I’ll refrain from telling the loathsome lot of you to fuck off. Even though that’s a New York thing to do, too.





No comment

10 04 2010

From Brian Fisher at the American Family Association’s Focal Point blog:

First, the most compassionate thing we can do for Americans is to bring a halt to the immigration of Muslims into the U.S. This will protect our national security and preserve our national identity, culture, ideals and values. Muslims, by custom and religion, are simply unwilling to integrate into cultures with Western values and it is folly to pretend otherwise. In fact, they remain dedicated to subjecting all of America to sharia law and are working ceaselessly until that day of Islamic imposition comes.

The most compassionate thing we can do for Muslims who have already immigrated here is to help repatriate them back to Muslim countries, where they can live in a culture which shares their values, a place where they can once again be at home, surrounded by people who cherish their deeply held ideals. Why force them to chafe against the freedom, liberty and civil rights we cherish in the West?

In other words, simple Judeo-Christian compassion dictates a restriction and repatriation policy with regard to Muslim immigration into the U.S.

I may need something stronger than ‘No comment’. . . .

h/t: ChristianityToday





Pat-pat, good dog

26 01 2010

So as not merely to pick on the religious folk:

France Should Ban Muslim Face Veils – Panel

From today’s NY Times:

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s National Assembly should pass a resolution denouncing full Muslim face veils and then vote the strictest law possible to ban women from wearing them, a parliamentary commission proposed on Tuesday.

Presenting conclusions after six months of hearings, the panel also suggested barring foreign women from obtaining French visas or citizenship if they insisted on veiling their faces.

But it could not agree whether to opt for an absolute ban on the veils, known here as burqas or niqabs, or one restricted to public buildings because some members thought a total ban would be unconstitutional.

“The full veil represents in an extraordinary way everything that France spontaneously rejects,” National Assembly President Bernard Accoyer said as the commission delivered its report.

“It’s a symbol of the subjugation of women and the banner of extremist fundamentalism.”

Okay, so let’s look at those commission members: Andre Guerin, communist deputy, headed the commission; Eric Raoult, conservative deputy, was vice chair. Socialist members of the commission, protesting the entanglement of this issue with a debate on national identity, boycotted the final vote.

Jean-Francois Cope, a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s  conservative Union for a Popular Movement party, has introduced a bill banning full covering (i.e., the burka and the niqab) in public; it’s been signed by 180 members of the 315-member body.

Supporters of a ban say civil servants need a law to allow them to turn away fully veiled women who cannot be identified when they seek municipal services such as medical care, child support or public transport. (NY Times)

Now, I haven’t been able to find out who exactly sat on this commission, but does anyone else notice who is championing efforts to restrict the movement of liberate the estimated 1900 Muslim women who cover themselves fully?

I assume they’ll get right on regulating the bodies of men legislation to ban facial hair from men.

In the name of freedom. Of course.








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