Of Moderates

manicstreetpreacher lets you in on what really makes his blood boil.

By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally.

– Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and The Future of Reason

A lovers’ tiff

I read this post a few days ago on Edmund Standing’s blog (also cross-posted on Harry’s Place) regarding Norwegian “liberal” Muslims who have come out in support of Kurt Westergaard, one of the Danish cartoonists who caricatured the prophet Muhammad and provoked the fury of Islamists on an international scale in 2006:

A liberal Norwegian Muslim organisation named LIM (Equality, Integration, Diversity) is standing up for free speech and against Islamism.  Shakil Rehman of LIM has spoken in defence of republishing the notorious Jyllands-Posten cartoons in the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen…  Now LIM have challenged the Islamic Council of Norway (IRN) to organise a demonstration in defence of free speech, not that they think this is likely to happen…  Rehman is unimpressed with arguments about it being ‘offensive’ to depict Muhammad…  Muhammad is not God, says Rehman, and he is not above criticism…

Before I go any further, I must make clear that Standing is a personal friend of mine and we see eye-to-eye on a great number of issues.  In fact, he has been an important source of advice and support and without his example I would not have done as much as I have in the one year I have being writing this blog.  Standing has written some truly excellent pieces on the Old Testament, the Gospel of Matthew, the “value” of theology, the Qur’an, the far left’s abuse of the language of racial prejudice and Rage Against the Machine’s UK Christmas Number 1.

Standing has a gift for trawling the darkest reaches of the Internet in his spare time when the rest of us find it depressing enough to read the BBC News homepage.  The result has been a devastating report for The Centre for Social Cohesion which cuts through the British National Party’s attempts to clean up their politics and exposes them for the racist, anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi scum that they are (download PDF).  Even before we began corresponding, I kept some of his articles in a hard-copy folder alongside Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and (he’s not going to thank me for this next one!) Johann Hari.

However, the concluding paragraph of Standing’s post really made me see red:

Islam, as Rehman shows, can be ‘liberalised’ and can co-exist peacefully with liberal European culture.  Just as Jews no longer stone disobedient children, and Christians no longer burn ‘heretics’ at the stake, so a future is possible in which Muslims in Europe are as ‘European’ as anyone else.

I get it.  So, Muslims are capable of common sense and rationality as much as anyone else and are well able to cherry pick their appalling holy book to exorcise the nasty bits that do not sit well with 21st century Western secular society, right?  Let’s not forget that this is coming from someone who has written of the Qur’an:

I am at a complete loss as to understand how anyone can hold such a high opinion of a book which, it turns out, is so crude, so blatantly a product of a specific time and place, and so filled with childish threats and superstition.  Reading the Qur’an is an arduous task, for in translation at least it is not a book whose literary style naturally commands admiration in the reader; in fact it is an exceedingly tedious book, made up of a collection of disjointed and often self-contradictory texts, filled with tiresome repetition of certain key phrases and themes, and brimming over with threats of torture and torment for those who will not accept its authority…  I hope to demonstrate… quite what a divisive, primitive, and insulting book it actually is…

While Jews may no longer think it acceptable to stone their children to death for drunken insolence, many of them still think it is perfectly kosher to slice off the foreskin of their days-old infant boys in a procedure done without the use of anaesthetic which would otherwise require the subject’s expressed or implied consent in law.  This is clearly one piece of Bronze Age parenting that has survived the Enlightenment.  Similarly, most Christians do not torture or burn heretics at the stake, although they would look rather blushed if you told them that Augustine and Aquinas – still two of the leading lights in theological seminaries the world over – endorsed such practices in their writings.

Islam: the fringe is the centre

Last year I read my copy of Arthur J Arberry’s English translation of the Koran in full and it was an appalling experience.  I started to write my own opinion on the Koran for this blog, but I can’t bring myself to complete the piece, because the prospect of re-reading the central text in greater detail is utterly unpalatable.  On page after page the reader is informed that God will administer a painful chastisement in Hell, Fire or Gehenna to non-believers.  It’s not like we have a choice in the matter either.  The Koran oozes with a particular sinister brand of predestination that would make John Calvin raise an eyebrow: God has blinded and deceived those whom he chooses into disbelief and there is no way that they can save themselves.

In 2007, two years after a well-to-do group of young British Muslims blew themselves up on London transport and took many innocent people with them in the process; Ed Husain published The Islamist, an autobiographical account of how he was transformed from his parents’ moderate Muslim upbringing to become an extremist bent on the Islamisation of the world as a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir.  As is so often the case, it was only the love of a good woman that brought Husain back from the edge.

I have great praise for Husain’s book.  It is a touching story about how an otherwise sane and rational individual had his mind poisoned by religious dogma.  However, I do have one caveat.  Husain fails to address the intrinsic violence and tribalism in the Koran and the Hadith.  He cherry-picks passages that portray his prophet in a favourable light, while ignoring those that show he was in fact a medieval butcher.  Someone who has not read the Koran for themselves would come away thinking that Hussein’s descent into fundamentalism was a perversion of “true Islam” and that he simply “fell in with the wrong crowd”.  My own experience of the central text shows that exactly the opposite is true.

Now, whenever I see “moderate” Muslims on Newsnight calling for their ilk to come out against extremism and saying that Islam does not mandate such things, I know they being disingenuous.  The actions of the 9/11 hijackers may not be typical of all Muslims, but they were a perfectly rational interpretation of the Qur’an and the Hadith.  The recent case of Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian man charged as the Christmas Day Detroit underpants bomber, who was a former head of University College London’s Islamic Society and lived in a £4 million house while studying, is further proof, if any were needed, that Islamism is not a movement where the poorest of the poor have risen up against the ills of the Israeli government and US foreign policy.

Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush.  But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free.  Lo!  Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

– Koran 9: 5

There’s no such thing as “moderation” in religion

I also find Standing’s closing paragraph to be unintentionally patronising to Muslims by applauding them for their liberal approach.  It is like praising a Roman Catholic for admitting that he does not really believe that the Pope is infallible, which shows Standing’s position to be intellectually untenable.

Those passages about insolent children and homosexuals being stoned to death are as canonical as love thy neighbour as thyself.  Religious moderates simply apply their humanistic morality to ignore those unsavoury passages on the grounds of the “context” in which they were written.  However, they do not have the courage to admit to it.  And Christians, please don’t tell me that Jesus rescinds the barbarism of the Old Testament, because he doesn’t.  If anything, the New Testament ramifies much of the Old Testament with Jesus beginning the Sermon on the Mount that he has “not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but fulfil” and “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5: 17 – 18).

I have to concede that religious moderates are far better than religious extremists.  They are not blowing themselves up in marketplaces or flying planes into buildings.  However, one of the most startling ideas to have come from the New Atheists is that religious moderates are actually fuelling fundamentalism by creating a taboo of criticising religious faith as much as social and political ideas.  The Christian dogma that Jesus will return to Earth trailing clouds of glory and judge humanity for 2,000 years of sexual indiscretion may be a ridiculous belief to a non-believer (and certainly a promise that is long overdue!) but it would not on its face appear to be a mandate for extremism.  Until you realise that there are fundamentalist Christians hard at work in the Middle East attempting to incite Armageddon among the warring factions to bring about the return of their Messiah.

In a recent Intelligence Squared debate I attended featuring Richard Dawkins and A C Grayling, theist panellists Charles Moore and Richard Harries denounced “mad creationists” in response to a question I asked.  Fair enough, but are their beliefs regarding the resurrection and the Second Coming any more rational?  Surely these involve scientific claims regarding the decomposition of corpses and human flight without the aid of technology.  Why shouldn’t we laugh at them when they espouse these beliefs?  If Harries was so offended by Dawkins’ comparing the likelihood of the existence of the God of Abraham with leprechauns, he should have spent the rest of the evening defending the claim that Almighty Zeus sent his only begotten son Perseus to Earth via a virgin birth to rid humanity of Medusa and the Kraken, and then he would have realised how much we – believers and atheists alike – really respect religious claims.

I know that Lord Harries is not a creationist.  Indeed, he has supported Richard Dawkins in the fight against creationism entering school science classes.  I am sure he doesn’t take stories such as Noah’s Ark and Sodom and Gomorrah literally and thinks that there is a link between metrological and seismic phenomena and human morality.  Doubtless he disagreed strongly with his colleague in the Church of England, the then Bishop of Carlisle, who’s verdict on the July 2007 floods in Northern Yorkshire was that they were divine retribution were punishment for homosexual marriage.  But if Harries ever said or wrote in public condemnation of the Right Reverend Graham Dow’s decidedly Old Testament take on the bad weather, I have yet to discover it.

If the moderates do not police their religions, then the atheists will be forced to.

Accordingly, I am not prepared to say that a world inhabited only by religious moderates would be a much better place.  That can only be possible in a world with no religious believers at all, moderate or extremist.  Whereas many Roman Catholics may feel uncomfortable with the thought that their Church is lying to people in AIDS ravaged countries in Africa, where around 3 million people a year die of the disease, by preaching the sinfulness and ineffectiveness of condoms, they are inadvertently contributing to the problem by creating a climate in our public discourse that makes it impossible for the Vatican to receive the same level of condemnation that a US president would receive for getting a blow job in the Oval Office.

Moderate atheists and agnostics: more annoying than believers!

I’m an atheist butters like the philosopher Michael Ruse infuriate me more than liberal theologians like Alister McGrath.  Ruse accuses Dawkins of being a poor philosopher and not taking the arguments for God existence seriously enough, but ultimately he agrees with his position on the existence of God.  This is rather like someone in the 1930s saying that while they disagree with Nazism and do not accept the claims of Mein Kampf, they nonetheless respect National Socialism, appreciate its nuances and feel that only a proper and sincere engagement with Nazi philosophy could overthrow Hitler’s regime.

In contrast to Standing’s tolerant approach, my hand-to-throat response was demonstrated by my reaction to a recent edition of Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable? Christian apologist to Muslims, Jay Smith, debated Muslim moderate, Muhammad Al-Hussaini, on the Ethical Guidelines for Christian and Muslim Witness in Britain (download PDF), in particular point 6: the requirement not to ridicule or demean other faiths.  I am not the biggest fan of Jay Smith (!), however, the attempts by Al-Hussaini to portray the Koran as a moderate text made me even angrier; especially his quoting of “Let there be no compulsion in religion” at Sura 2 of the Koran.   With my blood still very much up, I fired off a bile-laden email to the presenter and the participants:

[T]he verse constantly quoted from Sura 2 of the Koran by apologists eager to claim that Islam is a tolerant and pluralistic religion, “Let there be no compulsion in religion”, is followed a few verses later with the promise that all unbelievers will dwell forever in the Fire in the next life.  There doesn’t seem to be anything optional about that preachment…

Although I am unimpressed by the gross hypocrisy and double-standards that Jay Smith employs when promoting his own religion over Islam, I agree that the Koran should be “ridiculed and demeaned” at every opportunity, because frankly I am insulted and offended every time someone tries to tell me that it is a miracle of literature that could only have been authored by an omnipotent deity.

As it happens, Al-Hussaini sent me a very civil and respectful response and probably didn’t deserve the full-on MSP treatment that he received.  But the idea that Christians should respect a religion that ineptly plagiarises their own holy book was akin to historian Hugh Trevor-Roper’s reaction to the Rushdie affair:

I wonder how Salman Rushdie is faring these days under the benevolent protection of British law and British police, about whom he has been so rude.  Not too comfortably I hope…  I would not shed a tear if some British Muslims, deploring his manners, should waylay him in a dark street and seek to improve them.  If that should cause him thereafter to control his pen, society would benefit and literature would not suffer.

As Ibn Warraq rightly pointed out in Why I Am Not A Muslim:

Will that “closest hooligan” Trevor-Roper wake up from his complacent slumbers, when those “poor hurt Muslims” begin demanding the withdrawal of those classic Western literature and intellectual history that offend their Islamic sensibilities but must be dear to Professor Trevor-Roper’s heart?

In conclusion – a pragmatic means but far from an end

While Standing may well agree with much of what I have written in principle, he knows that religious faith is not going to be eradicated within our lifetimes and is prepared to play real-politick and endorse religious moderates even if it means making an ideological trade-off.  I certainly see the practical sense in this, but for once I am thinking with my gut and am not yet prepared to compromise my philosophy.  This is one example where integrity is everything for me.  Standing’s approach’s is scarily reminiscent to the “you’ll never get rid of it” line taken by many of the Four Horseman’s atheistic opponents such as Ruse.

And of course if you start thinking like that, you never will get rid of religious faith.  Ever.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Responses to “Of Moderates”

  1. Edmund Standing Says:

    While Standing may well agree with much of what I have written in principle, he knows that religious faith is not going to be eradicated within our lifetimes and is prepared to play real-politick and endorse religious moderates even if it means making an ideological trade-off. I certainly see the practical sense in this, but for once I am thinking with my gut and am not yet prepared to compromise my philosophy. This is one example where integrity is everything for me.

    I used to think the same way, but it’s not realistic, so we have to make the best of a bad job. Intellectual integrity won’t stop the further splitting of Britain (and Europe) into ethnic and confessional ghettos, nor will holding out for some atheist utopia that will never come anyway (humans are not fundamentally rational beings). You can hold on to atheistic absolutism and a kind of philosophical purity, but meanwhile the real world carries on, and the direction it takes depends on whether or not we support religious moderates. Sam Harris’s argument about moderates being a problem has merit on paper, but is irrelevant unless religious moderates listen, agree, and become atheists en masse as a result, which they won’t.

    This is where the charge of ‘atheist fundamentalism’ comes from: a quest for philosophical ‘purity’, and ardent belief that nothing but atheism will do, which doesn’t connect with reality and is effectively a kind of ivory towers style retreat from engaging with the real world. Do you really think people who present your kind of argument will make a jot of difference to the social realities of modern Europe? Integrity may be grand and satisfying, but it’s pragmatism that gets things done.

  2. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    I don’t disagree with you there, Edmund. This is why I could never be a politician. I shoot from the lip something rotten and do not compromise when it comes to expressing my opinions. This has probably been the cause of many of my self-inflicted problems in life!

    My post is completely utopian and is not a model that could be applied in the real world for precisely that reason. I just have a penchant for supporting underdogs and hopeless romantics. Consider one of my earliest posts:

    The glorious pursuit of failure

    (…)

    I realise that this debate won’t be settled in anywhere like my own lifetime. In a strange way, I’m quite happy with that. I wouldn’t extinguish the belief even if I could. If nothing else, it would be one less group of people with whom to argue. (As for Muslim suicide bombers and fundamentalist Christians who murder abortion doctors and block stem-cell research, I don’t have any argument with them, in the same way that reasoning with a brick wall is a fruitless exercise.)

    But as I closed my main address in the debate earlier that evening; this is a glorious struggle nonetheless and one that will last forever.

    But it’ll be worth it. And it’ll be a lot of fun.

    We compromise in life all the time and for once I’d like to hold onto something pure. I am still young and foolish. Give me another few years and I may well come around. But for now, I’ll leave the diplomacy to you.

    MSP

    I say build some more fucking bypasses over this shithole!

    – Nicky Wire
    Onstage at Glastonbury, 1994

  3. Pommy B'Stard Says:

    This is the first time I’ve visited this site and I was impressed. Well done MSP you coherently address many issues and make good arguments for putting religious texts to the test of consistency and purpose. I was once a member of the BHA and asked of Hanne Stinson why the association is not actively pursuing answers as to why the Koran is not proscribed as terrorist literature. (this is not to exclude the same approach to old testament writings)

    There was little interest shown even engaging in a debate and was the main reason I withdrew my subscriptions.

    Keep up the good work, one day atheism will be regarded as preferable to agnosticism and brought into main stream society as a legitimate ‘belief’ and given the same safeguards afforded to organised delusions.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Thank you for the vote of confidence, Pommy.

      I am not advocating banning any literature, whether it be the Koran or Mein Kampf (which I have also read and told me a vast amount about the inner workings of Hitler’s mind, such as they were!). It is imperative that we are exposed to these appalling ideas so that we have the tools to refute them.

      However, since much fascist literature is banned and Holocaust denial is a crime in some European countries, it is still an argument worth having as why hate-filled religious texts should be excluded from proscription.

      MSP

  4. Joy Says:

    I haven’t perused your entire website so if the answer to my questions has already been explained somewhere, please forgive me – but how do you define religion? You say that you want to do away with all religion – but if religion is simply a set of standards (whatever those may be) of how you live your life – wouldn’t it be fair to say that everyone has a religion – including yourself? And I’m just curious how you can say your attitude is different from the religious attitude that everyone who doesn’t believe in a particular religion, is wrong – because clearly you believe everyone who has religion is wrong! So in this way, I don’t see how you are different from the religious fanatics you condemn.

    Also, I think it’s interesting that you discuss evolution in the same breath as discussing religion – which brings to mind the thought I’ve long had that evolution has become so tied to the atheistic frame of thought – as much as creationism is for the christian – that it’s no longer about searching out the science and pure facts on either side of the debate. It seems to me that evolutionists rely, as much if not more so than christians rely on creationism or intelligent design, to uphold their atheistic beliefs. I mean, clearly if evidence for intelligent design or something other than evolution was found that would really damage the foundation of atheism would it not? I think this link is a very big deterrent to the pursuit of pure science – much more so than a christian seeking proof of creationism because ultimately a christian isn’t a christian because of “science” but because of “faith.” So I really question how evolutionists can ensure their ability to seek out the facts without bias – and additionally how you can truly entrust so much of the foundation of your beliefs to the evolutionary theory.

    I would also like to point out that even before there was any organized religion as we know it today, there was paganism – which, definitely involved the worship of the earth in some form all over the world. In this I will make the point that mankind has always reached for the stars – not only with their minds but also with their hearts. We have always sought to connect with something bigger than ourselves and I don’t think that will ever change. I also find that the enemies of religion always point to the damage religion has wrought but never to the positive. Perhaps because the positive is a bit harder to nail down and quantify – but I would argue that feeling connected with a higher being has helped countless people when going through difficult and painful times and that a belief in a higher power watching them has motivated many people to do good to their fellow man.

    So my feeling is that, all this focus on religion as the problem is incorrect. People are the problem – if someone wants to do something bad to another person, they will find any reason to do it. And the reverse is true, if someone wants to do good for another person – they will find a reason to do it. Of course that is simplifying things quite a bit since people are motivated by many things, not only simplistic “good” and “bad” things – but my point is that everything begins with a person’s motivation. So while I think you make valid points on there being a foundation for violence in Islam and Christianity the vast majority of bloodshed that has resulted from both religions has not been due to an accurate interpretation of either religion but of a power hungry leader or group of people simultaneously looking to find justification for their actions and to recruit a large number of people at the same time. In this way I think Maajid makes a valid point even if his other assertions about Islam are incorrect.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      I define religion as a set of beliefs, philosophy on how to conduct one’s life or worldview based on the perceived guidance of a supernatural, celestial being who has revealed its will by certain texts or through the pronouncements of certain individuals.

      I don’t think religion encompasses all philosophies such as scepticism or humanism. These do not involve recourse to a supernatural being for guidance. So no, I do not think that everyone has a religion. Least of all myself.

      Atheists do not rely on evolution as much as Christians rely on creationism or ID to uphold their beliefs. Evolution is a scientific fact. Saying that we rely on it to support our lack of belief is like saying that we rely in gravity to do the same. Evolution is part of the cosmos, and another reason why there is no need to make the assumption of a supernatural designer.

      Many religious people believe in evolution and live with it quite happily alongside their religious faith. I think this is somewhat hypocritical, since as I say in my main post, they are cherry-picking certain aspects of their holy scripture as true, such as the resurrection and the Second Coming, and writing off others (the Genesis creation) as myth or metaphor because they are blatantly and ridiculously at odds with modern science.

      My atheism is based on a total lack of evidence for the God of Christianity and the arguments and the reasons that people have put forward have been highly unsatisfactory. Not knowing how life, the universe and everything came about doesn’t mean that God (as opposed to Zeus or Allah) was responsible for it, it just means that we don’t know how life, the universe and everything came about.

      Your argument that humans have always needed to look to the stars and in effect, we will never get rid of religion is not an argument in support of its truth or usefulness. Humans at one time sincerely believed in witchcraft (many still do today) and lived and died by those beliefs. That does not mean that belief in witchcraft was true or beneficial to mankind.

      I agree with your last point that people are the problem. People invent these ridiculous ideologies, poorly evolved primates half a chromosome away from chimpanzees that they are. There have been plenty of other poisonous ideas that have caused great harm to humanity.

      However, I never hear anyone making excuses for Nazism by saying things like, “You’ll never get rid of it”, “Nazism means so much to so many people”, “There is so much joy and exuberance in Nazism with those wonderful rallies with those soldiers marching around doing the goosestep, right arm rigid in the air, shouting ‘Heil Hitler’ at the top of their lungs…”

  5. Joy Says:

    Thank you for clarifying your definition of religion and I would probably agree with you.

    However, evolution is not a scientific fact. To say so really ignores a wealth of growing evidence that evolution cannot explain. And to compare it to gravity is absurd. We do not see evolution happening in the world around us as clearly as we feel the effects of gravity and scientists still have yet to reproduce the process of evolution in a lab so it is not any more scientific than believing in a higher power. Typically when you claim a theory that still has to be proven, as fact, that tends to bias anything you find. Many proponents of intelligent design were evolutionists and abandoned it due to the growing amount of findings that it could not explain. And most do not make the jump and say – a higher power created all this – in my opinion, they are the true scientists because they are able to look at the evidence with an unbiased mind. Unfortunately science has always shown itself to be resistant to findings that go against the prevailing view and in my opinion, the same resistance previously felt by proponents of the evolutionary theory are now being felt by those whose findings don’t line up with it.

    And on the contrary I do believe that the fact that humans have always been looking to the stars does support the fact that something could exist. There are many theories and ideas for what that “something” is – but the need to always be looking for something bigger than ourselves is not explained by atheism or evolutionary theory meaning that the human being is a bit more than you can explain – or else something else is really out there.

    And also I think your frequent references to Nazism as a good example of religion gone bad is a very poorly formed notion. Nazism was very humanistic in nature – not religious. In fact you seem to have a lot in common with Nazism with the whole burning of religious books comment. Nazism didn’t tolerate the existence of any other religion and the evolutionary theory most definitely helped to justify their treatment of their fellow human beings.

    And you fail to address my point – how are you different from religious fanatics? Your hatred of religious people is palpable as it is with many atheists I’ve encountered. And I don’t see how your beliefs are any less potentially violent and disrespectful of others than some religious ideologies. There is no love or respect for human life in evolutionary theory – it’s survival of the fittest!! And when you don’t hold human life to be special, (just as you put it – anyone who disagrees with you are just “poorly evolved primates”) that can justify just as many evils if not more than with these religious ideologies can.

    So to be clear – I’m not trying to argue that you should become religious – the point I’m trying to make here is that you can be an atheist – others can be christians – still others can be muslims, buddhists,etc. you name it. This is not a problem. The problem arises – when you expect and demand that everyone else agree with you – or else. And what I’m saying is that you are in just as much danger of being the “problem” as religious people are. The intolerance evident in many of your thoughts are just as troubling to me as radical Islam or the ideology that fueled the crusades and the inquisition.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Your comments on evolution are somewhat off-topic for this post, but I can assure you that I am standing by my definition of evolution as a fact. I suggest you read something by Richard Dawkins or Jerry Coyne rather than relying on well-worn and easily refuted creationist arguments such as “there are facts that evolution cannot explain”.

      We do not directly observe the speed of light, but we know it for a fact.

      Try the TalkOrigins website for answers to your queries.

      I don’t hated religious people at all. I have many religious friends. I hate their ideas and lack of rationality in this one area of their minds which they apply to all other areas of their lives. I am certainly not going to blow myself up in a crowded marketplace or fly a plane in a building because others do not share my atheism. I wish I could be so secure about the motives of certain religious people.

      There was nothing secular or atheist about Hitler’s Germany. See this post for a brief rundown of the Church’s collusion with fascism before, during and after the Second World War.

      And that is only the bare bones. Hitler, along with every other European fascist leader was brought up as a Catholic, constantly referred to God and Christ in his speeches, never mentioned Charles Darwin or the Origin of Species and signed a political Concordat with the Vatican as soon as he entered office.

      As for your contention that the human need for “something more” as being evidence for there really being something out in the stars, I suggest you check out Sam Harris’ “diamond the size of a refrigerator in your back yard” gambit to see what a ridiculous non sequitor this line of thinking is.

      Evolution can lead to rape and genocide, but ultimately it encourages co-operation and altruism. You just try acting like a baboon in a troop and go around raping and stealing and then see how quickly those around you rush to your aid when you need a stitch in time. Evolution can also produce emotions like love and compassion in certain primate species such as human beings.

      Where have I said I want to burn religious books? I said in a previous comment that the banning of the Koran etc. as hate speech was a conversation worth having, but I do not in fact think that it should be banned.

      I agree that conflict arises when people try to get everyone to think the same thoughts. Conversation, debate and rational discourse are essential to the functioning of a healthy society. But Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia were not examples where reason ran amok.

  6. Joy Says:

    I’m glad to hear that you don’t hate religious people and that you encourage rational conversation and debate – that was really the only point I was really trying to drive home and was truly concerned about. I’m very passionate about religious tolerance – believe what you want and feel free to heartily disagree with everyone – just don’t try to force your beliefs on others – and that goes for everyone.

    But my personal complaint towards people who rely solely on logic and reasoning to guide their lives is that they’re leaving out a huge chunk of what is the human soul and what is very often the most motivating and driving force in our lives – emotions and need. Obviously need is tied to the physical, but we also have emotional needs – and I find it is these needs that are the most misunderstood but the most influential on our actions, once our physical needs have been met. All humans have the same basic needs (learned about that in psychology) but we all seek to fulfill those needs in different ways – and often anyway we can. I can believe something to be true, but at the end of the day, my choices are governed by my needs and how I perceive those needs can be met. And, from my observations, for every need that we have as human beings, there is an answering solution to meet that need available in this world (even if the solution is not readily available to everyone) so to my mind, if there is a need, then more than likely there is something available to meet that need. So yes, it’s much easier logically to completely disregard a person’s emotions – or assume the convoluted or confusing ones just aren’t real or a hiccup in the evolutionary process – or at the very least to make the assumption that the head drives the heart, or at least SHOULD drive the heart – not the other way around – it simplifies the world a great deal! But it’s not realistic or at the very least true for every person or necessarily ideal.

    So concerning your example of the person who believes that they have a diamond buried in their backyard – I would say that while the person believes something delusional, there is a real need in them to believe in something – and that need is so great that he will find anything to believe in or keep searching until he finds something real to believe in. While that belief does not make the specific delusion a reality, the feeling is very real so I would say that the possibility exists that something real is available to meet that need – because the need is a real need. The need by itself doesn’t determine what is real – other evidence determines that – all the need does is drive the search for the real answer. Personally I believe that any belief system has to take into account a person’s logic and reasoning as well as their need. I think it’s rare to find a belief system that does both those things and you often see people on either extreme of this disconnect. The need to believe in something is real – but you must use logic and reasoning to determine what is the real answer to that need.

    And I’m not a scientist and to be honest with you I do prefer leave the real debate to the scientists. But I work for engineers and I see every day how much debate there can be about so many things like how to effectively model a real world scenario – or even how to correctly interpret data gathered from the field and if the data is even accurate and a good picture of what is going on! And this subject matter is much less complex and far-reaching than the origin of our species! So it just doesn’t make sense to me that there wouldn’t be more discussion and real debate about this – especially when the evidence I read about for evolution results primarily from someone’s interpretation of empirical data! So I’ve just seen enough of science in action to know there can be so much debate about how to interpret a set of “facts.” I just think there should be freedom to discuss scientific facts when it comes to this the same as in every other scientific inquiry or even how you and I are discussing things right now. And what I’m really arguing for is intelligent design theories to be allowed as part of the debate – not creationism.

    And I would say that Hitler used a “Christian” front to draw people in but that the back end and inner workings were very humanistic and evolutionary in nature. Plenty of Christians were killed by Hitler along with other religious groups. But the reality is that I’m not defending religious radicalism here – only everyone’s right to believe whatever they want free from persecution. I think that when religious radicalism threatens a country or a people group that we are perfectly within our rights to fight the people doing that – but it’s important to remember that even though the religious radicals are the most memorable of their kind that they are not the majority ever by FAR. And I think you would know that if you really do have friends who are religious since I’m assuming you wouldn’t want to be friends with terrorists.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      I largely agree with your last post, Joy, so I’ll make this brief.

      Firstly, I think that a good case can be made either way as to whether Hitler was a true believing Christian, or whether he was in fact an atheist who used religious rhetoric to gain public support. Even if the latter, it is still a severe indictment of the prevalent religious prejudices in Germany at the time if Hitler felt the need to adopt such a “front”.

      Secondly, I agree that reason is not the be all and end all to life. Due to the recession, I have been working a soul-destroying job at the opposite end of the country (UK) to my friends and family for the last eight months. I have let many things in my personal life slip away and have used blogging as an escape to ignore my problems in the outside world.

      However, I realise that I have been on a downer for quite some time; longer than I first realised. I now know that nothing can replace personal relationships, and it has been very destructive to go off into my own little world of reading and online debate.

      Hopefully there will be a happy ending to it all though. I’m off back home next weekend and will be starting a job with a much better employer with more work – in terms of both quantity and quality. And I’ll be near to my friends and family again and will never choose reading a book or article or posting a blog over spending time with them…

      MSP

  7. Dorel Says:

    You need to update your links

    Here’s one:

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2010/islamophobia-and-the-abuse-of-the-discourse-of-anti-racism/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: