Even at 60 years old, or perhaps I should say "in spite of 60 years of accumulated wisdom", I still have my moments of naïveté. I'm in the middle right now of working out one of those moments. This began weeks ago, as a result of Affleck vs Maher/Harris media vexations (thanks @Cameron), and a few other TA topics that come up repeatedly.

When I read an angry and/or hateful post, I have some kind of built-in BeSkeptical alarm going off. Not only do I automatically discount what the writer is writing, but I'm thinking of ways to ignore/repel the words spewing onto my face, or disarm the anger. It can take a long time for me to sort out the issues and feel properly objective about my own perspective.

The specific issue I'm trying to work out is about what we can do to reduce or eliminate barbaric religious behavior; ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and other Muslim terrorist orgs. Honestly, if I could instantly wipe them all out and leave the rest to Allah without "collarteral damage" to innocents, I'd be looking for the button right now. (Actually, forget hell, I don't relish the thought of any suffering, even for supposed "evil" people. Humans are Just Human. And since Allah and hell don't even exist, that's just foolishly reinforcing fundamentalist vernacular; emotions and scapegoating. My bad!)

I wanted to blame Bush. Others want to blame Obama. But demonization blinds us to objectivity. Perhaps my ideal of emotionless objectivity and the seeking of rational solutions is itself irrational? Even if I can't ultimately solve the problem (better than other people's simple solutions), I want to understand the human nature of what's happening. Blaming God or Allah is neither a compatible option for Atheism, nor a constructive approach to enlightening fundamentalists. Legends of divine perfection and omnipotence, after all, are manufactured and maintained solely by human beings.

I don't want to argue with "fellow" militant Atheists. What bothers me is when militant Atheists want to blame me and my "ilk" of "politically correct" liberals for suppressing anger. I have yet to hear an angry, workable solution to these world problems we share. Meanwhile I'll try not to let anyone's anger--including my own--keep me from using objectivity to keep searching for rational solutions, even in your angry posts.

(As an aside, I also want to blame big oil for making terrorism fundable. But I'm not calling oil profiteers evil. My angle is to find alternative energy sources and neuter the profiteering Islamic despots, even if they are only "moderate" Muslims. Please don't blame the brainwashed masses, especially when their lives are at stake. I also hope there's enough time for an Islamic Reformation, barring instant atheism as an option.)

Views: 116

Comment by Davis Goodman on November 29, 2014 at 5:19pm

False liberals aren't directly responsible for Islamic insanity. They aren't the ones chopping off their daughter's vaginas, setting a street on fire over the rumour of blasphemy, calling for the head of a Christian who converted to Islam or murdering their daughter for being raped or keeping their mouths shut while fellow brother muslims set off dirty bombs and murder people who speak out against what they are doing. No. False liberals are not directly responsible for that and no one is saying that is the case.

However false liberals do bear responsibility for the incomprehensible post-modernesque conclusions they draw. Hey...Muslims are decapitating each other...it must be because of colonialism. Hey Muslims in Saudi Arabia are controlling every single second of the lives of their wives and daughters...it must be because of oil...it's not because of their faith or the individual actions...it's because we keep sucking oil from them. Hey...they are hanging homosexuals in Iran...it's really because of our support for Israel that they are doing so. It's not because of a faith that tells them to execute homosexuals. Look over there...we have Pakistani's executing Christians under the suspicion of saying someone not nice about Muhammed. It has little to do with the average muslim who tacitly supports these laws by voting for governments who pass these laws...it's because of Coca Cola and Burger King.

There comes a point where there is literally nothing that a muslim community can do that cannot be reduced to colonialism. There is nothing that could not possibly be more separated from larger geo-political problems that will still somehow be linked to phenomena that come from outside their sphere and make them cruel and make them treat each other so abhorrently. Ignore the fact that women have been chatteled in the Arabian peninsula for centuries before oil was even discovered, ignore the fact that non muslims have been oppressed and murdered and executed before Europe even knew about the existence of these kingdoms and ignore the reality that Sharia law has been practised off and on from region to region before Western humanism, human rights, corporations, strategic interests and modern Israel ever existed.

Abhorrent nasty unspeakable behaviour simply can never be reduced to an abhorrent nasty doctrine from an abhorrent nasty book practised by people who want to perpetuate these abhorrent nasty treatment of one another with impunity and mutual consent. It's simply too impossible to believe. Cultural relativism won't allow it. The doctrine of inherent deep down respect for other world views and narratives is so invincible that even the sickest and most psychotic society simply cannot be so for their own vile deep hole they've dug for themselves. And since this is...apparently impossible...these problems must be based (or at least in a significant part) from the Western menace. Coca Cola fans the flames. Israel makes their cruelty crueler. Oil turns happy go lucky religious devouts into religious lunatics. The great USA satan forces Phillipino muslims to blow up the shit out of each other.

Comment by Pope Beanie on November 29, 2014 at 6:47pm

Cultural relativism won't allow it.

In anthropology, cultural relativism is about understanding how and why cultures do what they do, while understanding one's own possible biases and subjectivity about it. Conservative Christians don't like that, because their bible and their interpretations of it can never be wrong. And so it goes. Both sides smear each other with ad-hom phrases like that, and it must be because of post-modernism (even if people don't know what modernism is or its post)... and yeah, a derogatory word like Islamophobia.

And "liberals hate America".

What I'm finally catching on to is how difficult it is to have constructive discourse using language that generalizes too much, language like what you point out above. Polarism is built too fucking deeply into human nature.

Yeah, I believe terrorism wouldn't have the power it has today, were it not for the profitability of oil. But I'm not blaming oil companies, as some do. And now I can see the harm in over-use of terms like Islamophobia. It's anger on both sides that destroys, like when the "good guys" invade Iraq to drop democracy on their laps and expect it to magically cure their culture and history. Instead, it destabilizes the whole region and adds fuel to the most destructive of fires. Then America's-Never-Wrong-Christians claim that hate caused by colonialism has and should have nothing to do with Muslim motivations. Israel kills 10x more Palestinians than Palestinians kill Israelites, but we can ignore that because we have certain other "principles", and say it's the Palestinian's fault. David and Goliath in reverse, justified by religion again.

I'm having a hard time maintaining objectivity, and I'm still blaming others for it. Everyone's doing it. So then we react emotionally and do more stupid things...

Comment by Davis Goodman on November 29, 2014 at 7:14pm

Trying to get a false liberal to understand that it is actually possible for a psychotic social mess of a society to be responsible for their own mess and that which maintains the psychotic social mess seems next to impossible. In no way am I saying that the west is perfect and I don't know how you could draw that conclusion based on anything I've said ever on thinkatheist. Nor would I ever claim that aggravating forces from the west don't, in some places, to some extent exaggerate the psychotic behaviour that happens in parts of the Muslim world (nor that is was much more the case in the past and that the west did had an atrocious record of mistreatment of it's own and still does in many ways). To claim otherwise would be ridiculous. However, as I have said many times now, there are parts of the Muslim world that have no resources to exploit, could care less about Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan or geo-politics, are barely noticed by the West, do not participate in Globalism and in fact are barely touched by the so called "menacing forces of the west" and yet still show a propensity towards gross mistreatment of those who are defenceless in their society. We take away oil, other resources, capitalism, globalism, colonialism and any other post-modern trope. What is left to blame on the west? What other excuses can we come up with to keep us from pinning the psychotic mess on the psychotic society? These are societies where there is seriously absolutely nothing else to blame except a rampant patriarchal society driven to the extreme by the Koran and Islam. A place where muslims vote to perpetuate a society where mistreatment of women, homosexuals, little girls and the powerless is habitual (and at times sickening). If one can actually admit that even in a pocket of the world such a place exists then one is at least not completely lost in the post-modern-relativist illusion.

Comment by Unseen on December 1, 2014 at 11:26am

"Cultural relativists" also hold that each culture IS its own context and is not to be judged by other cultures, e.g., euro-western liberalism. Ethical relativism. In other words, there is no objective right and wrong. Of course, that doesn't keep us from judging based on our attitudes, opinions, and preferences.

Comment by Pope Beanie on December 1, 2014 at 3:51pm

Of course, that doesn't keep us from judging based on our attitudes, opinions, and preferences.

Yes, and many (if not most) attitudes, opinions, and preferences are informed by the culture we grew up and/or currently live in. It's an interesting, dominantly-positive feedback loop. (As in "circular", hence cultural inertia for better and for worse.)

I have to say, I've recently come to worry more about the inherent powers of culture over behavior, as in the case of ISIS. I'm reading Frans de Waal who says we're halfway between chimpanzees and bonobos, i.e. halfway between war and peace. He says perhaps our bonobo side "bred out" the Neanderthals.

@Davis, I'll be able to respond to your misunderstandings and presumptions of my positions, sometime after I see the dust settle in my inner chimp. (Now I wonder if/how philosophy might be aligned or share ideas across chimp vs bonobo realms of consciousness and emotion.) Pretty weird way to try to understand the world, eh? But at least I have a leg up on Creationists.

Comment by Erock68la on December 13, 2014 at 8:03am
Anger is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be the appropriate response to things like abuse or social injustice, and can spur action. Reason provides the means of solving problems. Emotion provides the motivation to solve them. Too much of one without the other and nothing gets done.
Comment by Pope Beanie on December 13, 2014 at 3:34pm

True. It's fair to say that the right thing sometimes gets done out of anger.

Comment by Pope Beanie on December 17, 2014 at 3:18pm

WRT depictions of Mohammed, I didn't even know until today, just now, that this issue is not Koranic but has to do with Hadiths. In fact, Shia Muslims, e.g. in Iran are more tolerant of caricatures, as long as they're respectful. It's the Sunnis who go apeshit over any depiction.

Not knowing differences like this between Shia and Sunni orthodoxy until only recently is of course my fault. This is not an excuse, but I have to say honestly that the biggest reason I've remained naive about such things is because of the anger and the whackos filling up much of the media space on such stories. I automatically discount anger and hateful sounding speech as whackjob or intentionally destructive in origin, and tend to skip such stories, or at least skim them quickly for any sign of a consideration of both sides of the story.

The other side of such stories, as I see it, and as I see a lot of issues regarding religions and cults, is that the people under their influence are only human, and victims of circumstances. The fact that people's belief systems are formed almost entirely dependent on the dominant peer pressure of where they grow up tells me that such belief pathologies are human culture in origin, not based on whether the people in that culture are naturally good or evil people. And extreme cases like terrorist behaviors are (imo) extreme cases of cultural or cult adaptation, along the lines of basic tribal behavior and cultural personality that humans evolved to civilization levels with.

So the question (to me) always boils down to how can we understand the cultural causes of these social pathologies in order to develop constructive solutions. What we did to Iraq should be a history book lesson on how not to just react with the attitude "we must do something, anything", without considering possible damages to the integrity of our basic, long term principles. Of course the idea of sticking to principles has its own set of effects on limiting our thinking, but at the least we should be able to step back and see how anger-driven reactions so often fail to achieve the hoped-for solution.

All the fervor and flag-waving going into Iraq, the "never forget" slogans, the accusations of hating America if you question the fervor, and perhaps the most damaging of all, the theme of patriotism as means to unify action and attack people who question it... these I consider to be recent, American pathologies that contributed to failed policy and execution. It looked righteous and hopeful for a while, and even I flipped my opinion for a while in trust of Colin Powell's integrity as an objective soldier and the fear of WMDs.

Meanwhile, it's the fear and anger of terrorism that makes people talk past each other and imply that simple solutions exist... if only we do this or that, we'll make the world better. I just can't help but feel that a calmer, more objective, social science seeking understanding of our most serious problems with our human nature can eventually help us to work on more effective solutions.

Countering the black flag waving, barbaric, tribalist fervor with reactions that sink to the level of justified/righteous torture goes so against our treasured principles. I can understand some level of compromising these standards for pragmatic purposes, but not by ignoring the costs they incur. (I'll never forget something... the fact that one or two hundred thousand Iraqi dead was an irrelevant issue, according to Bush II. He didn't say it outright, but just claimed ignorance on body counts other than our own troops. I think the ratio was about 200 to 1. Does that matter to any non-Muslims?)


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