Sep 22, 2006

We fail ourselves.

I was reading an interesting article by Sam Harris, an unapologetic liberal and critic of any and all religions, who wrote about the American and European lefts' disconnect from reality when facing the issue of terrorism and Islamic principles. Nothing is more interesting to me than to see a reasoned analysis of a political ideology made by someone who prescribes to a lot of their beliefs. I suggest you read it if you have any interest in the politics of our current global struggles.

I'm going to take his hypothesis a step further. Even though Harris is targeting liberals, and often times rightfully so, I think the reasons for this can be more simple then what most would expect.

I often discuss politics and religion amongst friends. Some people are uncomfortable talking about these, but most people I acquaint myself with converse about these topics freely and honestly. On some occasions a friend of a friend will show up and throw their two bits in if not add good insight into the dialogue. There is a trend I see though when people discuss religion that I think most of you encounter.

Whenever I ask someone if they believe Islam is a religion of peace most will say yes they believe it to be a respectful and enlightened faith. If I either play devil's advocate or cite a Koran teaching that would lead someone to think otherwise I often get a response along the lines of 'well the Bible has genocide'.

Yes this is true. There are instances in the Old Testament as well as the New that wouldn't paint Christianity in the most positive of light. That being said I don't know what that has to do with Islam being a faith of love and respect. It's almost a knee jerk reaction for some to point out the misdeeds of others rather than explain the pillars of a faith they don't understand.

I question most people in my personal life who are quick to critique or praise the Koran and/or the Bible if they've ever read either. Most have not. This is fascinating to me. Here we are supposed to be living in the age of reason where research is paramount to fact, but most people will be quick to convince themselves and others that they are scholars about books they've never read.

I'll make the simplest analogy I can. I often write about movies. If I posted an arrogant rant about a film only to conclude the rambling with a statement that I've never seen it you'd question my ability to properly critique it, if not my sanity or character.

Now why do people feel compelled to stand up for the faith of Islam while denouncing the actions of a few of their followers even though their illiterate of the Koran? The answer to me is easy. It's romantic to do so.

A good hearted individual feels compelled sometimes to stand up for the underdog at all costs and right now Arab Americans are being subject to acts of prejudice. It would be nice to sit and view Islam as a good natured faith while condemning those who bastardize it's philosophy. We feel like better people when we fight, albeit only through words, for the poor huddled masses that are oppressed by simple minded folk who'd rather judge people by stereotypes rather than the individuals actions or thoughts. I sometimes have a God complex and therefore I can understand such feelings of being a soundbyte hero for those who've been trampled through no fault of their own.

The point is most people of the west don't get Islam, nor do they want to. Every American agrees terrorists are our enemy, but rather than have to pick up a book and try to figure out why the faith of Mohammed is binding most Middle Eastern and Asian terrorist organizations they'd rather marginalize the enemy into simpletons who know no better. Similar to how we view the KKK and NAMBLA we'd rather sit here and pass laws and denounce the followers of Osama as fringe elements then we tune into our televisions and would rather forget about it.

These terrorists are not the rednecks of their region. They're educated, professional, and dedicated to the ideal of impressing a supreme being. Martyrdom and jihad are their weapons, innocents are their prey and shields, and no one is safe if we continue to underestimate what they're capable of.

I implore you to educate yourself not only about Islam, but Christianity and other major faiths as well. They are a driving force in our global politics and to dismiss them as otherwise is dangerously naive.

"Wishful thinking about Islam also runs up against the Koran itself, which shows that Islam offers peace at times but (under defined conditions) gives its adherents a license to kill." - Marvin Olasky

Head-in-the-Sand Liberals


Mattbear said...

Read the article (doing my due dilligence research, you know) and it is brilliantly written. I like it, and I think this weekend I will be going out to buy his book "End of Faith".

After the 9/11 attacks, I feared there would be a backlash against Mulsims in this country, and to some degree there was. Since then, I have learned a bit more about Islam than I knew before (no, I haven't read the Koran), and it's hard not to be part of that backlash now. What I've learned is that many Muslims are basically fundamentalists. They still believe in women being subservient and having no rights. They believe in war to spread their religion, and remove other religions. They believe dangerous, backwards things.

However, I don't pick on Islam alone. I have the same complaints about fundamentalist Christians, and fundamentalists Jews (I've read some of the bible, done some research there). And really fundamentalist anything. Being an athiest, my view is that all these religions are basically mythology (probably offended a lot of people, maybe even the blog owner, right there). If you want to believe in the mythology, cool, that's your choice. But these people who cling to these outdated rules, that have no room to evolve or change because "God said so", just piss me off.

I know plenty of people who believe in God and Jesus or Mohammed who still have room in their view for the evolution of human society and morals (I'm married to one).

Anyway, I've gotten far from Erik's original topic and argument, so I'll just say, I agree with a good deal of what he says here, and the above thoughts are my addition to the discussion.

Scott said...

Interesting stuff, I would have to say that it is pretty hard to find that many people that have read both the Bible and the Koran in any great detail and have a deep understanding of either faith beyond what is told to them.

My feeling is that when you hear moderates from either Christianity or from Islam it is evident that there is a desire to live in peace and that extremism is not a welcome part of any faith. I would not purport to have read either text in great detail but do feel comfortable in saying that most practioners of either faith seem to be reasonable and loving people.