Monday, February 14, 2005

Another hot topic

I couldn't read this without making some comments of my own.

John Pike feels that religious fundamentalism of all stripes is dangerous.

My counters for him are short and to the point:

1) While I am no Ann Coulter fan, I have to admit she sometimes gets off a great line. This is a paraphrase, but, "Yeah, religious fundamentalism is the real threat. That's why we're all so afraid of the Amish."

Bad comparison, I would counter with the religious ferocity of Nazi Germany... You of all people should know this.

2) Americans can thank Christian Fundamentalists for such things as the 1st amendment, which was fought for with great ferocity mostly by a group of Baptists who back in their day made guys like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell look like jellyfish-spined Unitarians. We Americans can also thank Christian Fundamentalism for child labor laws, the end of slavery, much of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s (the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was a Southern Baptist and conducted most of his political work in churches), many laws advancing the rights of children and women, and more.

I can agree with this. However, don't forget we can also thank Christian Fundamentalists for the Salem Witch Trials... Not their best moment.

3) When we look at the Muslim world, while it's common on the right now to claim that there are no moderate Muslims, I must point out that if this were really true, Pakistan would have nuked India by now, and Indonesia and Turkey would be at all-out war with their Christian and Atheist and Hindu and Buddhist neighbors.

I can agree with this.

4) I must also point out that we can thank the Muslim world for steel, algebra, the scientific method, and major advancements in medicine, philosophy, music, and high culture over the last 1400 or so years. Compare this to atheism just for example: as an atheist I have a hard time pointing to any atheistic culture that ever existed which was not murderous and cruel (Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, and Stalin's Soviet Union all come instantly to mind).

I can agree with this.

5) I am firmly convinced that it is not possible to get a billion of the world's Muslims to surrender their faith. We're not going to distribute Bibles or atheist manifestos and make a billion people clunk their heads and say, "Wow, what was I thinking?"

I can agree with this.

On the whole, then, I would much rather be encouraging groups like Free Muslims Against Terrorism or the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, or individuals like Ruslan Mahmedov or Fathiya Barghouti Rheime or Irshad Manji than I would simply declaring that the entire Muslim religion is the enemy of the West.

I can agree with this.

Part of this may have to do with the fact that I've had Muslim friends. I also travel occasionally into heavily Muslim areas here in Michigan and I'm never afraid. Because I frankly have no reason to be (and not just because I'm a bad mo-fo).

I can agree with this. I lived with several Muslim's for a semester in collage, they were very nice inquisitive people. I can say that even knowing that one was kind of a jerk on occasion. Overall he was a nice person.

What Went Wrong? book coverFor those convinced that Islam cannot be moderate and cannot be reconciled with modernity, perhaps this piece by Ian Johnson will help you feel better. For lengthier looks, I highly recommend The Two Faces of Islam by Steven Schwartz and especially What Went Wrong? The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East by Bernard Lewis. (Schwartz is disliked in some circles because some feel he is over-obsessed with Wahabbism to the exclusion of even more virulent ideologies. Nevertheless his discussions of the various types of Sharia interpretation both today and throughout history is indispensible to understanding that the claim that Sharia is automatically incompatibile with modernity is like claiming that the Torah, or the New Testament, are automatically incompatible with modernity.)

As an atheist I have no interest in intellectual warfare with theists, nor do I take any position in the wrangling between the great monotheistic (or even polytheistic) faiths over who's right and who's wrong. I have simply come to recognize that I live in a country--the United States--where over 90% of the population professes some sort of belief in God, and a world where a similar percentage believe in some form of spiritual power. I'm not going to change that and I'm no longer interested in trying. I'd rather find ways to just get along....

[Dean's World]
I had to cut some links and ads and stuff at the bottom of this... It was showing up a jibberish. Sorry Dean!

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