Some time ago, I was having a discussion about what's going on in the Middle East. Of course, we weren't talking about tea and falafel, we were discussing terrorism and the human rights abuses that are going on in the Muslim world. The person whom I was speaking with said that if we really needed to get down to what the problem was, it wasn't a "war on terror", it was a war on Islam. In other words, Islam was what the problem actually was.
I couldn't find myself agreeing. Something about it didn't sit right with me, and I know too much history to know that plenty of other religions have been corrupted to bring about death and mayhem. Still, there's no denying that the Muslim world has some definite issues with which to deal.
I just finished reading Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, and it's making me start to rethink my attitude on this. I read Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great awhile ago, and while it did give me a couple of new ways of looking at things, it basically told me a lot of stuff that I was already familiar with. Dawkins' book, however, really gave me a lot to think about. I also like the way he puts things. Although I'm not a scientist myself, I have a great deal of respect for scientists like himself and their approach to the problems of life.
Anyway, so my view has shifted. However, I think that blaming Islam for the problems with terrorism isn't going far enough. Why are these men willing to blow themselves up? For eternal rewards in heaven. Do they have some actual evidence that this will happen? Of course not. What do they have? Faith.
And that's the problem, isn't it. My friend Andrew sent me the following link: Parents Pick Prayer over Docs; Girl Dies. The headline tells you pretty much all you need to know for my point here. And unless you live in a cave, you've heard of this kind of thing happening before. What killed this girl? Faith.
I once had a student who was a Jehovah's Witness write in an essay how her religion's belief about refusing blood transfusions "made sense". She was a very bright girl in many respects, and it was an example of how bright people can believe in the dumbest things. She managed to wrap her head around that concept so thoroughly that unless you knew better, it actually WOULD make sense! The thing is, I was very tempted to write on her essay, "I'd like to agree with you, but I wouldn't be alive to read this if it weren't for blood transfusions." I wish that I did. Why didn't I though? Because I wanted to respect faith.
Well, I'm starting to think that respecting faith isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Am I to respect the people who teach their children lies about science? (See my last blog - 'cause make no mistake, that's precisely what they're doing - lying.) Am I to respect the decision of those parents who let their daughter die?
I realize what some people might be thinking when they read this. "Oh, I have faith, but I don't do anything crazy like that." The problem is, if you have faith, you believe in things without evidence. That's the same thought process that leads to little girls dying and buildings blowing up. I mean, can you really draw a distinction between the terror of Muslim fanatics and the terror of Christian fanatics? The end result is the same - death. Death for no good reason.
What if all those terrorists were raised to question things that have no evidence? What if those parents had been taught the same thing? What should we teach children? Why is it a virtue to tell them that they should "just believe" things? My parents, ironically enough if you've read my arguments with my mother, taught me to always question things. Of course, they both still have faith, so the way I see it, their own questioning only goes so far. Well, they put a powerful weapon in my hand, the "utltimate nullifier" of irrational belief systems. I questioned astrology. I questioned ghosts. I questioned demons. And ultimately, I pointed that same critical finger that I pointed at woo-woo beliefs like alien abductions right at myself and my own beliefs. I could have chosen what was comforting (although a false sense of comfort) or what was rational. I chose the latter.
Of course, people will say, "But faith gives me comfort." That's fantastic. A bottle of gin a night gives some people comfort - that doesn't make it good for them.
I've also had people (including family members) say to me that they have faith because otherwise there's "no point" to life. Well, if you can't see any point to life without an invisible, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful magical being, then that shows an incredible lack of imagination on your part, doesn't it?
Obviously, I feel rather strong about this. There's only one thing that I feel stronger about, and that's living in a free society. While I feel that faith is ultimately the enemy of rationall thought, I believe even less in forcing people to see things my way. Ultimately, I can respect people who have faith. I don't intend to attack their beliefs every chance I get. However, I don't expect people to respect my vices, so why should I respect theirs?
So, what can I do? All I've got is this little blog, I guess. It might not change anything, but what else can I do?
I'll end this with a quote. "Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and ... know nothing but the word of God."
Who said that? Osama bin Laden? David Koresh? Try Martin Luther. Here are some more: http://www.jesuscult.com/Luther_Anti-Reason.htm.