Thursday, March 27, 2008

The real problem

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:


JJones said...

I suggest spending some time with these before you again worry about trampling on JW beliefs-----


The following website summarizes over 500 U.S. court cases and lawsuits affecting children of Jehovah's Witness Parents, including 370 cases where the JW Parents refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions for their dying children:


The following website summarizes over 500 lawsuits filed by Jehovah's Witnesses against their Employers, incidents involving problem JW Employees, and other secret JW "history" court cases:


Gary Fouse said...

The only thing I have a problem with in your essay is when you equate Islamic terror with "Christian Terror".

Notwithstanding the Crusades (and I don't even know who the good guys and bad guys were in that one, nor do I much care) the Inquisition, and I guess the Salem Witch trials, I don't see any comparison with with Islamic killers are doing today.

Christians are not going out and targeting innocent men, women and children for slaughter today because they are non-believers. Christians are not cutting off heads, stoning women to death for adultery, targeting people for death because they leave the faith or criticize the faith,flying airplanes into buildings and engaging in suicide bombings in the name of God. Either are Jews, Buddhists or Hindus.

It is Muslims who are doing these things. Not all of them of course, but a significant and growing number are seeing their mission as bringing Islam to world domination by whichever method is necessary. The other so-called moderate Muslims are for the most part standing silently by for whatever reason. Very few are standing up and trying to clean up this cancer that is destroying Islam's reputation in the eyes of the world.

This is not to suggest that Christianity has always been pure and unblemished. I myself, having married a Catholic and raised our children as Catholics, while not converting myself, finally had enough in the face of the priest pedophila scandal. I don't want to insult practicing Catholics, but I have come to the conclusion that the Church basically worships itself.

I still believe that Christianity today is basically a force for good in the world. I have no desire to convert anyone-it's live and let live for me-but, I think we need to stand up to the Islamists who would take away our freedom to be any other religion-or atheists for that matter.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Hey Gary,

I missed your response to this - hopefully you'll read this.

Certainly, the Muslim fanatics are the greater threat nowadays. However, there are Christian fanatics whose actions result in death. Also, as you yourself have pointed out, history has shown us that Christianity can rack up quite a body count as well. Who's to say that things won't turn around if conditions change enough? (Perhaps a rise in Muslim terror will bring out more Christian terror!)

I'm just saying that push comes to shove, I don't trust this idea of faith in general. If you strip back the layers of what caused the 9/11 attacks and what caused the death of that little girl, you're left with the same common denominator.

Gary Fouse said...

All I can say is that I condemn the parents who let their child die because of their religious beliefs. Yet, that hardly compares with the constant slaughters, beheadings, fatwas, suicide bombings, "honor killings" and so on committed in the name of Islam.

Are Christians in London conducting demonstrations advocating that those who mock Christianity be beheaded? No.

The fact is that there is only one religion that is engaged in killing and threatening world peace today and that is Islam. The occasional acts of fanatical Christians or instances of Christian intolerance are insignificant in comparison.

As I always add, most Muslims are not engaged in this Jihad, yet few are showing the moral courage to stand up and speak out against it. That includes US Muslims.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I hear you, Gary, but I think you might be missing my point (perhaps I'm not making it clear.)

My only point is that faith has the potential to lead to death and destruction. Ultimately, the terrorists and those negligent parents feel justified for the same reason - they had faith.

Are some faiths more violent than others? Absolutely. Who scares me more - suicide bombers or those who shoot abortion doctors? Considering I'm not a doctor of any sort, the suicide bombers, easily. That's not what I'm getting at though.

Your point about Christianity today is well taken, but what I was referring to, considering all of the Holy Wars (including ones amongst fellow Christians), is the fact that Christianity has shown the POTENTIAL to be deadly. Sure, it was a long time ago, but it's still stems from the same religion as the one that people follow today. If that "old time religion" comes back somehow, Helios help us all! (I'm honestly not too worried about that though.)

Gary Fouse said...

People who shoot abortion doctors? How many of those have surfaced in the last 20 years? As far as I know, they are all in jail (thankfully). They are a true aberration as are any preachers who encouraged it. There are also parents who murder their children because they heard God tell them to.

All that pales in comparison with what is going on in Islam. There is no threat that the crazies are going to take over Christianity. There is such a threat when it comes to Islam.

Lance Christian Johnson said...'re still missing my point, Gary. It's not a contest. I'm just saying that when you peel back all the layers of the crazy stuff that people do, you're left with faith. Certain faiths might lead to more instances of violence, but that's not the point.

But if you want to play the Christianity versus Islam game, you have to keep focusing solely on what's going on today. Christianity has plenty of blood on its hands in its first 1400 years and beyond as well. After all, do you think my ancestors went from worshipping Wotan to Jesus because somebody asked them nicely?

Christians certainly aren't engaging in the type of violence that Muslims are today, but if you take a broad view of things, it's not because their holy book is devoid of calls for violence. Thankfully, most Christians have risen above the more barbaric aspects of their faith. Unfortunately, most Muslims have not.

But still, all that's not the point. The point is that belief without evidence has the potential to lead to violence. If those terrorists had asked for some proof that they were going to heaven before attacking the Wold Trade Center before doing it, New York would have a different skyline than it does today.

Gary Fouse said...


I admit there are dark chapters in Christian history, worst of all was the Inquisition, but I lay that off on one branch of Christianity.

But that was centuries ago. We are not fighting Islamic terror on behalf of Christianity. We do it to defend ourselves and our right to practice any religion-or none at all.

CNN's recent religious special by Christianne Amanpour tried to draw a moral equivalence between Islamic terror and folks like Jerry Falwell and a group of young Evangelics in SF, I think. But what would I expect from Amanpour and CNN?