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Old 09-20-2012, 04:35 PM   #196
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Originally Posted by iron yuppie
The Islamic world has seen two of its countries occupied by the US over the last decade, at least two more by the English over the last century, and a considerable amount of economic and political intervention from the west in general. I would say that the root cause of Arabian hostility to the US and the west in general is driven by resentment over imperialist activity.
I'm no expert by any means but my instinct tells me this is spot on.

There are extremists in every religion. They bear the responsibility for how they warp their religions for their own purposes.
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Old 09-20-2012, 04:47 PM   #197
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There's a very human temptation to take the worst examples of an idea or philosophy that we believe to be wrong and say that THIS is the true and ultimate result of that idea or philosophy. It's convenient and I don't think the world is actually as nice and pat and convenient as all that
I think that's one of the smartest things ever posted here.
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Old 09-20-2012, 06:51 PM   #198
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I didn't say the events are coloring your view. I was saying that your distaste for religion is coloring your view. (I'm not sure that makes sense. . . )
Oh, I know what you meant. I was actually saying if anything, the opposite is true. I think I might've simplified too much though, so it was confusing. My distaste for religion doesn't come from whether or not I think it's all made up. If it were a benign belief system that didn't affect anyone uninterested, it would probably be something I said little about. It isn't my distaste for religion that brings about my thoughts on events like the ones of the past couple weeks. But rather events like the ones of the last couple weeks that have moved my views from being indifferent to an outright disdain. There was a time when I was younger that I was indifferent and maybe a part of me still believed in some of it. But as I've grown older and more aware, the uglier and deceitful nature of religion has become so apparent to me. That said, it's religion itself that I dislike so much, not the majority of the people who practice it (though I wish the world would get to a place where we didn't need or want it anymore).

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I agree that a certain point fundamentalism does become extremism, but up close it's never as simple as you describe. If I were to describe my theological views to you in detail, I think I'd sound more or less like a fundamentalist to you (well, maybe. . .I do believe in things like the Bible being the inspired Word of God and the literal return of Jesus and other things that would probably sound absurd to you) but I promise you I won't ever be taking to the streets to slay the unbelievers.

My father is an extremely conservative Christian who I feel is a bit of an extremist (though even he isn't advocating killing anyone), but I find with people like him that level of extremism is rife with contradictions. They are extremely zealous about certain points of the faith while completely disregarding others (especially the parts about mercy and love). Have you ever read "Under the Banner of Heaven" by John Krakauer? I think you'd enjoy it, as it is very much a critique of extreme religious faith. I read it and found it profoundly disturbing as a person of faith. However, it also illustrates quite well the disconnect I"m describing among religious fanatics.
Would you agree then that you're slightly more secular than your father? That's sort of the idea I'm getting at. Whereas your father might read passages from the bible and live his life in strict adherence, you afford yourself the freedom to interpret and possibly even omit (I'm guessing here) certain parts. And maybe I am oversimplifying, but my argument would be that if your slide toward secularism, however slight it may be, has made you a more reasonable person, does it then follow that the further the slide, the more reasonable the man? Or at the very least, the more likely one may be to come to one's own conclusions rather than having them coloured by passages in the bible, sometimes to their detriment.

I have not read that book, but I'll read it after the one I currently am. Thanks for the recommendation!

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There's a very human temptation to take the worst examples of an idea or philosophy that we believe to be wrong and say that THIS is the true and ultimate result of that idea or philosophy. It's convenient and I don't think the world is actually as nice and pat and convenient as all that. I'm sure you have resented it--and rightly so--when people have used Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany to illustrate the "ultimate bankruptcy of all true atheists."

I think those regimes are evidence not of the "bankruptcy of atheism"(though as a Christian I do happen to believe that atheists are mistaken) but of what happens when anyone-religious or not-- with a fanatical commitment to an ideal is willing to see that ideal realized by any means including force, violence, terror and intimidation.
I'd be hard pressed not to agree with this (though Hitler was far from an atheist). But I would also make a point that nobody has ever done anything in the name of atheism, whereas atrocities are committed in the name of religion now and throughout history. You're right, the vast majority of religious people are good, caring, reasonable people. But the idea of religion has made some people and some societies do terrible things. I just don't think the good is worth the bad. Sure, we'll find reasons to fight anyway, but why lump a huge log on that fire? (Obviously this is coming from someone who doesn't believe in any of it, so easy for me to say).

Great conversation guys! Nice to see iYup joining in too
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Old 09-20-2012, 06:57 PM   #199
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Why is there such a strong correlation between religious extremism and poverty? In the Middle Ages, when Europe was an impoverished backwater and the Middle East was the economic hub of the world, the situation was more or less the opposite of what it is now.
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Hope, I guess. Poverty creates despair and people want to have hope in something.
Pearl has it right. I see it as a bit more predatory and manipulative though. Promise paradise to people who live in shit and you'll have yourself a life long believer. It's easy pickings

Not saying the believers here live in shit Obviously there are lots of reasons to believe
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Old 09-20-2012, 07:01 PM   #200
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belief in astrology or fortune tellers does not make people ignorate
correct. It's the ignorant people that believe in astrology and fortune tellers

A little aside: I work in an industry that for some reason, seems to be full of people that believe in astrology and talk about it all the time. My tongue is close to falling off from biting it so much
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Old 09-20-2012, 09:04 PM   #201
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Oh, I know what you meant. I was actually saying if anything, the opposite is true. I think I might've simplified too much though, so it was confusing. My distaste for religion doesn't come from whether or not I think it's all made up. If it were a benign belief system that didn't affect anyone uninterested, it would probably be something I said little about. It isn't my distaste for religion that brings about my thoughts on events like the ones of the past couple weeks. But rather events like the ones of the last couple weeks that have moved my views from being indifferent to an outright disdain. There was a time when I was younger that I was indifferent and maybe a part of me still believed in some of it. But as I've grown older and more aware, the uglier and deceitful nature of religion has become so apparent to me. That said, it's religion itself that I dislike so much, not the majority of the people who practice it (though I wish the world would get to a place where we didn't need or want it anymore).





Would you agree then that you're slightly more secular than your father? That's sort of the idea I'm getting at. Whereas your father might read passages from the bible and live his life in strict adherence, you afford yourself the freedom to interpret and possibly even omit (I'm guessing here) certain parts. And maybe I am oversimplifying, but my argument would be that if your slide toward secularism, however slight it may be, has made you a more reasonable person, does it then follow that the further the slide, the more reasonable the man? Or at the very least, the more likely one may be to come to one's own conclusions rather than having them coloured by passages in the bible, sometimes to their detriment.

I have not read that book, but I'll read it after the one I currently am. Thanks for the recommendation!



I'd be hard pressed not to agree with this (though Hitler was far from an atheist). But I would also make a point that nobody has ever done anything in the name of atheism, whereas atrocities are committed in the name of religion now and throughout history. You're right, the vast majority of religious people are good, caring, reasonable people. But the idea of religion has made some people and some societies do terrible things. I just don't think the good is worth the bad. Sure, we'll find reasons to fight anyway, but why lump a huge log on that fire? (Obviously this is coming from someone who doesn't believe in any of it, so easy for me to say).

Great conversation guys! Nice to see iYup joining in too
Ugh. I just wrote a long response to this and somehow deleted the whole thing. How depressing. Will try again later.
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Old 09-20-2012, 10:08 PM   #202
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Religion is such an incredibly malleable thing. The Bible and the Quran are both violent in some passages, peaceful in others... it is easy to create an interpretation saying just about anything, to the point where it's hard to say that either book defines a religion. Rather, the religion that people follow is defined by their interpretation of the Books, to the point where I'd say that al Qaeda probably has more in common with, say, the great people of Westboro Baptist Church than most Muslims.

Peace, to me, is about peaceful integration. It is about expanding communities beyond the immediate. Really, human history has slowly progressed more towards global integration, towards commonality (I highly recommend reading the book Nonzero by Robert Wright for more. It and Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond are my favorite nonfiction books.). Integration is largely a function of economic dependence. Why are China and the United States at absolutely zero risk of warfare, despite competing ideologies and major potential for geopolitical conflict? Why, since 1945, is warfare dying down in Europe for the first time since the fall of the Western Roman Empire? In both cases, it's because of incredibly deep economic integration between people, which in the case of Europe is even leading to the blurring of lines between nation-states (the merits of that are another argument). In Europe's case, these new connections between peoples are cutting through centuries of nationalistic distaste for other Europeans. Can anyone imagine any combination of France, Germany, and United Kingdom at war anymore? It's unthinkable, and a century ago, it was constant. Economic integration creates two things issues that bring people together. First, it helps to prevent wars, as countries realize that it would be economically suicidal to wage war on those on which they depend. Second, it helps to bring people together, as they have to mingle to facilitate their trade; it exposes the humanity of different races to each other, to put it crudely.

Since the mid-1800s or so, however, the Middle East has largely been the object of Western intervention and tampering without economic benefit. When the Ottoman Empire began to decline, Britain, France, and Russia all swept in, and the region that was the economic center of the world while Europe languished in the Dark Ages began to fail. It only got worse after First World War, when the Ottoman Empire collapsed completely and the European victors (against the advice of a very wise president, Woodrow Wilson) got to cut out zones of imperial influence in the Middle East. Western colonialism and neo-colonialism (for which neo-conservativism is basically an aphorism) did nothing to develop the area, and it's no wonder to me that there is so much anti-Western sentiment there. By poverty, especially in the poorest of the poor areas like Somalia and Afghanistan, is borne the sort of extremism and hatred towards "the man" on which terrorism survives. And in this case, "the man" is the West, as typified most strongly by the United States. Of course Islam develops around this. While the vast majority of Muslims are just like the vast majority of Christians, it's no surprise at all to me that a strong and attention-hungry sect of Islam developed that despises the West. The Quran can be used to support it, but is that really what matters? Of course not. The Bible could too if the people of the area happened to largely be Christians! Any ideology can be used in that manner, though religion is easy. But wars get waged all the time on the backs of other sorts of ideologies used in a mythological form. Nationalism is extremely common, of course. For neo-conservatives, Democracy gets used, although it is heavily intertwined with Nationalism. The ideology is not what matters. The religion is not the source of evil here. Nix Islam, and people would be rioting over attacks on the sovereignty and the culture of the Arab people. The problem lies with resentment bred by decades of economic non-integration. And by integration, I don't mean Washington Consensus colonial raiding-of-resources nonsense. I mean trade of equals - the sort of trade which Japan and China were able to develop by themselves with comparatively little Western colonial influence.

So yes, in a nutshell, religion isn't the real issue here. It gets used to justify conflict, but that conflict tends to be bred by economics, and other ideologies can fill the same roll.
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Old 09-21-2012, 03:17 AM   #203
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You make some good points, digitize and I'm sure all that factors in. It's really late here (beddy byes), so don't take my short post as dismissive, but aggression between Christianity and Islam go back much further than the 1800s. The crusades being an obvious example.
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Old 09-21-2012, 03:27 AM   #204
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Why are China and the United States at absolutely zero risk of warfare, despite competing ideologies and major potential for geopolitical conflict? Why, since 1945, is warfare dying down in Europe for the first time since the fall of the Western Roman Empire?...Can anyone imagine any combination of France, Germany, and United Kingdom at war anymore? It's unthinkable, and a century ago, it was constant.
One more quick one. I'd argue, in the case of China and the US, that it's the perfect example of what happens when religion is not involved, despite other competing ideologies. Taking religion out of the equation is a huge reason as to why there is nearly zero risk of conflict.
It's not surprising that the countries in which the influence of religion is dwindling show less potential for being at war with one another.
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Old 09-21-2012, 08:04 AM   #205
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but aggression between Christianity and Islam go back much further than the 1800s. The crusades being an obvious example.
Oh yes, absolutely. The difference is that the Christians were the terrorists from the economic hellhole sticking it to "the man", the rich and prosperous Muslims.
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Old 09-21-2012, 09:10 AM   #206
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right, but economics wasn't a driving force so much as religion was. It seems to me to be a more distilled example of the similar situations today
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Old 09-21-2012, 10:22 AM   #207
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right, but economics wasn't a driving force so much as religion was. It seems to me to be a more distilled example of the similar situations today
Well, there was little economic integration between Western Europe and the Middle East. And there was Islamic meddling in Europe, in Spain. Of course the justifications for the violence stemmed from religion, but I think such religious tensions could be ameliorated with economic integration, and I'm not sure I buy that getting rid of religion would fix things when there are other myths that can be clung to with religious fervor.
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Old 09-21-2012, 10:22 AM   #208
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right, but economics wasn't a driving force so much as religion was.
I'd have to challenge this, I'm afraid. I would say that the early Crusades were an example of kings and the pope - political figures, essentially - taking advantage of religious individuals for the sake of their own economic gain. Kings got rid of the nobles who were destroying royal lands with their constant feuding, and the pope tightened his stranglehold on European politics. The lucrative trade routes in the Near East were also an object of desire. All this is to say that those who instigated the Crusades were not motivated by a hatred of Islam so much as by a desire to further their own political and economic interests. They simply took advantage of religious people in order to further their own ends, much as someone like Bin Laden did. There is a lot of interesting scholarship on the issue of piety in the motivations of ordinary crusaders, by the way.
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Old 09-21-2012, 12:17 PM   #209
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But that is pretty much organized religion in a nut shell. Kings, Popes, the church in general manipulating and controlling the population for personal gain; that's one of my primary reasons for being so anti-religious. I would never argue against the fact that there were probably nefarious motivations for the crusades; I'd be shocked to hear of any virtuous motivations. But take away the religious aspects and they wouldn't have a leg to stand on. Regardless of who's pulling the strings at the top, it's the infection of religion throughout the general populace that allows these things to happen.
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Old 09-21-2012, 01:56 PM   #210
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But that is pretty much organized religion in a nut shell. Kings, Popes, the church in general manipulating and controlling the population for personal gain; that's one of my primary reasons for being so anti-religious. I would never argue against the fact that there were probably nefarious motivations for the crusades; I'd be shocked to hear of any virtuous motivations. But take away the religious aspects and they wouldn't have a leg to stand on. Regardless of who's pulling the strings at the top, it's the infection of religion throughout the general populace that allows these things to happen.
I disagree that the general populace couldn't be persuaded without religion. Why? It happened in the United States, just about a decade ago. Look at Iraq. Religion wasn't used. Nationalism and Democracy were.
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