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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

“The answer to jihadism is intellectual – a conversation”

A friend of mine who is a writer asked me to put up this short dialogue concerning what is probably one of the most, if not the most, important issues of our time in terms of the flourishing and survival of a free civilisation. Given the nature of the topic the writer has asked not to be named. I don’t normally do this, but the quality of the writing is so good, and the issue so important, that I decided to put this up. I hope readers find it interesting. The article is entitled: The answer to Jihadism is intellectual: a conversation.

The knock on the door was so soft as to be barely audible.

Carl Dinuto – a fortyish, greying, lean-faced professor of philosophy – looked up, wondering if he had heard right.

“Come in!” he called out anyway.

The door opened slowly and a slim young woman entered hesitantly.

“Dr Dinuto?”

“Yes.”

“Sorry to interrupt, Doctor, but can you give me a couple of minutes?”

“Perhaps. What about?”

“Um, er, well, I was auditing your lecture on contemporary ethics this morning and was really puzzled by your comments on Islam. You see, I know some Moslem people, one of my best friends at school was Muslim, and she and her family are not at all like the way you said.”

Dinuto glanced at his watch, then pointed to a chair.

“Okay. Since you’re here, you can have a few minutes.”

“Er, thank you.”

Dinuto waited while the girl sat down, watching her as she did so. She was very pretty, with shoulder-length blond hair in a ponytail and bright, greeny-brown eyes, eager and shining with a sort of innocent intelligence.

“First,” said Dinuto; “what’s your name?”

“Holly. It’s Isabel Holland actually. But everybody’s called me Holly since grade school.”

“Why not Izzie or Bella?”

“It’s one of those family things. My Grandma was British, you see, a War bride, and Dad grew up using some of her British expressions. Well, one Fall, I was wearing a dark green tracksuit and was very red-faced from running around outside in the cold. Dad said I looked like a sprig of holly. Then my older brother, who kinda fancies himself as a wit, said, ‘Not the sprog of Holland?’ We all laughed, but Holly stuck.”

“Sprog?”

“Yeah, it’s British slang for a child, from progeny, I guess.”

Dinuto laughed briefly.

“Nice story,” he said. “And what are you studying, sprog of Holland?”

Holly laughed in her turn.

“History.”

“When did you start?”

“This Fall.”

“Your faculty advisor?”

“Doctor Fowles.”

“I know him well. So, what’s your problem, Miss Holland?”

“You said Islam is a fascist political movement bent on world domination. Well, I felt that was untrue, and insulting.”

“I did not say that. I was quoting someone else who had. And I did not say ‘fascist’. I used the word ‘fascistic’ which has a different meaning. The first thing you have to learn at university, young lady, is that if you quote someone, whether in written or verbal form, you must do so accurately.”

“Say, I’m sorry…” Holly began but Dinuto raised a hand for silence.

“To be more precise, Miss Holland, what in fact happened was that a student asked me a question about the views of the Dutch politician Gert Wilders, who has recently been found not guilty of inciting religious hatred in the Netherlands. The student quoted what Wilders had said then asked what I thought of it. I said I knew little about Islam but Wilders’ description seemed accurate enough to me. What is insulting about that?”

“Well, sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but isn’t endorsing Wilders’views same as saying ’em yourself? And you did quote him, you know, kinda approvingly. You see, my friends would say that Islam is a religion, devoted to spreading and obeying the revealed word of God. Isn’t it kinda slanderous to make out like it’s a political movement?”

“In a court of law, Holly … may I call you Holly?”

“Sure, of course,” the girl nodded and smiled.

“In a court of law, Holly, I believe that the standard defence for people accused of slander or libel is to show that their allegations are true. Would you like me to tell you why I think Wilders spoke the truth?”

“Er, um, yes, er, please,” replied Holly, but somewhat doubtfully.

“Alright,” Professor Dinuto breathed in deeply. “Well, Wilders likened Islam to Nazism. I’m sure he didn’t make that judgement lightly, any more than I did when I agreed with him.”

“So why did you agree then?” Holly asked.

“A lot of reasons. But, first, let me make it absolutely clear that, in saying Islam is like Nazism, I am not saying that all Muslims are Nazis. That would be a nonsensically false statement. There are millions upon millions of peace-loving Muslims around the world who do nobody any harm, nor wish to, and whose only goal is to mind their own business and live enjoyable lives. Nor, obviously, am I saying that Islam is identical to Nazism. It is not. It is indeed a religion, but through institutions like sharia law and clerical rulings, or fatwas, it also dictates the personal, family and economic lives of its adherents. Hence it is also political. Many, like Wilders, would assert that it is more political than religious. I believe he has called it a political movement with an overlay of religion. Alright so far?”

“Yes, thank you, it’s becoming clearer.”

“Good. Now, leaving aside the distinction between Sunni and Shia, and other Muslim sects, what I am saying, in likening it to Nazism, is that monolithic Islam, the Islam of the Ulama, of the ruling Muslim clergy, is essentially totalitarian in nature, just like Nazism, and Bolshevism too for that matter.

“This statement is not the least controversial. It is a matter of historical and contemporary fact. For example, the behaviour of the ruling clergymen in Iran during their Islamic revolution in the 1980s was near identical to Hitler’s after his acquisition of power in Germany in the 1930s. Their actions were purely political, their goal being total control over the lives of the people of Iran.”

Holly listened intently, her face showing that much of what was being said was completely new to her.

“You see, Holly, Islam has always been based on force, not on reason. Conquest, and the threat of, or actual violence, were and are the preferred methods for spreading and enforcing Islam just as they were for Nazism. Hitler’s attempt at world domination was no different from Islamic Jihad, which aimed, and still aims, at the conquest of the whole world. The wide geographic spread of Islam was achieved solely by military force. Thereafter, conquered people were given a simple choice, become Moslem, pay ransom, or be killed. It is actually happening today, as we speak, in northern Iraq.”

Dinuto reached behind him for a paperback book, Teach Yourself Islam, which he placed in front of Holly.

“Even this simple introduction to Islam, written by an apparently devout Muslim, acknowledges that historical fact. You’ll see it on page 25: ‘Islam, tribute or the sword,’ was the formula. Though the author rather disingenuously tries to pretend that it was not coercive.”

“But doesn’t the Koran say ‘let there be no compulsion in religion?’ My friend told me that.”

“Yes, in Surah 2. But of all Koranic injunctions that is the one which has been most ignored throughout the history of Islam. No dissent is permitted, as was the case under Hitler. All aspects of life were, and are, dictated from the top. Both creeds used, or use, torture, imprisonment and execution to eliminate dissent. Police brutality was and is common to both regimes. No sane person would want to spend time in an Egyptian, Syrian, Saudi Arabian or Iranian prison, any more than they would have wanted to be in the hands of the Gestapo.

“On another front, both Nazism and Islam were, or are, fanatically anti-Semitic. For instance, the influential Grand Mufti of Jerusalem actively supported Nazi Germany during the Second World War and welcomed Hitler’s actions against the Jews. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of the creation of the state of Israel, ever since it came into existence in 1948 its Muslim neighbours have actively sought its destruction, as much from anti-Semitism as any other reason.

“Going on, both Nazism and Islam engaged, or engage, in mass murder. You know about the Jewish Holocaust, and you must also know about the Twin Towers mass murder in New York, the train bombings in Spain, and probably also the London Tube and bus atrocities. But you may not know that long before, Muhammad had begun the process himself, in 627AD, beheading hundreds of Jewish prisoners. When Constantinople fell to the Muslim armies in 1453, the streets literally ran with blood. It was commonplace during the spread of Islam for entire male populations to be put to the sword, while women and children were sold into slavery or concubinage. During World War One, the Muslim Ottoman Turks committed genocide against the Christian Armenians, massacring over a million people. When the Ayatollah Khomeini was imposing Islamic rule on Iran in the 1980s at least ten thousand people were murdered by his minions. In Africa recently, what do you suppose has caused the non-Islamic parts of the Sudan to seek to break away, causing such tragedies as that of Darfur? Muslim murder and oppression.”

Holly was twisting her hair nervously with one hand, seemingly very shocked.

“Mind you,” Dinuto went on; “Islam has never been alone in this sort of brutality: communist regimes the world over have been just as murderous, particularly in the Soviet Union and China. The Tiannanmen Square massacre in Beijing took place only twenty- five years ago.”

Dinuto was silent for a few seconds, staring into Holly’s eyes.

“Turning to another area, look at public obedience,” Dinuto continued. “Absolute obedience is demanded throughout the Muslim world, just as it was under Hitler. There is no difference between flapping your arm and saying ‘Heil Hitler’ all day long and bowing your head in prayer five times a day.

“Public prayer, public fasting, public pilgrimages, all is public in Islam, including public floggings and public executions. Old women are flogged for being found alone with young male relatives; hungry young women are flogged for breaking the Ramadan fast.  The utterly cruel and barbaric punishment of stoning to death for adultery is regarded as perfectly acceptable and just in several Muslim countries.

“I could go on, but I think those examples are sufficient to demonstrate that Islam is, and always has been, fundamentally totalitarian in nature. The word ‘Islam’ means submission. Islam dictates every aspect of life and demands absolute obedience. Likening it to Hitler’s Germany is thus neither exaggeration nor incitement. It is purely factual; an accurate, rational judgement. And I most emphatically do not say these things in order to insult Islam, or Muslims in general, or your friends personally. They are merely facts, painful ones perhaps, but ones which all Muslims must face.”

Holly frowned, her mouth opening and closing.

“I don’t know where to begin….” she stammered eventually.

“Wait,” Dinuto raised his hand again. “I’m not interested in debate, Holly. Go away and read your history books. You asked a question, I answered it.”

“But my friends say Islam is the word of God, of Allah….”

“Is it? How do they know that?”

“Well, they say the Angel Gabriel dictated God’s will to the Prophet Mohammad, and the revelations were recorded in the Koran.”

“I know that is what they were taught to believe as children, Holly, but I’m afraid it cuts no ice with me. I am a philosopher of science, and religion is of no interest to science. I am also an atheist, 100% confident that there is no such being as God. Hence, to me and all others like me, the Koran cannot be the word of God. There is no God. To the scientist as to the philosopher, Holly, God is neither possible nor necessary.”

Holly looked shocked, her mouth falling open.

“G…g…golly,” she stammered; “my family isn’t religious, but I’ve always sort of assumed there must be a God.”

“You and millions of others. But, I’m simply telling you the truth, Holly. If you go on my website, you’ll find a little dialogue I wrote on the existence of God. It explains everything simply and clearly. In essence, it says that there is no valid evidence, and no valid argument, for the existence of God so nobody is justified in believing in Him.”

“But surely one doesn’t believe in God on evidence, one believes on faith.”

“Precisely. But faith is merely the absence of thought. ‘I have faith’ means, literally, ‘I do not think’ which automatically excludes the speaker from any rational discourse. Go and read my dialogue, Holly, then make an appointment to see me – if you still want to.”

Conveniently, Dinuto’s phone rang just then so he was able to wave the slightly bemused girl out of the room as he picked up the receiver.

 

A week or so later, Holly was sitting quietly in front of Dinuto, her demeanour subtly different from their first meeting. It was as though in the intervening days she had grown up by several years.

“I apologize for not making an appointment last time,” Holly began.

“That’s alright, Holly, forget it,” answered Professor Dinuto; “water under the bridge.”

“Thank you. Um, I read your dialogue, several times. It was rather, er, disturbing. I’m not sure I agreed with all of it.”

“Don’t worry, it’ll take time to sink in. Just keep thinking about the ideas. You’ll get there in the end. In the meantime, I’ve done some more reading and thinking of my own. Would you like to hear some more about Islam?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Good. Well, the first thing I did was to read the Koran, or Qu’ran if you prefer.”

“Oh. I’ve never gotten around to that, I’m afraid. What did you think of it?”

“Not a lot. As a philosopher, I found the book totally uninteresting and unenlightening; as a general reader, I found it tedious and unpleasant.”

Holly’s eyes opened.

“Holy cow! I thought it was supposed to be powerful and moving.”

Dinuto shook his head ruefully.

“No doubt that’s what your Moslem friends think. But I can tell you, Holly, it took all my patience and determination to get through the book. It’s just so boring; with its water-torture repetitiveness, total lack of organization or proper reasoning, and its endless, simplistic promises of a very materialistic, worldly paradise for those who obey, and bloodthirsty threats of Hell for those who don’t. I also found the book to be devoid of enlightenment. I didn’t find a single sentence containing a new insight, not one passage to make me nod and say, ‘ah yes, how true.’

“Most of all, though, I disliked the book’s tone. It is dictatorial throughout. Submit! Obey! Or else! And the incessant threats of eternal torment in Hell – lovingly described – certainly did not support claims that the rambling declamations are revelations from an all-knowing, compassionate God. The book seemed to me to be much more like a litany of hate from an enraged and spiteful man.”

Holly twisted her lips.

“Lordy, I can’t think how my friends’d react to that.”

“I can. Even moderate Muslims would probably be offended, while radicals would have conniptions. But it was my honest reaction, Holly. If you take the trouble to read the book yourself you might even come to agree with me. I mean, look at this….”

Dinuto reached behind him and pulled a paperback translation of the Koran off a shelf. He opened the book, leafed through to near the end and read out:

“‘May the hands of Abu-Lahab perish! May he himself perish! Nothing shall his wealth and gains avail him. He shall be burnt in a flaming fire, and his wife, laden with firewood, shall have a rope of fibre round her neck!’ A footnote says Abu Lahab was Mohammed’s uncle and one of his main opponents.”

Dinuto laughed briefly.

“Now, do you seriously want me or anyone else to believe that those are the words of a compassionate, merciful God? That is spite, Holly, spite, pure and simple, if ever I heard it. The words are human, those of a very angry man, there’s nothing God-like about them.”

Holly stared at Dinuto silently for a few moments.

“Well, I can’t really say anything about that,” she said eventually; “but I’m pretty sure my friends would say that God’s words and meaning are often mysterious and that you need a Koranic scholar to interpret them.”

“No doubt they would, but Islamic scholars have had fourteen centuries to put a gloss on passages like that. To an impartial observer like myself such words contribute to an unwavering conviction that the Koran was written and rewritten by a man, or, more likely, men.”

Dinuto sighed.

“Listen, Holly, let me explain something to you before we go any further. You began last time by talking about insults. A few moments ago I said your friends would probably take offense at my reaction to the Koran. Well, there’s a sort of modern dictat – usually under the banner of what has come to be known as ‘political correctness’ – that, as citizens of what is increasingly seen as a multi-cultural society, we are obliged to respect beliefs which newcomers to the USA have brought with them. I dispute this, strongly.”

Dinuto paused for a moment to gather his thoughts.

“You see, Holly, all men and women have an absolute right to freedom, so are free to believe whatever they want. Though perhaps here I should reiterate what I said earlier. Under Islam, you have no such right. You are not free to choose your beliefs.

“But here, in America, if you choose to believe that a random heap of scrap iron, or an empty hole in the ground, are works of art, I would never deny your right to do so. I would merely know that you are ignorant of what art is. In other words, I would respect your right to believe, but not the content of what you believe. It’s a very important distinction.

“To give another example, you can believe in the Sasquatch if you want and I would respect your right to do so. On the other hand, I have an equal right to point out that no-one has ever captured a Bigfoot, or convincingly filmed one, or produced the body of a dead one, nor offered anything other than mountain folk tales to show that Sasquatches might truly exist. You are free to carry on believing in them if you wish, but I am perfectly at liberty to say that your belief is unjustifiable. Depending on my mood, I might even say your belief is ridiculous and, rationally, I would be completely justified in so doing. As I said a moment ago, we should respect a person’s right to choose their beliefs, but we are under no obligation to respect the beliefs themselves.”

Dinuto paused again.

“Which brings us back to the thorny subject of religion. I’ve heard it said that, at the dinner table, it used to be considered bad manners to talk about politics, religion or sex. Happily, the same is not true in philosophy, which is my profession. However, one nonetheless has to be aware that devotion to the religion they were taught in childhood often makes believers resentful of persons who doubt the truth of religious revelations. No matter how hard one appeals to the right of scholars to question or criticize, offense is taken.

“So, here, we have to be aware of a second important distinction: the difference between being offensive and taking offense. If, for example, you make an uncalled-for nasty remark about another person’s appearance, you are being offensive and should be brought to book for it. On the other hand, if, in a spirit of scholarly enquiry, you criticize a religious belief – say by questioning the Roman Catholic dogma that communion wafers are miraculously transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ – and a Catholic overhearing you flies into a rage, then it is he or she who is in the wrong, not you.”

Holly listened carefully but did not react.

“Historically, of course,” Dinuto continued; “matters have often gone much further than the mere taking of offense. Across the centuries, religious leaders and their secular allies have resorted to censorship, terror, and worse, in order to prevent or inhibit philosophers from publishing critical thinking which might undermine religious orthodoxy.

“The famous Scottish philosopher, David Hume, for instance, brave thinker though he was, did not dare publish a critique of ‘natural religion’ during his lifetime – that is, the ‘design’ argument for the existence of God – for fear of the consequences. No doubt he was remembering the fate of other intellectuals, such as the great scientist Galileo who, in Rome, in 1632, was threatened with death by the Inquisition for writing that the earth revolved around the sun, contrary to Roman Catholic teaching at the time. Or the scholar Michael Servetus, who was actually burned alive as a heretic by the Calvinist government of Geneva for questioning the existence of a Holy Trinity.

“In the Muslim world too, during its fourteen-hundred-year history, many who refused to accept the literal truth of the Koran have been imprisoned, tortured and executed for heresy, even well into the 20th century. The last case I know of took place in the Sudan in the 1970s. In recent times, the British author Salman Rushdie had a fatwa of death pronounced on him for appearing to mock the prophet Muhammad in his novel The Satanic Verses.

Holly nodded, her green eyes fixed on Dinuto.

“Let me stress again that I am a philosopher, and the business of philosophy is the impartial pursuit of knowledge. Muslims, however, tend to assume that any examination or criticism of their beliefs is motivated by antagonism. It emphatically is not. When we philosophers examine religious beliefs, our sole interest is in truth, and our sole intention after we find it is to inform.

“Finally, while your friends might find what I have to say hurtful, feelings of hurt could never justify any physical reaction towards me. The use of violence towards those who disagree with you, or the threat of it, is shameful and utterly immoral. It is hard to find words strong enough with which to condemn the actions of the Iranian ayatollahs towards Rushdie, and similar events which have take place elsewhere. They were totally disgraceful and uncivilized.

“I fully understand that the questioning of cherished beliefs can cause shock and horror, but those who are shocked must take care of their feelings in their own hearts. Nothing can justify violence or the threat of it against those who question the truth of one’s beliefs.”

Dinuto stopped talking to stare into Holly’s eyes.

“Okay so far?”

“Sure, absolutely, it’s real interesting.”

Dinuto drew another deep breath.

“Good. Now, after reading the Koran, I went on to a book I’d seen referred to several times but had never read, Ibn Warraq’s Why I am not a Muslim, which title was chosen I believe, to echo Bertrand Russell’s famous essay, ‘Why I am not a Christian’.

“We haven’t got time for a full review, so I’ll just tell you about a few points which struck me as especially interesting about Warraq’s book. But I do strongly recommend that you read the book. It’s a bit repetitive, and rather oddly organized as far as sections and headings are concerned, but I’d say it was an invaluable resource. If it were up to me I’d make it required reading at every high school in the US.”

Dinuto thought for a moment.

“Okay, let’s begin. It is Muslim dogma, a belief not to be criticized or doubted, that the Koran is the work of an all-knowing, all-powerful God, the exact transcript of an eternal book kept in Paradise. It is also Muslim dogma that the entire Koran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel on instructions from God between the years 610 and 632AD (or CE, Common Era, if you prefer) nothing being added or changed later. Another dogma is that the Koran was written entirely in pure, classical Arabic. Finally, it is Muslim dogma that the Koran is literally true: every word of it, from beginning to end is, Muslims maintain, God’s final revelation and the absolute truth, the infallible word of God.”

Dinuto stopped to stare at Holly.

“This is where it gets really intriguing, Holly. Because, you see, none of these beliefs are true.”

Holly nodded, but said nothing.

“Let’s start with one of the more straightforward problems,” Dinuto went on; “the claim that the Koran is written in pure, classical Arabic. This is simply false. Scholars have identified close to four hundred words which are foreign or of foreign origin. The word ‘Qu’ran’ itself is Syriac and was apparently derived from a Christian source. Of course, the presence of foreign words is hardly surprising since the Koran was largely borrowed from other religious sources, mostly Jewish, but also Persian, Samaritan and Christian. Naturally, the borrowings brought foreign words with them. Personally, I don’t think it matters that much. All languages borrow from one another. But it does matter if you are trying to maintain that the Koran was delivered to Muhammad entirely in pure, classical Arabic. It wasn’t.

“Besides, a critical reader has to ask, why Arabic? Few people spoke Arabic at that time, the Arabs were not very numerous in 610AD. If God wanted to make his final revelation known to mankind, why not make it in widely-understood languages like Latin or Greek? And why give the message to a single obscure man in a small town surrounded by a vast desert wasteland, with weeks of travel required to reach more populous places – so the message could be spread? As Warraq comments, if you really wanted to spread a message, you’d announce it in a packed soccer stadium at a World Cup Final with a billion other people watching on television.

“Leaving that aside, another, more serious, linguistic problem with the Koran stems from the way Arabic was written. Arabic script in the seventh century was a bit like shorthand, consisting of abbreviations, not complete script. Also, it only had letters or signs for consonants, there were no signs for short vowels, those were added later. There were however extra signs to indicate certain consonants, a ‘b’ for example, was distinguished from a ‘t’ by a mark like a comma.

“Vis-à-vis the Koran, the difficulty is that, in the early versions, all the extra signs were omitted and, with no signs for vowels, an immense number of different readings or interpretations were possible.

“Imagine nowadays getting a message on your cell with no vowels, just groups of consonants: b-t, b-n-d, etc. Well, is the first word bat, or bet, or bit, or but? Is the second word band, or bend, or bind, or bond? Obviously, one could guess the correct term from the context, but widely differing interpretations of the message would nonetheless be possible, and that’s without considering whether the first consonant is a ‘b’ or a ‘t’ and so on.

“And that’s what happened with the Koran. Although attempts were made early on to create a definitive text, by the ninth century, a hundred and fifty years after Muhammad’s death, there were some fourteen different versions kicking around the Arab world. To this day, there is not one, single, definitive text. Some early variant texts are actually preserved in Cairo, but Western scholars are not allowed to examine them. So, one has to ask, which, if any, is the true Koran, the one delivered to Muhammad? Nobody knows.”

Dinuto paused to smile quizzically at Holly.

“Another big problem with the Koran is that it is often impossible to tell whether God, or Gabriel if you prefer, is talking to Muhammad, or whether Muhammad is talking to the people. The English version is replete with footnotes which attempt to sort this out. In the original versions, however, there were no footnotes, so the scribes who copied out the various Korans added the word ‘say’ to indicate when necessary that it was God who was telling Muhammad what words to utter. The addition of ‘say’ occurs some three hundred and sixty times and, to any objective observer, the additions make clear that the Koran was edited after Muhammad’s death. Otherwise, the book simply did not make sense.

“The bottom line here, of course, is that given its many different versions and extensive editing, the Muslim dogma that the Koran was delivered entire and intact to Muhammad by 632AD, with nothing added later, is simply not true.”

Holly was following closely, a look of total absorption on her face.

“There’s a host of other things about the Koran which make scholars question the Islamic dogma; such as inaccuracies in transcription – for instance, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is confused with Miriam, sister of Moses – plus incorrect quotations from other sources, and actual grammatical errors in the Arabic.

“There are also many passages which are understood to be from the early days of Muhammad’s mission which are contradicted by passages held to be later. The later ones are supposed to supersede the earlier ones. But, the outside observer objects, surely an all-knowing God would get it right first time?

“The evidence suggests rather, that many hands were at work in creating the Koran. Further, when you study the dynastic conflicts and schisms which ensued after the death of Muhammad, it seems plain that much of the book was written later to support rival claims to legitimacy. All this is made clear in Ibn Warraq’s Why I am not a Muslim.

“The notion that the Koran is a revelation, entirely the work of an all-knowing God, is even more seriously undermined by the Koran’s cosmology. Its author, or authors one should say, thought the sky was solid, held up by invisible pillars, as in Surah 31. On the Day of Judgement, the Koran says earlier, in Surah 21, the sky will be rolled up like a piece of parchment. I’m not blaming the authors, telescopes weren’t invented for another thousand years, but such primitive thinking cannot possibly be the work of an all-knowing God, who would be aware that the sky is an optical illusion created by sunlight and the earth’s atmosphere. Besides that, in Surah 88, the earth is referred to as flat. Well, surely, of all beings, God would know He made it round!”

Smiling, Dinuto raised his eyebrows and opened his hands as if to say, ‘I rest my case.’

“I see what you mean by problems,” said Holly quietly; “those are really serious.”

“Yes. And I’ve barely scratched the surface. Let me give you a couple more illustrations of what’s wrong with the Koran. Throughout the book, for example, our life on earth is dismissed as a ‘sport and delusion’ or a ‘gaudy show’ yet everything in this world and in our lives is said to have been created and ordained by Allah, God. What does that say to you? That God’s creation is a gaudy delusion? And who is the speaker, be it Muhammad or Gabriel, to dismiss or ridicule God’s creation?

“More seriously still, one of the main doctrines of the Koran is incredibly unjust. A person’s final destination, Paradise or Hell, is said to have been decided in advance by God. ‘We have predestined for Hell…’ God is reported to have said, and ‘He confounds whom He will and gives guidance to whom He pleases.’ Elsewhere, God deliberately misleads: ‘We make their foul deeds seem fair to them,’ the Koran says in Surah 27; ‘so that they stray from the right path.’ The whole book is full of similar instances of deception and injustice. What sort of god would do that? Certainly not a compassionate, merciful one. No wonder Muslims are such fatalists. Everything, good or bad, is held to be caused by God. Insh Allah, they say; ‘it’s the will of God.’ How, therefore, can a sharia court blame a woman for adultery? If everything that happens is God’s will….”

The pair fell silent for a minute of two, thinking over what had been said.

“It’s a bit off topic, but could I ask about Salman Rushdie and The Satanic Verses?” asked Holly shortly. “I’d really like to understand why Muslims got so steamed up about it.”

“Well, it is hard for non-Muslims to understand,” said Dinuto slowly; “but, to begin with, the fatwa was issued by a religious fanatic, a mass murderer, the Ayatollah Khomeini, who was busy imposing a religious dictatorship on the people of Iran. I think his motives in condemning Rushdie were political, making a loud noise to impress people. I’m sure most ordinary Muslims would not have reacted so violently, nor even reacted at all. And of course, in reality, all the fatwa actually achieved was to give the book immense publicity – which it hardly deserved, it’s not a good novel.”

“Yes, we had a copy kicking around at home. One of his work colleagues gave it to Dad as a joke. I tried to read it once, but it seemed silly to me,” said Holly. “Though I do remember Dad being pretty caustic about the lack of response to the fatwa from the British government, though I was too young to understand what he said. Khomeini should have been hauled before the International Court in the Hague and charged with incitement to murder, Dad said. But it was all years before our time of course.”

“Indeed,” answered Dinuto. “Anyhow, the second reason Islamists got so steamed up, I believe, is because Rushdie is from a Muslim background so was regarded as a heretic. Orthodox Muslims have always regarded heresy as a far worse crime than murder.

“Thirdly, Rushdie was seen to be mocking Muhammad, an act which is very shocking to most Muslims. It’s much the same as mocking Jesus would be to devout Christians. Did you ever see that Monty Python movie Life of Brian? It seemed to be a spoof of the life of Jesus and caused outrage in Christian circles. Religious people do not like their gods and prophets being scoffed at.

“As to the story of the Satanic Verses themselves, it is related by impeccable Muslim sources that in order to curry favour with the pagan Meccans, whom he was trying to convert, Muhammad initially allowed three pagan goddesses to be worshipped alongside Allah. Since he was ridiculing the idea of Jesus being the son of God, and loudly proclaiming that Allah was the only god – in opposition to the pagans’ belief in many – allowing worship of other goddesses was a rather glaring contradiction. Muhammad soon realized his mistake and promptly, most conveniently, received a new revelation rescinding worship of the three goddesses and saying that Satan had put the words into his mouth.

“The problem for Muslims ever since has been the query that, if Satan could dupe Muhammad so easily, what guarantee do we have that Satan didn’t do the same elsewhere? Are there other Satanic Verses in the Koran?

“Orthodox Muslims have always been hypersensitive on such issues. They should be. Regardless whether or not there is such a being as Satan, the possibility of further Satanic interference in the Koran is yet another crack in the shaky foundations of their religion. Rushdie reminded them of their frailties, so they reacted as if he’d spat in their faces.”

Holly sat silently, thinking over what she’d heard. Dinuto waited patiently.

“Sorry to jump around so,” Holly said after a minute; “this is totally irrelevant, I know, but I read that in France they’ve banned the wearing of burkahs in public. Do you think we should do the same, Doctor Dinuto?”

“No, not at all,” answered Dinuto. “That would be an infringement of personal freedom and there have been so many unconstitutional infringements of freedom in our country in the last few decades that more of them is the last thing we want. People can wear whatever they want. It’s nobody’s business but their own.

“What I do think should be done, however, is to make it plain to everyone in the US that owners of private businesses are, and emphatically ought to be, free to refuse admission to fully-veiled people. Burkahs and niqabs have already been used in the commission of crimes. How can you trust people when you can’t see their faces? And how can you tell whether someone isn’t carrying a concealed weapon when all you can see of them is their eyes? Clearly, in such circumstances, it is neither racist nor discriminatory to look out for your own safety and peace of mind, and that of your customers.

“More than that though, in the long term, and at least as significant, I think a policy of refusing admission to fully-veiled people might help to free Muslim women from male dominance and oppression, of which niqabs and burkahs are the most obvious symbols.”

“But don’t a lot of Muslim women see wearing the veil as an act of self-assertion?” asked Holly.

“True. But that’s only because they have been brainwashed and browbeaten all their lives into accepting the subservient role of women in Islam. A far greater act of self-assertion would be refusing to wear any form of head covering, ever – except perhaps a hat in wintertime – or to adopt Western dress entirely.”

Dinuto put his hands down on the desk in front of him.

“Let’s wind this up, Holly. You’ve obviously got a lot to think about. I don’t want to load you up any more. But do read Warraq’s book, there’s a lot in it we haven’t touched on, particularly about the character and actions of Muhammad, whom, according to Islam’s own historians, hardly deserved the adulation which has been heaped upon him ever since.”

Dinuto stood. Holly followed suit.

“Come back and see me when you’ve read Why I am not a Muslim, Holly. I’d be interested in your reactions.”

“Thank you. I will, and I’ll read the Koran too.”

“Good girl. Nothing ever beats first hand experience.”

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77 comments to “The answer to jihadism is intellectual – a conversation”

  • Edward Spalton

    The matter was summed up much more concisely by the evidence of a Professor Jansen at Geert Wilders’ trial. The evidence was so explosive that the judge who had insisted on the prosecution actually tried to nobble the witness by engineering a meeting with him at a private dinner party.

    The panel of judges hearing the case had to be dismissed and a new one appointed.

    Jansen, an eminent Arabist, testified that there was not and could not be such a thing as “Moderate Islam” because the faith was defined for all time by its scriptures – authoritative texts and the Qu’ran with all the features mentioned. There are, of course, many moderate Muslims – that is Muslims who are not fully observant of all the scriptural commandments.

    The Professor was not allowed to testify in person by the second panel of judges but his written evidence was admitted as evidence.

  • AngryTory

    TL;DR

    The only answer to jihadism is a whole bunch of W88s (in the large) or say a Glock-18 (in the small).

    Let’s try that again:

    Carl Dinuto – a fortyish, greying, lean-faced ex-US Marine – looked up, wondering if he had heard right.

    “Come in!” he called out anyway.

    The door opened slowly and a slim young woman entered hesitantly.

    “Dr Dinuto?”

    “Yes.”

    “Sorry to interrupt, Doctor, but can you give me a couple of minutes?”

    “Perhaps. What about?”

    “Um, er, well, I was auditing your lecture on contemporary ethics this morning and was really puzzled by your comments on Islam. You see, I know some Moslem people, one of my best friends at school was Muslim, and she and her family are not at all like the way you said.”

    Dinuto reached under his desk, drew out his Glock-18 in one smooth motion flicking to full auto. Squeezing the trigger, the 9mm parabellum bullets went straight through Holly’s sweater, the semtex belt concealed underneath, and stopped her heart and brain before she should squeeze the trigger concealed in her left first. Dinuto jumped over his desk, wrenched the door open, and emptied the rest of the magazine in to a couple of other muslim-algned hipsters waiting outside their best guess at the blast radius – phone cameras ready to broadcast the latest muslim martyr on the ISIL twitter & youtube channels.

  • JohnB

    I have to agree with E Spalton, that it could have been summed up far quicker than by our indulgent professor.
    My worry about pure secularism and human self-faith is that as it plays out it will also become totalitarian and monstrous.
    After all, eugenics makes secular sense, doesn’t it?

  • Edward Spalton

    I entirely agree with JB about the indulgent Professor’s facile secularism which can lead to godless totalitarianism worse than that of previous ages – as witness the body count of the previous century with its various forms of socialism – whether drawn from a Darwinian or Class-based view of the human condition.

  • James Strong

    This article misses the target.
    While it is important to tell non-muslims the truth about Islam, that will not stop Jihadists.
    Jihadists are not susceptible to reason.
    The way to defeat jihadism and jihadists is with ruthless violence.
    Some may believe that we are not at war with these people. They are naive; the jiadists certainly believe thay are at war with us.

  • I was just discussing ISIS with an American who was formerly Lebanese. Given name (American style) Mohammed. A not very recent immigrant but still with contacts in his previous life. He told me something interesting.

    Isis recruits from the dispossessed. Those with nothing to lose. They also do not want illiterates. You must be computer savvy. Education is a plus.

    He said that the recruits must be from 20 to 30 with 20 to 25 preferred. You are given a wife, a salary and a weapon.

    I found it all very interesting. Now I’ll read the rest of the post.

  • A song for the times – Industrial Disease: http://youtu.be/fUUdax5VFMQ

  • Edward Spalton

    M. Simon ,
    I was fortunate in being able to afford to send our children to private school ( confusingly, called Public School in England) . They are now in their mid thirties.

    One of their contemporaries, a Muslim lad, was recruited by one of the terrorist groups to be a suicide bomber – made the video and everything- around ten years ago. His suicide mission was not a success but he was killed in the Middle East under still unexplained circumstances.

    Having well-to-do parents with a successful business, this young man had every advantage and was not amongst the dispossessed and he certainly had the advantage of one of the best liberal educations available.

  • James Waterton

    There aren’t many Hollys on campuses these days. One curious, open-minded girl wouldn’t politely knock on a professor’s door. There’d be a mob of righteously outraged student activists incapable of thought independent of the green left hive mind, chanting, demanding the professor account for his bigotry whilst shouting him down any time he tried to say anything.

  • My worry about pure secularism and human self-faith is that as it plays out it will also become totalitarian and monstrous.

    …and…

    I entirely agree with JB about the indulgent Professor’s facile secularism which can lead to godless totalitarianism worse than that of previous ages – as witness the body count of the previous century with its various forms of socialism – whether drawn from a Darwinian or Class-based view of the human condition.

    I’ll see your secular Holodomor and Holocaust and raise you an Albegensian Crusade and a Thirty Years War, which as a percentage of the populations were even worse. But it really does not matter a damn whether or not the collectivist ideology behind whatever has driven people to mass derangement is secular or religious, merely that it is collectivism-at-gunpoint. The whole notion of God is infantile and preposterous, but if not attached to a toxic political ideology (Islam now and intrinsically and Christianity for most of its history, even if thankful it is largely harmless now because it is not intrinsically toxic), I could not care less if people use an invisible imaginary friend as a short cut to thinking through their moral theories.

    After all, eugenics makes secular sense, doesn’t it?

    Only if you cannot tell the difference between correlation and causation.

  • Paul Marks

    The basic question is – are the “Islamists” really “misinterpreting” or “perverting” the religion of Mohammed? I suspect the true answer is “no they are not – this is what Mohammed himself taught and practiced”. Evil Christians (and their have been many) have indeed perverted Christianity (many times) – and one can counter them (in the education of the young) by pointing out what Jesus actually taught and how he lived. With Mohammed the situation is fundamentally different – as he taught different things (apart from when he was in his early years – before he got his own army) and lived a very different life. It is no good going on about how Islam has been “perverted” by “radicals” (Sunni or Shia) when it actually has not been perverted by them.

    Now if the above is the case (and I think it is) – then the basic Western approach to Islam (including the millions of Muslims who now live in Western countries – whose children now fill the schools of many cities) is fundamentally mistaken. Hoping that sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll will replace Islam is daft (it really is daft – most people do indeed have their wild period, but then they want actual beliefs and if no other beliefs are on offer, then they turn back to Islam).

    Do Westerners actually believe in the basic principles (religious or secular) of our civilisation? If most of us do not (or if cultural decay has gone so far as to mean most people do not even know what these principles are) then how can we convert young Muslims to these principles? The simple answer is “we can not” – and Islam (of the form that Mohammed preached and practiced – not the clan elder form that most first generation immigrants have, it is actually Muslims born in the West who are more likely to be “radicalised” as they have no clan or tribal structure) will expand to fill the void.

    For the West to survive Islam we must rediscover our own principles – only then can we have any chance of spreading them.

    I will not be clicking the “notify me of follow-up comments” box – as I do not want to read miss-the-point “answers” about “Muslims go down the pub” or “we have big guns and can shoot them if they cause trouble”.

  • Classical written Hebrew lacks vowels too. They were a later addition. Supposedly the oral tradition has kept alive the original. Which is possible. But the meanings of some words have been lost. This is especially true of plant references.

  • JohnB

    Hi Perry,
    There are different points here.
    Nowhere did Jesus tell his people to go slaughter. The Albegensian Crusade and anything in that line, be it any other crusade, protestant vs catholic Ireland, burning witches, is man doing things in his own strength and wisdom, often political, rather than anything the Lord Jesus said, suggested, or causes to happen.

    I agree with your thoughts on collectivist ideology. The mob run mad is the most awful human manifestation.

    To simply dismiss God as “an imaginary friend” is somewhat precipitate. Belief that there is no God actually requires a greater leap of faith than the belief that there is:

    The Apparent Contradiction of Randomness
     
    If we think of time/space and all the events and matter in it as being without direction or design, ie, it all happened by chance – a random event in a random universe – (“it just happened”), then there are two problems.
    The first is that if it is the case that any order that exists, such as life, occurred spontaneously in randomness (“it just happened”), then one is actually accepting that it is not order but simply another random set of events that have occurred by chance, and because we live in this fleeting breath of time, we perceive the sequence of events as order. When in fact, according to this thinking, they are part of the pure randomness of eternity.
    However. Then the second problem is encountered. Pure chance, randomness as we perceive it, tends to dissipation. Which ultimately leads to evenness throughout.
    A drop of ink in a glass of water tends to dissipate throughout the water. Ink dispersed in a glass of water does not randomly come together as a drop of ink. Or even several drops of ink.
    Pure randomness would tend to evenness as all its apparent parts, as all of it, merged with every other part. It would therefore become one unified existence in which there were no differences.
    Pure randomness would lead to absolute nothingness as everything would blend with everything else until there was no difference, no potential.
    All that we see, experience, know, touch and feel, including our perception of those happenings, is based on difference, potential, separation. All structure in every realm is based on difference such as positive and negative, electrons and protons, attraction, rejection. And all difference implies order because without order, if everything was purely random, there would be complete evenness, which would, in our experience at least, be nothing.
    Everything would have  subsumed into everything else. In fact that is not really correct because it would not have occurred in the first place.
    Random events tend to dispersion. And dispersion tends to complete evenness – stasis. Total silent nothing.

    Is not eugenics is a natural result of simply pursuing the best for people in a purely secular understanding as regards babies?

  • Edward Spalton
    October 6, 2014 at 9:42 am

    It may be more complicated than you think. The inheritance laws may have left him feeling dispossessed. Or he may have committed some infraction which required martyrdom for expiation.

    In any case my friend Mohammed did not give a long dissertation. He was between customers – a quiet tome for his shop.

  • Ljh

    Robert Spencer points out that Islam is in fundamental conflict with western liberalism(in the English not American sense) on the issues of freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and equality before the law. Any fightback against the intrusions of Islam must begin there, starting in preschool, explicitly explaining why these are good things. Although I am an atheist, I recognise the JudeoChristian values deriving from the principles of loving one’s neighbour which is inclusive compassion, not restricted to those who share one’s worldview and treating other people in a way in which one wishes to be treated oneself: unlike Islam. A further value counter to Islam is the high status of art as a space for experimentation and debate, an enrichment of human experience through the senses and communication across ages between people without reference to the supernatural. Unless one is explicit about what is valuable, multiculturalism, political correctness and sheer wilful blindness will allow the west to be drowned by Islamic totalitarianism.

  • John B,

    The first is that if it is the case that any order that exists, such as life, occurred spontaneously in randomness (“it just happened”), then one is actually accepting that it is not order but simply another random set of events that have occurred by chance, and because we live in this fleeting breath of time, we perceive the sequence of events as order. When in fact, according to this thinking, they are part of the pure randomness of eternity.

    A study of thermodynamics would help. Energy flows lead to ordering. And Chemistry – some combinations are preferred over others. And just to be clear – the ordering energy flows produce are just eddies in the great increase of disorder.

    Now personally I have all the classic symptoms of “God”. I hear voices. But are they God? Or just my mild schizophrenia? Well I do get useful direction from the voices. But they may be inherent in the biocomputer (neural network) that is tolerably well trained.

    The trouble with “God” is that as we learn more “He” has less and less scope. So my take is that “God” is an explanation where ignorance can find none. And that has been a trouble religion has had through the ages. Natural explanations dispossess “God”.

    A short lesson in thermo:

    1. You can’t win
    2. You can’t break even
    3. You can’t quit the game

    Those are the three main laws of thermo.

  • M. Simon pretty much preempted the general thrust of what I would have replied to John B, so… what he said… however the only voices I hear in my head are when I am communing with the Flying Spaghetti Monster (PBUHNA) whilst I am having a nice plate of carbonara.

  • James Strong

    What a remarkable closing sentence from Paul Marks in his comment timed at 10.20am.
    It must be great to be so wise and well-informed that you already know the value of others’ comments and don’t need to read them.
    Unfortunately, because Mr. Marks won’t be clicking the ‘notify me of follow-up comments’ button, he might not learn of my admiration and envy. (Unless he already knows without needing to read about it.)

  • […] Samizdata. Which also suggests Why I Am Not A […]

  • PeterT

    Realistically we will not be able to tell Muslims how they can combine their faith with peaceful co-existence with non-muslims. That is up to them. I fully expect human beings of all stripes to be capable of whatever level of double think is required. What would help is if we make clear to the Muslim population what standards of behaviour are expected in the West and also be unequivocal in our pride of belonging to Western civilisation. To be fair a significant chunk of our non-muslim population could do with education in these matters also. That is probably the biggest part of the problem.

  • Edward Spalton

    I think the problem is that, in the West, we have a leadership class which essentially believes in nothing but its own entitlement to office. As Dostoevsky wrote in the Brothers Karamazov “Without God and immortal life, everything is permitted. Now one can do anything…..Everything is permitted to the intelligent man”. It is the Intelligentsia which set the tumbrils rolling and deceived themselves with the “ism” ideologies which turned out massively more murderous than anything before.

    Because they believe in nothing, they cannot conceive of anyone who really does, so they make up fantasies such as “Islam means peace” to put off facing up to what they have done to us by massive immigration of a highly fertile population of believers whilst promoting a culture of extinction and death in their own populations through contraception and abortion on a massive scale. In several European countries this is now matched by the killing of the inconvenient elederly and others under the guise of euthanasia.

    I haven’t got the reference handy but during the Yugoslav war an American professor contrasted the “primitive” Serbs, fighting for hearth and home with the “rational” Americans conducting the high technology air bombardment – a development which, he believed (and hoped), would lead to what he called “a post human society”!

    Putting it simply, a man who believes in something will beat a man who believes in nothing – and our leaders mostly believe in nothing.

  • Vinegar Joe

    The Great Santini had the answer to jihadism.

    From his funeral eulogy:

    Let me do it in his voice: “We didn’t even have a map of Korea. Not zip. We just headed toward the sound of artillery firing along the Naktong River. They told us to keep the North Koreans on their side of the Naktong. Air power hadn’t been a factor until we got there that day. I radioed to Bill Lundin I was his wingman. ‘There they are. Let’s go get’em.’ So we did.”

    I was interviewing Dad so I asked, “how do you know you got them?”

    “Easy,” The Great Santini said. “They were running – it’s a good sign when you see the enemy running.”

    There was another good sign.

    “What was that, Dad?”

    “They were on fire.”

    http://www.skygod.com/quotes/greatsantini.html

  • JohnB

    M.Simon – you evidently believe in something or you wouldn’t bother, would you?

  • I haven’t got the reference handy but during the Yugoslav war an American professor contrasted the “primitive” Serbs, fighting for hearth and home with the “rational” Americans conducting the high technology air bombardment – a development which, he believed (and hoped), would lead to what he called “a post human society”!

    And the Serbs lost. They lost against the Americans, and they lost against the Croats.

    Putting it simply, a man who believes in something will beat a man who believes in nothing – and our leaders mostly believe in nothing.

    But the world is not simple. As an Israeli officer I know is fond of saying “Generally it is the guy in the tank with an air force overhead who wins”.

  • JohnB, I believe in all sorts of things, as do a great many people thought to not believe in anything. Contrary to what Paul Marks thinks, sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll are just happy consequences of autonomy and severalty. One should not mistake the salary for the job 😉

  • Alastair

    John B, you essentially ask, in a somewhat lengthy way of which Dr Dinuto would be proud, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” This is a logically unanswerable question since any answer you give is a part of the something you are seeking to explain. Any God must have low entropy too, so his putative existence does not explain the order of the universe.

    Existence is a brute fact. All we can hope to do is to use our limited senses and limited reason to try to understand it and the evidence for God is very limited. And the evidence that religion is a human, cultural construct very strong (many examples provided in the case of Islam in the original post).

    Paul Marks is absolutely right though that if the West forgets it’s principles it will fall. Many of those principles did become wrapped up in Christian teaching, which is one of the reasons that the Christian meme, and it’s host society, thrived. However it is a non-sequitor to posit that because many of the rules of life of “Christian” teaching, often based on classical, especially stoic, thinking, have proved adaptive that it’s metaphysics must also be true.

  • JohnB
    October 6, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    M.Simon – you evidently believe in something or you wouldn’t bother, would you?

    Well you got me there. But my faith is irrational. So I wouldn’t try to sell it to anyone else. After all you may be hearing different voices in your head. And who am I to dispute their import? But just because you hear voices I wouldn’t follow you. I’d try to do an evidence check. After all your neural network might be better trained than mine. But it could also be producing rubbish. Or you could be lying. As I might be.

    In any case I do have my personal God. But I don’t trust yours. The question is: do my designs work? You can test them:

    http://spacetimepro.blogspot.com/

    No God required. Just proper test instruments. And that is the way to deal with all the Gods. Test all things.

  • And just to keep on topic. I found my God through liberal application of S,D,&RR.

    Or as some one who once sent me an e-mail saying he liked my writing said:

    I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me. – Hunter S. Thompson

    I don’t believe in one true path or one true God. Hail Ra. The bringer of life through non-equilibrium thermodynamics and chemistry. Hopefully that is sufficiently pious. Although Ra doesn’t have near the following he once had. Pity.

  • Kevin B

    The Golden rule, (do unto others…), is a major tenet of the majority of religious and philosophical belief systems, including Islam. The problem is that in any religion, (and I include philosophical beliefs in that word), the definiton of ‘others’ becomes more and more restricted as time goes on. Currently in Islam it seems to be restricted to ‘those who believe in exactly the same subset of Islamic lore as I do”.

    Some would argue that Mohamed’s initial statement of the rule – “Wish for your brother, what you wish for yourself” – already comes with a built in restriction and his behaviour at the time seemed to validate that position.

    Whatever, the philosophical belief systems of the world are in need of a vigorous restatement of the Rule, with especial emphasis on the concept of ‘others’. Though whether a prophet is necessary or not I’m not sure.

    (Of course the libertarians here can feel a bit smug as their entire world view is based on the Golden Rule. Pity it’s never stuck though.)

  • PersonFromPorlock

    And then the author has to go and blow the whole thing by having the professor say “Good girl” as Holly’s leaving. You know that’s going to be the focus of the critical response, if there is any. ;^)

    Seriously? The answer to Islam may be intellectual, but the answer to jihadism is force. If they won’t stop and they won’t leave people alone, then they will have to be stopped.

  • bloke in spain

    JohnB’s insistence on imposed order can be refuted by his own illustration of the drop of ink in a glass of water.
    If you look at a real drop of ink in a real glass of water you will see the following happen:
    The water evaporates until the drop of ink is all that remains. The process continues until the pigment coloured the ink precipitates or crystallise out of solution, so regaining the state before the ink was manufactured. If suitable arrangements have been made, the water & ink solvents can be captured & the water returned to the glass, the solvents returned to the ink pigment. We return to a drop of ink & a glass of water.
    Throughout this process there will be an increase of entropy. The same entropy increase manufactured the ink & poured the water in the glass, made the glass, caused the rain, put the water in the reservoir.

    If you wish to say your god imposes entropy, fair enough. The universe is entropy.

  • That’s not much of a dialogue, really. It’s more like Plato’s “dialogues” where the other side’s lines quickly come down to “Yes, Socrates.” I would like a little more dramatic tension.

  • JohnW

    Nick Dykes?

  • TheCarl

    And how can you tell whether someone isn’t carrying a concealed weapon when all you can see of them is their eyes?

    I stopped reading here. How peculiar that the author believes in freedom of thought and expression, but not the right to bear arms for defense.

  • AndrewZ

    It says a great deal about the current state of our society that such a civil discussion seems hopelessly unrealistic. In reality the professor would be visited by a leftist mob intent on forcing him off the campus, a Muslim zealot intent on beheading him, or the police coming to arrest him for a hate crime.

  • CaptDMO

    *sheesh*
    SEE: Oleanna, David Mamet
    also see: The Secret Knowledge, David Mamet.

    Mindful that SOME “principals” must be taught over and over, to each successive “grade”, or generation, it would be nice to believe that Children’s stories would supplant institutions of “advanced” education on the basics.

  • Laird

    Alastair nailed it precisely.

    JohnB’s argument about “the apparent contradiction of randomness” betrays a very human failure to fully comprehend what “infinity” really means. (That failure is shared by those who argue for Creationism over natural selection, whose human sense of time scales prevents them from emotionally grasping just how long hundreds of millions, or even billions, of years really is.) Given infinite time, everything which is possible, however remote the likelihood, must occur. This includes the eventual (leaving aside the evaporation, crystallization and precipitation noted by BIS) recombination of the ink molecules in that glass of water into a single drop of ink; given sufficient time, that will happen as an effect of pure randomness. It also includes the organization of a universe in which humans can exist and comprehend their own existence. The fact that we’re here discussing this is merely an illustration of the anthropic principle.

    The postulation of a god to explain the existence of the universe is not a sufficient answer; it merely ducks the issue by creating the second-order question of why that god exists. To argue that “he always has” is no better answer than the argument that the universe, in some form, has always existed. Sooner or later you have to come to a starting point; it can’t be turtles all the way down.

    Whether the universe as we perceive it was created by a god or in the Big Bang is, to me, a distinction without a difference. Both answers are equally meaningless in any sense that matters to humans. Thus I have no problem with claiming the existence of a god in Spinoza’s “first mover” sense; the specific name you choose to give to that “first mover” is irrelevant. Where I have a problem is the leap which the people making that argument generally take to the anthropomorphic god of most religions. That is an entirely non-rational position which is in no way supported by the “first mover” argument, even if that is accepted as true.

  • Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

    To Angry Tory;
    Nice, you ignorant stupid git. First you *admit* you didn’t bother to read the article. Second, you cannot even get out of your fantasy computer first person shooter long enough to visit the real world.

    One: There is no Glock 18 in the real world. It only exists in a computer game.
    Second: No Glock in the real world can fire full auto. Even the fantasy steamworld version only does 3 round bursts.

    Go back to your dreaming.

  • Heh, I seem to recall that real-world Glocks can fairly easily be hacked into full-automatic… But other than that, yes, Angry Tory is obviously far too angry to remain rational.

  • Mr Ed

    Given infinite time, everything which is possible, however remote the likelihood, must occur.

    But there is not infinite time. And the tendency towards entropy would rob the Universe of opportunities for events, and whilst everything might be possible, that something is possible does not mean that it must happen.

    When it comes to mammalian evolution, I have noticed a tendency of biologists to brush away the ‘Austrian circle’ issue. That when there is a chromosome jump in speciation, this has to pass through every generation and be viable and then reproduce. Evolutionary timescales are not infinite, and there is at present, plenty of work to be done to explain how speciation has occurred down the aeons of time. Some sense of perspective might be gained from counting the coccolithophores in the White Cliffs of Dover.

  • Tarrou

    “The way to defeat jihadism and jihadists is with ruthless violence.”

    While this is necessary, it is not sufficient. There are more powerful things than guns, and ideas and social opprobrium are two of those things. Believe me when I say you can’t get more violently opposed to jihadis than I am. But there are many fronts this war must be fought on. We must fight them in the media, in our circle of friends, in society at large, in politics and charity and science and on the field of the battles they will not fight.

    When it becomes as socially unacceptable to be a muslim as to be a pedophile, when world leaders will not sit at a table with any self-styled “kings”, “mullahs” or “caliphs”, when all media traditional and social is one chorus of mockery and derision for the seventh-century barbarians and their insane proclamations, and when that derision is backed with the full military force of the western world, then jihadism will fall.

    At the moment, the jihadis aren’t even on the board. They are pawns used by anti-western forces in the west to justify their oikophobia. No one cares if they kill each other for all eternity. When we have the political will to hold their countries responsible for the acts of their citizens, when we seal their borders, deny their airspace and let them enjoy the fruits of the perfect ulema, we will win.

    Jihadism is ultimately not about muslims, because it is funded, propagandized and ideologically underpinned by non-muslim westerners. Left to themselves, they rot.

  • Nicholas (Natural Genius) Gray

    Alastair’
    Why must GOD be subject to entropy? A God outside of our universe would not be subject to these rules.
    Laird, if we live in a multiverse where every variant of a universe exists somewhere, then you are forced to admit that one such universe could evolve into a lifeform able to travel to, and through, other universes. Thus God would spontaneously arise from Chaos, just like ordered life does from non-ordered matter here on Earth. So God is not a created being, but a cosmic life form, able to interfere if it feels like it, for its’ own obscure reasons. I often feed birds, for no other reason than empathy. (So prayer might be worth a go for that reason alone.)

  • long-lost cousin

    Dyspeptic Curmudgeon:

    One: There is no Glock 18 in the real world. It only exists in a computer game.
    Second: No Glock in the real world can fire full auto. Even the fantasy steamworld version only does 3 round bursts.

    Nice try. I’ve been present for a PD T&E session with one.

    We ended up not buying it, because nobody could tell us what it offered other than increased ammo costs and the chance for BATFE to crawl up our armorer’s ass on a regular basis.

  • Laird

    N(NG)G, of course a “god” such as you describe it could spontaneously evolve in an infinite multiverse. But that doesn’t solve your problem, since by definition that “god” would not have created it; the universe in which it evolved would necessarily pre-exist it. And if that “god” were to somehow “create” a different universe that the one in which it had evolved, that still doesn’t solve your problem, it just pushes it out one more level. Congratulations, you’ve just added one more turtle to the stack.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    I read the whole thing.

    Halfway through, I seriously thought: If you have to resort to such a long winded explanation, full of justifications and CYA clauses, you have already lost.

    Holly is a smart and patient girl with an open mind ready to accept new ideas. How many people fit into that category?

    The war of ideas is not won with the intelligentsia, though they are certainly critical. It is won with the masses, through propagation, education, religious doctrine, or demographics.

    @Tarrou,

    Why isn’t violence the answer? I vaguely remember it being quite effective in WW2, especially with regards to Japanese military imperialists and that other creed in Europe. Granted, they still have their adherents today, but they are ostracised and marginalised, in turn a post-war propaganda effect, AFTER the violence had already been administered.

    You can’t ostracise or marginalise a majority or even a significant minority. You gotta whittle their numbers down first.

  • Laird

    Dyspeptic Curmudgeon: These folks seem to think that a Glock 18 (and 18C) exists. And that it’s available in fully automatic (to LEOs and governments only, of course).

  • Nicholas (Natural Genius) Gray

    Laird, your argument is based on the belief that time is the same outside of our system of space and time (spacetime). This talk of chaos pre-existing God is WRONG! Chaos would manifest all options instantly, with no reason for a time delay, so as soon as chaos appears, so would God! (From our point of view).

  • James Waterton

    TWB, that’s rather what I was getting at above. This tale and its accompanying message is unconvincing because Holly really does not exist in any meaningful number in the real world.

    Now, back to the atheist vs religionist debate.

  • James Waterton

    TWG, even

  • Alastair

    N(NG)G I’m afraid I don’t follow your last comment at all, but returning to your previous one “entropy” is not a law it’s just a description of a state. So saying god is low entropy just means saying he is highly ordered. The law I suspect you are suggesting god may not be subject to is the second law of thermodynamics: that the entropy of an isolated system can never decrease. I can conceive that if a god existed then he might not be subject to the second law but that is irrelevant to John B’s argument which was that the highly ordered universe we see couldn’t arise from randomness. Hence by his definition God must be highly ordered. It would also seem to me that a god of high entropy would not be much of a God. Omniscience, omnipresence, omni-whatever sound pretty low entropy characteristics to me. Laird has pointed that given infinite time bubbles of lower entropy could arise in a high entropy universe. This still doesn’t answer the question as to where that random universe came from which remains logically unanswerable – a brute fact.

  • AngryTory

    Mindful that SOME “principals” must be taught over and over

    Yeah. Like how to spell “principle”. State school?

    One: There is no Glock 18 in the real world. It only exists in a computer game.
    Second: No Glock in the real world can fire full auto

    Goto 1987 on http://us.glock.com/heritage/timeline. Or here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zw-o3p4ZMtE to warch a non-existing gun burp off 300 rounds (sadly not into a jihadist or jihad-facilitator such as yourself)

    There are more powerful things than guns, and ideas and social opprobrium are two of those things

    Hell yeah. Nukes. Ok, thermobarics, but mostly nukes. I’m happy to go up against your efforts with “ideas” and “opprobrium” with a few regiments of well-trained internal security troops yeah with their Glock 18s, plus say a regiment of Minutemen, couple of squadrons of Rafales, and say two Ohio class boats – just let me write the rules of engagement. Hint: judges, juries, warrants, etc, not required. Heh, let’s have say half the GCHQ (so I can spy on Americans) something to deliver Hellfires to Geolocated IPs…

    Jihadism is ultimately not about muslims, because it is funded, propagandized and ideologically underpinned by non-muslim westerners. Left to themselves, they rot.

    Naa. Mostly ideologically underpinned and funded and propagandised by Saudis. Left alone, they, I-the-fuck-dunno fly planes into buildings, bomb trains, car bomb kindergartens etc. One MIRVed D5 could make a real difference if you fired it at the right places.

  • Tarrou

    “Why isn’t violence the answer?”

    @The Wobbly Guy

    Please reread what I wrote. I never said what you claim I said. Violence is necessary for combating the jihadis. It is not sufficient, on its own, to defeat them. And I say this with the hard-won experience of a thrice-deployed infantryman. A lot of people talking a lot of smack about what should be done over there. How many have spent years of their lives actually kicking doors on the pointy end of the stick? You bring up WW2, you do know there was more to that war than just military operations, right? There was propaganda, education, rationing, the mobilization of many entire nations to the war effort. It wasn’t won by handing Eisenhower a few hundred thousand men and telling them “good luck!”.

  • Barry Sheridan

    As always here some interesting comments and arguments.

    I agree with those who advance the thought that the only way, at least initially, to deal with radical blood-thirsty Jihadi’s is to ensure they meet the end they deserve. An early and violent death. This is however a limited objective in that it cannot overcome the tendency of some Moslems in our midst and elsewhere to hold our social concepts, economic methods and political systems in contempt. This challenge to our way of life must be met with principled belief, firmness and if necessary clear sighted deliberate action. Unfortunately at the moment the dominant view amongst many of those with their hands on the reins of power and influence in our country is centred on self flagellation to the point of the ridiculous. This negativity is tainted still further by its overt racial overtones, the targets primarily being white people in general, and white men in particular. This is a calumny of extraordinary proportions, for it has been white men who have contributed the most towards advancing the ideas and technologies that now offer a better life for the world’s peoples. Despite the world’s expanding population we have the potential to do more than just feed and clothe, that we may not achieve this end is far from being the responsibility of just white men. Yes, mankind’s journey to this point has not been without its horrors, including many perpetrated by white peoples, all of humanity operates within an unchanging spectrum of behaviours that ranges from base vileness to compassionate tenderness. There simply is no justifiable belief in the notion that one sex or race or culture or religion somehow offers superior status. What can be said is that we have the potential to evolve by reasoning and must go on doing so. Blindly following some ugly ideas is not based on thought, but instead on the slavish obedience to what is ugly in our souls. However it manifest itself it must be defeated by whatever methods are necessary. Today radical Islam. Tomorrow something else.

  • AngryTory

    And I say this with the hard-won experience of a thrice-deployed infantryman.

    sorry, but infantry wasn’t the apex of violence in 1945 and sure isn’t now. I respect your service, but the idea that the infantry are anything other than glorified police these days is just crazy.

    There was propaganda, education, rationing, the mobilization of many entire nations to the war effort. It wasn’t won by handing Eisenhower a few hundred thousand men and telling them “good luck!”.

    It was won by RAF Bomber Command and the Mighty Eighth indiscriminate “area bombing” of every major Germany city, and the XXIst Bomber Command doing the same to Japan then finishing off with nukes.

    Until Mosul looks like Dresden, Qaraqosh looks like Coventry, Fallujah looks like Berlin, Damascus like Hiroshima and Tehran like Nagasaki, the West hasn’t even begun to fight.

  • Edward Spalton

    Angry Tory,

    The trouble is that the operations you suggest would have to be carried out with a home population including
    around 10 per cent (and rising) of co-religionists of the people against whom they were directed.

    Jihad is something like those underground fires that occur in coal measures – always alive and prone to break out and flare up whenever local conditions favour it – as happened with the Mahdi in the Sudan back in the 19th century and all over the place today. The Muslims sense that the Western countries are morally,spiritually, militarily and financially on the back foot – suffering with a huge loss of nerve, following two generations of indoctrination in PC multi-culti nonsense. Indeed the Western political classes have welcomed Islam because of its trans-national solvent effect on national cohesion. If you look at the evidence given to the House of Lords immigration committee, you will see that Peter Sutherland (former EU Commissioner, former head of WTO, grand Goldman Sach panjandrum and UN Migration authority) was quite frank about that. “Homogenous nations” are inimical to the order they wish for the world.

    Actually the British Empire was pretty good at containing these sorts of uprisings without the massive measures you suggest. One of them, first tried in Iraq in the 1920s was “Air Policing”. Rebel villages would be leafleted tom tell people to leave and then bombed. After one or two experiences of this, the head man would make his peace with the authorities until the next time. I don’t think it would work now because the inhabitants know that there is no political will by the West to stay and occupy oermanently – even if it were strategically and tactically attainable.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    You bring up WW2, you do know there was more to that war than just military operations, right? There was propaganda, education, rationing, the mobilization of many entire nations to the war effort. It wasn’t won by handing Eisenhower a few hundred thousand men and telling them “good luck!”.

    Truer words never said.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Barry Sheridan
    October 7, 2014 at 10:57 am

    There simply is no justifiable belief in the notion that one… religion somehow offers superior status.

    Religions which hold that man can be made perfect impose ‘perfectifying’ rules of behavior that make change, and so progress, impossible.

    I think a case can be made that Christianity’s emphasis on mans’ imperfect nature has kept Western culture from assuming at any point that it had achieved perfection, or that such perfection is even achievable. Certainly the idea that the ultimate ancestors, Adam and Eve, made the ultimate mistake discourages the ancestor worship (or ‘respect for authority’ – same thing) that is such a dead hand in so many cultures. That has the benefit of making the idea of ‘progress’ perpetually possible.

  • I agree with PersonFromPorlock. Indeed many aspects of Christianity lie at the very heart of Western culture, provided you accept that the Old Testament is best shuffled off into one corner and ignored as a tribal appendix, and just concentrate on the New Testament, which by and large Christianity very wisely does.

  • Laird

    I don’t agree with PersonFromPorlock’s comment, or perhaps I just don’t understand it. In one sentence he says that “perfectifying” rules make progress impossible, but then he lauds “Christianity’s emphasis on man’s imperfect nature” which is the very source of such “perfectifying” rules. The two concepts seem antithetical. And I absolutely reject the notion that Adam and Eve made the “ultimate mistake”. Searching for knowledge is what makes us human and separates us from the beasts. That search can never be a “mistake”, and I would certainly want nothing to do with any “god” which deemed it such. This fundamental flaw (and its bastard offspring, the concept of “original sin”) is part of why I reject Christianity.

    Any religion which seeks to “perfect” man is necessarily prone to imposing rules to achieve that desired state of perfection. And of course both the definition of perfection and the rules for its attainment are entirely fallible, human constructs. Thus any such religion is likely, sooner or later, to degenerate into some form of tyranny, be it of clerics or kings. Only a religion which accepts man as he is, warts and all, can avoid that trap. Unfortunately there are very few such, probably because they don’t pander to the desire of some to rule and of others to be ruled.

    I do agree with Perry that many aspects of Christianity lie at the very heart of Western culture. By and large that is a good thing, or at least it is today. It wasn’t always so, but time seems to have knocked off many of Christianity’s sharper edges. Perhaps it will eventually do the same for Islam, too, if we survive that long.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Laird, a ‘perfectifying’ rule is one that leaves no room for other behavior: it requires the ideal form of dress, or adherence to the ideal diet, or to the ideal form of law…. Certainly, various Christians have tried to impose such rules on their fellows – Cromwell got pretty far into the details, for instance – but the knowledge that Protectors and even Popes are inherently imperfect and may be wrong about things allows dissention to eventually arise. So, progress.

    As for Adam and Eve, the point is not whether their error seems like a virtue to you, but how it appeared to 2000 years of Christians. And the universal holding there is that they blew it, big time.

  • Laird

    PFP, thanks for the clarifying definition (I can’t find a definition of it anywhere). It’s a curious word which, to my mind, doesn’t seem to well fit that definition, but I’ll take your word for it.

    As to what 2000 years of Christians think, as I said that’s a part of why I reject Christianity. To me, the serpent is the hero of that story.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Laird, I made the word up. If ‘clarifying’ clarifies, then ‘perfectifying’ perfects.

    Of course, I have no shame. ;^)

  • NickM

    Paul is correct in the sense that if “we” (whatever that means) don’t believe in anything “we” shall fail. But who is “we”? Most people, most of the time, couldn’t give a toss about the eternal verities* but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t occur to us. I don’t need an external moral crutch. I believe in things without one and that scares some of the religious very badly. The simple fact that people can be good and decent without God. That is the heresy that scares them more than anything.

    *and a good thing too. Nothing would ever work in the land of the Philosopher-Kings.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Alastair, physicists speak of time beginning at the Big Bang. Anything outside that event is not something science can talk about. We can speculate, but we can’t know.

  • NickM

    The answer to Jihadism is either not to take the dementedly bearded fuckers seriously…

    That is my preferred option. Mostof it is ridiculous anyway.

    Or…

    To turn the tables on them in the stakes of ultra-violence. They behead cabbies not just because they are depraved gits (though they are) but to astonish with their capacity for violence. We can trump an orange jump-suit and a blade with stuff. By stuff I mean napalm and thermobarics.

    By which I mean we either shit or get off the pot.

    8 Tornadoes. Give me fucking strength.

    And if they don’t “straighten-up and fly right” then it is “Operation Meccatrate”.

  • Rich Rostrom

    There is a great deal of value in this “dialogue”, but also a fair amount of bollocks. The bollocks is dangerous because it undermines the credibility of the good stuff.

    To begin with, one doesn’t refute religious belief by citing the lack of evidence perceptible to you. I have no evidence of God, but millions, perhaps billions of people think they do. Many of these people are very intelligent and knowledgeable. I have a friend who is a PhD astronomer with an international reputation. He has devoted his life to science ad maiorem Dei gloriam: he is a Jesuit.

    If one starts out by saying “anyone who thinks there is a God is a deluded fool”, one writes off a lot of the potential audience. One is also staking the whole argument on that point: if there is no God, the details of the Koran become irrelevant. Whereas a hearer who rejects atheism sees the locutor as mistaken at the start, and all the very cogent textual criticism of the Koran becomes irrelevant.

    Second is the equation of Islam and Nazism.

    At the heart of Nazism was the proposition that traditional ideas of right and wrong were meaningless. Conquest and plunder by the “master race” was justified because it was possible – might literally made right. (IMO, that’s why Nazism provokes visceral repulsion.) Nazism urges war purely for loot. And the “master race” was a closed circle: all racial inferiors were to be exterminated or enslaved.

    Islam calls for war against “infidels” – but for the purpose of spreading Islam and thereby creating a just and virtuous society. And anyone can become a Moslem and participate as an equal. Yes, there is rhetoric about the plunder taken in jihad; there is also explicit reference to the forbearance given to anyone who becomes a Moslem, and even to non-Moslems who submit politically.

    And yes, that forbearance was real; dhimmi status was neither safe nor comfortable, but it was very different from the status of all non-Christians in medieval Europe: conversion or death. (Save a very few Jews.) This is demonstrated by the presence, down to the present, of substantial Christian populations in some Moslem countries since the 700s.

    In some respects, Moslem states were more tolerant of religious difference than Christian states were. The Orthodox Christians of the Balkans did not welcome “liberation” by the Catholic Habsburgs, who meddled with their churches: “Better the turban of the Turk than the tiara of the Pope!”

    So that calls into question the assertion that Moslems completely ignore the “no compulsion in religion” stricture.

    None of this is meant as a general defense of Islam. The textual criticisms of the Koran given in the dialogue are devastating. (The author seems familiar with the work of Christoph Luxenberg; IIRC Luxenberg further argues that Mohammed never existed, and that Islam and the Koran were formulated after the Arab conquests of 630-700, as a political tool for the Caliphs.)

    Another powerful line of attack is the examination of Islam’s rigid predestinarianism and its consequences.

    But the power of these arguments is gravely undermined when they are mixed with claims that simply don’t hold up.

    BTW, there are other criticisms of Islam which IMO are also very powerful but are left out. For instance, Mohammed’s bizarre personal life (consummated marriage to a 9-year-old girl); also, the staggering hypocrisy of Moslems who ignore the Koran and sharia when it intereferes with their misogynistic culture; and the ubiquity of pederasty among allegedly purist Moslems.

    As to the literary merits of the Koran: not being an Arabic speaker, I can’t judge it. But it seems unlikely that vast numbers of Arabs and other Moslems have been pretending to admire it for 1,400 years.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Actually, the foundations of all philosophies and religions will be jolted if scientists keep validating the soul, or the out-of-body experience. I am refering to a new study that looks into NDEs, and has found that some patients do seem to be aware of real events around them, which they correctly remember when they are brought back to physical life. In some cases, some patients were aware of what happened, even though their hearts had been inactive for three minutes, and the brain ceases functioning within twenty to thirty seconds after the heart stops….
    Of course, the jihadists might not believe us, but that is their worry, not ours.

  • AngryTory

    By stuff I mean napalm and thermobarics

    I mean thermonuclear. Why stop when you’re having fun?

    They kill a hostage – we empty a town.

    They capture a city – we wipe the place off the map.

    They get income from oil – we cauterise the oilfields and nuke the refineries.

    Whether Nazis or Commies, its us Caucasians that have the world record in genocide.
    No reason to put that at risk now!

    You can’t convert anyone when there is no-one left alive to convert.

  • Barry Sheridan

    Perry you were brave when you added the following, “provided you accept that the Old Testament is best shuffled off into one corner and ignored as a tribal appendix.”

    The Old Testament provided much to our way of life, starting with the ‘Ten Commandments.’ There has been no better set of rules to guide the construction of a civilised life. Of course modern society is intent on ignoring these inconvenient strictures, which is to our detriment, as we see daily.

  • I could not agree more with the first part of Rich Rostrom’s comment above – the one about the ‘professor’ approaching the subject from a simplistically atheist POV, and thus alienating anyone who may not subscribe to his take on religion in general. That was what bothered me most of all about the piece in JP’s post, but I could not articulate it myself.

    The rest of Rich’s comment makes sense to me, or is at the very least very interesting, but I don’t have enough historical background to judge by myself.

  • Barry Sheridan
    October 8, 2014 at 6:56 am

    Well, according to the Jews (who should know better?) only the last 5 matter. The first five are about man’s relationship to God and he will forgive. Getting right with your fellow man is not so easy. That is the story according to the Orthodox. The Reforms may have a more lax attitude.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray
    October 8, 2014 at 4:45 am

    Well LSD produces out of body experiences. Or so it has been reported.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Yes, and that might be worth investigating. I hope someone is.
    We might already be reaching the point where theists can point to science as the cause of their beliefs, and atheists will be reduced to a blind, die-hard, faith in reductionism for their belief in nothing after death!

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Laird, shame on you! The snake cannot be a hero! He was an intruder on private property! And a bad-mouther of the owner of the Garden, accusing him of lying! Not a nice neighbour at all.

  • Dr. Dinuto’s explication reads only a little easier than John Galt’s manifesto in Atlas Shrugged.

    However, it should be required reading for all high school students.

  • Paul Marks

    Just over a thousand ago the most powerful movement in Sunni Islam was good – it opposed predestination (i.e. stood for free will – human agency, moral responsibility) and held that Islam (including the Koran itself) should be interpreted in the light of reason – natural law.

    However, please note my first words – “just over a thousand years ago…..”

    Another way of saying this is to say – for over a thousand years mainstream Sunni Islam has been dominated by people who supported predestination (i.e. opposed human agency – denied the fundamental moral nature of human BEINGS) and held that the literal word of the Koran (and so on) trumped natural law (if they even accepted that natural law existed).

    An overstatement certainly – but not by much.

    And think how utterly terrible that is.

    Certainly (for example) the Ottoman Empire supported the most moderate school of mainstream Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (the H. school – which holds, for example, that a woman is not committing a crime by showing her feet, and that if someone knows no Arabic they may pray to God in another language), but the basic PHILOSOPHICAL assumptions were terrible.

    And “practical” people who say that philosophical assumptions do not matter are not really practical at all. They are making a terrible (a fundamental) mistake.

  • Paul Marks

    On the question of violence.

    There have been many vile Christians – who have done terrible things.

    However, Jesus himself did not.

    Contrast this with Mohammed.

    When an old blind poet mocked Mohammed he had the man murdered – and by treachery (Muslims went to the home of the old blind poet – pretending to be friends).

    And when a pregnant female poet (oh yes Arabia once had female poets) attacked the murder of the old blind poet – Mohammed just had her murdered as well.

    Is not Islam without Mohammed like Hamlet without the Prince?

    Perhaps this is the reason why the pro reason movement within Islam was defeated – more than a thousand years ago.

    There are good Muslim thinkers today (trying to revive the old pro reason and morality movement – supporting human moral responsibility), but do they not hit the same problem?

    Mohammed himself would not favour them (the pro agency, pro natural law thinkers). Indeed it is quite likely that he would order them killed.

    I ask again – how can one have Islam without Mohammed?

    And Mohammed was different (utterly different) in his mature teachings (after he created his own army – not what he said before he created his private army), and in his deeds (his life) than Jesus.