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Kingdom of nothing

I believe it was the late Ray Charles who bewailed his melancholy lot in the song lyric, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all”. Looking back over the last hundred years or so, one could readily draw the same dismal conclusion about ideas.

At one level, this is to be welcomed. The 20th Century was not short of idea, most of them ranging from bad to downright horrific and which have now been defeated, discredited, marginalised or have just plain run out of steam. Gulags ‘R’ not us, thank you very much. Fine, except that it leaves us standing on the other side of the equation with no ideas at all, merely an awful lot of inertia and a dour determination to just carry on from one day to the next. Yes, it’s all very ‘end of history’.

In fairness that sort of works but only until the point where that persistent bloody nuisance history starts all over again. In other words, until about now:

John Reid has issued a dire warning that the Government risks losing the “battle of ideas” with al-Qa’eda.

The Home Secretary spoke out at an emergency meeting of ministers and security officials amid an ever-growing threat from home-grown Islamist terror groups.

He called for an urgent but controversial escalation in the propaganda war and said al-Qa’eda’s so-called “single extremist narrative” was proving ever more attractive to young British Muslims.

I suppose it is entirely consistent that a former communist like Mr. Reid has the capacity to understand the power of ideas, though perhaps his use of the term ‘Al Qaeda’ is entirely diplomatic when what he really means is Islam itself. For Islam is not only an idea, it is a big idea and very powerful one to boot. It is not going to be defeated by Western soldiers traipsing around in the dust of Basra or Helmand provience, regardless of how well trained, armed and motivated they may be. Nor will be it defeated by outright persecution in the West (should that be the next course of action). The Romans tried that in response to Christianity and look where it got them.

No, something else is needed though, precisely what, I cannot yet say. I can say that the official UK government effort, which, thus far, consists of this rather feeble outreach effort is bound to go nowhere. ‘Moderation’ is not an idea, merely a temperament. Appeals not to rock the boat are futile when set against a determined plan to sink the boat. Besides, the very fact that it is driven and financed by HMG means that it will almost certainly have the very opposite of its intended effect.

If this was a ‘battle of guns’, then we have all the best and biggest guns and there would not be even a trace of reasonable doubt about the eventual outcome. Whatever happens, we have got the Maxim gun, but so bloody what?

Mr. Reid is nearly right. This is a not a ‘battle of idea’ it is a ‘war of ideas’ and we are in the midst of that theatre of war completely unarmed.

22 comments to Kingdom of nothing

  • veryretired

    Yes, the moral and intellectual disarmament of the west is the critical challenge of this period, only brought to the forefront by the challenge of an alien ideology/theology like Islam, and that dogma’s curious but understandable alliance with collectivism.

    Rather than repeat myself endlessly, see my comments in the Vietnam/Iraq posting below, esp. the second comment, which addresses this very issue.

  • GCooper

    Thaddeus Tremayne writes:

    “I believe it was the late Ray Charles who bewailed his melancholy lot in the song lyric, “It it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all”.”

    Point of order: tt was actually Albert King.

  • Alice

    There used to be an Afghanistani restaurant in Denver, Colorado. On the back of the menu, there was a brief history of Afghanistan which included the memorable phrase, “The next two centuries were confusing”.

    Maybe we are learning what it is like to live in confusing times.

    Although those past halcyon days of certitude may rely more on our selective memories than on fact. How confusing must it have been in World War II when the USSR, which started the war by joining Nazi Germany in its unprovoked attack on Poland, later became an “ally” — but one which refused to join in the fight against Japan?

  • In one’s personal life, it is an unfortunate fact that one occasionally comes across “inconvenient” people. The simplest of these sorts are (street) people of the drunk and/or derranged sort; let’s stick to them for the purpose of this comment.

    Having established that the inconvenient person falls into this category (perhaps by a period of trying to help them: a task usually beyond mere mortals), one is left with the simple solution of ignoring them. [With those that can be helped actually being helped.]

    The unhelpable, being ignored, turn their attention elsewhere for whatever irrational satisfaction they might be seeking (which is often only attention). Whether they find satisfaction elsewhere is an issue that can safely be left to others.

    Of course, a very small proportion of such inconvenient people do end up attempting harm of others than themselves, and a small proportion of that very small proportion, sadly, succeed. Occasionally, even (that multiplying down the small proprtion of the very small proportion), we find that we (as a society) should have done something about them that we did not do: like locking them up. Such is life.

    However, giving attention to such inconvenient people is usually an amplifying factor for the less desirable aspects of their behaviour. This is either through the direct effect of the attention ggiven, or through it’s too sudden withdrawl.

    Is there perhaps something we can learn from this analogy concerning the political response to extreme and/or irrational demands?

    Best regards

  • I don’t think we are completely unarmed.

    There is one way to attenuate the threat posed by militant Islam and that is to introduce DOUBT into the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslim believers.

    Instead of side-stepping in fear of giving ‘offense’, strike at the ‘root cause’ of the problem – the Qur’an!

    This fountainhead of fervour and discord, supposedly an exact word-for-word copy of tablets existing eternally in heaven:

    makes demonstrably false claims

    is based on identifiable ‘fables’

    is replete with historical errors and anachronisms

    is not worthy of faith, let alone lives.

    Even a mildly rigorous scholarly examination will demonstrate the fraudulent nature of the Qur’an.

    So, question its provenance and content, publish fearlessly, and hope that confidence in the Qur’an as the word of Allah will be severely shaken, just where it should be – in the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims.

  • Pa Annoyed

    We have had plenty of ideas on the other side, but while still within the wood we cannot see the trees. We notice the dead ideologies because they contrast with what we now hold to be obvious – the good ones are those that survived and are with us today. Things you probably wouldn’t even consider to be significant or even good ideas – diversity of opinion, irreverence for authority, consumerism, materialism, equal rights legislation…

    The problem in the battle with al Qaida is not that we have no weapons, but that we have neglected to pick up the biggest weapon we could ever want: knowledge of the true ideology of Islam itself. If you actually take the time to educate people about what authentic orthodox Islam really says and does, the conflict with our values would be sufficiently severe to totally discredit it. Islam is its own worst enemy, and part of its strategy is therefore to keep its true teachings obscure until it is too late. People are unenthusiastic about fighting it mainly because they know virtually nothing about it, and confused about what they do know. In the absence of information, the default human assumption is that they are ‘just like us’.

    I suspect the politicians and pundits know just how much trouble could be caused if we ever found out, which is why they are casting around for an alternative. They are desperate to defuse the conflict before it starts, which is why Messrs Straw and Reid are mucking about with trivial issues like veils, to float the idea of putting the brakes on without really lighting any fires. It’s not that we’d lose if we were to take Islam on, it’s that the damage done doing so is not something anyone would want on their conscience. Not necessarily damage in the conventional shooting-war sense, but damage to the mechanisms underlying the way societies work.

    For example, the Catholic Church might have avoided the issue in the past because the weapons that would be invoked against one religion could as easily be applied to any other. It is not an arms race they want to trigger.
    What ideological weapons would the politicians not want to invoke? What sheepdog does not shudder at the idea of a world in which the sheep do not run?

  • Midwesterner

    Pa Annoyed,

    I’m not sure I completely understood your comment. But I think you may have hit on a very key point.

    Any showdown with Islam is doubtless going to be a substantial event with grave consequences regardless of how it turns out.

    Even being on the ‘right’ side, how many of us would take on the moral responsibility for leading that confrontation.

    A not very good comparison would be finding yourself trapped in a room with a fire burning in the doorway. One might run around quite a bit looking for another way out even if it becomes obvious that the only exit is through fire.

    If this is what you are saying, I think you are quite possibly right. At least where some of our ‘leaders’ are concerned. There are of course always some who would see western civilisation destroyed.

  • veryretired

    I don’t disagree with the above by Pa and Mid, but there is more to it than fear of responsibility for terrible consequences.

    For the leadership of the west to call for, and lead, an examiniation of Islam and its basic principles would require them to adopt a critical position based on some coherent moral and philosophical foundation.

    But that foundation is exactly what the intellectual and moral “leaders” of our culture have abandoned as crude, naive, simplistic, myopic, xenophobic, supremicist, etc., etc.

    It is a painfully clear that the incessant indoctrination of deconstructive, multi-cultural, anti-traditional theories of major subjects in the western intellectual construct has had, as its most glaring result, entire generations of social and cultural leaders, and their constituencies, whose fundamental attitudes toward western culture are embarrassment, guilt, and regret.

    In this I am not even speaking of those openly hostile, but the multitudes of teachers, pastors, local officials, journalists, writers, and so on, who cannot find anything positive to say about the culture that sustains them without a negative caveat acknowledging all our monumental errors and sins.

    In “Atlas”, Rand describes the guilt and uncertainty that is Reardon’s constant companion due to the fact that all his life, he has been told that his cognitive and emotional framework is evil and wrong, his achievements stolen from others, and his pride in his work a confirmation of his despicable arrogance.

    One of the major revelations in the story is his realization that all this psychic baggage is a form of emotional blackmail based on a moral inversion, in which the admirable is despised, and the pitifully inadequate upheld as the highest value.

    The confusion during the decades long confrontation with totalitarian marxism was that they used many of the same terms, and seemed to espouse some of the same values, as we did. Enablers in the west tried to obfuscate and downplay their excesses, and paint their more repressive ideas in kinder terms, thus leading many to accept the idea, which I heard many times in college, that marxism was simply an alternative economic choice, and we had no right to condemn it.

    The present conflict, however, involves, not a mere “economic variation”, but a total religious/cultural/social model. As Pa says, the clearer the actual tenets of the religious ideology become to the ordinary westerner, the more clearly the massive differences between western culture and Islam will be seen, and the more clearly the danger will be understood.

    What we need is a new version of “Why We Fight”. We don’t have to make stuff up, just show these fanatics for what they are, and the rest will be history.

    The current danger stems not from their strength, but from our own weakness and confusion. In no small part, this can be addressed by some serious, non-PC analysis of who our adversaries actually are, what they have done, and what they plan to do in the future.

  • Midwesterner

    Exactly. I subscribe to everything VR appended.

    Although I will add the following qualification.

    VR is old. Very very old. 🙂 His reference to why we fight refers to Frank Capra’s series commisioned by George C. Marshall.

    What he doesn’t realize yet is that, like so many other patriotic and pro American icons, this one also has been stolen by anti American leftists.

    Is it any wonder we are in so deep?

  • Ring

    The problem may very well be that this government has disarmed itself intellectually. Since they made it a crime to criticise Islam, even if only quoting the Koran to make a point, then you face prosecution.
    Furthermore, they seem now to want to fight against something they have long accepted.
    It’s rather like handing the south east of England over to the Germans in WW2 and then deciding to go ‘take it back’. Yes, very admirable if not for the fact that you gave it to them in the first place.

  • In the discussion here, I think some additional clarity would be helpful.

    Is the intent to fight against:

    (i) All religion?

    (ii) Islam?

    (iii) Some particular version(s) of Islam?

    (iv) versions of Islam that are extremely anti-West?

    And, having decided the above, why that decision? And to what ultimate benefit is the argument/fight to be waged?

    The reason I ask this is twofold: firstly I believe that freedom of religious worship is a fundamental freedom; secondly I believe that arguing and fighting can be very problematic, and more-so if you don’t start with knowing what you want and how you might reasonably expect to get it (pace Iraq).

    Best regards

  • To me the core “fight” is to expose two things:

    1- the true nature of Mohammed. People tend to encounter the life of Mohammed after a long period of beatification and personality worship a.k.a. brainwashing. They also encounter it, I suspect, after reading all the Koran. Thus, when they see items like the Jews rejecting Mohammed and his message, it is easy to think of “the message” as the complete Koran and be aghast at such a treasonous act. I may be wrong, but at one stage a group rejected Mohammed as a Prophet at a time when the sum total of “revelation” was about…60 words!

    2- The Koran as a divine text. This needs to be disassembled dispassionately and catagorically. Without the Koran as divine, it loses its absolutist power. It is “unplugged”. The fact that it is out of temporal sequence yet it claims to be able to abrogate previous statements within itself is enough to see the hand of man.

    As a final thought. Ramadan. If Islam was a world religion based upon the One and not some Moon God from the Arabian Peninsular, it would not rely on the clear sighting of the new crescent moon to indicate the ending of Ramadan. Clouds? For days? Different observations around the world? The moon? Allah could have at least included an appendix of formulae. I am sure the Hindu mathematicians were advanced enough to help out…

    “O! Those who believe! Seek out the Infidel Polytheists, for they know the secrets to the timing of My most important religious festival!”.

  • I don’t think we need to declare war on Islam and the Koran.

    Religious freedom! Let anyone follow whatever wacky religion they want to as a private matter in a secular, religiously free society. Wear burqas if you want, but don’t expect special treatment or being part of a special class because you choose to do so. The Amish and Mennonites in the US wear their funky outfits but don’t seek employment in secular organizations insisting that accommodation be made for their strange dress. They form their own businesses and work for themselves, wearing anything they like.

    Religion is privatized in the West. Be as Muslim as the day is long, however, you MUST respect the religious freedom of others (including former Muslims) and you must obey the law of the land (no polygamy, honor killings, or clitoredectomies). Don’t like it? Leave.

    If you want to live in a religiously oppressive country, leave! Because we aren’t going there and doing that.

    However, such a stance relies on the dedication of civil authorities to pursue criminal charges when warranted and not be cowed by multiculti can’t-touch-this muslim protectionism.

    Use force in riots, deadly if needed and consistent with law enforcement policies.

    Arrest and prosecute for assault, vandalism, incitement of riots, treason, rape, domestic abuse, illegal medical procedures, murder, etc. when Muslims violate these civil laws. They don’t get a pass because their idea of sharia law says it’s okay.

    Best of all, Europeans need to bear more children before the Muslims outbreed them and then democratically elect the Taliban and democratically pass constitutional amendments enacting sharia law.

    The European West has lost its confidence in western civilization and its optimism for the future. (It takes optimism to bear children…usually this optimism comes from religion. The religious are more fecund than the secularists.)

    The USA will probably someday welcome huge numbers of Eurabian refugees escaping the Islamist oppression in Europe…they will flee to the US to seek religious and civil freedom, escaping the Taliban and sharia.

    Hopefully you’ll be fluent in Spanish when you come here! LOL

  • Another thing.

    Why are Americans such bullheaded buttholes about insisting that democracy and freedom is for Middle Eastern Arabs, too?

    Because Americans have this weird concept that we are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights.

    We think this Creator is the same Creator of all men. (Men in the universal sense, not gender specific.) So all men, created equal, with inalienable rights, have inner strivings to live in harmony with this dignity and freedom. It is human, not just specifically Judeo-Christian.

    Secularists who hate this Creator stuff can only believe that rights are social constructs subject to negotiation in the cultural contexts of each population. Some people deserve tyranny, apparently, in their minds.

    OK…so is this Creator God One God, even if recognized by different names? (YHWH, LORD, Jesus, Allah, the Force?) If yes, then all men have God-endowed inalienable rights.

    If no, then there is no common human instinct to dignity, democracy, and freedom and we should quit pretending otherwise. Let Darfur bleed.

    After all, Ishmael was the slave’s child. Allah is the Master and his groveling followers are the Slaves. They have a servile attitude to the Master God and are offended by Christians calling God Father, considering themselves adopted sons and daughters of God, and claiming an intimate relationship with the Father.

    So if God is not One, and there is no God-given inalienable rights, then let these Arab tribes duke it out and be stuck in their tribalist tyranny and clamor for their next strong man.

    (Count me on the side of common humanity and inalienable rights.)

    (The concept of inalienable rights was from Locke, who referenced the idea back to a Spanish Franciscan priest-philosopher-scholar of the Inquisition. I can never get the name to stick in my head…Spanish is too slippery for me. Ah, the Catholic roots of American ideas! LOL)

  • Pa Annoyed

    “For the leadership of the west to call for, and lead, an examiniation of Islam and its basic principles would require them to adopt a critical position based on some coherent moral and philosophical foundation.”

    No, no really. It would just require that the school RE and history curriculum got some genuine Islamic theology/history added to them, that media spokesmen were required to go on training to have sufficient understanding of Islam to be able to argue the case and then drop a few quotes, that the BBC and other news media get told to stop mucking about and do a bit of their public education/impartiality roles that the BBC at least has in its charter, and do like they’ve done with obesity and climate change, and run a few advertising campaigns.

    It doesn’t require any sophisticated moral principles; you just have to tell the story. To see that the Pact of Omar/dhimma, devshirme, mufa’khathat, Aisha’s marriage, the death penalty for apostasy, consequences of the Hudood ordinances on women, laws on jihad, biography of the prophet and early history of the Caliphate, Pallywood, etc. are morally problematic is something that only the most highly trained intellectuals and academics would be unable to understand. You do need to make the source material and authentic Islamic textbooks and history easily available, so that doubters can confirm these matters for themselves and apologists cannot claim it is false or unfair, but that can be done. I’ve never met an apologist yet who could argue for toffee; they initially assume and rely on your ignorance, and when it becomes horrifyingly apparent that you’re not ignorant, they admit they’re ‘not a scholar’ and must consult their Imam. Oddly enough, they hardly ever get back to you with the answer. 🙂

    It’s like getting hassled by the neighbour’s kids – it’s not that you as an adult couldn’t thump seven bells out of them, but that you don’t want to; it would only polarise attitudes, make you unpopular, and create a world where children live in fear. They know that you won’t respond but without understanding why, and so play a game to see how far they can push it.

    I would agree with them that an alternative approach to just thumping them is needed. The problem is that up until now they haven’t even attempted to formulate another one. They’ve flapped ineffectually at them; “now, now, lads…” and just let it happen.

    The consequences of such a non-policy are predictable.

  • Paul Marks

    Well the Spanish Inquision (unlike the Roman one) was controlled by the state – although it was staffed by people in religious orders (normally Dominicans – although this is rather unfair on the rest of the order).

    The difference is important. The Roman Catholic Church (and the Roman Inquision) was not concerned with “blood” – they were relgious bigots only (and, to be fair, their foes were often as intolerant as they were).

    Many of the people who the Spanish Inquision sent to the flames were Roman Catholics (think about it – if you confess you will not be burnt, why would you not confess unless you are innocent) who were from Jewish or Muslim bloodlines.

    Indeed some of the people the Spanish Inquision hit were not from any dodgy bloodline (and were Roman Catholics) – Ferdinand (who some argue was an athiest) set up the structure of the organization as a money making enterprise for the state.

    As for the names of the Spanish SchoolMen who kentuckyliz is thinking of.

    Well Suarez and Vitoria spring to mind (pro limited government anti slavery and so on), but there were (of course) many School Men (and Salamanca was only one of the centres in the Roman Catholic world – and kentuckyliz is quite correct Locke’s Oxford was a centre of Aristotelian thinking [not the same thing as the thinking of Aristotle of course] in the non Roman world -it contiuned to be with such thinkers as Richard Whately in 19th century and Harold Prichard and Sir William David Ross in the 20th century).

    The best work on know of on the economic side of the thinking of the Roman Catholic thinkers (and other thinkers of the time) is the first volume of Murry Rothbard’s history of economics.

    On Islam: Well it has been said many times but it is worth saying again.

    Islam rejected early on the idea that right and wrong can be worked out by reason and/or the moral sense. Mainstream Islam holds that what God commands is good BECAUSE God commands it – they are positivists in this. They reject the Catholic (and also Orthodox and other Christian) position that God is good but that “good” is something seperate from just “God’s will” (whatever it may be).

    A lot of Calivinists also took the “voluntarist” (good and evil are whatever God say they are BECAUSE God says so) position, but it was never the majority view in Christian circles.

    Also their is the point of the difference of the life of Mohammed compared with the life of Jesus. Whatever may be said of (for example) Joshia, Jesus never sacked cities, murdered people, enslaved people, raped women and children (at least under age girls), and enslaved people – and this was a large part of Mohammed’s life’s work.

    So whether Muslims base their actions on their scriptures or upon the life of the founder of their religion they are not likely to be friends (although, of course, there are Muslims who do not care much about their religion and their are Muslims who care very much indeed – but interpret it quite differently to the mainsteam schools of thought of either Sunni or Shia Islam).

    What all this says about the chances of success in places like Iraq I leave to others to judge.

    But it does feel different to Vietnam. In Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia most people were not Marxists (although it was often very hard to tell who was and who was not – the line that the United States was facing “nationalism” in these countries is nonsense, the enemy were Communist party people and those they conscripted by terror), but in Iraq and Afghanistan most people are Muslims. Still most Muslims in these places do not (I am told) feel a great urge to exterminate or enslave all nonIslamic people in the rest of the world.

    I am even told that most people in Iran feel no such urge – although all the factions of the government do, whether the nonIslamic people in other nations are “people of the Book” or not.

    It is not just the United States and Israel that the Iranian regime wishes to destroy. And, of course, this regime is Shia nor Sunni like O.B.L., Mullah Omar and all their friends.

    As for opposing Islam on an ideological (as opposed to a military) level. Well conservative Protestant churches and the conservative wing of the Roman Catholic churce are doing quite well (so are the Orthodox in some places).

    It is just “liberal” Christianity (the “Social Gospel” of God as the Welfare State) that is losing support – and good riddance to it.

    As for atheism as an alternative to Islam. Well it offers life as an accident and human life as a process of physical and mental decay leading to death, this death being eternal nothingness (the soul not existing or being nothing other than the brain).

    Well that may be truth (I suppose most people have moments when they think that life is a sick joke and death leads to nothing – I know I do), but I would not like to try and sell this to anyone.

    Islam may be evil (although many Muslims are nice people) but trying to replace something (even an evil thing) with nothing does not sound promising.

  • Well, Paul, how about a more Unitarian/Buddhist/Taoist view? One that does not deny, but also one does not anthropomorphise nor demand an interventionist or predeterministic deity? Ok, I am being far too optimistic.

    Islam is not just evil, it is irrational, inconsistent, self-contradicting and just plain bonkers. The problem is many people feel they are starving, while Islam is the great steaming Turkey Twizzler of religions.

  • Pa Annoyed


    The Spanish Inquisition has been something of an Iraq war II in its day. Catholics, based on some reasonable-looking historical analysis, suggest that the blood thirst was entirely the consequence of a secular witch hunt by the ignorant and that the Church’s role was to introduce fair trials in what otherwise would have been lynchings, and that way saved a good many conversos lives.

    Llorente gave the first Lancet-like death tolls, with enormous figures like 31,000 people killed over its entire history (c. 1480-1834), but modern scholars contend that these figures are far too high, based on dodgy statistics, and that the true figure based on the Church’s private records was about 3,000-5,000. However the uncertainties are large and it is unlikely we will ever know.

    I make no comment on which version I consider more likely – I haven’t made sufficient study. However, it is interesting to see how some things don’t change.

    With regard to Islam’s supposed plan to take over the world, this is orthodox Islam, but of course Islam taken in distinction to the common set of beliefs of those people calling themselves Muslims. Few modern Christians would be able to expound accurately on the physics of transubstantiation, the exegesis of the authorised and apocryphal gospels, or the church’s true position on the eating of gravy, with reference to the decision of the Council of Jerusalem described in Acts 15. Similarly, relatively few modern Muslims feel any more urge to take over the world than we in the West feel it would be a good idea if everyone stopped being so silly and became more secular. They are themselves ignorant of the teachings of Jihad; which would be good, except that the majority will still blindly defend their religion from efforts to reform or suppress it, and hence shield those few who do understand and intend to implement it. Islam must be fought, not Muslims. The difference is important.

    The rather bleak picture of atheism as meaninglessness followed by oblivion is misleading. One can create one’s own meaning as easily in atheism as in any religion, and rather more constructively than the proposal that the entire purpose of the universe is to worship God. It is merely the freed slave moaning that he hasn’t been given any instructions. Life after death is a bribe hard to beat, at least so long as you don’t think the concept of eternity through fully. (Wouldn’t even the most enthralling heaven pall after a googleplex of years? Think about it. And that is only the start.) But there are a range of philosophies than provide a more interesting form of continuation after death without the violation of physical law. Religion shows a distinctly parochial lack of imagination compared to the awe and beauty and the range of possibilities of the real universe; it is only because they are blind to anything else that the religious think the universe would be empty without God.
    (But interesting as that is, that’s a bit off topic.)

    Islam doesn’t have to be replaced by atheism, although the latter is not the nothing claimed. The five pillars are fine, the ritual and respect can be made harmless, the sense of community and sharing good. It’s just the old and violent bits that need reforming, and for the need and possibility of reform to be acknowledged. There is a middle path between Islam’s utter victory and its utter defeat; its growing up. Christianity has already followed it, Islam will too if it is given enough time.

  • Uain

    I fear we are toast.
    If the west including America cannot sustain a several year war in Iraq and Afghanistan without convulsions of self doubt , how could the west ever have a clash of ideas with Islam? The whole concept is ridiculous.
    Our own enemies; nitwit academics, a compromised media, fifth columners like George Soros, corrupt politicos, legions of useful idiots who think some how they can regain political power if the present multi-pronged actions against terrorists could just be repudiated and changed back to a law enforcement issue.

    I don’t see that rabble as inspiring much confidence.

  • t-n

    I think there are too many generalizations about the Muslims–particularily about their outward devotion to Islam. I think this is a myth.

    I’d recommend this article from the English edition of Der Spiegel, a German news magazine:

    Sex and Taboos in the Islamic World

  • Paul Marks

    On the Spanish Inquisition. – I draw attention to what I have already said (the structure was a money making operation that was set up by a secular man who was not interested in religous doctrine). Of course the Roman Inquistion and other Roman Catholic activties in Spain were very interested in religious matters.

    As for “fair trials”. Normally attention is paid to the Spanish Inquistion freeing some people who had been accused of witchcraft – but this was not a matter of “fair trials”, the people concerned did not have dodgy blood lines (and so were not considered a security risk to the Spanish state) and (more importantly from the S.I.s point of view) had no money at all – therefore there was no point in wasting time with them.

    Actually the villagers concerned were most likely guilty (in that they may well have been praying to the Devil and so on), but the S.I. was not interested (witchfinders in northern Europe, whether Protestant or Catholic, would have been very interested).

    Now if the accused had been innocent but had lots of money……

    “Confess, you will lose your money but we will spare your lives – whereas if you continue to resist you will still lose the property and be burnt as well”.

    It is astonishing how many Roman Catholics went to the flames (even knowing that this would NOT save their property for their children) rather than confess to things they had not done or beliefs they did not hold.

    The last act of the farce was always the “plea for mercy” from the S.I. – you see it did not burn people itself, the civil power (the state) did that and the S.I. formally asked for the victim to be spared.

    Of course, any official that actually took this plea seriously would soon hear a knock on his door and the words “it is the Holy Office”.

    Even the Cardinal Archbishop of Spain was arrested by the S.I. (he had the odd notion that the Church should concentrate on relgious matters rather than state service), and Papal documents were “amended” (forged) to make it look as if Rome had given support for the investigations of people on the basis of “blood” (they did not even have that excuse for the Cardinal Archbishop – he did not have a dodgy blood line).

    The S.I. was a criminal organization structured by the Spanish state, and a very nasty criminal organization. However, it is just remembered as a joke in comedy shows.

    Converting Muslims to Taoism or Buddism, because some Christian believe in predetermination (i.e. that form of predestination that denies whether people have any choice about whether they accept Christ or not – the position of some Calvinists and others).

    Well, O.K. – I have no problem with someone trying to covert Muslims to Taoism or (the various forms) of Buddism. Although I would point out that Taoism is really a philosophy rather than a religion (its founder certainly did not deny religion, but it was not his first concern). The purpose of religion is to provide hope that there is existance beyond physical death (that the soul exists and is not just the brain). The “nirvana” promised to Hindu’s and Buddists (if they manage to get of the wheel of reincarnation) may be truly “nothingness” to a few philosophers – but to the vast majority of the people who believe in these religions it means a happy existance (not “nothingness” at all).

    Of course it is possible that life is just a sick joke (a process of physical and mental decay) leading to nothing. But this is not likely to attact Muslims from their faith.

    Turning back to philosophy.

    The Sufi tradition in Islam (with its stress on nonaggression) has some things in common with Taoism.

    Of course Taoism is really a philosphy of government rather than a philosophy of life (whatever Taoists may say). As “do nothing” (really do not try any grand projects or schemes) is a good philosophy for government (do not try and achieve positive things “making life better” – just try and resist attacks on yourself or other people), but even a peasant farmer may have to make radical changes if he and his family are to live (such as find a new supply of water if the well dries up), and there is nothing wrong with a person trying to better their condition (even if this means radical changes) – it is just government projects that will nearly always fail or have unintended consequences that will outweigh their benefits.

    Private (voluntary) projects may also fail (and one must show great prudence), but they do not nearly always fail – for human progress can happen.

  • Bryan

    Sorry for the musicological comment, but while Albert King and others such as Cream have indeed recorded the song “Born Under a Bad Sign” from which these lyrics come, the composers were Booker T. Jones and William Bell.