Maybe you’re tired of hearing about the Paris attacks, ISIS and all the rest. If so, save this for when – not if, but when – the next Islamic-inspired attack against civilians in Europe or America occurs.
I keep hearing that Islam does not hold a monopoly on religious brutality. “Look at the Crusades and the Christians. They’re no better.”
OK, then. Let’s say the Crusades were happening today. Let’s say thousands of Christians rose up and declared war on anyone who’s not a Christian, and any government which refuses to enforce Christian rules and beliefs by force.
Which of the following approaches would you take, in response?
Approach # 1: Do absolutely nothing, while condemning as barbaric, medieval and racist anyone who says a critical thing about Christianity. In the meantime, the barbaric Christian Crusaders gradually overrun the world, terrorizing peaceful people and reducing civilization to a shambles. Elect a moronic president, and send him overseas to tell the world that the real problem is not the killing of innocents in the name of religion, but man’s refusal to stop using fossil fuels.
Approach # 2: Blast Christian crusaders, as well as their governments (the equivalent of Iran and ISIS), to Kingdom Come, pulverizing them until there’s nothing left for them to do but start over with their Crusades (at which time we’ll blast them again). Also, along with the entirely justified use of physical force against these barbaric Christian crusaders, challenge their belief system at its core, demanding to know why a religion of brotherly love is engaged in so much brutality against those who do not share the same point-of-view.
This is the problem with the argument, “Christians did it in the Crusades.” It puts Christians on the defensive. They get sidetracked about historical details. But the people who should be on the defensive are the ones engaged in the violence and brutality now, not the ones who did it 1,000 or more years ago.
The fact of the matter is that Christians, regardless of what you claim is historically the case, eventually submitted to the separation of church and state. The most dramatic example of this was the United States of America. Thousands of Christians came to the U.S., often to escape religious persecution, and willingly agreed to live in a country where no religion (their own, or anyone else’s religion) was the rule of the land. Some submit to separation of church and state more willingly than others, and debates remain about matters such as abortion and gay marriage. But while important, those matters are marginal compared to the lethal and unyielding opposition Islam presently poses to separation of church and state on principle. If you don’t believe me, simply read the headlines about the last Islamic-inspired terrorist bombing – or the next one. (It may have happened by the time you read this.)
I’m not aware of any Christian movement dedicated, on a worldwide and ruthlessly, savagely violent scale, to decimating everyone who disagrees with them. If there were such a Christian, or Jewish, or any other sort of movement on the scale of present-day Islam, then believe me, I would oppose it with the same strength and for the same reasons as I oppose Islam’s quest to take over the world.
People keep saying, “You can’t criticize someone for their religion.” Why not? At least when the primary (or only) leaders of that religion favor annihilating innocent people who do not agree with them? Nazism was a form of religion, in the sense of being an ideology with a call to action – brutal, rights-violating action. Ditto for Communism. If someone is a Nazi or Communist, it’s reasonable to ask them, “What’s wrong with you for endorsing such a twisted, evil viewpoint?”
It really does not matter whether a movement violates the rights of individuals in the name of Allah, God, Jesus, the State, the Public Good or “The Man” (e.g., Hitler, or Mao); the end result is always the same.
The moral and physical force with which we should oppose all such movements should be the same. Which kind of force, and when or how to use it, can be a matter of reasonable debate; but the principle that we must fight back with all our ability cannot be in question.
There’s no reason Islam should get a free pass for this any more than Communism or Nazism did. Yet Islam does get a free pass from our highest officials, and that’s why terrorists – ISIS, Iran, as well as less organized Muslim fanatics – are presently winning.
I’m not aware of a Christian regime talking openly about wiping Israel off the map. I do not know of a Christian or Jewish organization training suicide bombers, strapping bombs to children and indoctrinating those children to hate anyone of a different religion to the point of murdering them. Some level of such irrationality is found in all religions, to be sure; but Islam is the one who is best at it, at least right now.
The world has not, quite frankly, seen anything of this magnitude since Hitler’s attempt to impose his ideology on everyone. Incredibly, those who draw the parallel of today’s Islamic militants to Hitler’s Nazis are the ones called hateful, racist Nazis. This takes blaming the victim to almost inconceivable and absurd levels.
It’s time to stop putting Christians, or others, on the defensive for what they wrongly did 1,000 or 1,500 years ago. Call evil what it is, whenever it happened. But the Christian Crusades are not what’s threatening rational civilization and political liberty today; the worldwide Islamic jihad is. Face reality, people!
Instead of Christians, Jews, atheists and agnostics constantly being on the defensive for “not being nice about Islam,” we have to put Islam’s apologists on the defensive. People like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and others maintain that we are doing enough to fight back against this threat, when we’re doing absolutely nothing worth mentioning militarily. Anyone suggesting otherwise is lectured at like a child.
Those of you who scream “racist” and all the other labels when anyone suggests we should take a stronger military and verbal stand against militant Islam … what is it you’re really defending? Who or what are you protecting?
It cannot be tolerance and diversity. Islam is the ultimate “religious right wing.” I don’t care if there are moderates; the ones running the show are the militants, and the moderates are silent.
Most of you who defend Obama’s refusal to fight (or even name) the Islamic enemy are secular, agnostic progressive leftists. You favor abortion rights, gay marriage, feminism and things that could not be more at odds with the edicts and attitudes of Islam. I know it’s not the religious beliefs of Islam – even the alleged moderates – that you progressive/liberal types are endorsing. It cannot be tolerance or diversity, because Islam is more against tolerance and diversity than any ideological movement ever known to man. So what is it you’re protecting?
Instead of bringing up the Christian Crusades, why don’t you explain and defend your hero Obama’s claim that Islam’s brutal (and serious) call for Jihad is not about religion? You are the ones requiring that we say and do nothing in response to events like 9/11, the recent ISIS attacks on Paris, everything in between and everything yet to come. What would YOU do, if not respond militarily with everything we have to respond? I suppose Obama’s policy is your answer. Do nothing, and lecture Americans about being nice to Muslims, and to stop using fossil fuels.
If Islam is not the problem, then what is? And if we are not at war with Islam, then how in the world are we supposed to respond to religious warriors who most certainly are at war with us?
When Hitler declared war on America and the entire world, the world did not reply, “We’re not at war with Hitler. We’re not at war with the Germans. We won’t harm a single German person. Targeted bombings at most – if that. Not a single civilian will die. In fact, we will do everything we can to embrace and show love and respect for German culture, even if Hitler’s armies proceed to invade and take over Europe.”
This would have been suicidal insanity.
And if you’d like to draw the parallel with the Christian Crusades, how would you respond to Christian violence and terrorism today against gays, women or anyone else who was not following the rules they want them to follow? Why would you rightly condemn hatred and violence when proposed by Christian fundamentalists, but not when proposed by Muslims? Christians may have done these things; it’s Muslims who are actually doing it now.
I’m still waiting for an answer from these Obama-loving progressives who claim to support separation of church and state. They will have to come up with something better than “racist” and “hater.” These terms are tacit admissions of having no rational answer. You better believe I’m a hater – of anyone who wants to destroy me. How sad that you don’t value your own lives as much. Why should the rest of us – who do want to go on living – have to endure the pathetic, morally anemic response of someone like Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton?
I don’t claim to know what the ultimate outcome of all this will be. I honestly have no idea. America has been on the brink before, and has always come around, in the end, to victory over its enemies. On our present course, we will certainly go down. Even if we go down, it will happen with some us still fighting. At least so long as we have free speech.
It’s sad that so many Americans remain passive, helpless and clueless about Islam, not to mention all the other reckless and irresponsible things our federal government does every day. As Islam advances its holy war across the world, the President of the United States tells us to use less oil, hunker down, be humble and sacrifice – something he and his most ardent supporters will never do, by the way.
In the end, you have to blame the people who tolerate and keep electing such “leadership” in a time of crisis. They must really loathe their country and even themselves, probably more than we realize. But many of us do not loathe America or ourselves.
If we do go down – and we do not have to – then let’s at least go down fighting.
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The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
Attacks like the one on January 7, 2015, against the newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris are becoming all too common. Threats by Islamic terrorists and dictatorial regimes have been happening since Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989. In this talk, Ayn Rand Institute senior fellow Onkar Ghate discusses how to defend freedom of speech in the face of religious attacks. This talk was recorded on Saturday, July 4, 2015, at the Objectivist Summer Conference 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
One of my other concerns regarding moderate Muslims is their response to Islamic terrorism. Whenever the issue of Islamic extremism arises, the first reaction of moderate Muslims is not to start an honest debate and reform in their religion but to defend Islam and Muslims. Moderate Muslims are obsessed with slogans like “the religion of peace” more than they care about facing the terrorists emerging from their own communities. Moderate Muslims rush to warn about Islamophobia and unjust western prejudice against Muslims. Almost in every single occasion that Islamic terrorism is mentioned, Muslims’ first action is to defend their faith. They assert over and over how peaceful and beautiful Islam is. They are obsessed with their religion and care about it more than they care about stopping murder in its name. It should be clear that this kind of obsession is just another form of fundamentalism. The time has come to talk about how unhelpful and unhealthy their constant obsession with Islam is. Those Muslims need to know that it is more important right now to direct their efforts inside their communities to battle extremism than to polish the image of a faith soaked in blood. Constantly using the rhetoric of Islamophobia and defending their faith as if it was under attack does not help us to promote peace but actually makes the job of terrorist recruiters easier.
We can all agree that prejudice against Muslims is indeed a form of unacceptable discrimination, but moderate Muslims should not try to stifle criticism of their religion by raising the racism card. Many Muslims are responsible for creating an environment of intimidation and social blackmail, using the alleged charges of Islamophobia to immediately dismiss any criticism. We should be clear and honest to our Muslim friends; Islam and its prophet are just other figures in the world of religious fascinations and they are not above criticism and ridiculing and this is nonnegotiable.
What psychological purpose, if any, does belief in the supernatural serve?
Clay Routledge Ph.D., researcher on the subject and author of “More Than Mortal” thinks it’s about meaning in life:
My research lab studies how religious beliefs contribute to perceptions of meaning in life. Not surprisingly, we and other researchers reliably find that religious beliefs help people find and maintain meaning. In general, the more religious people are, the more they believe their lives are meaningful. Religious beliefs make people feel like their existence is purposeful (i.e., God has a plan for them), that they are being watched over by benevolent supernatural agents (God, guardian angels), and that they are part of a larger and meaningful cosmic drama (i.e., God intentionally created the world). Not surprisingly then, when people are struggling with difficult life challenges that make them feel uncertain, stressed, or scared, religious beliefs serve an important psychological function. They restore and protect a sense of meaning in life.
Actually, I have noticed two different types of religious people. One, those who believe what they believe and are largely at peace with it. When reason/common sense and religion conflict, the religious person tells him- or herself, in essence, “Have faith,” or finds some idea or principle in religious documents (e.g., the Bible) to support the basis for faith.
The other types are in a continuing state of psychological crisis, either because they’re questioning or they’re using logic and reason to try and make sense of their religious beliefs. On the one hand, they believe, or at least feel they should. On the other hand, they’re questioning and thinking, and that tends to get in the way of the belief.
Consider a conversation like this one:
“I’m angry that my life has turned out this way. I’m angry and hurt that my mother was so unloving. I’m angry that I didn’t get the jobs I should have got, or found the romantic love I wanted.”
“Who are you angry at?”
“I’m angry at God. Why would God allow this kind of suffering? I realize there’s greater suffering than what I endured. But if God is so wise and just, why all the problems?”
“But aren’t you applying reason, logic and standards of human justice to something that’s faith based? Doesn’t your religion tell you to simply believe and accept, uncritically?”
The question answers itself because faith, by definition, does not involve reason, logic, proof or sense. It’s something different, as I think either a faith-based or non-faith-based person will tell you.
In such cases, the psychological conflict arises because of a contradiction, the basis for many psychological conflicts and problems.
It makes sense that religious beliefs that involve loving and protective supernatural agents such as God and guardian angels would help people feel like their lives are meaningful and purposeful.
Most people assume that the only way to find meaning and purpose in life is through some kind of a religious perspective.
Yet what about meaning and purpose to be found in other ways? Through the development of one’s mind; through some kind of purposeful or meaningful work involving the use of reason and leading to concrete results like the building of a house, the building of a business, the discovery of a computer microchip, electricity or a cure for cancer? Through the pursuit and achievement of values in the context of a verifiable, time-limited period of existence on earth?
Two things are apparent. The religious person who also resolves to live a meaningful, secular life to the fullest can experience a sense of happiness. But so can the person who is not religious, who resolves to live a meaningful, secular life to the fullest pursuing productive results and/or rationally happy experiences. In fact, one might argue that the nonreligious person could be even happier because — on the premise that this is all there is — one should make the most of it.
In one study, we administered questionnaires assessing religiosity and perceptions of meaning in life. We then presented research participants with a task that involved reading a profile of a young man who murdered his sister and responding to questions concerning the causes of his actions. These questions specifically assessed the extent to which participants attributed his actions to non-supernatural causes (e.g., having an abusive father) or supernatural causes involving evil forces (e.g., having an evil spirit).
Here is what we found. Highly religious participants who reported feeling like their lives lacked meaning were the most likely to believe that evil supernatural forces influenced the murderer’s actions. In other words, it was the people who needed meaning (those lacking it) and who derive meaning from supernatural beliefs (highly religious people) who were most attracted to a supernatural explanation of a horrible crime. These individuals were more likely to believe that the murderer had a dark soul. They were less likely to attribute his actions to non-supernatural causes such as growing up in an abusive household.
What is a “spirit” anyway? Most of us have left it to believers in the supernatural to define this term. Either you believe in spirits, which makes you supernatural or religious in some sense; or you don’t believe in spirits, which makes you a hard-nosed, stone cold material behaviorist.
But if you define a spirit objectively and concretely, you can avoid this false alternative. I define a “spirit” as a consciousness. A consciousness refers to one’s mind, concepts, emotions and all that pertain to a state of conscious awareness. These, in unison with the body and the biological composition of a person, make the individual who he or she is. If the body dies, the spirit is gone too, and the body quickly decays.
Body and mind/consciousness. There is not one without the other. If you believe there is, then you believe that the spirit goes somewhere “else” after the body dies, and that’s the point where religious belief takes over. But you do not have to be a religious believer to observe that there is something called a consciousness, something you might (if you choose) refer to as one’s spirit.
As for the study cited above, notice how both types — the religious believer and nonreligious believer — tend to assume something else made the criminal a criminal. If you’re religious, you might think that supernatural forces contributed to the person becoming a serial killer. If you’re not religious, then you will assume it’s the abusive father, “society,” lack of government funding, the legality of guns or something other than the criminal himself.
This is significant, because nobody on the religious or nonreligious side of the spectrum appears to recognize the power and relevance of individual choice. More than that, what actually creates individual choice?
When I assert the validity and importance of individual choice, I generally find that religious people — who are usually more conservative — agree with me, while more educated people will look to external factors such as biology, society, parents, and so forth.
Yet a person can have a “bad spirit” or a “sick spirit” with “spirit” being rationally and objectively defined. It’s up to the field of psychology (which studies the mind, particularly the subconscious mind) and the fields of neurology and biology/medicine (which study the body) to sort it all out. And this requires reason, not religion, as probably some religious people will acknowledge.
Does life require meaning and purpose? Yes. Can reason and purpose involve rational, objective, concretely identifiable things such as career, family, productive work, personal relationships, satisfying and joyful experiences — all in this life, here and now, on earth? No question.
People who disagree with me (on any subject) will often write me with hostile, deliberately rhetorical questions designed to be intimidating or insulting. I find these amusing, but also rather fascinating.
One question I get from a lot of religious people who dislike what they see as my criticism of religion is, “Well what do you believe in, Dr. Hurd? If not God, then what?”
I find such a question astonishing. On the one hand, I recognize that it’s supposed to intimidate a questioner or thinker into bowing his head and saying, in shame, “Nothing.” It’s a “shaming” question from one who has no rational response to a point so defaults to his only weapon, i.e. shame.
Yet my immediate, emotionally integrated and absolute answer to this question is nothing more than, “Life…and my love of it.” What else is there to believe in, act upon, think about or anything else? By what stretch could this ever be shameful?
Such subjects might seem a little abstract and profound. But realize it or not, you probably hold a position of some kind on these issues. And where your mind stands — even subconsciously — will determine, to a great extent, how happy you really are.