PDA

View Full Version : The Secular Humanists' Blind Spot about Radical Islam


Skeptic
7th March 2007, 01:24 AM
Are radical Islamists motivated by Islam--by religion--or by political grievances?

Both answers are wrong, because our terms are inaccurate. Islamists are motivated by religion, a religion that is formally the same--they profess the same dogma and beliefs and revere the same texts--as mainstream Islam. But in reality, they belong to a different religion.

The problem is really one of names. Many people, afraid--quite correctly--of being seen as claiming "Islam is" bad or "Muslims are" bad due to their dogmas. They make the opposite mistake of claiming that, since Islamist beliefs and general Muslim beliefs are formally the same, this proves the Islamists religion cannot be the cause of his violence, but it must be some sort of political grievance.

This is why we have so many discussions of the sort:

--"Islamists kill because they believe X".
--"Racist! I know many Muslims who also believe X and do not kill. So how can belief in X be the reason for Islamists killing?"

The second statement is true, of course, and looks like an unanswerable reply, but it does not really disprove the assertion. For it is not belief in X that makes Islamists kill, it's the way they believe it. And how one believes is just as much a part of one's religion as what one believes, in fact, usually, much more so.

This is, incidentally, also why two other arguments we see on this forum all the time: quoting some ridiculous Christian dogma as "evidence" that Christianity is no different than Islamists in their support of violence, or quoting some Muslim dogma as "evidence" Islam in general is violent--is completely besides the point. The dogmas, the official beliefs, are of relatively little importance in determining what one's religion really is.

Skeptics and secular humanists, my experience is, often confuse being religious with believing in a certain dogma. What dogma one believes in is only a small part of one's religion. Every philosophical position seems to have a blind spot, and this is ours. This blind spot is often why so many skeptics and secular humanists simply don't understand, I think, what really motivates Islamists.

hgc
7th March 2007, 06:44 AM
Islamists are motivated by the same thing as Christianists: a desire to impose theocracy. The specifics often overlap, but are ultimately unimportant. I recommend vigilance against theocracy for secular humanists and religious people of any faith.

Beerina
7th March 2007, 08:58 AM
Christianity used to be used to justify horrible things. Western philosophy has shoved it off into a powerless (directly powerless, anyway) corner. (This has largely been done by secularizing what religion usually does -- help the poor, and provide a vector to power. Hence the "religious-like" nature of politics. Big, unsupported promises. Control of people, etc. But that's a tragic discussion for another forum.)

Islam is currently in the fashion Christianity was a few hundred years ago. It needs to undergo the same secularization, and be shoved into a similar corner as "just another lifestyle choice". This will only happen via secularization of its passions, as was done with Christianity (secularized into socialism, etc.) Passions will still be there, and can be murderious (as communism showed) but at least there is no afterlife reward concept powering things. Nor is there the "immediacy of importance" issue to saving souls anymore.

Darth Rotor
7th March 2007, 09:11 AM
Western philosophy has shoved it off into a powerless (directly powerless, anyway) corner.
If it is powerless, then why all the worry about Christianity by folks like Dawkins? :confused:
This has largely been done by secularizing what religion usually does -- help the poor, and provide a vector to power.
OK, I guess I'll get out the long phone list of Christian charities, call each of them, and tell them to cease and desist, as they are irrelevant and redundant. I'll do likewise for Jewish and Muslim charities. Likewise, time to call all of the Catholic sponsored hospitals in Texas and tell them to shut the doors. No need for them, surely. :rolleyes:
Hence the "religious-like" nature of politics. Big, unsupported promises. Control of people, etc. But that's a tragic discussion for another forum.)
You touch on something here that is lurking under the surface of your comments: religion and politics have been wed together for a very long time, and not just in the West, not just in the Islamic world, but pretty much everywhere. While attempting to extract the one, you influence and stand to damage the other. There is no guarantee that you won't kill the patient during this operation. I realize that you'd rather not kill the patient.
Islam is currently in the fashion Christianity was a few hundred years ago. It needs to undergo the same secularization, and be shoved into a similar corner as "just another lifestyle choice".
Right, you and Bernard Lewis are in accord. How is this done? Who will bell the cat? To say cancer needs curing is a similar sentiment. The important matter is in the detail of making the transformation.

How?

May I suggest Martin Luther and John Calvin as examples of people who led a worthy effort at transformation? The outcome was, for a while, a lot of war and hate. Likewise the Rennaisance through the Enlightenment, culminating in the French Revolutionary era, a transformation that resulted in . . . a whole lot of war and hate. See also the transformation in China. A lot of war and hate.

How much war and hate are you ready for, as Islam transforms? Such upheavals tend to spill over into neighboring societies. Ask any African, nineteenth century or twentieth century, or any Amerind for the 17 and 1800's.

Perhaps the transformation you think is necessary is already in progress, and what you and I are seeing is a phase of a generations long battle. Wars, even culture wars, have their ups and downs. I can't tell, since we are inside of it, if this is an up or down swing at the moment.

DR

Kopji
7th March 2007, 10:41 AM
I would say it all centers around how we think about the value of 'self interest' or less precisely - 'self sacrifice'.

The notion of 'self sacrifice' itself may be a blind spot for secularists, because for many people giving up your life for a cause is not a sacrifice at all, but an act of self interest.

If we think of what we believe as a source that we draw on for deciding what is in our best interest - secular humanism (and even moderate forms of religion) seem at a disadvantage: If there is no belief in afterlife or reward, there is no access to those beliefs as sources of 'self interest' motivation.

So from my perspective, belief in an afterlife of rewards and punishments provides a broader supply of reasons to act upon in the belief that they represent self interest. (even if they are in error)

Christianity and Islam are part of the same spectrum of thought that includes this broader source of self-interest beliefs. Sure, it is always up to the individual on how they use the ideas, but they are there.

Dave1001
7th March 2007, 10:50 AM
Are radical Islamists motivated by Islam--by religion--or by political grievances?

Both answers are wrong, because our terms are inaccurate. Islamists are motivated by religion, a religion that is formally the same--they profess the same dogma and beliefs and revere the same texts--as mainstream Islam. But in reality, they belong to a different religion.

The problem is really one of names. Many people, afraid--quite correctly--of being seen as claiming "Islam is" bad or "Muslims are" bad due to their dogmas. They make the opposite mistake of claiming that, since Islamist beliefs and general Muslim beliefs are formally the same, this proves the Islamists religion cannot be the cause of his violence, but it must be some sort of political grievance.

This is why we have so many discussions of the sort:

--"Islamists kill because they believe X".
--"Racist! I know many Muslims who also believe X and do not kill. So how can belief in X be the reason for Islamists killing?"

The second statement is true, of course, and looks like an unanswerable reply, but it does not really disprove the assertion. For it is not belief in X that makes Islamists kill, it's the way they believe it. And how one believes is just as much a part of one's religion as what one believes, in fact, usually, much more so.

This is, incidentally, also why two other arguments we see on this forum all the time: quoting some ridiculous Christian dogma as "evidence" that Christianity is no different than Islamists in their support of violence, or quoting some Muslim dogma as "evidence" Islam in general is violent--is completely besides the point. The dogmas, the official beliefs, are of relatively little importance in determining what one's religion really is.

Skeptics and secular humanists, my experience is, often confuse being religious with believing in a certain dogma. What dogma one believes in is only a small part of one's religion. Every philosophical position seems to have a blind spot, and this is ours. This blind spot is often why so many skeptics and secular humanists simply don't understand, I think, what really motivates Islamists.

Do you question your own (nontransparent dogma)? There's a dogma that to stigmatize a group, give more attention and focus on their fringe elements than to their non-fringe elements. I don't think folks who focus on radical islam, but who give almost zero focus to arab and desi skeptics have a pure motive.

ponderingturtle
7th March 2007, 11:49 AM
How useful is it for outsiders to try to invoke reform inside a religion? To a point it might be effective, but beyond that it will cause solidarity as they are seen as an outside attacker.

gtc
7th March 2007, 01:06 PM
Do you question your own (nontransparent dogma)? There's a dogma that to stigmatize a group, give more attention and focus on their fringe elements than to their non-fringe elements. I don't think folks who focus on radical islam, but who give almost zero focus to arab and desi skeptics have a pure motive.

His motive is that Islamists are sworn to kill him and his family and overturn the government of his nation. Addressing this IS a pure motive.

The Atheist
7th March 2007, 01:09 PM
If it is powerless, then why all the worry about Christianity by folks like Dawkins? :confused:

OK, I guess I'll get out the long phone list of Christian charities, call each of them, and tell them to cease and desist, as they are irrelevant and redundant. I'll do likewise for Jewish and Muslim charities. Likewise, time to call all of the Catholic sponsored hospitals in Texas and tell them to shut the doors. No need for them, surely. :rolleyes:

You touch on something here that is lurking under the surface of your comments: religion and politics have been wed together for a very long time, and not just in the West, not just in the Islamic world, but pretty much everywhere. While attempting to extract the one, you influence and stand to damage the other. There is no guarantee that you won't kill the patient during this operation. I realize that you'd rather not kill the patient.

Right, you and Bernard Lewis are in accord. How is this done? Who will bell the cat? To say cancer needs curing is a similar sentiment. The important matter is in the detail of making the transformation.

How?

May I suggest Martin Luther and John Calvin as examples of people who led a worthy effort at transformation? The outcome was, for a while, a lot of war and hate. Likewise the Rennaisance through the Enlightenment, culminating in the French Revolutionary era, a transformation that resulted in . . . a whole lot of war and hate. See also the transformation in China. A lot of war and hate.

How much war and hate are you ready for, as Islam transforms? Such upheavals tend to spill over into neighboring societies. Ask any African, nineteenth century or twentieth century, or any Amerind for the 17 and 1800's.

Perhaps the transformation you think is necessary is already in progress, and what you and I are seeing is a phase of a generations long battle. Wars, even culture wars, have their ups and downs. I can't tell, since we are inside of it, if this is an up or down swing at the moment.

DR

Bloody well said!

As to the swings - I'm hoping we're at or very close to the peak violence of what is no question an upswing in Islam and radical Islam at the same time.

The Atheist
7th March 2007, 01:20 PM
Are radical Islamists motivated by Islam--by religion--or by political grievances?

Both answers are wrong, because our terms are inaccurate. Islamists are motivated by religion, a religion that is formally the same--they profess the same dogma and beliefs and revere the same texts--as mainstream Islam. But in reality, they belong to a different religion.

The problem is really one of names. Many people, afraid--quite correctly--of being seen as claiming "Islam is" bad or "Muslims are" bad due to their dogmas. They make the opposite mistake of claiming that, since Islamist beliefs and general Muslim beliefs are formally the same, this proves the Islamists religion cannot be the cause of his violence, but it must be some sort of political grievance.

This is why we have so many discussions of the sort:

--"Islamists kill because they believe X".
--"Racist! I know many Muslims who also believe X and do not kill. So how can belief in X be the reason for Islamists killing?"

The second statement is true, of course, and looks like an unanswerable reply, but it does not really disprove the assertion. For it is not belief in X that makes Islamists kill, it's the way they believe it. And how one believes is just as much a part of one's religion as what one believes, in fact, usually, much more so.

This is, incidentally, also why two other arguments we see on this forum all the time: quoting some ridiculous Christian dogma as "evidence" that Christianity is no different than Islamists in their support of violence, or quoting some Muslim dogma as "evidence" Islam in general is violent--is completely besides the point. The dogmas, the official beliefs, are of relatively little importance in determining what one's religion really is.

Skeptics and secular humanists, my experience is, often confuse being religious with believing in a certain dogma. What dogma one believes in is only a small part of one's religion. Every philosophical position seems to have a blind spot, and this is ours. This blind spot is often why so many skeptics and secular humanists simply don't understand, I think, what really motivates Islamists.

Good on ya!

There wouldn't be too many things I'd agree with you on and I reckon you could have put it far more simply, but I applaud your sentiment.

In ill-educated societies, it's easy to hijack a decent number of zealots in the name of god, Allah or any other figure. IRA and Provo, anyone? Why do you think the world has Irish jokes? (or muslim ones, for that matter)

It's not just secular humanists who miss the point, either. I think people like Steve Grenard and his muslim-hate campaign do equal damage with moderate christians who try to re-focus on broader Islam, ignoring the obvious link.

The problem is, the same as why christians won't go after Jesus Camp, that to challenge the insane factions they have to challenge some of their own beliefs.