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A Reasoned Debate

An associate of mine wrote an op-ed for a MN news website recently.

He is asking the right question of Muslims. Moderates need to answer questions about their support for radicals. There is a bigger question for all religions. When will they accept that "devout" is not a good thing. Dedicating your life to believing something that you cannot know to be true is deeply unhealthy.

Let me know what you think. I can only imagine what comments he will get.

We need an honest dialogue about Islamic fundamentalism

By Patrick Phenow | Monday, Dec. 21, 2009

I want to begin an honest dialogue with Islam. And I want to include those who are not followers of Islam who defend it in its excessive offense-taking in the name of respect for all religions. This includes people like the head of the Church of England, Archbishop Rowan Williams, who has given tacit support to Sharia law in England -- law that, in even it most benign form, does not generally grant equal rights to women. It includes those who, while not calling for the death of the publishers of material critical of Islam, still agreed that limits should be put on their ability publish such things.

The reason for this dialogue is that I want certain interpretations of Islam to join the modern world. In the modern world, homosexuality is not punishable by death, and is not illegal (unfortunately, we in the west still have some work to do in this area). Adulterers are not buried up to their shoulder and stoned to death. Apostates and blasphemers are not punished in any way, much less by being put to death. Women have equal right to socialize, to work, to own property, to choose their husband. There will forever be things about all religions that I find distasteful. But on issues such as these, there is no room for concession.

Read The rest...



I'm ambivalent about this article by Mr. Phenow. There is much to agree with:certainly the beliefs and practices of most of the world's religions have nasty and repressive aspects -like fossilised remnants of the human history of error and crime, they have no place in a civilised society (though unlike fossils, they can still bite).

But the writer needs to think harder about the violence and dehumanisation inherent in the liberal society he espouses (war, class, anomie, consumerism, indifference to world poverty when it comes to serious profit etc). Is it all about religious people adapting to that culture? I'm no theist, but it seems a bit one sided to take such a stance. Oh, and by the way, the Archbishop's point about Sharia law wasn't to give the green light to repressive/barbaric practices. He was acknowledging what happens anyway - where they do not clash, English law allows coexistence with other legal systems (like church law) -Chris

I think you confuse secular and liberal.

Certainly the good old USA loves it some war consubmerism and is rather indifferent to world poverty. And there is quite a bit of religious thinking that goes into those policy's

That said, the liberal community has opposed most every war in the last 100 years, calls for reigns on capitalism and give generously to reduce world poverty. And they manage that even with some religous folks in their ranks.

There are many

No, I meant liberal: there are/have been secular states that aren't liberal, but all liberal states have to keep religion out of the public order of things (I'm using 'liberal' here in the European sense - not in the US sense of 'anyone who isn't a conservative').

More importantly, liberalism is entwined with possessive individualism, inequality etc. My point was that it isn't just a matter of posing difficult questions to Muslims about inhumanity of the more radical types in their philosophy - others have some hard questions to answer, too.

So you are losing me again. You think liberal societies have caused war by excluding religion? Which wars has religion opposed?

But you are right, we all have questions to answer too.

Americans should be asked to denounce the war mongering of their government as should European countries. Also, religious people should be asked to denounce the violence advocated by their fellow believers.

Human conflict is inevitable and we should seek to find ways to reduce it and keep it nonviolent.

That said, a good first step is attacking those ideas that are without basis and reality and get everyone to stop killing each other over those. Than we can negotiate some truces of oil, gold, labor, and water.

No - not that liberal societies cause war because they exclude religion; just rying to define liberal as a society which aspires to a 'neutral' state (ie separation of church and state). The problem, as I see it, is that war, inequality and despoilation of the biosphere aren't incidental to this kind of system, but rather endemic, as the liberal societies are wrapped around capitalism as ivy round a tree.

no doubt, and more people should do more to hold their countries accountable to stopping this foolishness. It may be a matter of human nature, but many other human traits have been conquered by human reason. Religion becomes a focus for many because it is a barrier to reason.


i don't know if this was an intentional mispelling or not but i LOVE it.

I want to begin an honest dialogue with Islam.

oh he does, does he? good luck. he may find individual muslims to dialogue with, most of whom already agree with him and have been ostracized by mainstream islam. or, worse, p.r. firms that are paid to lie to make islam look acceptable to western eyes. but islam itself doesn't maintain a "public relations dept." it's take it or leave it.

europe has been slowly realizing this for many years visavis their own growing muslim immigrant populations and is yet far from a solution. they'll probably behave as switzerland did- issue crazy and paranoid edicts as the emotion of paranoia moves them, and remain parylized in the larger debate about immigrants accepting the legal and social norms of their host countries.

as far as this well meaning but naive minnesotan- who does he think he's kidding? "with all due respect, i'd like to talk to the boss muslim". gimme a break.

I think we naive Minnesotans deal with a slightly diferent subset of the Muslim faith than you are used to. We elected one to congress actually. The MN community certainly has its radicals as we have seen somali radicals groups recruiting fighters from our state.

You may actually find that a dialoge helps your situation as well.

You may actually find that a dialoge helps your situation as well.

don't be snarky. you know i believe in dialogue as well.

We elected one to congress actually.

yeah, and a jew who seems to be stealing the spotlight. :) (franken)

we have muslims in the knesset here in israel, too. it's not that "we" elect them but it's a democracy and the israeli arabs have the vote, what can you do? just a warning- i guess it's not happening in the u.s. yet but over here muslim politicians do some really wild fifth-column kinda shit. watch your backs.

If you ever find me not using snark in my responses, report it to norm as someone has clearly stolen my sign in.

Wellstone was also Jewish. I believe coleman might have been as well.

Isn't that a rather bigoted, borderline racist remark?

Isn't it, in fact, the kind of remark anti Semites used to make about Jews?

Why are Muslims supposed to be the exclusive problem here?

Have 'they' sent armies to invade the USA or Europe?

Are 'they' building homes on another people's land, in direct contravention of a unanimous UN security council resolution?

Chris, We don't much like the term "racist" thrown around here.

Fifth Column remarks are obscure but potentially offensive given the historical context. We should assume JB meant it in French resistance usage.

Why are Muslims supposed to be the exclusive problem here?

They are not, We don't take sides between religions. Religious conflict and attempts to create religious states are perhaps the big issue that puts this conversation on 1gm.

Have 'they' sent armies to invade the USA or Europe?

No, terrorists.

Are 'they' building homes on another people's land, in direct contravention of a unanimous UN security council resolution?

So you think there are Zero Muslims violating UN security council resolutions these days.

Well, I suggested that Mr Becker's remark was bordeline -that 'R' word - which seems a bit nastier than the word I used to describe it, but never mind. Let's exercise the principle of charity.

Re your point: No one should justify terrorism of any kind, from any source, but isn't rounding on the 'muslim problem' (and incidentally, conflating with arabs, as Mr Becker does - but you know what I think of that)to make a kind of category error? Terrorism and ethnic/religious affiliation are not the same issue.

Many 'western' troops in Iraq are from an avowedly Christian country; the IDF in the occupied territories (West Bank) is the miltary arm of an avowedly Jewish state, but that doesn't mean all Christians and Jews everywhere must answer for what they do to innocent civilians.

The same ought to apply to Muslims. Muslims don't "send" terrorists, any more than you do.

I would tend to disagree. If one is a member of an organization or country, they are in part responsible for holding that group to their personal moral beliefs. When the USA does something I disagree with I vote against the leaders that make the decision, when I a business is unussually badly I deny them my business, when a charity acts badly, I fail to donate.

Religious people should be in the responsible for shunning those that use their religion as an excuse to justify violence and oppression. The Muslim religion is used for that a great deal, as many others.

Just as I think American Christians should be asked to denounce the anti gay laws proposed by members of the family in Uganda, Americans Muslims should be asked to do the same for equally vile laws in a number of countries.

the 'muslim problem' (and incidentally, conflating with arabs, as Mr Becker does - but you know what I think of that

i wasn't doing any "conflating". i suppose when you think of islamic fundamentalism (the subject of this post) you think of the relatively peaceful muslims of indonesia, or the african-american movement "nation of islam", right? i was talking about the israeli arabs, who are overwhelmingly muslim, and getting moreso everyday as they oppress and squeeze out the israeli arab christians. i probably know more about different kinds of muslims than anyone here, actually, which is kind of sad since i'm certainly no scholar of islam, just a simple, humble "obstacle to peace". :)

I have never seen you not conflate.

well there is that. :)

btw, i hear the call of the muezzin 5 times a day from where i sit writing these words. it's kind of nice, actually, since i don't live actually under the loudspeakers and it just kind of wafts through the valley, reminding me of the ancient nature of our conflict and the potential of even islam to attain beauty. but i don't ignore the fact that loudspeakers and minarets are modern additions (relatively speaking) in this kulturkampf. as are the f-16's and uav's that are even now photographing my home to make sure i'm not building an addition. and, of course, my own loudspeakers, which my arab neighbors can surely here when i'm feeling rowdy. hope they like jimi hendrix. :)

I can't find any substance for controversy here: belief is toxic, and the tighter you grip it, the more does its poison penetrate. Belief, of course, is the johnny-come-lately of the mind: JC taught a simple message of humility and self-examination a century before Catholicism formed like a cancerous growth around those teachings. Lao Tzu wrote 81 crystalline poems of enlightened common sense centuries before Taoism came along and turned it all into a mysterious and esoteric wad of hoo-hah. Another religion that has been exposed for its falsehood and decadence this past year is known as capitalism: I'm sure folks were bartering and using lumps of metal in their daily commerce for a long time before the first economist came along to erect the idols of the market.

Thus, sharia law is neither more nor less offensive to reason and natural human feeling than is the Catholicism of either the Vatican or Wall St. The stone tablets of all these beliefs form the pedestal that raises a few while crushing the many.

i'll try to put this as simply as possible. "belief" is not the problem, it's WHAT you believe. you "believe", i presume, that rape is a bad thing. (to use and extreme example of many possibilities). you believe the sun will rise tomorrow in spite of the fact this is only inductive reasoning, and not deductive. you believe that by pecking out your thoughts on this blog, you may affect the world for the better. (or maybe you don't, in which case i would ask why you do it.)

none of these beliefs are harmful, and neither is the belief you might be alive a month from now and trying to affect change actually might mean something to you and the rest of us.

the CONCEPT of belief, again, is not the problem.

liked your comment, by the way, except for this one point.

You're being a little disingenuous, aren't you? I think you know that by "belief," Brian meant religious belief and not scientific or ethical reasoning. Brian could have been clearer by saying "religion" instead of "belief," but you knew what he was getting at.

Brian meant religious belief and not scientific or ethical reasoning.

do you think the things i mentioned have anything to do with "scientific or ethical reasoning"?

look: there's no scientific reasoning that says i shouldn't cause another person pain. as far as "ethical" (non-religious) reasoning goes, the best you can do is some twisted version of "karma" (itself a religious concept) whereby i shouldn't be mean to others because they may in turn be mean to me.

maybe you're right about what he meant and i didn't see it. but if that's what he meant, it's even more incorrect.

You wrote, "you 'believe,' i presume, that rape is a bad thing." That could be classified as ethical reasoning, not belief. You wrote, "you believe the sun will rise tomorrow in spite of the fact this is only inductive reasoning, and not deductive." That could be classified as scientific reasoning, or as you put it, inductive reasoning, again, not belief. To use your words, I'll try to put this as simply as possible: by "belief," Brian was referring to religion. Again, you knew that, but chose to misinterpret his use of the word. At the risk of putting words in Brian's mouth (or keyboard), what he's getting at is that religion dogmatizes the more or less decent intentions of Jesus, Lao Tzu (among others) primarily for political reasons, thereby making the "honest dialogue" called for by the author of the MinnPost article pretty much out of reach. What Brian should've said is "religion is toxic." I "believe" that is what he meant. I also "believe" you knew that was what he meant, but chose to misinterpret his words for reasons that remain unclear.

what he's getting at is that religion dogmatizes the more or less decent intentions of Jesus, Lao Tzu (among others) primarily for political reasons

i would say it's politics that uses religion for this purpose, not the other way around (with some notable exceptions especially in america today, so i understand your sensitivity).

and, as i thought i made clear, i truly thought mr. donahue was talking about belief, and not religion. the two are too often conflated here, because of the evidince issue. not every human conviction based on little or no evidence is "religion". i resent your casting of aspersions regarding the intent of my initial post. but i forgive you, cuz my religion says "why the hell not?"

btw, i've been struggling with this for many years as a student of philosophy: as far as i can tell, inductive reasoning is indistinguishable from belief. thoughts?

The distinguishing characteristic is that belief can (and often does) occur without any reasoning at all.

yeah, i get that. it distinguishes between belief and understanding. but it doesn't distinguish betweeen harmless/helpful belief and harmful belief. which is actually the issue here. see kurt vonnegut.

i don't know, pedantsareus, if the facts of the case are correct (and who knows?) my own personal sense of justice is not offended by this punishment. maybe that makes me an asshole, i don't know. it certainly doesn't mean i support sharia or ANY religiously based law system in the world as it is today.

but, yeah, cut the motherfuckers ears and noses off. why not?

cut the motherfuckers ears and noses off. why not?

Well, because I don't think the law should be about our "personal sense of justice". If the victim were my sister or daughter, I'd want to cut off at least one more appendange off these bastards in addition to their ears and noses. It is just that I don't think the law is supposed to do that. (Having said that, if these guys do get their appendages severed, I'll lose about as much sleep for them as I did when they executed Ted Bundy.)

i don't think the law should be about "our" personal sense of justice, i think it should be about MY personal sense of justice. and as far as i can tell you agree with me on this one.

oops. was that antidemocratic? sorry, sometimes the spirit takes me, you know.

Did you mean the criminals or the legal system?

So much wrong with this story.

The fact that this guy wnts to marry his cousin.

The fact that she can't except this without the permission of her parents.

The horrible crime and the horrible punishment.

oh boo hoo. you get a pair of ruby slippers, congratualations. you know that, in spite of sharia being idiotic the punishment fits the crime here if the facts are at all correct.

Perhaps there is evidence in this, that cruel laws lead to a cruel people.

well, there is that.

let me just make sure i have the official 1gm definition of "belief" down: belief is when you're absolutly sure, or at least sure enough to base your behaviour on something you can't prove, or for which there is no, or unconvicing evidence.


I think you found yourself in an argument because you ignored what seemed obvious, that he meant "belief" as in "faith".


Credo ut intelligam, wherein belief promotes understanding (I believe in order that I may understand - Anselm)


Intelligo ut credam, connotes that knowledge or thinking fosters belief.

But going over what Reed said is more pertinent for this discussion.

We should assume JB meant it in French resistance usage.

nah, you can assume it's an "israeli arab knesset member azmi bishara is currently hiding in syria from treason charges involving money, information and moral support to the enemy during the height of the 2nd lebanon war" kind of thing.

you are correct, of course that i intend no bigotry or racism. this is war, and when the butterflies and unicorns come out to play again i'll be the first to comdemn "fifth column" remarks. as it is now, however, peoples lives are at stake. including arab lives, the arabs of israel, who bishara also betrayed.

furthermore i felt it was legitimate to mention it regarding muslim arab politicians in america, seeing as america is, oddly enough (really) also at war with muslim arabs. but i didn't have any particular politician in mind, and there are many subtle and unsubtle differences between the american and israeli war situations. so, i may have crossed a line in saying that and chris was fair enough to call me on it. i apologize, to you and the good arab citizens of the u.s. and europe. as everyone here knows i let my mouth run away with me sometimes. i mean no harm.


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