Are Muslims Being Discriminated Against?

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by Kenneth Justice

~ Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, then you’ve noticed that Muslims have been in the NEWS a lot lately. Whether it was the Arab Spring that took place a couple years ago, the conflict in that is raging in Syria, or simply President Obama mentioning Islam in his recent speeches; it’s difficult not to notice that Islam is a hot button topic in today’s Western Media.

In the midst of the many stories about Islam in the Media, we are often confronted with polar opposite views of the religion;

–) On one hand we have ISIS who says they represent true Islam

–) And on the other hand we have American Muslims who adamantly insist such extremism is NOT true Islam.

The Atlantic for instance published an article in which they suggested that while ISIS may attract a few psychopaths, they are nonetheless a well thought out and articulated religious people, Graeme Wood (2015) writes,

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic 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.

The Atlantic article upset quite a few American Muslims who didn’t appreciate the portrait of extremist Muslims representing Islam. In response to The Atlantic and other caricatures of Islam, this article by Murtaza Hussain suggests people are biased against Muslims and true Islam <article>.

So what is a non-Muslim supposed to think? Are we supposed to believe the extremists or the American Muslims; what IS true Islam? Who REALLY represents true Islam? Who has the AUTHORITY to tell us what true Islam is and is not?

Last night on my LIVE streaming show I had American Muslim Christina Tasca on as my guest to share her perspective on Islam. Among the show highlights, Christina suggested that,

–) Islam led to women’s rights hundreds of years before Christianity and the Western World

–) Extremist Muslims are entirely wrong and misrepresenting the religion

–) Much of the media is biased against Muslims

–) The misunderstandings that Western people have of Muslims comes from not having any friends who are Muslim

So what do you think? Is the media biased against Islam? Do you have a negative view of Muslims? Are your perceptions connected to a lack of having any friends who are Muslim? Are American Muslims practicing TRUE Islam, and extremists in the Middle East practicing a bastardized version of Islam?

These are difficult questions to discuss because more often than not, when the subject comes up people often get VERY heated. If you have a few minutes, check out the video below of my conversation with Christina, and tell me what YOU think.

Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee,

Kenneth



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44 replies

  1. That is always the case. Not all Muslims are terrorists.

  2. Thank you Kenneth for this video. I hope it allays the misconception against Islam, and Muslims. ISIS is a terrorist organization that professes to be Islamic, but does nothing Islamic — it beheads people who have committed no crime, it rapes women- crimes that Allah has strictly prohibited.

  3. Biased or not misunderstanding is not just us westerners then. How it is read or not, the religion talks about wars and unbelievers. But it is only how one interpreters unbeliever and that is a Muslim at first.
    Teachings as th religion indicates may be old but so are our wrongs on either side.
    Even with Muslim friends I still do no understand why a person would kill for a belief. Since they do not either. So to understand we need to understand the extremists and that is not so easy. That I think makes us biased.
    To us it also sound Muslims do not do a lot of prevention about those who do see or interpreter their very own religion differently.

    I know one is not the other, I have friends who condemn those who do wrong. But what is wrong? What is true. The reading is weird and confusing on times.

    But it is a conversation best talked then written. As a word can easily be misunderstood. And I am still trying to understand

  4. Funny how often one encounters the “not a true…” whatever. You’d think people would see the problem with this apologetic yet meaningless quip and immediately ask which one IS the true ‘whatever’… followed by the most important question: How do you know that? This is where the excuse always seems to fall apart.

    Look, as Harris says, Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas. But it – in ALL of its expressions – relies on people making the identical assumption that empowers all the expressions of Christianity: a willingness to grant authority to scripture and the means to interpret it ‘correctly’. The same problem exists here: which one is the true version and how do we know? Again, what is revealed is that we don’t know and that there isn’t a ‘true’ version bobbing about independent of the assumption. That’s why religious belief is correlated to geography and not truth value: we go along to get along. That’s the ‘moral truth’ so often trumpeted by religious believers in action.

    So if we look to scripture to see which interpretation, which version, seems to align more closely to it (and the divine authority it reveals), we find a very disturbing fact: fundamentalism is identical to the popular but factually incorrect narrative about ‘extremism’. And all religious belief must possess at its core a set of fundamental beliefs (oh, but these beliefs cannot possibly by extremism if I believe it). This cognitive dissonance that all believers are to some degree fundamentalists but NOT extremists leads one inevitably to the same bad argument about those other ‘extremists’ who are not representative of the ‘true’ faith yet follow their scripture far more closely than the ever-so-pious but prevaricating quasi-believer.

    But guess what? These ‘extremists’ are much more justified as representative of ‘true’ believers than the apologetic unwashed masses who cherry pick their theological bits but are still more than willing to brand themselves with some fundamental group identity!

    Islam is a totalitarian system. Ask a muslim – any muslim – if the koran is the perfect word of god and listen to what he or she says. There’s your fundamentalism, the root cause of people daring to act on this authority and suddenly – POOF! – become an extremist! Cue the startled looks and ask – as if serious – “How could this happen?” Yes, a real mystery.

    Unlike those who populate other religions like Christianity in its thousands upon thousands of sectarian versions, muslims who do not act according to the prescriptions of the koran are measured by their adherence to it. In other words, a muslm who does not accept its total guidance is a ‘bad’ muslim to some degree, whereas in the more mature religions, one can be considered a good christian if one does not follow all of its biblical prescriptions.

    There’s you difference and the one that condemns islam to be the mother lode of bad ideas. It is not susceptible to revision and modification and moderation without an accompanying decrease in piety.

    Islam is antithetical to enlightenment values. It is contrary to individual rights, contrary to individual freedoms, contrary to individual consent to be governed by anyone other than Allah’s representative. (What a surprise the Arab Spring failed….. not). It is a religion contrary to equality in law. It is incompatible with secular western liberal values. Other than these few ‘quibbles’ – meaning that western muslims must be ‘bad’ muslims to live in such a system in peace, order, and support secular government and secular law – those who identify with Islam are insane to think their religion should be treated with respect and deference when it is a root source of regularly and consistently producing a sizable minority of ‘fundamentalists’ ready, willing, and able to be ‘radicalized’ into following the prescriptions of ‘extremism’ laid out by some god, no less. It is equally insane to think such a religion should be sanctioned by the wider multi-religious population as well as non believers to be a perfectly good fit in secular liberal democracies… democracies whose values are in constant conflict with such scripture.

    Talk about crazy…

    • Nonsense. Christianity is just as susceptible to the problems with revision, modification and moderation as Islam. The ultra-conservative members of the American Republican party demand that candidates stick to the most draconian interpretations of the bible despite all modern day interpretations. And for the same reason–a belief that any modification is the same as a decrease in piety. Same with Catholics who are asked to accept birth control, gays or abortion. The only difference is Christians are fine with dissenting Christians being intractable, preaching hate and bombing clinics because they don’t define that as Christian behaviour. But when Islamic extremists reject modern conventions, violently or not, they are defined as representatives of their religion. It may interest you to know there are many branches of Islam and they don’t all agree on what constitutes the core tenets of Islam anymore than Catholics agree with Protestants. So how is it we get common ground on which to define their so called decrease in piety? Simple–we have no such ground. But we like insist on it because it makes it easier to condemn those we don’t understand and are suspicious of.

      Every single one of your ‘mother-lode’ of bad ideas can be easily applied to all religions. Every single religion demands piety to rules and times long past. How you think a Muslim is more dangerous than any other religious fanatic escapes me. How you think other religions have not produced huge numbers of radicalized followers is down to ignorance and a media that highlights one and not the other.

      Hypocrisy as its best, really.

    • It’s not nonsense. And it’s not my opinion.

      One in four Church of England followers, Jainist, Jews, Buddhists, Catholics, Hindus, Mormons, Scientologists, Sikhs, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so on don’t think it’s right and proper to kill in the name of Christianity. One in four British born, British raised. middle to upper middle class, university graduate muslims do. A willingness to justify the killing of real people in the name of defending Islam.

      Mull that fact.

      This difference is so startling that once you put actual numbers to it – numbers of real people in real life willing to commit real acts with support those who do – should open your eyes to the qualitative differences Islam produces in the propensity to produce real people to become ‘radicalized’.

      You reject this observation because it doesn’t fit with your narrative. Your narrative is factually wrong. And it’s putting you to sleep.

  5. LOL KENNETH!! I look like I’m throwing gang signs!! You couldn’t choose a different image?

    I don’t know if I made it very clear last night, but wanted to make it a point again to say that Muslim’s practice of Islam is incredibly diverse with many schools of thought and many interpretations. Obviously extremist interpretations exist within every faith tradition and there are verses about violence in the Quran, just as there are also verses about caring for your fellow human being and actively demonstrating compassion, charity, justice and humanity (as there are in every religious text). I think Reza Aslan said it really well when he said a religion by itself is not violent or peaceful, people are violent or peaceful and each one of us brings with us our own lived experiences, world views, and proclivities to our readings and understandings of scripture. I recommend John Esposito who has written quite a bit about this subject, particularly “What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam” and “Who Speaks for Islam?”.

    Also, (another shameless plug for my organization!), if you’d like to learn more about what we’re doing to empower Muslim youth to be productive, active members of the community on a grassroots level and prevent them from turning to extremism, check out the Muslim Community Network website at http://www.mcnny.org. And if you’re in the NYC area, do join us for our Interfaith Peace Feast! http://www.peacefeast.eventbrite.com (It’s a 60s theme, so come in your best bell bottoms…dude!)

  6. LOL KENNETH!! I look like I’m throwing gang signs!! You couldn’t choose a different image?

    I don’t know if I made it very clear last night, but wanted to make it a point again to say that Muslim’s practice of Islam is incredibly diverse with many schools of thought and many interpretations. Obviously extremist interpretations exist within every faith tradition and there are verses about violence in the Quran, just as there are also verses about caring for your fellow human being and actively demonstrating compassion, charity, justice and humanity (as there are in every religious text). I think Reza Aslan said it really well when he said a religion by itself is not violent or peaceful, people are violent or peaceful and each one of us brings with us our own lived experiences, world views, and proclivities to our readings and understandings of scripture. I recommend John Esposito who has written quite a bit about this subject, particularly “What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam” and “Who Speaks for Islam?”.

    Also, (another shameless plug for my organization!), if you’d like to learn more about what we’re doing to empower Muslim youth to be productive, active members of the community on a grassroots level and prevent them from turning to extremism, check out the Muslim Community Network website at http://www.mcnny.org. And if you’re in the NYC area, do join us for our Interfaith Peace Feast! http://www.peacefeast.eventbrite.com (It’s a 60s theme, so come in your best bell bottoms…dude!)

    • Sorry Christina , YouTube randomly pulls a screenshot when it posts, but I can change it later when I’m at my computer 🙂

    • Lol, it’s rather funny, though, you gotta admit. 🙂

    • I think Reza Aslan said it really well when he said…

      Regarding an understanding of evolution, I think Bruce Chapman of the Discovery Institute said it really well when he said…

      Regarding wise investment strategies, I think Bernie Madoff said it really well when he said…

      Yeah, regarding religiously inspired violence, I think I can safely pass on the ‘wisdom’ the mewling apologist Aslan will provide when one considers the source. Along with Armstrong, Aslan argues froma strong belief contrary to reality’s evidence that there is no violence ever done by any muslim ever in the name of ‘real’ Islam.

    • @tildeb, Snoooorree…. Lighten up, dude. Sheesh!

    • Yeah, I will… as soon as as muslims start criticizing Islam forcefully and bringing about necessary revisions… revisions such as accepting apostasy. I can’t see that happening any time soon and from within. Can you?

  7. That is a rather bold accusation, ‘The misunderstandings that Western people have of Muslims comes from not having any friends who are Muslim.’ If it were to be true (and I don’t think so) what are we going to do about it? I don’t like pointing fingers and asking whose fault it is, as that leads to negativity. If … IF … it were to be true then the solution would be simple, make sure they become friends.
    Have a prophet-able day – The False Prophet

    • Most americans get their information from the the media and the church. If the media and church preach false ideas or assumptions of islam without ever learning for themselves then of course americans will have a negative view of islam and all muslims. People that i have known that hate islam and muslims seem to have no contact with muslims and get all their information from extremely biased sources….

    • The world is bigger than just America. The person whom thou speakest of spoke about people outside of America, too. Clearly this person has never been to my country, where it is almost impossible not to know any Muslims personally unless you live under a rock. This person should refrain from generalities like those, they do more harm than good. Don’t you think?
      Have a prophet-able day – The False Prophet

    • ……someone clearly thinks highly of themself.
      Very sure this post was coming more from a view point of america. Seeing as America is a global leader and the size of the population, not to mention how large America is…..it’s very important to look at these issues from an american perspective. The american media has a tilt to associate Islam and Muslims with evil that is reality.
      And yes I do think my opinion and voice are important in this conversation. I personally know multiple people who hate Muslims because they are Muslims even though they do not personally associate with Muslims.

    • It is quite often that people fear the unknown and I think it’s a pity media nowadays asociate Islam and Muslims with evil, this is starting to sound a little like things that happened soms 50 odd years ago. Yes, your opinion and voice are important – I don’t recall me saying that wasn’t so – I just hope some people refrain from generalities like ‘all people this…’, ‘all people that…’, because you and I both know that is exactly the problem we’re dealing with here.
      Keep on blogging in a free world – The False Prophet

    • Legitimate criticism of Islam is very often presented as ‘Islamophobia’ and misrepresented to be some kind of unjustified hatred against muslims as people. Although I’m sure some people fall into this category, I have yet to come across critics of Islam who fall into this category. In fact, most go out of their way to explain that muslims are not just the primary victims but the overwhelming majority of those on the receiving end of Islamic violence.

      The brutal fact of the matter is that anyone – anyone – who upholds respect for individuals, for individual rights and freedoms, for individual autonomy and equality in law, for individual worth and dignity, cannot be a good mulsim. That fact is a problem that belongs wholly and solely to Islam and, by definition, anyone who then supports it. Pointing out this rather significant problem is not the problem nor are those who do so forcefully and with sustained voice the problem. The problem is the incompatibility of Islamic values of submission to Allah through belief in the perfection of the koran as a model to implement in the real world. This support for Islam as a model for governance and law over civilian populations is contrary to and incompatible with western secular liberal democratic values… such as freedom of religion. Being fearful of its imposition and the effects of doing so is not an unreasonable fear but a very reasonable and sane fear all of us who support our individual rights and freedoms should share. To not be fearful is either moral cowardice, intellectual hypocrisy, or willful blindness.

    • If a house can’t withstand any wind, it bound to break down. Isn’t it true for more religions that they are not compatible with real life. I believe there are a lot of ideas and practises in the bible that could not and should not be practised in the real world, yet some people want to give it their best to do so anyways.
      I am curious about your views on atheism. Recently I read an article from an atheist who felt that they were in fact the largest group that is being discriminated against in the USA.
      Keep on blogging in a free world and have a prophet-able day – The False Prophet

    • I think irony is alive and well when fundamental religious beliefs undergo evolution… like creationism!

      What do I think of atheism? I think it is the default all of us use almost all of the time and we usually require compelling reasons to initiate belief (a question of likelihood). But religion is a rather nasty meme in that it can teach the brain – like any other intentional indoctrination – to alter its usual method of consideration for claims about reality (and any need for likelihood of some claim being true and worthy of some degree of confidence) and hold the requirement for compelling reasons in abeyance.

      Who would do that in, say, bridge-building or wing design of jets? Who would confidence that someone who simply believed the bridge would bear weight or the wing would withstand pressure and maintain lift without compelling evidence that they could do the job advertised?

      I don’t think there is a religion that doesn’t teach people to alter vice into a virtue when necessary for the religion to be supported. Yes, it is the fool who requires evidence! Not like us pious folk.

      If we relied on professionals to implement faith-based methodology in their field of expertise rather than evidence-based methodology, I think we’d rue the day. I think we’d get a return of measles outbreaks and children dying from too much prayer and not enough curative healthcare. We’d get people thinking that absent molecules are magically curative when diluted by enough water andwe’d find otherwise healthy and intelligent people dying from drinking tobacco tinctures used to cleanse bodily toxins and so on. Ludicrous, I know. We’d find school willing to admit non vaccinated children but expel anyone bringing peanut butter to school! I mean, who would fall for this substitution of belief to determine how reality operates and think it virtuous, think it a different but equivalent method? No one, right?

      Well, there’s that irony again.

  8. What bothers me is that you say American Muslims say this, as if they are the only Muslims who think this way. I understand you gear your posts to an American audiences, but I live in a Caribbean nation where a significant number of the population is Muslim. I can assure you, the Muslims I have lived among all my life are equally distressed by the actions of Muslim extremists. We had a coup here in 1990 lead by a Muslim extremist. We had bombings. In the wake of that, although there was some backlash against the Muslim community briefly, it wasn’t long before we returned to normal–appreciating that our Muslim citizens are also citizens of this country, first and foremost. We already knew that every Muslim wasn’t responsible for the actions of some, and we didn’t demand that they state their allegiance. We took it for granted they were citizens too. And they were. They were deeply hurt by the extremists, just like every other innocent citizen.

    Culturally, they are peaceful and no more prone to violence than any other group. I believe your guest is right. This constant suspicion of Muslims exists in countries where immigrants, and Muslims, are not truly considered part of society. Perhaps it’s because there aren’t as many, so people don’t form relationships with Muslims and realise they are just people who follow a particular religion. Are there people who have left here to go to join ISIS? Yes, to our everlasting shame. But as a country, we consider these few people–and they are few–to be aberrant. And our Muslim leaders and brothers and sisters have condemned their actions. Perhaps that’s because in my country, we celebrated Muslim holidays along with Christian, Hindu and secular ones. Perhaps that’s because I went to school with Muslims and worked with them my whole life. Perhaps it’s because when my sister went to a Catholic school, it was located next door to a Muslim one, and the student body often visited each other on important religious days to get a better understanding of one another.

    One thing I know for sure. American Muslims aren’t the only ones who see Islam as a religion of peace. All true Muslims see it that way. How do you know a real Muslim? He’s not killing you. Just like a real Christian isn’t gunning children down in Norway. If you want Muslims to be your friends though, don’t put the burden on them alone. Act like one. Because guess what? They are worthy of it. They are people with as much chance to be good or bad as anyone else. And detractors shouldn’t get to demand that all Muslims prove their ‘goodness’ or ‘lawfulness’ any more than they would like someone to demand that of them.

    In my experience, a Muslim is a human being who practices Islam. A terrorist is a criminal. Yes, Muslims can be criminals and terrorists. But terrorists and criminals are not a subset of Muslims alone. The media in large countries contribute to this idea relentlessly. Until they stop viewing crimes as religion, Muslims will never get the respect they deserve and ISIS will be able to continue recruiting and poisoning a peaceful culture.

  9. I think we are all supposed to be one family under (with) God, our Heavenly Father.

    At least, at the end, people will recognize it…

    We do have same roots, genetically, historically, even in religion (Abrahamic people). Hard to believe people do not tend to recognize they are manipulated against their true nature to hate/fear others.

    We should share, not divide.

    Have a Blessed Night!

    • And what do you think is the underlying cause of dividing people?

    • Fallen nature. We all have a beautiful part, what cares, does, serves, helps and loves through good deeds benefitting others, working for purposes way beyond ourselves – and unfortunately none of us is exempt of doubting, cynical, selfish, narrow-minded, godless characteristics; all these in each and every one of us. No wonder why only those could reach a temprorar internal trnaqulitiy who abandond any and every externitiy, including people – we seem to be triggered by each other, and our seemingly eternal internal conflicts easily manifest with interactions with each others. Brothers and sisters, couples, parents and children, nations and countries all are confused because fundamentally they are leack of absolute virtue, value and ethic – originated with unchanging, eternal, true love what lives for the sake of others first.
      I think, this is one point why we live like unconscious puppets in a self and mutually generated, cnfolict burdened world, what noone’s desire.

    • Born broken, commanded to be well. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    • Humans have been separated from their original ancestry, God, for a long while.
      since god is an absolute being, He wouldn’t change His laws. However, God is also a parent, He does have this main characteristics, therefore He constantly has been trying to reach out for each and every one of us. Since we do have free will, what not necessarily understood well (freedom doesn’t mean that anyone can do whatever wishes), but not so many times when we are truly can resonate in absoluteness with God, so mutually we could start a give and take actions (what is all around the Universe from the subatomic level to the macrocosmos), and with this process neergy for living and prosperity could occur, it is a great challenge and grief for God to His children living such a miserable life, and also for ourselves, who are blind, deaf and purposeless wanderers in the desert of this earthly life, searching and pursuing vanities, betraying and abandoning even our beloved ones.
      So, that is really absurd, and this type of life has never been the desire and can never be the ultimate purpose neither God, nor us.

      Be Blessed and Be Blessings to Others!

    • Humans have been separated from their original ancestry

      What on earth are you talking about? What separation?

    • We have been created as the greatest of all in the Universe, as God’s children.
      Since the Fall of Adam and Eve, all of us are cut from our Heavenly Father.
      That separation caused tremendous pain and constant agony in history, we are mostly not even aware of our true values, our original, once-lost position.
      I referred to this.

      Peace shall be with you!

  10. The people I know are quick to assume that many Muslims are anti-American when assaulted with all the negative media attention. On a person to person basis, however, the people near where I live seem to treat Muslims who are obviously dressed as Muslim with curiosity, but not outside rudeness.

    • The central tenets – the five pillars – of Islam are incompatible with individual autonomy on which western secular liberal democracies are based. Don’t you think this might be a problem in and of itself without any regard whatsoever to ‘media’?

  11. If I am a Muslim, I would think that I am practicing “true Islam”, no mater what side I fall on.

    Doesn’t everyone think that they are practicing what they believe in? No one would say, “I’m practicing this religion but it is not the truth.” People practice what they believe in? We could say this about people who have no faith too right? Atheists practice what they believe in too. Why would people practice the things they do not believe are true? Maybe some people have other motives for “practicing” … but in that regard maybe some “religions” looks a little different:

    If I am a Christian, I would think I am NOT practicing “true Christianity” because it can only be fully “truly” practiced in Christ. (I say this but, I’m not saying all Christians think in this way, I’ve certainly seen many Christians who think that they are truly practicing “true Christianity”).

    If I am a Hindu I would believe that all people are practicing Hinduism, regardless of “sect” or “religion”. (So far as I’ve heard it explained, among some forms of Hinduism. They understand it to be logically impossible to not practice Hinduism. The concepts of “false” or “true” can’t really apply to Hinduism [according to some]. I guess you could say it is somewhat like what we might call “being”.)

    Anyways… that said I’m not really a professional in this area. I don’t think I can say who is right or wrong. But, Love, generosity and non-violence all look beautiful to me.

    • People practice what they believe in? We could say this about people who have no faith too right? Atheists practice what they believe in too.

      Replace the word ‘atheist’ with ‘non belief in gods or a god’ and then see if it makes any equivalent <i.religious sense of practicing one’s ‘beliefs’. How do you practice a non belief?

    • tildeb – What I mean is that atheists “practice” the things they consider valuable. It is a more colloquial use of ‘believe’. For example, “I really believe in you man.” or “I really believe you did the right thing.” or “Can you believe how awesome that was?” In fact… I think that is how it is used in ancient texts, but people often think of it as something different nowadays. Does that make sense? Everyone has ‘beliefs’ – as in, everyone values some things over other things.

    • You are referring in the above comment to muslims who are acting on their religious beliefs to be equivalent to atheists acting on theirs. And you do this by allowing religious beliefs to be in one set and values in another and call them the same kind of beliefs.

      This is not true.

      For example, tThe religious beliefs of muslims are prescribed (and commanded) in the koran (with some interpretations, of course, depending how you emphasize what).

      There is no equivalent and unifying authority for atheists to draw on, which is why the comparison sticks to theism and atheism – belief in gods or a god versus non belief in gods or a god. To suggest that the values of theism, say Islam, are therefore equivalent values to say, the Enlightenment (which I use because western secular liberal democracies base their founding documents and constitutions on exactly these values) is to refuse to see that the two are, in fact, incompatible. This is a problem no amount of excusing and ignoring and dismissing for whatever reasons will fix. believing that this problem isn;t a problem is very much a problem!

    • A Muslim who is acting on their religious beliefs is similar to atheist acting on their personal beliefs or values ONLY in so far as they are both acting in/through their individual autonomy. I am not saying anything regarding “kinds of belief”

      Each of them came to acquire their values in different ways but those values are acted out by the individual.

    • The problem with this approach is revealed in the exercise of law.

      If we simply have consequences for acts, then we have a black and white world where, say, killing is always wrong (the very definition of ‘murder’, meaning a wrongful death). Many people are fine with this. Here’s the law, it is broken, pay the consequence.

      The problem is revealed when we get to the individual level. Some people may kill another for these reasons, others for those reasons. If we stick to the model of law-act-proscribed consequence then we have no means to differentiate the reasons – sometimes polar opposites – that inform the act. The mass murderer receives the same consequence as the father defending a mother from that killer. In either case we end up with a killed person and a killer but should the consequences be the same?

      Well, in law, we allow judges to consider the intention of actions, the reasons that motivate the actions, the context in which these actions occurred. Sometimes, in law, it is right and proper and moral to kill. Sometimes it is not. What differentiates the consequences is not the act alone but all the considerations that go into justifying the action. That’s the important difference.

      I use this example to try to introduce you to why actions justified by faith-based beliefs are qualitatively different than actions justified by evidence-based beliefs. It’s not the term ‘beliefs’ that make these two justifications equivalent any more than it is term ‘murder’ makes the killing of another person justifiably equivalent. They’re not, and for compelling reasons.

      The beliefs of the religious person used as a justification are faith-based. This justification is qualitatively different from the evidence-based beliefs of a non religious person. To claim that both are equivalent because both are value-based and therefore similar is a non sequitur, in that the same reasoning applied to law to justify consequences would be unable to differentiate imprisonment for mass killing versus beheading for killing in self defense. The issue is about whether consequences for killing – or acting on religious beliefs – should be subject to any other consideration than the act itself. The issue isn’t about lumping all consequences into equivalency because actions are justified by the generic term ‘values’; some values are intolerant and we should be aware when these are the values being tolerated in the name of tolerance!

      Now let’s look again at ‘beliefs’.

      Evidence-adduced beliefs are a different quality altogether than faith- beliefs. All of us use evidence-adduced beliefs almost all of the time to navigate reality successfully. We rely on reality’s feedback to determine whether or not a belief we hold about it seems to work. We willingly use the products of evidence-adduced methods for our applications, therapies, and technologies and we are rewarded by reality when they work not just for us but for everyone everywhere all the time. We know this is a reliable and consistent method to describe the reality we share: by allowing reality to arbitrate. If a person beside you insisted that your car engine worked only because of the power of his belief, you would have a difficult time respecting that possibility as equivalent to our understanding of physics and the impersonal forces we can harness and apply used to develop ind implement car engines. The guy’s belief can be tested by reality and, when found wanting, can be dismissed; the engine works regardless of the guy’s belief in the power of his belief!

      Some of us switch our method of navigating reality when we use faith-based beliefs. We come up with all kinds of reasons to relegate reality’s ability to test these beliefs to be irrelevant! We hold faith-based beliefs to a different standard altogether – a special category altogether – and do so not to describe reality with any accuracy but to impose our beliefs on it and then rationalize our beliefs to power the engine of this faith-based universe we supposedly inhabit. We rationalize that our beliefs about some god determines our science, determines our morals, determines our character, determines our history, our meanings and purposes. We pretend that our beliefs are the same as reality, that our engines are powered by our beliefs in it!

      But when we test these claims in reality we find them empty of knowledge value. Faith-based beliefs do not produce knowledge. They do not produce explanations about reality that can be applied, that can be relied upon to produce applications, therapies and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time. In fact, faith-based beliefs have never, do not now, and probably never shall produce one iota of knowledge about the reality we share and that it purports to describe. It is not an equivalent method at all, and do not produce equivalent kinds of beliefs about reality. In fact, faith-based beliefs rely on a method that is incompatible with beliefs that respect reality’s right to arbitrate claims made about it.

      When atheists believe something to be justified, they use reality to inform them with reasons, with realty-based justifications. These beliefs are independent of the atheists who hold them and must either stand or fall on the merit reality produces.

      When theists believe something to be justified, they do as atheists do in the majority their dealings with reality. But sometime they deny reality the right to inform those reasons, those justifications, when it comes to their fundamental religious precepts. These beliefs are dependent on the religious tenets themselves and stand only by the direct support of the believers willing to go along with the claim as if true.

      In the same way we hobble a judge’s ability to produce justice by considering all the justifications for an action other than simply ‘consequences’, so too do we hobble our ability to discern what’s true about reality by considering all the justifications used for explanations than simply ‘beliefs’. Not all consequences are equivalent any more than not all beliefs are equivalent.

    • tildeb: I agree with your assessment about Atheists in comparison to believers of a faith (for the most part).

  12. I am muslim, but i against extremism. Islam never teach me to be a hater. We must respect each other. Islam teach me to forgive and love others. Big heart is a must in islam

    • Extremism is not ‘hating’; it is submitting to the will of god. Do you have a problem with fellow muslims submitting to the will of Allah, following the dictates of the koran, implementing Islamic law, being guided by the haddith?

      Is any of this ‘hatred’? Are these not the fundamentals of Islam?

      And what is the just punishment for the those of us who will not submit to the will of Allah? Be honest and do tell.

  13. tildeb,

    Open up your eyes (and ears and heart) because around the world moderate Muslims are criticizing extremists forcefully. Of course, that’s not on the agenda for “if it bleeds it leads” media.

    In my life I’ve had neighbors and friends who were Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and many more. Some of my favorite were my very kind, very gentle, humble, Muslim friends and neighbors. I have nothing bad to say about any of them. The same cannot be true for any of the others, except most of the Buddhists.

    As to revisions in a belief – this takes time. There has been no Islamic “Martin Luther” to bring about a Reformation and there might never be as the structure of the present sects is different. Further what we see at attribute to Islam is often actually tribal issues. And we largely eliminated much tribal influence in Western Europe a long time ago.

    If we cannot all come together to find peace and move forward then our world is doomed. I’m old enough to remember when the hated ones were the Japanese (they were still hated when I was a girl growing up in Idaho and the people – our own citizens – were released from concentration camps in the western US). Then we hated the Vietnamese and Laotians.

    Islam has been a part of America since the earliest days of this country. Only recently have we decided to hate Islam. Unfortunately, human beings are invested in hating other human beings.

    Very sad.

    • If we cannot all come together to find peace and move forward then our world is doomed. And you think we can move in this direction better if we continue to pay respect to and tolerance for conquest religions and those that insist there are invisible supernatural causal agencies with ‘divine’ agendas to which we should grant our primary allegiances, do you?

      You intentionally conflate criticism of Islam with ‘hate’ directed towards muslims. Go ask your muslim friends (as I have done) if they believe the koran is the perfect word of god. This time, you listen to them (as I have done). The ask them what is the proscribed punishment for anyone who answers with anything other than the perfect word of god.

      Now let’s talk about coming together and finding peace. There is the Islamic way (or submission to its primacy) and any others are intolerable and punishable by death.

      I know you don;t want to hear this. I know you want to paint it differently than the ugly and intolerant tyranny it is. After all, your muslim friends (like mine) don’t seem to be so extreme as to actually believe killing others (including other muslims) for apostasy is just fine and dandy. Few muslims follow their beliefs to this brutal fact but all are perfectly aware that many pious muslims do and that, as muslims themselves, they are in no position to suggest that Allah got it wrong or that Mohammed misinterpreted. And that’s why you need to ask these muslims what it is they actually believe and stop pretending that those of us who point out this religiously inspired seed for violence (often used as justification and is the cause for ‘radicalization’ and ‘extremism’ to follow the koran and do violence in its name) are somehow the guilty party or are exercising ‘hatred’. I simply speak truth to power and the truth of this rotten core from which Islam springs must be faced if we want to ever ‘come together and find peace’. Pretending it isn’t there and isn’t supported by actual peace-loving muslim friends and neighbours is a dangerous delusion. But don’t take my word for it; take the words of your friends and neighbours from pointed questions (and not the hand-waving apologetics regularly delivered by accommodating muslims and other faitheists) and hear what they are saying.

    • tildeb,

      Ahh, assumptions. You actually do not know what I do or do not what to hear. Nice try.

      The Koran was written a long, long time ago. It was written for a time and a culture that no longer exist. Just as the OT and the NT are totally out of sync with the modern world. There is no Abrahamic belief system that is not violent at its core because they all came from the same basic source, the OT.

      I’ve heard all your arguments before, years ago, focused on Christians. Rotten to the core, believe the bible is the undisputed word of god, yadda, yadda, yadda. I had a hard time gainsaying those allegations. The one thing I did say (on my old email list of several hundred people) is that there could be profound disagreements but no hatred was allowed, even by people who had been terribly harmed by Christianity. And there are a lot of people who have taken it in the shorts and continue to take it in the shorts from rabid Christians (as opposed to the normal ones who actually think the Sermon on the Mount actually meant something). There are plenty of Christians who have a my way/highway approach. I’ve met tons of ’em. And there are ways to reach peace deals in Islam.

      If you are looking for a belief system that is more or less pure and more or less non-violent you probably are left with Buddhism (as an ideal, anyway) and maybe B’ahai. Possibly Taoism. Other than that, it is open season on everyone, even among the atheists.

      Being one of those folks outside of the Abrahamic fold I caught hell most of my life from almost everyone, except my Muslim friends and neighbors. And my tribal beliefs have no less of a history of “screw with me and my gods will destroy you” than anyone else’s. The difference is that I can acknowledge that was then and this is now and focus more on Buddhist ideals and Druid philosophy of the modern day. But these are first world issues. And the people (in general) we are afraid of are having third world problems we don’t understand.

      Possibly because I was in very well educated community, possibly because I rubbed shoulders with a multi-cultural/mult-religious community where to throw a party I had to figure out how to meet the culinary needs of the Hindus, Jains, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. possibly that gave me a whole different segment of society to deal with. At least the above mentioned folks came over – the fundamentalist Christians would not.

      When I talk to a scholar I find a lot more nuance than you see the believe exists. And when I talk with Muslims about nuanced issues there can be variation. However, I see little difference between a fundamentalist Christian who tells me that I’m going to burn in hell and all the reasons why they’re right, and an extremist of any other belief system.

      I refuse to pigeonhole people based on a general belief system. But feel free.

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