Friday, February 16, 2007

It Takes An Individual

In a review of Ayaan’s autobiography, Claire Berlinski writes: “The curious thing, however, is not that Ms. Hirsi Ali came to reject Islam and embrace modernity, but that she seems to be one of so few immigrants to Europe to do so.” Why is this odd? Dogmatic religion is antithetical to independent thought. Muslims around the world maintain a duty-bound slavish devotion to their religious authorities not because of ignorance – they know what the West stands for – but out of choice. A life-time of submission and self-renunciation will be a stronger chain than any slave-master could hope to forge. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a rarity.

Ayaan has not merely rejected Islam but all religion. This poses an interesting problem for Berlinski as it does for Lawrence Auster. Berlinski writes: “But her metaphysical vision of the alternative to Islam is hardly seductive. Many people, I suspect, would prefer to live in chains than to believe that nothing awaits them after death. … And this is why the West's only hope is not the dismantling of Islam, but its reformation, a reformation that will perhaps be analogous in its contours to the Christian Reformation.” The Reformation led to a century of intolerance and brought wars of religion that were shocking in their savagery and slaughter. The Enlightenment – best exemplified in Britain and America – brought toleration, liberty, and set the stage for an unprecedented prosperity.

Of course, there will always be slackers who will be Muslim in name only, colonial Muslims who will water-down their Islam, and those who are ignorant about their religion, as is often the case with any religion. But Islam and the example of Mohammad will always remain a doctrinally malignant force that easily underwrites an illiberal imperialist warrior ideology. Combine that with the blind-faith and self-renunciation of a extremely dogmatic religion – sanctioned by the supernatural hope of reward in an afterlife – and you have the worse of all worlds.

Ayaan chose this life and is fighting for a just order in this world. We all must. It starts with one person.

14 Comments:

Blogger madmax said...

Berlinski and Auster's objections are just more evidence of the false alternative between Mysticism and Skepticism or Dogmatism and Pragmatism. Its the age old complaint that without God and religion no morality could be possible.

So conservative writers who are smart enough to see the evil of Islam still would not even dare to consider the evil of Christianity or religion in general. To them to challenge that would be to challeng morality itself.

This is the sorry state of our culture. Of course Ayn Rand has demolished the skepticism / mysticism false coin. But it will take generations (if not longer) for her epistemological breakthroughs to gain influence on the broader culture. Its a race against time.

2/22/07, 4:12 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

This is Cubed, not "Ann," just in case Blogger is still messing with me.

I hope Auster realizes that he does not speak for all of us when he says:

“But her metaphysical vision of the alternative to Islam is hardly seductive. Many people, I suspect, would prefer to live in chains than to believe that nothing awaits them after death."

Her metaphysical vision of the alternative to Islam is OK with me. I remember having Auster's kind of nervousness when I was about 23 and dared think, "Hey, I'm an atheist - wow!" I thought maybe that a lightning bolt or something would come out of the sky to strike me dead when I realized that I didn't think that any supernatural power was necessary to explain existence, and that conscious awareness didn't go on forever; existence is simply a metaphysical "is," and doesn't require some existent outside of existence to create it. That kind of regression is wearisome, sort of like "Pi," or those mirrors placed across from each other that reflect a bijillion images for what seems like forever.

When no punishing lightning bolt appeared, I sat back and decided that it was safe to say out loud that I thought the life I was living right here and now was my only shot at it, so I'd better get on with it and enjoy it the best way I could. That does not include any sort of life in chains.

I love life, and I don't want to leave it prematurely, and I would really enjoy it if we did have some sort of continuing "awareness" of some sort. to find out the answers to some questions: Do we ever achieve warp speed? Do we finally find the cure for cancer? Does "contact" with other intelligent life forms ever happen? You know, that sort of thing.

Just the same, if, as they used to say in "Star Trek," you simply "cease to exist" (and "life" is the only thing that can truly do that), you leave all that yearning behind, just as you do when you fall asleep. The only regret, as far as I can tell, comes during the anticipation of our dissolution, not the actual dissolution itself.

Our remains return to their stellar origins, so in that sense, we are eternal.

That's another thing I'd like to know; what is the long-term fate of the universe? My money is on some sort of periodic/cyclical process.

Hmmm... I know that all the elements that I'm made of had their origins in stars, and that they have been part of lots and lots of other things in the universe. But I'd be interested to know whether anything now in me has ever been part of something else that was alive. And the stuff I leave behind - will it reappear in another living entity sometime?

Every once in a while, I think maybe the Hindus came within shooting distance of what's going on with the basic idea of reincarnation, only even though their scale was very large, the scale I think things happen on is much, much grander; we reappear in many different ways, not just as life forms. Maybe some of me will be part of the iron core of some planet next time around!

Ayaan had to swim upstream against a far stronger current than I ever did in order to become comfortable with her atheism.

Gutsy lady.

2/22/07, 5:27 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Cubed also has interesting thoughts about how it is common in the West to "privatize" one's religion while Islam is a political religion: here.

By the way, Cubed, that quote wasn't Auster's but Berlinski's. I confused the matter by mentioning Auster in the middle of the paragraph. He's another example of someone who isn’t comfortable with Ayaan. Auster believes Ayaan can't be a comrade-in-arms because she is secular. Fortunately, he's an exception. However, he doesn’t believe in “reforming” Islam. When he’s not shooting his comrade-in-arms (he took a few shots at Robert Spencer, too) he has some suggestions on how to face the problem that’s worth reading.

2/22/07, 9:54 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch Two said...

As a Christian, I can, on some levels, understand Auster's perplexity. Also as a Christian, I'd like nothing better than for Ayaan to have left Islam and to have become a follower of Christ.

But, simply put, I don't find it surprising that Ayaan has rejected all religion: the swing of a pendulum, if you will.

Does her atheism bother me? Somewhat. But it's not MY business to tell her how to tend to her soul.

I grow weary of my Christian friends who won't heed any except for Christian Muslim-apostates (Walid Shoebat, for example). If pains me to say this, but many Christian Muslim-apostates can't present their arguments in a secular forum--again, Shoebat is an exception.

At the April 2006 Symposium dinner-reception, I got into a heated debate from a representative of Falwell's Liberty University over "Don't be unequally yoked." The man was appalled that I had friends who are atheists and that those friends understood the threat of Islam on a level other than his. He and I did not part amicably.

From such insiders as Muslim apostates, the West can learn a great deal about how Islam is truly practiced.

-------------------------

From this link which Jason provided:

In other words, education, modernization, and wealth creation—the very things Western liberals including President Bush see as the cure for Muslim fanaticism—exacerbate Muslim fanaticism.

[...]

Perhaps the only sane course in this war is to separate the West from Islam.


Mark Alexander has spoken of an iron veil. Is that what this war between the West and Islam is going to come to? The West needs to come to grips with the fact that Islamists have declared a religious war, not "a terror war."

2/23/07, 9:11 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I've cleaned up some of the posts that have deviated from the main topic.

2/23/07, 6:10 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Cubed here.

AOW,

You're another gutsy lady. It's not easy going up the down escalator.

I find that I also have to argue with some people who are Objectivists and just don't understand how religous people and Objectivists can work together.

I point out that 1) I happen to like a lot of these people, 2) I happen to respect a lot of these people, and 3) that if my Objectivist friends want to win against Islam, they will have to realize that there just aren't enough Objectivists around to "go it alone."

The overwhelming majority of people are religious. A small number are atheists but not Objectivists. An even smaller number are Objectivists.

So, I say to these folks, "Do the math. If you want to win against Islam, get real! After all, reality is one of the things we respect the most..."

Jason,

Thanks for the correction. I'm embarrassed that I wasn't more attentive!

2/23/07, 7:42 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Cubed writes, and I concur, that: religious people and Objectivists can work together; and there aren't enough Objectivists to go it alone.

I might add that this is not solely a matter of numbers, but of common aspirations, such as upholding civilization, culture, law, liberty, etc. Thus neither the Objectivists nor the religious need to compromise their fundamental beliefs, in order to jointly defend against Islam.

2/23/07, 8:44 PM  
Blogger madmax said...

"I find that I also have to argue with some people who are Objectivists and just don't understand how religous people and Objectivists can work together."

This depends on context. If one is trying to win broad political support for, say, a proper war effort, than I can see some political alliances. But I would be very careful with this so as to not lend moral saction to the religous premises of your Christian political allies.

However, if the context is the realm of ideas then I would say that *no* compromise on principles should *ever* be made. That means when you expose Islam you expose it as ultimately an example of the evil of religion not just Islam. Sure there are all kinds of differences between Christianity and Islam and Islam is the main external enemy we face but the best intellectual activism in this war is to use Islam as but one example of the broader danger of religion in general; to make conceptual links between the Islamic Taliban and the growing Christian Taliban in America.

This is something which I see that both Jason and Cubed (on her 6th column site) do *not* do. They are content with watering down their writing so as to not offend Christian types such as Always On Watch. This is a futile way to fight for the advancement of rational ideas. Would Ayn Rand have been who she was if she said "let me not be so offensive in Galt's Speech so I wont offend some religous types." The answer is obvious.

2/23/07, 10:55 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch Two said...

Cubed,
It's not easy going up the down escalator.

I've had a lifetime of practice. Thankfully, I had parents who weren't of the lockstep mindset. That helped me a lot. We lived by this: "Be sure you're right. Then go ahead."

The reward of going against the tide? Occasionally, I make a breakthrough. Besides, I want to do more than preach to the choir.

Mr. Beamish,
If Jesus only hung out with holy rollers, no one would have been saved.

Yes, yes, yes! I've made that point several times with my one-side-only friends.

Weingarten,
common aspirations, such as upholding civilization, culture, law, liberty, etc. Thus neither the Objectivists nor the religious need to compromise their fundamental beliefs, in order to jointly defend against Islam.

I'm so glad you said that!

Unite, infidels!

-----------------------

These days, I'm reading Mark Steyn's America Alone. I'm getting more facts together to add to my arguments.

2/24/07, 7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When [Lawrence Auster]’s not shooting his comrade-in-arms (he took a few shots at Robert Spencer, too) he has some suggestions on how to face the problem that’s worth reading.

Jason, what is your take on the argument between Auster and Spencer? Personally, I think some of Auster's points are valid, but it is a pity to see such a conflict between two people who, when all is said and done, probably are mostly on the same side.

2/24/07, 8:28 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I wish I had the time to join the fun … but I’m about to catch a plane for a mini-vacation in the sun.

2/24/07, 8:54 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Madmax does not want to lend moral sanction to the religious premises of Christian political allies. Yet he does not state which premises are at issue (with regard to defending against Islam). Surely, no one asks or expects any Objectivist to profess a belief in God. So which perspective is at issue?

The prime threat of Islam is its use of force to spread their faith. Conversely, Judaism and Christianity hold that “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” Consequently, Objectivists could unite with religionists, on the basis of the principle of the non-initiation of force. Yet my understanding of Madmax is instead to place Islam and religionists on one side, and atheists on the other. Surely this would make the Islamists rejoice. What is the source of this approach?

Religionists would start from the position that moral behavior is key, whereas what one believes is secondary. (Another way of stating this is to say that what one professes to believe is less important than what he does with his beliefs.) Some Objectivists start from the position that what one believes is key, where behavior is merely the carrying out of beliefs. When one points out that in addition to beliefs there are aspirations and motivations, the response is that these are included in the category of ‘beliefs’. Now if that were done in practice, there would be concomitance with those religionists whose prime focus is that of aspirations and beliefs. However, when it comes to practice, these are neglected. Thus some Objectivists do not see a fundamental difference between the Islamist who advocates force, and the religionist who eschews it, but rather a common evil within all religions. Thus there is said to be a “Christian Taliban in America” despite the fact that it does not kill infidels, nor advocate anything more threatening than what existed in America in the 1950s. Here, I ask, *what would be so terrible about a world akin to what America was like at that time?*

Madmax does not want Jason and Cubed to water down “their writing so as to not offend Christian types such as Always On Watch.” Okay, *let us hear what there is to say that would offend us religionists* so that there be no compromise on Objectivist principles.

2/24/07, 12:41 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Cubed here.

Madmax,

You say:

"But I would be very careful with this so as to not lend moral saction to the religous premises of your Christian political allies."

Mad,

Of course; the "religous premises" don't cut it with me, and all my religious friends know this. There is no need to shake that finger in my face!

There IS a moral sanction involved here, but it does not involve any sanction of mine re: the belief in the supernatural per se; rather, it involves the right of people to think/believe as they wish, so long as they do not involve the use of physical force or fraud to compel me to join them.

Most religious folks are genuine; they truly believe in god, so their arguments and efforts to persuade me don't involve fraud (which presupposes the knowledge that what someone is doing is untrue).

In this country, only rarely is the use of force involved in matters of belief, and when it is discovered, it is punished, so the use of physical force is neither common nor condoned.

I never try to conceal my Objectivism or my atheism, and I strongly believe in educating people about why I think as I do. Never, though, will I try to compel others to see things my way - and I always expect the same in return, and almost always get it.

Do I believe that Objectivism has the best ideas? Yup. And I also believe that in time, and in the competition in a "free market" of ideas, they will ultimately "float to the top" to become the "norm."

We must never make the mistake of the Mu'tazilites of the earliest years of Islam. They were oriented in the general direction of reason, and it was their scholars who made the advances that were considered the "calm before the fundamentalist storm" that ended the so-called "Islamic Golden Age."

Unfortunately, they and the Ash'arites (today's Shiites), fundamentalists got into it with each other in an "Inquisition style" situation (the "Mihnah" - where each side tried to use compulsion to impose its views), and it was all downhill after that. The earliest Muslim standard-bearers of reason lost that round.

Weingarten,

You go! You da' man:

"...religious people and Objectivists can work together; and there aren't enough Objectivists to go it alone.

"I might add that this is not solely a matter of numbers, but of common aspirations, such as upholding civilization, culture, law, liberty, etc. Thus neither the Objectivists nor the religious need to compromise their fundamental beliefs, in order to jointly defend against Islam."

You bet. And I think most of us have a deep appreciation of that fact.

Farmer John,

You said,

"If Objectivists are going to work with people of faith they'll need to temporarily accept an argumentative premise - G_d exists."

Not at all; all any of us is obliged to do is respect the right of another to believe as he wishes. That includes the right of the religious to believe in the supernatural, and the right of Objectivists not to.

We are never, under any circumstances, obliged (temporarily or otherwise) to accept the beliefs of the other.

The recognition of "rights" is the single greatest achievement of the Enlightenment. And Objectivism.

2/24/07, 2:02 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

My views aren’t hidden or watered down as some suggest. I understand that people develop their philosophy over a lifetime and work into their worldview the vast expanse of experience in a way they reaffirms their integrated whole. I do the same. But if arguing that blind faith, dogma, and submission to authority is at the core of the problem with religion is “hiding my viewpoint” I'm don't know what to say.

I fully understand that many readers will accept what I say and fit it into their conceptual framework differently. I talked about that last year. But when I read so many blogs with great insight into the Islamic threat and I see how sympathetic these readers are to my insights I come to a conclusion that there is an implicit understanding of the principles that are at the core of our civilization – reason, reality, individualism, etc – even if explicit expositions suggest otherwise.

I’ve come to the conclusion that a blog is very limited for introducing new concepts and ideas. Past posts are buried; continual re-iteration becomes boring. The best use of a blog seems to be in conjunction with books. Robert Spencer has written many books with which to define his ideas and then continue the discussion on his blog. However, even Spencer has to continually explain the same points and dispel the same misconceptions. I haven’t the time. Thus, the best I can do is to suggest some of my influences.

I generally find arguing a waste of time, especially online. I prefer to describe how I make sense of the world and let others consider it at their leisure. And I enjoy learning how others often find ways to come to their conclusions. But I realize that fundamental beliefs, the very core of a person’s identity, are formed over a lifetime. We find common cause in some areas and part ways in others. But I believe it is important to be open and candid about one’s viewpoint. Although I’ve focused most on history instead of philosophy, I believe it is clear where my sympathies lie.

My viewpoint on contemporary Christians is that they are far more rational and secular than they realize. How could they not be given our country’s history? I’d like them to be more aware of that heritage – one that goes back to Ancient Greece and Rome – and most people enjoy my forays into history. Others, if they have the time and inclination, prefer to argue philosophy. All the power to them! I only reference philosophical concepts as they apply. There’s room for discussion on many fronts. But there’s only so much time in the day. And my day job calls.

I've come to enjoy and respect a great number of people on the 'net as human beings and fellow comrades in a fight for our nation's survival. And they've shown respect in return.

2/28/07, 8:34 AM  

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