Hi all (and a letter to Sam Harris...)

riverrun
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Hi all (and a letter to Sam Harris...)

Hi all,

I'm Tim, from Ireland. I've been looking for a forum as informed as this one for some time. Well done to the RRS! I'm 34 and have been an atheist for about 20 yrs, I've played drums for nearly the same length of time. Till 5 years ago I was involved in computer graphics (3d) and web design.. I've spent the past 5 years studying (outside any institutions), with the intention of writing (non-fiction and fiction). To give you some sense of where I'm coming from I'm posting an email that I sent recently to Sam Harris (who has had a great influence on my thinking) regarding his explication of terrorism and its limitations (as an atheist and "leftist" I get more flak than most, if I didnt I would be doing something wrong, LMAO). Anyway here it is:

 

 


Dear Sam,


I've very much enjoyed your published works on and offline. I also very much enjoyed the Beyond Belief 06 conference, having spent past few days watching many of the lectures when time allows. The importance of drawing attention to dogma in all its forms is of vital significance to our world, as you brilliantly explicate in your writings and eloquent disquisitions on faith. In this response I will offer a brief examination of the blind spots that otherwise the well-intentioned 'faithless' sometimes have faith in.


I'm both a fairly radically left in politics and an atheist since a young age. This often leads to interesting dichotomies and dissonance in arguing with friends who are committed to one more than the other:


The left-wing theist unwilling to see the impacts of faith: subordination, submission, deference to authority. Totalitarianism.


The apolitical atheist ignorant of other dogmas including propaganda, corporate power, the dangers of uni-polarity, and economic and cultural imperialism, to name a few.


To draw your attention to one area: the causes of terror. Terrorism is often defined in terms of the official enemy (the IRA in Ireland, or those that committed the atrocities of 9/11). For many casual observers it is as insane to describe Britain or the US as terrorist states (especially the better indoctrinated / educated ones) as it is to tell a catholic that the virgin mary is virginal through mistranslation, as both you and Dawkins (amongst others) have clearly pointed out.


To clarify our terms in this case we can turn to the US Code which defines terrorism as “the use of coercive means aimed at civilian populations in an effort to achieve political, religious, or other aims”. By this definition state violence is terrorism, albeit on a larger scale (see Western State Terrorism, edited by Alex George (Routledge, 1991). If we accept this position alongside your claim that the Islamic faith raises the probability of suicide bombing due to specific doctrines (martyrdom, jihad et al.) we perhaps need to investigate the dogmas that led to, for example, western state terror in the Middle-East.


Is it simply a question of religion? Why don't Americans blow themselves up in Iraq? Does being a martyr necessarily mean killing one-self and others? Would a Taliban fighter shot by US troops not be a martyr too? Is it a question of power? Weaponry? Tactics? Is it desperation? If America was muslim and Iraq christian would 2-3 million have died as opposed to over 600,000 (according to the Lancet and John Hopkins University)?


[Alan Gilchrist (Rutgers University) mentioned this report at the Beyond Belief 06 event. He was ignored and proceedings quickly moved on.]


On the subject of BB06 I very much enjoyed the presentation by Neil deGrasse Tyson, in particular his emphasis on the great thinkers of our age placing god at the edge of the knowable (Newton etc..). My claim is that we, in the West, and particularly since the horror of 9/11 have also placed god at edge of the knowable, ensuring ignorance and also ensuring that the more important questions do not get asked (analogous to your point about dogma trumping morality when it comes to stem cell research). The nihilistic sadism of murdering so many civilians was almost impossible to fathom for most of us (I had been in one of the towers not too long before the attack myself and watched the events unfold live from London), but to place God at the centre of our understanding here is to commit the same error of judgement as those of faith.


A similar state of affairs presents itself when 'experts' debate the war on terror. The arguments are about tactics, underground bunkers, other countries involvements.. rarely are the important issues discussed. Bill O'Reilly, for example, threatened to physically attack a brave articulate young man who had lost his own father on 9/11 for daring to point out the CIA's connections to the mujahideen of Afghanistan.


For me this level of debate is equivalent, if I may borrow your analogy, to asking whether the writings of Theocritus on Zeus could explain the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Does Zeus create thunderstorms or just rain? It serves no purpose if genuine understanding is the real goal.


There are many locations in Ireland where devout believers congregate to perhaps witness a statue move. I was brought to one as a child by my (Catholic) Father. The absurdity even then was immense. But it conjures the same affect in me as a British or American diplomat talking piously about the desire to bring democracy to Iraq. The exact opposite is the case: a truly democratic Iraq is precisely the last goal of policy. It would be a failure of policy. Britain's billion-dollar arms deals with the most tyrannical state in the region, Saudi Arabia, also clearly testify to either willful delusion or simple hypocrisy. This is so obvious that it takes really impressive discipline to miss it.


In an effort to contextualise my comments above and their connection to 9/11, something which you have written passionately on, I would like to quote from a recent interview with the Linguist Noam Chomsky. It's non-dogmatic clarity itself is important alongside its application of “conversational intolerance”. Religion, also, plays no part in this analysis:


The real reason for the invasion, surely, is that Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world, very cheap to exploit, and lies right at the heart of the world's major hydrocarbon resources, what the State Department 60 years ago described as "a stupendous source of strategic power." The issue is not access, but rather control (and for the energy corporations, profit). Control over these resources gives the US "critical leverage" over industrial rivals, to borrow Zbigniew Brezinski's phrase, echoing George Kennan when he was a leading planner and recognized that such control would give the US "veto power" over others. Dick Cheney observed that control over energy resources provides "tools of intimidation or blackmail" -- when in the hands of others, that is. We are too pure and noble for those considerations to apply to us, so true believers declare -- or more accurately, just presuppose, taking the point to be too obvious to articulate......


On the US motives for staying, I can only repeat what I've been writing for years. A sovereign Iraq, partially democratic, could well be a disaster for US planners. With a Shi'ite majority, it is likely to continue improving relations with Iran. There is a Shi'ite population right across the border in Saudi Arabia, bitterly oppressed by the US-backed tyranny. Any step towards sovereignty in Iraq encourages activism there for human rights and a degree of autonomy -- and that happens to be where most of Saudi oil is. Sovereignty in Iraq might well lead to a loose Shi'ite alliance controlling most of the world's hydrocarbon resources and independent of the US, undermining a primary goal of US foreign policy since it became the world-dominant power after World War II. Worse yet, though the US can intimidate Europe, it cannot intimidate China, which blithely goes its own way, even in Saudi Arabia, the jewel in the crown -- the primary reason why China is considered a leading threat. An independent energy bloc in the Gulf area is likely to link up with the China-based Asian Energy Security Grid and Shanghai Cooperation Council, with Russia (which has its own huge resources) as an integral part, along with the Central Asian states (already members), possibly India. Iran is already associated with them, and a Shi'ite dominated bloc in the Arab states might well go along. All of that would be a nightmare for US planners, and its Western allies.

 

There are, then, very powerful reasons why the US-UK are likely to try in every possible way to maintain effective control over Iraq. The US is not constructing a palatial Embassy, by far the largest in the world and virtually a separate city within Baghdad, and pouring money into military bases, with the intention of leaving Iraq to Iraqis. All of this is quite separate from the expectations that matters can be arranged so that US corporations profit from the vast riches of Iraq.

 

These topics, though surely high on the agenda of planners, are not within the realm of discussion, as can easily be determined. That is only to be expected. These considerations violate the fundamental doctrine that state power has noble objectives, and while it may make terrible blunders, it can have no crass motives and is not influenced by domestic concentrations of private power. Any questioning of these Higher Truths is either ignored or bitterly denounced, also for good reasons: allowing them to be discussed could undermine power and privilege. I don't, incidentally, suggest that commentators have much awareness of this. In our society, intellectual elites are deeply indoctrinated, a point that Orwell noted in his (unpublished) introduction to Animal Farm on how self-censorship works in free societies. A large part of the reason, he plausibly concluded, is a good education, which instills the understanding that there are certain things "it wouldn't do to say" -- or more accurately, even to think.”

[end quote]


[from Iraq: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Michael Albert interviews Noam Chomsky, Dec 27, 2006]

full article: http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11718

 

Most relevant to the points I raise here is the insight of Chomsky's last paragraph (eg: 'Any questioning of these Higher Truths is either ignored or bitterly denounced&#39Eye-wink. In other words: It is heretical to the fables, myths, dogmas, and narrative. It is beyond discourse. Sound familiar?


Let's take another related example: Alongside your statistics regarding overwhelming levels of belief in god, the devil, and hell in the US is the reality that a sizeable proportion still believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for or financially involved in 9/11. This claim is patently absurd given even the most trivial level of examination. It's a dogmatism perpetuated and reinforced by the media mandarins subordinate to power in exactly the same fashion as a muslim bowed to allah. It's vital for political coherence and acceptance of the invasion. And it's tied directly to another dogmatic belief: that the US media (highly centralised and corporate owned) is full of left / liberal bias gallantly critiquing power. Dogma that you and I have no time for, in the spirit of intellectual honesty.


At a deeper level, perhaps explicable one day, with the nascent tools of evolutionary psychology, lies the desire for expansion: Extremist muslims wanting to turn the UK into an islamic state run under sharia Law [I highly recommend this recent Channel 4 secret filming of a Birmingham Mosque http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peFQWuk4nuo ], the christian missionaries desperate to ensure the death by AIDS of ever more Africans, neo-liberal free-market ideology determined to undermine human rights and economic independence... all spread their 'memes' with different ends (I could go on and on). To what extent is this phenomenon institutional? To what extent is it born out of human nature? Important questions.


In summary Geo-political realities, for me, present a much darker and more cynical series of dynamics than the obfuscation of religion and irrationality of faith alone. One figure worthy of comment is Leo Strauss. You are quite probably familiar with him already (I recommend Adam Curtis' The Power of Nightmares http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfvzjE6ujfQ ). Strauss spoke of two forms of knowledge in relation to his political philosophy. Esoteric and exoteric. He assumes that those with real power (esoteric knowledge) will not fall prey to delusions like religion, but should use such delusions to maintain social order (exoteric). He was essentially a Platonist, and saw this as an extension of Plato's 'Noble Lie'.


Hopefully you find these comments of some interest and I will be happy to explore them further if you have time to respond. Your works have inspired me to start writing and thinking about these matters again. Even if this dialogue stops here I would like to thank you for that alone.


Kindest regards,


Tim Wilson

Ireland.

 


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Hi Tim! I doubt if Sam gets

Hi Tim!

I doubt if Sam gets much "fan mail" that well thought out!

Please let us know if you get a reply.

 And Welcome!!!

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HI Susan!  I will let you

HI Susan!

 I will let you know if I get a response. I guess my underlying premise in that email was that it is easier to indulge in attacking the obvious absurdities of religion than other more prevalent and toxic dogmas such as the 'noble beneficience' of our leaders, blind patriotism, consumerism etc...

The noble quest of truth over fanciful / comforting delusion must apply across the board.

Thanks for the weclome. Smile


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riverrun wrote: HI Susan!

riverrun wrote:

HI Susan!

I will let you know if I get a response. I guess my underlying premise in that email was that it is easier to indulge in attacking the obvious absurdities of religion than other more prevalent and toxic dogmas such as the 'noble beneficience' of our leaders, blind patriotism, consumerism etc...

The noble quest of truth over fanciful / comforting delusion must apply across the board.

Thanks for the weclome. Smile

What pisses me off is that when you explain the obvious to a believer in the fact that all religions are weapons, the believer takes it as some sort of agenda to use goverment to ban religion.

Let me make it clear to all religious people of all labels. The days of political and phyisical force of one religion over another needs to end. In this sense religion is dangerous.

Atheists, like any other lable should not use goverment or politics to force themeselves on others. Our goal is to use our own voices to show people that their is a brighter future when our priorities are not focused on a deity, but the common ground all humans have.

The state of the Middle East is now what Christianity was before the Age Of Reason and Enlightenment. It is because of "secular" attitudes of western goverments that westernized pluralistic societies have been able to exist.

Christians in America fail to see the danger of mixing their dogma with goverment. It is short sighted. The right Baptists would not want to live under a monopolized Catholic left goverment and vice versa. What would happen in the future if the increase of pushing Christianity on our goverment would end up in sectarian infighting wich would end up in physical violence.

"Thats not religion, that is politicians using religion". My answer to that then is to demand that politicians stay out of your personal religious beliefs.

Atheists have a unique perspective theists dont. We have no intrest either way to see any sect of any religion gain a dominant power over goverment. So in seeing the power grab on American politics is at this point merely a grab for an office. But it could errode the Constitution and freedoms for all and could lead to the same violent acts that Islamic zeolots commit and what Christians did in the dark ages.

Some Christians, not all, but some see it as their duty to make the entire world monocromatic.

In fact I saw a very scary sermon by a mid west televangalist on tv who said, "You can only rest when every single person on this planet finds Jesus"

Doesnt this asshole see what a utopian clusterfuck that is? Doesnt the see that Islamic terrorists have the same monocromatic goal. This idiot is basicall setting the sheep he follows up to slaughter and be slaughtered. He wears a suit so that makes it ok?

No it does not. He uses words as a weapon and he seeks politicians that will instill a Christian version of the Taliban and he is just as dangerous to humanity as Bin Ladin. Given enough time people like this will lead America to barbaric acts.

Christians can no longer use the guize of civility as an excuse to pit the world's religions against each other. Dont we have enough divisive dogmatic crap in this world?

This guy has a booming carismatic voice. Yes he does, just like Hitler knew the power of drama and speach and used it quite effectively to lead his sheep to slaughter  6 million Jews and caused the death of 56 million people tottall from the start to the finish of WW2.

Televangilists are the American Taliban. The only differance is that they use politics and speaches and propaganda. But these dogmatic right wing nuts want the same thing as the Islamic right wing nut counterparts. Both Televangilists are con artists just like Bin Ladin. They convince you to follow them. They take your money. They expect blind loyalty. And they all want global domination at the cost of marginalizing and demonizing and opressing those outside their narrow right wing fundy views.

It is time for all humans of all labels to demand and end of use of religion in politics. It is time for all humans to demand their religious leaders to stop selling utopian ideas that end up pitting human against human who'd otherwise leave the issue up for debate.

Telievanglists dont debate and neither do Islamic Zealots. They are different sides of the same emotional terrorism and use threats of hell and get people to follow out of fear.

Religious extreemism is a cancer on the world, but to blame it all on Islam is to miss the core part of all three Abrahamic gods of all three books. NO MIND YOU, NOT ALL RELIGIOUS PEOPLE VIEW THEIR RESPECTIVE DIETIES AS "DO WHAT I SAY AT ALL COSTS"

But far too many do. And as Harris stats and as Dawkins has as well, the people of theism willing to get allong in peace without dictation are enabling the nuts.

Some Christians would say, "Atheists worship man".

"Worship" means "to bind" and blind worship of a political party, blind worship of a symbol, blind worship of a dictator, blind worship of a deity is all bad. Worship sets humanity up to pit human against human.

Those who worship Kim Jong Ill are just as bad as those who worship Bin Ladin and Jerry Falwell. These are all the same animal dividing humanity, "My way or the highway" They simply use different ideologies but seek the same end goal of obediance without question.

Falwell, while not launching RPGS or roadside bombs, uses the same type of propagana to froth people up with fear and does set these people up to be divided from the pluralistic society around them. He is a pervayor of hate and ignorance and needs to be challenged as much as any Cleric.

 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
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riverrun
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Great post Brian,

Great post Brian,

I agree with you totally. Take Pat Robertson - the multi-millionaire - psycho-caster. He openly calls for the assassination of a Head of State (Chavez), and gets away with it. He compares him to Hitler, and gets away with it. I wish Zappa was still around to hear the latest lyrics to "More Trouble Everyday" [I'm about to get sick, from watching my TV etc....lol]

The sheer cynicism of a guy with oil executive connections using his own channel to call for murder is an outrage. (But the wing nuts on the O'Reilly show want to focus on a young female blogger who makes a comedic comment about the Holy Spirits jizz.)

When I was growing up in Belfast (in the 70s) a group claiming they were 'protecting' the population erected a 15 metre corrugated iron fence at the bottom of the street to seperate the protestants from the catholics. One old guy shot himself he got so depressed by it. It ruined the community, causing people on both sides to have to make massive diversions to get to shops and schools etc...

At the beginnings of the 20th century in Ireland, under British occupation, it was easy for the elites to stir up divisiveness and division in the community by preying on the religious differences. Divide and Conquer. The same technique was used in India / Pakistan, the Balkans, Palestine and Mesoptamia.

Communities previously united by common interests were turned against each other, thereby ensuring that they would never consolidate against their real enemy: the occupier.

Those first hand experiences were certainly core to my rejection of religion.

Tim.


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Hi Riverrun.  Welcome to

Hi Riverrun.  Welcome to the boards.

It appears that you have conflated Sam Harris' message on international relations into some positions that he doesn't really hold (or that I have never heard him express).  Specifically, I don't think Sam Harris is an advocate of war against muslim countries because of their religion.  I also have never seen him as a apologist for the Iraq war, or heard him comment on the specific rightness/wrongness of the effort there.

What Sam Harris has pointed out is that religion fuels terrorism.  By terrorism, I think he means attacks on civilians designed to spread terror in the population, not the flawed definition in the US Code.

He says in End of Faith that the key point is intent.  However many civilians the US has killed in Iraq, and however irresponsible they have been in doing do, the case cannot be seriously made that it was the actual objective of any US attack to kill civilians.  I can see where some people would be impatient with this, pointing out that the people who got killed are just as dead whether you intended to target them or not.  I also can see a huge moral and circumstantial gulf between someone who intends to kill civilians and someone who doesn't.  The two are in totally different categories, IMO, and, I think, in Sam Harris'. 

What Harris observes is that religious organizations resort to suicide bombing and attacks on civilians, and secular organizations do not.  It's not hard to create a theory as to why:  religious attackers think that a) they are going to heaven after they die and therefore have less to fear from death and b) enemy civilians are just as bad as enemy soldiers because they equally serve Evil.  This is why religion poses a unique threat in international relations.

Even so, I have never heard Harris call for war against another country only because of their religion, nor does it necessarily flow from his position.  There are a  number of possible responses to international threats and war is only one of them.  I've never heard Harris advocate any particular response, only to say that religion and religious political organizations should be recognized for the threat they are.

What Harris has said, and I fully agree, is that countries in the grip of a dictator or junta should be treated as hostage situations.  The entire objective of relations with these countries should be to see the removal of the authoritarian ruler and some kind of valid democratic process put in place, with the minimal possible impact to the civilian populations. 

Lazy is a word we use when someone isn't doing what we want them to do.
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riverrun
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  Hi Tilberian, Thanks for

 

Hi Tilberian, Thanks for the considered response.

As you correctly assert Harris argues 'religion fuels terrorism'. No disagreement there, but my question is: "Is it the only fuel?"

Your statement that "[I] think Sam Harris is an advocate of war against muslim countries because of their religion" is without any foundation. I make no claims one way or the other regarding his advocacy for war and at no point do I consider him an apologist. Indeed I was partly motivated by what I perceived as his political naivety in my essay.

Harris, in his writings, and at the Beyond Belief 06 event repeatedly asserted that religion is responsible for terror, and that economic and / or political rationales play little or no part in the calculus of violence. As stated in my opening paragraph my intention was to examine this claim and to "offer a brief examination of the blind spots", therein.

You write "What Harris observes is that religious organizations resort to suicide bombing and attacks on civilians, and secular organizations do not." This is simply false: Both Japanese Kamikaze pilots and the notably secular / Marxist Tamil Tigers Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are two most obvious examples of suicide bombing disassociated from any religious extremism, and pre-dating Islamic suicide attacks. BTW: The Tamil Tigers invented the suicide jacket.

In response to your final two paragraphs: When the "International Community" tells us they must remove a dictator from power, those claims must be examined. Throughout history our leaders have told us of the benign intentions that motivate their plans. Those statements, carry no truth though, for the simple reason that they are universal: The Japanese, in WWII, talked of liberating the Chinese (from themselves), The Nazi's did the same when 'liberating' Poland, The US the same when 'liberating' the Vietnamese from themselves.

As I try to point out in my essay, the real rationale (I only listed a few reasons) for aggression and terror often has nothing to do with 'democracy' or 'liberation' or 'benign intent'; but economic hegemony: The CIA-backed overthrow by Kermit Roosevelt of the democratically elected Mussadeq in Iran (in the 1950s) had nothing to do with democracy. Economic nationalism is what the Western powers cannot tolerate.

At no point do I argue that Harris is in favour of war as a response. I am simply stating my belief that religion is only part of the picture, and that a reasoned and rational examination (which in no way implies exculpation or rationalisation) is necessary in order to understand the real motivations. This analysis must also apply to ourselves, if we are honest, regarding the "intent" of our own leaders, hence my brief analysis of the rationale for attacking Iraq (a secular country run by a tyrant with UK / US support for yeats but with no ties to terrorism or WMD, and a country with no history of suicide bombing prior to 2003 - military analysts at the time, for example, made clear that bombing Iraq would "increase the threat of terror", not diminish it).

[I necessarily left out many economic factors (fears of a dual currency OPEC, Saudi connections - Actually Saudi Arabia, being a far more extreme and brutal dictatorship than any other in the region, the birth place of most of the 9/11 hijackers and hotbed of Shia fundamentalism and Wahabism would be the logically explicable goal of western attack, but isn't for trivial reasons: the price of Oil).]

Regarding your statement that "However many civilians the US has killed in Iraq, and however irresponsible they have been in doing do, the case cannot be seriously made that it was the actual objective of any US attack to kill civilians". This is precisely the kind of dogma that I equate with the irrationality of religion in the essay.

In closing I will give 6 examples of the targeting of civilians. These are the least controversial I could think of, the first is close to home, being Irish:

  1. 30 January, 1972: 26 civil rights protestors were shot dead by the British Parachute Regiment at a Civil Rights March in Derry, Ireland.

  2. British Defense Minister,Sir Admiral Boyce, in October 2001, informed the Afghan population that we will continue to bomb you until you change your leadership. That's pure terrorism plain and simple.

  3. Iraq (Mesopotamia) 1920: The RAF, led by the much celebrated 'bomber Harris' dropped over 97 tonnes of bombs over Northern Iraq. 'Pacification' is the Orwellian term, I believe. Winston Churchill commented, at the time: "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes to spread a lively terror" in Iraq."
  4. April 2003: al-Sa'ath restaurant, Iraq, targeted. Lieutenant Colonel Fred Swan stated at the time "I did not know who was there. I really didn't care,". Two 2,000lb bombs were dropped leaving a 60ft crater and over 100 civilians dead.
  5. April 2003: US forces bombed the Shu'ale marketplace. They denied it, They blamed it on cheap Iraqi missiles. The journalist Robert Fisk went to the scene. 62 civilians dead. He found parts of the missile in the crater: It was a Raytheon, manufactured in Texas.
  6. The United States stood accused of aggression against Nicaragua (the ultimate crime, according to Nuremberg) and internation terrorism by the International Court of Justice in 1984. The US vetoed resolutions at this point and increased the bombing. Over 7,400 died during that operation.

Regards,

Tim.


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I don't agree that the case

I don't agree that the case can't be made that the US intentionally kills civilians. The stated objective of the US government was to disarm the country of Iraq, and that could have been achieved through diplomacy and no civilians would have been killed.

The US chose the course of action that would kill civilians over the course of action that would not kill civilians. That demonstrates intent in my opinion. If you have a goal then you have intent to take all the necessary steps in achieving that goal. Whether you have a desire to take all the steps I think is a different question. Maybe they don't want to kill any civilians but killing them has essentially become part of the objective at this point.

And the kinds of munitions that the US uses, like cluster bombs and depleted uranium kill more civilians than other types of munitions while making it less safe for our own soldiers. If the objective was not to kill more civilians then why would they do this?

Then there are reports of US soldiers intentionally killing civilians. That shows that at least for some of them the objective is to kill civilians.

And I think that you could turn that argument around the other way and say 'terrorist target civilians, but their true intention is to affect political change, not kill civilians. So it’s not their objective to kill civilians either.' Why does that apply to the US and not to other terrorists?

There are twists of time and space, of vision and reality, which only a dreamer can divine
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Gauche wrote: I don't

Gauche wrote:

I don't agree that the case can't be made that the US intentionally kills civilians. The stated objective of the US government was to disarm the country of Iraq, and that could have been achieved through diplomacy and no civilians would have been killed.

The US chose the course of action that would kill civilians over the course of action that would not kill civilians. That demonstrates intent in my opinion. If you have a goal then you have intent to take all the necessary steps in achieving that goal. Whether you have a desire to take all the steps I think is a different question. Maybe they don't want to kill any civilians but killing them has essentially become part of the objective at this point.

And the kinds of munitions that the US uses, like cluster bombs and depleted uranium kill more civilians than other types of munitions while making it less safe for our own soldiers. If the objective was not to kill more civilians then why would they do this?

Then there are reports of US soldiers intentionally killing civilians. That shows that at least for some of them the objective is to kill civilians.

And I think that you could turn that argument around the other way and say 'terrorist target civilians, but their true intention is to affect political change, not kill civilians. So it’s not their objective to kill civilians either.' Why does that apply to the US and not to other terrorists?

You're not getting anywhere with this, Gauche.  It's too much of a stretch.  There is a clear delineation between intentionally killing someone and killing someone through negligence.  Every legal system I've ever heard of recognizes it, and I think most people would agree that it's a valid moral and philosophical principle.  

Just because the US chose a course of action that was more likely to kill civilians than other courses of action, doesn't mean they chose that course of action BECAUSE it was more likely to kill civilians.  To show intent, that is what you would have to show.

Same principle with the munitions.  I'm sure that there is some military reason why the generals prefer these more dangerous munitions.  If they are more dangerous to civilians, then they are presumably more dangerous to enemy troops as well.  Or maybe they just got such a great deal from Haliburton.  Whatever, I would need to see a lot more evidence before I would accept the principle that the generals are psychopaths who just want to kill civilians for no reason.

The individual soldiers who have intentionally killed civilians (if this is true) are of course entirely beside the point.  They are obviously in the same moral territory as the terrorists and should suffer the same fate.

You can't turn the argument around.  Conflating the end with the means is just an error.  I'm not saying that terrorists are bad for killing civilians for the wrong reasons.  I'm saying that terrorists are bad for killing civilians on purpose.  And the US would be bad in just the same way for killing civilians on purpose, no matter what the cause.   The point is, they aren't and never have done, as a matter of policy.

Lazy is a word we use when someone isn't doing what we want them to do.
- Dr. Joy Brown


riverrun
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"The point is, they aren't

"The point is, they aren't and never have done, as a matter of policy." I can't agree with you here Tilberian. The repeated US support for terrorist groups throughout the 20th century in central america is incontravertible. As is US Arms sales to terrorist regimes (the ones who behave themselves) including Indonesia who set about massacring over 200,000 in East Timor in the mid to late 70s, barely reported in western press. That would be a stretch.

Tim. 


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riverrun wrote:   Hi

riverrun wrote:

 

Hi Tilberian, Thanks for the considered response.

As you correctly assert Harris argues 'religion fuels terrorism'. No disagreement there, but my question is: "Is it the only fuel?"

Ah.  My mistake.  Of course there could never be only one cause for something as complex as terrorism.

 

riverrun wrote:
Harris, in his writings, and at the Beyond Belief 06 event repeatedly asserted that religion is responsible for terror, and that economic and / or political rationales play little or no part in the calculus of violence. As stated in my opening paragraph my intention was to examine this claim and to "offer a brief examination of the blind spots", therein.

I didn't see all the Beyond Belief stuff, but based on End of Faith I haven't seen anywhere where Harris says there aren't other factors.  I believe his contention is mainly that religion is a primary, and necessary factor, not the only factor.

 

riverrun wrote:

You write "What Harris observes is that religious organizations resort to suicide bombing and attacks on civilians, and secular organizations do not." This is simply false: Both Japanese Kamikaze pilots and the notably secular / Marxist Tamil Tigers Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are two most obvious examples of suicide bombing disassociated from any religious extremism, and pre-dating Islamic suicide attacks. BTW: The Tamil Tigers invented the suicide jacket.

Calling Japanese Kamikazes and Tamil Tigers "secular" is something of an abuse of the term.  Harris makes the point, and I agree, that slavish worship of a political ideology or charismatic leader is ever bit as pernicious a use of faith as religious adherence.  Think Naziism.  The problem is faith, not necessarily religion, though religions of course make the most use of faith.

riverrun wrote:
 
In response to your final two paragraphs: When the "International Community" tells us they must remove a dictator from power, those claims must be examined.

No dispute there.  However there do seem to be fairly standarized methods of evaluating elections to see if they are free and fair.   

<snipped some stuff that I kind of agree with but dont feel like debating>

riverrun wrote:

Regarding your statement that "However many civilians the US has killed in Iraq, and however irresponsible they have been in doing do, the case cannot be seriously made that it was the actual objective of any US attack to kill civilians". This is precisely the kind of dogma that I equate with the irrationality of religion in the essay.

Nope.  It's observed truth.

riverrun wrote:

In closing I will give 6 examples of the targeting of civilians. These are the least controversial I could think of, the first is close to home, being Irish:

  1. 30 January, 1972: 26 civil rights protestors were shot dead by the British Parachute Regiment at a Civil Rights March in Derry, Ireland.

  2. British Defense Minister,Sir Admiral Boyce, in October 2001, informed the Afghan population that we will continue to bomb you until you change your leadership. That's pure terrorism plain and simple.

  3. Iraq (Mesopotamia) 1920: The RAF, led by the much celebrated 'bomber Harris' dropped over 97 tonnes of bombs over Northern Iraq. 'Pacification' is the Orwellian term, I believe. Winston Churchill commented, at the time: "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes to spread a lively terror" in Iraq."
  4. April 2003: al-Sa'ath restaurant, Iraq, targeted. Lieutenant Colonel Fred Swan stated at the time "I did not know who was there. I really didn't care,". Two 2,000lb bombs were dropped leaving a 60ft crater and over 100 civilians dead.
  5. April 2003: US forces bombed the Shu'ale marketplace. They denied it, They blamed it on cheap Iraqi missiles. The journalist Robert Fisk went to the scene. 62 civilians dead. He found parts of the missile in the crater: It was a Raytheon, manufactured in Texas.
  6. The United States stood accused of aggression against Nicaragua (the ultimate crime, according to Nuremberg) and internation terrorism by the International Court of Justice in 1984. The US vetoed resolutions at this point and increased the bombing. Over 7,400 died during that operation.

Regards,

Tim.

1 and 3 appear to be bona fide examples of intentionally killing civilians, and could be put in the same category with terrorism.  #2 is simply some rhetoric.  I don't know who Col. Swan was after in that restaurant in #4, but whether or not it counts as terrorism depends on whether it was a military target or not.   #5 is inconclusive, but appears to have been a mistake.  #6 gives me no reason to suspect that there wasn't a military objective.

Now let's compare, say, the last ten years in Israel, and ask the question again:  who has a penchant for targeting civilians to create terror? secular or religious societies?

 

 

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The answer to that question

The answer to that question is simple: Israel. Read the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reoprts from August 2006 condemning the actions as a warcrime. See "Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon" for example.

Cluster bombs are clearly weapons of terror used against a civilian population, there are more than 770 sites contaminated by over 1,000,000 unexploded cluster munitions in South Lebanon. They have been found in schools, outside restaurants, they even look a little like colorful toys or packages of food.

I [Marwa] picked up the bomb but I didn’t know it was a bomb and Hassan said to throw it away and when I threw it, it exploded.” Ten-year-old Hassan Tehini and 12-year-old girls Marwa and Sikne Me’ri, were injured when a cluster bomb exploded on 17 August 2006 near their home in the village of Ait al-Shaab.

Boyces comments, can hardly be described as rhetoric. I spoke to one Afghani girl who lost 21 members of her family in a village that had no military interest whatsoever. Total civilian casualties from the bombing campaign amounted to at least 10,000 deaths.

You write: "Harris makes the point, and I agree, that slavish worship of a political ideology or charismatic leader is ever bit as pernicious a use of faith as religious adherence". This is precisely why I question the dogma that leads us to call terrorism the actions of the other; it's terrorism when they do it. It's a well worn strategy. Self-deception is perhaps necessary for the powerful to maintain their mantle of self-righteous superiority, but without questioning the actions of our own governments we limit the discourse in morally opprobrious ways. We should never take on faith the motivations or consequences of violence, either state or Palestinian suicide bomber.

Tim.


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Tilberian wrote:

Tilberian wrote:

You're not getting anywhere with this, Gauche. It's too much of a stretch. There is a clear delineation between intentionally killing someone and killing someone through negligence. Every legal system I've ever heard of recognizes it, and I think most people would agree that it's a valid moral and philosophical principle.

Just because the US chose a course of action that was more likely to kill civilians than other courses of action, doesn't mean they chose that course of action BECAUSE it was more likely to kill civilians. To show intent, that is what you would have to show.

Same principle with the munitions. I'm sure that there is some military reason why the generals prefer these more dangerous munitions. If they are more dangerous to civilians, then they are presumably more dangerous to enemy troops as well. Or maybe they just got such a great deal from Haliburton. Whatever, I would need to see a lot more evidence before I would accept the principle that the generals are psychopaths who just want to kill civilians for no reason.

The individual soldiers who have intentionally killed civilians (if this is true) are of course entirely beside the point. They are obviously in the same moral territory as the terrorists and should suffer the same fate.

You can't turn the argument around. Conflating the end with the means is just an error. I'm not saying that terrorists are bad for killing civilians for the wrong reasons. I'm saying that terrorists are bad for killing civilians on purpose. And the US would be bad in just the same way for killing civilians on purpose, no matter what the cause. The point is, they aren't and never have done, as a matter of policy.

I think that you are giving the US the benefit of the doubt where it is really not deserved. Everything that they've done up to this point suggests that they are trying to de-people the area.

I read in the nyt that the civilian body count could be over 600,000. That's not even counting the half a million kids that died because of the ten years of sanctions and the people who were killed in the first gulf war. If it's not intentional why wouldn't they try to minimize it?

If they're killing civilians on purpose that doesn't necessarily mean that they must be psychopaths. They could be killing them because they don't want people there.

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riverrun wrote: "The point

riverrun wrote:

"The point is, they aren't and never have done, as a matter of policy." I can't agree with you here Tilberian. The repeated US support for terrorist groups throughout the 20th century in central america is incontravertible. As is US Arms sales to terrorist regimes (the ones who behave themselves) including Indonesia who set about massacring over 200,000 in East Timor in the mid to late 70s, barely reported in western press. That would be a stretch.

Tim.

You're doing a great job a proving negligence.  I hereby sentence the US to one million years in hell for taking actions that they knew would lead to terrorism.  

They still are in a different moral category than those who actually carried out the terrorism. 

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Gauche wrote: I think that

Gauche wrote:

I think that you are giving the US the benefit of the doubt where it is really not deserved. Everything that they've done up to this point suggests that they are trying to de-people the area.

That is ridiculous.  If the US were really trying to de-people the area they'd nuke it.  If they were afraid of ramifications for that, they'd at least carpet bomb.   There's several orders of magnitude of violence that the US could be employing that they are not.

 

Gauche wrote:

I read in the nyt that the civilian body count could be over 600,000. That's not even counting the half a million kids that died because of the ten years of sanctions and the people who were killed in the first gulf war. If it's not intentional why wouldn't they try to minimize it?

Yes, the US have been very, very bad boys for not doing everything possible to avoid civilian casualties as they pursue their military objectives.  They still cannot be said to have intentionally killed civilians.

 

Gauche wrote:

If they're killing civilians on purpose that doesn't necessarily mean that they must be psychopaths. They could be killing them because they don't want people there.

Do you really want to go down this path where you're trying to argue that the US's goal is the extermination of the Iraqi population?  Because you're going to end up looking really stupid if you do. 

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riverrun wrote: The answer

riverrun wrote:

The answer to that question is simple: Israel. Read the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reoprts from August 2006 condemning the actions as a warcrime. See "Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon" for example.

Amnesty International condemns every country on earth that is engaged in military activity of any kind.  There is no way to fight and stay on the right side of Amnesty.  I respect their work, but I'll judge Israel's actions for myself, thanks.

riverrun wrote:

Cluster bombs are clearly weapons of terror used against a civilian population, there are more than 770 sites contaminated by over 1,000,000 unexploded cluster munitions in South Lebanon. They have been found in schools, outside restaurants, they even look a little like colorful toys or packages of food.

I [Marwa] picked up the bomb but I didn’t know it was a bomb and Hassan said to throw it away and when I threw it, it exploded.” Ten-year-old Hassan Tehini and 12-year-old girls Marwa and Sikne Me’ri, were injured when a cluster bomb exploded on 17 August 2006 near their home in the village of Ait al-Shaab.

Yes, a horrible, unintentional outcome of a negligent use of a dastardly weapon.  Naughty Israel should be punished, but not for murder.

riverrun wrote:

Boyces comments, can hardly be described as rhetoric. I spoke to one Afghani girl who lost 21 members of her family in a village that had no military interest whatsoever. Total civilian casualties from the bombing campaign amounted to at least 10,000 deaths.

So it's your contention that Boyce ordered this village bombed with the express purpose of wiping out the civilian inhabitants?  Because if he didn't, my point stands.

riverrun wrote:

You write: "Harris makes the point, and I agree, that slavish worship of a political ideology or charismatic leader is ever bit as pernicious a use of faith as religious adherence". This is precisely why I question the dogma that leads us to call terrorism the actions of the other; it's terrorism when they do it. It's a well worn strategy. Self-deception is perhaps necessary for the powerful to maintain their mantle of self-righteous superiority, but without questioning the actions of our own governments we limit the discourse in morally opprobrious ways. We should never take on faith the motivations or consequences of violence, either state or Palestinian suicide bomber.

Tim.

Your instinct to question whatever authority says is a good one.  However just because some people misuse the term does not mean that terrorism is an invalid concept, nor that it differs in important ways from regular warfare.

The definition of terrorism that I'm familiar with is the intentional targeting of civilians with the express purpose of creating terror in the population, usually for political, as distinct from military, purposes.  The US is guilty of many things but not, as far as I'm aware, of that.  Where civilians have been killed, they have been killed in the pursuit of military objectives.  

Besides the observed reality, I can simply see no motivation for the US to purposely wipe out Iraqis.  Don't they get enough heat for this war already?

 

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Tilberian wrote: That is

Tilberian wrote:
That is ridiculous.  If the US were really trying to de-people the area they'd nuke it.  If they were afraid of ramifications for that, they'd at least carpet bomb.   There's several orders of magnitude of violence that the US could be employing that they are not.

That's true they could have done those things.

So apparently if I say the fact that they could have killed less people but killed more is evidence that they did it on purpose then that's ridiculous.

But if you say the fact that they could have killed more people but killed less is evidence that they didn't do it on purpose then that's not ridiculous.

When people do something to an extreme degree I don't just assume that it was unintentional. I don't know if it is intentional but there's nothing about the US government that would make me rule it out and say it's impossible. You can do that if you want but I think its exceptionalism.

I'd rather look stupid as you say than make excuses for a half a million people being murdered. 

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Gauche wrote: Tilberian

Gauche wrote:

Tilberian wrote:
That is ridiculous. If the US were really trying to de-people the area they'd nuke it. If they were afraid of ramifications for that, they'd at least carpet bomb. There's several orders of magnitude of violence that the US could be employing that they are not.

That's true they could have done those things.

So apparently if I say the fact that they could have killed less people but killed more is evidence that they did it on purpose then that's ridiculous.

Yes it is.  Because it doesn't follow.  The mere fact (?) that the US has killed more civilians than they had to says nothing about motive or intent.  If I poured too much milk in a cup and made it overflow, is that evidence that I did it on purpose?

Gauche wrote:

But if you say the fact that they could have killed more people but killed less is evidence that they didn't do it on purpose then that's not ridiculous.

Strawman.  Never said it, don't think it. 

You said that the US wants to "depopulate" Iraq.  I noted that they haven't taken the obvious best measures to do this, which is evidence that such is not actually their intent.  The fact that they haven't killed as many people as they might have says nothing about why they have killed as many people as they have, and I never said it did.

Gauche wrote:

When people do something to an extreme degree I don't just assume that it was unintentional. I don't know if it is intentional but there's nothing about the US government that would make me rule it out and say it's impossible. You can do that if you want but I think its exceptionalism.

I have only ruled out that for which there is no evidence.  There is no evidence that the US wants to depopulate Iraq, and strong evidence that they don't, since they haven't taken the obvious steps to do that.  There is also no evidence that they (as in top command) have ever intentionally killed civilians.  You can try to conflate negligence with intent all you like, but you'll just be wrong.

Gauche wrote:

I'd rather look stupid as you say than make excuses for a half a million people being murdered.

Please point out where I have ever made an excuse for US actions.  You won't, because I haven't.  All I have done is call a spade a spade based on the evidence.  Apparently you are the one who doesn't think that negligently killing half a million people is bad enough and feels the need to invent worse crimes in defiance of the evidence.  That's where analysis starts to tip over into conspiracy theory.

 

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Tilberian wrote: Yes it is.

Tilberian wrote:
Yes it is. Because it doesn't follow. The mere fact (?) that the US has killed more civilians than they had to says nothing about motive or intent. If I poured too much milk in a cup and made it overflow, is that evidence that I did it on purpose?

I think it would be evidence if the UN and top advisors said hey don't pour that milk you're going to spill it everywhere and you said whatever I pour my milk unilaterally I don't need your approval. Because you would have known the likely outcome and gone forward anyway.

Quote:

Strawman. Never said it, don't think it.

You said that the US wants to "depopulate" Iraq. I noted that they haven't taken the obvious best measures to do this, which is evidence that such is not actually their intent. The fact that they haven't killed as many people as they might have says nothing about why they have killed as many people as they have, and I never said it did.

Well, the evidence is anecdotal. If they used nuclear weapons then the whole region would be covered with radioactive fallout. But the weapons that they are using are better than carpet bombing because they create mine fields that make the area uninhabitable and stop people from coming back. So people have to flee the area and the international community can't ask 'why are you carpet bombing?'.

And it's in contravention of international law so they have reasons to not do that.

Quote:
Please point out where I have ever made an excuse for US actions. You won't, because I haven't. All I have done is call a spade a spade based on the evidence. Apparently you are the one who doesn't think that negligently killing half a million people is bad enough and feels the need to invent worse crimes in defiance of the evidence. That's where analysis starts to tip over into conspiracy theory.

Maybe you didn't make an excuse. But you said it's unintentional which to me suggests that you want to make some exception for the US and say that they don't kill civilians on purpose when if it were another government causing a death toll that high I think you might just assume it was intentional. I might be wrong about that but from my experience people usually think their country is somehow less brutal than other countries.

Plus, the phrase conspiracy theory is totally prejudiced. I didn't say the government blew up the world trade center or the John Wilkes Booth didn't really kill Abraham Lincoln. I said the government killed a shitload of people when they have the technology to minimize those tragedies and I think it's intentional.

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Great debate guys.

Great debate guys.

The bulk of this response is directed towards Tilberian's claims as they are representative of the kind of blind-sight and dogmatism I wish to expose. This time I will look at definitions, intent and objectives more closely, whilst still claiming that the very dogma that Harris claims to attack permeates his own thesis and thereby dilutes and emasculates deeper and much needed discourse on these matters.

First a couple of short responses:

Tilberian wrote: "Yes, a horrible, unintentional outcome of a negligent use of a dastardly weapon. Naughty Israel should be punished, but not for murder."

Wrong. Even Israeli military commanders are clear about the objectives. Strike terror into South Lebanon which would (they hoped) alienate Hizbollah's political intentions. It failed, just as US policy in Iraq has failed catastrophically. in that it is fomenting theocracy there and polarising opinion against the US from within the middle east, and now across mainstream public opinion in Europe.

Secondly Boyce directly intimidated the Afghan population: we will bomb you till you change your leadership. He also went through with it. [see article b ii of the US Code definition of Terrorism] (prior to that it was hand over your info on training camps. They were willing to but the US ignored these diplomatic moves).

Since we are calling spades spades, the current legal definition of terror:


US Code,

TITLE 18--CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

PART I--CRIMES

CHAPTER 113B--TERRORISM

Sec. 2331. Definitions
[...]
appear to be intended--
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by
intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass
destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

Amended in 2002 and 2004.


Accordingly each example given in my initial responses above fall within this core definition of terrorism. (namely (i) and (ii) above), and is backed up by legal scholarship, independent of particular Human Rights organisations. We can choose to ignore or re-define it, but we then move towards arguments typical of theists, which are best avoided. Interestingly definition, circularity and special pleading are key to the ontological arguments for Gods existence dating back to Aquinas' Aristotelian synthesis and all others. They have all been proven incoherent.


[One could redefine terrorism, for example, to show that western state violence (or reaction) is rational and non-western violence (or reaction) is irrational. By that definition we could go on to demand that Islam, being a religion of submission, should not respond irrationally to our violence but should respond 'rationally' by proper submission (the etymological root of Islam). Of course no-one actually says this as the results are to ugly to contemplate.]


A point about depopulation. I don't think depopulation is an objective of current geo-politcal strategy in the Middle-East. There are relevant cases of depopulation, though, that are germane to the topic at hand namely the ones that occurred in the Middle-east and America. Recent scholarship, for example, belatedly concludes that the depopulation of America mounted to the deaths of approximately 10 million from a variety of indigenous tribes. In 1948, the Zionist movement exploited the "revolutionary times" of the first Arab-Israeli war - much like the Serbs did in Kosovo during the NATO attack - to expel more than 80 percent of the indigenous population (750,000 Palestinians).



Intents and Objectives.

There is a long, murky and intellectually contorted history of defining 'terrorism' in ways that meet the goals of western state actors but do not encompass their own crimes. This history is particularly interesting since the first War on Terror began in the 80s under Reagan and leads all the way to the second War on Terror, pronounced by the bush administration in 2001, with many of the same neo-cons now in office (who had official positions during the first one).

Intent is essential, not just in arriving at an ideologically satisfying term, but in understanding the actions of those who commit violence be they non-state actors, state actors, individuals, or loosely connected cells. There is a rich history of analysis of this by serious scholars in journals like foreign affairs, however it rarely enters public conciousness (leading to the 'fundamental attribution error', see below). It goes beyond intent to objectives and analyses the claims made through interviews and other techniques.

Psychologists refer to the 'lone crazed psychopath, religious nut' thesis of explicating terrorism as the 'fundamental attribution error '. Much research has been done into the mindset of terrorists including the limits of rational choice and utility theories (vs the role of sacred values in decision making and judgement),and ideas of essentialism. They simply don't support Harris' claims. [See Scott Atran's work, for example, if your are interested in a much deeper understanding than Harris']


The intent behind many of the egregious acts by various groups from Hizbollah to Al Qaeda are well known, if one cares to look. I too like to call a spade a spade, and one does not have to go further than radical rags like the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal or NYT to discover the realities behind the violence.


In brief, the lower and middle income Muslim's in the Middle-East express dismay and anger about US support for harsh authoritarian states and the barriers that Washington places against independent development and political democracy by its policies of "propping up oppressive regimes." Their primary concern, however, is Washington's twin policies of support for Israel's harsh and brutal military occupation and devastation of the civilian society of Iraq, with hundreds of thousands of deaths, while strengthening Saddam Hussein -- who they know very well received strong support from Washington and London through the period of his worst atrocities, including the gassing of the Kurds and beyond. Among the great mass of poor and suffering people, similar sentiments are much more bitter, and they are also hardly pleased to see the wealth of the region flow to the west and to small western-oriented elites and corrupt and brutal rulers backed by western power.


Headlines you wont read.


One argument used to deflate ontological arguments for the existence of god is the reductio ad absurdum. For a bit of fun we can apply this to the contemporary realm with a series of very unlikely headlines. The reasons they are unlikely, if understood, should yield some light on matters. I have scaled the figures using a simple per capita multiplier.


Financial Times, 1984

LONDON BOMBS WASHINGTON.

Following the recent IRA attack on the British cabinet in Brighton, the RAF have completed 6 sorties against the American city responsible for financing the IRA's murder campaign.


[Logical if one follows the deployed strategy in reponse to 9/11. Utterly absurd as well, for obvious reasons.]


Al Jazeera 2108

SANCTIONS HAVE KILLED 20 MILLION.

The ongoing sanctions against increasingly impoverished America has caused the deaths of 22.5 million children over the past 8 years. One Saudi state official when asked whether this policy was worth this tool answered: “yes, the price is worth it.”

[Madeline Albright, whilst serving as the 64th US Secretary of State, was asked by Lesley Stahl, on CBS's 60 minutes, with regards to effect of sanctions against Iraq: "We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?". Albright replied: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it." ]


El Universal, 2012

VENEZUELAN CLUSTER BOMB ATTACK KILLS OVER 15,000.

Venezuela condemned internationally for its sustained cluster bomb attacks on Florida and Texas. Over 12 million have been dropped killing over 15,000 children and injuring untold more over the years to come. One leading Chavez supporter laughed off the recent 'slap on the wrist' from the United Nations as an irrelevancy in light of the greater goal of regime change.


T.


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Howdy

Hey all,

You raise some interesting points river, here in north america we tend to see right-wing theists and atheists tend to be left-wing and more aware of chomsky and similar authors. Its nice to see a different perspective.

I think we can safely expand Harris original argument to cover ALL forms of dogma. Be it any flavor of religious or political. I agree that terrorism has more causes than religion, various political systems of the past century being prime examples. I`ll expand on this later after I have gone through all the posts in this thread so far. Smiling

Ed

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