Sunday, December 25, 2005

Political Thoughts

Zealots on Daily Kos

I wrote an article on zealots in dKosopedia, under their MemeTank. I don't see all believers of any ideology as a zealot. There are many people who are passionate, partisan, but still capable of rationality and even siding against "their cause" because of particular situational realities.

What is alarming in the world is how supposedly-righteous extremism and intolerance is being confused with truth. I felt that the issue of zealotry needed to be addressed.

It is undeniable that the world is in a highly zealotous environment. But it's not just limited to Islamic terrorists. There is domestic terror. There are political zealots jamming the airwaves with spin while swearing they are telling you the "truth."

Moderates are painted as "spineless" and the two extremes are painted as "clueless sheep" or "traitors."

There's a way to break the cycle and move on towards rationalism, but it will require people go, "Ah. Sorry for stepping on toes." It needs to be a permissive opt-in environment based on ethics, rationality and civility.

Taking Up the Cause of Faith with Sam Harris

Sam Harris is a very intelligent, cogent author of a book called "The End of Faith." I heard him speaking on the radio, and was intrigued with his atheist point of view. However, I saw that he was just as much a zealot for his own cause as those he was trying to attack. Why was he proposing faithlessness? Don't we have enough faithlessness in life already? Isn't faithlessness often decried as "treachery?"

I think he has good strong beefs against Bible literalists as well. But at the same time, he was attacking faith with such a wide brush that I felt he spatterdashed all over the qualities of religious faith. So, my own memes compelled me to write. We took a vote, and they said, "Write some essays, Pete!"

Faith, Stupidity and Memeplex Superorganisms
This essay is about how faith can lead to stupidity, but then again, much of human evolution is stupid. I pointed out that faith was actually adaptive, and that it was stupid to argue that faith was not valid. In other words, it was just as stupid to deny faith as it was to follow it blindly.

Psychopathy is Non-Denominational
A lot of atheists seemed to be blaming modern world problems on religious zealotry. I wanted to show that it was not just Muslims or even Christians. Atheists, Nazis, and plenty of non-religious political movements were capable of galling criminality. Pointing out solely religious actors was missing the deeper problems found in just about any organization or individual. Blaming religion for the world's woes is easy, but the problem is far more intractible and subtle.
Why do men like Bin Laden commit their hideous cruelties? The answer is that they “actually believe what they say they believe”. Read Sam Harris and wake up.
I'm not so sure, Sam. Not about why Bin Laden acts the way he does. But that by reading your book people will see things your way or wake up.

Americans tend to roll over and hit the snooze alarm, especially if you are predicting it's cloudy.

While religion is filled with dangers and absurdities, as pointed out in the New York Times Book Review, so are governments, businesses, communities and families. Sam Harris rants about the falsities of religion, but doesn't pause long enough to ask, and honestly answer, "If faith is so bankrupt, why has it endured?"

His very opening of a suicide bombing -- viscious zealotry -- a true concern, can be practiced just as much by those who hate religion or who are inspired by nationalism, racism or other ideologies as by those who are following organized religions. It does not account for non-religious psychopathy on the part of individuals.

He's correct that he says "A belief is a lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person's life." The analysis needs to be raised to higher level, or he is tossing the baby out with the bathwater. He doesn't like religion, and can point out the terrible excesses of those who have taken the sword up with their Bible or Koran, but he does not address how or why it works for billions of people who never turn into murderers.

He's harping on the notable and horrific exceptions without facing the rule -- that most devout people do not practice murder.

No comments:

Post a Comment