inshallah shalom


I think it’s time I did another mea culpa for this week, and this time it has nothing to do with dropping my daughter on a marble floor. It concerns the post from several weeks ago discussing my rumbling anxiousness concerning Islam after witnessing the death and destruction following the publication of the Mohammed cartoons.

I had a small conversion experience – or at least a breath of fresh illumination – after listening to a good deal of the amazing Two Narratives show on NPR a few days ago, where an Israeli Jew and an Palestinian both were given a lot of time to air their various frustrations and dreams. If that sounds dull to you, then the next forty years will probably bore you to tears, as it is these very mindsets that will probably forge the direction of both the U.S. and the whole world. I urge you to listen to at least a few minutes.

When I wrote that blog in February, I was partially mindful that it would hurt one of my oldest friends from Carolina, a sensationally intelligent, sensitive guy who converted to Islam a number of years ago. He and I will write a blog together on this topic soon (I hope) but I need to say, in public, that my ruminations on the subject were said in the heat of fear, and I’m somewhat embarrassed by them now. Li’l bro, please accept my apologies.

It has come to this: when I heard the news about the guy who drove his SUV into the Pit at UNC and tried to kill a bunch of students, the next thing everyone said was “he’s Muslim.” To which my first reaction was: “no, he’s CRAZY.” That motherfucker was no more a spokesman for Islam than Wendell Williamson was a spokesman for Presbyterianism.

And it began to dawn on me that we are not engaged in a battle against The East, nor against Islam, nor even against Fundamentalist Islam. We are in a war against CRAZY PEOPLE, and this go round, many of them happen to be of the Islamic faith. Casting this battle in religious tones, as Bush’s right-wing minions in print and media have done, has thrown our innocence out with the bathwater.

Does Fundamentalist Islam attract violent people? I don’t think so anymore. Being poor, hungry, choiceless, young and gullible does every time, however. The rest of the religion – like the one my friend practices – is full of love, brotherhood and (in the words of Yossi Klein Halevi, a Jew who went into the mosques and prayed with his “enemies”) has an enviable “fearlessness” about it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still think all religions that talk about an actual God that has rules and magical resurrections and Heaven and all that is still mystifyingly stupid, but as I’ve said before, I’m content to be the lone agnostic thinking everyone else has swallowed a pill I have not. I also have zero respect for religions that place an unholy burden on their children to marry within the faith. And I also invite all of you not to give a flying Rice Krispies Shit Square what I think. I mean, everybody wants a rock to wind a piece of string around.

But the angles are suddenly becoming clear. Those men holding signs in London saying “England, Your 9/11 is Coming” deserve a tire iron to the shins, not because of their religion, but because they’re CRAZY. Bin Laden is not Muslim, he’s CRAZY. Pat Robertson is not a Christian, he’s CRAZY. Ann Coulter is not a conservative, she’s CRUEL, ANGRY from some DEEP-SET EMOTIONAL TRAUMA, and thus CRAZY.

Forget religion and take these people at their words and actions. Bush was supposed to “redefine” his foreign policy yesterday and instead said more of the same old bullshit. Instead, if he’d said “The War on Terror is now called The War on Crazy,” then I would have signed on in a second. And the first battle would be getting rid of him.

0 thoughts on “inshallah shalom

  1. Neva

    I can’t believe I’m first to comment on this.
    First, Ian, I appreciate your thoughtful reconsideration of this topic. I agree that it is easy to have knee jerk reactions to these perceived threats to yourself and your family. I am guilt of the same. However, I think your use of the term “crazy” is way oversimplifying things. First, it’s offensive to real “crazy” people. Luckily I doubt they’ll notice.
    Anyway, what I mean is that the this guy and his ilk do not meet the true definition of crazy, ie insane. Wendell did. He was completely out of his head crazy. He had no sense of reality what so ever. He was psychotic. He was not representing any religion or anything else. He had no sense of right or wrong and was delusional. That’s why he’s still at Dix hospital (where my husband is a forensic psychiatrist). I asked my husband if he thought the guy in the pit would have any chance at an insanity plea and he didn’t think so (I thought it would be incredibly interesting if he got involved in this case). This guy however has a complete hold on reality. He knee exactly what he was doing was wrong. He planned it out carefully and according to him meant to kill those people in the name of Allah. Sounds crazy to me and you but truly he doesn’t qualify as crazy. There happens to be a subculture of people in his religion who agree with him in his response and actions. So, just like we can’t call the Scientologists crazy or the snake charming fundamentalists crazy or the Mormons (sorry to mention this one) crazy we can’t say he is either. What he is in my mind is disturbed, wrong, and dangerous and unfortunately there are more like him. I don’t think we can completely say it’s Islam’s fault (just like we can’t say Hilter was Christianity’s fault) but we can’t look the other way and just say he’s an isolated event. It was incredibly surreal and scary to have this happen right here in our backyard. I know those of you from NYC are hardened to this but this is little ol’ Chapel Hill people. There were helicopters flying about in the sky. Incredibly frightening.

  2. Neva

    Sorry for all the typos. I had way too much coffee this am and have two children vying for my attention while I type. By the way have a happy St. Patty’s day everyone! Hope you only get pinched if you want to!

  3. AGaley

    Ian, when I first read this entry it really ticked me off because of its frothing judgment of those who have faith in a higher being. Years ago I was as agonostic as the next gal, clutching to the legality of abortion in case I was knocked-up because of my irresponsible screwing (no irony or sarcasm — fact), drinking too many $2.00 pitchers of Goebel’s at Bub’s to care about politics. My idea of a moral dilemma was whether it was OK to let guys buy you beer if you didn’t intend to go home with them.
    Today I am a member of a Southern Baptist (yes I spelled it right)church. I got up at 5:00 am to read the Bible and PRAY. We give 10% of our income to the church. The reason I mention these things is solely because I want you to have a glimpse at how different I am from the girl of 15 years ago. That I have gone over a year without a drop of alcoholic beverage would have been shocking and inconceivable back then. I attribute every change in me to the power and love of the Lord who created me.
    Does that make me crazy? stupid?
    Then I read your post again a few times and thought about it. At first I thought you were saying “religious = crazy; crazy = contemptible; therefore, religious = contemptible.” I was going to bring up the religious people who have changed our world so much for the better BECAUSE of their speaking out through their beliefs. (Think abolitionists, Martin L. King Jr., Mother Theresa, etc.)
    The problem is that mean people use religion to justify the mean things that they want to do anyway. Because outsiders link the religion with the meanness, they assume the religion must be mean/evil.
    How do we reconcile that with the fact that mobs took to the streets and people DIED because of some cartoons in a newspaper? The topics of Islamic fundamentalism and the economic roots of terrorism are too complicated for me, who spends my days washing out poopy underpants from my still-potty-training 3 year old and running carpools all day. Have mercy, I can’t take care of the family AND solve the world’s problems!

  4. dean from Bub's and Troll's

    For those of you who have seen Hoosiers so many times that you have it memorized like me and Greg do, you’ll remember the following line (not an exact quote):
    “There are two kinds of crazy . . the man who dresses in his pajamas and howls at the moon and the man who does the same thing in my bedroom. The first one . .well, you can kind of ignore that one. The second one . . well, you gotta do something about it.”
    Yes, Ian there are some nuts in every religion and set of beliefs. Funny, by the way, how you did not mention any crazy liberals. Anyway, the crazy folks within Christianity, Hindu, Mormonism, Scientology, Rebublican-ism, Democrat-ism are not blowing shit up and killing people! Yes, a small difference, but a difference nonetheless.
    And before anyone pulls a Timothy McVeigh out of their fanny, there has never been a report he did his terrible deed in the name of Jesus Christ as opposed to the terrorists acting in the name of Allah.
    There are some fundamentalist churches of all stripes that teach hateful things . . . abortion protests, slashing tires of Republicans, jumping on Oprah’s couch, etc. But, this things are “crazy” with a small “c” compared to the mosques teaching their recipes — BLOWING SHIT UP! This is “crazy” with a big, fucking “C”!
    Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all!

  5. Matt

    Mohammad Reza Taheri-azar said his actions were obeying the “will of Allah.” As Neva discussed above, he’s not “crazy” in the sense that he’s not responsible for his actions. He believes he’s fighting a religious war, and so do, unfortunately, a not-insignificant-number of Muslims from Indonesia to the Middle East. Of course the guy is not a spokesman for Islam, but he’s hardly out there all by himself, is he? And that’s the problem. Whether we like it or not, or want to recognize it or not, Islamists (distinct from all Muslims) have declared war on the West, and they did so long before 9/11. We’re only finally waking up to the fact. Calling it a War on Crazy (or a War on All Things Bad) ignores the central motivation of the people who are trying to kill us. It is very troublesome when so many of us can’t even bring ourselves to recognize the enemy for who he is: part of a fascist movement that wants to deny human freedoms, oppress women and kill gays.
    Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone.

  6. Anne D.

    This has nothing to do with Islam, or St. Patrick’s Day. I just wanted to remind us of this lovely prayer from St. Francis. To me it combines aspiration and inspiration. If you don’t believe in God, just substitute “Make me an instrument of peace” for the first line.
    Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
    Where there is hatred let me sow love.
    Where there is injury; pardon.
    Where there is doubt; faith.
    Where there is despair; hope.
    Where there is darkness; light.
    Where there is sadness; joy.

  7. Claudia

    Ian, strictly out of curiosity, will it upset you if Lucy becomes a religious person when she grows up? Or if she, for example, decides to marry a practicing Catholic and raise her children that way? By “upset,” I don’t mean, will the two of you come to blows, or even heated arguments, over it. I just mean, will it irritate you? Will you complain to Tessa about it? Religion seems to irritate you on an intellectual level; correct me if I’m wrong. I wonder if your child’s increasing religiosity would affect you the way the increasing agnosticism of the offspring of religious parents would affect them.

  8. Deb

    Neva–A thoughtful post that hit an enormous point, type-os and all. I didn’t go to Chapel Hill (married in), but did read Williamson’s book, “Nightmare”. I, too, am quick to call fundamentalists and extremists “crazy”, when really what they are is Angry, and agree that the two shouldn’t be confused.
    I know I can never truly understand what it’s like to feel, as Ian said, “poor, hungry, choiceless, young and gullible”, as much as I can never understand what it’s like to be male. It’s really not for me to determine that what is done in the name of Anger equals Crazy. It often equals Wrong, but not necessarily Crazy. In fact, we do our own safety a disservice by writing extremists off as Crazy. There’s a certain lack of culpability in someone who…well, “is not responsible for their actions”. Can you imagine Zacarias Moussaoui being found not guilty by reason of insanity?
    All that said, Angry doesn’t equal Justified. There are plenty of movements/demonstrations/expressions of Anger that do not involve harming one’s self or others. But again, I do think it is very dangerous to write extremists off as crazy.

  9. Deb

    Claudia–I don’t have kids yet, but they’re on the horizon. I, too, was absent the day they handed out the faith pill, and have recently been pondering your question. How would I feel if my kids became people of faith? It would bother me, yes. I plan to teach my kids about reason and rationality and logic. I hope that’s how they will view the world around them. Therefore, if they wound up denying that reason, I would feel as though I failed. Same as if they grew up to be selfish or mean-spirited or intolerant.
    I would love them the same as I love the friends and family who are people of faith, but as a parent having a goal for my children that was not met, I would feel sad that I did not achieve it.

  10. Scott

    This is odd. You don’t know me from Adam (to continue the religion theme here). I found your site by doing a google search of a good high school friend of mine, Mondy Lamb. Your writing was so good and compelling that I have stayed. That, and I hate Duke, even if I did not go to UNC.
    Please consider reading “The End of Faith” by Sam Harris. I have just started it, but I think you will find that Sam has put down on paper some of your exact thoughts. I know that I feel like I am reading a book that I could have written.
    The problem that each of us agnostic/atheists face is simple: we cannot write or communicate our truest feelings without deeply offending 95% of our friends. So we sit on our figurative hands and hope (but not pray) that they will see the lunacy that is religion. There are glimmers of hope – but I am not sure we will survive long enough to witness the grand realization.
    It is a real shame that I do not know you personally – I think we would get along famously.

  11. Neva

    I love that prayer of St. Francis even though I’m not very religious. That prayer was in our wedding (we got married on his saint day)and I haven’t thought about that in a long while..

  12. Deb

    Scott–I agree. The genius of religion/faith is that the proof occurs after you die. It’s the magician who says, “I’ll tell you how the trick works, but then I’ll have to kill you.” So in their eyes, they cannot be disproven.

  13. Neva

    By the way, I second the endorsement of Sam Harris’ book End of Faith. I think I mentioned that one before. It is very powerful and thought provoking.
    Interesting you make the point of the power, underprivileged folks turning to fundamentalist Islam but that does not describe this guy at UNC nor most of the 9/11 terrorist (and of course not Ossama himself).

  14. GFWD

    Did you ever find Mondamin Lamb? If my memory serves me correctly, her name translated to “Earth Nugget”. She used to come up to Carolina when I was a freshman and hang out with some of the guys on my floor who were from her home town. I then got to know her better when she finally arrived at Carolina as a student and dated another friend of mine. If you find her or know of her whereabouts, send out an update.
    As for the religion stuff, I have always marveled at how much those of faith try to argue their point of view or make their case for their specific beliefs. Boiled down to its essence, religious faith is no different from being a college fan. You can be the Lucky Lutherans, Cagey Catholics or Ballin’ Baptists, but in the end, you’ve made a choice for a particular denomination that speaks to you and you stick with it.
    Why, for those of you (like me) who believe in God and practice with an organized religion, is it so important to convince others that YOUR way is right and theirs is wrong. I am not agnostic and don’t have agnostic tendencies like Ian. That being said, I don’t give a rat’s ass whether he believes what I believe.
    Similarly, I don’t give a damn if the dook fans on this blog like Carolina. I’m never going to convince them that Carolina is better, that Carolina is good and that Carolina was right for me at a time in my life when I was going through changes and seeking to better myself through teachings and learning and knowledge and faith in a team and philosophy of basketball played and executed the “right way”.
    If anything, I feel pity for the dook fans. By comparison, I do not mean to suggest that you feel pity for Ian or any other agnostic person or person of a different faith. But why do you all have to waste so much tireless energy on trying to convince others to see things your way?
    Kudos to AGaley for crediting God and your Baptist faith for helping to turn her life around. If she had gotten the same turnaround in life from an AA meeting or a boyfriend, would that make her transformation any less real? If she credits a higher being, that’s great, but there is no need to think that religion is the only means to achieve those changes or that people who have no professed faith are wrong.
    If Ian and Tessa raise their daughter Lucy to be every bit the great citizen and friend and scholar that a person of faith does with their own child, where’s the problem if Lucy’s dad does not believe as a person of faith does.
    Growing up Catholic and now attending (semi-regularly) a Lutheran church, I somehow missed the doctrine where we have to persecute those who don’t believe in God. If anything, let the non-believers do what they want. And, if you feel as though you have to believe in order to get to an after-life you trust is waiting for you, then by your rationale other agnostics and non-believers won’t be there to overcrowd you.
    Which is just fine by me, because I don’t want any of those agnostic dookies on my cloud when I’m in Heaven, so that I can watch my Tar Heels play, with the ultimate bird’s eye view, in peace.
    Anne D.,
    I love the hymn, “Prayer of St. Francis”. I always read it and sing it to myself when I am in church and I’ve recently been singing it to my one-month-and-one-day old son to calm him down. He still cries though. But I blame my singing and not the hymn.
    Neva and Deb,
    I never knew Williamson wrote a book. I was livid to think that bastard might have made money off of the death of those two people, one of whom was a promising lacrosse-playing student. I was relieved, however, to read on’s review of the book that he will not make a “red cent” off of the sales and that it’s opened doors and minds to serious discussion of a real illness.
    I hope the Pit driving punk, who tried to carry his “agenda” out against unsuspecting college kids, gets an all-expenses paid trip to Gitmo Bay. I hear it’s nice this time of year, EVERY year . . . for the foreseeable future.

  15. Claudia

    Wow. I expected to be totally misconstrued, but I didn’t imagine I’d be so swiftly and thoroughly insulted.
    Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

  16. Deb

    Wow. I hadn’t the intention to nor notion that I was being insulting. If I was, I wholly apologize. My understanding of your comments was: How would a non-believer feel if their child grew up to be a person of faith, and was that similar to an increasing trend of people of faith raising future non-believers?
    To which I thought I answered, It would probably be a similar emotion. That one would be disappointed in their kids not adhering to the principles one was trying to impart.

  17. Ian

    Claudia – I don’t see where you’re being insulted. It’s simply a matter of a lack of faith. I’d be deeply upset if Lucy turned out to be an evangelical, and do everything in my power to argue her out of it every day, because that would mean huge swaths of our lives would be disconnected. But ultimately my love for her has nothing to do with it. Greg’s Carolina/dook comparison is oddly spot-on.
    This is not meant to single out Claudia (whose comments I’ve always liked muchly), but I don’t understand why us agnostics can’t think religious people are making unbelievable choices. Many of them certainly do it to us agnostics all the time, and usually from a perceived position of moral high ground.
    Re: the SUV Pit guy… I’m sorry, if you get into your car and try to mow down students, you’re crazy. Hey may think he’s part of Islam, but he’s not. You have to be FUCKING INSANE to do what he did. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t rot in jail for 80 years, but just because he “knew what he was doing” doesn’t make him sane.

  18. Claudia

    My question was directed at Ian, who wrote, “I also have zero respect for religions that place an unholy burden on their children to marry within the faith.” I intended to question how Ian would feel if Lucy chose to marry “outside the faith” of agnosticism, so to speak.
    I am insulted by comments such as, “The genius of religion/faith is that the proof occurs after you die,” as if it’s all some intentionally sneaky plot. Also, “I plan to teach my kids about reason and rationality and logic. I hope that’s how they will view the world around them. Therefore, if they wound up denying that reason, I would feel as though I failed. Same as if they grew up to be selfish or mean-spirited or intolerant,” as if faith is incompatible with reason and is comparable to intolerance (see the irony in comparing faith to intolerance in a sentence that is intolerant of faith)?
    Another one: “The problem that each of us agnostic/atheists face is simple: we cannot write or communicate our truest feelings without deeply offending 95% of our friends.”
    Anti-ethnic bigots can say the same thing. Most of Ian’s readers would probably agree such bigots’ biases are just plain wrong. See my point?
    I don’t recall ever having attempted to foist my religion (Catholicism) upon anyone. I recall many, many, many, many people trying to talk me out of my faith throughout my life.
    The Prayer of St. Francis also figured prominently in my and Chris M’s wedding. It is a beautiful prayer, and presents wonderful words to live by.
    And, Ian, thanks for saying that you like my comments, and thanks even further for using a cool word like “muchly.”

  19. Deb

    Again, Ian, there’s a big distinction between Insane and Wrong. You can be both, but you don’t have to be. Your eloquent defense of us non-believers should clarify the difference. The person who believes in mysticism and miracles has a lot more in common (in my mind) with someone who hallucinates and hears voices, than an irate Muslim who devises an intricate, logical plan of violence. *Obviously* I feel that the former is much more preferable as a member of society than the latter, and I’m not *equating* faith to insanity as literally as it might sound. I’m just saying that just because someone perpetrates a nauseating act of violence due to an emotional reaction that perhaps we as free, white Americans can’t understand, doesn’t mean that they need Haldol. Jail, yes, Haldol, not so much.

  20. Claudia

    One more thing–religious belief isn’t always a “choice,” but rather a heartfelt belief that arises from doing much soul-searching and looking into one’s heart. I would imagine that this rhetoric is one that members of the Left can understand.

  21. Claudia

    “…I’m not *equating* faith to insanity as literally as it might sound.”
    Then why make it sound that way?

  22. Deb

    Claudia–Again, my apologies for offending. Oftentimes during such discussions, “organized religion” gets confused with “spirituality”. I have a modicum of contempt for the former, insomuch as it unsolicitedly interferes with other people’s lives. I have zero intolerance for spiritual people. I would be disappointed if my children didn’t view the world the way I did, as I believe any parent would.
    As far as accusing religion (we’re talking “organized”, now) of hatching a plot, it’s not what I was going for (not that I believe it’s out of the realm of possibility), but I see that using the word “genius” was inflammatory. Taking that out, however, the truth of the statement holds up: One can never debate the existence of an afterlife, because it happens…after life. To me, it’s an easy out.
    Faith *is* incompatible with reason. It’s its polar opposite. I’m not saying one can’t employ reason and rationality in many aspects of their lives and still choose to have faith in other things; faith and reason can live side by side. But is it not true that the definition of faith is the belief in that which cannot be explained by reason?
    I also did not mean to compare faith to intolerance. I was using intolerance and mean-spiritedness as examples of concepts I would try to teach my children and would be disappointed if they didn’t “take”.

  23. Matt

    But Ian, by your definition no criminal is ever sane. People do bad things — things you and I could never fathom doing — for all kinds of reasons, not least because they hate their victims.
    From the estimable Mark Steyn:
    “If Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar is not a free-lance terrorist, then what is he? Who is he? What’s he thinking? In the absence of any explanatory voices from the Muslim community, all we have are the bare bones of his resume: He’s a 22-year old UNC psychology major who graduated in December. And what’s revealing is the link between Taheri-azar’s grievance and his action.
    “Take him at his word: He’s upset about “the treatment of Muslims around the world” — presumably at the hands of Israelis on the West Bank, of the Russians in Chechnya, the Indians in Kashmir, the Americans in the Sunni Triangle and the Danes in the funny pages. So what does he do to avenge Islam? He goes to the rental agency, takes out the biggest car on the lot, drives it to UNC and rams it into the men and women he’s spent the last few years studying with and socializing with — the one group of infidels he knows really well.
    “How many Muslims feel similarly? Not many in America, perhaps — if only when compared to Europe: For all the multiculti blather, the United States still does a better job assimilating immigrants than France or Germany. A recent poll found that 40 percent of British Muslims want sharia introduced in the United Kingdom and 20 percent sympathized with the “feelings and motives” of the July 7 London Tube bombers. Or, more accurately, 20 percent were prepared to admit to a pollster they felt sympathy, which suggests the real figure might be somewhat higher. Huge numbers of Muslims — many of them British subjects born and bred — see their fellow Britons blown apart on trains and buses and are willing to rationalize the actions of mass murderers.
    “East is east and west is west/And ne’er the twain shall meet,” wrote Kipling. Obviously, they meet every moment of the day — the cabbie driving you to your appointment in Washington, the affable fellow at the corner store. But proximity isn’t the same as understanding: Taheri-azar and that 20 percent of British Muslims think they know “the west” and they don’t like it. By contrast, the New York Times and Co. insist they like “the east” but go to an awful lot of trouble to avoid finding out anything that would ruffle their illusions. The twain would never meet, said Kipling, “till Earth and Sky meet presently/At God’s great judgment seat.”
    I’d rather find out before then.”

  24. Deb

    ‘…I’m not *equating* faith to insanity as literally as it might sound.’
    “Then why make it sound that way?”
    I tried not to, hence the qualifier.

  25. Claudia

    I simply disagree that faith is incompatible with reason. One of many definitions of faith is the belief in that which one (and perhaps society) does not understand, but not necessarily that which reason cannot explain. Reason is a remarkably fluid concept.
    I liken those who disdain religious individuals (for their lack of “reason”) to doctors who disdain a terminally ill patient’s desire to get well. Such patients often do get well, for unexplainable reasons. What causes their recovery? Unexplained scientific processes that we do not yet, and may never, understand? A miracle? Does it matter? The patient had faith, and got better. Why pooh-pooh something because it MAY not be the explanation for something?
    I also think it’s unbelievably arrogant to assume that “reason” can’t explain something just because our current understanding of logic and our current scientific principles can’t.

  26. Claudia

    Deb–I’m starting to feel like I’m splitting hairs, and it’s not my intention to get into hostile-debate territory. I appreciate your apology.
    That said, I feel that adding a separate qualifier to a potentially-offensive-as-written statement is like saying “No offense” after an insult. It doesn’t erase the insult. I think that rewriting the original statement would better serve your purposes.

  27. Scott

    Solely following up on the Mondamin question: Yes, I did find her. Currently the Marketing Director of the SPCA of Wake County (NC). I beleive married with no kids as of yet. Could be wrong on both accounts. For about 5 to 8 years, she was a lesbian, but that seems to have passed.
    On other items, all religions have at their core the duty to spread the religion. Some followers may not sign on for that entirely, but the expectation is there. Oddly, there is no expectation among non-believers to convince others. If anything, we are a wee bit afraid of being burned or stoned to death. Sure, not as likely today as in the Middle Ages, but the figurative stoning is just as effective.
    This will really set some of you off, but I have found that the hardest group to talk to about religion is Jews. For them, the religion is bound up in their genetics – you are born a Jew, you descended from Abraham or Moses or somebody like that. For Baptists, they don’t get too wrapped up in your lineage, they just want you to be SAVED and jump in the water. But most of the Jews that I have met are incapable of considering the merits of other faiths. They tolerate them just fine – but it makes no difference to them, since all of the other faiths happen to be wrong.
    What is that song? “O’ Lord it’s hard to be humble . . . ”

  28. Deb

    That same patient could have had that same faith and died. Why do *you* assume that their faith had anything to do with it?
    As much as I am bothered by Jehovah’s Witnesses and the like refusing medical treatment in favor of “God’s will”, at least they’re consistent.
    Would you ever turn down chemotherapy in favor of faith?
    By your logic, because something isn’t explained “yet”, a plausible explanation is God.
    “One of many definitions of faith is the belief in that which one (and perhaps society) does not understand, but not necessarily that which reason cannot explain.”
    Again, a convenient (technically non-)answer. It’s answering a question with a question. Why accept science in any form if it can always be trumped by what *could* be?
    Once again, I respect your and anyone’s right to believe and worship as they choose. Ideologically, we can agree to disagree. I have no quarell with those who treat people with respect and kindness and teach their children to do the same, and (not that you need my “approval”) I suspect you are one of the good’uns.

  29. Tessa

    Ian and I have been engaged in this debate for the last five years. I love my husband and I respect him as a thinker but this is an area where I believe he (you – hi honey!) have a blind spot.
    I am not personally religious but there are many things about religion (and I mean “religion” not “faith.” I’ll get to “faith” in a minute…) that I find lovely. Ritual, solemnity, service, worship, architecture. And I think that Ian’s frustration with crusaders, evangelicals and mystics blinds him to the sincere goodness and intellect of “Carter Christians” and their Jewish, Muslim and Hindu counterparts.
    Every year I drag Ian to a service of some kind – sometimes Midnight Mass, sometimes a Quaker meeting at my nephew’s school. And, while there are parts of the ritual that he can appreciate, mostly he complains that the seats suck and his back hurts.
    Meanwhile I feel elevated and reflective and generous, in spite of not believing that Jesus is the son of god anymore than Bob Hope is. (Lest anyone get confused, I am fond of both Bob Hope and Jesus)
    It just works differently for us.
    I can appreciate the metaphor of religion. I don’t believe that Christ died on the cross for my sins but I know that belief has armed my grandmother with the fortitude to be loving and generous in spite of a hideous childhood.
    But then I have faith, which allows me to see religion as a cousin. I had a conversion experience not dissimilar from AGaley. As a result of believing that there was a power greater than me, and then learning to applying myself to living by a different set of principles, I was able to change- my life, my character, my outlook. So, I have a deep faith that relies on an evidence that belief – and action born of that belief – can make me better.
    I loved Neva’s observation:
    “I think your use of the term “crazy” is way oversimplifying things. First, it’s offensive to real “crazy” people. Luckily I doubt they’ll notice.”
    Fundamentalism may not be officially “crazy.” But it is a real step forward not to think of it as “religious” either.
    Here is the end of the St. Francis prayer:
    Grant that I make seek not to be consoled but to console,
    Not to be understood but to understand,
    Not to be loved but to love.
    For it is giving that we receive,
    in pardoning that we are pardoned,
    in dying that we are born to eternal life.
    What a lovely metaphor that is!

  30. xuxE

    i’m really glad you said this today. i only found this whole blog pretty recently, and i kind of jumped right in… that one anti-islam rant day made me feel a bit guarded with my feelings and honestly made me wonder about coming around here because it’s not like i know you as a close friend, the internet only shows a kind of fragment of a person, and i was like, hmmmmm. i don’t expect to agree with everything everyone says, but you’d be stupid not to be wary with people you don’t know too well. my instincts told me to hang in, and i’m happy that i did.
    for me personally, i always find that realizations like the one you had today don’t actually come from logic and debate. they come from an emotional place of understanding people and their motivations. like, i’ve never seen anyone change their mind about whether racism exists based on someone spouting statistics, know what i mean?
    i spent a little time in the middle east and i worked closely with people from there who were practicing muslims, and i also spent time in the south and was totally tricked into going to a pentecostal church in the middle of nowhere, NC, where everybody started speaking in tongues. i was totally comfortable in mainstream muslim world yet i almost fled on foot from the church of christ the exxtreme.
    the tolerance people have in this country for christian fanatics and simultaneous intolerance of fanatics of other cultures is to me, totally racist and ethnocentric. it’s not logical, because racism and fear are also not logical. on the tepid end of the spectrum, you have people caught up in the fear of “other” and sterotyping, and you have a form of nationalistic political propaganda and villification on the white-hot pat robertson hate-speech spewing other end of the spectrum.
    but i think also for all parents especially, it’s absolutely essential to recognize your privelege and ingrained cultural viewpoints, whether they are religious, ethnic, or otherwise. you have to check the assumptions and stereotypes that filter into your consciousness without you even realizing – because your kids can so easily inherit these and they are being bombarded with them too. just like with all parenting, i think it’s just a constant path of trying to block out the noise and get things clear and straight, trying to do the right thing, stumbling a bit, turning yourself around and going forward again.
    anyway, i just want to say rock on, Lucy’s dad. 2008 is coming…

  31. Deb

    Scott: (oh, man, I’m getting NO work done today…) I would tend to agree with you. My husband’s family is Jewish, and has a couple of Orthodox members as well. It’s nearly impossible to equate Judaism to other religions, because of the cultural component. When we were getting married, there were a couple of Jewish traditions we liked and wanted to include (breaking the glass, dancing the Hora), simply for the fun of them, and my blustering father was all, “Well, we need to have something Christian, then, to balance it out.” And no one could come up with a “cultural” Christian tradition that wasn’t overtly religious.
    Then there’s the concept of Jews being a minority, and as with most minorities, it’s difficult to “discuss” them without appearing (or being made to feel) like a racist/ethnocentric/misogynistic jerk.
    One thing, though: I’ve never gotten any prostheletizing vibes from the Jewish faith. As you say, they judge as good as the rest of the religions, and believe 100% that they’re correct, but also prefer to remain in their own insulated community.
    See, already I feel like a jerk.

  32. scruggs

    Hmmm. Very serious discussion given such a festive St. Patty’s/NCAA tourney day.
    “I plan to teach my kids about reason and rationality and logic.” See, what’s funny, is logic and order contribute to me being a POF, not serve as a detractor. My graduate and undergraduate studies in math, as well as working in the field since graduation have me marveling at the design and precision of things and can’t see it as accidental. C.S. Lewis seems to be the poster child to address some of this. I have a few quotes on my wall that sum it up for me:
    The laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God. ~Euclid
    Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.” Galileo Galilei
    From what I’ve noticed since reading this blog a few years (yikes) ago, Ms. Tessa’s appearances are few and far between, but when she does grace us with an entry, her words are always a treat.

  33. jje

    I generally stay quiet on the days when politics and religion come up on this blog. I read, absorb, ponder and move on to saving the world from the latest contents of Connor’s diaper.
    Until one of those diapers explodes into flames (which could happen today since I just had a burrito and baby boy is due to nurse again in two hours) and starts asking me to convert people, I usually don’t worry about earning that toaster oven, or, dare to dream, the blue Cadillac, for making the month’s quota.
    But I thought I’d chime in with a tiny comment in regards to “the genius of religion/faith is that the proof occurs after you die.”
    Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I’m constantly presented with proof right here on terra firma. On my wedding day. When I found out I was pregnant against all odds. The first time I looked into my son’s eyes. Even at my stepfather’s funeral, when there were moments of “laughter through tears,” as Miss Truvy would say. And then there are little things, like my neighborhood park being in full, glorious bloom right now (how great is it to be a SAHM and part of the job description is chilling out at the park on a gorgeous day?). Or listening to Connor giggle when we dance around the kitchen in the morning.
    I know it probably sounds pretty cheezy to a lot of you, and I’m okay with that. All I know is there are moments in my life, little miracles to be exact, when logic disappears and I feel completely and entirely consumed with happiness and wonder. For me, that’s proof enough He exists.
    Of course, I know this opens up a can of worms about “what about all the bad moments?” and I’ve got my own answer for that, too, but it’s probably not worth sharing. ;-)

  34. Deb

    Hi, Tessa. I actually agree with most of your sentiments. I, too, have had a hard time not being moved by the pomp of Midnight Mass or the grandeur and history a European cathedral or the tradition and community of a Passover seder. It’s why I want my kids, as I did, to know Christmas–the secular, Santa Claus version.
    Appreciating religion as a metaphor is great. The Parables have a lot to teach us in terms of kindness and virtue. Believing the Bible as historical truth (to the exclusion and denial of science) is another story. Extracting hatred from it is yet another. Perhaps I, too, am blinded by the overwhelmingly public negatives that come from religion. Seemingly moderate folks who find it necessary to disown their children or attempt to change laws that affect other people, or kill as many as possible in the name of *their* religion. It’s just so glaring.
    The thing that separates us is that everything you say about religion lifting you up and fascilitating faith in yourself, faith in humanity, being a good person in the face of trial, all of this can occur independent of a faith in God. I suppose this creates a further distinction, faith vs. spirituality.

  35. Deb

    JJE–Your entry made me feel warm and made me smile. I’m so glad you have these wonders in your life, whatever you call them, and wherever you believe they come from.

  36. Claudia

    Deb–I *don’t* assume that the hypothetical terminal patient having faith had anything to do with his/her living. I just don’t rule it out as a possibility. That is all.
    Not quite sure what you’re getting at with the chemotherapy question. My faith/religion is completely compatible with receiving chemotherapy. I assume you are making a giant leap and asking if I would advocate prayer instead of action? (If not, please correct me.)
    My parish pastor recently relayed an anecdote:
    A man became stranded on a deserted island. “Lord, please save me,” he prayed. A ship came by and offered to rescue him.
    “No, thanks, God will save me.”
    A helicopter cruised over him and offered to bring him back to civilization.
    “No, thanks, God will save me.”
    The man starves to death. In heaven, he asks, “Lord, why didn’t you save me?”
    To which God responds, “Who do you think sent the ship? Who do you think sent the helicopter?”
    I don’t believe I answered your question with a question.
    And thanks for saying you suspect I’m one of the good’uns. I suspect you are, too.

  37. xuxE

    ok, and i don’t know if anyone else has mentioned this irony, but if anyone really still thinks muslim extremism is some *special* type of religious crazy, just look around on st. patrick’s day and see who is wearing green vs. orange.
    western religion is ALL about groups and community, and yes, ethnicity and culture. it’s the one thing that is compelling but also sends me running toward the hills.
    i’ve never been much of a joiner, and i don’t believe in any god. i make a half assed attempt at unitarianism every 5 years or so and that’s about it. i think that’s what the unitarians all kind of do, anyway, they just come and go and it’s not the same type of tight community as say, a southern baptist church.
    still, that community and sense of belonging is really powerful. i was raised irish catholic and i totally remember that feeling, and yes, i felt that ingrained cultural sympathy with the IRA, for absolutely no logical reason.
    i like the idea that there would be some solid group of folks who would have your back, but i’m satisfied to just have friends and family for that, fuck the whole pews and scripture part of it.
    and the spirituality part i can get at home by myself.

  38. J.Boogie

    another day of fat double-chinned Ian spreading more lies
    fat uneducated fool Ian always excludes the important facts, that this guy with the rented SUV down in North Carolina is a Muslim and said he drove his SUV into the students for Allah
    I thought the fat left-wing fool Ian would say this is a Hate Crime, but then I remembered that liberals do not consider it to be a hate crime when whites are the victims.
    While on the subject of hate crimes, there is more black-on-white crime in America than there is white-on-black crime, another thing which NPR and the sheep like Ian hate to report.
    The FDA came out today and said 2 more women have died from the abortion pill, I also noticed that the fat left-wing fool Ian didn’t mention that in his blog today.
    When dealing with NPR sheep and brainless stooges like Ian, the stuff they don’t say is more important than what they do say.

  39. Scott

    Did someone say something about a War on Crazy? We might have found a new target in J. Boogie. Unless, of course, he is just spoofing on Ian and is in fact a long lost friend. The tirade does smack of sarcasm.

  40. Matt

    “if anyone really still thinks muslim extremism is some *special* type of religious crazy, just look around…”
    Really? Who else is snatching people off the street and sawing their heads off, strapping bombs to themselves and walking into pizza parlors, etc. And not as one offs, either. It is done my Islamic extremists on a fairly regular basis. Look around, indeed. Muslims are fighting wars against infidels in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Pakistan, North Africa, Indonesia, Chapel Hill… The list goes on and on. Muslim extremists are vastly more dangerous. It does no good to pretend otherwise.

  41. Anne D.

    I had to return here to see what commenting had transpired since I earlier posted the St. Francis prayer (or part of a prayer, as Tessa kindly amended). Wow– good stuff! (except for that Boogie man’s drivel)
    Sometimes I fear that those who posit an unbridgable chasm between faith and reason are building a straw man. (Ouch; block that mixed metaphor!) Many eminent, rational scientists are people of faith — even mainstream religious faith. My own parish includes a healthy contingent of research professors from the nearby university. I love talking with them about intellect, reason, and faith.
    Not in my parish, but from the same university as the people I mention above (all from the dread Ivy League — ha ha), is Ken Miller, who has been one of the principal expert witnesses in the widely publicized court cases concerning the teaching in public schools of “intelligent design.” Miller is an eminent cell biologist, coauthor (with J. Levine) of the standard high school textbook “Biology,” staunch proponent of evolutionary theory, and a practicing Catholic. He wrote a book several years ago called “Finding Darwin’s God.” I highly recommend that you read some of his writing if you insist that there is rational thought about life and there is religious faith, and one is “better” than or superior to the other.
    From “Finding Darwin’s God”:
    “If faith and reason are both gifts from God, then they should play complementary, not conflicting, roles in our struggle to understand the world around us. As a scientist and as a Christian, that is exactly what I believe. True knowledge comes only from a combination of faith and reason.” (Miller)

  42. Agaley

    Thank you, Tessa, for noticing what I wrote. I read your Salon article on Ambien and it was one of the best-written things I’ve seen.
    My conversion started a long time before I became Baptist. That’s just where I am right now. I don’t think that it’s the denominational sign on the door that’s important; it’s what goes on inside. (But I am Christian, no mistake.) I mentioned the So Bap thing so you could see what a dramatic change has come over me.
    As to whether the proof of faith comes when we die, I agree with jje about the daily reminders. How do you “reasoners” know that anything is true? Mostly, from your own experience or because you heard about it from someone you trust. How do you know that ancient Rome existed? You have read books about it, you know of things that were supposed to have happened there, but you never were there yourself. You take it on faith that the things you have read/heard are true. I take it on faith that the things I have learned about Christ are true. You think you are reasoned and I am stupid.
    This is how I became a Christian. My husband was going through a terrible time with his job flying airplanes in the USAF. We had no idea what the future would be. I was frantic with worry. We were attending a United Church of Christ (very liberal denomination) in Silver Spring, MD, and the minister preached a sermon themed that everyone has a hole in his heart. Some try to fill it with money, others with fame or power, but the only thing that can fill the hole in the heart is the love of Jesus. I wondered what was filling my heart.
    The second thing that happened was that I was listening a lot to a certain conservative Jewish radio hostess as I sat for hours in DC traffic. A caller asked about whether she should have her baby baptized as a Catholic, and the hostess asked her about her religious beliefs. The caller didn’t know anything about her religion, and the hostess began to berate her for not knowing her own religion. I thought, what do I know about what I believe anyway. So I picked up the New Testament and started to read at the beginning.
    I was shocked and moved to read the words of Christ. What He said is SO different from our media-shaped perception of what He said. It wasn’t long before I got to Matthew 7:7, which says, “Ask and you will believe, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.” I prayed the first real prayer of my life. I said, “Lord, I am asking for you. I am seeking you. I am knocking at your door.”
    The transformation of my life was the work of the Holy Spirit. When I am led to question His existance (and if a person has any depth there will be questioning times), I reflect on what He has done for me, where He has brought me. I know what I know. I know He lives.
    My experience doesn’t diminish those who have been transformed through AA, a boyfriend, or another vehicle. GFWD wrote, “If [Agaley] credits a higher being, that’s great, but there is no need to think that religion is the only means to achieve those changes or that people who have no professed faith are wrong”. Christ is working in our lives all the time, whether we acknowledge him or not. He is working in Ian’s life right now, for example, and Ian has no idea. My beef is when people try to stand on reason and claim that those whose experiences have blessed them with a different perspective are idiots, yet preach “tolerance.”

  43. Anne D.

    Hi, Agaley — Thanks for sharing your experience — moving and profound.
    I see you are applying the “Hound of Heaven” theory to Ian, and I predict he won’t stand for it! ;-)
    I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
    I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
    I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
    Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
    I hid from Him. ….
    “Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
    I am He Whom thou seekest !
    Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest me.”
    – Francis Thompson

  44. caveman

    I’m getting ready to wage a war on beer in about 30 minutes. I will saw multiple heads off and I plan on taking no prisoners.

  45. Sean Williams

    Hey Ian, I don’t think you’re fat.
    Hey, whoever tried to equate anti-religion with bigotry, if you say that Jews or Blacks or Arabs are inferior, you can’t back it up with proof. If you say there *is* a God, you also can’t back it up with proof.
    Ian is a simple man, like me, that has no faith in that which has no manifestation. I don’t have to see black holes to think they might be true, there’s proof that they exist. Aside from the warm fuzzies, I’ve never had any proof of God or any other higher power.
    Strange, that when I prayed, nothing happened, when I prayed and did stuff, that stuff happened, and when I didn’t pray and did stuff, the stuff still got done. I don’t really care if you find it offensive that I don’t believe, and that I don’t understand your belief. I don’t, neither does Ian, and I don’t have to respect it. I can tolerate it, but not when it tries to teach God in place of science or deny medical procedures to those in need.
    Oh, and Ian… I do kinda think you’re fat. Not FAT fat, but a little bit fat. I mean, I’m pretty fat, too, much fatter than you are, but you’re still a little bit fat.

  46. xuxE

    here’s a few non-muslim religious violence perps at the top of my list:
    orthodox = serbs
    jewish = zionists
    catholic = IRA
    christian = sudanese spla
    christian = aryan nation
    christian = anti abortion bombers
    but if every hate crime got reported on the front page the same way as that unc driver, chances are we wouldn’t even have to make lists.

  47. GFWD

    Happy St. Patty’s Day.
    Thanks for the update about Mondy. I had heard all that you wrote, except for where she’s working now. I am going to write to her, after I found her email at their site.
    You made my point for me with your response. Thank you. You wrote: “Christ is working in our lives all the time, whether we acknowledge him or not. He is working in Ian’s life right now, for example, and Ian has no idea.”
    I think it’s great that you believe that and I think it’s even greater that the God most Christians believe in looks out for us whether we acknowledge him or not and carries us when we only see one set of Tar Heel symbols in the sand.
    But, in the same breath, you sort of impose your will and belief system on Ian and his agnostic ilk by dismissing his non-belief and insisting in yours. Why is it so important to be dismissive of his point of view and think yours is the only way?
    At the end of the day, however, your intentions are true and your heart is probably golden and I doubt your extreme faith would ever suggest to you that it’s cool to hop in an SUV and mow people down or blow them up.
    If people put their faith in God and religion as a method and vehicle for living their lives in a good, decent, peaceful and tolerant way, then that’s great.
    If they do the same thing without believing in a God, then that’s fine with me, too.
    As for me, I don’t judge and I don’t care. I happen to believe as you do Agaley, but I am also cynical enough to think, Ian and Sean might have a point.
    Caveman, I would like a Sweetwater Blue beer, please and I’ll bring some peanuts.
    This has been a great day of discourse.
    Oh yeah, I subscribe to the idea that JBoogie is a figment of one of Ian’s close friend’s imagination. He’s like that character Andy Kaufman created who was loud and obnoxious, but part of the in-joke.

  48. Claudia

    “Hey, whoever tried to equate anti-religion with bigotry, if you say that Jews or Blacks or Arabs are inferior, you can’t back it up with proof. If you say there *is* a God, you also can’t back it up with proof.”
    Sean, your analogy isn’t quite analogous. The proper analogy would be, “If you say that (fill in ethnic minorities here) are inferior, you can’t back it up with proof. If you say that religious people are stupid, you ______ back it up with proof.”
    The “______,” of course, would be “can’t.”
    Therefore, anti-religious bigotry is also bigotry.
    According to the rules of logic that your brethren are so fond of.
    I’m signing off now to go make pasta or some other tasty foodstuff. Have a good weekend, everybody. Thanks for the interesting discussion.

  49. Agaley

    Thanks for your kind remarks, GFWD. If I were going to mow down some people, I sure wouldn’t do it in the Pit. Maybe about 8 miles away . . .
    I don’t mean to dismiss anyone’s point of view. I absolutely adore this country where everyone is entitled to their belief or lack thereof. I would never disparage Ian or another thinker’s intelligence. One thing I respect about atheists; they know where they stand! It’s better to think through these things than to muddle through life without a clue, self-medicating with reality shows.
    I also want to say how much I admire Ian for having this blog, opening it up to us for comment. It is awesome that he is able to post such provocative thoughts. Isn’t this such a great country, where people can talk about these issues in this forum? I am crazy for liberty!
    Sniff . . . where’s that Lee Greenwood CD?

  50. csabill

    I am new around here…
    I don’t think the downtrodden take to arms easily. They spend their time looking for the next meal or a job.
    The problem is with the rich & learned, who make their money without hard work, but thru foreign religious funding or petro dollars or donations or aid. These people, since they have nothing better to do and since they dont have to do nothing better with their lives, are the problem.
    Stop financial aid to countries like Pak, Egypt, Palestine etc but send relief organisations directly.
    Increase spending on alternative energy research and make sure we are no longer dependent on oil.
    Stop being hypocritical about freedom; i.e. stop supporting House of Saud or Egyptian President or Musharraf and take a tough stand on how we want to see their countries. I would even recommend economic sanctions on non-democratic countries.
    And don’t fight one fundamentalism with another.
    When everybody earns their money thru hardwork, they will automatically learn the value of life and all the nonsense related to religious extremism will disappear and we will see true secularism & eventually aethism/agnosticism take root.

  51. Alan

    Trade “crazy” for “wicked” – wicked is a great old word for what is going on. Deposing the correct and righteous and infecting it with the evil. Sidetracking into the question of the veracity of religion is a bit of a mug’s game. You either beive right now or you don’t. Either way, the universe is one way or another – independently of our opinions. But the folks who are active are in all this are, in their own minds, actively religious. But they have basically followed a false prophet, and basically the run of the mill one – power aka the goat footed one. It doesn’t matter if you believe in Old Nick or whether he even is. But they do believe it, these terrorists, and by their actions they’ve fallen down the available downside of their own belief system. If the system is valid, they are wrong. If the system is not, they are wrong. Reason enough, I say, to smoke them.

  52. Sean Williams

    Actually, the “religious people are stupid” argument gets made every single day, with creationism leading the way, and with one humdred other examples over the course of two thousand years. But if one is one the side of the argument you’re supporting, I don’t expect to conduct the debate with semantics. You believe, I don’t, I don’t care that you believe and I dismiss your beliefs, you can’t dismiss mine without claiming some kind of offense.
    Believe in whatever you want to, and don’t try to make me. I don’t believe in thetans, I don’t believe in ghosts or divining rods or the Holy Ghost, and I do believe in dinosaurs. I don’t need to admire or respect your beliefs, just as you don’t have to respect or admire mine.

  53. Claudia

    You don’t *have* to do anything. You especially don’t have to ADMIRE my beliefs, for heaven’s sake (no pun intended).
    But you can’t tell me that you don’t RESPECT beliefs that I share with thousands and thousands of people, living and dead, throughout history, and from all different backgrounds and walks of life and intelligence levels and still claim to be a tolerant, live-and-let-live person.
    I DO respect your beliefs, and your right to hold them.

  54. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Geez. . . and I the only commentor who actually works at work anymore? It must be my exceptional Christian work ethic.

  55. Sean Williams

    Again, this is an argument of semantics. Respect isn’t something one chooses to have, respect occurs at a very base level. People earn my respect by being competent or kind, they earn my respect by showcasing well thought out arguments and clear thinking. I can’t just *choose* to respect your point of view. And, no, you don’t respect my beliefs, which is fine. You don’t have to.
    IN MY VIEW, religious people have brought more intolerance and pain to me, my friends and the world than people of little or no faith. I understand that belief in the supernatural has helped some people, but it has never done anything for me, and through the course of my life, extreme pain has been inflicted on those I love because the confidence in a benevolent grandfather smiling down from the heavens has made people feel that they have the right to behave abhorently.
    It is disgusting to me that people can believe they are better or somehow removed from those around them because of their money or fame, but it is equally as repellant when people beleive their faith makes them somehow different. And that is the war we are fighting.
    That is not to say that I am intolerant. If you come to my house and ask that we pray before dinner, I would be honored to lower my head and let you. If you were here, I would be careful not to blaspheme. I have no wish to make you feel like less of a person just because I can’t fathom why any adult would believe in what are essentially fairy tales.
    Again, this is my point of view. There’s no point in arguing Faith or Respect, neither can be demanded or debated.

  56. badbob

    OK. I can go along with that observation. Our enemies are Crazy.
    Does the use of mind altering drugs constitute being crazy? If they are prescribed for an abnormal mental state isn’t that being crazy?
    I’ll go along with it if I GET TO DETERMINE who fits the description of “CRAZY”
    ‘kay? No, I didn’t think you’d agree…..
    Many of your screeds often end with “….then I would have signed on in a second”. LOL. Is that some sort of “threat”? If an act of pure terrorism at UNC Chapel can’t focus your animosity why should that vague memory you have of 9-11 do so?
    Blind hate hasn’t just cut down your vision Ian.. you really can’t see.

  57. Claudia

    “If you come to my house and ask that we pray before dinner, I would be honored to lower my head and let you. If you were here, I would be careful not to blaspheme.”
    The latter is as good an example of respect as I can think of. The former, at least in my opinion, is above and beyond the call. I think these statements are genuinely touching, and I see that I need to cut you a lot more slack. Don’t sell yourself short, Sean.
    Do you know what hymn we sang at my local Mass this morning?
    “The Prayer of St. Francis.”
    I would say that the Lord works in mysterious ways. You would probably say that it was just a nice song with a good message.
    Either way, I can’t think of a better, more peaceful way to conclude a week, let alone a discussion.
    Thank you all for indulging me my soapbox. I genuinely appreciate it.

  58. Nate

    In my experience, Christians are simply not interested in evidence when it comes to their religious faith. That is what undergirds my belief that Christians are not rational when it comes to faith. Being rational is a matter of letting one’s beliefs be proportioned to the available evidence and being interested in the truth enough that one is willing to believe whatever proposition the evidence ends up supporting. In my experience, Christians do not have this attitude.
    Why do I say that? My experience is admittedly anecdotal, but I think fairly powerful. It takes the form of the following question.
    For the Christians. What evidence would you consider sufficient to convince you that there is no God?
    In my experience, Christians are almost always taken aback by this question, and I’ve never heard a satisfactory answer to it. I don’t mean that Christians give me an answer that I find unsatisfactory. I mean that Christians can’t answer this question. I’ve met not one single Christian who could say “if x, y, and z happened, I would admit I was mistaken. You’re right; there is no God”. I’ve found Christians surprisingly unable to answer this question. Even Christians who think of their faith as something SUPPORTED by evidence don’t tend to think of it as something that could be UNSEATED by evidence. But that’s just the definition of an irrational attachment, one not susceptible to evidence. If you believe something in a way that your attachment to it is not vulnerable to evidence, if you are attached to something such that there is just no potential evidence that would make you change your mind, then you are attached to it irrationally.
    That is not to say your belief is false. One might be irrationally attached to a true proposition. Nor am I saying that irrational attachment to a belief is necessarily bad. There may be value in believing some things irrationally, in being committed to believing such and such come hell or high water. I think, in fact, that parents are usually irrational believers, or nearly so, in the virtue or goodness of their own children, for instance. That seems to me a highly adaptive trait and one that probably makes for good parenting. But whether it’s good or bad, I think that for many if not all Christians, faith is just not up for evidential reversal.

  59. Lindsay

    Ian, nice apology over the muslim tirade of a few weeks back. You’re one of the good ones, Stimp. Nothing impresses me more than a good recant, because I find it so hard myself (I guess I’d have to be wrong at some point first). Anyway, I’ll stop pretending I’m boycotting your blog–just in time for you to call me out on Monday’s entry, I see. Here’s something I wanted t say in the meantime:
    There are still a few posters here who either got caught up in the Salem witch-trial mentality* or who need only the slightest excuse to show their ugly attitudes towards Muslims who have lost the presumptive respect I try to give everyone. But, for those of you who are asked where were the moderate voices who were calling for restraint and peace in the Islamic world, I hope you noticed the Times article about just that last week. And if you dig a little bit, there are plenty more who aren’t being reported in the mainstream meadia.
    Now, in regards to the guy in the Pit. It scares me that people are so tenaciously defining that as terrorism.
    9/11 was terrorism. Oklamhoma City is terrorism. This guy is an attempted murderer, and probably a lot of other things. But to define him as a terrorist goes too far.
    If he’s a terrorist, then Homeland Security has jurisdiction over this matter. How should they handle it? Is he an ememy combatant? Do we need “Do not drive” lists? Who goes on them? He’s a recent grad, no? Do we need wiretapping in all college towns? As someone suggested, do we sent him to Gitmo without benefit of the United State judicial system as defined in the Constitution?
    There are methods we are using that I personally find to be repugnant encroachments on our civil liberites. Many people are tolerating them right now because the devestation of 9/11 and potential future large-scale attacks are so… large scale.
    But are we now going to start labelling a handful of injuries as TERRORISM and does the handover of rights continue until all Americans are safe from being hit by a car driven by someone who claims to be inspired by Allah?
    Look, being hit by a car sucks, I’m sure. So does having a friend or loved one killed in a car wreck (I know). But some of this terrorist talk smacks of some small-town me-tooism at best and an excuse to consolidate some statist power grabs at worst.
    *My friend Mr. Suber is not one of them–we have had a lovely email exchange about it)

  60. Lindsay

    Just to be clear, I’m not the person Ian was referring to i the blog entry. I’m neither Muslim nor a “sensationally intelligent, sensitive guy”

  61. oliver

    BTW I’m still waiting for my apology for all the slurs against “Electric Avenue.” No justice, no peace.

  62. Lindsay

    Oliver, I am sorry for any Eddie Grant slurs that I would have made if I had had the opportunity. That includes “Electric Avenue” (which I think wasn’t as bad as all that) and “Romancing the Stone”.

  63. mondy

    I’d like to conclude that stupid thread about that girl with the idiotic name of Mondamin, or Mondy. The rumors of my death and (chuckling) lesbianism have been greatly exaggerated (apologies to Samuel).
    I usually just enjoy sitting back and reading but in the same beautifully woven symmetry that I always adored about Ian’s columns back in college a lifetime ago at the DTH (to declare a role as editor here would imply that I actually might have changed any words of his when in fact I wore my editor’s badge as an excuse to be first in line at Ian’s dot matrix), I will tell my small story because it was only after religious differences separated me from my probable future husband that I left to find solace in this world — be it with men, women, or both, or neither.
    And my search to find meaning in others came after my refusal to misrepresent my faith – or lack thereof – to a Rabbi. On the precipice of marriage, after agreeing to raise children in the Jewish faith, after embracing the religion as one I could respect and love — but could never be — the lie I couldn’t tell the Rabbi was the same lie my lover wanted to believe: If I tried hard enough I could believe in god.
    Now I’m no martyr — I might have told this lie if I had known the full price of the truth, but deep down my real faith was that the man I loved, the man who loved me back, was at peace that his god was not my god – and, point of fact, I had no god. I believed love was an absolute, that it conquered all, and the rest of that steaming pile of crap. And at this point in the story, you already know I was wrong.
    So without my lover, without my best friend, without my faith and certainly without god, I started down the path to who I am now. If I could speak to the girl I was 13 years ago, I would assure her it’s okay to be lost.
    After my existential burp my struggle led me to my one true religion and it’s the church I pray in, the alter I worship at, the horizon to which I bow every day and that is finding peace and meaning in the acceptance of nothing – a kind of zen agnosticism.
    Without the promise of a glorious kingdom to come it makes my here and now more important and more sacred. It allows me to embrace the joy of working a job that has meaning, loving a good man, and being humble in the knowledge that I really don’t know shit (which I figure makes me a little smarter than the people who actually think they have a pretty good grip on the way the world works).
    In past years, I’ve used my skills to sell useless crap to people and felt dirty for it at the end of the day. Now I work each day to sell an ethic of kindness and inspire social change. Redemption on a daily basis, if you will, after all I’m not working on a timetable that involves the hereafter.
    Ian, keep doing what you’re doing, you’ve got a gift my friend. It’s an honor to be remembered by you and even a greater honor to be remembered for my brain.
    And Greg, the word mondamin comes from the Iroquois by way of Longfellow. To my knowledge, there is no direct translation of “earth nugget” in Native American mythology, but you’ll have to look that one up yourself, as I’ve already mentioned above, I don’t know shit. And I’m at peace with that. Amen.


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