How can this be justified?

Stephen D. Williams
Mon, 01 Oct 2001 14:29:33 -0400

satessh narahari wrote:

> just a thought that went thru my mind. Most murders, most killings, most
> wars in today's world are caused due to religious differences. Perhaps, what
> is evil is not one religion, but all the religions of the world have
> part-evil in it?.
> What do you guys think?.

I think you've just caught up with my line of reasoning at 13, part of 
why I'm atheist, having found myself to be unable to be religious even 
after investigating multiple varients of Christian religions.  (Where I 
grew up, Catholicism was the most exotic religion around...)

I realize that people can decide to believe almost anything and bend their

perception of reality to fit their internal model through 
rationalization.  Humans are amazingly adept at rationalization as it is
part of how our brain fundamentally functions.  (See experiments on 
split-brain self explanation.)  Most of my scientist and very 
intelligent friends are atheist/agnostic, but at least one isn't.  I 
generally think that religiousosity is prevalent through a combination 
of peer-pressure theism (rapant in the midwest where I grew up), 
infancy+ ingrained ideas, and unexamined beliefs.  For some of those 
that do examine their beliefs, their bias seems to produce a 
rationalization shell that protects their core religious beliefs that 
they believe their whole life is based on.

Additionally, I firmly believe that it is very dangerous for people to 
be taught to step over the line of rationality because it is so easy to 
become a slippery slope.  If someone is conditioned since infancy to 
believe in supersition and myths by authority figures that everyone 
apparently takes as fact, what tools do they have for discriminant 
thinking when it's important?  (Hitler, Manson, Osama, KKK, Robertson, 
vs. Star Trek,,,, etc.)

I didn't really register the lyrics of "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder 
until just today: The refrain is: "When you believe in things that you 
don't understand, Then you suffer, Superstition ain't the way, ..."

The lack of leadership and explanation of a clear view of reality and a 
basic, consistent philosophy of life is a huge reason that so many are 
aimless and confused.  This is especially true of the current generation 
of teens-20's about which I'm seeing more and more depressing press. 
"My country is the world, my religion is to do good." -- Thomas Paine 
(High my hero list).

I'm mildly to strongly opposed to irrationality (i.e. religion, 
generally), directly proportional to the degree of rational denial, 
intolerance, and likelihood of injury in the proximate case.  I'm 
tolerant of others but totally intolerant of intolerance.  I'm also not 
that fond of the spread of memes that I disagree with (i.e. think are 
wrong), especially to my children, but I generally fight that with 
cleaner and meaner memes.  Those that are religious in tolerant and 
self-medicating ways (in the mental health sense) with some clearly 
defined boundaries on their irrationality are just fine with me.  Force 
creationism into my childrens' public schools instead of evolution, and 
you're going to feel my wrath.

For my kids, Santa Claus provides a great lesson: something that they 
wanted to believe was true, that everyone treated as true, they 
eventually grew out of and understood was a convenient myth.


> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Russell Turpin" <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Saturday, September 29, 2001 8:21 AM
> Subject: Fw: How can this be justified?
>>Tony Berkman writes:
>>>Of course, I realize that my own views and rationales
>>>are colored and shaped by who I am and how I was
>>>taught history, whether it be college or Hebrew school,
>>>but all the same I feel an incredibly strong alliance to
>>>Israel .. It is fundamental to the continuance of the
>>>Jewish religion.
>>And in exactly the same way, many Muslims feel
>>"an incredibly strong alliance" to the nations that
>>implement Islamic government. In both cases, there
>>is a religious precept that "justifies" the government
>>involved, and shields it from any kind of secular
>>criticism. In the case of an Islamic state, it is the
>>notion that Allah ordains that kind of state, and
>>only that kind of state. In the case of Israel, it is
>>the Old Testament story that God gave Israel to
>>the Jews. It's ironic that fundamentalist Jews and
>>fundamentalist Moslems use exactly the same
>>arguments to defend their favored states from any
>>kind of secular criticism. Only the book differs.
>>The greatest current threat to western culture
>>is precisely the kind of religious fundamentalism
>>that links government to religion. As long as that
>>idea lives, and as long as there are states based
>>on it, there will continue to be crusades, jihads,
>>intifadas, and Zionist movements. And in the
>>22nd century, if these are still fought, they will
>>be fought with tailored virii and nanontechnology.
>>Israel, of course, is an ally to the west. For now.
>>But the idea that you express -- the importance
>>and sanctity of a state based on a specific religion
>>-- is precisely the idea that brought down the
>>World Trade Center. In the long run, this is a
>>battle between secular, western culture, and
>>fundamentalist religion. Christianity has been
>>liberalized from its long dance with modernity.
>>Few Christians still believe in significant linkage
>>between state and church. Islam also must
>>become liberalized. And so must Judaism,
>>because this isn't the kind of thing where there
>>can be an exception for one.
>>If you value civilization, your goal should not
>>be to preserve a Jewish state. It should be, in
>>the next century, the complete absence of
>>religious states, and for every individual,
>>throughout the globe to be free to practice their
>>chosen religion, regardless of the nation in
>>which they live, and without suffering legal
>>discrimination from doing so. Those who
>>oppose secular government and religious
>>freedom are backing the terrorists. They may
>>not realize it. They may do it from the best
>>of intentions. The way the lines are currently
>>drawn, of which religion and which states
>>line up against each other, they may be on
>>the side of the "good guys." But in the long
>>run, as long as that meme has vitality, we
>>will suffer this kind of terrorism. That meme
>>needs to go the way of "human sacrifice,"
>>"chattel slavery," and other notions that are
>>now beyond the pale.

Stephen D. Williams
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