X-Message-Number: 19890
Date: Sat, 24 Aug 2002 09:34:19 -0500
From: Jeff Dee <>
Subject: Re: CryoNet #19877 - #19887
References: <>

Re: Religion and Terrorism

Dani Kollin <> wrote:
 > Jeff Dee wrote:
 > > "But religious movements ARE irrational in a way which
 > > directly facilitates horrible acts, and that was my
 > > point."
 > Just replace "religious movements" with "secular
 > movements" (communism, fascism, nazism etc) and your
 > statement not only reads exactly the same

It would also read the same if we replaced "religious movements" with 
"fashion trends". But would it still be accurate?

 > but when
 > push comes to shove the secular movements end up being
 > responsible for far more death and carnage.

I've described the specific irrational religious belief which directly 
facilitates terrorism: the belief that proper behavior is dictated by a 
divine lawgiver who can and does change the rules from time to time. Add 
that to a MOTIVE to commit atrocities, and all it takes is a "prophet" 
delivering the god's new instructions to set large numbers of believers 
down that path.

If you think that secular movements ALSO contain a specific irrational 
belief which facilitates atrocities, please describe that specific 
belief. If you cannot, then you have not provided a causal link to 
support your accusation.

Mike Perry <> wrote:
 > This is in response to Jeff Dee's message #19871, in response to my
 > message #19867. Maybe it's worth remarking, at the outset, that the
 > topic "religion and terrorism" seems relevant to cryonics, despite its
 > peripheral nature, for a number of reasons. We are concerned about
 > terrorism since it could threaten the survival of cryonics
 > organizations, their patients, and ourselves--as well as the world at
 > large. Religion in turn has interest because cryonics is compared to
 > it, and because many people are religious and we worry about their
 > reactions as well as whether we can persuade them to join us. There is
 > also the issue of whether there should be a "religion" specifically
 > for cryonicists and, if so, what tenets or doctrines it should
 > contain.
 > Now, on to the main topics.
 >>...>>John Grigg wrote:
 >>>>>...there is a big
 >>>>>difference between the Methodist denomination and
 >>>>>the Taliban.
 >>>>Is there?
 >>>>Both believe that ...
 >>>Granted, there are similarities, but this does not
 >>>prove there are not differences.
 >>John Grigg said, "There is a big difference", and he was referring to
 >>their relative tendencies toward terrorist acts. Of course there are
 >>other differences, but they are irrelevant to the subject at hand.
 > Well, clearly there *is* a "big difference"--for whatever reason.

If the reason lies outside of the particular belief systems, then it is 
irrelevant to my criticism.

 > I'll
 > grant that the door at least is open for "Methodists" who would act
 > contrary to the current, gut-level attitudes in this denomination and
 > start sponsoring violent acts. So far, thankfully, they haven't
 > materialized. Under the pressures and privations found in some parts
 > of the world, they could; it isn't ruled out.

It's not simply "not ruled out". The belief system that Methodists 
subscribe to includes belief in a divine lawgiver who can change the 
rules or proper behavior. That mechanism will facilitate a move toward 
terrorism by Methodists as soon as they feel the urge.

Let me be clear: I am NOT arguing that (for example) Islam is a bad 
religion because the Koran condones violence against non-Muslims. That 
is the standard argument, and I think it's naive - because clearly 
millions of Muslims peacefully co-exist with non-Muslims. So I'm not 
focusing on that. I am focusing on the truly *basic* teachings of these 
religions on the question of what constitutes acceptable behavior, and 
what MAKES it acceptable.

 > But to me the Taliban
 > seemed inherently,
 > especially prone to terrorism, even if you allow for the trying
 > circumstances in which they flourished. This follows given the degree
 > of seriousness they appeared to attach to retribution and intolerance
 > toward "infidels," and their exacting, we might say, overbearing, even
 > tyrannical standards.

Christianity has sprouted equally overbearing sects.

 > They were, in large measure, still trying to live in a world of
 > the distant past, and to impose their system of rules on others.

Just as fundamentalist Christians are doing now in America.

 > I don't
 > think this is well explained purely by economic or other "secular"
 > hardships--I don't see these as the main *cause* of the backward
 > attitudes.

Of course not. The backward attitudes are encoded into their holy books, 
which grow more and more backward with each passing year. The difference 
between a liberal sect and a conservative religious sect is that the 
conservatives put an emphasis upon preserving (or bringing back) the 
good old days.

 > Hardships are more significant, though, in *preserving* backward
 > attitudes where they already exist, and in furthering the influence of
 > their proponents ...

Hardships do more than that. They motivate people to yearn for the good 
old days, driving people who would otherwise be easygoing liberals into 
the clutches of the conservative sects.

 >>>It seems to me, though, that a movement doesn't have
 >>>to be "irrational" to inspire horrible acts
 >>Of course not. But religious movements ARE irrational in a way which
 >>directly facilitates horrible acts, and that was my point.
 > I would say, not all such movements are equal in this respect, and
 > some seem all but immune (Jainism, for instance, with its prohibition
 > of killing sentient life forms, not just people but other creatures
 > too).

Yes, of course. Religions which lack the specific traits I'm criticizing 
are immune to this specific criticism.

 > The Western
 > tradition, though, has the two, very widespread religions,
 > Christianity and Islam, which often fit your paradigm all too well, at
 > least in their less-enlightened moments and incarnations.

Of course enlightened religion is preferable to religious 
fundamentalism. But is it enough? I'm saying that it's not.

Religious enlightenment does not change the text of the religion's holy 
books. A future full of liberal Christianity and liberal Islam is a 
future where all it will take is a bad set of circumstances to turn 
those Christians and Muslims back into fundamentalists. Because they 
will STILL believe in a divine lawgiver, and they will STILL believe 
that if their lawgiver says it's okay to do X, then it's okay to do X. 
Even if X = terrorism.

The day that a Christian or Muslim ceases to believe that it would be 
okay to commit an atrocity even IF Jehovah or Allah decreed it is the 
day that person stops being a Christian or Muslim. And THAT is the 
future I want to see.

 >>>As one case in point we can take
 >>>libertarianism, which is perfectly "rational" in
 >>>that it makes no claims of the paranormal or
 >>>supernatural, does not indoctrinate its followers
 >>>into believing unproven claims, and so on. Yet it is
 >>>certainly not lacking its lunatic fringe--as in the
 >>>case of Timothy McVeigh.
 >>Timothy McVeigh was a lone nut, with a couple pals. Osama Bin Laden is
 >>a religious leader, with thousands of followers. Of course there is a
 >>lunatic fringe to any movement, but the size (and power) of that
 >>fringe MATTERS - as does the influence of the movement's core
 >>teachings on the formation of that fringe.
 > This is a good point; libertarianism was not the best example of what
 > I was looking for. A better choice would be communism, which is
 > atheistic and "rational" but was also committed, almost on principle,
 > to the use of force, did (and still does) number its following in the
 > thousands-plus (plus, plus), and has certainly carried out what you'd
 > call terrorism, on a massive and persistent scale.

If you feel the need to put scare quotes around the word 'rational' when 
referring to communism, and to say that communism is committed to the 
use of force (which is none too rational), then communism does not make 
a very good example to illustrate your point either.

 > I suppose, to argue your case, you could
 > consider communism, nonetheless, a "religion." Sometimes it has been
 > called a secular religion, and the program of indoctrination that was
 > carried out in communist countries (one important difference with
 > libertarianism) has parallels in conventional religious extremism.

No, I don't call communism a religion. I object to it on other grounds.

 > But, let's face it, any
 > movement that fosters terrorism will probably have these kinds of
 > elements, that is to say, will exhibit a kind of "religious" extremism
 > with beliefs in not-well-established claims, whether invoking the
 > supernatural or only a secular world-view.

If you are saying that we should be suspicious of any movement which 
involves a program of indoctrination, I agree. But I don't see how that 
deflects any of my specific criticisms of religious movements based 
around belief in a divine lawgiver who can make it okay to commit 

-Jeff Dee

"It is as morally bad not to care whether a thing is true
or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to
care how you got your money as long as you have got it."
-Edmund Way Teale, "Circle of the Seasons", 1950

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* * * AA #1355 - Knight of the BAAWA since 10/26/99 * * *

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