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I'd also like to make a comment to Shadow Templar.

 

In these parts of the world (war torn middle east), religion is all they have. Now your anti-religion bunk may be fine for you, but for some people they like having religion. It's the one thing they can always be certain of and it offers hope, diety aside.

 

I think you're the one that needs a reality check. Go to Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, etc. When/if you do, you'll be eating your words.

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I'm of the feeling (at least at the present time) that there are some cases where war can be justified. I'm not a pacifist, much as I despise the idea of war in general. However war is something that needs to be prosecuted in as just a manner as possible, again, in my ethos. And since we've repeatedly painted ourselves as being on a higher level of moral authority than our enemies, it doesn't help our case when we act like barbarians in the field. Even from a purely pragmatic standpoint, it doesn't make any sense to act this way, except sheer spite, which is ultimately self-defeating.

 

PS: Sorry for the apparent angry tone in my previous post, I guess I have a lot of strong feelings on the subject and don't mean to take them out on any individual here. After all, you aren't the one(s) responsible. ;)

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People are a little too quick, in my opinion, to defend Islam on the "it's just going through it's 'Crusader' phase. All religions have one" front. However, I don't think this parallel withstands close scrutiny, when one considers a few things, namely that the Crusades were a retaliatory attack against an invasion of christianitys largest place of pilgramage which had been invaded by, guess who? Muslims. Now I don't pretend to condone religion, but I at least understand it to a small degree, and in my opinion, this is a bit different to the terrorist attacks of today. Muslims are not defending their place of pilgramage against invaders, they have not had nearly as much provocation as the 11th century christians. Also, before anyone points out that, whatever their motives, the crusades were still a bloody conquest, may I remind you that this was nearly a millenium ago, and such things were hardly uncommon at the time. We, in this present day, however, are supposed to be somewhat more civilised, and I say that those who demonstrate otherwise (Muslim terrorist and Christian US soldier alike) have no place in our modern world. And Insane Sith, I don't know that much about these countries you speak of, but if they are starving, then wasting time on religion is not the best thing for them to be doing. Sure, it may make them feel better, but it's not going to feed them and their families.Also, the term 'anti-religion bunk' suggests that you think religion makes sense. Do you?

 

EDIT: removed extra thousand years or so since the crusades.

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But who exactly are we at war with? Terrorists? Insurgents? A legitimate insurgency doesn't blow up school children, they attack the military targets who they're rebelling against. But the daily attacks you hear about are against innocent Iraqi civilians.

 

Yes and no. The attacks are usually against American troops, which are valid military targets, Iraqi troops and paramilitary police forces which are also valid and semi-valid targets, respectively, or Iraqi police officers which are illegitimate targets. But they are all lumped together as 'terrorism,' even though we know from places like Northern Ireland that attacks on police officers during an insurgence are more likely to be carried out by crime cartels who don't like the police because they put a crimp on their operations.

 

Incidentially this brings me to another point: The most reasonable definition of terrorism I've seen is 'politically motivated organised crime.' Since both political motives and organisation are viewed in most countries as aggravating circumstances where crime is concerned, the need for a seperate term 'terrorist' is - ah - questionable. Particularly when it has such propaganda potential. 'War on terror' is a contradiction in terms, just as 'war on the mob' would be. Terrorism is a subset of organised crime, and should be fought with police, not military.

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People are a little too quick, in my opinion, to defend Islam on the "it's just going through it's 'Crusader' phase. ...

 

Well, this thread isn't really about the evils of islam as, in this case at least, they aren't the ones doing dubious things. But I thought I should point out that Jerusalem is a holy place for both religions, and Muslims only inaded it after the Christians started attacking THEIR pilgrimage caravans.

In reality you would be better comparing the actions of certain current Muslim extremists with those crazy christians who attacked the caravans, and the attitude of islam in general with the "spread god's word to the heathens" attitude of the victorian english missionaries.

 

As far as i rememeber insaneSith isn't particularly pro religion... but I think the point he is making is that religion is always much stronger among the poor and disenfranchised who need something to hope for, and something better to look forward to. In the West as standards of life have improved religious attendance has given way to pragmatism (except in the poorer parts of the US) but in the Middle East many people are still very poor, live in religous states and therefore are subjected to religion on a daily basis... so its understandable that their religious views are a much larger part of their life than many of ours.

Much of Islam is as progressive as Christianity (and a lot of christianity is as fundamentalist as some of islam)... the main difference is that the islamisc fundamentalists control a lot of the governments and therefore the press, people and money. In the West they don't. Its pretty clear that the fundamentalism of Islam is being funded and encouraged almost entirely by the Suadi Royal family. Imagine if the KKK's branch of christianity had had control of all of Texas's oil money and gained political power and money to spread their version of christianity because of it. Thats kind of what has happened to Islam.

 

But anyway, thats all OT... cos no matter what the actions of the other side i'd hope that our side would at least TRY to stick to its moral standards... rather than lower itself to their standards by imprisoning without trial, torturing and desecrating bodies. Maybe thats me being naive.

 

As for the issue of the press, its a damn good job we do have a free press to keep such things in the public eye, or we'd be in the situation we were in past wars where whole generations were sent off to die in meaningless battles simply because the puppet press reported a fictionalised patriotic version of events. Heck, without the free press its likely that the vietnam war would have gone on for many more years.

 

On a side note: its a personal peeve of mine that the US press seems to have willingly sacrificed huge ammounts of independence by allowing itself to get suckered in to embedding all its reporters with the US army. This means they get a highly biased, one-sided view of events... and due to living with the soldiers they naturally develop a raport with them and are likely to be more favourable to them in their reporting. Its telling that every major western country had reporters in bagdad except the US. (probebly why that US tank shot up the hotel they were all staying in ;) )

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People are a little too quick, in my opinion, to defend Islam on the "it's just going through it's 'Crusader' phase. All religions have one" front. However, I don't think this parallel withstands close scrutiny, when one considers a few things, namely that the Crusades were a retaliatory attack against an invasion of christianitys largest place of pilgramage which had been invaded by, guess who? Muslims. Now I don't pretend to condone religion, but I at least understand it to a small degree, and in my opinion, this is a bit different to the terrorist attacks of today. Muslims are not defending their place of pilgramage against invaders, they have not had nearly as much provocation as the 11th century christians. Also, before anyone points out that, whatever their motives, the crusades were still a bloody conquest, may I remind you that this was nearly a millenia ago, and such things were hardly uncommon at the time. We, in this present day, however, are supposed to be somewhat more civilised, and I say that those who demonstrate otherwise (Muslim terrorist and Christian US soldier alike) have no place in our modern world. And Insane Sith, I don't know that much about these countries you speak of, but if they are starving, then wasting time on religion is not the best thing for them to be doing. Sure, it may make them feel better, but it's not going to feed them and their families.Also, the term 'anti-religion bunk' suggests that you think religion makes sense. Do you?

 

It's true that the religion of "the terrorists" (as if this was a single entity, rather than a large number of different groups not necessarily connected) are majority Muslim, and most of them claim to carry out their actions "in the name of" their specific brand of Islam.

 

The anti-religious among us (and the anti-muslim among us) may see this as the perfect opportunity to denounce, considering these contain explicit examples of "god told me to kill" kind of things.

 

BUT, that said, saying "Islam is the problem" is forgetting all the millions of muslims who don't do stuff like this. The anti-religion folks will say that all religious people are closed minded and deluded, but hey, they're not all out murdering people and blowing things up in the name of their particular faith, that's a fact. Most aren't. Near a billion muslims, about two billion christians, they're all killers? I don't think so. Statistically it just isn't accurate.

 

When it comes to religion there's a certain amount "self definition" you have to allow, because every member of ever faith is not identical in their beliefs and practices. Islam has plenty of sects and denominations just like any world religion, with its share of good and bad members and leaders.

 

So it's not likely to change anyone's view of "those people" but still. Anyway, just had to comment. ;)

 

People who don't like Islam will look at Al Qaeda and go "see I told you so" but whatever.

 

Btw, in regards to "holy land of pilgrimage" actually, Osama Bin Laden has publically stated in the past that his motivation for "going to war" with the West was the "invasion" of Saudi Arabia's holy places (like the areas around Mecca and Medina, holy places of pilgrimage for muslims of all stripes) by foreigners and non-muslims. By our alliance with Saudi Arabia and placing troops in those areas, he feels we've "profaned" them and thus he has moral mandate to kill us. He sees muslim leaders who make alliances with the US (and by implication, Israel) as corrupt and apostate. So a comparison to the Crusades is not completely unfounded. Even if it's not an identical situation historically, one can see that the connection is made by madmen like him. He even refers to us as "Crusaders" (and Jews as "Zionists").

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It's kind of like a Ball game you have the spectators saying "why the hell didn't so & so do this or that", but they haven't the skill, ability, or the dedication it takes in the first place to be on the field.

 

False analogy. In a ball game everyone agrees on the rules, the objectives are clear and the motives involved are transparent. None of this can be said for the Iraq war. Which BTW means that Operation Iraqi Screwup is a violation of at least half of the US post-War strategic doctrine.

 

In these parts of the world (war torn middle east), religion is all they have.

 

Which is argueably why they are impoverished and war torn. Oh, sure some a large part of it is certainly because of Western (US and EU) commerce warfare and stuff like Operation Iraqi Screwup, but take a look at a place like Iran. They have a better infrastructure and educational environment than half the new EU members for crissake! They could be at least as affluent as - say - Greece, but because a minority of bigoted, frightened fruitcakes cling to their theocracy they lose the most productive segments of their population either to imprisonment or defection. Hell, there are almost as many Iranian physicists as there are Israeli ditto, but most of the Iranian physicists are employed at European or American universites, while most Israeli physicists stay in Israel.

 

Or take Palestine: If it wasn't for the Orthodox Jews and the radical Islamists that conflict could have been concluded decades ago. There's almost enough land and almost enough resources to reach an equitable solution, and if it hadn't been for those hard cases in the Settlements who think it's their God-given right to murder arabs and take their stuff and the nutters who figure that God demands that they blow up shopping malls in Tel Aviv, they damn well would have. At least if they'd restrict themselves to blowing up settlements, I could see where they were coming from. And half the civil wars in post Cold War south-east Asia were sparked by fruitcake preachers in madrassas who wanted to go on a sacred crusade to bring all the world into the light.

 

Now I'm not saying that reasonable people can always reach reasonable compromise. Divergent interests or extreme imbalances of power can and do lead to conflict. But being unreasonable to begin with is hardly the best starting point for a negotiation.

 

Now your anti-religion bunk may be fine for you, but for some people they like having religion. It's the one thing they can always be certain of and it offers hope, diety aside.

 

Yes, for people who couldn't know better or people who live in a de facto war zone, religion is a common refuge, and I did not intend to cast aspirations on them. The preachers, however, who pander to their prejudice and use their despair to proselytize are beneath contempt. They should know better; when they don't it's more often than not due to willful ignorance, which is as contemptible and cowardly as it is intellectually dishonest.

 

People are a little too quick, in my opinion, to defend Islam on the "it's just going through it's 'Crusader' phase. All religions have one" front. However, I don't think this parallel withstands close scrutiny, when one considers a few things, namely that the Crusades were a retaliatory attack

 

This is getting more than a little off topic, but the Crusades weren't a 'counter-attack' of any sort. Obviously it's hard to judge these matters, since most of our sources are propaganda from one of the sides in the conflict, but a quick look at the strategic situation around 1000 AD gives the lie to the illusion that the German-Roman Empire was threatened. The second greatest military power (the Byzantine Empire) formed a solid buffer against any 'muslim agression' around the Bosporus, which itself formed a formidable barrier against all-out bids to conquer mainland Europe.

 

The Crusades were launched to extend the borders of Christianity to encompass the entire world (in medieval geography Jerusalem was the centre of the world, hence if the Papacy could conquer roughly 3 times the land mass they already had, Christianity would dominate the whole world).

 

Incidentially, the crusades are also a sterling example of the disadvantage of allowing politicians to interfere with operational details: If the Papacy had wanted to declare war on the 'muslim world' Iberia would have been the more advantagous place to do so.

 

Muslims are not defending their place of pilgramage against invaders, they have not had nearly as much provocation as the 11th century christians.

 

Your geography is sadly lacking I'm afraid. The principal Muslim religious sites are located in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Palestine. All of these places have, indeed, been desecrated by foreign, infidel invaders.

 

Besides, the situations aren't parallel. The crusades was an all-out bid to conquer territory. The 'islamic world' (whatever the hell that is anyway) isn't out to conquer anyone (well, maybe Israel and parts of Africa), and we certainly don't see the kind of mobilisation that took place during the Crusades.

 

Islam is doing a lot of despicable things right now (instigating civil wars, underpinning theocracies, promoting terrorism, and waging demographic warfare), but it is certainly not alone in that and none of them come even close to matching the strategic, social, economic, or political impact and ramifications of the crusades.

 

Also, before anyone points out that, whatever their motives, the crusades were still a bloody conquest, may I remind you that this was nearly a milleni[um] ago, and such things were hardly uncommon at the time. We, in this present day, however, are supposed to be somewhat more civilised, and I say that those who demonstrate otherwise (Muslim terrorist and Christian US soldier alike) have no place in our modern world.

 

This, however, is an excellent point, and one that people would do well to bear in mind. That 'other people have done so too' or 'it's their culture so we must respect it' is a mighty thin veneer to cover overt barbarism.

 

As far as i rememeber insaneSith isn't particularly pro religion... but I think the point he is making is that religion is always much stronger among the poor and disenfranchised who need something to hope for, and something better to look forward to.

 

And while it is a very tempting assumption, it is - sadly - also a false one. Knowledgeable and rich people are just as religious as ignorant and impoverished ones. Much of our political debate has petrified as political parties dug their trenches ever deeper until some, if not most, of our politicians seem more like priests preaching their dogma to their own followers than intellectuals engaged in an honest and open discussion of how to best run a country. The major difference is that knowledgeable and rich people like to think that they are better than the 'mob,' which means that rather than gathering to the same preachers, they disperse themselves in penny-packets. This makes their religous devotion less dangerous, but no less real.

 

But anyway, thats all OT... cos no matter what the actions of the other side i'd hope that our side would at least TRY to stick to its moral standards... rather than lower itself to their standards by imprisoning without trial, torturing and desecrating bodies. Maybe thats me being naive.

 

:wstupid:

 

It's true that the religion of "the terrorists" (as if this was a single entity, rather than a large number of different groups not necessarily connected) are majority Muslim, and most of them claim to carry out their actions "in the name of" their specific brand of Islam.

 

I think you're misunderstanding Riceplant's comment. Sith made a rather - ah - spirtited reply to one of my posts, in which he cited the conditions in the Middle East as part of a defence of excessive religious zeal. Riceplant is British, which gives a rather different perspective, since England - as most of the rest of Northwestern Europe (including Denmark) - is currently trying to figure out what to do with a crop of nasty Islamic clergy that's slipped under the radar in the past couple of decades, and are openly promoting mutilation of children, performing religious indoctrination, stirring up a racket whenever somebody uses his freedom of speech and press to say or write something that steps on their overly sensitive religious toes, and generally casting themselves as a persecuted minority, which is bovine manure.

 

Unfortunately the main critisism of this dangerous trend was originally presented only by semilegitimate anti-immigrant fringe groups and Christian monodominants, which led to a knee-jerk rejection by a great many political parties. And the 'persecuted minority' BS these people keep spouting dovetails well with the prejudices of those same political parties.

 

Recently, legitimate political parties have increasingly argued that we should put a stop to the more barbaric excesses, which is seen by the 'orthodox' as caving in to the 'racists.' Add to that the fact that some of the legitimate parties almost certainly do contain extremist fringers and toss in the fact that the division over how to handle neo-piety dovetails pretty much exactly with the right/left fracture line in economic policy and you have the makings of an embittered political trench war. I think that some of that trench war has spilled over into this thread, because Sith made a couple of the same fallacies that the 'tolerants' make in our domestic political debate, and it is all too easy to give a knee-jerk respose to those.

 

BUT, that said, saying "Islam is the problem" is forgetting all the millions of muslims who don't do stuff like this.

 

Not necesserily. It is important to remember that there is a difference between condemning a religion and condemning its followers. For instance I find Catholicism intellectually dishonest, but I respect Kurgan precisely because he is intellectually honest. When judging individuals it is important to evaluate all their qualities, of which religion is but a part; when evaluating a religion one must judge its dogma and how it affects its followers (the latter being of course the most important). This, of course includes removing the background distribution of human behavior.

 

Thus it is a fallacy to say that religion isn't bad because most of its followers aren't bad. All that is required for a religion to be a problem is that the religion in question has a greater than expected number of nutters.

 

That said, religion is a problem even if it doesn't create nutters, because it gives the nutters a focus for their nutdom and a banner to rally around. Not to mention the fact that religions are institutionally incapable of removing nutters from positions of power, which means that a disproportionate amount of their nutters are going to end up at the top of their heriarchies.

 

But we're getting just a wee little bit afield, aren't we?

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A good point about Islamic theocratic states. In Islam you have foundationally (with the Prophet and the scriptures) the idea that there is a mandate to setup an "islamic state." Now more liberal muslims aren't nearly as gungho about this, but there you go. In Christianity you really don't get that (not foundationally) though throughout history many have tried. In the world today you do have these theocratic states governed by "shariah."

 

The issue of conversion is an interesting one. I have not heard any instances of Al Qaeda or Hamas, or whatever group trying to convert anyone. I just see them waging "holy war" against their enemies or supposed "collaborators" within islam. That is perhaps another difference between the more violent in a religious groups vs. the others. Most muslims or christians are happy to try to convert people with preaching and missionary type stuff (and I hate to say most, since the average joe christian/muslim doesn't go door to door or travel abroad in order to "win converts" but simply try to set an example for their kids or their neighbors). These guys just want to kill you if you're in the way, that's quite a difference!

 

About the only sense that I see the muslim terror groups seeking "conversion" is just asking "pious muslims" to join their struggle against "the west/crusaders/zionists."

 

Thus it is a fallacy to say that religion isn't bad because most of its followers aren't bad. All that is required for a religion to be a problem is that the religion in question has a greater than expected number of nutters.

 

Not sure what this seeks to prove, honestly. Is it saying a system is flawed because the it has the capability to produce crazies? Greater number than expected vs. what? A similar sized population of organized atheists?

 

The "religion is bad because it can create nutjobs" sounds like similar denunciations of any sort of freedom, because inevitably someone will abuse it or use it for nefarious ends.

 

That said, religion is a problem even if it doesn't create nutters, because it gives the nutters a focus for their nutdom and a banner to rally around.

 

It does this, certainly, which is one theory why secularists support "religious diversity" (the idea that if you seperate people into warring factions and emphasize differences "they won't organize and defeat us"). ;)

 

On the other hand people rally around all sorts of things, like ethnicity, race, culture, sexual orientation, lifestyle, gender, etc. Is it wrong because the ability to organize exists, and this ability to organize based on sameness could lead to abuses?

 

Not to mention the fact that religions are institutionally incapable of removing nutters from positions of power, which means that a disproportionate amount of their nutters are going to end up at the top of their heriarchies.

 

This part should require some clarification. Do you mean a religion has no way to remove a religious leader that's "nuts"? Ie: Wahabism has no way to get rid of Osama Bin Laden, or the Catholic Church has no way to get rid of the Pope if he goes nuts...? Or are you saying that religions have no way to enact social change? Because if the latter I'd argue that we've seen revolutions based on religion before, bloodless and bloody. As to the idea of deposing a ruler, there's the biblical example of prophets (of course nobody appreciates a prophet!) judging kings, but also the tried and true favorite of a reformation/schism.... or just call your leader "heretic" and see what happens! ;)

 

Certainly the Al Qaeda typese like Osama see themselves (at least from what can be deciphered of their rhetoric) as "cleaning house" (ie: getting rid of wishy washy muslim leaders who bow to the demands of the "infidels").

 

But we're getting just a wee little bit afield, aren't we?

 

Yes, we are. From discussing the stupid military actions to the validity of religion. So go ahead and answer my question and I'll drop this tangetal discussion. ;)

 

And yes there's a great discussion in there about evaluating a religion as an abstract philosophy vs. the individuals that make it up. As a Christian, I subscribe to the "Body of Christ" analogy of the church. The religion is inseperable from the people. Now that might be an "ideal" that is unprovable, but it's how I understand it. You can have a body that has parts that serve different functions, and some can even be diseased or broken. Ultimately its these people who are the channels of Christ to the world. Of course to an outsider that probably makes no sense whatsoever, but again, that's how I've understood it. I'd say sure you can discuss the finer points of theology in a dry setting, but you also have to look at the people. The two are very closely intertwined if not inseperable. So the same goes for Islam. You have good muslims and bad muslims, and lots of inbetween. So you can't say "all good" or "all bad." Certainly you can look at Osama Bin Laden and say he's a monster (or a hero, depending on what side you're on, but I think we all agree here that he's quite the jerk), and he's either failed as a muslim or it reinforces your belief that Islam is a bad religion.

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OK, just to clear up a couple of points; when I mentioned the crusades, I really meant to point out that they weren't quite the same as contemporary terrorism, namely that, the last time I checked, America and Europe weren't Islamic holy sites. And yes, I simplified it a bit, not really bringing up the political climate of the time, although it is probably true that the Turkish invasion of Jerusalem sparked them off. Back on topic, I do understand the effect that this 'desecration' has on Muslims, although I don't personally share their sentiments, as to me burning bodies is no big thing, it's easier and more hygienic than burying them. To conclude, while I don't think much of religions, I don't mind religious people, as long as they're not too fundamentalist.

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I'd also question the idea that "Muslims" were not interested in territorial expansion at the time of the crusades. C'mon, all those countries converting to Islam in such a short time? Blame it on armies like the Turks, whatever, but you've got to admit that it wasn't just the Christians who seemed eager to build and expand Empires under their banner.

 

As to the burning bodies thing, we're not talking about a modern respectful cremation though. Imagine if you were having a funeral for someone you loved and some soldiers busted in, tossed the body outside onto the street, poured gasoline on it and torched it while keeping everyone back with guns.

 

When the contractors were burned and everyone was getting upset over it I argued that this wasn't as bad as the torture of prisoners, because the people in question were already dead (the civilian contractors died in their vehicles, and the corpses were dragged out and allowed to continue burning and be mutilated by a mob) and thus couldn't feel it (vs. prisoners who were continually tortured and several died from it). The person arguing with me asserted that the burning/desecration was worse because the families of those victims would see the video and be hurt by it. Plus the mob seemed really bloodthirsty (though I'd argue the torturers smiling and giving the thumbs up signal posing for pictures next to their dead or unconscious vicstims was quite ghoulish as well).

 

Obviously the soldiers here were doing this action for the propaganda value, but it's blown up in their faces. Now the question will be who to place the blame on. So far the blame is being placed on the camera person(s) who captured the moment, and it will likely be pinned on some low ranking soldier to take the fall for everybody else... I would rather see the commanding officer(s) get punished and any intelligence person(s) (perhaps "intelligence" here would have an ironic usage) that may have put them up to it.

 

It's true that despite our rhetoric that "this isn't a war against Islam" when they do stuff like this that seems explictly designed to offend the religious sensibilities of our opponents, we look pretty hypocritical.

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It's true that despite our rhetoric that "this isn't a war against Islam" when they do stuff like this that seems explictly designed to offend the religious sensibilities of our opponents, we look pretty hypocritical.

 

And that is the big danger, as we really need to have as many muslim friends in the region as possible, or its just going to degenerate into even more hardline anti-western feeling.

While acts like this may or may not encourage direct support for terrorism, they do give ammunition to those who claim that the US is attacking muslims, and are likely to lead to more support for the more hardline leaders.

 

You can draw parallels with Northern Ireland (or even palestine). Initially those who supported violence on each side were few in number, with each side having many more sensible, peaceful citizens. Then every action by one side that upset the whole of the other side increased the general extremism and support for the terrorist minority. And pretty soon both sides were so extreme and set in their views that even 10 years into the peace process they will hardly talk to each other, and oppose each other on principle.

 

Its worth pointing out again how upset people have gotten over here over the treatment of our dead bodies. Heck, the pictures of the Black Hawk Down rangers bodies getting dragged around had such an effect it basically changed US policy and got them to withdraw from sudan. And we still have a large number of christians who won't allow life-saving blood transfusions, or organ harvesting as they feel those are against their teachings.

 

You don't have to agree with the religious teachings (and on the whole i don't) but you have to realise what effect these kind of actions will have on those that DO believe in those teachings.

 

Which I'm sure those who did this did. No offence to the average grunts in the US army but they don't exactly seem that smart or clued in on Arabic or the Qur'an... so it seems to me highly likely that this sort of action is at least implicitly supported by higher ups or intelligence guys.

Still, I'm sure it will be the poor grunts who take the fall as it was in the Abu Grahib scandal and everything else...

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Well, whle your funeral analogy isn't the most accurate, it does point out that how it's done makes a difference. When I said about burning bodies being a good idea, I wasn't talking specifically about cremation, the respect is the important thing, like in SW they do pyres for Qui-gon and Vader.

 

Here's a thought:

We are not fighting a war against Islam, but with jerks like that around, we bloody well will be before long.

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A good point about Islamic theocratic states. In Islam you have foundationally (with the Prophet and the scriptures) the idea that there is a mandate to setup an "islamic state." Now more liberal muslims aren't nearly as gungho about this, but there you go. In Christianity you really don't get that (not foundationally) though throughout history many have tried.

 

I should be too smart to engage Kurgan in a theological discussion, but since I'm not, I think I'll point out that one might argue that Matt 16:18 does exactly that. That's the only one I can think of off the top of my head, but I remember finding quite a few verses elsewhere that can - without a too liberal interpretation - be construed as exacly that.

 

In the world today you do have these theocratic states governed by "shariah."

 

Not that they are alone. The Vatican is a theocracy and Poland, Ireland and the US come mighty close.

 

The issue of conversion is an interesting one. I have not heard any instances of Al Qaeda or Hamas, or whatever group trying to convert anyone. I just see them waging "holy war" against their enemies or supposed "collaborators" within islam.

 

I think your analysis may be mistaken here. I'd like to remind you of the motives and strategic analysis which drove the Baader-Meinhoff cells: By attacking representatives of the armament industry, industrial magnates, and other 'imperialists,' they sought to provoke the 'imperialist regime' in the BRD to reveal its 'true nature.' And when the people saw the 'ugly face of the repressive, fascist imperialist country,' they would rise up and overthrow the 'establishment' to pave the way for their ideal political system.

 

The organised political crime we see today isn't a complete parallel, but the RAF's psychology does provide at least one interesting insight: It is possible - and I would even go so far as to say probable - that fruitcakes like bin Laden view militant and missionary work as two aspects of the same thing: They may think that when their organisations descend on the 'decadent West' like the Wrath of God, our 'corruption' coupled with the 'repression' their actions provoke against them will turn the entire world to their way of thinking.

 

Of course, it's equally possible that they are just a bunch of profiteers using their 'crusade' to protect their lucrative opium trade. Still, history does show that people who co-opt religious fanatics have a nasty habit of being co-opted by them instead.

 

Not sure what this seeks to prove, honestly. Is it saying a system is flawed because the it has the capability to produce crazies?

 

No.

 

[in g]reater number than expected vs. what? A similar sized population of organized atheists?

 

Yes.

 

On the other hand people rally around all sorts of things, like ethnicity, race, culture, sexual orientation, lifestyle, gender, etc. Is it wrong because the ability to organize exists, and this ability to organize based on sameness could lead to abuses?

 

That's not quite what I said. I said that any organisation based on irrationality will be institutionally incapable of weeding out troublemakers and nutjobs. 'Sameness' can be a great many things, and many groups who are organised on a basis of 'sameness' have legitimate, rational, and reasonable goals (labor unions, some political parties, etc.).

 

But when the central objectives and philosophies become divorced from reality there is no way to check the leadership's sanity, and charismatic psycopaths who are unburdened by principle have a much easier time getting into positions of power and staying there.

 

Do you mean a religion has no way to remove a religious leader that's "nuts"? Ie: Wahabism has no way to get rid of Osama Bin Laden, or the Catholic Church has no way to get rid of the Pope if he goes nuts...?

 

No, it goes far deeper than that: They are unable to realise that their leader has gone nuts on them, because he can couch his nutdom in doctrine which is already detatched from concious, critical evaluation. Religious doctrine is evaluated mainly by instinct and emotion, not reason, so a person who can punch the right emotional buttons can obscure his nutdom by using religious doctrine to bypass his followers' forebrains. This is of course possible in all kinds of institutions, but the vulnerability to it increases dramatically when ends and means become divorced from reality.

 

A look at the development of the various early communist factions should be instructive here, since they share many of the same characteristics that make religion vulnerable to groupthink and emotional manipulation (in fact in all but name they are religious): They have a concept of trancendent salvation, their proposed policies are about as divorced from reality as they get, and their belief in the reeducation of the entire world away from 'materialist imperialism' into a state of 'awareness' resembles the missionary tenents of many religions. Furthermore, they are fairly recent and they were fairly loud, which means that they have been extensively documented.

 

What I see when I look at their record is a group of people who saw a great many flaws in the existing system and wanted to fix it. Fairly swiftly they split into two broad factions: One which went for gradual reform and by virtue of that gradualism managed to stay in touch with reality, and one which favored drastic, sweeping and sudden changes; who figured that they had to smash the system completely and rebuild from scratch.

 

Their fates are instructive. The gradualists managed to critically evaluate their own axioms as well as adapt to changing realities: The social democrats of today have only the moderation and their insistence on using the government to ensure equality (and the goal of equality has changed rather drastically in the process: From meaning equality of outcome it has come to mean equality of oppertunity) in common with their early ideological ancestors. The hardline communists, on the other hand, retain largely the same goals they have held for about a century, despite the fact that those goals are self-evidently absurd today.

 

The instructive part of this story isn't that communism bred fruitcakes as well as statesmen; any political movement has done that. The instructive point is that it is virtually impossible to draw a line in the historical sand and say "here did it become evident that communism is absurd." The various doctrines of communism lost contact with reality at different times and through subtle changes and slow accumulation of data.

 

Those who adopted a realistic position of incremental change to begin with could analyse that data and shed those parts of their objectives which were too divorced from reality to ever find practical application, whereas those who had divorced themselves from reality to begin with couldn't - and can't to this day - adjust their objectives because to do so would be to admit that their vision for the perfect society was in fact wrong on at least one count.

 

And if it was wrong once, it could be wrong again which means that it becomes injustifiable to smash the existing system to replace it with something that might be perfect. In a way their desire to make the perfect system meant that they couldn't modify their vision, because they knew that their original vision was - and is - perfect.

 

Religions strive for trancendence, just as the hardline communists did and do. But since this trancendence is intangible, they cannot acknowledge that their view of it - and, more importantly - their view of how to reach it is flawed in even the most minor way, because then they open the door to questioning the central tenents of their doctrine which would leave them with nothing to pin their ideology on. Organisations in contact with reality, OTOH, know that their goals and strategies are flawed, and can seek out the flaws to correct them.

 

I'm not saying that individuals cannot question dogma, but the institution itself can never condone that, because, all dogma being equal, questioning a bit of it leads logically to discarding it all. Not that this means that the institutions cannot change, only that the change will be unconcious and undirected because at an institutional level they are unable to challenge their own axioms. And the same considerations that makes it impossible for the organisation to control its own development makes it virtually impossible to impose the checks and balances necessary to prevent powermongering and recognise insanity in its leadership.

 

And yes there's a great discussion in there about evaluating a religion as an abstract philosophy vs. the individuals that make it up. As a Christian, I subscribe to the "Body of Christ" analogy of the church. The religion is inseperable from the people. [...] I'd say sure you can discuss the finer points of theology in a dry setting, but you also have to look at the people. The two are very closely intertwined if not inseperable. [...] Certainly you can look at Osama Bin Laden and say he's a monster [...], and he's either failed as a muslim or it reinforces your belief that Islam is a bad religion.

 

There is an interesting contradiction here: On the one hand, you say that the religion cannot be viewed as an abstract doctrine seperate from its practitioners, a view that I happen to share. Then, a few lines further down, you say that comrade Osama has "either failed as a muslim or [...] reinforces [the conclusion] that Islam is a bad religion." How can you 'fail as a muslim' when the religion is inseperable from its practitioners? And how can any one man reinforce a conclusion about an ideology?

 

He merely enters the statistics under the headings of Muslim, Saudi, Arab, Nutter, Religious, Militant, Royalty, Rich, and a host of others. Any single entry in that statistic tells us very little. Only when we assemble a large number of entries can we begin to look at correlations. I expect that we'll find a strong correlation between 'Militant' and 'Nutter' and a weak correlation between 'Religious' and 'Nutter,' but I further expect that we'll find a significantly greater (in the statistical meaning of the term) correlation between 'Religious' and 'Nutter' than between 'Non-religious' and 'Nutter' or 'Rich' and 'Nutter.'

 

I view humanity as resembling a stocastic system: Any given element behaves in a manner that is impossible to predict (beyond a few very general characteristics), but taken as a whole the system can respond drastically to individually subtle biases.

 

If you make a big enough ensamble, a stable and objectively discernable pattern usually emerges.

 

I'd also question the idea that "Muslims" were not interested in territorial expansion at the time of the crusades.

 

I don't think anybody said that. What I said was that there was very little risk that any muslim empires would have the military capacity to punch out Byzantinium and proceed into the catholic empire. OTOH, there was a very real risk of muslim empire building pushing catholicism (and hence the Papacy's influence) out of Iberia, which means that the direction of the crusades argues against the notion of a 'counterattack.' If they'd wanted to counterattack, they should've sent the main prong of their offensive to Spain.

 

Obviously the soldiers here were doing this action for the propaganda value, but it's blown up in their faces. Now the question will be who to place the blame on. So far the blame is being placed on the camera person(s) who captured the moment, and it will likely be pinned on some low ranking soldier to take the fall for everybody else... I would rather see the commanding officer(s) get punished and any intelligence person(s) (perhaps "intelligence" here would have an ironic usage) that may have put them up to it.

 

Agreed. Fire the staff puke who thought up the mutilating corpses part.

 

It's true that despite our rhetoric that "this isn't a war against Islam" when they do stuff like this that seems explictly designed to offend the religious sensibilities of our opponents, we look pretty hypocritical.

 

Not really, no. Mutilating bodies is unacceptable, but insulting the enemy to goad him into rash attacks is a legitimate tactic. It might be counterproductive in the long run, but it's legitimate, and any objection other people take from the language used leaves me supremely unmoved.

 

And that is the big danger, as we really need to have as many muslim friends in the region as possible, or its just going to degenerate into even more hardline anti-western feeling.

 

We need to have as many friends in the region as possible. If they happen to be muslims, well no skin off my nose. But the emphasis should be on making friends, not making muslim friends.

 

You don't have to agree with the religious teachings (and on the whole i don't) but you have to realise what effect these kind of actions will have on those that DO believe in those teachings.

 

Of course. But that is far cry from condoning those effects.

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You do realise that the "Muslim World" is more than just 20 suicide bombers don't you?

Not all 1.6 billion muslims on the world strap on bombs and blow themselves up. Pretty much all 1.6 billion Muslims in the world believe burning bodies and the quran is desecration.

But those particular Muslims know that the people fighting are zealots/fanatics/whatever. A reasonable (so far as can be expected :D) Christian does not support or condone things done by Christian extremists, and knows that they're not following accepted teachings. Personally I think extremists are no good for anyone, be they Christian, Islamic, or atheist. I don't see why the ordinary Muslim would get so angry about this, since clearly the zealots are not practicing their faith, and simply using it as a banner.

 

Note that I do *not* condone burning their dead in such a way though - that was totally unacceptable. If it was simply to get rid of the bodies because the soldiers had to have it done quickly, they could have been respectful about it and it wouldn't have been an issue. They screwed up, and should be punished. Following this article, I predict that they will be quite soon...

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I don't see why the ordinary Muslim would get so angry about this, since clearly the zealots are not practicing their faith, and simply using it as a banner.

As I've pointed out, the bodies were of people only suspected of being terrorists, there was no evidence to classify them as terrorists, and going by past action, (it's probable) at least one of them was just an innocent muslim.

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Personally I think extremists are no good for anyone, be they Christian, Islamic, or atheist.

All extremist should be taken out and shot! <--- Paradox. Hehe. :D

 

As for soldiers burning the bodies: That's just wrong. Even enemies' customs should be respected in death. Even if these people weren't for what could be considered a 'good cause', (which may not be the case as IS mentioned) they still have beliefs (even if they aren't shown outright), and, quite possibly, families who share these beliefs and would want their husbands or brothers to be honored in death.

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Can you get religious fundamentalists who are aetheists?

 

Also, I don't believe it is practical to follow the funeral traditions of your enemy, although like I said before, respect is an important thing. If I were to handle such a situation, burning the bodies is fine, but deliberately facing them west or what have you, and dancing around them taunting, or whatever, is crossing the line somewhat. Further, Samuel Dravis seems to imply that it was christian extremists that did the desecration thing, but I thought that when I read the article it said it was US soldiers, and there is at least some distinction to be made between the two.

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Can you get religious fundamentalists who are aetheists?

 

Also, I don't believe it is practical to follow the funeral traditions of your enemy,

I didn't say that an enemy's funeral / burial traditions should be followed; I said that the person should be honored and respected. And burning the bodies of those who are of a religion which considers burning the bodies of the daed to be a desecration is decidedly dishonorable.

although like I said before, respect is an important thing.

Agreed. :)

If I were to handle such a situation, burning the bodies is fine,

Of course, but only if absolutely neccessary for the safety of you and your comrads fighting for your country.

but deliberately facing them west or what have you, and dancing around them taunting, or whatever, is crossing the line somewhat.

Somewhat? It's way over the line.

Further, Samuel Dravis seems to imply that it was christian extremists that did the desecration thing, but I thought that when I read the article it said it was US soldiers, and there is at least some distinction to be made between the two.

Hmm, I don't know, perhaps he is referrencing his own religion as an example.

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Can you get religious fundamentalists who are aetheists?
Not what I said. Extremists can exist for pretty much anything that is faith-based. Atheism requires faith and is no different from religion in that particular respect.

 

Further, Samuel Dravis seems to imply that it was christian extremists that did the desecration thing, but I thought that when I read the article it said it was US soldiers, and there is at least some distinction to be made between the two.
Hmm, I don't know, perhaps he is referrencing his own religion as an example.
No, I was just using those religions to illustrate my point that I don't think there should be too much sympathy for extremists, whatever religion/idea they choose as a symbol. I live in a community that is heavily Christian, and none of the people I know condone in any way Christian terrorism/murders (Kavorkian's murderer, Irish terrorists, etc.). I've no reason to suspect Muslims are different.
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I guess it depends on the general feelings of the population. That is what extremists try to tap into. If your christian community is relatively happy then why would you support anyone taking extreme actions... but if there is an underlying feeling of resentment, and then the extremists exploit that, then quite often they will gain at least some sympathy and support for their motives, even if not for their actions.

 

And then if the terrorists are retaliated against in an indiscriminate way then that small sympathy can grow into a stronger suppport.

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but if there is an underlying feeling of resentment, and then the extremists exploit that, then quite often they will gain at least some sympathy and support for their motives, even if not for their actions.

 

The problem is that not all resentment is legitimate. In Denmark a major newspaper printed a series of pictures of Muhammed as a commentary to a story they had run about an author of a book about Muhammed, who had trouble finding illustrators because many of the illustrators he contacted were afraid of retaliation from Muslim fanatics, if they violated one of their stupid taboos.

 

That sparked off a demonstration which according to the Danish Broadcasting Corporation estimated* (that's pronounced 'guessimated') to be around 3k strong, and a spirited reaction from several ambassadors from so-called 'muslim countries.'

 

*Usually, when making WAGs like that the DR roughly splits the difference between what the people who arrange the demonstration say and what the police say.

 

Clearly this demonstration was in every sense of the term an overpouring of illegitimate resentment. Danish newspapers can (and do) blaspheme all day long, and if somebody feels that his overly sensitive religious toes have been stepped on, well that's his problem. Freedom of press used to take precedence over freedom of religion - and I'll be damned before I support a bunch of yahoos and neobarbs doing an end-run around my civil liberties in the name of their silly superstition.

 

If resentment - or even the risk of being murdered by an Ayatollah-wanna-be - is the price we must pay to preserve our right to say and print whatever we want about the manifest stupidity of Christianity or Islam or Pastafarianism, or whatever gobledygook is fashionable this month, then I say bring it on. Even if the Islamo- and Christianofascists manage to treble or quadrouple the efficiency with which they murder our citizens, they'll still pose less of a threat than particle polution and fat-soluble heavy metals.

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