Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Against "submission." The Infidel's Advocate

Islam : translated into English, "submission."

Liberalism: an emancipatory doctrine of individual liberty. Freedom.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was a woman born into a cage. Her fate was sealed by the face of global Islam in Somalia. She was not to be educated. She was not to be seen by any but the husband her parents selected for her, and her family. She was to veil, but not the colorful viels of the past, only the black veils of the new Global Islamic moovement. She was to obey her husband, or be struck, as the Koran stated. She was to provide him many children. She was to submit to Allah, but to know his will through her husband's will.

But she escaped. She applied for refugee status, came to Holland, got a hand full of PHDs, wrote several bestsellers, served in Parliament, renounced her faith, removed her veil, dated, drank alcohol, and became on outspoken advocate for the freedoms she had gained by stepping into a liberal order.

She teamed up with Theo Van Gogh, a distant relative of Vincent Van Gogh, to make a film called SUBMISSION. The ten minute film presents a critiscisim of the way Islam subjugates women and structures violence against them.

Some say Islam is a religion of peace and that those who use it to promote misogny and terrorism are "hijacking" it. In class I was told: "you are trying to make these issues about religion, they are about culture." --- Yet this violence and oppression and darkness are not some abberation, but the logical consequences of specific ideas. Koran, Sharia law, they are the foundation for a Global Islam that is all fringe and no center.

The provocative film was shown on Dutch tv and Theo Van Gogh was killed by a young man with Islamic motivations, stuck to his chest was a note, declaring death for Hirsi Ali, but also death for those moderates who attempted to bridge the differences between them. All were infidels on the death list. No matter whether they were provocateurs like Van Gogh and Ali, or moderates like the mayor of Amsterdam, a man who criticized Van Gogh and Hirsi Ali' strident tone, and preached open ended tolerance.

That mayor traded in holy war for uneasy peace... He made the death list nonetheless.

In 25 years many Western European countries will be majority Muslim.

In September of 2001, well... You know.

Part of the cosmopolitan character of liberalism moves us to believe that there are no such thing as other people's children. If a young girl is being beaten and kept in a social cage next door, then you are complicit if you do nothing. If you are a man, in Islam, you are forced into a submission relationship with your spouse that dehumanizes you too. If your neighbors acceptance of your right to live is contingent on you accepting and retaining his supernatural doctrine, or at the least tip-toeing around it, then he is not a neighbor worthy of the name.

An uneasy peace is not a peace worthy of the name.

Let us not be so open minded, that we cannot muster the defenses to hold a conviction. Global Islam refuses to adopt secular and civic values while exploiting ours to assault or gender equality, our freedoms, the genuine pluralism that underwrites our pursuit of happiness.

The film that got Van Gogh killed and sent Hirsi Ali into hiding, Submission, was not very diplomatic. But you know the old adage about diplomats? A diplomat will tell a man with a gunshot wound to the head that he is "open minded."

I will proudly defend this intellectual territory. Emancipatory liberalism: the docrine whose fruits we enjoy and all should be offered that opportunity. You, I and our sons and daughters, will never have to bow to any priest, king or husband.


Monday, February 22, 2010

the pursuit of happiness

The best things in life are beyond money: their price is agony and sweat and devotion - Starship Troopers

Solemn pride must by yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. - President Lincoln

We are what we repeatedly do... Excellence is a habit. - Aristotle

Whether you think you can or think you cannot, you are right.

What you give today: you have forever. What you don't give today, you have lost forever.

Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.

Our chief want in this world is to find someone who will make us do what we can. - Emerson

Always do what you are afraid do. - Emerson

The best way out is always through - Robert Frost

Fortune favors the brave. = Publius Terrence

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness which frightens us most. - Nelson Mandela

He who hesitates is lost.

We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. - JFK

Twenty years from now you will be more dissapointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did. Sail away from the safe harbor towards undreamed shores. - Twain

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure and embrace the new. - Alan Cohen

Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom - Marilyn Ferguson

It's not that I'm smart, it's just that I stay with the problems longer. - Einstein

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Not talent or genius or education.

Out of sufficiency have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.

Trust yourself when all men doubt you. Being hated, don't give way to hating. If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run... You'll be a man... - Kipling

Self-trust is the nature of heroism.

A big man makes us feel bigger when we are with him - John C. Maxwell

Happiness depends on disposition, not circumstances. It is, above all, a choice.

To be a great champion, you must believe you are the best, or pretend that you are. - M. Ali

Finish each day and be done with it... Tomorrow is a new day, begin it well... with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. - Einstein

Everyone has his own burden. What counts is how you carry it. - Merle Miller

The optimist sees opportunity in every dangers. The pessimist sees danger in every opportunity. - W. Churchill

If you conquer yourself, the victory is yours. It cannot be taken away from you.

The time is always right to do whats right.

The price of greatness is responsibility.

To be great is to be misunderstood.

Strength comes from seeing the honor in things.

"Good luck" is really tenacity of purpose.

I was never afraid of failure, I'd sooner fail than not be in the company of the best.

Failure teaches success.

A hero is not braver than the ordinary man, but he is braver longer.

Great men have wills, feeble men have only wishes.

Tis' better to be alone than in bad company. - G. Washington

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.

All good things are very difficult to achieve and bad things are very easy to get.

The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.

High achievement always takes place within a framework of high expectations.

There is no great achievement that is not the result of patient working and waiting.

You must do the thing you think you cannot do

People become quite remarkable when they start thinking they can do things.

You have a powerful mind that can make anything happen as long as you keep yourself centered.

Success is largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.

If you're going through hell, keep going. - W. Churchill

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Religious zealots will argue that if one fails to embrace a transcendental moral doctrine, usually their own, a person will be left with nothing to suppress their basest desires and lead them towards a morally bankrupt, nihilistic state of relativism. On the other end of the spectrum, the neo-atheists argue that religion is inherently toxic and destructive. Between these two extremes is the argument I endorse: affirmation of religion’s potential to soothe our pains and deepen commitments to causes shared with humanists, coupled with recognition of religion’s toxic potential and the possibility for non-supernatural sources of morality. Philosophical materialism does not necessarily bring about nihilism, and religion does not necessarily bring about destructive fanaticism.

The violence and intolerance done in the name of God does not overshadow the good deeds, just as the anguish and guilt caused by belief does not overpower the comfort and serenity. Belief in God is not a monolithic institution, but an internally diverse phenomenon. At first glance, we might put Buddhism and Islam in the same category the same way we might mistakenly place a shark and a dolphin in the same category. Just because some religious memes prey on their hosts does not mean that all of them do. In times of incredible temptation, loneliness and despair, belief in a stern but loving God can not only comfort people, but enable them to be good when “being good for goodness’ sake” is an insufficient incentive. The toxic religious memes use the larger benevolent ones as “protective coloration,” but with careful analysis we can see past the deception and untangle the destructive strands of religion from the beneficial ones.

Religion has great potential to complement secular humanist projects. To evidence this claims I point to the Archbishop Desmond Tutu who took a defiant stand against the South African apartheid state. Even though the white supremacy of apartheid was a very toxic sort of religiously based meme, Tutu showed that Christianity could be used to spread just the opposite of racist evil. To the inhumanity of racism, Tutu used the gospel to spread a Christian meme that all humans are "God's children. There are no outsiders." "My humanity is bound up in yours," Tutu preached, "for we can only be human together." Religions that were once composed of toxic memes can come to mirror and complement the same values and projects supported by secular humanists.

For both those who claim religion as universal truth and noble lie, philosophical materialism is seen as a course which inevitably leads to moral relativism and nihilism. They claim that with only a materialist worldview, humans can only be “grotesque… “puppet[s] suspended on… chromosomes,” living accidental, insignificant lives. However, morality is not mere artifice that lifts us above primal, bestial amorality. Evolution gave humans an innate, hidden moral grammar, an unconscious process, activated by society that mediates our moral judgments. Humans are moral by nature, and will navigate the world in a morally informed manner whether or not a religious morality is there to guide them.


Secularization theory predicted that religion would slowly lose its significance and place in social life, eclipsed by rational, scientific explanations to the questions that face humanity. This premise has not born out, as religious life not only continues but thrives in the 21st century. Secularization theory is flawed because science cannot always do what religion does. Belief can enrich our lives in ways rational knowledge cannot. Despite the utopian dream of establishing one comprehensive account of everything, there is an epistemological pluralism, a number of incommensurable ways of understanding the universe.

Religion can do things that science cannot. Belief in a loving being which organizes the cosmos can give people the resilience to overcome the worst kinds of adversity. Religion can steel our will against temptation and deliver us from loneliness and apathy. While some people might be able to manage life’s trials without faith, for others it is unsubstitutable. Religious beliefs, even if erroneous, can have a placebo effect on the human mind, curing our aches and anxieties in a way that there is no reason to trade in for universal acceptance of Western medicine. Science itself has shown some false beliefs to improve human capacity, and studies show positive illusions can improve mental health. The choice between science and religion is a false one, as the two spheres are capable of complementary coexistence.

Those who advocate secularization theory as an empirical fact or a normative goal are guilty of the same fundamentalism as the religious fanatics they criticize. Secularization theory mirrors the utopian, universalistic assumptions of Christianity and Islam. Religious and scientific fundamentalists offer a “refuge from uncertainty, promising freedom from thought." In eclipsing religion as the main source of authority, science has mirrored its monopolistic ambitions, “preserv[ing] the comforting illusion of a single established world view. The false dawn of the secular age shows that while it might be a comforting illusion to anticipate an emerging account of the meaning of everything, there will always be multiple ways of knowing that are incommensurable. Epistemological pluralism tells us that science, art, religion and love can all offer insight into our human condition. No one approach to knowing can answer all our questions.

Religions are not so inflexible that we are forced to choose between holy war and total secularization. Despite their claims to “eternal and immutable principles,” religion has changed to meet the demands of modernity. Religious beliefs are adept at ensuring their own replication by adapting to the demands of the day. Modern religions are organized around increasingly abstract conceptions of the divine. Modern believers increasingly use second order beliefs to create religious institutions capable of coexistence. “Systematically masked creeds,” like belief in belief, allow adherents to avoid conflicts with “contradictory creeds that would otherwise oblige the devout to behave far more intolerantly than most people today want to behave. Despite the assertions of the neo-atheists, the existence of religion does not necessitate holy war or sectarian violence. In modern human life, religious institutions needs reform, not total removal.