February 21, 2007
Below are my observations and comments concerning your document entitled Background:
For some basic reason that I do not yet understand, people throughout recorded history have had a strong tendency to group ideas, people, concepts, etc. into two categories. Aristotle (the inventor of Western formal logic) made this fundamental mistake in his Posterior Analytics (book 4). Today
this mistake is called the "excluded middle" by logicians. I sometimes refer to this tendency as binary or dualist thinking. G.W.Bush is a particularly good public example of a person who consistently and persistently sees the world in black or white, yes or no, with me or against me, good guys or bad guys, pro-democracy or anti-democracy, etc. Of course, the world does not work like this.
I think it might be best to always look for at least a range of 7 categories in any conceptualization. For example:
Some people are:
1) Exceptionally good
2) Very good
3) Above average good
6) Below average
7) Not good
9) Very bad
10) Exceptionally bad
So, we may observe that a person of a particular nationality (or sex) may be a exceptionally good or exceptionally bad person, but they are most likely average in their behavior. Unfortunately, many people tend to simplify and just call them good or bad. This leads to inaccurate conclusions about them. This mistake is compounded by the fact that we tend to jump to the conclusion that all people of this nationality (or sex, or religion, or height, or complexion) are all the same as this one example of this category (nationality, sex, etc.). People who hope to persuade (propagandize) uneducated, or inexperienced people (victims) use this two-category simplification to distract attention from themselves and generate hate toward their chosen target.
So what do I think of your document? It presents a religion and a group of people as bad people belonging to a bad religion. Are there bad Moslems - of course. And are most average - of course. Have the Armenians been treated badly - of course. But this does not mean that all Armenians are always good. Some are (and were - if you take history into account) exceptionally good, some are very good, some are above average good, most are average, some are below average, some are not good, some are bad, some are very bad, and some are exceptionally bad. Once again, this is true not only for Armenians, but also for guitar players, physicists, poker players, dancers, religious leaders, and for every one of the millions of categories you may want to measure.
You seem to have discovered history. This is the record of people doing exceptionally good, very good, very bad (hopefully, you get the idea) actions to each other, their lands, their horses, cows, and bicycles. What we must do in order to truly understand history is to resist the tendency to simplify the complex motivations, actions and consequences into the binary categories of only good or bad.
So, is the Islam religion bad, of course. It is also good, average and exceptionally good on various occasions in various locations for various people. And so are Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and Christianity. Yet, you do not concentrate on the exceptionally bad genocide of the Old Testament god's command to kill all living creatures in Ali (Joshua 8:24-29), or Christians glee in killing the Infidels in the holy land during the Crusades, or Christians vigor in the killing of Native-American, or their brutal enslavement of Africans, etc. You, for your own personal reasons, choose to concentrate on Moslems in recent history and today, and you choose to portray them as always bad - a common and very simplistic propaganda technique. This is not an honest analysis of history; this is deliberate, hateful, misleading rhetoric.
I am gradually learning to expect this hatefulness as a by-product of belonging to a religion. If someone joins one religious group, all those not in that group are outsiders and are seen (by the weak and insecure) are a threat to their group. I also suspect that there is an element of fear that their objects of hate might have chosen better - that they might have the "correct" religion (again, an aspect of insecurity). But I am coming to accept this hatefulness. When anyone gives up a rational approach to understanding reality and takes a "leap of faith" into an irrational belief system, we should expect irrational reasoning, beliefs, and actions from them. It goes without saying that these irrational belief systems were tailored by those wishing to manipulate the ignorant (or weak, or uneducated, or hateful, etc.) with great success during all of the recorded history we possess and preserve. No one fights over the belief in Zeus anymore - that culture has died out. But new ones were invented. We should expect present day belief systems to die out, and we should expect that new ones will be invented to manipulate the unwary again and again and again.
So why would I bother to take the time to compose a response if I think so little of your effort? Because I don't take your document lightly. I believe that your document of vicious hate has a chance among some other weak-minded victims. Someone "converted" Tim McVeigh to believe that he was justified in killing anyone in carrying out his irrational goals. I would like to think that if someone had talked to him at the right moment, he may not have been so confused about reality and the beauty of life over the mental cancer of hate.
So, I respond to your document by noting that you are traveling on the edge of rationality. We know this because others before you have gone down this path. Hate is a very sad lens from which to view the world, people, and events. If you truly "believe" all that you have written, you are now a dangerous person. Needless to say, I don't want to spend a moment in your hateful company. I hope you fail miserably in misleading anyone.
PS. I do agree with your implicit closing observation that it is not a good sign for America's future that Keith Ellison took his oath of office on the Koran. The fact that anyone sees taking any oath on any irrational religious book frightens me. That few see this as a vote of confidence for the irrational does not bode well for our secular government. I hope I will live to see the day that irrational religious belief is supplanted by the sweet breath of cool reason in all our human activities.