Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Religious war: beyond belief

Between the Israel-Lebanon conflict and the Mel Gibson incident, the topic of anti-Semitism is inescapable. What apparently is escapable is subtlety in this debate.

Lately I've made some remarks regarding the Israel-Hezbollah conflict that suggest compassion for the innocent people of Lebanon. And though Mel Gibson underwent the blurts of truth that always accompany drunken rages, I am willing to believe that he really wants to reach out to Jewish groups in the aftermath (if there's no hope for Mel to redeem himself, what chance does the rest of the world have?). Those who take these stances are sometimes accused of being anti-Israeli, with all of the bigotry that implies. That's the kind of cheap shot that weakens honest debate on what's going on right now.

Lots of conservative bloggers have icons on their sites proclaiming that they are "a proud friend of Israel." I suspect that this sentiment is similar to that of pro-lifers, who frame the debate to appear as if they alone support birth. It sounds fair enough--few Americans of any stripe actually want to see Israel vaporized--but the underlying message is somewhat uglier: "I support Israel in all of its actions, no matter how atrocious. Because the enemy of my enemy is my friend." This attitude makes it tricky for anyone to criticize Israeli politics without being branded as an anti-Semite.

As a student of world history and political science, I understand that lots of great nations exist due to questionable circumstances. Like, say, Israel and the United States. And most other countries, for that matter. While I support any sovereign state's right to exist (including both Israel and Palestine), I refuse to support any unfounded (or otherwise tactically dubious) invasion of another. I don't support Israel's invasion of Lebanon any more than I support the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Does that mean I deny the need for action or hate the aggressors? No. I fail to see how questioning a military decision of a country is the same as hating said country or its people.

I am against religious fundamentalism, period. Religious clashes are always the bloodiest and most severe anyone can ever fathom. They go on for thousands of years, and the only result is that the sense of calling grows stronger and the hatred grows even deeper. Who knows how many millions of lives have been wasted over what amounts to differences of opinion?

Every religion in the world (save for perhaps a few joke sects) believes that they know the proper path in life. Everyone thinks they are not only right, but are secure enough in that belief to die for it.

Much of the friction in the world comes out of a simple misconception: that the other person consciously practices a false system of beliefs. The following exchange could be said by any human being on Earth regarding another:

"That person does not practice the same denomination and/or degree of faith as myself. Because I believe in the One True Path, that puts the other person on the wrong path. What would compel someone to believe something that I know is wrong?"

The answer of course, is that YOU know that it's wrong. And you KNOW that it's wrong. Just like everyone else in the world.

Such a mentality is disastrous and does nothing to bridge the gap. For what it's worth, I don't care what you are if it floats your boat and you aren't hurting anybody. Sure, Tom Cruise might seem bizarre to a lot of us with his behavior; but I don't doubt that he really believes in his heart that Scientology is the right way to go. Israel? Fighting for survival in what they see as the promised land. Suicide bombers? They don't do it because they want people to think they're nuts, folks. Quibble all you want about how wrong they are or how ridiculous it all is, but don't you dare presume that it isn't genuine to them. This fallacy is what allows people like George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden to turn religion into a cynical political shootout.

As hard as it must be for anyone to concede that others believe differently from them (and thus aren't on the heavenly track like they most certainly are), everyone on this planet must come to terms with theocratic differences before we get wiped out because of them.

Judaism is not the problem. Christianity is not the problem. Islam is not the problem. Fundamentalism is the problem. When someone's beliefs are so radical that the need to be right overtakes any actual lessons of the faith, the whole world suffers. And that is definitely the wrong path for anyone.


Nick said...

I think one of the main problems with the whole situation is that if Hezbollah and Hamas would lay down their weapons and give up, then Israel would go the same. However, if Israel were to stop, the terror groups would still attack them at ever chance. These are Islamic fascists who believe in subjecting the whole Middle East to their religious laws and will fight until either that happens or they are killed.

As far as the terrorists who blow themselves up, they are idiots. The clerics and "leaders" of the Muslim extremists must not believe their own rehtoric about being a suicide bomber for 72 vigins b/c all of them, such as Bin Laden and Hezbollah's leader, are hiding trying to save their owns asses. You would never see one of them become a suicide bomber. Instead, they get the brain-washed fools to do it.

Cajun Tiger said...

So, if some drug lords on the Mexican border all of a sudden starting firing missles into the US, and the Mexican government was powerless or unwilling to stop them, screw everyone living on the border, the US has no right to protect it's own citizens?

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, you're right about Hezbollah and bin Laden, which was my whole point in the first place. But Israel is no pacifist country. It has a long history of military offense, it's occupied Lebanon before, and its current actions suggest no regard for the difference between Lebanon and Hezbollah.

Which brings me to Cajun Tiger's far-fetched point. If Mexican drug lords ever had missiles, and actually wanted to draw attention to themselves by setting them off in the United States, then I would hope our retaliation strategy would be more targeted than blowing away entire cities and indiscriminately killing innocent people.

Nick said...

But Icon, again, if Hezbollah will NEVER stop for peace, Israel would. However, Israel has stopped before, and they have been attacked. Israel would never kidnap Saudi or Syrian athletes at the Olympics and kill them. Muslim extremists have no problem in doing that, as we know from the '72 Olympics.

Also, what if the Mexican drug lords have their headquarters in major cities and hide amongst civilians, forcing civilians to let them hide in their homes? What do we do? Also, again, Israel, in my opinion, is not trying to kill innocent civilians. And, if the Lebanese was truly concerned about its citizens, they would try to help Israel. However, they are not helping. And I know the government is powerless against the terrorists, but any kind of help would show me that they actually care.

Hillary For President said...

sorry wingers, Ian is rite. Its neocon Christians what our the problem. Ralph Reed and Jerry Fallweld and Tammy Faye Baker are to balme.

WIthout them that do fundaentalist Christianism we all wood except are role's as dhimmis and kafirs and live go on with Mislam's.

Robert Taylor said...

Firstly, I wanted to say I agree with Ian on his points, except that he doesn't understand where the accusations of anti-semitism are coming from. He said it's because of people who are die-hard supporters. I think it's because people consider Israel and Judaism synonimously.

Secondly, Nick has obviously a skewed history of the conflicts that Israel and the Arabs have had. The Mexico or Canada arguments are bogus. Last time Lebanon was invade by Israel 20,000 people died. Food for thought.

Jester said...

"what allows people like George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden to turn religion into a cynical political shootout."

Um... to my awareness the Bush Administration invaded Iraq for several major reasons, but the last time I checked fundamental religious extremism wasn't among them, as opposed to Bin Laden. Could anyone please point out a concrete, unbiased source which proves this?

Ian McGibboney said...

Bush considers the War on Terror to be a "crusade" against "evildoers." Framing it this way made it a war of beliefs rather than one of politics and territory. Bush has also been extensively quoted as saying God wanted him to be president and that he was fated to be a war president. I'll let you look those up, since you're the expert on unbiased media.

The reasons for the Iraq invasion changed virtually by the week, which is its own separate discussion. But if we assume (as the Bush administration wants us to) that the Iraq War's purpose was to "liberate" the people of Iraq, then how is that any different from an evangelical mission?

Bush and bin Laden both want the same thing: their way. For whatever other reasons that they're motivated (like oil), they are both driven by fundamentalist religious beliefs to attain the ends that they think are best for the world. If this revelation is new to you, then you're either drastically ignorant or you're in denial.

Jester said...

1: So the words "crusade" and "evildoers" mean that Bush went to war over his alleged extreme religious fundamental beliefs?

2: It's not my job to look up your outrageous claims. Your belief that other people should do your job is the reason that you don't actually have a job in the first place.

4: Liberate = evangelical mission? Bush and Bin Laden are exactly the same? WTF? Are you insane? Is that your problem? On second thought, don't answer this. I don't want to know.

Ian McGibboney said...


1) You don't step up and tell the fundamentalist Islamic world that you're setting off on a "crusade" against them. They remember the last time that happened. Among other things, this is what makes Bush's attack plan so reckless. How can we even begin to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis and Arabs when we use loaded terms to set them off as evil and prod at their religion?

2) I know that no source I ever cite will satisfy you. Also, that's a very mean and uninformed thing to say about me. Of course, I expect that that from a hysterical, anonymous troll with nothing intelligent to say but with all day to say it.

3) Can you count?

4) The invasion of Iraq was a unilateral thing. Iraq didn't ask us to do this, but we thought we knew more than they did what's best for them. This is the same attitude that makes it virtually impossible to go out in a public venue in some places and not be accosted by a Bible thumper. Except that this particular Bible thumper follows you home and kills you if you don't toe the line.

And yes, Bush and bin Laden are similar in several important ways. I'm not saying they're exactly alike, obviously, but there's no denying similarities in tactics and rhetoric. Bush seems intent on aggravating terrorism, given that his methods for stopping it are very similar to the tactics the terrorists are using to stop us. If not conceding that Bush is all benevolent makes me insane to you, then I can't help that.

Let me know when you're ready to talk seriously and honestly about issues, instead of just attacking me.