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Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile 
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
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To that end, I would say that religion likely is playing a role, but it's a different role than most people suggest. What it has allowed is an outlet for suicide in a society that otherwise imposes a strict moral injunction against suicide. It plays on a conflict in the culture: the civilians who make the best candidates for suicide bombings are people who already feel crushed by the demands of their society; given a more permissive moral code, they might resort to suicide on their own; but one of the elements of their culture is an injunction against suicide. The militants have played on a kind of loophole in Islamic law -- you can commit suicide so long as, in doing so, you achieve something for Islam. Take away the desire for suicide that already exists in these societies, and I think you'd see a precipitous decline in the number of people willing to strap on bombs in the name of Allah. That might go some measure towards explaining why another culture, like that of Indian Muslims under the British Raj, never ventured into the realm of tactical suicide bombings: some aspect of Indian/British culture at the time -- perhaps identifiable in the British educational system or some aspect of Indian culture -- imposed an injunction against suicide or failed to generate enough potential suicides to meet the sort of demand needed.

Great points all of them. Perhaps the best way to stop Islamic Terrorism through Suicide Bombings is discussion with Islamic Clerics and Leaders. It seems if an understanding could be reached that Suicide Bombings and Terror are not furthering Islam, the religious leaders could suggest that murdering innocent civilians does not further Islam to their followers. It could be argued, that Suicide Bombings are actually hurting Islam... Harris sure wants to put Islam to bed and is spreading that word.




Wed Apr 05, 2006 5:30 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
riverc0il: Perhaps the best way to stop Islamic Terrorism through Suicide Bombings is discussion with Islamic Clerics and Leaders.

If I'm right about the Middle Eastern malaise that makes it possible to recruit suicide bombers, then I would say that the best way to stop this particular tactic would be to address the problems in society that make individuals willing to volunteer. That is, there has to be some sort of effort to assuage suicidal feeling in Middle Eastern societies. But that isn't likely to happen until there's some formal recognition of the problem and a concerted effort to understand precisely what's causing the endemic malaise.

Incidentally, I deep a quick search on suicide bombing in the university library. I only turned up two hits -- one a study of Middle Eastern suicide bombing (entitled "Islamikaze" -- the pun makes me suspect its seriousness) even to the exclusion of the Tamil and Sri Lankan variants, and another a more or less personal account of Islamic suicide bombing. I need to find a more precise way to search for titles on the topic, but from the outset this looks like an understudied phenomenon.




Wed Apr 05, 2006 6:06 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
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That is, there has to be some sort of effort to assuage suicidal feeling in Middle Eastern societies. But that isn't likely to happen until there's some formal recognition of the problem and a concerted effort to understand precisely what's causing the endemic malaise.

Definitely agreed that understanding and fixing the situation that creates suicidal feeling is defintiely the best way to fix the problem. It is also the hardest and is not currently being pursued by governments or large scale action groups. My thought was merely a plausible idea that governments could take action on since they don't seem willing to dig deeper and really solve what the problem is, or at least understand it and make what could remotely be conceived as an effort to understand. While I understand terrorists are out there who want to kill us and that certainly does not excuse the horrible acts that are happening, one needs to understand the "enemy" and come to a resolution even if said "enemy" is doing horribly bad things to advocate their possition.

The interesting thing about Suicide Bombers being thrown into the mix is that there is no fear of mutually assured destruction. That normally keeps most violence to a minimum, the fear of death or revoking liberty. Without that barrier to protect us, it seems a diologue and an attempt to correct wrongs that have been and continue to be done seems like a good policy.




Wed Apr 05, 2006 7:21 pm
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Post Rage
I thought an important voice in this discussion is Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery of the leftist Jewish peace organization Gush Shalom. He wrote an essay in response to the terrible murder of a mother and her children in the Kibbutz Mezter, November 2002. The title of the piece is Revenge of a Child. The essay is not addressed specifically to Islamic suicide bombing, but it speaks directly to the rage that compels embattled people to commit atrocious acts...and the similar atrocities that create such rage.

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So what makes them do these things? What makes other Palestinians justify them?

In order to cope, one has to understand, and that does not mean to justify. Nothing in the world can justify a Palestinian who shoots at a child in his mother's embrace, just as nothing can justify an Israeli who drops a bomb on a house in which a child is sleeping in his bed. As the Hebrew poet Bialik wrote a hundred years ago, after the Kishinev pogrom: "Even Satan has not yet invented the revenge for the blood of a little child."

But without understanding, it is impossible to cope. The chiefs of the IDF have a simple solution: hit, hit, hit. Kill the attackers. Kill their commanders. Kill the leaders of their organizations. Demolish the homes of their families and exile their relatives. But, wonder of wonders, these methods achieve the opposite. After the huge IDF bulldozer flattens the "terrorist infrastructure," destroying-killing-uprooting everything on its way, within days a new "infrastructure" comes into being. According to the announcements of the IDF itself, since operation "Protective Shield" there have been some 50 warnings of imminent attacks every day.

The reason for this can be summed up in one word: rage.

Terrible rage, that fills the soul of a human being, leaving no space for anything else. Rage that dominates the person's whole life, making life itself unimportant. Rage that wipes out all limitations, eclipses all values, breaks the chains of family and responsibility. Rage that a person wakes up with in the morning, goes to sleep with in the evening, dreams about at night. Rage that tells a person: get up, take a weapon or an explosive belt, go to their homes and kill, kill, kill, no matter what the consequences.


As Avnery describes it (and he is someone who has spent his life working with Israelis and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Jews, Marxists and Secularists building peace in that brutalized region of the world) the key ingredient is not Religion, but Rage.






Wed Apr 05, 2006 7:41 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
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riverc0il: The interesting thing about Suicide Bombers being thrown into the mix is that there is no fear of mutually assured destruction. That normally keeps most violence to a minimum, the fear of death or revoking liberty.


This is just a rhetorical thought experiment kind of question, not necessarily meant for a verbal answer:

"How many Suicide Bombers are alive today?"

I ask that question because I wonder if our use of language doesn't stand in our way sometimes. I think the same question could be asked about our habit (induced habit due to watching too much tv?) of labeling certain people "terrorists." Can a person really be a terrorist if he/she has not yet committed an act of terror?

To get even more rhetorical, would we be using these labels if we weren't being raised by a corporate owned media?

Who's yer Daddy?




Thu Apr 06, 2006 8:42 am
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Post My thoughts
I agree with some of the author's broader concepts, but those are generally ideas that I've encountered previously. War has been, and continues to be, a net negative in the world, because religious persecution and warfare outweigh its benefits. With so many mutually inconsistent religions out there, it's difficult to comprehend why so many people believe that theirs is the one that's correct.

However, Harris often goes too far, oversimplifies things, and makes inaccurate statements. Many of you, especially mal4mac (welcome to the group!), have mentioned my strongest objections. I'll bring up some other points.

Harris's attack on religious moderates was rather dubious. People's religious beliefs, and other beliefs for that matter, are generally an incoherent mixture of traditional structures, modern concepts, personal experiences, and gut reactions. It's totally reasonable for someone to accept certain religious dogmas while dismissing others, picking and choosing the portions of the holy books and traditions to accept.

Since Harris is such a vigilant atheist, it's surprising when he claims that "there also seems to be a data attesting to the reality of psychic phenomena...". Unlike Harris, I'm as skeptical of the paranormal as I am of religion.




Fri Apr 07, 2006 1:56 am
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Post Re: My thoughts
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MA said: I need to find a more precise way to search for titles on the topic (suicide bombing), but from the outset this looks like an understudied phenomenon.

There is a recent book by an expert on the subject, Dying to Win : The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism by Robert Pape. Haven't read it, but it should slake your thirst... ::182




Mon Apr 10, 2006 11:01 pm
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Post Re: My thoughts
Mad:

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Not so much by Jews, though. Most of the contests over the Holy Land have been between gentile and secular Europe and the groups of people loosely referred to as Arab or Levant.


Yes, but it is all in the name of the Judeo-Xtian god. Are you denying the underlying idea that those who follow these faiths are really expecting a Rapture? The Jews and Xtians differ on the details, but do you not think that the dogma of the faith over the past 2000+ years are driving factors to control the Holy Land? Do you not think that some of these people who believe this are in positions of power? Do you reject that people can make earth shattering decisions based on a fantasy? Religion, IMO, is the most dangerous of these fantasies because it can move so many people by emotion and claims to ultimate truth and wish fulfillment.

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You're right. We, fighting under the rubric of a secular cause, were attacking civilian targets, firebombing populous cities, dropping the first nuclear weapon. And while we're at it, the Japanese were also targetting civilian populations, but mostly in China and the Pacific Islands.


Absolutely. People suck. War will always be around unless we learn to realize we are all really the same....do away with what separates us. Religion is just one of those things. That is what we are discussing here, the continuing need for or doing away with religion, not war based on geo-political conflicts.

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My point is not that secularism is more apt to allow for atrocity, but that its no protection against those atrocities.


I was never arguing against this. Just showing that there is a big difference between terrorism and war. Both suck.

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Edited by: misterpessimistic  at: 4/11/06 12:52 pm



Tue Apr 11, 2006 11:43 am
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Post Re: My thoughts
Spoken like someone who thinks humanism cannot work!

We are all the same in any way that matters. We are born, we live the best we can, we breed and care for our kids and families and we die.

We all face the same trials when it comes down to it. We create the differences between us because of lack of contact with each other or because of not caring about others.

We are all the same. The fact that anyone cannot see this disturbs me.

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

Once you perceive the irrevocable truth, you can no longer justify the irrational denial. - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper

Edited by: misterpessimistic  at: 4/11/06 1:07 pm



Tue Apr 11, 2006 12:06 pm
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Post Re: My thoughts
misterpessimistic: War will always be around unless we learn to realize we are all really the same....do away with what separates us.

What if we're not all really the same? What if what separates us is what makes our individual lives worth living?




Tue Apr 11, 2006 12:50 pm
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Post good to see criticism
I'm pleased to see people offering criticism of this book. I read about it on Truthdig, then took it out of the library and just started reading it. I was disconcerted by how shallow much of his thinking seems to be, especially when I've just been thumbing through Bruce Bawer's "Stealing Jesus," which I read a few years ago. Bawer does a thorough analysis of American Christian fundamentalism, and outlines the way religious moderates have permitted fundamentalists to define religion in the U.S. I will keep reading the Harris book, and hope to keep reading insightful comments on this board.




Tue Apr 11, 2006 3:36 pm
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Post Re: good to see criticism
I like the book so far. I agree with Harris on much of what he said through the first chapter. Yes, it is angry and an attack...but, well...you all know me! Does not mean it is not true.

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

Once you perceive the irrevocable truth, you can no longer justify the irrational denial. - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Tue Apr 11, 2006 3:56 pm
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Post Re: good to see criticism
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Spoken like someone who thinks humanism cannot work!

We are all the same in any way that matters. We are born, we live the best we can, we breed and care for our kids and families and we die.

We all face the same trials when it comes down to it. We create the differences between us because of lack of contact with each other or because of not caring about others.

We are all the same. The fact that anyone cannot see this disturbs me.

Mr. P.

I have to disagree with you on this Mr. P. I do not think Mad's statement was off base nor does it presuppose that Mad does not think Humanism can "work" (though what exactly is Humanism really "working" on, I am not sure. I think of it more as a moral and philosophical guideline than a call to action).

I think Mad raises an important point that we ARE different. Each and every one of us are individuals and we are consistantly reacting to everyone around us. I also think that it is important to consider the possiblity that aggression and fighting is within our nature. If you look around at the rest of the Animal Kingdom, you would be hard pressed to find species that are not consistantly striving and fighting for land, food, breeding rights, etc. I am currently reading Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World and he makes a similar point that makes a great correlation with this subject in the current chapter. Perhaps we need to acknowledge our differences and our innate tendency to fight and struggle before we can learn to cooperate and grow together. This can all be in existance within the human spirit without religion and faith existing, but I would assert that religion certainly makes worse those other smaller differences normally easily over come in the spirit of cooperation. I do not think we "create" the differences between us, but I do think that we do not work to defuse the differences. And I think the difference is more than a symatic word game.




Tue Apr 11, 2006 4:10 pm
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Post Re: good to see criticism
Welcome, Tobiahsgirl!

Obviously, all people are distinct individuals, and that individuality is important. Still, we share a common humanity, which makes the well-being of every person matter.

Unfortunately, some people view the world in us-versus-them terms, where 'them' consists of groups with different races, religions, nationalities, etc. That mentality causes a great deal of suffering.




Tue Apr 11, 2006 11:05 pm
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Post Re: good to see criticism
Tobiahsgirl, I second JulianTheApostate's welcome. We look forward to hearing some of your thoughts as you get into the book!:)




Wed Apr 12, 2006 5:44 am
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