Re: Ch. 2 - The Nature of Belief - Pascal's wager
riverc0il: Unless I misunderstand things, is not Martyrdom is considered a great thing in Islam.
It is, but until recently it's always been associated with being killed by an enemy
while in battle, or with dying as the result of religious persecution. Its association with suicide is, as far as I can tell, a recent accretion. Five years from now, it might be argued with equal force that suicide is not a form of martyrdom. What has made it so in our contemporary situation is a particular reinterpretation of Islam in accordance with the technology and social circumstances that make such bombings practical.These guys are not lining up for psychological evaluation before straping a bomb to their chests, so we will never know the exact mental processes happening prior to their decision.
There are probably ways of evaluating the validity of my argument. Three specific ways occur to me. The first is psychological evaluation of suicide bombers who fail -- that is, either those that back down, those who are apprehended before detonating their bombs, or those who fail through mechanical malfunction. The second is that some suicide bombers actually may have
submitted to psychological evaluation at some point in the past, before they joined a jihadist movement, for instance. The third is a comparative method -- even when direct interview is impossible, many of these people leave enough biographical information that it may be fruitful to compare their lives to already well-established psychological profiles.
To my knowledge, no one has attempted anything of this sort, but then, my knowledge is limited, as this is a subject I'm just starting to explore. But even short of having this sort of evaluation, I don't see why we should assume that religious doctrine holds absolute sway over their behavior given a) that studies of our own and other cultures indicate that the situation is rarely so simple, and b) that there's a simple and perfectly reasonable psychological explanation available.We might also argue their psychology was corrupted by leaders of the movement. When an authority figure tells you to kill yourself, it has been done in cults (Hail Bop).
The cult angle doesn't especially help your case, given that most cult members have a rap sheet of prior psychological problems. Even ignoring that factor, there's major difference between incidents like Jonestown or the Heaven's Gate cult and the sort of prolonged infiltration that took place in preparation for the WTC/Pentagon attacks: namely time apart from the leaders of the movement. Study into Communist thought reform has revealed that "brainwashing" suffers in effectiveness whenever the subject is removed from the social context which supports the reform. If it were the case that the hijackers were merely "corrupted" by the al Queda leaders, you'd expect them to go through a certain level of withdrawal during their immersion in American culture. That they did not suggests that their alienation from Western culture and their determination were aspects of their own personalities, and not elements introduced through fairly recent indoctrination.
All of this is, as I see it, beside the point in terms of whether or not those individuals were suicidal before being called upon to orchestrate their own martyrdom. That there were more capable than most, I'll concede, but it still seems to me that their method was determined in large part by an eagerness to die, one that is more explicable in terms of their disatisfaction with their own lives than in terms of the promises of martyrdom.Your point only suggests that Bin Laden is smart and the men he is commanding to kill themselves are pretty dumb.
I think that may be a valid inference, although I wouldn't couch it in those terms.Though I would be frankly amazed that cult groups like Heavan's Gate would all lie down on a bed and drink poison and not be extatic that their leader's prophecy was about to come true.
I'd be amazed to learn, were it possible to answer such a question, that those same people wouldn't have done exactly the same thing in the name of another cause. I can't see them as people with stable personalities who had the misfortune of getting roped into an irresistably attractive prophecy. To me, their actions make the most sense when you view them as people who were deeply disatisfied with their circumstances, and who hoped to alleviate that disatisfaction by rendering their life entirely to a cause.To commit suicide, you absolutely MUST desire to die, that is an absolute requirement for committing suicide.
Not true. I've dealt with suicides, both on a personal and academic level. People who commit suicide are often motivated less by their perceptions of death than they are by their certainty about the undesireability of life.But the reasons why that desire to die exist is what we are debating.
Taking that as a platform into a related subject, I would say that the mode of jihadist suicide bombing is in large degree a reaction to the perception that many in the Middle East seem to have about their place in the world. Social condition, prolonged political crisis, the condescension of Western globalism -- these are likely all precipitate factors in creating the sort of malaise that makes it possible to utilize suicide as a weapon.We just disagree on whether someone could commit suicide thinking they are contributing to an important goal and be happy doing so.
Not really. I suspect that those who actually go through with suicide bombings probably do feel some measure of happiness in doing so. What I'm arguing is that their decision to die in that manner is the result of a deep, disturbing unhappiness that seems to have permeated their lives up until that moment. Offer them a better way of alleviating that unhappiness, and I suspect that fewer people would volunteer for suicide bombing duty.