The horrific attacks on the French capital hit good people everywhere in a part of their hearts that I like to think we are generally not even attuned to.
Humans have this great capacity for empathy, the ability to place ourselves mentally in the shoes of someone, and feel how they are feeling. I know all the impotent rage I felt when I heard of people in a concert hall being picked off one by one by these crazy terrorists bent on destruction.
The debates ignited by this tragedy have been massive, and would likely continue for a while to come. The issues are multi faceted, but as someone whose sight is always trained on religion- obviously that is the angle I am going to look at it from.
The attack by ISIS has already ignited that fierce, everlasting debate over the role religion plays in these attacks. Already the religion of peace brigade has come out, claiming this has nothing to do with Islam and that the terrorists demean the faith. And then there is the other side, who claim everything is the fault of the religion, and refuse to accept the socio cultural, economic, and political factors that underlines every act of terrorism.
The truth as always- lies somewhere in the middle. And whilst I would not blame everything on Islam- there are undoubtedly good and peaceful Muslims who are horrified by this as much as everyone else- I also would not sit back and pretend that Islam is a religion of peace and that these terrorists are perverting it. And I would be damned if I would let these so-called ‘moderates’, who give legitimacy to these same texts that these barbarians use to justify their actions- get away with claiming so.
Sam Harris is a man of many faults. On occasions he goes overboard with his rhetoric, and has been characterised as Islamophobe on many occasions. But he is right when he talks about the palpable link between ideas and actions, and he always claims that all he wants is for people to recognise that link.
And that is the link moderates deny when they trot out the banalities about religion of peace and blah blah blah. There is scarcely a holy text on this planet (of the three great monotheisms anyway) which can be called as advocating for peace, and any claim to the contrary, like we see from Muslims and PC liberals in the wake of such attacks- is nothing but disingenuity at its best.
The Quran is hardly the most peaceful book out there. In portions, it is even able to top the comical barbarity of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Of course, like every other holy book it has its good portions, when it calls for world peace and not to kill or to commit suicide and such. But then falls flat when it calls for the murder of the infidel and the subjugation of women and minorities.
And the mistake is to somehow claim, that the parts which we independently have decided are good, have been ordained by God- but that the parts chosen by the extremists has been taken out of context, or need to be read in the proper historical sense- or some other such rationalisation bulls**t.
It’s all in the same damn book! And even leaving aside the matter of how omniscient deities somehow manage to write books with contradictions- we still have to contend with the matter of interpretation. Because basically that’s all it comes down to, a matter of opinion- and I do not see what legitimacy one side holds to claim theirs is the correct interpretation.
So here is my argument- so long as you believe in a book that contains even one jot of barbarity, and proclaim it holy- you are complicit whenever someone uses that book to murder others. Most holy books were written in centuries when we would all agree man was in its infancy, and rightfully contains morals from that not so enlightened time- yet we recoil in horror when people, based on the legitimacy we have given these books- actually do some of the messed up sh*t these books endorse.
I would like if every religious person on this planet became a moderate, ignoring the terrible portions of scripture and leaving by the good portions- but that is never going to happen, and besides a lot of that is relative anyway. In the absence of that, I would at least like some honesty when dealing with such instances, where instead of retreating to your entrenched corner and claiming terrorism has nothing to do with your religion- at least acknowledge the terrible portions of scripture, and reinforce how some parts must be metaphorical, or whatever keeps you from ignoring those portions.
But most of all, I would like people to stop believing in these obviously very flawed books, and let us live by the shared morality we already obviously have contained within. People discard much of Leviticus because we intrinsically know a lot of that is wrong- so why don’t we bypass the whole book altogether?
Minus that, so long as even one person gives legitimacy to the Bible, and the Quran, and whichever holy book is out there which has horrible parts which crazy people can use as justification- then you do not have the privilege to come and tell us those people are not representing your religion. They are representing your religion, a segment of it to be sure- just as you also represent a segment of it.
After all, nobody really lives by ALL the tenets their holy book espouses.