Saturday, August 25, 2007

on scary God's Warriors

CNN aired a three-part series last week by Christiane Amanpour called "God's Warriors." It dealt with the religious fanataics of the three major western religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It was downright scary. Believe it, there are people in this world who believe that every one must accept their approach to life without exception and they will kill to achieve that goal. The first segment, two of the six hours, dealt with God" Jewish Warriors. Amanpour talked and researched citizens of Isreal who claim that the West Bank, one of the territories disputed by the Israelis and Palestinians, was promised by God to the Jews and they are right to claim it. They are hard-liners and their desires will keep the sores open in that nation. It has led, she said, to the death of at least one Israeli prime minister at the hands of one of the warriors.

The second two-hour segment covered the God's Muslim Warriors. It was much scarier than the first segment, because it made it plain that the Muslims will be content only when the entire world is wrapped in Muslim extremism. But it did give some of the history behind the Shiite-Sunni differences, although both of them have warriors based on their faith (Al Queda is an extreme view of the Sunni side). The Shia want the rule of Sharia, the very strict religious rule of the Koran that includes stoning of women involved in adultery or pre-marital sex. And even one of the prominent women of Iran seems to believe that stone of young women is fine if it is called for in the Koran. More importantly for us in the west, the people she interviewed who were hard-line religious fanatics of both groups attacked the culture of the west and called for the much more stringent code of the Muslims, which is something similar to the 19th Century western code (which didn't have stoning, but did have ostracism of women who transgressed). What the segment made plain, was the for many of the common Muslims, it is western values that they resent. However, I would suggest that if we weren't over in the Middle East our values would not be causing so much dissent.

The final segment was on the Christian right in this country: God's Christian Warriors. They weren't the same in that they don't go out and, except in small ways such as attacks on abortion clinics, bomb and kill people. But in that way, they are even scarier. They are trying to use our own civilized methods to bring us down and create a state of fanatics. What I don't understand about them is that they seem impervious to facts and to reason. They cannot see that the book they get their faith from has to be interpreted in the context of its times and that it is, perhaps, a spiritual history and folklore of a people, but it is not a factual history. They claim that any deviation from belief in the Bible negates their concept of God, which cannot be allowed. They don't realize that a fundamental belief in the Bible as fact is but a fragile support for their beliefs. But they are trying to make the rest of us accept and adhere to their systems and their ways of the world, which are rather realistic. One of the persons Christiane interviewed extensively was Jerry Falwell before he died. He was frightening. And the only good thing about him was that, at least in one poll I saw, more people thought he had a bad influence on this country than those who praised him. Robert Heinlein in one of his earlier books, wrote about a religious dictatorship set in about the year 2000, about the spying that went on between neighbors and the repressive rule. It didn't work among us because we are two set in our freedom loving ways and the dictatorship was overthrown. Heinlein set the story at the time of the revolution because he said that writing the first part of the history was too depressing.

I come down to one final thought: What kind of thinking makes other people think that they have the right to make us follow their beliefs, which we don't share? Why do they feel that they must force the rest of us to believe the way they do? If their car is going to be empty (bumper sticker I saw) when the Rapture comes, what difference does it make to them that ours will not?

on some people's education

I've been spending a lot of time lately on other websites, most notably those of the Billings Gazette. Some thinking is really starting to get me down. I wonder where some people picked up what little science they know and why they believe what they do about a category of knowledge that has led to the world which we know: computers, smart phones, electronic date books, digital television, and a host of other things. With the reactions to such thing as global warming, they seem to indicate just how ignorant they are about the processes of science. Let's take evolution for instance. Science calls it a theory. So people say, with a shrug: "it's just a theory." And that's correct. But they don't understand that a theory in science is something with a heavy weight of discovery and thinking behind it. A theory is one step from being a law, but science now recognizes that there are so few conditions in the universe without some exceptions that they don't offer many laws. Even the so-called Law of Gravity only is a law in very limited circumstances. Outside of something as limited as the solar system, gravity seems to take on all kinds of not well understood aspects.

Then, let's look at global warming. Yes, there are some heretics out there who seem to think that humans flooding the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses don't play a significant role in global warming. One cited by Discover Magazine a few months ago blames changes in the sun. Yet, the vast majority of scientists have come to a conclusion that we are facing extensive changes in our world with the warming trend, no matter what's causing it. And if greenhouse gasses are playing a role, even a minor one, we need to do what we can to curtail their production and exhaustion into the atmosphere. How are you and I going to react when the people of countries like Bangladesh and China and India and Florida and California begin to move away by the millions from their flooding homelands? Do you want to own beach front property in southern Montana?

Creationists and IDers particularly say about evolution teaching in schools: Let's teach the argument! That's echoed to some extent in slightly different terms not having to do with the schools by Exxon and other global warming antis. What they don't seem to recognize is that there is no SCIENTIFIC argument in either case, particularly evolution. The evolution argument is about the political aspects, not the scientific ones. Without an understanding of evolution, all science collapses. The arguments about global warming also seem to be mostly political, although people always want to toss in the economic aspects and talk about a balance between saving the earth and saving jobs. And that particular argument is discussion apples and oranges. If there is not earth, there are no jobs! Money does not count in the global warming situation. And so-called free markets or free enterprise answers won't work either.

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