Fitna the Movie

The latest video to presumably draw attention to the threat to Western society from radical Islamists got me thinking about religiosity in general, human thinking about religious beliefs, where else such violent beliefs are preached, and what is supposed to be the point of a video like Fitna.

LIZARD BRAIN
First, there’s absolutely no excuse for and never can be any for acts of terrorism regardless of who perpetrates them upon whom. It’s inconceivable to me that we as a species still want to use force as a means to resolve conflicts, solve problems, and force ideologies upon one another, and that we will gladly kill each other doing so.

As far as I’m concerned, violence is a primitive, lizard-brain response. It is a product of “mentally retarded” thinking. Not the physiological / neurological condition but a conscious and intentionally backward thought process. I just don’t understand how after millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of social development, our species continues to think that killing one another is an acceptable way to deal with each other.

It’s also why I have a hard time with the hypocrisy of opposing abortion but defending capital punishment; how as a society we demand rights like bearing arms and yet still have one of the most violent societies with the greatest numbers of the population in prisons.
(see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7270607.stm, http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_tot_cri_percap-crime-total-crimes-per-capita, http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_wit_fir_percap-crime-murders-firearms-per-capita, and http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_pri_per_cap-crime-prisoners-per-capita)

But that’s a discussion for another day. Back to Fitna.

RELIGIOUS “THINKING” NEEDS TO CHANGE
I’m sure that this next statement will not go down well with some. Religiosity – especially fervent and blind-faith kinds of religiosity – has elements of intellectually backward thinking in it, too. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing or condemning anyone with a belief. Here’s what I mean.

If everyone with an overly zealous religious belief could somehow and someday put aside the teachings of their religion that tell them that their beliefs are superior to others and that those who believe differently need to be either converted or eliminated, then it stands to reason that some measure of the violence that plagues us disappears.

Take note. I’m not saying you have to abandon the belief. Personally, I don’t care if people want to believe in a Hebrew god, a Christian god, a Muslim god, a bunch of gods living on top of a Greek or Italian mountain, or elves, or The Force. All I’m saying is that believers need to accept others and their beliefs without the backward and primitive compulsion to convert or kill the non-believer. Is it so hard to put the lizard brain away?

So the immediate question for me was, “How’s that possible when the belief itself calls for either conversion or destruction?”

My answer to that turned out to be pretty simple; how about just a little more thinking and little less blind faith? People with strong beliefs can still have them, they just need to apply the tiniest bit of rational thinking and recognize that it’s ok if someone else doesn’t believe as they do. Threats and subsequent violence occurs only because believers share this “convert or kill” core value in their religion. Reject that and you’re on your way to peace.

Which brings me to this about religious thinking; I think that the last thing that should happen is for any religion to become the basis for governing rule. Secular democracy is, to my thinking, the only way for societies to peacefully exist. Religion – any religion – has absolutely no productive role to play in governing society exactly because every major religion teaches this fundamental belief that all other beliefs cannot be tolerated.

VIOLENT TEACHINGS AREN’T EXCLUSIVE TO THE QURAN
Before looking at other texts, I think it’s important to appreciate a couple of points.

Translation
As with the passages of the Quran quoted in the “Fitna” film, one needs to keep in mind that no two translations ever are the same. See http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/qmtintro.html if you’re interested in seeing how the Quran is translated 3 different ways.

Let’s also not forget that other religious texts like the Bible are also translations and that, “Translating word for word is both impossible and inadequate” (see http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/press/news/press546e.html).

Context
The other thing people should guard against is taking any translation or individual passage out of its complete context. I readily admit that I have never read the entire Quran or Bible, and have not done so now. Not doing so actually makes this point for me – I’m not judging either book or its teachings, only showing how similar passages and teachings can be found in more than one place.

That being said, the Quran isn’t the only religious text that calls its followers to violence. The following are a few passages courtesy of http://www.biblegateway.com made easier to find courtesy of http://www.religioustolerance.org/intol_bibl.htm.

Starting with the Old Testament since that covers the Jews and the Christians:

Exodus 22:20 (King James Version)
“He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.”

Deuteronomy 13:5 and 10 (King James Version)
5: And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.
10: And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

And just in case anyone thought that violence was limited to the Old Testament, here’s a passage from the New Testament which, as believers would tell you, contains the direct teachings of Jesus himself:

Luke 19:27 (King James Version)
“But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” (Remember, this is supposed to be Jesus himself speaking if one is to believe the Bible.)

Here’s a New Testament passage about the “warm reception” the Jews gave to Paul for one of his sermons:

Acts 22:22 (King James Version)
And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.

Again, I’m not condoning or supporting the teachings of the Quran (or the Bible, for that matter). I’m only making the point that before anyone condemns the Quran for being the *only* religious text that calls its followers to violence, it’s simply not the case.

SO WHAT DO WE DO FROM HERE?
What I’m curious about is what Geert Wilders or anyone else thinks needs to be done? Should every practicing Muslim be converted to Christianity or put to the sword? Should Western societies expel every Muslim as a potential terrorist? Should imams who preach for violence be silenced under current or new hate laws, and where does the line get drawn between freedom of religion and freedom of speech? If the KKK still can march and spread their message, why not others?

I don’t profess to have the answers. All I can do is encourage tolerance and understanding instead of proselytizing and religious self-righteousness, intellect instead of blind faith, and laws that criminalize criminal behavior and not religious beliefs.

What I can’t help thinking is that if people had no religion at all would we be having these problems? If there were no religious differences and no need to convert or kill the non-believers, would we still find reasons to want to kill those who are different? When are we going to evolve in our thinking so that belief systems aren’t the foundation for violence?

Islam, like every other religion and belief system, has a power structure that depends upon a large amount of unquestioning faith. So long as believers allow themselves to be led around like sheep we’ll probably never see real peace; otherwise, how does the Pope or a Shiite cleric retain their power without a follower’s blind faith?