Obama’s Middle East

7 Jun, '08

It doesn’t surprise me at all to hear Obama’s unreserved support of Israel, delivered in his speech at the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby. I expected it in fact, maybe to demonstrate his disconnection from the background and descent that dogged him in his campaign. I suppose this will now intensify even more now that he has been chosen and he will direct his full attention to defeating the Republicans’ McCain. But in doing so, he will go even further to the right than McCain would even wish for.

It’s not a knee-jerk reaction, really, he didn’t need to even go to AIPAC now that he secured his position, but going there and reneging on his promises that he has to offer some explanations afterwards is something that we will probably get used to. Maybe this is due to his fervour and age. Or even a deeply rooted complex. But in whatever case, I really don’t hope for much in his Middle East policy if he does become the World’s president. I hope I am mistaken in this belief, but only time will tell. I still think Clinton would have probably made a better president, but it’s not me who’s casting the ballot.

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  1. loki says:

    Any serious presidential candidate has to be fully supportive of Israel. This is business as usual and no reflection on what happens if he gets in to the white house. Bush was initially very tough on Israel, until a certain event.

    I really hope this guy wins. I think it would benefit America on many levels. The fact that he finished Clinton shows that he can play the politics game. I may be optimistic but it might do American foreign policy allot of good to have a president who’s half-siblings are Kenyan.

  2. Abu Arron says:

    As Loki said, he has no choice other than to support Israel if he is to win the Jewish vote during the presidential election. Could this be described as the selective race card?

    However, I do not hope that he wins. Obama is not experienced enough to be successful and would rely too heavily on “wiser” grey men in the background pulling his strings. Colour/race/religion should have no bearing on his ability to do the job but, and I 100% do not agree with this, it may have a significant bearing upon whether he actually makes it to the White House.

    Let’s not forget, the UK voted for a grinning, sound-bite king full of bright ideas and no substance – and look how that turned out!! Tony Blair 😈 has almost run the UK into the ground and, to add insult to injury, dragged the British Armed Forces into Iraq. A strategy, unwanted by the British public, based upon somewhere between total lies and conjecture.

    My soap box is crumbling, I’d better step off now.

  3. blah says:

    Obama said he wouldn’t let lobbies control the white house. well his promises are already fading away. the speech was sucking up to israel like anything. no hope for peace really in the middle east when the americans cant get over the complex of not being able to criticize israel’s policies.

    The irony is in israel you can criticize their government. in the US you can’t…end of story. it is not about the jewish vote obviously that is less than 2% of the population.

    anyone who dares is committing political and social suicide. look at jimmy carter he can only speak when he is outside the US and in his own country he is treated like shit on the side of the road.

  4. Mahmood: I basically agree with you that it isn’t surprising to see Obama’s commentary, and in fact when I was in Bahrain earlier this year I remember having a few conversations with folks trying to get the to realize he wasn’t quite all they thought he was on this front. However, it’s not correct to say he didn’t have to go to AIPAC and give his blech speech. Winning the nomination is one thing, winning the election is another, and pissing off AIPAC is a sure-fire way to get the most powerful lobbying guns in America aimed squarely at you.

    Loki: I have to disagree with the statement that this has nothing to do with what he does when in office. It may be overkill for the campaign right now, but it is an overkill that is reflective of the darker background reality. It takes strength, courage, and political will almost beyond belief to really take on AIPAC. The worst part of it is Obama’s actual policy positions on Palestine and not just his rhetoric at AIPAC. Whereas on Iran he gives a more nuanced position and says he’ll talk with enemies, in Palestine he gives unreserved condemnation of one of the largest political parties, saying he won’t even talk. He adopts fully black-and-white-no-nuance positions in stark contrast to his views elsewhere. This is a dangerous position to be taking.

    Abu Arron: Two things. First, winning over AIPAC isn’t just about winning the Jewish vote. Sure in a few key states like Florida they’re an important swing constituency, but this is even more about ensuring you don’t tick off a vast swathe of conservative Christian Americans and other non-Jewish pro-Zionists. While those may not be for the most part a core Democratic constituency, if you rile them up, then you motivate the Republican base and those people will come out en masse if you give them a cause no matter how facile. Second, while I agree with your general notion that you can’t just have an empty candidate, I actually think it’s incredibly important to look at their advisors. Geez, if the public would have scrutinized and understood GWB’s advisors better, they would have realized the disaster-in-waiting we had coming (did *nobody* realize Richard Perle is an American Rasputin??). And in Obama’s case, while I’ve got a lot of problems with the guys views, his cast of advisors I find is generally pretty darn good. Robert Malley and Zbigniew Brzezinski (at least in his incarnation of recent years) augur well and unlike the others who tend to stack their advisors with macro-level wonks who understand Washington politics but not ground-level issues and real human beings, he’s got a lot of people with ground-level expertise. Technocrats you might almost call them. None of which, sadly to say, says he’s guaranteed to do the right thing. Indeed, I fear as As’ad Abu Khalil expressed recently that he may just give a more competently run empire rather than ending it in favor of making the US merely a strong positive nation in the world. But if the choice is McCain or Obama, seems to me that we’ve got about a 1% chance of McCain doing the right thing and at least a 20% chance of Obama doing it. Not great odds either way, but a pretty clear choice of where the better option lies.

  5. I wouldn’t worry about Obama’s pandering to AIPAC. He’s just saying whatever he needs to say to win the audience in front of him at the moment. His sudden, and doubtless transient, support of Israel is a comical zig zag away from his generally anti-Israel positions, brainlessly adopted from the lefty milieu in which he dwells.

    Obama railed against a Senate measure designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization but then recently tacked back the other way, saying, of COURSE they’re a terrorist organization. He’s a cynical guy who depends upon his Democratic audience’s short memory span with respect to his conflicting positions and his own charm to glide through those conflicts when noticed. Tomorrow, Obama could well be campaigning in Detroit in front of an audience of Arab Americans paying obeisance to Palestine.

    The scary thing about Obama is that he is as ignorant about foreign policy as a pig is about Sunday. His entire brief career has been all about dishing government money out to his constituents, not about international relations. Consequently, he is little smarter than the average tourist to the Middle East who thinks we can solve all the problems there by having a good long talk, holding hands, and singing. He’s a chump who would be easily played by the local tyrants.

    That said, the notion that Israel runs America is bigoted nonsense. Most Americans don’t care about much beyond their own doorstep, let alone Israel on the other side of the world. American Jews vote Democratic. Lots of Republicans have won without their vote. Obama will get the Jewish vote whether he supports Palestine or Israel or both or neither, simply because he’s a Democrat.

    That said, America should support Israel as a democracy in a neighborhood of tyrannies. America should also reject the Muslim desire to perpetrate a second Holocaust. The best solution would be for Muslims to give up their murderous medieval religious hate and learn to cooperate with the world. September 11 also shows us that Israel is the canary in the coal mine for America. If Muslims succeed in their bloody jihad there, they will be encouraged to propagate their violence elsewhere.

    Loki, Obama did not beat Clinton because he was better but rather that even the Democrats became appalled by the Clintons. Some even conceded we conservatives were right all along that the Clintons are simply awful people. They don’t want the Clinton corruption, scandal, sleaze, and willingness to ruin their friends to win. And they really don’t want Bill and his girlfriends back in the White House.

    And I don’t think having Kenyan siblings are a qualification for office. Your ideas and behavior should be the issue, not your race nor gender.

  6. isa says:

    Well said Non-Arab Arab. Although, I would add that the chance of a new war in the middle east in the next couple of years, assuming Bush doesn’t start another one, is much lower with an Obama presidency then it is with a McCain. The guy has been siding with Bush on cowboy attitude towards Iran, not to mention his ludicrous support for the neo-con idea of imposing democracy by force even before the Bush admin took it up.
    Furthermore, Obama makes one hell of a speech.

  7. ammaro says:

    he’s playing the game the way it needs to be played. what someone does after getting the presidency can sometimes have no relevance to what he says before getting it. in terms of middle east policy, i dont obama will do much, anyway. he’s going to pretty much focus on internal US issues, methinks.

  8. isa says:

    Steve, substantiate your accusations of Obama.

    The reason Obama did not support the Senate measure to declare the Iranian National Guard a terrorist Organization is that it legitimizes attacking Iran. I think given the track record of the Bush admin to go on campaign mode using innuendo and propaganda to its own end as verified by those who left the administration and talked about, most recently McLellan, justifies why any reasonable person would take such a stance to such legislation.

    Additionally, whilst I agree with you that Obama has not had first hand experience with matters of foreign policy, he is intelligent, he follows good principles and receives advise from many who are experienced in that area, including senator Nunn who easily outmatches McCain and anything he can throw in this area.

    Finally, please, be substantive and do not use ad hominem fallacies and etcetera in your response, and as you finished your post, discuss clear policies instead of placing labels on the man.

  9. Been There, Done That says:

    Why do we make the Palestinian problem our problem? What has that got to do with us khaleejis? I really have to applaud GCC governments for doing little other than paying lip-service to what really is someone else is cause. I say yes to immediate and full economic and political relations with Israel. They can add more value to the region by being a part of it than not, more so than the likes of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and all those other dismal corners of the Middle East. Then we wouldnt be worrying about Obama and his record with AIPAC would we now….

  10. mahmood says:

    oooh boy…

    <DUCK!>

  11. Great idea “Been There, Done That” – abandon all principles, be selfish, never care for the weak, get rich, screw the poor and oppressed…oh wait, are we talking about Philippinos or Palestinians?

    “Steve the American”: have you ever walked a mile in the shoes of any Arab, Palestinian, or Muslim? Somehow I doubt it.

  12. nibaq says:

    The Daily Show about Obama, McCain and Hillary (notice that no one refers to her last name). Jon Stewart presents the AIPAC with the visit of the candidates candidly and openly in 5 minutes.

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=171492&title=indecision-5768

  13. Kakarot says:

    From the Jerusalem Post

    Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama did not rule out Palestinian sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem when he called for Israel’s capital to remain “undivided,” his campaign told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.

    To paraphrase an ex-president” Depends what you mean by ‘undivided’.

  14. Demo says:

    Oh I can’t wait to see steve the bigot’s tears when Obama is elected.

    These right-wing freaks haven’t learnt the lesson and don’t want to as long as their selfish pockets are full. 9/11 happened because of your bigotry and crap policies in the middle east. you talk with exactly the same logic as bin laden. keep on waging wars you destructive devils on earth.

    Obama 08!

  15. Anon- 4 ever says:

    He is a Clinton/Bush in a black face! no more!

  16. victoria says:

    Excerpt from Obamas speach to AIPAC

    Let me be clear. Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper – but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided

    Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama did not rule out Palestinian sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem when he called for Israel’s capital to remain “undivided,” his campaign told The Jerusalem Post Thursday

    Sounds like typical deceptive double talk to me ….

  17. Ash says:

    Totally off-topic but Mahmood was that YOUR Hannah I just saw interviewed on British TV about a two-faith upbringing? It was only a short piece but she came across really well.

  18. mahmood says:

    I don’t think so… was she identified as an “Al-Yousif”?

  19. Salman says:

    This train is never late. Even more punctual than the Swiss national rail!

  20. heraish says:

    Gcc governments use the Palestinian issue to avoid democratising their own countries. So the Palestinian issue is a khaleeji issue. When someone says to gcc governments you have a human rights problem. To deflect the criticism the gcc government says, “shut up” look at Palestine.

    Obama is a typical politician. The best we can hope is a limited draw down in Iraq. Also he will surely be involved in the middle east no questions about that. Then maybe the next president will actually move to pull them out.

    The way to put more influence on what is happening is for the gcc governments to at least speak with a single voice and work on uniting faster. They also should get yemen inducted. Expand and the influence you exert will be larger.

  21. In short I go with all those saying “it’s a part of the game Obama should win”… & in all cases, I feel he’s gonna be WAY much better than his Republican rival…

  22. M says:

    “I really have to applaud GCC governments for doing little other than paying lip-service to what really is someone else is cause.”

    Well, I wouldn’t go so far as actually applauding them for doing the same thing that rest of the world has been doing for years and years, but your point is valid and places the blame and the resolution of the problem where it now belongs. That’s a good thing.

    “Steve the American”: have you ever walked a mile in the shoes of any Arab, Palestinian, or Muslim? Somehow I doubt it.

    Dang! I thought you were going to ask him if he had ever walked a mile in a Israel’s shoes? 🙄 How about a Quaker’s shoes, Steve, or…….

    Steve, I have to say after all these years that you just improve with age. Not only are you responsible for all the ills and injustices in America but across the globe as well. Do you think you and OBL can have a sleep over and adjust your crap policies just a tad; the world would greatly appreciate it.

  23. isa: “The guy has been siding with Bush on cowboy attitude towards Iran, not to mention his ludicrous support for the neo-con idea of imposing democracy by force even before the Bush admin took it up.”

    We imposed democracy by force on Nazi Germany and Hirohito’s Japan, both of which turned out rather well. Democracy was imposed by force in South Korea and India, too, which are both success stories. All of these were done long before Bush came along to propagate democracy in Iraq, which has come along much farther than any Arab nation has done on its own initiative. Maybe you should try a little cowboy attitude in forming your own democracy instead of sitting in the dust of the other civilizations as they pass you by.

    isa: “The reason Obama did not support the Senate measure to declare the Iranian National Guard a terrorist Organization is that it legitimizes attacking Iran.”

    Actually, the Senate measure is intended to put financial pressure on the Revolutionary Guard so as to curtail their support of terrorism and nuclear program. The idea is to deny them access to the international financial system. That’s far better than dropping bombs on Teheran, wouldn’t you agree?

    Obama has given several reasons for opposing the bill as he retreats from his original position, but basically he’s an appeaser who doesn’t want to antagonize the Iranians, thinking he can talk them out of their bellicosity.

    The only people seriously talking about attacking Iran are the Left. I don’t think it’s going to happen. We’re better off helping the disgruntled Iranians topple their mad mullahs from the inside. Iran is a fragile power which can be economically paralyzed without a drop of blood shed by simply stopping their export of oil and import of gasoline.

    isa: “Additionally, whilst I agree with you that Obama has not had first hand experience with matters of foreign policy, he is intelligent, he follows good principles and receives advise from many who are experienced in that area, including senator Nunn who easily outmatches McCain and anything he can throw in this area.”

    This is clearly untrue. Obama built his candidacy on opposing the Iraq war as unwinnable, claiming the surge and its affiliated strategy would fail, that it would create more insurgents. Now we see that the war in Iraq is steadily headed toward victory. The insurgent phase of the war could well end by the end of the year. The military roles could dwindle down to peace-keeping, like Kosovo.

    The insurgents have not increased but rather have been killed, captured, or run off. The Islamist websites are chattering away over how they lost Iraq. Now, the original theorist of Al Qaeda has turned against terrorism as counter-productive, along with his fellow hard-core Islamists. The insurgents have been beaten not only physically and psychologically, but philosophically. They’re burnt weenies on a skewer.

    Obama was clearly wrong in his judgement of the Iraq strategy, and not a little bit but completely wrong. For someone who touts his judgement as better, this should be quite a stroke against that claim. And really, isn’t it preposterous for somebody with so little experience to claim his judgement is better than those with greater experience? Obama is quite an arrogant guy in that regard. He’s like a teenager who thinks he knows better than the adults and is all too happy to tell everyone so.

  24. Demo: “Oh I can’t wait to see steve the bigot’s tears when Obama is elected.”

    Ah, yes, anybody who opposes Obama can only do so out of racism. Such race-baiting is another reason why you should lose.

    Demo: “9/11 happened because of your bigotry and crap policies in the middle east.”

    The Sep 11 atrocities were perpetrated by Bin Laden to conquer the world for Allah in accordance with the Koran. This attack is part of the larger jihad Muslims have perpetrated against the non-Muslim world since the inception of Islam, a bellicose religion which is murderously intolerant of the non-Muslim world. Sep 11 is all about bloody Islamic supremacism and imperialism.

    It illustrates the power of denial of the Muslim world when you can call America a land of bigotry when it protects every religion in the world while your own bigoted land attacks every other religion and chases their worshippers out.

    It’s also amusing to hear you complain about American policies as crap when we have made so many of you rich beyond imagining and improved your lives in ways beyond counting, including this very Internet we write on. By contrast, what policies of the Muslim world are anything but crap. What lives have you improved or enriched? The main export of your culture is terror. What have you given the world that has made the lives of one human better?

  25. Non-Arab Arab: ““Steve the American”: have you ever walked a mile in the shoes of any Arab, Palestinian, or Muslim? Somehow I doubt it.”

    I rented some shoes once when I went bowling. It’s possible I walked in the shoes some Arabs, Palestinians, or Muslims bowled in. Would that count?

    Been There, Done That: “Why do we make the Palestinian problem our problem? What has that got to do with us khaleejis? … I say yes to immediate and full economic and political relations with Israel.”

    Oh, my, I had to go splash some water on my face when I read that. Yes, wouldn’t it be better if the Middle East took a page from the Israeli book and used it to improve itself rather than trying to burn up the book of anyone who differs from them?

    M: “Steve, I have to say after all these years that you just improve with age.”

    Like a big wheel of stinky cheese, perhaps?

    M: “Not only are you responsible for all the ills and injustices in America but across the globe as well. Do you think you and OBL can have a sleep over and adjust your crap policies just a tad; the world would greatly appreciate it.”

    I keep inviting Osama Bin Laden to lunch but he keeps putting me off: the cave needs cleaning, have to organize the snuff videos, writing another manifesto, etc. I have a standing reservation at a barbecue joint on Wilson Boulevard. It’s the table shaded by the big box propped up on one side by a stick tied to a string that goes off into the bushes.

    However, M, I’m heartened at last to receive some recognition for all the oppression I perpetrate all day and into the night. It’s hard work oppressing people all across America, as you can imagine, but it’s simply brutal oppressing people the world around. Do you have any idea how many thousands of different ethnic groups there are scattered across all the different continents, each of which must be given the correct dollup of oppression? The oppression has to be uniformly applied to everyone so as not to play favorites. Can’t have that.

    When I’m sitting at my desk in the wee hours of the night, burning the midnight oil, trying to figure out how to screw over some small tribe in a forgotten corner of the world, well, sometimes I feel like my work is not appreciated. It’s not like I ever get a certificate of appreciation, like “BEST OPPRESSOR, WASHINGTON DIVISION,” or maybe a plaque from the Amerikkkan Fascist Bush Regime: EMPLOYEE OF THE WEEK!

    I’ll confess. Sometimes I lose my love of oppression. Somedays the thrill is just gone. Sometimes I feel like saying, what’s the point of oppressing all these people when nobody seems to notice?

    However, when I’m down and losing the will to go on, somebody like you comes along and gives me the encouragement I need to press on with renewed sense of purpose. Thanks, M. It really does mean something.

    Well, I gotta call Karl Rove up and tell him to crank up the weather machine. It’s high time we gave India a double monsoon this year. Our biological warfare guys are working on bio-engineering mad cow disease into mad camel disease. We have high hopes that will raise the Craziness Quotient in the Middle East by five points.

  26. Anonny says:

    When I’m sitting at my desk in the wee hours of the night, burning the midnight oil, trying to figure out how to screw over some small tribe in a forgotten corner of the world, well, sometimes I feel like my work is not appreciated.

    Milton! I thought you were dead!

  27. Ash says:

    Yes, Mahmood – Hannah al-Yousif, with a Bahraini father and British mother (the reporter introduced her with that info), talking on camera as part of a programme slot on multifaith families. Long dark hair, glasses, nice looking girl.

  28. Salman says:

    Just imagine what would happen in America if Obama gets elected president, and then converts to Islam?

  29. Ash says:

    Me again. I just found the clip online. Unless you’ve moved to Oxfordshire, it’s not your Hannah after all … but somewhere in Oxfordshire there is a Hannah al-Yousif who lives with her Bahraini Muslim dad and English Christian mother. Clip here – the Hannah section starts 42 minutes and 22 seconds into the programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/page/item/b00c1cnr.shtml

  30. Ash says:

    eh up, why didn’t my last comment appear?

    Mahmood, just found a clip of Ms. Hannah al-Yousuf online. She lives in Oxfordshire so not your Hannah but, weirdly, she has almost the same name bar one letter (which may be an English translation thing anyway), a British Christian mother and a Bahraini Muslim father. Strange world …

  31. mahmood says:

    That would be my cousin Alaa’s and Heather’s daughter! Your message might have been held for moderation due to links, I’ll have a look now and see if I can find it.

  32. mahmood says:

    Unfortunately that clip only plays through UK IP addresses. Damn BBC!

  33. Salman: “Just imagine what would happen in America if Obama gets elected president, and then converts to Islam?”

    Considering how much his old church hated America, it doesn’t look like switching to a mosque would be much of a leap.

  34. loki says:

    Salman,

    He would be invited to go for a drive down Elm Street in Dallas in a convertible.

  35. Aliandra says:

    Obama is just echoing common sentiment for Israel. If Americans find it difficult to sympathize with the Palestinians, it’s for several reasons, which have nothing to do with AIPAC. They don’t care for people who blame others for all their problems, do nothing to improve their situation, steal billions dollars in aid money, attack interests of those donor countries because a cartoonist mocked their prophet, turn their young into human bombs, destroy greenhouses left for their economic benefit, wallow in corruption, etc, etc, etc..

    Israel is a modern country with a progressive economy. The Israelis sure have a lot to answer for, but that is why, temperamentally at least, Americans prefer Israeli dynamism over Palestinian stagnation and self destructiveness.

  36. isa says:

    STA: We imposed democracy by force on Nazi Germany and Hirohito’s Japan, both of which turned out rather well. Democracy was imposed by force in South Korea and India, too, which are both success stories.
    Nazi Germany and Japan presented unambiguously conceptually distinct situations; they were actively in war against America and the allies. It was not “a let’s scare people into thinking Saddam has nuclear weapons by a repeated reference to mushroom clouds” etc war. It was also done without international consensus. The only ally was Britain who was bullied into, and as a result perhaps the most successful PM in the history of the UK has tainted his legacy in the view of every single citizen.
    South Korea, not applicable either, Korea wars, which were proxy wars for the cold war. And if my history is correct, India did not have democracy imposed on it, people demanded it and they received just that. I hope you are not taking credit for that. The idea was French in modern times, and before that represented in the ancient Greek polis.

    STA: All of these were done long before Bush came along to propagate democracy in Iraq, which has come along much farther than any Arab nation has done on its own initiative.
    Wow! Now this is a lie. It is offensive and disrespectful to the hundreds of thousands killed and millions displaced that you just made that claim.
    There is no progress, just because only 15 americans died last month, means that you have 1. Set the bar too low, 2, haven’t actually heard of people who have good opportunities to pursue a decent life elsewhere in the middle-east or arab land if you wish. The Shiites are split, the sunnis are split, the Kurds don’t want to share the Oil. Sure that sounds like heaven.

    STA: Actually, the Senate measure is intended to put financial pressure on the Revolutionary Guard so as to curtail their support of terrorism and nuclear program. The idea is to deny them access to the international financial system. That’s far better than dropping bombs on Teheran, wouldn’t you agree?
    Like hell I would agree. I would also note that UN sanctions already put the full pressure in this sense on any Iran based organization. I know that first hand having worked in western financial institutions, and the mere mention of dealing with a client who has a client who has a client who has a cousin who has something to do with Iran brings rooms to complete halt. So, from my view, the bill was merely a labeling project, and I might be somewhat mistaken. The point of which is quite obvious, you are forcing the senators to line up behind the government, as any Senator would be scared to oppose this matter for being vilified by right wing nuts, they do exist too you know.

    STA: Obama has given several reasons for opposing the bill as he retreats from his original position, but basically he’s an appeaser who doesn’t want to antagonize the Iranians, thinking he can talk them out of their bellicosity.
    The only people seriously talking about attacking Iran are the Left. I don’t think it’s going to happen. We’re better off helping the disgruntled Iranians topple their mad mullahs from the inside. Iran is a fragile power which can be economically paralyzed without a drop of blood shed by simply stopping their export of oil and import of gasoline.

    Firstly, you are obviously misusing the word appeasement in the labeling of Barack. To appease is to reconcile or attempt to acquire peace by way of concessions or gifts. He is not conceding, he is simply maintaining the one needs to talk with his enemy. By labeling people, and nations you only antagonize them and you get more of the Iranian people who would have been somewhat pro-western to line up with the government. So, in effect, to be able to pursue diplomacy, and not appeasement, you should be willing to set and talk with your adversaries before shitting all over them, and make the “Bomb bomb bomb iran” song a la McCain you’re national anthem.
    Another amusing fact is that you’re stopping Iran’s oil exports would more likely cause a revolution in USA than in Iran.

    STA: This is clearly untrue. Obama built his candidacy on opposing the Iraq war as unwinnable, claiming the surge and its affiliated strategy would fail, that it would create more insurgents. Now we see that the war in Iraq is steadily headed toward victory.
    Another miss-statement. He built his candidacy opposing the Iraq was as unjustified, not unwinnable. Also, I would add that the general public demand from the 70% or so of Americans who oppose the war now as well as Obama, is to challenge you to actually draw a clear line and define what winning means. After all, major military operations stopped five years ago, didn’t they now bushy?
    And even General Patreus, who I personally feel sorry for, being sent to testify in front of the senate by the Government as their scapegoat, wasn’t able to state that we are heading steadily towards victory not even that there were significant and unambiguous gains. I think the words he used were fragile situations – some progress. So, I don’t know where you get your news from, but its just not happening. Also, Kosovo… hmm, after all a lot of people still treat you like liberators and want you to stay right? Not true, Iraqi parliament is opposed to the open ended extension of American military presence that your government is putting a great deal of pressure on the PM to agree to. Funnily enough, maliky ran off to Tehran to fill them in.

    STA: Obama is quite an arrogant guy in that regard. He’s like a teenager who thinks he knows better than the adults and is all too happy to tell everyone so.

    I would remove “Obama” and put “Steve the American” given your fallacious arguments, and bizarre “facts”.

    Try again, try harder.

  37. isa,

    Your dismissal of Nazi Germany and Hirohito’s Japan as examples of democracy imposed by force are rathered strained. Likewise, your dismissal of the democracy imposed on India during their long occupation by the British is far too facile. The fact is that democracy has been imposed by the USA on powers far more hostile than Iraq who were far less promising candidates for democracies. You have to put on the lead blinders to avoid seeing that. And you have to also ignore that Iraqi democracy is far further along than any progress toward the same in any Arab nation, courtesy of the USA.

    To claim that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died in Iraq is to gulp down the Kool-Aid of the absurd anti-American propaganda that is the currency of the bigoted Arab world. You are a fool to believe it and a bigger fool to propagate it. The facts are that far fewer Iraqis died because the US invaded, sparing them from Saddam’s pogroms of which anti-American critics are oddly silent.

    Over the last year, insurgents have killed about 600 Iraqi civilians on purpose for every civilian inadvertently killed by US forces. Yet your criticism falls upon the Americans who are building roads, schools, hospitals, sewage systems instead of the insurgents trying to tear all that up and who send suicide bombers into Iraqi markets. That omission reveals your lack of regard for the Iraqis and the truth. It’s all about hating America, isn’t it?

    Your recital of the all the problems in Iraq and its implicit conclusion that victory there is impossible is another tired variation on the old Arab dysfunctional attitude that if there are any problems in a project then the whole project is a failure. The perfect is always the enemy of the good for you. It’s one of the reasons you don’t accomplish anything. It’s why you see nothing but failure while the last pockets of insurgents are now being reduced in Iraq.

    While you cling to your notion that the Senate measure designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG) is a “labelling” measure meant to foment war with Iran, it is in fact a rather restrained response to Iranian aggression. How odd it is that you concoct instances of labeling by America while ignoring crazy Ahmadinejad’s labeling of Israel as a stinking corpse, threatening to burn it up with nukes, and all the other crazy Muslim venom he spits. Ahmadinejad is a fountain of vituperation, yet he gets pass from you who ostensibly objects so strenuously to labeling. Why the double standard, Isa?

    One Friday night a few weeks ago over at Walter Reed Army Medical Center there was the father of a soldier wounded in Iraq by an IED. It contained a shaped charge, provided by Iran via the IRG, which blew a jet of molten metal through his thigh. A Senate measure putting financial pressure on Iran and the IRG is a rather restrained response to such bloody provocation. We’ve already captured plenty of Iranian arms, IRG agents, and their commanders in Iran. If we were eager to start another war, like the apocalyptic Iranian theocrats are, we already have the casus belli to do so. Yet we don’t.

    I’m amused by your hair-splitting with regard to my entirely correct labeling of Obama as an appeaser. His political experience in Chicago has been all about reconciling corrupt politicians and seekers of public largesse and facilitating the flow of government money to them. He succeeded by buying his constituents’ votes with government money. That mindset, that you can talk or charm or buy away your opponents, is that of an appeaser.

    Talking to Islamic looneys like Ahmadinejad is appeasement. It legitimizes him and his sabre-rattling. It gives Iran time to complete its atom bomb program. And, really, the Europeans have been talking to the mad mullahs of Iran for decades without having anything to show for it.

    Obama wants to start from scratch with all this talking thinking it will end differently because he’s so smart, so willing to concede, so willing to see it from their perspective. The fact is that Iran is run by Muslim nuts who think blowing up the world with atom bombs will bring on the triumph of their brand of Shia Islam. Talking with such tyrants only works when you have a gun to their heads to back it up.

    You’re quite correct that major military operations ceased in Iraq five years ago. The guerrilla war which ensued is a minor military operation. Guerrilla warfare is a strategy of weakness which virtually always leads to defeat, especially when pursued from urban areas, as it is in Iraq. Five years is a fast pace to defeat it. The Brits, who have more experience in this, say ten years is the rule. So the progress of the anti-insurgent war has been very good.

    As for the anti-war sentiment of Americans, generally Americans don’t like any war we’re losing. The liberal media have fed them a false narrative of defeat in Iraq, thinking they could help defeat America by breaking the will of the American people to win, just like Vietnam. Fortunately, technology allows us to outflank the old media via the new media and get the straight story from the front.

    We’ve been winning all along, although it wasn’t clear in the first few years after the invasion. The insurgents were being whittled down behind the scenes, with a ratio of 20 insurgents killed for every GI killed. The surge, with its forward strategy of getting out of the bunkers and patrolling intensively, accelerated the demise of the insurgents.

    The Iraqi troops, who were pathetic at first, are now fielding some competent troops, even a few very good elite commandos. They’ve done some good work cleaning out nests of insurgents, pursuing them into the mosques without violating religious sensitivities as GIs would. The insurgents can not hide anywhere.

    The progress of the war has been unmistakeable over the last year, if you get your info from the troops in Iraq fighting. By contrast, if you get your info from the media, the war is one disaster after another leading to defeat. However, now success is so obvious that even liberal politicians and the New York Times are forced to concede the obvious. They don’t like it. They’re looking for reasons why it couldn’t possibly be due to Bush, his commanders, or our troops, but they’re coming up empty-handed.

    The word of success in Iraq is slowly spreading. I can guarantee you that Americans will not want to throw away a victory that has been so hard won. And they’re not going to support a politician whose judgement would lead us to defeat.

    I’m pretty sure that the people of Kosovo are glad that they do not risk their lives anymore running to the community well for water dodging snipers. It’s probably pretty nice being able to gather in the market without mortar shells dropping on you, too.

    Likewise, I’ll bet that ordinary Iraqis will be relieved to let their children go in the street without fear a Saudi suicide bomber will blow them into bloody chunks. They might like to go to the market without fear that the insurgents will detonate bombs strapped to the mentally handicapped in the middle of a crowd. They might even replace the glass shattered in their windows by bombs instead of considering it a futile effort.

    And most of all, they’ll probably enjoy having a future.

  38. isa: “By labeling people, and nations you only antagonize them and you get more of the Iranian people who would have been somewhat pro-western to line up with the government.”

    What an excellent point, isa. That’s something the Iranians might consider when they label the USA as the Great Satan and mount mass demonstrations where everyone is chanting “Death to America!” That does indeed polarize the sentiment of Americans who would otherwise be inclined to ignore Iran. Couple that to Iran’s desire to express that morbid sentiment with atom bombs and you cause Americans to line up behind the hard-liners. Even Obama the Pacifist was compelled to say he would do anything necessary to stop Iran from fielding an atom bomb.

    When you villify America so much that even the American Left takes a position against you, you have truly antagonized America. Antagonizing the Americans can have dire consequences. Ask the Taliban.

  39. isa says:

    Steve, I think if anything is clear and unmistakeable is that we disagree about many of the facts, and thus we are ultimately arguing past eachother rather than at eachother. I will just make a couple of points, as you are either misunderstanding my argument or simply twisting it.

    Japan, Germany, etc are countries were democracy was imposed successfully to the good of the own people, I did not disagree with that. My point was that these were very special circumstances, the Allies were in war with these countries to stop their aggression and not to impose democracy. Kosovo, the NATO intervened and rightly so, and if you ask me they should have intervened earlier, and should have got it right from the first time around, although some historians argue that wasn’t possible.
    Iraq has witnessed genocide and crimes against humanity under the rule of the late Saddam, and the international community through Nato, UN should have stopped that back during the First Gulf War and toppled him then. The days that proceeded the victory of the US forces and allies in sending Saddam’s troops whence they came from were the bloodiest in the history of the nation.
    A decade later, when Saddam’s threat was on his people, and before there existed a presence of the forces of evil, alqaeda et al, in Iraq, american decide to do this? It is not analogous to your examples.
    Of course, I was against that regime, that goes without saying. The process and lack of a coherent plan of action made US forces screw things up. That is a FACT.
    Secondly, as an american, do you really believe that you are the chosen nation to go around toppling un-democratic regimes? Most americans would disagree. And had the government been upfront about such a rationale behind a unilateral war that won’t make the US any safer, then it is unlikely anything would have happened. Also, tell that to the families of the 4000 or more americans, who died for something other than what they were told…

    Winning, losing, who are you fighting? you didn’t define what winning means, you just think let’s go around the world and kick ass, how very mature of you, to even insinuate that more Iraqi’s would have died under Saddam for the same period of time is idiotic, whether it is by allied forces, or terrorists, or the Shiite on Shiite fighting america undoubtedly caused. Aren’t these the people you wanted to FREE?
    Your guarantees and your facts don’t mean nothing to me, as I get my information from every source of media and in the internet world this is not hard to do. You’re position is no more then the Bill O’reilly talking points. IF you wish to label me as an anti-american arab propagandist I can label you too, isn’t that the way you logically argue and dismiss things you don’t like? I am far from your mainstream Arab, because, I read, research and critically assess any information anyone wish’s to give me regardless of the source. You on the other hand, through unqualified accusations, use fallacious ad hominem arguments and smear those who disagree.

    Again, “appease” has been systematically used by right wingers to smear obama by drawing an analogy with appeasement of hitler. Now, any idiot can see through that. And your anonymous and substantiated accusations hold no ground. After all, if you wanted to go personal about BO, then JMac has skeletons in his closet too? how about his first marriage, and leaving his handicapped wife? or the Keating five, where he got away with it, but the courts statement was that he excersized poor judgement? and the list goes on… so smear can go both ways you know. Obviously, as I was expecting such responses I asked you to be reasonable and civil in your arguments, but you insist on not doing so.

    Finally, to your last response, you make a great point. Except that I wish to clarify my stance as someone who’s opposed and condemning of Ahmedine’s rhetoric. And I never suggested otherwise. However, two wrongs do not make a right, and most people learnt that on the playground, so well done for your leaderships maturity in that respect. Also, Ahmedine has no direct power’s over military and foreign affairs, so while his rhetoric is offensive is no more than your politicians pandering. Additionally, this empty rhetoric should stay that way by preventing Iran from acquiring nukes. But, your approach obviously means that they are more likely than not to pursue them given the threat they anticipate from the US. As you implied, in so far as the status quo is, America is the super power, Iran is very weak in comparison, so your cowboy talk is more dangerous than their cowboy talk. There supreme council of ayatollah’s are not suicidal, so it is all really in the US hand.

    Steve-o, in your next response, I’d very much appreciate it if you sounded more aware of how to argue and less like Sean and Hannity.

    Regards,

  40. steve the american says:

    isa: “Japan, Germany, etc are countries were democracy was imposed successfully to the good of the own people, I did not disagree with that. My point was that these were very special circumstances, the Allies were in war with these countries to stop their aggression and not to impose democracy.”

    isa, you’re straining too hard to find a difference between the democracy we imposed on Nazi Germany & Hirohito’s Japan and the one we are imposing on Saddam’s Iraq. Japan waa a far less promising candidate for democracy than Iraq. The Iraqis flocked to the polls at their first election under threat of suicide attack. The Japanese were not so enthusiastic.

    Even accepting that the distinctions you make between the cases were meaningful, which they weren’t, you’re not making a convincing case even within those constraints. Saddam was at war with the coalition. He continued maneuvering his army in threatening ways to test the response of the coalition. He tried to assassinate the elder Bush in Kuwait. He fired hundreds of SAMs at our aircraft. He posted bounties on the death or capture of our military. The Duelfer Report revealed a covert network of WMD labs in low level production for purposes either of research or terror. Plans were found to smuggle ricin into Western Europe and America to conduct terror attacks. That sounds a lot like Iraq was at war with us and had no intention of ever taking a peaceful approach to its neighbors, the world, nor the USA. Converting Saddam’s Iraq into a democracy is a pretty good cure for that.

    isa: “Of course, I was against that regime, that goes without saying. The process and lack of a coherent plan of action made US forces screw things up. That is a FACT.”

    Yet we are winning. There is no war that is perfectly conceived nor executed. Again, you use the perfect as the enemy of the good. If you want to see a combatant force which has screwed up its war, take another hard look at the Baathists and Al Qaeda. Talk about incompetence!

    And it doesn’t go without saying that Arabs or Muslims were against Saddam. There was an awful lot of cheering in the Arab world for Baghdad Bob’s sunny reports of how the Iraqis were crushing the American invaders and nary a word of criticism for Saddam’s crimes against his own people. There were no demonstrations of outrage as all those hundreds of mass graves were dug up in the Iraqi desert. So, if you were against Saddam, you really need to say it out loud at the time. Otherwise, it comes across as expediency, picking the strong horse after the race is won.

    isa: “Winning, losing, who are you fighting? you didn’t define what winning means, you just think let’s go around the world and kick ass, how very mature of you, to even insinuate that more Iraqi’s would have died under Saddam for the same period of time is idiotic, whether it is by allied forces, or terrorists, or the Shiite on Shiite fighting america undoubtedly caused. Aren’t these the people you wanted to FREE?”

    Winning means establishing a free Iraqi democracy with individual liberties and free markets. The Baathists are against that, wanting to reestablish their Sunni dictatorship where they are the masters and everyone else the slaves. Al Qaeda is against that, considering democracy to be blasphemy, wanting to establish a theocratic tyranny. And folks like you are against it, out of the generic bigotry against non-Muslims and the specific prejudice against America.

    Despite your claims that it’s idiotic, Saddam killed his own people at a much faster clip than any war could kill them. It’s hard to kill people in a war because they tend to run away or hide or disperse. You can only kill large numbers of people efficiently by having the government methodically round them up and murder them en masse, as Saddam did.

    One blogger has tallied up the average number of Iraqis Saddam killed per day as 235 over his reign. By contrast, the average violent death toll over the first three years of the Iraqi war was 137 per day. That’s 58% of Saddam’s grim daily “peacetime” average.

    That diminished daily death toll represents the US disruption of Saddam’s institutionalized killing. Much of the bulk of the 58% which remains represents Saddam’s Baathists reduced to killing people ad hoc to intimidate them into supporting them. Those insurgents who target civilians are now on their last legs in Iraq. Driving out the scum who drive suicide bombs into crowds is quite a victory, except to those who prefer Muslim tyranny to infidel democracy.

    Isn’t it odd that your criticism falls entirely upon America which is restoring a civil society in Iraq while none falls upon the Muslim enemies of civilization like Al Qaeda who do indeed go around the world attacking the innocent. When you oppose violence so much, why don’t you have any criticism for the doctrine of jihad which prompts action by the US?

    isa: “Secondly, as an american, do you really believe that you are the chosen nation to go around toppling un-democratic regimes?”

    Just the ones who try to kill our presidents, fire missiles at our jets, put bounties on our military, and have suspicious ties with the Sep 11 skyjackers.

    isa: “And had the government been upfront about such a rationale behind a unilateral war that won’t make the US any safer, then it is unlikely anything would have happened.”

    You need to look up the meaning of the word “unilateral.” The Iraq War was not done by the US alone, as you so blithely and falsely state. A casual perusal of the news might reveal our British cousins by our sides. That makes it bilateral. In fact, there are twenty-one nations in this supposedly “unilateral” action including: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. That would make it more like a bidecalateral war.

    In short, 21 might equal 1 in your propaganda world, but not out here in the sunlight of the real world.

    It’s indisputable that the US is safer since Sep 11, a fact easily discerned by the lack of terror bombings that Muslims have pursued with such enthusiasm elsewhere. Iraq is part of the reason for that, acting as a bug zapper to Muslim terrorists who are irresistably attracted to it and their doom. It is hard to get your jihad on when your fellow terrorists are being so ferociously beaten.

    isa: “I am far from your mainstream Arab, because, I read, research and critically assess any information anyone wish’s to give me regardless of the source.”

    isa, I believe that your culture is so pervasively and comprehensively bigoted that even a smart guy like you can not shake it off, no matter how hard you try. I have yet to see an impartial Arab Muslim who can examine any issue, outside of concrete subjects like math and science, with intellectual detachment and come to a purely rational conclusion.

    When I read screeds by you and your peers, it comes across as biased as the Soviet histories I read back in the 1970s, where the Russions would try to fit everything into their communist framework. In a history of the US, they’d try to categorize the Indians as proletarians and capitalists, for example. It was nuts.

    Likewise, antipathy to the USA is fed to you in your mother’s milk. It is apparent in every sentence you write. Your arguments follow the set themes of every Arab Muslim who can see no good any infidel does and no evil any Muslim does. Objectivity is not an Arab Muslim trait.

    isa: “Again, “appease” has been systematically used by right wingers to smear obama by drawing an analogy with appeasement of hitler. Now, any idiot can see through that.”

    And see through it you have, like any idiot. Obama is out of his depth outside the US. He thinks he can cut a deal with the likes of Ahmadinejad like he can cut a sweetheart deal with a Chicago alderman. He thinks appeasing threats will defuse them, because that’s what worked for him in the past. Obama’s success has been built on appeasing his opponents and rivals and intends to export that Chicago approach to Tehran and PyongYang.

    isa: “And your anonymous and substantiated accusations hold no ground. After all, if you wanted to go personal about BO, then JMac has skeletons in his closet too? how about his first marriage, and leaving his handicapped wife? or the Keating five, where he got away with it, but the courts statement was that he excersized poor judgement?”

    McCain is not a perfect person. It’s a little glib to blame him for his first divorce, seeing as how that marriage was interrupted by five years of torture in the Hanoi Hilton. Most of the marriages of the long-held POWs released by North Vietnam foundered. Yet, the divorce was fair and they remain friends.

    The Keating Five scandal looks more like naive blundering to me that malicious wrong-doing. McCain felt his reputation had been stained by it and has since been a determined opponent of lobbyist cash, which is a pretty good reaction. It’s worth noting that a Boy Scout like John Glenn also got entangled in this mess.

    isa: “Ahmedine has no direct power’s over military and foreign affairs, so while his rhetoric is offensive is no more than your politicians pandering. Additionally, this empty rhetoric should stay that way by preventing Iran from acquiring nukes.”

    Ahmedinejad is a sock puppet for the mullahs, who reflects the mindset of his mullah masters.

    isa: “But, your approach obviously means that they are more likely than not to pursue them given the threat they anticipate from the US.”

    The Iranians are pursuing atom bombs, regardless of the US, to extend their power over the region. Their pursuit of such nuclear weapons is not driven by US political rhetoric, but by the Iranian determination to expand their power. Whether America curses them or sends them flowers, the Iranians will press on to build their nuke.

    isa: “As you implied, in so far as the status quo is, America is the super power, Iran is very weak in comparison, so your cowboy talk is more dangerous than their cowboy talk.”

    What a cute double standard you propose with such a straight face. Basically your argument boils down to Iran should not be held by the same moral standard as America because it is lesser. Does such an argument work even with children?

    And it’s pure nonsense to claim America is making wild cowboy talk like Iran. I don’t recall the Bush administration threatening Iran with war, threatening to burn Iran up with fire, claiming Iran is a historical mistake which will end, and so on. America’s cowboy talk is a fabrication by you. America has been remarkably restrained in the face of Iranian aggression.

    isa: “There supreme council of ayatollah’s are not suicidal, so it is all really in the US hand.”

    Actually, the ayatollah’s are suicidal, believing that an apocalyptic war will bring back their hidden imam and lead them to triumph in paradise. The suicidal bent of the Iranian Shia rests upon the general Muslim foundation of death-loving. Dopey Muslims often tell us that their advantage is that they love death while our disadvantage is to love life.

    And I am amused at the rather typical Arab Muslim way you end your argument, by saying it’s all in the USA’s hands, as if Muslims are simply objects with no will of their own, who are only acted upon by outside forces, as if they are logs or bricks. It’s the rather boring and predictable argument of Muslim Arabs who shun responsibility for anything and hasten to claim victimhood in everything. It’s always the Other’s fault, isn’t it?

  41. Patty says:

    Boy Mahmood 😯 Look at what you started!

    I hope you are safely hiding behind your computer chair…pretty soon the flower vases will start flying across the room from each side! Duck, Mahmood, DUCK!

    My opinion: There are NO good choices this election year! An old geiser, an inexperience extremist, and a corrupted furniture-stealing-ex-first lady! Where have all the good guys gone?

    Steve (the american), why don’t YOU run?

    Patty (a “disenfranchised” Florida Voter)

  42. Nine says:

    Very interesting debate which I have sadly missed but Steve, you have landed Isa KO!

  43. isa says:

    I have not been KOed. It is clear that we have argued past eachother. I will leave it to the critical eye to judge who was attempting to argue rationally and reasonably, and who consistently missed the point, wether intentionally or not, and was not “constrained” by reason to defend his point.

  44. Kakarot says:

    Yeah, isa. You never, ever lose an argument. Now if you could just get Steve and everyone else to accept that you are infallible and omniscient, the world be so much better.

    I live in a small town in the Midwest, so personally, I hope Obama wins.

    At that point, either BO would have to back down on most everything he’s been saying, or he’ll actually do what he has been talking about, and will have to explain why terrorist attacks keep going up and up, and the economy is in the tank and getting worse.

  45. Nine says:

    Well well dear Isa! Steve not only KOed you but he gave you a good pounding before he floored you.

    I am however, glad to note that no permanent damage was done to you and you are up and running but I am afraid Steve would floor you again and again until you drop those silly arguments of yours.

    As for you Steve well thank you for a job well done. Just keep up the good work.

  46. mahmood says:

    Nine, rather than being a Unelected President of the Steve the American Club (UPSAC) – a lofty position that still does not bestow upon you the right to flame other posters – why not share your own thoughts on the subject in a gentlemanly manner so that we can be engaged too?

  47. Nine says:

    Mahmood,
    I missed the debate that is why but I take your point and I apologies to Isa if he had found my comments offensive. I only wanted to add some humor but it seems I was wrong.
    Regards,

  48. Mahmood: “…rather than being a Unelected President of the Steve the American Club (UPSAC) – a lofty position that still does not bestow upon you the right to flame other posters – why not share your own thoughts on the subject in a gentlemanly manner so that we can be engaged too?”

    UPSAC doesn’t mean something bad in Arabic, does it, Mahmood? While I enjoy wallowing in unexpected praise here in your Den, of all places, you do have a point.

    Where have all the regular posters of old gone? Are the lurking or snoozing or wandered away?

  49. Shachar says:

    Steve wrote:

    Where have all the regular posters of old gone? Are the lurking or snoozing or wandered away?

    The later, I’m afraid. When I left I thought I’d occasionally check back, and that’s how I found this comment.

    The thing that made me go away was that the moderates wouldn’t listen. I can take people like IBN doing unspeakable things to logic just so they can come round winners, at least in their own eyes. Extremists have been doing that for ages. It was when Mahmood did it that I realized my input, and my emotional energy, spent here is wasted.

    I’m not saying Mahmood is not a moderate. He most definitely is. I’m saying that the moderates seem to hang on with fingers and nails to their instilled bias, refusing discussion of their statements even while calling themselves “intellectuals”.

    When that’s the case, I don’t think I have anything to contribute.

    Shachar

  50. Anonny says:

    Shachar,

    There is no better time to contribute than such a time, surely? Extremism should be engaged.

    Corollary: How aware are you of your own bias? Did Mahmood touch a nerve?

  51. Shachar says:

    There is no better time to contribute than such a time, surely?

    Here’s why I participated to begin with. The way I saw it, the anti Israel logic went like this:
    1. Israel did/does horrendous things for no good reason/is (based on) racist.
    therefor
    2. Israel is an illegitimate country
    therefor
    3. Israel should be eliminated

    I thought that if I challenge 1, I may get people to collapse the whole order. And then I found out that the MODERATES go along with 1 and 2, and only when they arrive to 3 say something along the lines of “but it’s here to stay, so we might as well get some piece in place”.

    Now here’s the problem with this line of thinking. If your country is illegitimate, then anything it does is illegitimate. If your core being is racist, then you have no right of self defense. On the other hand, if you are oppressed by a racist foe, then anything you do to fight it is ok, even if it’s killing children or even killing your own people who oppose your action. If you accept 1, there is a limit to how far you can go toward making piece.

    And the real problem, as I found out, was that most of the people who talked on this blog, Mahmood included, accepted 1 not out of the evidence or based on discussion, but based on belief, as an axiom. You can even see that in the way the statement is phrased. They don’t say “Israel is racist” or “Zionism is racist”. They say “Zionism is racism”. It is not a statement of fact, it is a truism – a statement that cannot be disproved.

    Since I cannot hope to change IBN’s mind, since I have no real quarrel with Mahmood’s bottom line, and since it turned out that I cannot hope to change Mahmood’s point of origin, I figured I have nothing left to try and do here. Any hopes of achieving change, or even true conversation, are false hopes.

    Corollary: How aware are you of your own bias? Did Mahmood touch a nerve?

    It’s a fair question, but one I cannot answer objectively (obviously). I can point you to the original discussion that triggered my leaving. It’s at http://mahmood.tv/2007/01/07/going-for-gold-in-israel/. Read through the comments and be the judge yourself.

    I can tell you that, as far as I can see, I kept asking people to substantiate their claim that Israel is racist, and I kept getting replies that sum up, more or less, as “because it is”. No specifics. The only thing that even came close was comment #349. If you read the link, you will notice that the link there has no specifics as well. It claims such laws exist, but never actually quote them or even refer to them.

    Never the less, I went ahead and searched the Israeli law book for the phrase in question, and found two laws that matched. Both laws were about equating the status of non-citizen permanent residents that can become citizens through the law of returns to the status of citizens. In other words, if those laws are discriminating against Arabs, they are discriminating against me as well, as I am a Jewish citizen of Israel. In a nut shell, that article is just a pack of lies.

    You ask me whether I am aware of my own bias? The answer is that, obviously, I don’t know to what extent, but since I do consider myself an intellectual, I make every effort to be.

    Shachar

  52. Nine says:

    Shachar,
    You do not seem to have a valid excuse I am afraid for not participating any more in this blog. Intellectuals, as you claim to be one, after all thrive on a healthy debate. That is how you show the world the superiority of your beliefs.

    I have been put off a couple of times myself by the foul language that some resort to, not that I am innocent of it, but I guess that is the way things are and we should expect it and be strong enough to take a punch. Look at good old Steve the American! The poor guy was even kicked out of this blog by no one else but Mahmood himself but he kept coming back. Now he rules supreme. You see he is a man of true convictions. We need more people like him in this world. You see it is only when the good guys walk away that the bad ones win. Appeasement never won anything. I of course, do not need to remind you of history!

  53. Shachar says:

    Hey Nine,

    No, the foul language was not it. It was the futility of it. I felt that any time people were faced with an argument they couldn’t counter, they just walked away. This meant that there is little chance of convincing, merely of “scoring points”. Since that was not why I came here, I didn’t see the point.

    Add to that the fact that getting a reasoned response, researched and fair, took time and emotional energy. I don’t have those levels of emotional energies to spare any more. If you add to that the fact that the “relevant” subjects hardly comes up any more, then there does not seem to be much point.

    Shachar

  54. mahmood says:

    Shachar, you are more than welcome to stay, or go. It’s completely up to you. But please respect the the subject of the post you choose to comment on and stay on topic.

    I’m not going to enter into a philosophical discussion with you other than to say that it’s not a black or white situation in most cases, nor does one have the exclusivity on “the truth”. Discussions are give and take, and emotional subjects require even more of that in order to reach a plateau where people at least can see each other on the horizon, if not shake hands and become best pals.

  55. Shachar says:

    Mahmood,

    I more than agree, which is why I took such an offense when you turned your back and walked away from the discussion with nary a word beyond “it’s just is”.

    Shachar

  56. mahmood says:

    To tell you the truth, I can’t even remember the specifics of the conversation now, and I’m not going to go back into it. I will just let it lie and let the readers to make up their own minds.

  57. Nine says:

    Shachar,
    I do not come here to “score points”. We are not on TV after all. Many of us, including myself, even hide behind phony names.

    It is enough for me to make my point and when my opposing partner starts to be rude, funny, change the subject or simply disappear I know that I have “won”. That is enough for me and it gives me great satisfaction. I know many of us are too proud to admit defeat.

    I therefore, urge you to say. It looks we have lots of things to talk about. If we are not trading punches we could join hands against somebody else. It is great fun I assure you. I ormise you this; I shall not run away and if defeated I shall swallow my pride and admit it. Take care and talk with you soon.

  58. Shachar says:

    Nine,

    To me “winning” an argument is someone who used to categorically say “something is so”, and will now acknowledge that things are maybe not as clear cut as they once thought.

    If you really want to have your point of view challenged, and hear opposing reasoning to what you believe in, as well as have a honest chance of changing someone else’s point of view, feel free to contact me privately. My email is shachar@shemesh.biz. This invitation is open to anyone. You can even feel free to publish, unilaterally, the content of this correspondence.

    I have to say that the last time I made a similar offer, no one from the anti-Israel camp took up the offer.

    At the moment, I cannot see myself participating in open debates in the near future, though I will keep in eye open and see if it’s time to change my mind about that.

    Shachar

  59. Nine says:

    Shachar,
    I do not recall anyone admitting defeat on this blog. I am afraid, you will have to widen your definition of what “winning” is before you could sense it.

    Thank you for passing me your private email. I will think about contacting you privately but to be honest with you I am not, like many people on this post, a professional blogger (or a debater) and only visit sites like this now and then and for short periods. I would not be able to dedicate enough time to a private conversation.

    I would rather debate things in public and thanks to the internet my arena is the whole world. This not only allows me to reach a wider audience but it also enables me to hear the views of people coming from different backgrounds.

    Now before Mahmood accuses me of all sorts of things I better come back to the topic of the discussion. Yes Barak Obama will make a great president but so will John McCain. McCain has more experience while Obama is full of good intention but who ever wins will soon realize that there are lots of evil men abound in this world who will need to be confronted. I can only hope that whoever wins will follow in the footsteps of George Bush and the one and only Ronald Reagan who almost on his own brought communism tumbling down and freed the whole of Eastern Europe. As I said above, appeasement does not pay.

  60. Brian says:

    I’m another one that quit, for similar reasons to Shachar. Do the bulk of readers, and Mahmood, still cling to “Zionism is Racism” when, according to a Harvard University survey, 77% of Israeli Arabs would rather live in Israel than ANYWHERE else in the world?

    or just do a Google News search on Arab Israel Harvard

  61. Brian says:

    Sorry Mahomood, I know last post was off-topic. I was just answering Steve the American (post 48).

  62. Batzi says:

    Nine and Steve the American,
    Like Shachar and Brian, I left this blog as I felt that there was no point in wasting any energy in putting any of my points across.
    I will direct you and others to Mahmood’s post #346 http://mahmood.tv/2007/01/07/going-for-gold-in-israel/
    For convenience purposes, I paste it here in its entirety. It speaks for itself.
    That was the last straw for me.
    “The only disappointment I feel Batzi, is that I continued to give you the benefit of the doubt; however, being civil to you seems to have not produced any civility back from you, but rather antagonism and condescension. That doesn’t concern me really, as this attitude reflects on you directly to add to your sins of being a Zionist too.
    I still have to thank you though. Previously, I was indifferent to the whole Zionism thing due to ignorance. Again, being a person who would rather give the benefit of the doubt, that too was misplaced. Now, I thank you for forcing me to research this subject more, listen to opposing views to arrive at my own conclusion that in my dictionary, I shall never accept a racist policy like Zionism nor everything that it stands for.
    It pains me that I have left it this long. One thing I am going to do now is spread the message about this racist monster you have created and ensure that people know of the transgressions perpetrated by its name and its followers.”

  63. Nine says:

    Batzi and all those who quit,
    I say to you stand up and fight. Walking away would not make your adversaries walk away too. Would they?

    As for me I shall stay. O it gives me great joy when I feel I have “won”. You can have that joy too but then that it all depends on the strength of your convictions and sorry to say, character knowing how rude some posters are.

  64. mahmood says:

    Nine, if you’re here just to score points and “win”, I’d rather you find another site to get your rocks off. This is not a place for you.

    If you are here to engage, discuss, understand and befriend, then this is a place that you might consider staying.

  65. Ibn says:

    Mahmood,

    While I feel compelled to reply to those posts, I realize that it will obviously be off topic (Nothing to do with the original Obama post). Permission to continue?

    -Ibn

  66. mahmood says:

    be my guest, it’s gone awry anyway!

  67. loki says:

    ….. Dont….. feed ….. the ….. trolls……… …. please……..

  68. Ibn says:

    Shachar,

    I can tell you that, as far as I can see, I kept asking people to substantiate their claim that Israel is racist, and I kept getting replies that sum up, more or less, as “because it is”. No specifics.

    Shachar, without even getting back into the discussion regarding our planet’s only legalized 5-million strong terror cell, I must take issue with your statement here among others, simply because it is plain false, and dishonors the efforts by the myriad number of people who
    have contributed their time and energy towards those discussions.

    There have been kilobytes upon kilobytes of debates and discourse over the past 2-3 years in Mahmood’s Den, complete with all the “specifics”, quotes, wiki-pages, and analysis one would hope for for a discussion of this nature. Yes, even regarding the particular “Israel is racist” bit.

    In fact I do seem to remember you going on a temper tantrum when I asked you why you stopped answering my questions while we were deep in discussion, only to have you tell me something along the lines of “I dont have to if I dont want to” and “people throw questions out all the time” even while you continued to demand that I answer yours.

    Yet here you are accusing others of being clinging to “biases” even though all the reasoning being given here could fill a novel.

    And what I found the most preposterous, was:

    I’m not saying Mahmood is not a moderate. He most definitely is. I’m saying that the moderates seem to hang on with fingers and nails to their instilled bias, refusing discussion of their statements even while calling themselves “intellectuals”.

    Mahmood biased? Mahmood is probably one of the most un-biased people I know. You know an Arab is unbiased when you ask him for an opinion regarding an uber-controversial conflict and get a “Geez I dont know, I guess Ill have to look into it.” Thats unbiased. This was his attitude during the 3 years this back and forth occured with the Arabs (Arab?) and Zionist Neo-cons his blog seems to attract. And as I recall, it was only after the 3 or so years that Mahmood formed an opinion regarding the Zionism, based on discussions with 3 Israelis no less.

    If you feel that you didnt/couldnt get anywhere trying to convince people that Zionism isnt just a different form of colonial racism and that the world is actually flat, thats fine.

    But at least have the decency to respect the history of what actually happened here.

    *****************

    Batzi,

    Like Shachar and Brian, I left this blog as I felt that there was no point in wasting any energy in putting any of my points across.

    Backing up an ideology thats bankrupt is hard and taxing on the soul I would imagine. I hope you feel better.

    -Ibn

  69. Shachar says:

    You know an Arab is unbiased…

    Well, at least you finally admit you are using different standards for Arabs and non-Arabs. It’s probably a first step of some kind…..

    Shachar

  70. Ibn says:

    Oooo, the bitterness! lol 😆

    -Ibn

  71. Shachar: “To me “winning” an argument is someone who used to categorically say “something is so”, and will now acknowledge that things are maybe not as clear cut as they once thought.”

    Shachar, it’s not human nature to admit being wrong. It’s particularly not male blogger nature to admit being wrong, since the prime motivation in male blogging is to be the alpha dog on the blog. The only thing we’ve got going for us is that we are not women, who are even more stubborn and adamant about never being wrong nor admitting such.

    The best you can hope for in arguing a position is for your opponent to quietly abandon an untenable position. You’ll never get people to just throw their hands up and say, “By golly, you’re right! I hadn’t thoughta that!” Instead, they’ll keep on arguing their position, however futile. What you hope for is that when they go home and climb into bed, the argument you presented is still gnawing at their brain, undermining their confidence in their position. The next time they engage you, they have trimmed their argument.

    Bit by bit, you whittle away at their position. You don’t really want to humiliate them, but to give them time to find a way to take a more reasonable position without losing face. You won’t get that to happen in a single post. It requires a campaign.

  72. mahmood says:

    Steve that’s a very telling comment and gives an insight into your motivation. But I hope that our campaign so far has tempered your positions a bit? I sure hope so!

  73. Mahmood,

    I’d say that reading and writing on Mahmood’s Den has educated me in many ways. It has increased my respect for the intellect of Arab Muslims, whom I had assumed before all this to be ignorant, religious yahoos. I still see the occassional yahoo, but the number of educated posters has impressed me. I’m also astonished by the number of flawless English writers, writing in colloquial American, who have never left the Middle East.

    Some things are just depressing: 1) the rigid, homogenous mindset of most posters; 2) the pervasive religious hatred for Israel; 3) the sense that many of my debate partners are leading half-lives in a culture that does not allow them to blossom and savor joy. I often feel sorry for them.

    I’m reading a very interesting book by Nicholas Wade, “Before the Dawn,” which talks about human evolution with the help of things learned about early humans from DNA analysis. Wade paints a violent portrait of the first five million years of human existance as constant warfare between hunter-gatherer bands, in which about a third of all males died violently. He argues that the vector of human history is to form larger social combinations creating ever more peaceful environments.

    Wade argues that basing your culture on kinship groups constrained their size. About the time humans developed speech about 50,000 years ago, they developed religion to regulate all the bad uses to which speech can be put to use: lying, breaking agreements, etc. Religion was a way to knit multiple kinship groups together to form a larger social unit which mediated its differences by talking them out rather than fighting them out.

    Of course, in such a harsh environment, you were expected to give the same or more loyalty to your religion as your blood in order to strengthen your society against competing societies with different gods.

    I see much of Islam in this description of early religion; the absolute demand that everyone think alike to make the community strong, the death penalty for apostates, the infallibility of sacred text, and so on.

    It’s not hard to take this another step and see the next larger human combination of pluralism. Just as kin groups were subsumed by religion, religion is being subsumed by pluralistic states, where nationalism binds many religions together in common belief. Such pluralistic states are the next step in the social evolution of mankind and make for a more peaceful future. In that sense, the Islamic advocacy for a Sharia state is counter-evolutionary, dragging us back into a cruder, more war-like and violent world.

  74. Nine says:

    Mahmood,

    “If you are here to engage, discuss, understand and befriend, then this is a place that you might consider staying.”

    That is the reason I am here.

    The “winning” thing was never part of it. I only mentioned it on the side and a way to make people like Shachar and Batzi to stay since it is satisfying when one feels that he or she has been able to convince others of his or her case.

    I would say that is a natural human feeling.

  75. Aliandra says:

    I’m also astonished by the number of flawless English writers, writing in colloquial American, who have never left the Middle East.

    So am I. The writing is excellent. Maybe when you learn a second language, you’re taught the formal version minus the lazy shortcuts and slangy idioms common to native speakers. The colloquialisms have also puzzled me – when Mahmood scolds a politician for lacking cojones, I shake my head and ask where does a native of a distant country get these expressions? Maybe it’s related to American movies that people don’t mind watching in English.

    Before the Dawn – great book

  76. Nine says:

    O yes there are many educated Arabs and Muslims and the numbers are rising. I guess that is the case all over the world really. Even in poor countries. Take Afghanistan for example. Girls are flocking to schools in a land that banned schools for them only recently. Thanks of course, to the American liberation but then without the desire being there in the first place the enthusiasm would not have been that great.

    One consequence of the spread of education is the demise of religion. In spite of what we see on our television screens I would say religion is dying and at an unbeleivable speed. O yes people may say they are deeply religious and you may see them in places of worship but then how many of them subscribe to the true teachings of their religions? Any religion? How many will stone a woman to death for having an affair outside marriage? How many will slain an infidel upon sight? Who many women will burn themselves at the stake following the death of their husbands?

    It is Western values that are winning thanks heavens. It is the rise of liberty, democracy and human rights that is sending religion, all religions, to its long overdue demise. Look at the empty church halls of Europe and North America! Aren’t the people there setting the trend for everybody else? They usually are! Aren’t we seeing the future now?

    N.B; Mahmood, do not blame me for going off topic. Blame Steve. He dragged me into it but then I could not help it could I? I am after all the Unelected President of the Steve the American Club (UPSAC)! Post No. 46 above!.

  77. Wade makes the argument in “Before the Dawn” that religion was replaced by the secular state, which took over most of the functions religion performed in regulating behavior.

    Education may hasten the retreat of religion only if it is based on reason and teaches critical thinking. If education consists of memorizing the Koran in another language or memorizing the answers to math problems (as done in Saudi Arabia), then education tends to entrench religion by teaching students to avoid thinking for themselves and accept whatever authority tells them.

  78. Shachar says:

    These are noble thoughts, but aren’t they a little hypothetical? I mean, who is it that allegedly leads the “education revolution”? The US seems, at least as a geek observing from the outside, to be steadily regressing. Creationalists, abstanance, and general penetration of religion to any and every aspect of life in the US seem to counter the movement you seem to be praising.

    Shachar

  79. Nine says:

    Shachar,
    Religion sells like sex. No one will get elected without being photographed in a church, a mosque, a synagogue or a Buddhist temple. That is true and you may think that religion is creeping into every aspect of life be it in the US or elsewhere.

    The point that I was trying to say was that religion may appear to be winning but what kind of religion is that? It is surely not the one that is written in the ancient books. Rather, it is the new translations or interpretations. Thus, what was wrong few decades ago is now right and what was right is now wrong.

    Now if you think religion is creeping then I have no problem with that. It does not go against what I have said above for the religion that is creeping is an entirely different animal from what our parents have told us about.

  80. Shachar: “The US seems, at least as a geek observing from the outside, to be steadily regressing. Creationalists, abstanance, and general penetration of religion to any and every aspect of life in the US seem to counter the movement you seem to be praising.”

    From my perspective, religion lies lightly upon the US. While down South, you have mega-churches and televangelists who have large flocks of fundamentalist Christians, throughout the rest of the country the religious sentiment is rather temperate. I’m surprised as I go about Manhattan how many churches there are, but they tend to be locked up when there are no services, unlike the fundamentalist churches which tend to be full service operations with something going on every night, playgrounds for the kids, field trips, etc.

    My guess is that most Americans don’t go to church on Sunday but probably have a dusty Bible somewhere in the house and an ambiguous sense of religion. Of the minority who go to church on Sundays, they expect the usual service with a sermon limited to the usual rehash of the Bible.

    Most Americans have a certain amount of respect for their local pastor but role their eyes when clerics tread outside their domain. Televangelists are nearly universal objects of ridicule in America. Clerics who speak out on secular subjects are generally ignored as speaking outside their expertise.

    I went to a Catholic elementary school. Although we kids respected the nuns, we also thought they were a little nuts. Once they came up with a long list of TV shows we shouldn’t watch which we took home to our parents. Nobody I knew stopped watching anything. Instead, we searched through the list to try to figure out what the nuns were thinking.

    We could see why they wouldn’t want us to watch Dean Martin drink while the chorus girls of the Golddiggers danced. The nuns would be against that, of course. And we could kinda follow the reasoning why they didn’t want us to watch the Munsters or Addams Family, which they thought promoted the occult but which we properly saw as comic fantasy. But we could never figure out their adamant opposition to Porky Pig cartoons. Even as kids, we didn’t take the clergy entirely seriously.

    I don’t have the sense that religion is seeping into every aspect of American society, but rather that it is fairly constrained. I took my graduate degree at a Jesuit university, yet the only evidence of religion in my studies there was a crucifix hung in every room. Classes were much the same as a state university, otherwise.

    Most of America rejects creationism and accepts Darwin’s theory, which has the advantage of ever more evidence in its favor as knowledge of DNA increases. Those few pockets of belief in creationism receive inordinate press because they are unusual, not because they are the norm.

  81. Nine: “Religion sells like sex. No one will get elected without being photographed in a church, a mosque, a synagogue or a Buddhist temple.”

    I haven’t seen any US candidates being photographed in mosques, which would not go over well with an American electorate being targeted by Muslims for death and subjugation, no matter how weak the threat. Islam is quite properly held in casual contempt here in America for its murderous nature and backward ways.

    That aside, it’s true that politicians will want to be photographed with the worshippers of every religion who can vote. However, places of worship are competing in that regard with secular organizations for the attention of politicians running for office. The candidates will seek votes in the Baptist churches but will also seek them in the Elks lodges, the Buddhist temples and the National Rifle Association, the synagogues and the trade associations. Politicians will pander to any voters anywhere to win.

    I think you’re making too much of such pandering. If a candidate is pictured in a Buddhist temple, it doesn’t mean that the Buddhists are penetrating American society any more than if a candidate poses with the Scissor Makers Union that scissors will exert undue influence on the federal government.

    It’s worth remembering that when you examine America through its media, you are looking through a straw at the reflection in a fun house mirror. In other words, you are seeing a tiny sample of the whole, whose selection reflects an agenda. That tiny sample is further distorted by the prejudices of the media, which leans left to far left.

  82. Nine says:

    Steve,
    I could not disagree with you on this but actually I did not have the US in mind when I made my statement. I should have said something like this; politicians in a predominantly Christian society should be photographed in a church if they want to win. Likewise, in a predominately Jewish or Muslim society.

    I must however, correct my statment. In some European countries religion has become so irrelevent thanks heavens that it is no longer vital for politicians to go into a church during an election.

  83. Nine says:

    Steve,
    As you have stated or implied earlier religion goes against the evolution of human society.

    Unlike humans who are free to evolve and have evolved over the years religion can not evolve for it is caged within the boundaries of its old and ancient text books. There is no hope for it to remain relevant. That is why it is doomed to disappear the way the dinosaurs did.

  84. Nine: “As you have stated or implied earlier religion goes against the evolution of human society.”

    More precisely, it represents a stage in the evolution of human society between kinship groups and pluralistic society. It served to knit together larger human groups in the form of kinship groups. However, it is inferior to pluralistic societies which incorporate groups of many religions. In the case of Islam, it has clearly hobbled the minds of Muslims competing with knowledge-based pluralistic societies.

  85. Nine says:

    Steve,
    Yes that is true. The rise of the nation state 200 or so years ago was accompanied with the decline of religion. One can get refuge from the state rather than from his or her religion.

    Moreover, the rise of the nation state has also been accompanied by the rise of prosperity. People have discovered that not only they do not religion for protection but they also do not need it to become prosperous. So what role there is for it?

    That is why it is doomed just like the way of the dinosaurs. However, there is one major difference. The dinosaurs ruled the earth for millions of years. It is 65 million years since they all died in one big bang but people still talk about them and admire their majesty. As for religions well the oldest is probably no more than 5,000 years and yet they are on their death beds. Will people admire them long after their demise? I doubt it.

    We have gone off target for sure. No more mention of Obama and MaCine! But then it is the summer and they are having a much deserved break. And so we are!

  86. I disagree that religion is doomed, but I agree that its role in modern society will be sharply reduced from its heyday in medieval times. Religion is a very old thing which has been part of human civilization from before its inception. I don’t see it dying off, being too embedded in the fabric of society. For example, it is a very good vehicle for delivering values to the next generation in a way which government does not.

    I see a societal parallel of the theory of recapitulation from biology, where ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. In other words, the development of the individual follows the development of the species. For example, a fetus is born in a human womb full of saline solution with the same salinity as the ocean in which our human species originated. Young fetuses have tails, which later disappear. Fetuses breathe water, like fish. The reptilian portion of our brain develops first, before the other portions of our brain which evolved later.

    I see something like that going on in every society. Children are essentially barbarians who must be taught how to behave in a civilized manner. To a child morally evolving, religion is helpful in enforcing moral behavior by presenting an all-seeing God who judges you and will reward or punish you accordingly. For adults, too. Not many people are so enlightened as to do the right thing without fear of punishment or encouraged by reward.

    Not all parents are up to the job. People are launched into different orbits from their families, some high, many in the middle, some low. At the lowest end of society, you see something like hunter-gatherer behavior, where no law is recognized beyond that which serves the blood kin group. It’s a brutal, poor, ignorant world where superstitition rules.

    In such a feral culture, religion helps explain the world better and simpler. Every culture will always carry along such dregs of society with it into the future. There will always be a portion of society that resists education, which is toxic to religion. That lowest class of people will always bring religion with them.

    The more educated and affluent portions of society will carry religion forward, as well. They will strip the miracles and voodoo from the religion and focus on the values. Theirs is a sort of non-alcoholic religious beer, with the intoxicants removed.

    I just don’t see religion ever disappearing.

  87. Nine says:

    Steve,
    You see the trouble with religion is that it fails to evolve like everything else and whoever that does not evolve is doomed. It is shackled to its ancient texts. It can not change unless of course, it breaks free from its old and established dogma but then that would be a different animal.

    New translations and new interpretations will give it a new lease of life but for how long? People will soon realize this trick and abandon religion in droves. They have already done that in most developed countries. Just look at the empty church halls in Europe. The statistics prove it. Only 8% attend church on regular basis and the numbers are falling. Now if our kids get that much in school we would certainly say that they have no future in there.

    O yes there would still be people who cling to religion. Those who were left behind and are dreaming of a robe to lift them out of the gutter. Those who are going through some personal tragedies and are looking for light at the end of the tunnel. Yes but we can not generalize these for the rest of the population. Can we?

    “Children are essentially barbarians who must be taught how to behave in a civilized manner”.

    Well that may indeed be true but then who will teach them to behave in a civilized manner? Religion? No way. Not if we remain true to the teachings of the ancient texts.

    You see that is where we differ Steve. Religion may indeed remain around but it will not be the same one that our parents taught us. It will be different molded by Western values of human dignity. The parents of the future “will strip the miracles and voodoo from the religion and focus on the values”. Values that will of course go hand in hand with those respecting human rights. Values that orders you to “love thy neighbor” not the ones that advise you that “killing an infidel is not murder but the path to heaven”.

    The religion of the future will indeed be a sort of non-alcoholic bear with the intoxicants remove. If that is the case then I stand corrected and it is not doomed.

  88. Nine,

    I’m more an advocate for reason than religion, though I see the good effects of religion in moderation. Religion can evolve and moderate its doctrine. After all, Christians have shed their numbskulled objection to usury and don’t burn witches anymore. The Catholic Church has even accepted that the Earth revolves around the Sun, not vice versa. So it’s possible for religion to evolve, unwillingly perhaps, but possible.

    I will concede that religion has a reactionary character due to its refusal to reexamine itself and test its doctrine against reality. Reason demands you constantly test your assertions against the real world to approach the ultimate truth of things. Religion demands you simply accept its doctrine on faith. That can lead to some rather embarassing predicaments, like fatwas that forbid literature written by worshippers of other religions, when those people have progressed far beyond you. Or clinging to a calender based on mistaken astronomical assumptions that makes your calender year drift from the actual year defined by the Earth’s orbit.

    I agree that the retreat of religion in Europe is pretty apparent. The great cathedrals I visited in Florence, built to hold thousands, were all empty, having been turned through disuse from churches into museums owned by the state. However, religion in Europe has a darker history of oppression than it does in the US, where that oppression was squashed early on with the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. We don’t have empty churches here. In fact, there are a lot of mobile churches, set up in banquet halls and motel conference rooms for transient congregations.

    Humans tend to carry along the impedimenta of their past. For example, marriages used to be made by capture, where you went to a neighboring village with your best man as lookout and kidnapped your bride. Carrying a bride over the threshhold is a social artifact of that archaic practice. Most brides insist on being carried over the threshhold as tradition, though ignorant of the origin of its practice.

    Likewise, bridesmaids and groomsmen in the wedding party were brought to deceive the devils from attacking the bride and groom. Nobody in the West believes in devils anymore nor feel the need to mount a defense against them, yet every bride wants her girlfriends to be her bridesmaids.

    Religion will be carried along in such vestigial forms at the very least. Intellectually, at least the vestiges of religion will be carried along and form the hidden assumptions of society. When religion has dominated your society for a milennium or two, it shapes it just as if it pressed it in a mold. You may change society and improve it, but it retains much of its original shape.

  89. Nine says:

    Steve,
    I have relented and changed my position. Religion can after all evolve just like the way humans have. As you have said Christians no longer burn witches and have long accepted that the Earth does not revolve around the Sun. Likewise, the Muslims now look at Jihad as self defence and no more. Hindu women no longer set themselves ablaze following the death of their husbands. But wait! There is a catch! Where would this evolution lead to? In everything else evolution resulted in new creatures e.g. man. Wouldn’t the same thing happen to religion? Wouldn’t we end up with an entirely different animal? But there is yet another problem! What will happen to the ancient texts? They can not go extinct! Can they?

    So every time there is a predicament there is a new doctrine, a new fatwa as you say. But people have long memories and they remember the old teachings and what the consequences were for brave men like Galileo who challenged it. Do you think they will continue to respect the religion that prosecuted such people in spite of its new cloths? Do you think they will take the bait? Or will they realise it is the same old thing?

    I have not been to the cathedrals of Florence but I have been to the cathedrals of Rome and to the most romantic of them all; Mount St. Michael’s Chapel. O they were all magnificent buildings full of visitors who came to admire their beauty but few were there to worship. These faithful looked more like relics from an age gone by who were there to redeem their sins. No doubt they still cling to some of the chains that their parents shackled them to. As you say “Humans tend to carry along the impediments of their past” It is not easy to break free from old established customs. It is certainly not easy to break free from the brainwashing that our parents did to us when we were kids.

    Yes religion will be carried along perhaps only in symbolic forms. It will survive but then it will be an all compassionate peace loving religion reflecting more the prevailing values of the day rather than those of its past. It will claim to be something that it never was but then that is the history of religion. Taking somebody else’s and claiming it as it’s. Another robbery perhaps to add to an endless list of robberies.

  90. Ibn says:

    Since this boat has already veered of its original course:

    It is my opinion that there is a false dichotomy between the “struggle” regarding secularism versus religion.

    The real problem in this world is not so much religion. It is dogma, of which religion is a subset of. To be crude, religion is simply dogma where the supernatural is involved.
    I see many atheists, ‘rationalists’, secularists or whatever often miss this important and crucial point.

    Even if we could wave a magic wand and remove all religion from every human’s head, that doesnt mean Utopia is attained. Far from it. The wet dream of a problem free world without religion that secularists yearn for is as wet as a mirage, because it is an illusion – an illusion to think that religion causes dogma, and not the other way around.

    This is what it comes down to. At the end of the day, they have their causality chain in reverse.

    I think a note has to be made on the nature of man at this point, and how it is they he believes what he believes. Have you ever asked yourself that? Why do you believe what you believe? How did it come about? Gradually or suddenly? Emotionally or rationally? Perhaps a combination of the two?

    In my experience, there are 3 psychological categories regarding why people believe in what they believe:

    1)a) Some people believe in something because they want to believe in it: This is usually the religious aspect – people are drawn by the universal messages and its answers to existential questions, and so they want to believe in it. This is a benign example.

    1)b) Same as (a), but in a malicious case, a person might
    harbour ill feelings towards say, another culture, based
    on a cocktail of emotional reactions like fear, disgust, etc. In this case, he doesnt want to like this culture – he wants to hate it – he wants to have nothing to do with it. In this case, no matter what empirical evidence is brought to bear against his bias, he
    will refuse them because at the core, he doesn’t want to like it.

    2) Some people believe in something because they really believe it will work, that its for the better, and think implementing it is worth a shot. Think Communist. Who wouldn’t want a world in which there are no poor, everyone is taken care of, etc? The problem of course is that it cannot practically work in the way they profess it should. But ardent Communists might still believe this ideology strongly because in their minds, their simulation of the scenario is lacking, or they have not thought it through properly. Even when history is brought to bear, rationalizations and excuses begin to be made regarding how and why this particular country wasn’t “really” communist, etc.

    3) And finally, Some people believe in what they believe after meticulous thought, and if done right, always leave room for error and correction, based on logic and rational thought.. Or in layman’s terms, they are ‘open minded’. These people are the true saints of the human race.

    Now look at the first two categories – it is easy to see just how easily a person or mass movement can believe in certain ideologies and associations, religion or no religion. This is the essence of dogma – the series of non-negotiables people cling to once the formation of an opinion is made – regardless of what logical and empirical or statistical information is brought to bear.

    In category 1(a), we might have a religion. But in category 1(b), maybe something like Nazism, whereas Communism would fit in category (2), while Zionism straddles categories 1(b) and (2). History tells us that many secular ideologies have lead to bloodshed and human strife, those mentioned above included.

    In essence, secular dogmas and religions have the same mother – dogma – and what is the root of dogma? Nothing more than the human condition – the nature of man, our inbuilt tendencies to ‘force’ out conclusions about the world based on an ocean of sensory input, noise, and inaccurate data.

    Is this bad in an of itself? I think not – it had an evolutionary origin to be sure. For example, a caveman would be more likely to survive if he just assumed that slight rustle he just heard was a tiger hiding behind a bush, instead of sitting down and pondering every single possibility on the origins of that noise. In effect, he makes a decision to run without there having ever been any proof of a lurking tiger.

    Action against an event, without any direct proof of said event – only mere suspicion. Sound familiar? This is dogma, in the flesh. It is in our blood, and given to us by no one other than mother nature through herself, through evolution.

    And although primal traits like this and others served our young species well during its tumultuous evolution onto the world stage, like other primal urges and traits, we must work extra hard to fall into the dogma trap. Just as we must control our primal urges to rape a woman for example, we must also control our primal urges to fall into the dogma trap.

    Isnt that the true meaning of mankind? That being who rose above his animal roots and instincts?

    -Ibn

  91. Loki says:

    ibn, hmmm. interesting agree with some points disagree with some. What about faith, do you believe spiritual faith is equivalent to wanting to believe?? personally don’t think spiritual faith falls into category 1a necessarily.

    My own personal faith aside, if religion (and other systems) are part of evolutionary developments that helped us in passing on our genes (which I can believe) than what’s the point of anything now that we know that. As passing on our genes no longer becomes the soul driver of our existence, what do we do now. The concepts of truth, justice, equality, morality in this case are about as real as the Hog Father. Something totally fictional.

    Morality must come from an absolute otherwise it becomes meaningless. There is no morality without religion.

  92. Loki says:

    And yes, this is miles off topic …

  93. Brian says:

    Ibn gives two examples of his 1(b), “the malicious case, a person might harbour ill feelings towards say, another culture, based on a cocktail of emotional reactions like fear, disgust, etc. In this case, he doesnt want to like this culture – he wants to hate it – he wants to have nothing to do with it.”

    Ibn’s examples are Nazism and Zionism, though Zionism also straddles his category 2.

    Ibn knows that as soon as Zionists started settling in Palestine, buying their land legally, the Arabs, principally under Hitler’s friend Haj Amin el Husseini, started to vent their hate on the Zionists – a hate well personified in Ibn himself.

    Let the reader decide on who fits in 1(b)

  94. Ibn says:

    Loki,

    What about faith, do you believe spiritual faith is equivalent to wanting to believe?? personally don’t think spiritual faith falls into category 1a necessarily.

    Well, one example I can think of Loki is the existential peace and solace religion offers to many many people, just by its stances on the afterlife for example. The thought that we emerge into consciousness and into this world, love our families, children, etc, only to be around for 80 years before *poof!* we vanish into nothingness again is traumatic. Religion addresses this with concepts of the afterlife for example, the reassuring thought that we will be eternally re-united with our loved ones once we all perish, etc. Things like that. In this case, religion’s appeal to people is because people want to believe that this is the case, and hence accept it as an article.

    if religion (and other systems) are part of evolutionary developments that helped us in passing on our genes (which I can believe) than what’s the point of anything now that we know that. As passing on our genes no longer becomes the soul driver of our existence, what do we do now.

    I can appreciate that sentiment Loki, but here is what I think on the matter: While it is true that religion does in fact provide an “end goal” of sorts, (Do good in life, live in heaven eternally, etc), I am confident that abandoning this end goal will not leave us in existential hell, pardon the pun.

    I dont mean to dive into a deep philosophical discussion, but lets take one possible extreme regarding the question of “So without religion, what’s the purpose of life?”. Suppose the answer is simply: “We have no purpose”.

    So what? Bear in mind, that our species, up until VERY recently, was always teetering on the edge of oblivion by plagues, famine, droughts, etc. One lucky hit by a meteor and we’ll all join the dinosaurs. It has been only recently, that mankind’s standard of living has elevated him so far up, that he even has time to ask such questions. So now all the sudden we have all this spare time, ample food and drink, and we are wondering what our “purpose” is – even while starting a couple hundred years back towards the beginning of our species, our only “purpose” was just to be able to survive.

    In fact, I would venture, that our species has spent a considerable amount of time surviving, and that now that we in this day and age even have this spare time, its time to start living. To do what makes you happy that is.

    The concepts of truth, justice, equality, morality in this case are about as real as the Hog Father. Something totally fictional.

    Well, I don’t agree with you here – I do not think that religion has a monopoly on morality, justice, equality, etc. Were they initially sired from religion? Sure – I would think so – religion makes for a great social glue – but I do not think the principles of morality cannot be derived from non-religious or supernatural explanations.

    The reason I say this, is because I believe that morality actually stems from the concept of altruism, a sense of reciprocity, keeping tabs on favours members of a society owe you, etc. And in this sense, those are actually very mammalian traits – or rather, traits that can even be found in some primate (monkey) cultures. Since this is the case, this leads strong credence that morality has its roots well grounded in the natural world – versus the supernatural.

    In effect, God didn’t create man, rather, man created God.

    -Ibn

  95. Nine says:

    Ibn,

    We had our disagreements in the past but could not agree more with you here.

    A great presentation! Pleasure to read.

  96. Ibn says:

    Thank you Nine,

    Just a sidenote, for those who enjoyed “Before the Dawn”, I would also recommend The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language.

    I’m half way through the book, but it is a phenomenal read.

    -Ibn

  97. There are different theories as to how man developed religion which revolve around the corpus collosum, the root of tissue which connects our left and right brain. The speculation is that the brain developed along with the rest of the human body but the communication between the left and right brain via the corpus collosum were spotty. The ancient humans weren’t quite sure exactly what these intrusive images were that came in from the other side of the brain. Maybe they were visions or supernatural beings?

    It got worse when they slept where dreams would bring visions of an entirely different world of profund but incomprehensible. Maybe that was the underworld where they would go when they died. Sometimes, when they just buried their good hunting buddy Sporg he’d come back in their dreams and scare everyone to death, asking for his stuff and wife. They took to burying Sporg good with lots of his stuff so that he’d be happy in the other world, not coming back scaring the hell out of everyone.

  98. Ibn says:

    Steve,

    There are different theories as to how man developed religion which revolve around the corpus collosum, the root of tissue which connects our left and right brain. The speculation is that the brain developed along with the rest of the human body but the communication between the left and right brain via the corpus collosum were spotty.

    Hmm, thats an interesting theory… although I myself am not quite sure I buy it – reason being: We know that most euphoric and religious experiences begin in the temporal lobes of the brain, which exist on both its sides. (i.e, both hemispheres).

    Furthermore, even though theories on dreams are not that sharp yet, (most mammals seem to dream), what is known is that it is usually the brain consolidating the latest sensory inputs, or thought processes – but doing them while you are unconscious. (The brain-stem controls consciousness).

    Also consider this: In split brain patients, (patients whose corpus callosums have been severed), it is known that while they might exhibit split consciousness – or more accurately, split executive functions (the right hand takes their clothes off while their left hand puts them back on, etc), their emotional states are always the same per hemisphere, since the emotional centers of humans are located deep within the primitive brain.

    What this tells me is that with religion having many emotional facets, and emotions coming from more primitive parts of the brain, the corpus callosum cannot possibly have too much to do with religion per se. Furthermore, euphoric and depressive manic states along with dream-like revelations appear to originate from the temporal lobes, which are located on both sides of the brain. And finally, I am not aware of any literature highlighting the degraded religious beliefs of severed corpus callosum patients.

    -Ibn

  99. Loki says:

    Re, Ibn 95

    Fair enogh, i’ve heard and read this view many times. I disagree, that it is the fear of oblivion (or for that matter the need to have unexplainable things explained away by the supernatural) that provides the appeal for religion. Also, atheism isn’t
    exactly a new thing. Its been around as long as religion has.

    Regarding the connection between religion and morality. Your evolutionary theory whilst interesting is beside the point. Its about the validity of morality. What makes YOUR view of morality more valid. Its great for you to think about the origins of morality and come up with a set of values that you believe is correct but what should that matter to me. Will we evolve it until we incorporate everyone’s beliefs or become tolerant with all of them?? ofcourse not, and who will draw that line?? I think the idea of some kind of secular ever evolving moral system is deluded. Its my view that secular societies tend towards liberalism because they end up accepting the views of very vocal minorities. And to deny them their “rights” is to betray the values of tolerance.

    For me there is also the importance of Faith . Part of it is for want of a better word, irrational (or more accurately the belief in what you cannot see or hear). And some people gots it, others don’t. I believe the human experience is greater than our senses and our ability to postulate. It would wrong of me to ignore my experiences and interactions in life that were spiritual. Rather than set them aside, and pretend they didn’t/don’t happen or force a “rational” explanation on them that is at best a wild stab in the dark, It becomes more rational that to that they are in line with what your heart is telling you and what humans have been saying for as long as we have existed.

    For the faithful, To paraphrase Al-Ghazali, Faith is a light from within granted by God.

    For the faithless, it is a delusion that happens to other people.

  100. Loki says:

    this article was originally written on pointlesswasteoftime.com . Its a tongue-in-cheek list of 10 things Christians and Athiests can agree on. Apart from being rather funny its helpful to remember these points some times.

    http://www.cracked.com/article_15663_god-fuse-10-things-christians-atheists-can-agree-on.html

  101. Brian says:

    I have to say that I am dazzled by the erudition of Steve and Ibn and others. I say that sincerely. But really, I can’t see religion dying out given that people of unimpeccable scientific knowledge are also adherents of religion. For an extreme example, see http://www.geraldschroeder.com/age.html for a respected scientist arguing for the world being created in six days!
    And given that virtually all religions would say that God is formless, is not to be found within the universe by scientific investigations, is not made of atoms etc, then let’s face it, science isn’t going to disprove religion.

    And we should credit religion, in particular Christianity, for the struggle for the abolition of slavery. Many drives to eliminate hunger, poverty and disease have been motivated by religion. By contrast, Hitler and Stalin were not motivated by religion. The French revolution was not religious. Genocides in Africa have not been religious.

    Dare I say it, perhaps one should look for progress not through the death of religion but through, relatively speaking, a greater take-up of religions that honour life than religions that honour death.

  102. Shachar says:

    Hi Steve,

    For an extreme example, see http://www.geraldschroeder.com/age.html for a respected scientist arguing for the world being created in six days!

    Without arguing with any of the facts you raise in that sentence, I will claim that we have here a case of a respected scientist arguing that the world could have been created in six days in an unscientific way. He gives an irrefutable theorem, which in science is an unacceptable one. A scientific theorem has to have a theoretical refute, preferably with a description of an experiment that will either prove or refute it. It’s a precondition. He does so even while doing what he claimed to try to avoid – imposing non-literal interpretation on the text of the bible.

    What we have here is a classic case of syncreticism, a very common occurrence in the bible. In a way, that goes back to strengthen the core point, which is that science acts as a religion. It does NOT, however, strengthen the case that religion does not contradict science.

    I’ll just note that all of this is irrelevant to the current core discussion, of whether religion is going to become irrelevant. My take on that is that the answer is “of course not”, mainly due to the fact that science is a blind faith thing, and thus, for most people, indistinguishable from religion.

    Shachar

  103. Brian says:

    Dear Shachar

    Firstly, note that while I admire Steve, I am NOT Steve.

    Secondly, I will agree with you that Schroeder is not arguing in a scientific way. But you write,

    “He gives an irrefutable theorem, which in science is an unacceptable one. A scientific theorem has to have a theoretical refute,”

    What theorem are you referring to? Schroeder relies on Einsteinian time dilation, which is testable and refutable, but which emerges from the tests with flying colours. The atomic clocks in the GPS Satellite system are adjusted for time dilation. Every time a satnav gets you from A to B you have just re-tested – and re-confirmed – the time dilation formulae from General Relativity. Those are the theorems that Schroeder invokes.

  104. Brian says:

    …all of which is a side issue to the main point I was making.

  105. Shachar says:

    Brian

    Firstly, note that while I admire Steve, I am NOT Steve.

    My most sincere apologies. Note to self – never reply directly from email.

    What theorem are you referring to?

    The one where he says the world could have been created in six days. Yes, he bases his statements on certain principles of the theory of relativity, but merely quoting a valid theory in your own theory doesn’t make your theory valid.

    The logic is flawed, the direction of derivation wrong (i.e. – he starts from the desired conclusion and work the arguments accordingly), and I have a suspicion that those part that are refutable can be easily refuted. In particular, his claim that the mass of the universe kept increasing for what we view today as several millions/billions of years does not, as far as I can tell, match current concepts of how the universe came into being.

    Shachar

  106. Brian says:

    Hi Shachar

    I certainly agree with you that “the direction of derivation is wrong (i.e. – he starts from the desired conclusion and work the arguments accordingly)”

    Some guy in Sullivan County (wherever that is) took my article (which is quite flattering for me in itself) and stuck on top of it a cartoon that makes the same point with a nice touch of humour – see http://www.sullivan-county.com/x/science.htm

  107. Ibn says:

    Loki,

    Let me first put forward the disclaimer that I wholeheartedly disagree with militant atheism – the school of thought that is just so severely allergic to religion you’d think if you poured holy water on one of their adherents they’d actually evaporate like count Dracula.

    Those people are what I called “Secular Dogmatists” earlier – the irony being that they fall into exactly the same dogma-trap as those hardcore religionists they are so against.

    I respect religions in that they were the best attempts at social cohesion for big societies at the time, providing a framework and social-contract by which members would live by. I also realize that they were probably necessary for our species as it grew up. Tribal societies always on the brink of extinction rarely have time for honest self reflections on the nature of the universe – it was just easier to go with the flow of supernatural deities there fathers told them about and build on that. I can also respect this.

    In today’s day and age, our collective eyes are more open to the world, we are more aware of how our universe works, we have a greater capacity and time for self reflections on ourselves, our world, and even our forefathers.

    So it is in this spirit and against this backdrop that I have this discussion.

    Fair enogh, i’ve heard and read this view many times. I disagree, that it is the fear of oblivion (or for that matter the need to have unexplainable things explained away by the supernatural) that provides the appeal for religion.

    Well, I realize that there is more than meets the eye on this matter. Religion has many psychological and social aspects unto which it has become or is attractive to individuals and societies, etc. I agree that the fear of oblivion is not the be all and end all of the love affair between people and religion, however for the three Abrahamic faiths, I do believe that it does have significant impact. (Of course with other religions such as Hinduism, and old Greek Pagan ones, there was no such concept, so there must have been other dynamics at work).

    Regarding the connection between religion and morality. Your evolutionary theory whilst interesting is beside the point. Its about the validity of morality. What makes YOUR view of morality more valid.

    A very valid question: See right below.

    Its great for you to think about the origins of morality and come up with a set of values that you believe is correct but what should that matter to me.

    Again, very valid question. My short answer Loki is simply a reversal of that question. You ask, “what makes YOUR view more valid”, but I can also take that question and quiz a man of religion cant I? If you are going to ask me what makes my view of morality more valid vis-a-vis religion, then why cant I ask you what makes religion’s view of morality more valid relative to secularism? Its a two-way street.

    Thats the short answer, but this question deserves a long one too – Ill come back to this point.

    I believe the human experience is greater than our senses and our ability to postulate. It would wrong of me to ignore my experiences and interactions in life that were spiritual.

    I fully agree with this – but no one is asking you to ignore your spiritual side Loki – the question is whether or not we can be spiritual without religion per se – as in, without the supernatural, and I believe the answer is yes. Now, this does not mean that we must all become robots and throw religion down the drain – since I am also quite certain that there are indeed aspects of religion that are in fact valid and spiritual as well. As with most things in life, there are overlaps within many concepts, especially in the social arena.

    Rather than set them aside, and pretend they didn’t/don’t happen or force a “rational” explanation on them that is at best a wild stab in the dark, It becomes more rational that to that they are in line with what your heart is telling you and what humans have been saying for as long as we have existed.

    Thats exactly it Loki – general religious themes are in line with what our ‘hearts’ are telling us, and what humans have been saying for as long as we have existed – you said it. But how can this have possibly come about? In essence, ask yourself what came first: our hearts, or our religions?

    I think we both know what the answer to that question is. Sure, there might have been a feedback effect in this dynamic, where for example even though religion came from our ‘hearts’ so to speak, once it was around, it tended to go back to shape and refine our ‘hearts’ even though thats where it came from originally. But still, that does not negate the central theme that it was from phenomenons very natural from which religion came forth. Phenomenons such as altruism, group kinship, empathy, and a general sense of fairness which humans evolved over time, and which have even been observed (to a limited extent) in some primate cultures.

    I also want to touch on some important points in this discussion, but first let us separate and classify what we are talking about – there are a myriad number of sub-topics in this discussion:

    1) The origins of Religion.
    2) The origins of Morality: Natural or Supernatural?
    3) The ‘stickiness’ of religion – why does it stay with us?
    4) The Dogma circuit.

    I have already addressed (1) and (2), but let me address (3): I believe that there are many psychological aspects for why even in today’s world, religion continues to be with us.
    I think there are many factors, but if I had to list them, I would venture to say that pride and inertia is one of them.

    A child growing up in a Muslim family, or Jewish family, or what have you, is for all intents and purposes going to take up and ‘inherit’ that religion, (or aspects of it), unless he explicitly removes himself from it when he grows up. But for someone who does not do so, it is safe to assume that if quizzed on his faith, he might say something like “I’m Jewish”.

    Meaning of course, that he ‘identifies’ with the faith, which in turn means that he might try to observe its rituals, general teachings, and social events.

    I would in turn hypothesize that the ‘stickiness’ of religion for an individual like this has more to do with its social rituals and his pride in them, rather than anything deeply spiritual. After all, humans are social creatures, and social cohesion and recognition within a group is very important. He might observe Yom Kippur as Judaism requires, he probably had a bar-Mitzvah as Judaism requires, but might also be a playboy going well against Judaic teachings.

    But he’s still considered a Jew. Try to force him to convert, or come out swinging about how Judaism is just wrong wrong wrong, and he’ll probably go on the defensive, not so much because he is spiritual about Judaism, but because you are attacking his “religion”, which includes every social aspect of it which of course he follows. The stickiness to religion here is fueled by pride as well – attacking the religion which he follows is on some level attacking his judgment – you are in essence telling him that not only is he a doofus for following this primitive religion, but so were your fathers, their fathers, and their father’s fathers. You are attacking the intelligence of not only that person, but also on some level, questioning the cognitive abilities of his entire lineage! Not explicitly of course, but this is how it is interpreted.

    This is one aspect of the stickiness factor – pride.

    Other factors leading to stickiness also exist – this is probably the package deal phenomenon. For example, since religion overlaps with so many different social categories, such as ritual, social cohesion, family ties, culture, and even language, attacking religion is seen as an affront on all those sub-categories. And while this may not be intended, it is automatically assumed when one goes on the offensive. Hearts and minds will never be won in this manner, and if anything, it will solidify resistance.

    So far I talked about stickiness of religion that already exists – but what about religion in general? Will it stay or go?

    To answer that I think we have to look at the mechanisms that give rise to religion – and as I said before in previous posts, I think this is the “Dogma Circuit” in our heads. The human brains’ innate bias in attempting to find an explanation – any explanation – for natural phenomena or extrapolated theories. Usually such rationalizations will tend to reinforce an already existing and original emotional stance on a subject matter.

    This dynamic – this quality of our brains doing just that, is never going to go away so long as we have our brains. However, what can change is our personal affinity towards reason and logic. Sure, our brain will always want to tease our explanations for things we dont understand, make up theories for things so that we feel comfortable about it, (afterlife, etc), but it is up to our us filter and understand our own selves in this regard.

    Think of it as a constant battle between different parts of the brain. The temporal lobes of the brain will continually provide an emotional basis for believing certain things, whereas our frontal lobes will constantly have to say “Well, that doesnt really square with reality”.

    And if we do not have all the answers, at least relegate it to something unknown and say:

    “Well, I just dont know.”

    We must never replace our ignorance, with our mysticism.

    -Ibn

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