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Why 9/11 was good for religion - Comments

Tony d's Avatar Comment 1 by Tony d

I don't agree with much in this article.

The publication of anti-Muhammad cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005, and the furore surrounding it, demonstrated the deliberate use of blasphemy as a weapon in cultural wars.

The statement above, stands out as blatantly false and indicates where the author of this silly article is coming from.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 11:13:48 UTC | #869321

angry_liberal's Avatar Comment 2 by angry_liberal

I think this article gets it pretty much right without actually taking sides in any of the debates.

The Jyllands-Posten case may not in itself has been the "deliberate use of blasphemy as a weapon in cultural wars", but if I were to wear one of those cartoons on a tea-shirt then it would be. And I have considered doing that.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 11:22:16 UTC | #869322

Reckless Monkey's Avatar Comment 3 by Reckless Monkey

who also called for the waterboarding of al-Qaida member

No, he said in some circumstances it may be ethically justified, that is entirely different from saying you should water board al-Qaida members. I'm personally not convinced by this either but surely as a journalist or columnist he can get this right (unless the motivation is not honest).

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 11:28:29 UTC | #869323

Drosera's Avatar Comment 4 by Drosera

After reading this muddled article, I still don’t understand why 9/11 was good for religion. If there is any lesson to be drawn from 9/11, it is that religion can motivate people to become suicidal mass-murderers. Even that lesson is hardly new, but it is not one that is good for religion, is it?

What does ‘good for religion’ mean, anyway? Does it mean that 9/11 helped to improve the quality of religious doctrines? Or that it facilitated the spread of religion? Has 9/11 made religions less nonsensical?

What’s good for religion is bad for humanity.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 11:41:58 UTC | #869328

Muldanian's Avatar Comment 5 by Muldanian

I can't see that 9/11 was good for religion. It confirmed what many secularists feel concerning the intolerance of religion. It has caused a reaction amongst atheists, who had been contented before to keep their atheism to themsleves, to be more vocal in their citicism of religion.

I don't believe that Europeans who have worries about the huge numbers of Muslim immigrants are concerned because they are Christian, but because they fear the secular democratic nature of Europe might be challenged. And as this secular democracy took centuries to achieve, it is something which many believe would be wrong to give up lightly. It is the case, that acts of terrorism are carried out in the name of religion, but never in the name of atheism. The fear of offending people of religion should never prevent people who disagree with it, from voicing their concerns. Atheists are criticised much more in a society, which still respects religion.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 11:58:18 UTC | #869330

Charliewhite's Avatar Comment 6 by Charliewhite

Good article, we have become more fragmented by our position on religion. I am sure many people on here will not like the mixing of athiesm and in particular Richard into fundamentalism. To me he is a fundamentalist.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:00:49 UTC | #869331

Drosera's Avatar Comment 7 by Drosera

Fundamentalism, says Appleby, is not a primitive phenomenon, it is a modern one, and every bit as much a reaction to modernity as liberalism or secular optimism. These ideologies provide ways of dealing with the abundance of choices that modern societies offer and traditional societies cannot imagine.

Present day fundamentalism may be a reaction to liberalism and secularism, but that doesn’t mean that it is not also primitive (in the historical sense of corresponding to the earliest state of something).

Modern fundamentalism is clearly a return to the original, literalist interpretation of scripture. As such it is per definition a primitive phenomenon. It's an atavism. The early Christians and Muslims literally believed what was written in their holy books. Adam and Eve really existed and Eve was really formed out of Adam's rib. Modern, non-fundamentalist believers who take these stories to be metaphors are merely acknowledging that the literalist interpretation is not only primitive in the historical sense of the word but also in the derogatory sense.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:17:36 UTC | #869334

baon's Avatar Comment 8 by baon

It is the case, that acts of terrorism are carried out in the name of religion, but never in the name of atheism.

I have heard this claim made many times, and always nodded along with it. But it has occurred to me that this may be more because of circumstances than any inherent peacefulness or tractability of atheists. Given an oppressive established theocracy, I expect acts of terrorism could very well be committed in the name of atheism.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:18:54 UTC | #869335

Drosera's Avatar Comment 9 by Drosera

Comment 6 by Charliewhite :

Good article, we have become more fragmented by our position on religion. I am sure many people on here will not like the mixing of athiesm and in particular Richard into fundamentalism. To me he is a fundamentalist.

You mean that he really, really, really does not believe in a deity? Or how would you define fundamentalist atheism?

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:21:50 UTC | #869336

Charliewhite's Avatar Comment 10 by Charliewhite

There are certainly more high profile athiests prepared to make provactive statements against religion than there were ten years ago. The danger is the ignorant follower who acts on these. I have a great fear that soon some physical harm will come from this. I am an atheist but a live and let live one. People following religion has no impact on me so I see no real need to enter a debate with them. I am taking part in the debate on this site because I fear for the way athiesm is becoming a religion and the direction that could go.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:26:31 UTC | #869339

Tord M's Avatar Comment 11 by Tord M

Comment 3 by Reckless Monkey :

who also called for the waterboarding of al-Qaida member

No, he said in some circumstances it may be ethically justified, that is entirely different from saying you should water board al-Qaida members. I'm personally not convinced by this either but surely as a journalist or columnist he can get this right (unless the motivation is not honest).

I'm afraid you're wrong. Sam Harris has called for torturing al-Qaida members:

Given the damage we were willing to cause to the bodies and minds of innocent children in Afghanistan and Iraq, our disavowal of torture in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed seems perverse. If there is even one chance in a million that he will tell us something under torture that will lead to the further dismantling of Al Qaeda, it seems that we should use every means at our disposal to get him talking.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:27:33 UTC | #869340

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 12 by Jos Gibbons

9/11 was good for religion

Words like “evil” don’t do justice to what 9/11 was. It was a religious act. It is an example of what is wrong with religion.

Resurgence of religious debate after September 11 challenges notion that theism is doomed

Only theism winning in debates would do that; the debates occurring isn't enough. What it means is religion is being questioned more than ever.

9/11 strengthened fundamentalism in every global faith – and in atheism too.

Atheism is a lack of a belief in a god or gods and has no associated texts. Fundamentalism is an adherence to a literal truth of a belief's associated text. Fundamentalism in atheism is therefore a contradiction in terms.

In Islam there have been positive developments. The attacks were repeatedly and clearly condemned by Muslim leaders all over the world.

Unless they previously had higher opinions of terrorism, that's not a positive development. It's not enough in any case. “They agree killing 3,000 innocent civilians is wrong” isn't enough to put them in a good light. These “leaders” are invariably unelected. Polls of Muslims' opinions are how we should assess the situation. Their findings are very far from pleasing.

the most notable response was the decision of 137 Muslim scholars to sign a declaration outlining what common values they shared with Christians.

Anyone who reads the Bible and Koran knows the things on which Christian and Muslim texts can agree are frequently horrid. 137 is also less than negligible in a religion of Islam's size.

This "common word" declaration is an example of "hard tolerance" – the increasing practice of making theological differences distinct and then talking about them, rather than trying to conceal them in a syrup of platitudes about love and mysticism. The aim is for priests, imams and rabbis to enter imaginatively into each other's ideologies, rather than simply agreeing.

Brown has by this point used multiple hyperlinks, so he should have given evidence of this claim. I have seen no such phenomena occurring. In any case, why would they be desirable, or vindicate the claim made in this article's heading?

the heretical understanding of jihad as the sixth pillar of Islam, which originated in Egyptian circles in the 1980s

There's no point getting into a semantic debate about which things are “pillars” (that is a metaphor in all 6 cases). The Koran and Hadith both repeatedly make clear that the outer (i.e. violent) jihad is a religious obligation of every Muslim man. What is heretical is to pretend otherwise. The origins of these ideas are in the seventh century, not the twentieth.

Children in the disputed areas of Pakistan are taught by the Taliban that jihad can compensate for other flaws in a Muslim's life.

That is said in their religious texts. In fact, that is an understatement of the texts' verdict. Jihad combat is the only guarantee of salvation, and it allows access to a higher part of paradise than any other route there, and is also unique in allowing instant access to it (rather than awaiting the Day of Judgement) and allowing the successful applicant to bring 70 people along.

The same polarised reactions can be seen in secular ideologies.

Have followers of Richard Dawkins killed anyone?

The new atheist movement was started by a group of writers who perceived Islam as an existential threat. "We are at war with Islam," argued one of its leaders, Sam Harris, who also called for the waterboarding of al-Qaida members.

There are several lies here. There are no leaders of the new atheist movement; Harris is merely one of its most prolific authors. A specific focus on Islam has been largely absent from other authors' books on the subject. Harris has not directly advocated torture or any form of it. Instead he used thought experiments in his capacity as a philosopher to argue there could in principle be scenarios in which torture is more ethical than our intuition would concede. He has never argued we really live in such a world.

The publication of anti-Muhammad cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005, and the furore surrounding it, demonstrated the deliberate use of blasphemy as a weapon in cultural wars.

That is another lie. The Jyllands-Posten cartoons were actually a satire of Islamophobic comments by right-wing Danish journalists and politicians as much as they were a critique of Islam, and there is no sense in which blasphemy is a weapon. Instead it is a name that we give to particular legal exercises of free speech that are especially liable to be used as a pretext for terrorist attacks by those who are “offended”. Murderers should always face greater condemnation than cartoonists.

secular governments across Europe have made increasing efforts to understand and accommodate religious sensibilities.

France certainly hasn't. They have banned certain Islamic garments in public places (in fact, only 1 politician voted against doing so) and have criminalised Scientology as a cult.

many have turned more and more towards religion to deliver social services.

British PM David Cameron has talked a lot about doing that, but he's not delivered and no-one else has wanted him to. What other nations is Brown thinking of?

it appears the idea that religion is doomed and disappearing was buried in the rubble of the twin towers.

Isn't it an idea that postdated the Towers' collapse? How then clould its demise fail to postdate said attack?

For many people, we told people that religion is really important

Appleby's being an historian clearly doesn't aid his grammar. What does this mean? I genuinely do not know.

the secularisation theory

The what? Does he mean “Being politically neutral on religious questions is a good idea and/or is liable to happen more?” Does he mean “religiosity is reducing and/or is liable to continue to do so?” The latter statement is provably factually accurate, even if the and/or is changed to an and.

the wars of the past 10 years cannot be understood without their theological component.

Quite right – like the War in Iraq, which Bush said was divinely inspired. Devoutly religious Tony Blair not only probably agreed with that assessment, but understated his religiosity while in office, no doubt in part to spare faith from scrutiny in this matter. (He after all thinks it's awesome.)

Fundamentalism, says Appleby, is not a primitive phenomenon, it is a modern one

If that were true, the Christians of the Dark and Middle Ages and the Muslims of the 15th century onwards would largely be moderates, and the facts overwhelmingly prove virtually no moderation in doctrine existed in either of these groups.

every bit as much a reaction to modernity as liberalism or secular optimism.

A reaction to modernity is an effort to restore previous situations, and fundamentalism is all about that, whereas liberalism and secular optimism both seek to bring unprecedented forms of progress.

These ideologies provide ways of dealing with the abundance of choices that modern societies offer and traditional societies cannot imagine.

What does this mean? How does “Live under Sharia law” deal with us having so much choice in the shops we're indecisive? Or perhaps by choice Brown means the expanding list of so far suggested ways of organising society. In that case, these ideologies are not so much ways of dealing with so much choice as candidates amongst that choice. Shall we have democracy? Yes. Shall we have fair, extensive human rights? Yes. Can we honour religious texts when we do so? Only very tiny bits of their instructions.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:29:06 UTC | #869341

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 13 by Marc Country

Guardian link bait... horrible writing by nobody at all that mentions Richard Dawkins at some point. This stuff is their bread and butter.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:30:31 UTC | #869342

Drosera's Avatar Comment 14 by Drosera

Comment 8 by baon :

Given an oppressive established theocracy, I expect acts of terrorism could very well be committed in the name of atheism.

I don't expect atheists, who under such circumstances would fight for the cause of reason, to use unreasonable methods. Mass-murdering innocent people would still be an irrational and immoral thing to do and therefore something to be condemmed by well-thinking atheists.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:31:41 UTC | #869343

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 15 by Marc Country

"People following religion has no impact" -Charliewhite

Sunday, 11 September 2011 at 6:26 AM

Lucky for Charliewhite, he wasn't in the Twin Towers ten years ago.

Otherwise, he wouldn't be able to say the things he says here today, about religions having no "impact".

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:42:06 UTC | #869344

Drosera's Avatar Comment 16 by Drosera

Comment 10 by Charliewhite :

People following religion has no impact on me so I see no real need to enter a debate with them.

Do you really think that, for example, the Catholic Church banning almost all methods of birth control, and thereby contributing to the social and environmental deterioration of our planet and promoting the spread of HIV, has no impact on you? I'm sorry, but you look like a singularly short-sighted person to me.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:43:28 UTC | #869345

mmurray's Avatar Comment 17 by mmurray

Comment 8 by baon :

It is the case, that acts of terrorism are carried out in the name of religion, but never in the name of atheism. I have heard this claim made many times, and always nodded along with it. But it has occurred to me that this may be more because of circumstances than any inherent peacefulness or tractability of atheists. Given an oppressive established theocracy, I expect acts of terrorism could very well be committed in the name of atheism.

No they wouldn't be terrorists but freedom fighters. The ones on our side are always freedom fighters.

Michael

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:47:38 UTC | #869346

mmurray's Avatar Comment 18 by mmurray

Comment 16 by Drosera :

Comment 10 by Charliewhite :

People following religion has no impact on me so I see no real need to enter a debate with them.

Do you really think that, for example, the Catholic Church banning almost all methods of birth control, and thereby contributing to the social and environmental deterioration of our planet and promoting the spread of HIV, has no impact on you? I'm sorry, but you look like a singularly short-sighted person to me.

S/he looks to me like one of these.

Michael

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:48:50 UTC | #869347

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 19 by Stafford Gordon

So, it seems that secularism and atheism are fashionable but wrong. I wonder if the auther thinks that that maxim also applies to the truth and reality.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:53:31 UTC | #869350

Charliewhite's Avatar Comment 20 by Charliewhite

Michael - and what happens the day some unstable athiest takes action in the name of stopping mental child abuse?

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:53:36 UTC | #869351

Drosera's Avatar Comment 21 by Drosera

Comment 20 by Charliewhite :

Michael - and what happens the day some unstable athiest takes action in the name of stopping mental child abuse?

Charlie, the fact that on several occasions you spelled 'atheist' as 'athiest' makes me believe that Michael was right about you. For some reason, religious morons often write 'athiest'.

By the way, for a moment I thought that by 'mental child abuse' you meant the abuse of mentally retarded children by priests.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 12:58:28 UTC | #869353

andersemil's Avatar Comment 22 by andersemil

Religions are not meant to improve; believers are not meant to understand each other and agree upon common issues. Infidels are going to hell, and if you take every word literally, they can be slaughtered at will too. Mutual understanding and common grounds are directly detrimental to religions. It is, however, very good for secularism and humanism. A better understanding of other faiths can, in my eyes, only lead to a loss of your own faith. If it doesn't then you do not properly understand the others.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 13:07:32 UTC | #869354

mmurray's Avatar Comment 23 by mmurray

Comment 20 by Charliewhite :

Michael - and what happens the day some unstable athiest takes action in the name of stopping mental child abuse?

A hypothetical straw man. You are convincing me I was right.

We have police, we have laws, what else you would want? Lock up all the atheists now. Just in case.

Michael

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 13:07:35 UTC | #869355

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 24 by Tyler Durden

Comment 10 by Charliewhite :

People following religion has no impact on me so I see no real need to enter a debate with them.

When was the last time you travelled through international airport security? Take note of the date of your comment before replying.

I am taking part in the debate on this site because I fear for the way athiesm [sic] is becoming a religion and the direction that could go.

Religion is dogmatic, irrational and delusional; atheism (note spelling) is the antithesis of religion(s).

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 13:21:38 UTC | #869359

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 25 by Tyler Durden

Comment 6 by Charliewhite :

Good article, we have become more fragmented by our position on religion. I am sure many people on here will not like the mixing of athiesm [sic] and in particular Richard into fundamentalism. To me he is a fundamentalist.

I thought Richard was a scientist.

fun-da-men-tal-ist - noun

A conservative movement in theology among nineteenth- and twentieth-century Christians. Fundamentalists believe that the statements in the Bible are literally true.

A fundamentalist scientist? An oxymoron if ever there was one.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 13:29:15 UTC | #869362

Dirty Kuffar's Avatar Comment 26 by Dirty Kuffar

This tedious Guardianista author talks of "the deliberate use of blasphemy as a weapon in cultural wars" as though it is some sort of bad thing we should all guilt trip ourselves over ! Blasphemy is the insulting and criticising of evil religion and non existant Gods/Allah et al; whats' the problem ? religions in general and the supremist politico-religious ideology that is Islam in particular are very fond of insulting and even killing those who oppose them, we need to fire far more blasphemeous weapons at them in the war over which culture we choose to live in, and yes, despite what the Guardian seems to think, our vibrant democratic culture with its free speech and greater respect for women, gays, lesbians etc is far better than anything Islam has come up with throughout it's bigoted existance.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 13:35:28 UTC | #869364

Mr. Stick's Avatar Comment 27 by Mr. Stick

Where did Andrew Brown get the idea that the Muhammad-cartoons were anti-Muhammad?

The comments on the original site has so far been very sensible and encouraging.

Comment 20 by Charliewhite :

Michael - and what happens the day some unstable athiest takes action in the name of stopping mental child abuse?

The difference is you don't have to be unstable to fly an airplane in to a building, you just have to really believe, then it's a perfectly sensible and rational act.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 13:45:17 UTC | #869365

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 28 by Tyler Durden

The same polarised reactions can be seen in secular ideologies. The new atheist movement was started by a group of writers who perceived Islam as an existential threat.

Oh no, a bunch of writers?!? People are clearly not safe in their own beds with a bunch of writers having their say.

"We are at war with Islam," argued one of its leaders, Sam Harris

My copy of the super-secret Atheist Handbook doesn't mention Sam as our leader, perhaps I have an outdated copy.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 13:51:28 UTC | #869369

sanban's Avatar Comment 29 by sanban

I think we should all be taking action every day to prevent any abuse or harm, especially of vulnerable persons. Opposing religion is just one way we can do that.

If you're suggesting that "unstable" persons are more likely to be violent, I'd ask you for some evidence of that, or are you just using a nasty stereotyping of persons with mental illness to provoke fear?

Michael - and what happens the day some unstable athiest takes action in the name of stopping mental child abuse?

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 13:52:31 UTC | #869370

Crimbly's Avatar Comment 30 by Crimbly

The only sentence to which I actually nodded was "In the modern world, [religion] is a conscious choice. Some people discard it; others make it more deliberate and sharp-edged."

The rest of it is pure bollocks. The picture at the top is especially amusing - "down with religious bigotry", what a great double meaning. Also, the "deliberate use of blasphemy in culture wars" made me smile. I guess then the murdering of the cartoonist is a "deliberate use of murder in culture wars". I certainly know which side comes out the more reasonable.

Good to see that commenters have hit upon similar observations. What a load of guff this article is.

Sun, 11 Sep 2011 14:12:41 UTC | #869373