Extremists are the real threat

May 26, 2011


So, it turns out Islam is a religion. Imagine that.

Granted, this would be considered self-evident by most of us, but it has been a matter of great controversy in the Tennessee town of Murfreesboro, where 17 people went to court last year to prevent a group of Muslims from building a mosque. On their own land.

The need to defend this fundamental right was only one of the ordeals visited upon the Muslims of Murfreesboro, who have also faced threats, vandalism and arson. As recently, vividly illustrated in “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door,” a troubling CNN documentary, the antagonists here are a clownish band of bigots scared witless by the prospect that a new mosque will be built in their community by a congregation that has already worshipped in said community for 30 years.

Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.

The 17 had contended Muslims have no constitutional freedom to worship because Islam is not a religion. So the statement at the top of this column represents not just self-evident truth, but an actual ruling last week by an actual judge in an actual court. Again: seriously. Chancellor Robert Corlew, the aforementioned actual judge, was obliged to verify that Islam — which has survived 14 centuries, and claims a billion and a half adherents — is a religion.

As reported in the Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro, in throwing out most of the plaintiff’s case, Corlew also dismissed claims that “Kevin Fisher, an African-American Christian, would be subject to being a second-class citizen under Sharia law; Lisa Moore would be targeted for death under Sharia law because she’s a Jewish female; Henry Golzynski has been harmed because he lost a son fighting in Fallujah, Iraq, by insurgents pursuing jihad as dictated by Sharia law.”

Maybe you’re tempted to turn away in disgust. Yield not to temptation. We need to see this. This is what it looks like when a country loses its mind.

It looked like this in Germany in 1938 on Kristallnacht, in Rwanda in 1994 when the Hutus savaged the Tutsis, in America in 1942 when the Japanese were herded behind barbed wire.

My point is explicitly not that Muslims face mass vandalism, genocide or internment. Lord only knows what they face. Rather, my point is that the psychological architecture of what happened then is identical to the psychological architecture of Murfreesboro now. Once again, we see people goaded by their own night terrors, hatreds, need for scapegoats, and by the repetitive booming of demagogues, until they go to a place beyond reason.

And in that place inevitably lies a dark night of malice, destruction and awful deeds that seem like good ideas at the time. When it passes, like a fever, we — the doers and those who simply observe — are left shivering in a cold dawn as reason reasserts itself, wondering how barbarism overtook us, what broke loose inside us, and vowing that it will never happen again. Never again.

Me, I don’t fear Muslims. I fear Muslim extremists. I fear extremists, period. And that group in Murfreesboro, make no mistake, are extremists.

Against their extremism, I find bitter succor in the inevitability of that cold dawn. Yes, there will come a morning after.

But first we must learn how dark this night will be.

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. His email is lpitts@miamiherald.com.


DeaconBlue 7 years ago

Extremists like Pitts defend extremists constantly. From Sharia Law to veiling women. Liberal Spring is alive and well.

Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

"You can’t make this stuff up."

Yes, YOU can. You just did.

Maddy Griffin 7 years ago

"Liberal Spring is alive and well." As it very well should be. Thank you for bringing this sad story to light, Mr. Pitts.

Paul R Getto 7 years ago

Good column. All the skygods are phony inventions used to oppress someone. With one god, you hold down women; with another you punish the poor for being poor. This will all pass someday and the third chimp will mature, look around and wonder what he's been doing for the past 10,000 years, then we can move on................

Abdu Omar 7 years ago

If your were smart, Mr Getto, you woud read. Yes, read. You don't obviously because the statements you have made are wrong. Islam doesn't "hold down women". Men do that because they want to have the power. Don't blame a religion for doing that. And, if you read the Quran, you will see that. But you choose instead. to listen to other ignorants who proclaim that Islam holds women down. If you were smart, you and others who think that, would check it out. Get the facts not the prejudices. That would make you smart and then you can post the truth on this site..

jafs 7 years ago

Islam, like all religions, doesn't have one clear and correct proponent.

It has many factions, all of whom believe they are representing the religion, and the correct interpretation of the holy books.

I like your version as you have expressed it here, by the way.

If the books (Torah, Old Testament, Bible, Koran, etc.) were clear and consistent, we wouldn't have so many problems with differing sects - everybody in a given religion would believe the same thing, and interpret the books in the same way.

Stuart Evans 7 years ago

"Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up."

anything that anyone does, ever, in the name of religion is made up. whether dancing around in fruity costumes, or denouncing the fruity costumes of other religions, it's all made up. it's one giant ridiculous game of make believe.

notsobright 7 years ago

Let me see if I get this. . . "Anything In the name of religion is made up." That is an amazing conclusion. So- the theist is attempting to answer origins, destiny, and suggests a map of how to navigate that.- all based on the given evidence. Done well- it attempts to give answers that are coherent, rational, and fit the real world we live in. Now I thought that the the agnostic/secular/naturalists TRY to do the SAME EXACT THING! You have your definition of origins, def. of destiny, and the map you think navigates. You even have your iconic leader- Darwin (Your worship picture you display so proudly) , AND your worship center (paid for by my tax dollars) called "The Natural History Museum." ??

Interesting too, as one of YOUR OWN, Dr. M. Ruse, has admitted- All of these things submitted by the secularist are "made up" from an ideology that has NOTHING to do with science!

If I get you correctly- You are demanding that by "blind faith" we believe that something comes from nothing. Life comes from non-life. Life as we know it is progressing though violating the SCIENTIFIC LAW of Thermodynamics. Morality and truth come from the time+chance accident of the chemical swirls in our skull caps. You want us to take by "blind faith" that we think we are human-beings, but there is no way to "scientifically" prove it. And you apparently use this time+chance chemical accident to try to prove with your accidental "reason" that you use reason!

I could be wrong, but it sure seems you have played a far more "ridiculous game" than many of us. Hmmm. . . I probably am just confused.

So. . . I am trying to understand here who is the "extremist?"

jafs 7 years ago

Oh no, you're not a big Dawkins fan, are you?

jafs 7 years ago

He's violently anti-religious, while being rather ignorant about religion, and he seems quite arrogant to me in his certainty about his own views on the issue.

notsobright 7 years ago

My phrasing is exactly what the secular naturalist believes; everything we know in life is arbitrary. There is no apparent design.

It seems the secular naturalist wants me to accept by "blind faith" that somehow human Reason gets to escape this conclusion of the arbitrary nature of life!

By the way; Dawkins may want to stick to science and not try his hand at philosophy. His phil. arguments have all been dismissed.

notsobright 7 years ago

Already did. Again, this is why I can appreciate atheistic biologist Michael Ruse who is honest enough to admit that modern science has went beyond its limits. Naturalism is a philosophy (best handled by philosophers) and not science. Dawkins is just not a good philosopher.

notsobright 7 years ago

Oh my gosh- that is MY point. Dawkins tries to equate philosophy with science. And he is not good at a philosophical argument.

notsobright 7 years ago

Liberty- Help me here- where is the experiment that demonstrates the beginning premise of the universe? Where is the experiment that demonstrates how life came from non-life? Where is the experiment that demonstrates how something came from nothing? Where is the experiment that shows how "Reason" came about by evolution?

What you are saying here is like someone telling me, with words, that words have no meaning. Read all the posts here. You ARE making a philosophical argument- and that is the point. Nothing you have given is science. Naturalism is a philosophy- NOT science! Dawkins, as his OWN atheistic comrade Michael Ruse admits, is NOT giving a science argument!!

I give! You go ahead and argue with Ruse, British world renown atheistic biologist, who agrees that modern science has went far beyond its limits. Like my name here suggests, I am just not bright enough to figure out how your philosophical arguments magically become scientific experiments because you demand they do.

notaubermime 7 years ago

Ruse is not a biologist. He is a philosopher of biology.

jafs 7 years ago

You're talking to two different people there.

notsobright and notaubermine.

notsobright 7 years ago

EVERYTHING you are talking about IS philosophy. But that is the point- philosophy and science are two different things.

So here. . . you can easily clear it up for me. Seriously. Use the scientific method and show me how life came from non-life, or something came from nothing, or how you can cross an actual infinity, or how you determine what is moral. Maybe you will sway my view. I will wait to see it . . (hmmm. . .waiting with that cute tune from Jeopardy!) Let me save you time- The scientific method and evidence will not answer those things!

But this is exactly the point. Naturalism is NOT science- it is a philosophy with its presuppositions on origins, destiny, and its map based in a closed system. Dawkins is making a philosophical argument. That is not my opinion, it is a fact acknowledged by the world of scholars.

Some of you are absolutely amazing. In contrast to Ruse (one of your own atheists), Tolkien, Lewis, Flew, and thousands of other thinkers; you have arrived at something that ALL of us have missed. Wow. So, not to embarrass myself any further, I will hold off any more arguments until you can show me the scientific evidence and conclusions that will sway me. Seriously- the ball is in your court. I want to know what is true.

Good grief. . .I am not going to argue about Ruse being a biologist. Ruse is ten levels deeper than the everyday biologist- as he is a scholar in BOTH philosophy AND the sciences. Realize, I am just suggesting since he is an atheist and one of your own, perhaps you should convince him that he has made a terrible mistake in acknowledging that modern science has been commandeered by philosophical naturalism.

While you are at it with Ruse, you may want to argue with Copernicus, Bacon, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Boyle, Faraday, Mendel, Kelvin, Planck, Tolkien, Lewis (i.e. Pilgrim's Regress, The Abolition of Man, Mere Christianity, etc), A. McGrath, and Anthony Flew (who USED to debate for atheism until he also saw it as a failure!). I DO REALIZE that just because many of these men gave us the foundations for science while they were all theists, does not make the theistic worldview true. I am just suggesting that you study their writings and ideas instead of arguing with this not-so-bright-guy who only has 12 years of post secondary education and will not be known in history like those men.

Since naturalism is such an obviously superior intellectual philosophical system- it should not be hard to get them to abandon (or in history here show them as intellectual nincompoops) their theistic systems and move back to atheism/naturalism.

What do I know. . . I am not that bright as I am totally confused by your arguments.

notaubermime 7 years ago

Ruse is not a biologist. None of his degrees are in biology (all philosophy), his CV lists no peer-reviewed primary research in biology... there is nothing in his list of accomplishments that would indicate he is a scientist. For all of your claims that Liberty_One cannot distinguish between science and philosophy, it is your inability to distinguish between what a scientist is and what a philosopher is that is the most egregious blurring of that line.

Paul R Getto 7 years ago

Notso: "If I get you correctly- You are demanding that by "blind faith" we believe that something comes from nothing. Life comes from non-life. Life as we know it is progressing though violating the scientific law of Thermodynamics. Morality and truth come from the time+chance accident of the chemical swirls in our skull caps." ==== Interesting comment. Yes, there was a big bang; not sure if it's 'something from nothing.' I suppose if one had a taste for mystery like the oldsters 10,000+ BCE, one could call the Big Bang the eye of 'god.' Might make some feel better. As for the rest of the story, the evidence points to life somehow forming then descent from common ancestors. There is another story, as you allege, some ancient books written by those who couldn't separate magic and myth from an emerging reality. I choose to believe in the former, not the latter. There are some interesting skygods, however. Here are a few who didn't make the big time because they had no rich, political sponsors (AKA the Romans.) For now, we'll concentrate on Africa, where the Jews stole their concept of a unitary skygod from the Egyptians. Adroa: Known as the "God in the sky" as well as a creator god by the Lugbara of Zaire and Uganda. Buku: Worshipped as a sky god and creator, although sometimes worshiped as a goddess, in some West African cultures. Ebore: An African sky god Emayian: A sky god of the Masai of Kenya, a sky god. En-Kai: A Masai sky god. Kazooba: Sky god, creator, and sun god of the Ankore of Uganda Mukameiguru: A sky god of the Ankore. Nenaunir: Resided in the clouds and was a dreaded spirit to the Masai. Nyamia Ama: A sky god in Senegal. Olorun: The sky-god of the Yoruba people. He created the world and mankind. Olofin-Orun: A sky-god of the Yoruba. Olodumare: A sky-god of the Yoruba Parsai: A Masai sky god. Rock-Sens: The sky god of the Serer of Gambia Rugaba: A sky god of the Ankore. Ruhanga: A sky god of the Ankore. Tilo: A sky god of Mozambique. Tsui' Goab: A rain god, who lives in the clouds, of the Hottentots of South Africa. Umvelinqangi: A Zulu sky god who descended from heaven. Utixo: A Hottentot sky god who speaks with a voice of thunder. Wak: A supreme god, who lived in the clouds, worshipped in Ethiopia. Wele: "The High One", sky god and creator god to the Bantu.

Many Gods, One Humanity http://www.bibleufo.com/worldgod5.htm You might also note many of these gods 'created' the world. A good idea, since without the origin myths, most people feel lost.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

dude, I'm totally woshipping Kazooba from now on.

Any diety whose name is an anagram of BAZOOKA has to be more interesting that one whose name is an anagram of DOG.

voevoda 7 years ago

Religions can be a force for great good. Religions can teach individuals to behave ethically, even against their own self-interest; to treat other human beings with compassion and live with them peacefully; to value truth, beauty, peace, and kindness over material gain. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other religious all teach these things, and the world is better for it. Non-religious philosophies can promote these same ideals. Yes, extremists have perverted religious systems and non-religious philosophies for their own destructive purposes. Any system of thought powerful enough to inspire followers will also attract unscrupulous people determined to use it towards their own ends. The opponents of the mosque in Murphreesboro were unable to distinguish between the few extremists in distant places who perverted Islam, and their peaceful Muslim neighbors who join them in rejecting "Islamist" violence. While their initial viceral reaction against the building of the mosque might be forgiven on grounds of ignorance, their insistence upon trying to undermine their neighbors' freedom of religion is troubling, indeed.
This is not a "liberal" or "conservative" issue; it's one of our basic American freedoms. All patriotic Americans ought to agree with Leonard Pitts on this one.

Cait McKnelly 7 years ago

In truth, your post makes a case for religion actually supporting evolution's main tenet, i.e. "survival of the fittest", as religion encourages people to set aside destructive behavior that is self centered to ensure survival of the group or community. This is one of my main objections to Objectivism (and it's red headed step child, Libertarianism), in that both philosophies encourage glorification of the self to the detriment of society as a whole. Human beings have become so specialized that survival of the species now actually depends on inter-cooperation of societal elements. Without that cooperation, we will all die.

emceelean 7 years ago

That is not what survival of the fittest means at all. A basic google search should clear it up for you.

KSWingman 7 years ago

"Without that cooperation, we will all die."

I hate to break it to you, Cait, but we will all die anyway.

All of us. No exceptions.

And survival of the fittest is not a cooperative effort.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

Great article Pitts.

And great comments by notsobright and Made_in_China. Here's something for you both to chew on.

I think it's safe to say that science will never be able to solve everything. Which means that there will always remain unknowns in the universe. Which implies that there is at least one thing, but probably many things, that are in essence, unknowable by humankind.

To me, that sounds like an excellent home for God :-)

Paul R Getto 7 years ago

gudpoynt: I like those thoughts. Humans are programmed for spirituality. We are an altruistic species in many ways. If we weren't, 'news' would consist of those few exceptions (which is the definition of news) when someone actually made it home alive at the end of the day. Science 'solves' nothing, only seeks to explain, which is what religion tries to do in its own way. The difference is: If science ever 'discovers' the skygod sitting on her throne somewhere pulling all the universe's strings, they will publish the study and debate it. If there is ever 'proof' that the invented skygods do not exist (proving the negative is impossible as we all know) the religionists won't admit that it's true. Religion is a force for good, when practiced by those who actually believe the universal tenets and live by them. For example: The Golden Rule: A Universal Edict? Christian: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Holy Bible, King James Version, St. Luke 6:31). Jewish: “what is hateful to yourself do not do to your fellow man” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbath 31a). Muslim: “No man is a true believer unless he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself” (Hadith, Muslim, imam 71-72). Buddhist: “Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.” (Udanavarga, v. 18). Hindu: “Let not any man do unto another any act that he wisheth not done to himself by others” (Mahabharata, Shanti Parva, cclx. 21). Confucian: “Do no do to others what you would not want them to do to you” (Analects, Book xii, #2). As we have observed, Osama and Fred, for example, not all can live by these rules.

Cait McKnelly 7 years ago

Please add the following: The Wiccan Rede-"And it harm none, do what thou wilt." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiccan_Rede Adding that, I give this post a +1.

bad_dog 7 years ago

I didn't know folks in Murfreesboro read the LJW online...

yourworstnightmare 7 years ago

"The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters". Goya.

Pitts is correct. When reason goes to sleep, bad things result. When people believe something without evidence, and in fact despite of evidence in many cases, trouble is the likely outcome. This is why any sort of religion and faith is corrosive and counterproductive.

If one can believe in a sky god sitting in heaven who has absolute concern for that individual, then what else can this person swallow? Unicorns? Fairies? That islam is not a religion? That all muslims are terrorists? That non-christians should be eradicated?

Indeed, the sleep of reason has produced monsters as Pitts describes.

Too bad Pitts in other guises is a fuzzy god-head who defends the validity of belief and faith.

notsobright 7 years ago

Oh my. . . nope. Even though nobody knows what energy really "is" I believe in it; as I do time, physical laws, love for my kids, as well as morality and truth (that which fits reality). The list goes on.. . .

Like ALL finite people I must explain the first premise- the self existent beginning point. That point must be self-existent, personal, immaterial, the reference point of all things, and must be infinite. Of course, you would not want me to put my head in the sand on the question would you?

I just wish we would quit trying to cover the lack of argument by name calling or prideful mindless quips. I just want coherent answers that people actually LIVE in the real world. Sadly few naturalists really do. Few, deny human rights, morality, and even their own love for someone dear to them. Now. . . Nietzsche is one of the few who actually did live consistent (of course it lead to insanity). Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler also lived pretty consistent (Bad ending though!).

It sure seems good education would want to explore the possible answers. Your position has a lot of explaining to do! Seems pretty "extreme" to force and legislate a society to have to accept things by faith and not giving answers to the questions. (Let alone force me to pay for someone's "ridiculous game" and worship)

Gosh- you missed the 100's of thousands of gods in India alone! So. . . . the point is??? It actually demonstrates that to the masses of thinking humanity in history there had to be "something" outside of our world to explain it. A closed universe makes no sense. You would not want me to trust zillions of mindless time + chance events and sequences to somehow add up to my chemical/mechanical mind assessing reality accurately?

Nah- I do not think I and the masses of humanity are playing a "ridiculous game." Now I do think there are some narrow "extremists" who just may be. . . but again, I could be wrong.

yourworstnightmare 7 years ago

Sigh... You god-heads tire me with your same old responses. I will address the ones that are actually inteligible and that aren't religious double speak.

There is evidence for energy, for love, morality, and truth. These things exist, and there is evidence for them. There is no evidence for gods who are concerned with individuals and sit on high watching and making things happen. No evidence, period.

I don't want to legislate or force anyone to do or believe anything. This is a straw man argument. I will always try to convince with evidence and reason, however, which is what this is. In fact and evidence it is the religious who tend to bully with legislation and codes to get people to behave and think like them.

Your other intelligible argument is that because masses of humanity believe, than it must be real, right, and good. I think this argument has been disproven by history repeatedly, as masses of humans have believed in and done many things which we now see as nonsense.

notsobright 7 years ago

No evidence? I asked a bunch of questions and have yet to hear one good argument. So just answer one: "How do we get life from non-life?" No name calling (a sign that one has no argument). Just answer the question.

"Bully?" Usually the last step in the inability to give a sound argument: name calling. That is "reasonable?"

So what is it that we legislate? Its called "morality." So- if I understand your view correctly, morality is based on . . . . ?? Your preferences? My preferences? Majority preferences? (Good grief- what happens if the majority of the history of the WORLD thinks that answers lay with a deity?) Interesting how the Nuremburg trials found it necessary to appeal to something outside of this world as those being charged claimed, "they were just obeying the law?" Gosh those lawyers and judges must have been really ignorant and dumb. Glad you are smarter than the rest of all humanity!

Like I said- the secularist/naturalist has a lot of explaining to do- and this post is so typical. Apart from name calling- not one answer has been given!

I hate to even appeal to the last statement as to give answers to those who do not love the truth is only offering more info. for misinterpretation. . . The argument PUT FORTH BY THE SECULAR/NATURALIST position was that all these peoples of the world were caught in some "ridiculous game" because they were all trying to identify some god. The argument I put forward was perhaps there is a reason that intelligent people throughout ALL of the history of man look for answers outside of a closed system. I suppose we could just accept by blind and unintelligible faith that we live in a closed system. Once again- I just wish people who claim a closed system would answer the real questions and not evade them.

Cait McKnelly 7 years ago

I would like to substitute one word (or perhaps add one); it isn't secular/naturalism, it's secular humanism. And I can get behind and defend that. One of my husband's main "rules of life" is that no one ever does anything for purely altruistic reasons, a statement I agree with. In any "good work" we do there is and always will be an element of self satisfaction and self gratification that we "did the right thing", whether it's religion based or not. Morality doesn't have to be "faith based". Nor or our laws "faith based", as you suggest.. (This is coming dangerously close to what Texas did when they outlawed the study of Thomas Jefferson and Enlightenment philosophy.) Secular humanism is no more of a "closed system" than any religion based system. They all work for the common good of humanity. As for "life" and "non-life", these are arbitrary distinctions. A case can be made for all things being living. Just because an object is inanimate doesn't mean it has no life. It still undergoes metamorphosis with time, wears down and in the end "dies" where it joins with other matter to become something else and be "reborn". Now, if you can figure out a way to create matter you would be a god!

jafs 7 years ago

All of the theories about how the universe first came into existence I've heard have a sense of magic about them.

What existed before the universe? When did it happen, if time was started when the universe was created? Etc.

I know somebody who responded quite matter of factly, that everything simply came from a singularity - if you look it up, that's an infinitely small thing containing all of the matter/energy in the existing universe - wow!

notsobright 7 years ago

I did not say that law is "faith based." I said we legislate morality. There is a reason we think it is "good" to stop at a stop sign. We think it is a moral good. So we pass laws that we think are good (a moral statement). The bigger question is where does that morality come from as the basis? I hope it is something outside of our finite self definitions.

ALL people live by "faith." You do it everyday- even as you are typing your replies here. Oops you just used faith again when you took a breath (you did not see the oxygen did you?). You trust by faith that gravity works when you go up in a plane. How do you know? By faith. You trust/have-faith that the pilot uses good evidences/gauges when making decisions. And EVERYONE arrives at their final conclusion as to the self existent beginning point of the universe by looking at the evidences and trusting by faith. EVERYONE does that by faith. The real question is: Does your conclusion meet the criteria/evidences? I do not think the naturalist has a good argument- that is why I walked away from it. (Also why people like Tolkien, Lewis, Anthony Flew and masses of others have rejected their atheism/naturalist views- they are not where the evidence leads!)

Life is arbitrary. Matter = life. Wedding, birth of a child, a concentration camp, or a morgue = no difference for you? I guess when the people you love are gone all you will need is their dirty diapers and it won't be any different?? Hmm? Gosh- I sure hope my parents loved ME more than what I left behind in the dirty diapers. (You really think THAT is what they loved and not ME? I really need to call them. . . .)

Secular humanism and modern scientific naturalism VERY MUCH holds to a "closed system." That is the center of their system. Again- not even a point of argument.

One question: Why should we care about "the good of humanity?"

jafs 7 years ago

Your view is a little bit incorrect, it seems to me.

Working within our observations of the physical universe doesn't require "faith" in gravity.

Natural activities such as breathing do not require faith either - they are simply natural activities that our bodies engage in, without conscious control.

There are other ways than faith that people have understood a basis for morality as well - you may not agree with them, but that doesn't mean they aren't there.

Cait McKnelly 7 years ago

Wow. I don't know where to start. Let's start at the very end. "One question: Why should we care about "the good of humanity?"" There's this little book Charles Darwin wrote called "Origin of the Species". I suggest you read it. There's this line in it repeated pretty frequently, "survival of the species". It's an idea he expounds on fairly thoroughly. I don't believe in gravity on faith. I believe in gravity because, if I throw a hammer in the air, it comes back down. Wow. I saw it with my own eyes. And even dodged it when it came back down. That's not faith. That's * experience. I don't breathe on faith. I breathe because I have baroreceptors in my body that trigger unconscious functioning. See, it's right there in the brain stem. Faith has nothing to do with it. And yes, life is* arbitrary. Some of it can be controlled by inherent nature and some of it can be controlled by the way we're raised but the rest is just pure dumb luck; being in the right place at the right time (or the wrong place at the wrong time). And, as pointed out earlier, Tolkien was a devout Catholic and Lewis a devout Anglican. Not exactly sure where you're getting your info but start checking your sources.

notsobright 7 years ago

Oh my. . . . I thought I was confused. . .

I suggest you read Darwin. "Survival of the fittest" is a theory and opposite of caring for humanity. It certainly is not the basis for why we think it is moral to care for people.

So- if someone beats up your child, or someone preys on another race as inferior you are celebrating "survival of the fittest." The good news is I am sure you do not live according your claim.

Interesting how you actually live according to my view then deny the basis for my view. But if I lived out your view accepting your basis you would call me an "extremist!" At least Stalin, Lenin, and Hitler had the integrity to live out their belief of survival of the fittest.

People- good grief. . .Tolkien, Lewis, and Flew were all atheists before being convinced by the evidence!!! That is the point! Brilliant thinking men who saw the failure and incoherence of the atheistic/naturalistic view.

Cait McKnelly 7 years ago

Actually, "survival of the fittest" can and does frequently apply to groups and communities that operate with each other within the context of that community for the common good. Bees do it and yes, humans do it. To do something "for the good of humanity" is to do something to enhance survival of the species. You have a pretty twisted idea of what the phrases "survival of the fittest" and "survival of the species" mean. (I suspect you've been, at the least, exposed to Objectivism/ Libertarianism, a very twisted, self centered and non-beneficial to humanity philosophy, in my opinion.)

notsobright 7 years ago

So cait- if I get you right- the reason you will stop and help a child who was been hit on her bike by a car is because it is good for the species? You know- I never realized that most people do think that- "Wow, I need to call 911 because that human being needs to be rescued for the sake of our species." Now I get it- always wondered what moved the heart of true heroes and selfless parents- "I need to risk my own life for the sake of prospering the species."

It is finally getting clearer- that is exactly what Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler held to- "to prosper the species!" They are the heroes. Ok. . . man I was confused. Nitzsche was right all the time!

Can't wait to teach on what a hero really is: Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler. . . wow. A BUNCH of us missed that one (probably because we are so "extreme" in our "religious" views!) Thanks for helping me clarify the greatness of a naturalistic philosophy of life.

jafs 7 years ago

I think the logic would go something like this:

Caring for the weak and less fortunate is a trait that benefits us as a species, and that's why people act in those ways.

notsobright 7 years ago

Good to see you have come to the moral conclusions that it would be good to care for weak and less fortunate human beings. Gosh- there have been many in this discussion that have taken the naturalistic philosophical position for survival of the fittest- which was the basis that fueled the Gulags and the Holocaust. Very pleased to see you would stand against such extremists.

Also good to see you are pro-life instead of those who think that we should really live out "survival of the fittest" whereby we kill innocent children. At least you are being consistent compared to the many who have truly entered into something so irrational, that their arguments do not even align with reality.

I wish people would at least be consistent- either human life is to be protected simply because it has transcendent value as human life; or we believe that the strong should survive as espoused by the various extremist Eugenics movement held by extremists like Margret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood), Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Hitler, etc. etc.

jafs 7 years ago

I was just trying to explain to you my understanding of how naturalists might apply survival of the fittest to a species, rather than an individual.

bevy 7 years ago

What I'm sick of is people, like many on this message board, who lump all Christians (or other believers in God) into the "wingnut" category. Those same people, however, become incensed when someone says that all Muslims are jihadists. There are many who claim to follow God who, in fact, show no evidence of His love in their hearts. Look in Topeka, you'll find a lot of them marching around with signs.

I am equally tired of non-believing folks who assume that because we believe in God, we have given up our ability to reason or evaluate evidence. I respect your right not to believe in God. Please respect my right to disagree. Doing so does not mean I am an idiot.

All that being said, this article is disturbing, both in the ignorance displayed by the folks in Murfreesboro and in their obvious fear of people who have lived and worshipped among them for decades. I hate to use a trite phrase, but if the building of a mosque can engender this kind of fear in people in America, perhaps the terrorists really have won.

notaubermime 7 years ago

Truly, atheism and agnosticism have their extremists just like any other group of people. My experience has been that extremism results when a person believes not only that they are right, but that their view is the only correct one. To me, this just represents arrogance and pride, and has nothing to do with what they believe they are right about. People like that should have to do experimental science to see for themselves how rarely the most obvious answer is actually fully supported by the data.

I also think that the opening of a mosque in that community would be extraordinarily beneficial. The best way to combat bigotry is through familiarization.

whats_going_on 7 years ago

good post. I hate it when people lump a group of people together like that. I believe there are reasonable Christians, Muslims, and in every other group. It's the extremists that are dangerous, in ALL RELIGIONS.

whats_going_on 7 years ago

good post. I hate it when people lump a group of people together like that. I believe there are reasonable Christians, Muslims, and in every other group. It's the extremists that are dangerous, in ALL RELIGIONS.

notsobright 7 years ago

Because the question is a non sequitur. God by definition is a necessary non-contingent being.

By the way- The Lord of the Rings was written by a brilliant atheist who came to trust how the evidence pointed to the God of the Scriptures. Pretty fascinating how the entire story is a fantasy woven with the truths of a real universe which are explained by "outside" information found in the Scriptures.

Some here apparently think Tolkien was really ignorant and dumb.

Cait McKnelly 7 years ago

Isn't it funny how some of the most brilliant fantasists were very devout Christians? C.S. Lewis comes to mind.

notsobright 7 years ago

Exactly. . . and Tolkien was an atheist, as was Flew and thousands of others. That is the point! There is a reason that many honest thinking people abandon the incoherence and blind faith demanded of by atheistic/naturalism.

denak 7 years ago

If there is a perfect example of how "reason" fails us, it is the stream of comments about this article. Look how many of the commentors jumped on the "anti-religion" bandwagon when this article has nothing to do with the validity or nonvalidity of religion. On the surface, it may seem so but this article is about how paranioa, caused by irrational fear, not religion, causes a group of individuals to devalue and dehumanize other individuals.

The US policy to move those of Japanese heritage into camps had nothing to do with religion. The genocide in Rawanda had nothing to do with religion. The Dirty War in Argentina had nothing to do with religion. The slaughter of Muslims in Serbia really had very little to do with religion. These genocides are the result of collective fear. About how we as a society use "reason" to minimize other individuals so that we can ultimately destroy them.

That is the bigger issue. Wrap it up in (anti) religion if it makes you feel better, but if you do, you are missing the point of this article entirely.

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

Meet the extremists:

Neoconservative Christian Fundamentalist Party:

Published on Sunday, February 8, 2004 by The Los Angeles Times

Bush Family Values: War, Wealth, Oil http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0208-05.htm

ksriver2010 7 years ago

The problem in Murfreesboro is mainly bigotry enflamed by poor theology - the theology that the US is a Christian nation. This is accomplished by reading the rhetorical speeches of Jefferson, et al in the wrong context. Ironically, the same people in Murfreesboro would chase down and condemn Jefferson and even Washington because they "didn't walk the aisle" in revivalist conversion, something that wasn't even in practice yet.

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

The extremist plan:

PNAC's policy document, “Rebuilding America's Defences,” openly advocates for total global military domination. Many PNAC members held highest-level positions in the George W. Bush administration.

PNAC members in prominent government positions:

Dick Cheney Vice President

Donald Rumsfeld Former Secretary of Defense

Douglas J. Feith (former) Undersecretary of Defense

I. Lewis Libby Vice President Cheney’s former Chief of Staff and Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs.

Aaron Friedberg Vice President Cheney’s deputy National Security advisor

Robert Zoelick US Deputy Secretary of State

Paula Dobriansky Undersecretary of State

Elliott Abrams Deputy National Security Adviser

Frank Gaffney Pentagon's Defense Policy Board

Fred C. Ikle Pentagon's Defense Policy Board

Eliot A. Cohen Pentagon's Defense Policy Board

Henry S. Rowen Pentagon's Defense Policy Board

William J. Bennett Presidential speech writer

Jeb Bush Former Governor of Florida

Paul Wolfowitz World Bank President

John Bolton Ambassador to the U.N.

Zalmay Khalilzad U.S. ambassador to Iraq



Cait McKnelly 7 years ago

May I say how much I have enjoyed this thread? It reminds me of the late night college bulls**t sessions I used to have with friends when we were all young and still trying to figure out our place in the universe. The only one missing is my dad (yes, you heard me right) who was a brilliant blue collar philosopher. (One of my friends called him "The Sage of the Kaw.) He was extremely Socratic and always knew just the right question to ask to make the discussion go haring off in this or that direction. I miss him. Thanks for providing me with some much needed brain exercise.

Paul R Getto 7 years ago

There are so many gods. What is the sound of one god farting?

JustNoticed 7 years ago

Fundamentalism of any flavor is the problem. A Christianist theocracy with it's version of sharia law ("The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power" by Jeff Sharlet) is as possible as an Islamist theocracy although I will hasten to add that it is not Christianists who are blowing themselves up and taking as many non-believers with them as they can.

Bruce Bawer is very instructive. Three of his books on the subject pointed out to me my naive acceptance of a certain amount of political correctness. Please read: "Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity" "While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within" "Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom"

I will give Hans Kung, "Islam: Past, Present and Future", a read next. Bawer describes him as a pc appeaser. I will let him speak for himself.

Cait McKnelly 7 years ago

One of my all time favorite quotes comes from a book called Mythology of the Celtic People by Charles Squire, published in 1912. It's a fairly scholarly book; a bit outdated in it's scholarship (Campbell pretty much blew him out of the water) but still enjoyable. Toward the end of the first chapter Squire writes this: "Only, indeed, with the closing of the lips of the last mortal who preserved his tradition can the life of a god be truly said to end." As Christianity is the largest religion in the world and only a third of the world population adhere's to it (in one form or another) this leaves over 4 billion people who either believe something else or nothing at all. This means that there are literally thousands of other gods out there in which people believe. And I have no doubt that every one of the people who worship those gods believes that their god(s) is the right and only way to believe. That doesn't mean that all of those same people think that it's the right and only way for me to believe. Most religions don't have the same "take no prisoners" competitiveness of Christianity with other gods (which has that attitude even among and between it's own sects because, really, each sect worships a different "Jesus" or "God" that has been fashioned for them). But just think; according to Squire this means that all of those gods "live". The spiritual population of this planet is just as teeming and overcrowded as it's real one.

Cait McKnelly 7 years ago

Contribute something to the discussion instead of taking up space.

jonas_opines 7 years ago

Might as well ask a dog to learn Japanese. If he was capable of adding to a conversation at anything past a fifth grade level, there would have been evidence of it by now.

whats_going_on 7 years ago

That CNN movie is seriously disturbing. I felt sick watching it.

yourworstnightmare 7 years ago

A few questions for all of the religious out there:

1) How did you decide to be a christian (or other religion)?

2) How do you decide what to believe in? In other words, why don't you believe in Lord of the Rings or fairies or dragons or wizards or Zeus or Odin or Ra? There has been much written about each of these. How do you decide what to believe?

jafs 7 years ago

You know, if you were a bit less dismissive of religion in general, that might be an interesting conversation.

yourworstnightmare 7 years ago

Please don't let my views of religion based upon reason, evidence, and reality get in the way of the conversation.

jafs 7 years ago

Thanks for making my point for me.

akuna 7 years ago

I assume most people are either born into a religion or marry into a religion. In general, the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree.

Paul R Getto 7 years ago

YWN: Good points, particularly #1. It appears to me the young need to be inducted before they achieve reason. I am not sure it is working as well as it used to, particularly in the 'main line' religions. Belief in an imaginary friend, even one who is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent as most western religionists believe, should be an adult choice made with one's eyes open. In this way, it is like drinking and smoking and other 'adult' activities. If the children are not hauled off to church, I suspect the next generation would be pretty slim in number. These 'religion' debates are always fun, but really pointless in one sense. The definition of faith is that it is irrational. I simply object to picking one of the sky gods as a model for legislating behaviors. We are a better, more mature chimp than that.

jafs 7 years ago

They are pointless, but it's because the subject of discussion is often something that can neither be proven nor disproven.

yourworstnightmare 7 years ago

They are in fact not pointless. It is always important to strive for reality, evidence, and reason in decision making.

The religious usually resort to some sort of nihilism to defend their beliefs, claiming that there is no such thing as objective reality, therefore, irrational views of religion are just as valid as science and evidence and reason.

I find this deeply troubling.

notaubermime 7 years ago

And yet more examples of atheist extremism. Ignoring the parts of your post that are needlessly insulting to people of faith, You seem to assume that children who are raised outside the influence of religion never seek religion on their own. This assumption is incorrect. Additionally, even should you not agree with religion, you have to be extremely biased to think that it is at all detrimental to their health in the same manner that drinking and smoking are. Comparing the activities only undermines your claim to be rational and mature.

The definition of religion is not that it is irrational. One could say that it relies on that which cannot be objectively observed, but this is a far cry from being irrational.

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

"Rebuilding America's Defenses (RAD)" is a policy document published by a neoconservative Washington think tank called the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Its pages have been compared to Hitler's Mein Kampf in that they outline an aggressive military plan for U.S. world domination during the coming century. And just as Hitler's book was not taken seriously until after his catastrophic rise to power, so it seems that relatively few Americans are expressing alarm at this published document that is a blueprint for many of the present actions of the Bush administration, actions which have begun to destabilize the balance of power between the nations of the world.

There is, indeed, much reason for alarm because PNAC is not an ordinary think tank and "RAD" is not an ordinary policy paper. Many PNAC members now hold key positions in the White House, Defense and State Departments, among them Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliot Abrams, Lewis Libby, and John Bolton, along with others in lesser positions. William Kristol, writer for the conservative magazine, the Weekly Standard, is chairman of the group.

Some of these men have been advocating for a strong military posture since the ending of cold war hostilities with the Soviet Union. Wishing to capitalize on the fact that the US had emerged as the world's preeminent superpower, they have lobbied for increases in military spending in order to establish what they call a Pax Americana that will reap the rewards of complete military and commercial control of land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace. This, they said, would be accomplished by the waging of "multiple simultaneous large-scale wars" and one of their first orders of business was always the removal of Saddam Hussein, thereby giving the US a toehold in the oil-rich Middle East.

During the Clinton presidency, when the Republicans were out of power, this militaristic wing in American politics became highly organized and efficient. They formed the PNAC in 1997 And published "RAD" in September 2000. Determined to have their world empire, they offered an eerie prophecy on page 52 of that document about how it might be accomplished, "Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor." Their dream of a catalyzing event could not have been better actualized than in the events of 9/11.

Although there could have been many responses to the tragedy of 9/11, the Bush administration seized upon that event to mold public opinion into accepting many ideas embodied in "RAD". The overthrow of Saddam Hussein, was being proposed by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz one day after 9/11, even before anyone knew who was responsible for the attacks.


Richard Heckler 7 years ago

In the news today:

House Passes Bill Authorizing an Endless "Worldwide War"

The Republican-led House has passed a defense spending bill Thursday with a number of controversial provisions.

If signed into law, the bill would prohibit any non-U.S. citizen suspected of terrorism from receiving a federal trial regardless of where they were arrested.

In addition, the bill expands the president’s ability to wage an endless worldwide war against terrorism suspects and against nations suspected of supporting them even when there is no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Laura Murphy of the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the bill, saying, "A new authorization of worldwide war will mean unrestricted powers to use the military at home and abroad."


camper 7 years ago

This "random jibberish" describes small steps that just might set a precedent for us to lose freedoms.....one small step at a time.

jafs 7 years ago

I believe the point would be that the folks crafting this new legislation are extremists, and thus a real threat, and dangerous to us as a nation.

notsobright 7 years ago

The point began with a claim by Pitts that the problem is extremists. Almost immediately those holding to a naturalistic philosophy of life began to make a claim that it was the theists who were the "extremists." I found that ironic when it was naturalistic philosophy that was responsible for more deaths in the last one century than ALL other ideologies COMBINED in ALL of history. Who are the extremists?

The discussion of the naturalistic philosophy digressed as it revealed how utterly incoherent it is as some tried to philosophically debate that naturalism was not philosophy but science (go figure that one out!). It became more confusing as some wanted to debate whether Micheal Ruse, Phd in the Phil of Biology and atheist, is not qualified to recognize that modern science (like Dawkins) have went beyond the limits of science and entered the field of philosophy. One thing led to another to the point of revealing the "ridiculous game" that gets played under the guise of "science," all because naturalism is not science at all!

All of this reveals in the end who are the "extremists." One's who demand we accept a view, even if if is incoherent and can not answer the questions (I gave a few and never got one viable answer). Talk about extreme, it is even more amazing that this naturalistic philosophy has set up state-run structures that take our tax dollars to support their efforts and worship centers as their philosophy could never stand on its own. Brain washing is a scary thing. . . ask a few million Germans from the 1930-40s!

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