asher553: (Default)
Maybe you think my religion is stupid. That's fine - sometimes I think my religion is stupid too.

I like being free to explore, question, and re-affirm my beliefs from one day to the next. I love being able to discuss and debate these things with others without fear. One of the great achievements of Western civilization has been the creation of a broad cultural consensus, enshrined in law but deeply rooted in hard-won social norms, that makes possible the free and open discussion of matters of faith without fear of reprisal or persecution.

We are in danger of losing this.

No one will be burned at the stake or imprisoned for attacking Christianity in any Western country. Well and good. But today's self-styled "liberals" who are so proud of their indifference to Jewish and Christian doctrine will bend over backwards to defend Islam against any perceived slight, and to smear and silence those who critique the Muslim faith.

I am under no moral obligation to have a good opinion of Islam, and I don't. Maybe I'm wrong, and you're certainly welcome to debate me on the matter; but I reserve the right to form my own opinion. That doesn't mean that I'm blind to the fact that there are people who are fine, beautiful human beings, and also devout Muslims. It does mean that I'm capable of judging individual human beings by their character - and also of forming judgments about the belief systems that influence the behavior of millions of people.

On my coffee table at this very moment sits a slim, attractively bound paperback titled 'Tolerance: The Beacon of the Enlightenment'. Edited and translated by Caroline Warman and others, it's an anthology of the founding texts of the European Enlightenment.

The book was conceived and produced in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders as a tribute to the highest ideals of the French Republic. A far nobler and more constructive gesture than lighting candles and posting "Je Suis Charlie" on social media - and yet, still tragic. Because in the end, the jihadis unequivocally won. Charlie Hebdo continued publishing, but never again dared incur Muslim wrath with cartoons of Mohammed.

"Can Islam be reformed?" This is a question asked by many well-meaning Westerners. Personally I think it is only answerable by the Muslim world as a whole. Whether Muslims "reform" their religion or abandon it altogether is of no concern to me; what I care about is the practical outcome.

I do not entirely understand the solicitude of Western non-Muslim liberals for the well-being of Islam. They want to defend it from criticism and even save it from itself. It's almost as if, having abandoned church and synagogue themselves, they remain in the grip of an unacknowledged craving for religion.

What I do know is that I care about my relationship with the Creator and with the sacred tradition that I (however imperfectly) follow. I care about the freedom to use my gift of reason to investigate the meaning of the Scriptures and the findings of science. I care about living in a world where people treat one another with the kindness and dignity befitting beings made in the image of G-d.

The Rally

Jun. 7th, 2017 08:38 pm
asher553: (Default)
So, I went to this last Sunday.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1927691894133941/

Short version first: It was an amazing experience. I saw Andy there, and finally got to meet Athena and Leo and a number of other local people that I'd only interacted with online. Marco and Harim came up from Cali and I got my picture taken with Harim. A street preacher talked about sin and forgiveness, and a trans activist stomped on a communist flag. This big, friendly Polynesian guy named Tiny started the whole thing off with a warrior dance.

The folks on the other side tried to make trouble for us, but they didn't even make a dent. The Portland police did a good job of keeping order. I had been a bit apprehensive about the event, and didn't decide until the last minute that I was going to go at all. But it was incredible, energizing, and a great chance to build bonds with people I hadn't met before but needed to.

I've already posted (without much context) a few pictures from the event. I'll have more to say soon, both about the rally itself and events leading up to it. But I've had a super busy day and I need to be turning in soon.
asher553: (Default)
I try to avoid approaching debates from a partisan perspective, i.e. "You Democrats such-and-such", for purely tactical reasons. People form attachments to their party, no matter if it's a stupid party (like the Democrats) or a slightly less stupid party (like the Republicans). Attack the party and you're attacking them, and quite naturally they respond accordingly; you won't get any reasoned persuasion done in such a conversation. The same goes for Presidents - if he's "your President", he represents you. (I don't think people usually form the same relationship with lower level officials, unless it's an especially charismatic person.)

Generally, too, I find it's better not to over-argue - just present the facts, and let the other person draw their own conclusions. People like to make up their own minds, and they trust an idea more if they've come to it themselves.

Very rarely will I get into a direct, point/counterpoint - type debate. I only do these if I know I'm on solid factual and logical ground, and that I can demonstrate to the other person where their information or their reasoning is faulty. But those cases are few and far between - very much the exception to the rule.

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