The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Christian-Muslim discussion

Note how the level of discourse changed (I think very much for the better) the instant a Muslim joined, and it was no longer all Christians (or those raised in a Christian context who haven't taken another side--and trust me, we are all bombarded thousands of times a day with Judeo-Christian attitudes and propaganda)? THIS is what I wanted, and it would only get better were there as many Mushtaqs as there are people taking the opposite position.
ALSO notice that if person "A" is in the "we're better" position while person "B" is in the "we're equal" position, "B" is constantly on the defensive. But if "A" and "B" both have equal and opposite positions, the conversation devolves to verbal violence.

I am not saying that Islam is better than Christianity, or as good, or worse. I'm saying that it may very well be possible to determine that one is better than the other by picking standards--but that if Christians pick the standards, they will win. If Muslims pick the standards, THEY will likely win. Both sides will then stand around looking smug.

I've seen almost identical arguments "proving" that blacks or women are inferior, and rejected them. It would be dishonest to accept one just because I'd be a part of the "winning" group. Yes, I use standards to help me decide whether "A" or "B" option is more appropriate. But I constantly remember that my opinions and perceptions are molded by my perceptual filters.
For instance: to me, it feels like Post-9/11, America took a big shift to the fearful and paranoid, willing to give up freedoms in exchange for security. The threat to habeus corpus, defense of torture, wiretapping citizens, denouncing free speech in opposition to political goals, vilification of former allies who disagree with us...all struck me as perfectly normal human responses to stress. In fact, to some degree, I always felt that any society that doesn't exhibit some of these tendencies under stress probably won't survive. Under pressure, materials, individuals and societies become rigid.

One important question to ask would be: in the conflict between Christian and Muslim societies, over the last few centuries, who has occupied, invaded, or colonized who? If we grant that Westerners have legitimate reason to feel threatened by Islam, does Islam have legitimate reason to feel threatened by the West? I suspect that you could take individuals of otherwise comparable education, intelligence, world experience, literacy, whatever. Now, sort them according to the single criteria of "Christian or grew up in a Christian society" or "Muslim or grew up in a Muslim society" and you would get very different answers. And that those on each side would think the other to be blind and bigoted.

Again, it doesn't mean that there is not an ultimate Truth here, merely that as humans with egos, we ain't gonna find it. What we are left with is practical truth. We as individuals and cultures must have opinions about these things, or we cannot guide social policy. I do not think people shouldn't talk about these things, or get upset if they come to different conclusions than I do. That's life. But I decline to host one-sided discussions: I already know what the conclusion will be. Majority, of whatever orientation, will win every time.

I WILL welcome discussions when there is an intelligent, polite person to take the opposite view. Atheist or Agnostic, if you were raised in the U.S., unless you ever specifically took a class taught by a Muslim in East-West relations or Middle Eastern History, you MAY have virtually no input from the other side of the issue.
One of the reasons I feel so strongly about this is that the "logical" and racist explanations for black-white cultural and I.Q. differences make plenty of sense. But I always had faith the "proofs" of the supposed biological differences were wrong, based on things like observation of thousands of individuals, and a sense of the structure of reality. It wasn't until "Guns, Germs, and Steel" that I began to have an intellectual grasp of the factors that went way beyond race that could well have caused every social differential I'd ever seen or heard of.

That doesn't mean Jared Diamond was right--just that the world he sees makes sense to me. And it doesn't mean that there is a similar explanation for the apparent differences between Christian and Islamic societies--just that I am unwilling to accept the clustered, direct or indirect opinions of Christians and those who grew up in their societies, any more than I was willing to accept the opinions of whites about blacks, or men about women.

This doesn't make me correct. I am merely externalizing my internal processes. This is how I think. On things like this, I am mighty slow to change my mind.

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