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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Progressive Reflexive Animus Against Religion

I know this is somehow significant. Yesterday DU seemed to be nearly unanamious in its sentiment against Mayor Nagin's invocation of God's wrath as an explanation for hurricanes. On the same day this thread appeared in one of the three main DU forums. It's difficult to describe. For example, posts cover the usage of various mind-altering drugs, shape-changing, shamanism and an empath's ability to feel Mother Earth's pain:
42. I agree about mother earth
I'm an empath person and can sense very highly how mother earth is very upset and has been neglected for far so long. So it does not surprise me she is very angry. There is a lot of pain there.
This sort of thing seemed to be considered far more acceptable than Mayor Nagin's comments:
68. Thanks
For great reading this morning. Very interesting. Something different for a change. I think some of us are privileged to be knocked in the head with experiences that are not in keeping with what we were brought up to believe, or at least some of us are given a curiosity that leads us to look at other possibilities. To me that is a great gift. Advancement has only happened through the courage of dreamers. It has not happened via the status quo of the naysayers.
I can't understand why traditional religions like Christianity and Judaism are so frowned upon (the phrase "religiously insane" is often used on DU in connection with discussions about the Flying Spaghetti Monster), but this sort of thing is considered worthy of at least skeptical respect. One of the few who seemed to be bucking the DU mainstream reacted this way:
53. Yeah. I really wish I had'nt read this thread.
55. Really? Why?
8. Because, a book that is a terrific assett to liberal argument.... ....was apparently written by a man who believes he can turn himself into a goat.
On one level the contrast between these threads makes me laugh (except for the drug-using mother who announces that she will introduce her children to the same experiences), but on another level it's extremely intriguing. Is it that they object to religions that make ethical and behavioral demands upon their followers? After all, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism (the traditional kind, not CA New Age) do impose a set of constraining ethical guidelines on their followers.

Anyway, after reading that I ran across this very interesting post of Shrinkwrapped's about religion:
Most often, it was only after a person made their way onto my "short list" that I would take the time to read the "about me" section on their blog (if they had one.) That is when I noticed something remarkable. For a person from New York, immersed in liberal New York thought, a surprising number of the bloggers on my short list were religious Christians. Considering that the usual characterization of religious Christians in the pages of the Times and from the lips of the typical liberal is that they are intolerant religious bigots, indistinguishable from the religious fanatics who live in the Middle East and form the Taliban or al Qaeda, the thought occurred to me to wonder what the meaning of this could be.
That's a logical question. His answer totally puzzles me, though. I've got at least one atheist and one Buddhist on my short list. Then I ran across Dr. Sanity's post on religious schizophrenia and the president of Iran. I warn you, this one will make you very, very uneasy:
In a video distributed by an Iranian web site in November, Mr Ahmadinejad described how one of his Iranian colleagues had claimed to have seen a glow of light around the president as he began his speech to the UN.

"I felt it myself too," Mr Ahmadinejad recounts. "I felt that all of a sudden the atmosphere changed there. And for 27-28 minutes all the leaders did not blinkā€¦It's not an exaggeration, because I was looking.

"They were astonished, as if a hand held them there and made them sit. It had opened their eyes and ears for the message of the Islamic Republic."
You've got to read the whole thing. Unlike Shrinkwrapped, to me the difference between religious or ethical systems is whether the individual believes her- or himself constrained by an outer, objective reality which is also, to some degree, embodied by a wider consensus formed by a much larger group. The individual's behavior must, in these systems, be constrained by the recognition of other people's importance and their equal rights. The Do Unto rule is universal in such systems.

Contrast that with Dr. Sanity's experiences of some religious schizophrenics:
...there were a few who were notable for their single-minded and persistent incorporation of everything they came in contact with into their delusional system; and who had only contempt for anyone who didn't subscribe to their psychotic ideas. These latter patients exhibited a psychopathically clever and manipulative intelligence that was completely immune to any insight into their illness. These patients' were chillingly and frighteningly serious about their delusion, and to them you were nothing.
But that negation of the other person is precisely what the teachings of ethical systems and ethical religions do not permit. That is why every religion has some sort of institution that demarks the acceptable from the unacceptable; these systems do not permit the individual to define their own reality and set of moral rules. Insane and amoral individuals can pin their delusions upon a religious framework, but they can also fixate on things like the CIA, flying saucers and the phone on the wall.

This is an excellent post and in light of my post's ability to confuse rather than enlighten I thought I'd take a brief stab at restating what I was trying to say. I think the religious fanatics at al Qaeda, et al, use their religion only as an externalized authority structure. They do what they are told primarily in order to be rewarded and not punished. On the other hand, those with a more mature relationship with their religion devote themselves to living up to the ideals of thier religion. In other words, they want to walk in their God's footsteps out of love, rather than fear.
I hope that helps clarify what I was trying to get at.
Oh, don't feel like you were confusing because I didn't understand you. I'm dumb about these matters; the flaw is certain to be in me.

I think you are right about "the religious fanatics at al Qaeda, et al, use their religion only as an externalized authority structure."

One can only act out of love if a person is able to genuinely understand that the other person really exists, and I don't think this is what this sect is teaching. They are inculculating a ferocious confrontation between the self and God; the ability of these unfortunate victims to perceive other people is lost in devastating terror.

One thing that most people who write about this latest crop of suicide bombers miss are the strong clues about the degree to which sexual guilt is being used. Reading in between the lines (and it's sometimes explicit), many of these young men are being backed into a corner from which their only doctrinal escape is martyrdom. In the Koran it is the classic escape clause for every sin.

In other words, these people are seeking out young men who might be homosexual or have been sleeping around. The consciousness of their sin is used to force them into sacrificing their lives.
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