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T.M. Luhrmann is a professor of anthropology at Stanford University and she wrote a most intersting opinion piece for the New York Times entitled Where Reason Ends and Faith Begins. In it she wrote, “Most people, whatever their religious persuasion, assume that there are decent human beings with good intentions who interpreted the evidence differently and who are wrong” (emphasis mine). Does that kind of absolutist thinking sound at all familiar?
ISIS is terrorizing the Middle-East, killing Shia, Christians and now Yazidi’s. They are warring to create a caliphate (from “caliph” – successor to Muhammad) not just across the area, but across the entire Muslim world. They believe that they have the one true faith and interpretation of the words of Muhammad and, as such, anyone who sees things differently is wrong. Fatally. And since their quest is in service to God, any brutality they commit for their cause is justified and no compromise is possible.
The same kind of closed thinking is what drives Hamas to kill indiscriminately and to set up Palestinians to be collateral damage in order to drive world sympathy. That is not to say that there are no legitimate grievances. That area of the world is founded on perpetual grievances, with each injustice being the basis for the next act of violence. Still, for Hamas it’s their way or the highway. The one toward which they aim their rockets.
Be slow to imagine this kind of mental intransigence is confined to killers in the Middle-East. Recall the murderous enormity of the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades. On a smaller scale, Dr. George Tiller was murdered in Wichita, KS by an extremist with the same kind of religion-justified cranial impasse. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered by a self-proclaimed Christian. Our government was shut down by a band of Tea Party absolutists for whom compromise is not just unacceptable; it is Bible-thumping blasphemy.
Don’t think for a minute that attitudes like that are unproductive. Throughout history that kind of thinking has produced millions of dead bodies, tortured people, refugees and failed nations. People have been made to live in abject poverty and continually in fear for their lives. And how odd that all is, when so much of this evil is done in the name of God and of religion.
God save us from the God-inspired absolutists.
Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same. Thanks. JA
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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