Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oh, I love blogging's witty repartee.

I was reading a ScienceBlogs entry on the need to reframe engagement policies differently, since Muslim (specifically Middle East) local politics (specifically terrorism) as something different than the Muslim religion over at the Framing Science blog.

As a response to the blog, entry, I made the following comment:

[irony] So... extrapolating this outward, you mean that it wasn't Catholicism and Protestantism that caused sectarian violence in Northern Ireland? WOW! I was completely under the impression that it was "Protestants" vs. "Catholics" out killing each other because of each other's religions. [/irony]

Why is this news to people? Of COURSE violence is politics-motivated. Islam would never have become such a widespread religion leading to culturally prosperous nations if it was a "religion of violence". If it WAS, then you can bet butter to bullets that regional religions would attempt continuous bloody overthrow of their "religion of violence" overlords.

Saying that Islam is a religion of violence is analogous to looking at the Thirty Years' War and saying (if you take the side of the Catholics) that the rise of Protestantism - a violent fundamentalist apostasy - caused the war. Of course, even a brief reading of history would show how shallow such a proposed understanding that is.

The concept I suppose I'm trying to articulate is that US citizens need to get to grips with the idea that Islam is about as violent as any other religion, including the Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etc.

Posted by: Umlud | September 12, 2007 11:26 AM

I feel that what I wrote - although somewhat convoluted and irony-laden - was an understandable position on the subject of needing to separate religion from politics. One of the subsequent commentators - on reading my comment - wrote this:

All else aside, just glancing briefly at the texts (and supposing, as you suggest, that we shouldn't look at the histories) of the other religions to which you refer would seem to indicate a pretty incredible level of violence. I'm not sure how this helps your point.

Posted by: Chris | September 12, 2007 1:21 PM

I consider myself a somewhat rational-thinking individual, so I read and re-read the comment on my comment. Maybe I was just reading his statement's assertion of my point incorrectly. (Nope, I don't see it.) Or maybe I had written something else than what I had thought I wrote, despite re-reading it several times before posting. (Nope, I had submitted the exact comments I thought I had written.) Hmmm... Now, this is a chance to do one of two things:
  1. Ignore the comment.
  2. Reply to the comment.
I chose to follow the latter course, and proceeded to write a [somewhat] pedantic rant-bordering reply to "Chris." See next:

Chris - You seem to have said that a brief reading of religious texts shows an inherent high level of violence within those religions, and this does not help my case. Please re-read what I wrote. I did NOT say that you (the reader) should take religious texts out of historical context. Rather, you CANNOT and SHOULD NOT take religion out of the context of history and, by extension, the concomitant political history of the region in question.

Religion is more than its texts. It is, among other things, relationships between peoples. In Christianity, for example, people chose to interpret different portions and versions of the Bible, based on the socio-political situation in which they found themselves. This continues to this day. For example, with regards to immigration, a large number of American Christians conveniently forget Exodus 22:20-23 and Exodus 23:9 (and related statements in Leviticus) - part of the Christian Bible - when advocating their anti-immigration stance. What does this example (and other similar ones) say about Christianity? Does it mean that Christianity (of "the Book") is a charitable religion in this instance, while Christianity (of the people/"the Body") is composed of hypocritical religious practice in this instance? Can the religion of Christianity be so easily divided into that of "the Book" or of "the Body"? Obviously not; it is both the Book and the Body. This is true of other religions (at least those that HAVE a central religious text or set of texts).

Similarly, human history is the relationships between peoples over time. There is history within institutions and history between institutions. However, when it comes down to it, history of the kind under discussion occurs between people. People have motives behind their actions; thought-out means of using social issues for personal or political advantage. This has (amongst other things) lead to fundamentally different outcomes, even within a common over-arching religion (witness the various different forms of Christianity, even within the "Protestant" mold). Disregarding the role of people and groups of people (i.e., society) through time (i.e., history) is dangerous, especially when it impinges upon what people believe as "Truth" (i.e., religion).

Finally, if I'm not mistaken, you indicate your readings of religious texts are rather cursory. This leads to certain problems. For example, you imply the Jewish Bible is violent, but the Christian Bible isn't. However, the Jewish Bible is a fundamental part of the Christian Bible. Thereby, by extension, a significant part of the Christian Bible is also violent.

I would really appreciate if you could please tell me what understanding you have gained from your cursory reading of other religious texts. For example, you say that you imply that you briefly read the text of Hinduism. However Hinduism has four holy texts. Which of the four "central texts" have you read? Also, I am puzzled to know how "glance[ing] briefly" any holy text gives a sufficient understanding of it even within the religion, let alone between religions? To be absolutely clear - and with no irony or sarcasm - I refer in the previous sentence to the importance of including history in any analysis of religion. I'm sure you know that many books and essays have been written in different religions (e.g., Talmud, Catechism, and Papal encyclicals) about interpreting a particular holy text viz a particular religion (i.e., providing historical interpretive context of the use of the holy book within the structure of the religion itself). If you are going to make the argument about holy texts (in which I am not an expert, and apparently neither are you), your point would carry more weight if your readings were a tad more thorough.

Maybe I've misread your statement, and maybe I haven't. Please elucidate.

Posted by: Umlud | September 13, 2007 11:48 AM

Let's see if "Chris" replies. I know that waiting for a reply is a little childish, but I rarely get to have the chance!

No comments: