Anyone else bothered by the relgious implications being made for this war?


Here ya go. I didn’t realize this was a point of a contention. Sorry.

A couple snippets, taken from The Washington Post - War Cry From the Pulpit

So I don’t think my own paraphrase was that far off, Al. In fact, I think I was dead on.

That’s exactly what I’m asking, Al. Why the need to interject religion at all when giving our reasons for defeating, or answering, terrorists?

Why not just say we’re pissed off and going to get 'em, like we would a murderer or serial rapist?

The Chief of police doesn’t say God is on their side in their pursuit to fight crime. Or if they do, I don’t see it used as a reason much.

Now, Sam Stone and others brought up some interesting points. I understand that at a certain level, we must show the world that it’s not just one religious stance that we taking, but more a combination of them all, working in tandem to go after terrorists.

And while I understand that part, once it’s explained to me, I still don’t understand why it was brought up in the first place.

If I’m sitting here confused, and wondering about it, in America, how in the world is another person half way around the world going to understand its real meaning?

It seems to me that with a bit of twisting, and not all that much I might add, we’ve given other religions or people who have no knowledge of us at all in other parts of the world, ammunition to use those words against us.

Couldn’t they then frame the arguments to their people as a ‘Look people. They believe their God is more just than ours. We can’t have that, they want to rid us of our religion! Go get ‘em!!’?

Or is that completely naïve on my part.

Why not just avoid any reference to the God word, or religion?

How does it help us to use it?

I guess that’s where I was getting tripped up with your post, Mandelstam.

I thought it was an attack on our Western democracy and our way of life- not an attack on our religion.

With that mindset, the religious twistings OBL gives his cause don’t have much weight in my mind, no matter how much he uses them. Because, it seems to me, he hates our culture more than any one religion that may be guiding it, and the religion part, to him, is secondary to his main hatred, our culture.

I guess if I had to simplify that line above, I’d say I think OBL hates our way of life more than anything else. It wasn’t an attack on the one big church we all go to, it was an attack on where we make our money, or support our way of life. It was also an attack on how we take that way of life, and try to thrust it on to others, outside of our borders- the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, possibly The White House, all things that are secular as opposed to religious.

So, when we talk of retribution and frame it as an attack against freedom, and liberty, I’m more agreeing to that than you seem to be, partly because I feel that was his overall objective.

And in introducing religious rhetoric into our cause, we’re talking about a secondary issue that isn’t as important as the main issue. Furthermore, our taking that stance, to me, only seems to make it more confusing for others out there in different countries to understand our current and future actions against the terrorists.

Make any sense?

I going to step back and see how those last posts go over. In the meantime, if a mod happens to come along and has a minute to spare, would you mind changing the title of this thread?

I butchered it up something fierce.

Change it to whatever you like, I won’t mind.

waterj2: "For a war started entirely due to religion…

No, waterj, what’s happened (which I still prefer to describe as a terrorist attack since it’s not entirely clear that the US and its allies are about to engage in a “war” in the military sense of that word) was not “started entirely due to religion.” Not at all.

On a similar theme…

Cnote: "I thought it was an attack on our Western democracy and our way of life- not an attack on our religion.

Actually, it’s not primarily an attack on either our culture or our religion. It’s first and foremost an attack on our global standing in the world. As the world’s only superpower, the United States government has gained a unique ability to impose its will on foreign nations.
That is what ObL and those who support him object to.
Because they are religious extremists, and terrorist fanatics, their mode of responding to this political situation takes the form of a religious jihad. But the important thing to bear in mind is that there wouldn’t be very much support for their fanatical enterprise were there not so much resentment about US policies in the Middle East and elsewhere. The bin Ladens of the world wouldn’t be able to attract very many followers just by holding up pictures of Britney Spears. Rather, they can attract supporters–people ready to kill themselves in order to attack American institutions–because the people of those countries are impoverished and exploited by corrupt dictatorial regimes that have been propped up by US support.

That is what is so complicated about this situation. The challenge right now is, on the one hand, to defend ourselves against terrorism (without utterly compromising our own liberties) and to fight against terrorism at its heart. By reducing resentment against the US government. This won’t be easy or swift, but it won’t involve changing our way of life; just changing our approach to the less powerful nations of this world.

Here is a link to an article that will make this kind of view very clear. It’s well worth reading but, also, IMO, a bit overstated. That is, it may give the impression that bin Laden and this situation are mainly creations of US foreign policy; and I personally don’t that’s true. So I post it because its argument is clear and succint; not to personally endorse every last word of it. Anyway, perhaps others reading this thread would like to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the analysis offered here.

Well. I have read carefully the two article for which you have provided links. I do not see how the Goldberg article was facile or misleading, and I do not see how either one was “provincial, parochial, self-absorbed, ignorant-of-all-others twits.” No links to anything by Lowry…perhaps his stuff wasn’t online? I haven’t been keeping up wih NR lately, but from the articles you have shown me I don’t see how they fit your definition.

Does this really qualify as an “overly righteous religous stance” as per your OP. It is an invocation of God, but it is a long way from being on a par with Islamic fundamentlists, or even some of our homegrown variety (ie Jerry Falwell).

This isn’t a quote from Bush, It’s a quote from someone talking about him. Besides the hymns, what “other elements” was Bellah talking about? As for the hymns themselves, were they specifically chosen by President Bush?

Once again, this is a quote from someone talking about Bush. On what does Mr. Childress base his statements?

Well, I suppose from a purely practical standpoint, it can help to motivate and lift the morale of people who do believe in God. There are a great many such people in this country and again simply as a matter of pragmatic politics I don’t think you can completely ignore them. Not to mention, I do feel that some response to the belief held by our enemies that God is on their side is in order, though this will mean inescapably that the word “God” most be spoken in some context.

Not to mention what Sam Stone said.

You might want to read what Paul Johnson has to say about Islam. He’s a very well respected historian. The article is at National Review Online, but I don’t think he’s particularly known as a wild-eyed conservative.

The article is here:

Here are some choice excerpts:

Come now, Weird_AL_Einstein. I’m not saying Bush’s comments were on par with those made by Osama Bin Laden.

I simply mean to say that Bush was introducing religion as a justification for going after terrorist, to “rid the world of evil”. Much like others have used religion as a reason for going after us.

I may have said “overly righteous stance” earlier in my first post, but I’ve back off that specific comment since then. I freely admit it wasn’t the best, or clearest, intro into the topic I wanted to talk about.

You asked for a cite and a quote to my paraphrase- I gave 'em.

And yes, Bush did not make the other two comments I quoted; people concerned about the same issue as me said them. So what?

It clarifies my position and concerns about introducing religion into the argument.

I specifically wrote a brief intro into who those people were. I don’t see anywhere where I was trying to attribute those comments to Bush- I went out of my way not to do so.

CnoteChris said:

From Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition. Evil: “1 a) morally bad or wrong; wicked; depraved b) resulting from or based on conduct regarded as immoral … 2 causing pain or troulbe; harmful; injurious.” (There are two more, but they don’t pertain to this – more like “an evil odor” type of thing.)

Now, do you see reference to religion in there? I don’t. So unless you are going to claim that nonbelievers can’t have morals, I don’t see why you’re having a problem with what I said.

Despite the attack on the Taliban in National Review and elsewhere, many if not all of the extreme Islamic beliefs are conservative staples. The intermix of church and state, the persecution of homosexuals, women remaining in the home, the celebration of machismo, the anti-science bias ( I.E. creationism & ID) these mainstream conservative beliefs would be right at home in orthodox Islam. Darling Ann Coulter (AKA Suzy Chapstick) is calling for the imposition of Christianity by force, how could NR publish this? Robertson/Falwell blamed WTC on secularists, feminists, homosexuals and others, every one of them National Review and mainstream conservatism views as a destructive forces in society.

It is not just Islam we have to worry about, but the growing power of Orthodox religions trying to impose religious doctrine on a secular society.

Thanks, Icerigger. My one exception to your post is that I don’t think we really have to worry about “Islam.” Despite the nasty distortions propagated by the National Review, it’s just a fringe group within Islam that merits concern.

Sorry Sam, but your “respected historian” strikes me as a total crank. The Bible is full of passages that can be extracted to portray Jews and Christians as morally dubious warmongers. And the notion than Islam is more “imperialist” than is Christianity is so historically untenable that it’s hard to believe anyone who casts himself as a historian has written it down. Exactly how many countries have been colonized by Muslim empire-builders in the last 200 years?

What really gets me about your citation (and I did read the whole thing) is the logical circularity. Johnson’s reasoning seems to be:

 the Judeo-Christian ethic is superior to Islam because it doesn't advocate *jihad*;

 Islam does;

 therefore Jews and Christians have to advocate their own *jihad* to replace Islam's pro-*jihad* ethos with Christianity's better one.

Does that make sense to you?

Nothing could be less helpful and more dangerous at this time than to conflate Islam as a whole with Taliban-style fundamentalism and bin-Ladenite terrorism; or to make inappropriate analogies between the appeasement of Hitler and the current situation. Osama bin Laden is not of a head of state who has just invaded Poland. What he is and the threat that he represents require a very different mentality that the Christian crusading the National Review seems to want to foist on us.

So Cnote, still confused about what I was trying to say, or just thinking it through?

Icerigger wrote:

You mean Suzy Chafee changed her name twice?

I’m going to go way back here, to a comment that I should clear up.

Wumpus asked, “Errr, does belief in evil immediately connotate belief in a deity? Are there no atheists who believe in justice and in evil?”

On it’s own? No. But when you ad the other comments being made by Bush, I think it gets sketchy. Particularly the comments made about ridding the world of evil and/ or the crusade to rid evil from the world.

But even the idea of calling it evil or the act of evildoers’ gives me a tinge. I don’t know why, but it does. It seems to me that if you keep it religion free, as it were, you include more people than if you include it.

And I guess that’s what I was getting at- can we go after terrorism without mentioning God?

I thought you could.

But I see that you can’t, in a way. And you especially can’t if you’re Bush Junior. That’s not a rip on him, it just the truth- he’s a religious guy.

Since I’m not, his comments immediately stood out to me, thus, this thread.

Am I clear on where people are coming from here, or what they’re saying?

Kinda. But not totally.

I’m more in agreement here with people than disagreement.

I certainly don’t think all of Islam is against Western ideals. Nor do I think any one religion out there is hell bent on our demise. There might be one or two or a dozen, but none that have been mentioned here.

I think OBL is a nutcase who unfortunately for Islam or whatever religion he uses to justify his actions is getting a bad rap.

But that’s my key point, whatever religion OBL used to justify what he did is simply secondary, to his mind and in my opinion, he went after our way of life and how we foist it on others. That’s it.

Any kind of religious explanation, on either side, is pointless. It simply isn’t the reason things are going on the way they are.

So, with that mindset in place, and again, in my opinion, the fact that we bring up religion at all seems unnecessary.

I know I’m repeating myself at this point, but I want that part perfectly clear. Because, to be honest with you, Mandelstam, I don’t know if you’d agree that it is unnecessary, or necessary.

Reading what you’ve written, you seem to say that it isn’t needed, but then say it is, in a way, because it isn’t really a religious statement.

I don’t know, that part of the discussion is a hard part for me to understand.

Or, to clarify that part, the comment, “Actually, it’s not primarily an attack on either our culture or our religion. It’s first and foremost an attack on our global standing in the world. As the world’s only superpower, the United States government has gained a unique ability to impose its will on foreign nations.” completely confuses me.

If it’s not an attack on our culture or religion- and again I’d say religion is secondary- then what is it an attack on?

Our money?

Than if so, and this is where my argument turns full circle, then why do we, in the words that President Bush says on behalf of all of us, refer or infer any religion is his comments?

It appears I’m still thinking this through.

Mandelstam, why the quotes around ‘respected historian’? Are you doubting that he’s a historian? Or that he is respected? Are you at all familiar with who Paul Johnson is?

For your info, Paul Johnson IS a highly respected English historian, who has written very well received books on the history of Egypt, The Jewish people, America, Christianity, The Renaissance, and a host of other topics. He has a Ph.D in history from Oxford. Not the resume of a typical ‘crank’.

He has also written extensively for Time, The Times of London, The Washington Post, and lots of other magazines.

I think his opinion carries some weight, which is why I was surprised to read his opinion, which is basically that Islam itself is an agressive religion based on conquest, with a 1400 year history of doing exactly that.

Sam, Nothing in particular was meant by the quotations around “respected historian.” I wanted to quote you and I myself saw nothing to respect in your historian.

I don’t know any of Johnson’s books; nor do I know him by repute. I checked him out on before my last post: he seems to be what I guess you’d call a pop historian, or commercial historian (as opposed to an academic historian). I don’t say that in itself means that his work is crap; but it does mean that it’s almost certainly on a general level (i.e. written for people who know nothing about the subject rather than for other specialists). Academic historians generally focus in on one area for many years and write more than one work on the subject. For my part, if I wanted an analysis of Islam, I’d want to go to someone who works on Islamic studies and only (or at least primarily) on that.

However, all of that is really apropos of nothing. My main reaction to Johnson was based on what he wrote which struck me as inflammatory, misleading and therefore crank-like.

Do you disagree with me? (I refer to your “surprise” which suggests that you have second thoughts about what Johnson wrote).

Cnote, “…I don’t know if you’d agree that [religion] is unnecessary, or necessary. Reading what you’ve written, you seem to say that it isn’t needed, but then say it is, in a way, because it isn’t really a religious statement.”

Well, sort of. I definitely agree that the American public and the US government would do well to keep personal religious feelings separate from public policy. As others have pointed out, bin Laden will always frame his actions as a religious mission, despite his obvious political aims, because its in his interests to do (and also because he may well believe he’s on a mission from God). But it’s in our interest to recognize that this is a political problem and to treat it as such. In particular that means recognizing that there is no need to see all of Islam as our enemy; and very many reasons to avoid doing so.

“If it’s not an attack on our culture or religion- and again I’d say religion is secondary- then what is it an attack on? Our money?”

Well Chalmers Johnson (the link I posted) says its on our foreign policy. I prefer to see it as our geopolitical power and the way we’ve used it. On this you should definitely read the link. It’s not particularly long.

“[If it’s not our culture or our religion] then why do we, in the words that President Bush says on behalf of all of us, refer or infer any religion is his comments?”

Well, because Presidents often say what they think people want to hear. If Bush were to admit that the terrorist problem was aggravated by American foreign policy then he’d have to own up to that; also a lot of people don’t want American foreign policy to change. Again, I think reading the link would help here.

Mandelstam: Well, before the WTC I really didn’t know a whole lot about Islam, other than what I’d read in general histories of the Middle-East and learned from a few Muslim friends.

After the WTC, much was made about how ‘peaceful’ Islam is, and how the word itself means ‘peace’. And certainly I was taught in school that the Crusades were a Christian religious war designed to subjugate and convert the Muslims. I’ve known for a long time that the Crusades were far more complicated than that, but hadn’t really thought about Islam as such a whole lot.

So now I read an article by Johnson (whom I admire, btw. I’ve read 3 or 4 of his books. Read “The Intellectuals”. it’s fascinating), which basically says that the word Islam more properly translates into “Submission”, which I think you’ll agree is significantly different from ‘Peace’, and he points out how the Muslims have been quite militant about bringing their faith to the world. And while Christians tend to do it with missionaries and bibles, Muslims tend to do it through conquest and war.

Given the number of Muslim terrorist groups there are in the world (a lot being supported by countries that have officially denounced the Taliban), and if you consider the inability of the Arab and Israeli worlds to come to peace, and the general fighting that has been going on for about 2000 years there, it does make you wonder.

But neither the “Arab and Israeli world” nor that region has had ongoing war for anything resembling 2,000 years. It is equally true to say that the French or Italians have been embroiled in wars for 2,000 years or more.

The current problems extend back no more than 120 years (and that is looking at the roots, the earliest violence is barely more than 80 years old).

I’m not sure what logic Johnson used to claim that Islam was particularly militaristic, but after the first hundred years in which Islam swept over a region from Afghanistan to Spain, the religious conquests petered out to merely sporadic flare ups. The Islamic push through what is now Pakistan, Northern India, Bangladesh and on to Malaysia and Indonesia was very much a missionary venture. Generally, on those occasions where Islam spread through those regions by force of arms, it was simply following a pattern of contagion rather than deliberate conquest. (Kingdom A, having converted to Islam, wages one more in a long series of border wars with Kingdom B and happens to win this round. Islam comes into Kingdom B with the conquerors. When Kingdom B overthrows Kingdom A or goes out to battle Kingdom C, Islam is not displaced in Kingdom B, but follows the battles on toward Kingdom C.)

As to the number of terrorist groups in the Islamic world, that is purely a function of power. Terrorism (or guerilla warfare) is the tactic of those who cannot bring an army to the field. No Middle East nation has felt that it had complete mastery of its own fate, with the British, French, Germans, Russians, and Americans playing the Great Game in their back yards and different groups within those nations have arisen to challenge that feeling. One of the rarely noted (in the U.S.) events of the 1920s was that a movement strongly influenced by the writings of Hitler and his contemporaries set up shop in that region and gained a lot of adherents, churning out a decidedly anti-Jewish message that was new to the region. (I am not claiming that there was no rancor toward the idea of a new Jewish homeland, but this movement made much of the rhetoric personal and added an Islamic veneer to what was, basically, a turf war.)

I think it safe to say that most atheists believe in justice and in the existence of some sort of moral standard by which “good” and “evil” can be measured. It is not necessary to have deities to recognize that there are correct and incorrect ways to act toward other people.

I don’t believe in any particular deity, but I am convinced that there is an absolute standard of right conduct (“good”) which we all, as actors possessing free will, should strive to follow. Of course, I also believe that nobody knows what that standard is, so striving toward it is somewhat difficult. Oh, to be omniscient! But we still must make an effort.

You’re right, I didn’t fully read that link the first time- I skimmed it.

But since you basically said you agree with it but don’t endorse it, I didn’t put much weight behind it when I read it.

After re-reading it, however, I’m still left thinking what I thought when I first skimmed it- it’s malarkey.

The idea that we’re responsible for Bin Laden, and we should peacefully and pacifistically accept it, on top of responding to Tuesdays incidents by doing nothing more than withdrawing out of the mid-east completely, is something I can’t agree with or read between the lines at all.

Their conclusion is Bin Ladens our fault… live with it. And when it comes to doing something about it… well… hmmm… let’s just go home now.

I don’t agree with that.

Outside of that argument, what exactly am I suppose to be getting out of that article?

I know this is coming off as more aggressive than I actually mean it, I’m sorry. I came back to it after I wrote up an earlier reply to this post that I left un-posted. I thought now I could be more conciliatory, but I fell back into the thoughts I had earlier, when I wrote the other post.

No offense is intended. I’m just getting frustrated over not coming to a consensus on what we’re talking about and what I should normally be able to see and go, “No, you’re wrong there” or, “Hey, your right there”.

I’m still in the middle it seems.

This betrays such ignorance of the Arabic language that I really, really question the writer’s claim to be a “well respected historian”. This is not linguistic rocket science; it is what the first student of the language learns.

Arabic is organized around tri-consonantal roots. The root for “Islam”, “Muslim”, and “Salaam” (all transliterations), is “slm”. It has connotations of both submission and peace, and the words are organized around the same root because Arabs believe that they are connected. Islam means “submission to the will of God”, not “submission to us” or “submission to Osama bin Ladin”. Saying “Islam” means “submission” alone, without the additional mention of “Allah”, is so inaccurate as to be a lie.

The Quran also says, “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” The Quran makes a strong distinction between the “People of the Book” (monotheists — Jews, Christians, and Muslims, later extended to Hindus when Islam reached India) and pagans. The former were treated better under Islamic rule than the latter, but neither were to be put to death.

The Quran varies a bit on how to treat all the people around Muhammad during the beginning of his ministry. Frankly, when someone had been mean to the small group of Muslims starting out, the angel Gabriel told Muhammad to be mean to them in return. This means that the Quran has some contradictory statements here and there. However, when read in context, the negative ones can be seen pretty clearly to be directed against specific groups that had attacked the struggling Muslim community, and the more positive and peaceful ones are more general. This also holds in the hadiths (sayings of Muhammad) that were collected later.

A good book on the Prophet is Muhammad the Prophet by the Sidar Ikbal Ali Shah. A book on the four main religions “of the Book” is Lights of Asia by the same author. Both are excellent.

Tom, thanks for the mini-historical analysis.

Cnote, perhaps you are now exaggerating the weaknesses of the article? You take Chalmers Johnson to be saying “Bin Ladens our fault… live with it. And when it comes to doing something about it… well… hmmm… let’s just go home now.” I agree that he overstates the “our fault” argument, but he’s hardly saying “live with it” in a passive way. The truth is we have to live with it; what else can we do? And he’s also not saying “let’s just go home now”; he’s questioning why we were away from home in the first place.

Even allowing for a certain rhetorical overkill, is there nothing at all to be thought through here?

*"Installing the Shah in power brought twenty-five years of tyranny and repression to the Iranian people and elicited the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution. The staff of the American embassy in Teheran was held hostage for more than a year. This misguided “covert operation” of the US government helped convince many capable people throughout the Islamic world that the United States was an implacable enemy.

“The pattern has become all too familiar. Osama bin Laden…is no more (or less) “evil” than his fellow creations of our CIA: Manuel Noriega, former commander of the Panama Defense Forces until George Bush père in late 1989 invaded his country and kidnapped him, or Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, whom we armed and backed so long as he was at war with Khomeini’s Iran and whose people we have bombed and starved for a decade in an incompetent effort to get rid of him. These men were once listed as “assets” of our clandestine services organization.”*

No thoughts are sparked by this?

*"The people of the United States make up perhaps 4 percent of the world’s population but consume 40 percent of its resources. They exercise hegemony over the world directly through overwhelming military might and indirectly through secretive organizations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade oganization. Though largely dominated by the US government, these are formally international organizations and therefore beyond
Congressional oversight. *

Nothing to value in this line of reasoning (which, it appears, our leaders may well be taking under consideration themselves)?

"Massive military retaliation with its inevitable “collateral damage” will, of course, create more desperate and embittered childless parents and parentless children, and so recruit more maddened people to the terrorists’ cause. In fact, mindless bombing is surely one of the responses their grisly strategy hopes to elicit. Moreover, a major crisis in the Middle East will inescapably cause a rise in global oil prices, with, from the assassins’ point
of view, desirable destabilizing effects on all the economies of the advanced industrial nations."

Does this strike you as entirely unreasonable?

“Nonetheless, what we should do is to make a serious analytical effort to determine what overseas military commitments make sense and where we should pull in our horns.”

Bear in mind too, that Johnson is addressing foreign policy issues narrowly defined. Although I can understand you’re being confused by the omission, he probably wasn’t asked to discuss how to pursue justice against the terrorists b/c other writers in the same issue were doing that. (That doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have gotten it in as an aside; and it’s part of his rhetorical overkill, perhaps, that he didn’t). That said, I’d be really surprised if Johnson doesn’t believe that those responsible should be pursued, tried, sentenced and so forth.

To shift from Chalmers Johnson to my own thoughts. I understand your impatience for seeing swift justice: but the pursuit justice takes a certain amount of patience and a levelhead. Vengeance–striking back at any ostensibly suitable target we can find as fast as we can–might make some people feel better but will it constitute justice? And will it serve the longterm aim of reducing terrorist assaults on the innocent?

Think about it: your own recoil from the language of “God is on our side” and our enemies are “evil” suggests that what you want is rational reflection, not irrational crusades; justice and not vengeance.