Monday, July 28, 2008

Faith-Based Terrorism

Look, I don't hold an undue paranoia about the dangerous potential of the devout. Despite everything Chris Hedges says, I feel I can walk down the streets of Colorado Springs, even in front of Focus on the Family, and say what I want, when I want, with no fear of reprisal. In fact, the shootings at New Life Church last December show that it's often those with a grudge against religion that are the most dangerous in society.

But the latest Knoxville shootings carried out by a wacked-out avenging angel named Jim Adkisson have me thinking again about the problem of catastrophist faith-based terrorists who want to purify society. Did anyone tell Adkisson that denominations like Unitarians and Congregationalists have been around since this nation was founded, and that they thus have more legitimacy than most evangelical groups? Did anyone tell representatives of the latest salafi wackadoodle Islamic group that there is no chance of establishing a global caliphate on the blood of others, in this world or the next one? Can all the world's faiths agree on purging their adherents of the type of lone-shooter-cum-suicide-bomber who believes in a personal duty to kill the innocent? Some religious leaders within Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions have been a little bit remiss at coming down hard on the catastrophists among them. So let's make it clear, no matter what your vision of a divine God may be, there is no moral legitimacy in the avenging angel role. If you seek to purify society in the name of your religion, you are a terrorist and should be treated accordingly.


Sharon said...

I don't know if it's possible for a group who's autonomy, exclusivity, power, and purpose, is based upon the self righteous damnation of the beliefs of others to at the same time teach tolerance and acceptance in any meaningful way. Obviously from an idealistic standpoint love and tolerance is exactly what spiritual guidance is supposed to be about but pragmatically while those ideals may be paid lip service to, as you know, there are so many other political and financial factors driving most religious institutions. None the less, you are right, that at the very least religious and community leaders have a responsibility to condemn extremism and promote "tolerance" if not out-right understanding and love. Purification is terrorism no matter how small the scale.

Ruth said...

I see it this way. Some people are nuts. Some of those nutty wacked out people are drawn to certain things, like faiths that promote certain controlling extreme militant world views. I don't know that the faiths themselves are what drive the syndrome. But they sure as hell should try to discourage it.

Now granted, some of the cults - Muslim and otherwise - are based in militant aggression.

But some of these super strict cults in the US draw out the nut cases and give them ammo.

I used to think that in the Baptist churches I grew up in, the engineer types here in MI were drawn to the Christian logic that was taught - very structured, black and white, anal. It occurred to me at one point that THEY were defining the Christianity I was in, not the Bible. They found support for their already inborn way of looking at things within the religion they chose, and that's why they chose it.

Make sense?

Loring Wirbel said...

Then you'd like this story. My boss twice removed, the guy who actually hired me years ago, received an email from a startup president who was upset by a blog that suggested it was the duty of engineers to support the teaching of evolution and to unmask the limits of intelligent design as a scientific theory. He said the blog offended his concept of his duties as a Christian. Richard wrote back to say that he was a Christian too, but he didn't see how it was possible that anyone who refuted Darwin could be a good engineer. The complainer contacted all the corporate bigwigs, who came down on Richard saying, "you must not upset the customer." Richard said, "Screw that. We must not allow the devout to insert their nonsense into a field like EE." Yay, Richard. If fundamentalists want to see that as prejudice against their beliefs, fine. I told one "Jesus is the truth" person that I seek my truth only from externally validatable facts in the physical world, because they are the only ones true across cultures. My faith is not a source of truth by definition, since it only applies to my own beliefs.

Sharon said...

I read this somewhere yesterday and traced it back to:

It seemed relevant so I thought I'd post this excerpt here.

"So I will choose the hard way. I will try to forgive the Adkissons of the world who have been manipulated and conned into violence. I don’t think I’m quite ready yet to forgive the Coulters and the O’Reillys and the Malkins and the Limbaughs of this world just yet… but I will try to work on not hating them quite as much as I know they hate me. It’s a step. Maybe tomorrow I can do better."