Racism? Or Creedism?

Much like with the word “homophobia,” I get very annoyed when I hear the word “Islamophobia.” Basically, I get irritated with people who think criticisms of Islam are a mark of racism. They are not. Race is loosely tied to biology. There is a clear distinction between a black man and a white man; namely, the color of the individual’s skin. As skin color flows into various gradations, it is probably better to regard the black man and the white man as being on opposite sides of a spectrum as opposed to differing values of a binary condition. Regardless, holding a person in contempt on the basis of their skin color makes absolutely no intellectual sense. And with the history associated with that attitude, it is crystal clear to me, and most people, that that is morally wrong and should not be encouraged.

Being opposed to Islam, however, is much different. Islam is a religion or creed, it is not a race. Islam is constituted by a collection of beliefs and tenets which dictate, or at the very least, influence, how one lives in the world. As such, it is fair game for criticism and, should it be called for, rejection. The same can be said for Judaism (although Jewish, I believe, is also a race as well as a religion … which complicates matters somewhat in that particular case), Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Nazism, and every other religion and creed out there. It is naive to think that all these belief systems are morally equal. Nazism, alone, should be enough to disabuse one of that notion. If you protest that Nazism doesn’t belong in such a group because it is not a religion, then consider both the now extinct Aztec religion of Central America and the Thuggee cults of India. Both were religions. Both practiced human sacrifice. Ergo, they do not measure up to such peaceful religions as Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, etc….

As far as criticizing the creed of Islam and not the race of Muslims (since the race varies and I have already stated that racism is wrong) is concerned, I will say that suicide bombing is carried out, as far as I know, only by Muslims. Obviously, not all Muslims are terrorists. That goes without saying. However, it is becoming more and more apparent to me that most terrorists are Muslim. If you want to be really precise: Not all Muslims are jihadists, but all jihadists are Muslim. You can say the religion is being hijacked, but I have heard elsewhere that the leader of Isis has a Ph.D. in Islamic studies from one of the most prestigious Islamic universities in the world. I haven’t verified that last statement myself, but if it is true, it means Islam has a serious problem. And it is a problem Muslims must solve; others can point it out to them, but Muslims are the only ones who can modify and fix their own religion. They need a Reformation.

As I said, criticism of Islam is perfectly acceptable, especially in a free society—as long as it is done respectably and even if done irreverently. For myself, I lack sufficient knowledge of Islam to criticize it beyond a very superficial level. I can, as I did above, note the glaring atrocities practiced by Isis and other terrorist groups in the name of Islam. Such are stains on their religion that may take centuries to overcome. Others with more knowledge than me of that particular Faith should feel free to examine it and analyze it in detail.

Although music is not the summation of a Faith, I wish to part by saying something positive about Islam: I like their music. It sounds very spiritual to me. I regret that I don’t have more positive things to say about the religion, but I’ve never read the Koran or studied the Hadith. Maybe someday I will, but at the moment, I lack the time.

Anyway, that’s what I wanted to share today. “Islamophobia” is a dangerous term which obfuscates the distinction between race and creed. Criticism based on one is immoral and, if it weren’t so serious, silly; criticism based on the other is perfectly fine. And if you wish to accuse me of being “Islamophobic,” I’ll accuse you of being “Westernophobic.” So, go soak your head. Blah!

I, Hypocrite

I am a hypocrite. Yes, little old me, waxing philosophical is a stupendously foolish hypocrite. But is that bad?

I think most people would regard that as bad, but I’m not sure I agree—at least, not always. Let me explain.

Hypocrisy is usually defined as saying that someone (usually someone else) should do one thing while you go about and do the exact opposite.

One of the most common forms of hypocrisy (and perhaps the most infuriating) is moral hypocrisy where an individual claims to embrace a moral code they do not practice. But what if they try to practice that moral code and simply fail? For example, what of the Christian moral code? The most striking thing about the Christian code is how high and demanding it is. In fact, it may be so high and demanding that no one can live up to it. Hence, the accusation of hypocrisy can be leveled at all Christians. But if Jesus was divine as He claimed to be, then the source of the code He left behind for His followers is also divine. And if it is divine, it may very well be the case that no one can live up to the code. Does that make the code useless? No. It can still serve as a goal to strive for, but one accompanied by the understanding that it can never be fully reached. As men and women strive toward the code, they will necessarily improve, morally speaking, but they will never reach perfection. They will be hypocrites, all of them, but non-threatening ones. So, I would classify that as a kind of justified hypocrisy.

There is another form of hypocrisy that is inherently justifiable: that of hypocrisy by experience. Basically, in life we learn things—call them life lessons, if you will. Such life lessons may serve to change our behavior as we grow older, because we learn, morally speaking, that our previous behavior was bad by some measure. For example, suppose a woman at a young age gets pregnant and has an abortion. She comes to regret that decision and counsels others to not have abortions. Is she a hypocrite? In some sense, yes, but if you acknowledge that experience can change a person and teach them valuable lessons, you will realize that sometimes hypocrisy may simply indicate that a person has learned something of value and wishes to pass that knowledge on to someone else. And passing knowledge on to the young is not only a great service to those who make up the young, it is also a duty of those who are older.

Anyway, by both these measures, I acknowledge that I am a hypocrite. I’m not going to share the full list of all my particular failings with the world because that would make me feel uncomfortable; still, I feel inclined to acknowledge the simple fact of my hypocrisy. I leave others to their own self-reflection.

Yes, I tried to defend hypocrisy. Did I succeed? I’ll let you decide.

Rage Against God

I am angry with God. In fact, I am enraged with God for a number of reasons. It is a futile and worthless emotion. It’s not like I can punch God in the nose for doing things to me with which I disagree. I can scream and rant and rave, but it’s not like that warrants any kind of response from Him. He’s not known for being particularly verbose—although if He wrote the Bible, maybe he is. But I am in such a confused state of existence, I don’t know if He wrote the Bible or if Satan did, impersonating Him. Anyway, you might wonder why I am angry with God. There are a number of reasons, but I’ll limit myself to the top three.

First, truth is dying. Perhaps, that should be made more precise as “Belief in truth is dying,” but these days I’m not so sure. I’m having doubts about the existence of truth myself. Which is sad and tragic because I spent four years of my life going over proofs and arguments and everything else that established the reality of truth. But now, everyone and their mother is arguing against the existence of truth and dressing such arguments up “in the clothes of science.” If it’s not the sociologists, it’s the physicists; if it’s not the physicists, it’s the psychiatrists; and so on … and if I don’t agree that truth is dead, I’m being hard-headed and inflexible. Why? Likely because truth stands as the last accuser against the immorality of our deeds. Is that what it is? That no one wants to believe in truth because they want to believe that they can do no wrong? I don’t know and I weary of the fight.

My second reason for being angry with God, related to the first, is the fact that relativism is winning. More and more people are becoming relativists. The official philosophy of the U.S. government is relativism. Don’t believe me? How else can you explain the “tolerance” of boyplay in Afghanistan by the U.S. government? How else can you explain the frowning upon of American Exceptionalism by Obama and the rest of his administration? There are other examples, but my memory is not what it once was. Keep an eye on the news and you’ll see more examples quite regularly. Anyway, I despise relativism, primarily because it is anti-truth and I was a philosophy major, much enamored with the whole concept of truth. As such, I will despise relativism to my dying day, but again I lack the energy to continue the fight. The field is yours, oh relativist, and may the destruction you herald not be absolute.

Lastly, my third reason for being angry with God is … well, I believe I’m the antichrist. Whether that is the result of a mental illness (with which I have been diagnosed but with which I disagree) or it is the truth of the matter, I do not know. Anyway, since I’m the antichrist, I therefore feel powerless to do anything about the preceding two issues without destroying the world. Yes, I believe it is within my power to destroy the world—which is probably hubris in itself.

Anyway, I saw a movie once (“God’s Not Dead”) in which a philosopher, gripped in anger, says that he hates God because “He took everything from me.” Sometimes I share that sentiment as well—because at one point I had a promising future, and then I succeeded in flushing everything down the drain. Anyway, the Christian in the movie says “How can you hate someone who does not exist?” Which is a valid intellectual point, but the Christian kind of missed the fact that the philosopher, when he dragged that confession out of him, was in extreme emotional pain. A little bit of compassion for that philosopher would be far more suitable than just leaping in with glee to “win the argument.” But that was just one of the closing scenes in a movie designed to support and buttress the everyday “Christian warrior” in this modern world of storms and sorrow. It had both good and bad points and if you’re in the right mood, it was a decent flick.

In case you are wondering, although I hated God for years—and still have issues—I have decided that that particular activity is just too exhausting to maintain. So, I’ve been reduced to turning back to God, praying regularly, and going to Mass once a week. Although if I’m the antichrist, I’m not sure if any of that will be effective.

Well, I’ve started rambling and that’s probably a good sign that I should close this particular post and move on. So, toodle-doo!

Science and Regulations

I am wary of science. Any good philosopher will tell you that science doesn’t produce “knowledge.” The reasons for that claim are kind of technical (the Problem of Perception, the Problem of Induction, etc…), but once upon a time, when I was studying analytical Western Philosophy, I understood them and agreed with them. Anyway, I don’t want to get in a technical discussion of epistemology (fancy word warning—google it!) here. Let’s just say that science produces “well-justified rational belief” and leave it at that. Still, the term “knowledge” is regularly used and it’s an easier term to write. I’ll continue using it with the above understanding in mind.

Anyway, as I said, I’m wary of science. Call me a technophobe or even a luddite, but I see serious harm being done to our society by science. One area of concern is in the realm of regulations. I’m a conservative, and as far as I am concerned, the fewer regulations the better. And yet, the geniuses in American bureaucracy pump out well-over a thousand regulations per year without rescinding any from prior years. How can we expect anyone to keep up with that? Every company must need reams upon reams of regulation specialists. I don’t regard that as a good thing. It is prohibitively expensive and raises an unfair bar against small entrepreneurial companies. But the story does not end there. I would like to share an important insight: many of these regulations come from science: more specifically, the explosion in scientific “knowledge.” As scientific knowledge grows, so do regulations. Necessarily. We know more, so we are forced to make more rules based on this knowledge to keep ourselves from damaging each other. The result is a loss of freedom and an increase in State control.

Obviously, we must strike some kind of balance here, particularly since the regulations are not based on true “knowledge” as I mentioned above. Need to be convinced of that? Consider nutrition. First, eggs are a part of everyone’s breakfast. Then, they are bad for you—too much cholesterol. No, they are good for you—it’s chock full of vitamins and nutrients and the cholesterol in it is not that bad; or it may even be the good cholesterol. Ten years from now, they’ll be regarded as pure poison, I’m sure. Not satisfied with eggs? What about red wine? Chocolate? Butter? Smoking? And I’m sure there are more. How can you justify interfering with another’s livelihood based on half-truths and an inchoate body of changing “knowledge?” The scientists have reversed themselves so many times, you’ll have to forgive me for being skeptical about the claim that they should have final say over free market products. Should they be ignored? No. But there must be a balance somewhere, somehow. I’m not sure where it is, though. I understand the problem; I can state it, I think clearly; but I don’t know how to solve it.

Before I go, I’ll make a final note on regulations in the form of a metaphor. Imagine that a business is a human being: a female, just to satisfy the feminists. Imagine that every regulation passed by Congress is a thin string that is tied from a concrete floor to the woman in question. It restricts her activities in an almost insignificant manner. It is but one simple rule she must abide by in her daily business activities. But then Congress passes another regulation and another string is attached. Then, another. How many such strings can the woman bear before being reduced to immobility? Clearly, by one thousand such strings, she may find herself regretting ever entering business in the first place, as by then, she will have become a slave of the State.