inafoxhole (inafoxhole) wrote,

fear and reason

If a belief can't stand up to scrutiny, it isn't worth having.

When you grow up Catholic like I did, and several of my friends did, you are taught that questioning is bad... and I'm sure that this is true of most religions. One of my friends, who is basically an atheist, is mucking around with Buddhism, and some of it he's okay with, and some of it he's feeling guilty about because he just can't accept it easily without questioning it "to death". Don't feeling guilty about questioning it. Demand that your questions be answered or it just isn't worth it. Don't wish to go back to muddled thinking. Accepting religion isn't like reading sci-fi. You aren't being asked to suspend disbelief for the sake of argument, you are being asked to suspend it altogether.

Continuing on the theme of rational thought...

I was posed a question about the justification for suspending civil rights in this country. (Belatedly under the premise that 2 million of our citizens have been killed by Islamic terrorists... what relationship this scenario has to reality, I'm not sure.) And the argument made to me what that people would be afraid, and thus that would justify acting in an extreme fashion to round up all the Mulsims--American or not--in the country and detaining them like we did the Japanese during WWII. I was further offered the example of the My Lai massacre during Vietnam as an example of when extreme measures--us vs. them--were justified in the name of fear.

Why was I being asked this question? These people don't know many liberals and they wanted a liberal reaction.... Sooner or later they will learn they will get more than they bargained for if they ask me. :)

My response was that while fear may be understandable, just as fear was an understandable response after 9/11, reacting out of fear, lashing out, without considering the big picture is liable to make things worse rather than better. It's the same kind of survival fear that one experiences when one is poor and living paycheck to paycheck, only more intense. One must learn to see past tomorrow to think of the longer-term if one is ever going to get out of poverty. It's a very difficult thing to do, but it MUST be done to escape. When one is attacked, the fear is more on the surface and more primal perhaps, but the situation is similar. If one lashes out without thinking, one is likely to merely escalate the situation, hurt friend and foe alike, and make more enemies, causing the situation to be drawn out longer. A bad choice of targets moves you forward about the same way Brownian motion does. In order to minimize bad consequences and maximize good ones, one has to act more slowly and deliberately, and to reason out what to do and the consequences of those choices, not just tomorrow, but for next year and the next decade if possible... not just during the conflict, but afterwards.

And if we must extend this, this is where I differ with Christopher Hitchens. Islamic extremism is indeed something we should all be concerned about. As a woman, trust me, I get it. I don't particularly care so much how it got to be this way, what I care about it how to challenge it without making more enemies, and without making the situation worse. Taking out Saddam Hussein, for instance, destabilized Iran because there was no longer a balance of opposing forces in the region. Even if the war in Iraq had gone perfectly, we now have to deal with the unintended consequences. By acting rashly, we weren't prepared to figure in that likelihood. So when Bush talks about the possiblity of a war on three fronts, one has to ask oneself--necessary or not--what will be the consequences of such an action and are we prepared to deal with the worst case scenario? Or even a likely bad one?

What does this have to do with atheism? It relates only second hand. I consider most religious believers to believe out of fear... fear of death, fear of consequences, fear of life, fear of loneliness... whatever. Fear is not sufficient justification for believing in these things--it does not make them true--and ultimately, many believers spend large chunks of their lives not really addressing the real issues and trying to improve on anything, but just futilely hoping it works out. Reacting out of fear to attack Iraq, or to round up everyone who might look like the enemy is just as pointless, and just as counterproductive, perhaps moreso.

It's impossible in an extreme situation to react with perfect reason. Fear is human and it will affect judgment. But making the effort to be reasonable can only improve the outcome. We may still disagree, liberals and conservatives, but we will still stand a better chance of getting out of it sooner. That's why our brains were so useful in evolutionary terms. They work so much better than instinct alone.

On an unrelated note:

Some are mine, some aren't. Do whatever.

Oh, and my Mensa atheist sig finished raising funds for our two guest speakers for the AG in July. *claps hands* Of course, now our fearless leader just wants me to take over everything for next year... :( I have to start researching my presentation on Science & Islam, so I may have some more to say about that in the near future.
Tags: 9/11, atheist sig, buddhism, bush, catholicism, evolution, fear, hitchens, icons, iran, iraq, islam, mensa, rationality

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