zaterdag, november 21, 2015

Think! If there is evil, it must be the religion itself

I’ve watched news in the past months, even more in the last weeks. I’ve watched it every single day. What happened in Paris and refugees from mainly Islamic countries, has huge impact on me. It is difficult to wrap your head around all this, but I’ll give it a try.

News and simplistic views

News we watch and read provide us some information. Getting information directly from the source (affected people) seems more reliable, but usually it is not. It has to do with emotional impact and huge conditioning that influences people's judgement and their views. One has to have fairly neutral position in order to observe objectively.

So, there are luckily enough newspapers that provide reliable and factual information. Since good journalism costs money, you better pay subscription to get such news.

The real value of a newspaper is factual information. Almost all of them also provide opinions section. Although I love to read and hear those, I always need to be aware it is just an opinion. It would be foolish to simply take those as actual information. Opinions are meant to make you think yourself. Unfortunately, social media is full of statements based on someone else’s opinions, even if it is from a newspaper.

Anyway, getting your information from free newspapers as one of the cornerstones of any open society is good. Nevertheless, the essential quality of any of those papers is reporting on observable facts and not dive in and speculate. There is just not enough time and money to dive deep into problems. There are also too many news facts worth mentioning and tend to be subjective very easily when journalist tries to conclude anything. In other words, so called reporting becomes dangerously similar to just opinions.

So, the nature of good news is simplistic factual news. They are pieces in a bigger puzzle. Puzzle gives us information, not the pieces. We need to spend time on putting pieces together into a sensible, evidence-based puzzle. This takes years for the question I will explore here.

Think!

We all think and draw conclusions. But, there are different ways of thinking triggered by news:

Fearful

We are emotionally flooded, driven by endless amount of events, one after another, and form our opinions relatively fast. This opinion tends to be superficial and limited by conditioning. If you are a devoted Christian, you will likely blame Islam and muslims in your head. Since it is socially unacceptable to blame muslims publicly, you will call them “Islamic countries”, or “Extreme Islamists”, etc. At the same time, being very negative towards muslim refugees coming to Europe; negative for all kinds of reasons except the real one. There is this feeling that muslims are simply different kind of human beings, somehow dangerous, inferior, etc. We used to call those people niggers, gays, jews, etc. It is really the same reasoning behind all those words, the same pattern. Fear-driven reaction, which proves to be a false generalization / oversimplification.

False compassion

Exactly opposite is the group that says we have to be compassionate towards everyone. Provide home, everything to anyone coming. Catholic pope even suggested to take refugees in your homes. Don’t do that, it is not good for them. Nobody wants somebody else’s home. People want own homes.

Although I admire compassionate people, many tend to overshadow rational thinking with compassion. Compassion without rational thinking does not make much sense. I remember when I fled to The Netherlands in 1993 from Bosnia, the first people who were “compassionate” to us were from a church. They would put us in an expensive Mercedes Benz and bring us to a church in Laren (The Netherlands). Instead of having a human-to-human conversation, they felt it was good for me to be in a church, not knowing that a thing I fled from in Bosnia was religions in general. Of course, I can’t blame them and I’m thankful for trying to help me.

This is just one of so many examples of false compassion. The real compassion is hard to find, although most of us are naturally compassionate with our intents. Lack of evidence-based thinking turns this good intentions into sometimes a very ugly result. Even Mother Theresa’s work is very disputable in retrospect. Everyone knows how great human being she was, very few know what she actually did. Even less know that many of her actions had negative effects. What problem was she actually solving and how?

The most common false compassion is the stupid one. Letting radical imams preach hate in European countries for a long time in the name of religious freedom is not smart. This kind of stupidity is a fertile ground for extreme right people such as Geert Wilders. In turn, this creates huge polarization and is completely overshadowing any sign of unconventional wisdom.

Indifference

Living in Asia means living among unconcerned. For the reasons I’m still puzzled about, people don’t really care much about what is happening in other parts of the world, unless it is directly affecting them. This is of course a generalization. I have met a few who are concerned with what is happening, but societies here in general seem to be much less concerned. There is a strong culture of not being concerned with something and not even wanting to know the truth. It seems to be things that you can’t easily influence; basically everything about Middle-East, terrorism and refugees.

Terrorism

Ah, yes. That is the problem, right!? It has become ridiculous how easy politicians simplistically brush over an event with one word: terrorism. In the process, we seem to forget that word is referring to one who is affected, and not the one who causes it. Terrorist is the person who causes fear in others. Therefore, without fear there is no terrorism.

You could say, who cares that we use this word in a wrong way? Well, you definitely should, since many politicians are misusing this word for their own advantage. If part of society is oppressed, we just call them terrorists, and hopefully the rest of the country or world will support you. It has become a license to do whatever you want. The ultimate way to exercise power.

Try just for a second to imagine that someone else even remotely suggests that you might be a terrorist simply because you look like you are coming from middle-east. How does that make you feel?

A freedom fighter and terrorist are one and the same thing, just different perspectives. The actions, of course do matter. The argument is often made that terrorists kill innocent and cause fear in the process. Well, in that case, United States is one big terrorist machine. Since we know it is more complicated when we mention US, it just does not make sense to differentiate between people by calling them terrorists. It is just too arbitrary, isn’t it!? Even if we ignore dictionary, modern meaning behind word terrorist is very unjustifiable. Labeling someone in such a way does not give us any useful information to solve anything.

Evil

Concept of evil comes from Abrahamic religions. Asian cultures do have the word, but it has a quite a different meaning. One could state that word “evil” as we know it in west, does not really exist in Asian philosophies. Also “good” is completely different. This contradiction between good and evil has much less importance in east, while it drives most of our judgement and morality in west.
We have this strong urge to know if something is good or evil because religions have imprinted this in us. Most people are not even able to form opinion without first labeling something as good or evil.
This is dangerous, very dangerous. Hitler has described jews as evil. Bush has described whole countries as roots of evil and children all over the world learn in religious houses there is evil. United States is embodiment of evil for many muslims.

ISIS is just pure evil according to many. Let’s not forget that we are talking about huge amount of muslims in ISIS area fighting for their cause, although a very sick one driven by religion. Where are they coming from? What drives them? Why? How did this happen? Were they always “evil”? What does evil even mean?

After researching most of these questions, the only reason for existence of ISIS and the current problem is religion. It is mainly religion that attracted so many young men into ISIS. Religion in this ultimate all-encompassing form provides a perfect sanctuary for confused young men and women, whose only clear part of identity is defined by calling yourself a muslim.

These massive problems are far from simple. By calling someone evil, we are shutting off possibly the only real solution for these problems. Sometimes, the cause of a problem is rooted in evil. Not in real evil, since it is just a concept, but in consequence of labeling someone evil. Both sides are encouraged to be hostile to each other. Religious concept of evil is one of the most dangerous concepts we have.

There are people who do good, and there are people who do stupid and incredibly bad stuff. Ironically, it takes religious concept of evil to make good people do incomprehensibly evil stuff. This is why ISIS exists. We are embodiment of evil to them. It is written in Koran. This is a very clear and simple justification for the atrocities they commit.

At the same time, we are using last century approaches on today’s problems, while not learning from them. We used to call Germans and Japanese evil. Have they suddenly cease to be evil? How did that happen? What is the difference with WW1? Do you know anything about atrocities committed by US soldiers in WW2 in Germany? The reality is very different from our simplistic chairs while watching news. We don’t think, we just judge driven by our emotions.

This religious concept “evil” is a very painful example how we waste our time and effort on judging instead of observing evidence, learning, thinking. This evidence is not hidden from our sight. It is merely overshadowed by all kinds of cognitive bias and conventional wisdom. This so-called wisdom is the one that drives our judgement. “There are many evil terrorists in Syria. Many refugees are coming from Syria, so there must be also many terrorists among them. Look at all those young males. Many of them must be terrorists!”. I feel sorry for politicians who try to calm down everyone by trying to answer these statements based on massive number of assumptions without any evidence.
We just need to look at history to learn that this is not how things work. One could also say: “You never know what you are bringing into Europe. Maybe massive amount of terrorist.”. Correct, so why don’t we look at what evidence tells us. All those governments are gathering massive information on people coming and are the only ones capable of having this information. So far, no proof of that. In contrary, many of them are well-educated, a welcomed work-force in Europe. And just to remind you: you don’t have the luxury of not believing your own government in this case.

Islam

I’ve watched Hans Teeuwen making fun of muslims who were offended by a song. It was amusing and he very sharply pointed out right to offend. It is the problem of offended, not offender. In a single clip it became very clear why it is important to make fun of any religion.


What is even more striking is the similarity with Christians in United States and many other countries. From Starbuck Holiday Cups to teachers in schools who are afraid to teach evolution. Very often, verbal and physical violence is used against anyone who even remotely or indirectly suggests that Bible is full of nonsense. This implies denial of evolution. Both facts are even recognized by vast majority of Christians.

When looking carefully, the only relevant difference is time. Christianity used to fuel violence, but by growing moral values we all agree upon, this has diminished a lot. This happened hand-in-hand with rise of secular governments. Unfortunately, this is rather slow with Islam. A good thing is that European muslims are considered infidels or secular according to standards in middle-east.
I was very surprised when some European politicians claim we live in Judeo-Christian societies, and these societies are threatened. This is nonsense. European societies do originate from Judeo-Christian roots, but all what is left is few cherry-picked moral values.

United States is different since there is visible conflict between groups on this. One claims that US is in deep moral decline and should be based on these conservative values, while other holds onto secular values and secular government.

Religion is the major factor

I can’t say that religion is the problem, and by removing this everything would be better. I can’t possibly know this. Besides, I would contradict myself by oversimplifying, while showing how others oversimplify things.

Although we don’t know if many of the major problems would disappear, we do have very strong evidence that religions are slowing the progress in science, morality, reduction of suffering and peace. We need evidence, proof, morality based on reason to win, to prevail. We already have achieved a lot in the past decades despite or by reducing religious immorality:
  • Scientific discoveries in medicine, astronomy, biology have brought improvement that nobody disputes, but do contradict religious beliefs.
  • Abolished slavery, improved equality between men and women, reduced racism and discrimination of gay people, treat animals better. This is all achieved driven by morality based on reason, while religions often say opposite.
  • There is strong correlation between amount of atheism in countries, and economic growth.
Unfortunately, what also happens is that instead of focussing on science, many scientists are prevented from further exploration, forced into discussions with incredibly incompetent people on subjects of biology, astronomy, etc. There is suddenly “intelligent design” which defies human logic. It is nothing less than delusional in massive proportions. People who claim intelligent design as explanation to universe should be advised to see psychiatrist. I don’t intend to offend anyone. It just does not make any sense on level of intellectual health. It has nothing to do with religion, except that it is frightening to see effect a very old book has on people.

Unfortunately, also wars are still fought over religious beliefs. It is definitely not only Islam. In Yugoslavia, it were different forms of Christianity, same as in Northern Ireland, same as in some Asian countries. The only difference is that Islamic one is the most violent one, and it has much higher power of deluding massive amounts of people. This power has diminished in others.

Don’t fight religions, extreme or not

One thing I learned in Balkan wars is that people tend to resort to extreme form of religion if their religion (in other words: identity) is threatened. The same is happening in middle-east and US currently. Fox channel is continuously mentioning that number of atheists is rising. Atheists are often seen as evil, almost as bad as terrorists.

Instead, we need to continue proven tactic of respectfully constraining religions by universal morality accompanied by laws that enforce this reality and science that gradually makes religions thinner and thinner, until nothing is left.

We need to keep showing and finding evidence. In other words, scientific progress is one our most important endeavors. We are doomed without it.

You could say that there is a war between democratic way of life versus islamic fundamentalism or dictatorship. The actual, deeper and much longer conflict is between reason and religions. Reason is on the winning side, and that is why we have these conflicts. Religious people feel threatened.
An interesting example of this is conflict between Russia and Ukraine, or better to say Europe instead of Ukraine. If you listen carefully, the things that Russians despise most about Europe is the secular way of living. Transexuals, gays, non-believers. Although Russia used to be officially secular, this secularism was same as in Yugoslavia. Religions were still very alive and always strong. The only difference was that churches didn’t have much visible power. In reality, the real long-term power was still in church. The religious institutions were the main fuel and engines for war. People were being told to protect their own religion and way of living according to their religion. This is most obvious in Bosnia, where difference between people is only religion.

As soon as people stop going to mosque or church, this power is much less. Fox channel Christians in US are just as much upset about people not really buying this bible thing, but still believing in a god.
This specific group of people who still believe in a god, but don’t feel religious is very large. They choose to say this for several reasons:
  • I know that Bible or Koran is full of nonsense, but there must be some divine being out there. I don’t understand how else everything exists, and what is the purpose of life.
  • Fear-based, primal / animal instinct: I better believe in god, just in case there is heaven or hell.
  • Being atheist sounds like being a communist :-). It is sociable unacceptable to not believe in god.
This huge group is simply in state of confusion. The logic behind knowing whole god concept is based on these old books, which they know it is proven nonsense. So, based on what do they believe there is a god? It could also be multiple gods, a computer which drives our brains, an alien race, etc.

Education and children

We need to educate, educate, educate, and protect education of our children, since they are the future.
  • As Richard Dawkings stated: It should be, it is immoral to call child a “christian child” or a “muslim child”. They are just children that happen to have muslim parents.
  • Children should be taught to think, get to know all religions in addition to science. It is immoral from parents to constrain children into one religious box.
  • It is without doubt child abuse to learn them to fear god. I used to have this problem, and know so many whose life is affected in bad way by this.
  • We should teach our children to think, make up their own minds and not just project our knowledge and conditioning onto them.

Come out of the closet

For someone to state he / she is an atheist is a similar feeling to being a gay and coming out of the closet. I’ve been an atheist for a long time, ever since I left Bosnia, and the religious war there. Therefore, it is not a secret that I’m an atheist.

At the same time, I never explicitly mentioned of being an atheist until this post. The reason is very simple. I didn’t see the point of this label. Atheism is nothing more than disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. There is basically nothing more to say about atheism than this. The label has meaning only in context of opposite of any religion.

I know many atheists. World of IT nerds, software developers is full of atheists. Just like me, none of them ever mentions to be an atheist.

Whether you wish to call yourself atheist, agnostic, just a believer in god, but not church, or something in between, I do encourage you to raise your consciousness by employing your powerful mind into becoming more inquisitive, ask hard questions, ditch conventional and embrace unconventional unconstrained wisdom in this quest of searching for what is true and not only wishful.

I made many bold statements here. It is my opinion based on my own fact finding in the past months and years. I have not placed many references and books (although I read many on this subject) in order to prevent convincing you of something.

Instead, I hope you question assumptions a bit more, look for evidence, do your own research, and make up your own mind. We have lived in prisons, imposed by others, but maintained by ourselves for way too long.

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