Horror in Woolwich

Shocking news out of Woolwich, south London, as horrified observers witness the death of a young man at the hands of two machete-wielding psychopaths. Little is known so far other than that the victim appeared to have been wearing a Help for Heroes t-shirt, and his assailants were of Middle-Eastern or African descent. Reports of them crying “Allahu Akbar” as they perpetrated the vicious deed are spreading, in an indication that they were of the Muslim faith. A starkly morbid and tragic event with potentially far reaching consequences.

The Twittersphere and comment sections of prominent online news organisation already indicate a certain degree of knee jerk anti-Muslim sentiment, even before the murderers’ reported cries of religiosity were widely known. Angst is being vented out in some quantity over the worst aspects of the recent history of the British Muslim community, with attention being drawn to the Rochdale and Oxford paedophile rings, extremist preachers like Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada, and of course the July 7th 2005 London bombings.

With UKIP experiencing a boom in popularity in the UK, unsurprisingly against a backdrop of economic uncertainty and faltering living standards, there is a concerning development of legitimising fundamentally xenophobic positions. Members of this right wing fringe movement have already been called out for possessing inexcusably prejudiced views for the politics of a proudly progressive nation. This case in Woolwich is, beyond its sadness and brutality, an extraordinarily inconveniently timed thing.

It is more distorted fuel on the fires of those who think that the UK would be better off were we to enact draconian immigration measures in the form that parties like UKIP propose. Restrictions to permanent residence visas, freezes on immigration, stringent work permit systems and a rigorous and gun-ho deportation strategy are what’s on offer. This may appeal to some, but mostly those I would argue that think immigrants are in any way at the heart of the nation’s problems. A truly lamentable position, and one cynically capitalised upon by UKIP.

An event like the Woolwich murder is precisely the time to reaffirm the positive moral and egalitarian values that are the heart of a nation like the United Kingdom. This was a crime by two sick individuals and speaks not one jot to the contribution of the broader Muslim community in this country. Just like the crimes of the IRA represent the violent political attitudes of a minority and not all Irish people. Just like the crimes of Dale Clegan, Mark Bridger and Jimmy Saville speak to their illnesses and not all white Brits.

The United Kingdom is a better nation than to engage in a stint of antagonistic behaviour towards minorities who, for the almost complete majority, just want to live in a peaceful and democratic place where no one is persecuted for their private beliefs or way of life. Or so we hope. That is a picture I so greatly prefer to anything UKIP want for the country. Although I’m guilty of politicizing this event, and thoughts do genuinely go out to the family of the young victim, it’d be a greater tragedy still for this to be manipulated by the far-right wing agenda.

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15 Comments

Filed under Current Affairs, News Media, Politics

15 responses to “Horror in Woolwich

  1. mac

    I clicked your Huffington (Woolwich incident) link. Having read your remarks with interest I’m afraid my keyboard clacked into high gear… So apologies about what you may simply feel is a lack of brevity, as follows:

    This was not an attack by what you call “sick” individuals, as in influenced primarily by sadism or clinical insanity. It was an atrocity committed in the name of Islam by fundamentalists who have been indoctrinated in orthodox Islamic beliefs and developed into jihadists.

    In beheading a perceived enemy they were following the example of a 6th century tribal leader whom Muslims consider to be the perfect example of manhood. In public debate with David Aaronovitch, Mehdi Hasan has said he loves this long dead historical figure more than he loves his parents. …This man who beheaded 600 or so men and boys in just one incident and the slaved and raped their sisters, mothers and all their woman folk.

    A man who (at age 60) tortured and beheaded the father and husband of a 19 year old girl and then, the same night slept with her (raped her).
    A man who scoffed at the worthlesness of a nursing woman whom his followers ripped limb from limb using horses.
    A man whom, to steal his daughter in law from his son, made up special ‘revelations’ from allah – just as he timely convenient ‘revelations’ justifying just about all of his self indulgent megalomania and depravity.

    Yes there were many brutal acts carried out by all cultures in the 6th century, but this particular man has been proclaimed the perfect example and role model for muslims to this day.

    Historians may talk of ‘context’ and the misguided form of liberalism touts cultural relativism, as a reason not to ‘judge’. But the plain truth is that this man’s brutal legacy, code, mind control doctrine, invasive totalitarian political ideology and grip on muslims has survived virtually unreformed into the 21st century where it is now glaringly at odds with modern morality and human rights.

    Agreed that the Woolwich attack and all the other fundamentalist crimes “speak not one jot to the contribution of the broader Muslim community in this country”.

    However that does not mean to say that Islamic ideology itself should be exempt or shielded from criticism, or casually absolved of charges that from it’s ill conceived, unreformed medieval roots it’s appalling role model, has sprung a regressive brutal ideology from whence springs the backward mindsets that subjugate women, trample all over the UDHR and committ atrocities in the name of allah.

    Mehdi Hasan seems to be fairly genuine, though quoting scriptures calling aetheists no better than ‘cattle’, is arguably sectarian.
    So he too want’s to defend the supposed “moderate Islam” But which Islam is referring to? His own? His family’s His Mosque’s? A reconstructed
    version?
    Or the literal roots from whence the conflict with modernity springs?
    Because when Islam is not giving a fleeting impression of being unified in (telling) maniacal reaction to a book or cartoon, frankly there is nothing close to an authoritative, universally accepted ‘scriptural’ interpretation and moral code among Islam’s adherents and sects worldwide. Nothing uniformly uniformly identifiable as an ‘Islam’ we can pin down, agree a definition of and have a debate with, or come to terms with. Even it seems within the UK.

    So the Huffington Post and a few other “newspapers” conveniently act as censorial religious line backers. They ensure that forum criticism or debating of Islam as an ideology is effectively banned. (No, not racist hate speech), but normal articulate points of view… If those views are questioning or critical of Islam as an ideology. (No not critical of muslim individuals), but merely the legitimate questioning of the ideology is forbidden. Especially where anyone may posit a link between that ideologies role model, it’s roots and the behaviour of (not a few) of it’s adherents – albeit a minority in the UK.

    People are being gagged left, right and centre. And I’m not speaking of the neo facists or racists loons, but ordinary folk who judge individuals as they find them in person and don’t waste energy on hate… but have every right to voice a negative opinion of the ideology of Islam.
    So what’s being suffocated and lost here among this excessive reactionary ‘liberalism’? Free speech, open debate, artistic freedom, women’s UK legal rights and the chance to vent exasperation in print or verbally rather than have it pressurise.

    It’s actually not difficult to consistently be an indignant extra liberal ‘rainbow child’ sticking up for egalitarianism. What’s difficult is still seeking freely expressed views, being not always empathetic, but analytic aand realistic, knowing when to not give way to social regression, even when being that way sounds harsh un-PC or terribly inconvenient to fostering cordiality.

    I often find very moving and worth noting, the testimony of non-racist, non-violent but courageous articulate women who have lived in Islam’s ‘core’ homelands. People like Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maryam Namazi.
    http://tinyurl.com/dr-wafa-sulta-islam-women
    http://tinyurl.com/dr-wafa-on-not-judging-islam

    What would such as Huffington do with anonymous comments from these ladies? Simple. It would bar them. Delete them. And undoubtedly someone would unwittingly (witlessly) call their remarks “veiled racism”.

  2. Cracking response, please give me some time to work on a reply!

  3. Ali

    I really enjoy most of the comment on this site but believe mac makes some excellent points. Prolongedsigh, I think you are getting dangerously close to that cliched liberal who is very prepared to vehemently oppose the Christian Right but will cry “Islamophobia” at the smallest sign of rational critique towards minority (at least within the UK) belief systems.

    You have criticised the source before (which I also mostly disagreed with) but please see Sean Faircloth’s article linked below for a more articulate synopsis of my view, linking to the theme of which you and mac have discussed.

    http://www.richarddawkins.net/foundation_articles/2013/5/2/are-liberals-going-to-finally-get-it-this-time-about-islam

  4. Hi Ali, thanks for the comment. I’d like to address your and Mac’s critique of the article properly so I’m going to write up a developing article early tomorrow, so keep an eye out.

    In the mean time, maybe have a look at an earlier article I wrote title “A Question of Faith and the Islamic Protests”. It deals with the events around the time of the “Innocence of Muslims” Youtube video and I think more broadly lays out my thoughts in this area.

    Cheers

  5. Apologies, “An Issue of Faith and the Islamic Protests”, it was a while ago!

  6. Ok guys, first let me say that I appreciate your thoughts, it’s what this blog is all about. I can fully understand how reading that article on the Woolwich murder, you might think my general disposition is very soft-liberal regarding criticisms of minorities and religions. i assure you it’s not and i take a rigorously analytic view of everything that i can. the article was in part written reactively against the very rapid onslaught of unquestionable prejudice and racism that was appearing on several news sites in the wake of the incidents. i mention this and the rise of UKIP and will admit that while the article is not at all disingenuous. it is perhaps a little activist. my immediate response was to put this through a domestic political filter. it’s clear that you both looked more at the theological/philosophical/social aspects.

    Mac, I would agree the Huffington Post has a very peculiar moderation process, one that leaves me quite frustrated sometimes, especially in light of the fact that some blatantly deconstructive things were being said… and not moderated! I won’t deny your point though that there is an institutional sensitivity to criticising Islam, notably amongst new organisations given their occasional habit of printing Mohammed cartooons and getting a violent backlash. in comments i just see a lot of inconsistency. nastier and less intelligent contributions than yours are cleared sometimes and it’s hard to figure out.

    to address you references to Islamic scripture and history, these are pertinent points but have to be very carefully employed. Ali, i think my primary criticism of people like Dawkins is how rash they are at throwing clear logic and rationality in the faces of the faithful. it is ineffective and maybe even counter-productive. his debate with Mehdi Hassan before Christmas 2012 at the Oxford Union was a perfect example. he attempted to undermine Hassan’s rational for faith, and afterwards even his credentials as a journalist, by cornering him on the matter of Mohammed’s transcendence, a less brutal but obviously more mystical aspect of the Islamic faith system than Mac was highlighting.

    what was Dawkins expecting from this interaction? for Hassan to throw his hands up and say, “oh you’re right it’s all fantastical nonsense”? all Dawkins wanted was to put Hasan in the position where he simply to profess his faith in contradiction to crude realism. this may satisfy anti-religious individuals but does very little to advance the debate within the Muslim community. and that is exactly where the debate needs to happen, atheists and agnostics cannot hope to externally affect this sort of change with, frankly, glibness. as controversial and shocking as the historical and theological platform for Islam and other faiths are, people have faith in them. and faith is essentially a basic rejection of logic. belief without sufficient empirical support. it couldn’t technically be faith if there wasn’t some sort of leap of… well, faith. and faith is sensitive, which doesn’t deserve defending, but is simply a fact.

    Now this doesn’t mean we can afford to legitimize the most extreme incarnations of faith ie extremism/fundamentalism. there is no excusing the actions of these two young men and we are rightly appalled. stern questions should be asked of integrated Muslim communities as to what they are doing to remove these elements from their faith. it is the time for proactive and measured social and political pressure. going for the theological jugular, as said, only forces retreat and entrenchment.

    because these were merely two men, perhaps a few more pending investigation, acting on the medieval representations of the faith that most Muslims reject or ignore. i don’t want to frame a false equivalency, and Islam probably does have more firebrand rhetoric than Christianity, but this is a problem for all religions.

    I called them psychos, and yes, technically that was a bit loose of me. i haven’t any personal expertise to speak of the psychology of the extremists but a recent study showed that they are primarily anxiety driven. desperation, powerlessness, yielding will to a higher manipulating authority to the point that ones own life is less valuable than a creed of some variety. psychopathy is possibly incorrect, but I would like to stick with the term in a figurative sense.

    As Mac has well illustrated, the history of Islam is full of controversy. the fact that a very small minority of Muslims are of the extremist persuasion says to me that extremism has less to do with the scripture and history, although paradoxically is rooted in it, than contemporary human manipulation, underlying causes, and surely to a large extent, the mental susceptibility of individuals to the corruption of extremism.

    essentially you either have to have been raised in extraordinary deprivation, total indoctrination or, although i see this last point as a broad prerequisite, have a mental propensity towards irregular or violent behavior.

    to finish on a slightly different note, i think the most useful way for secular people to affect Islam is to look at purely modern issues. forget the scripture and the history and simply say, for example, “the unequal and frequently oppressive treatment of women in many islamic nations is totally unacceptable and needs to change. the rest of the world is generally advancing from a similarly theologically and anachronistically informed position so why can’t Islam?”

    there’s more to say but i’ll stop here, hope i addressed most of your points, but please respond, keep the discussion going!

    • Mac

      “i think the most useful way for secular people to affect Islam is to look at purely modern issues. forget the scripture ”

      Sounds tempting of course, particularly once you’ve experienced that overwhelming desire to crash out on the settee for a wee nap right in the middle of debating an adherent… and for the umpteenth time getting the strong impression that certain of their beliefs are impervious to reason. “Guaranteed 100% rationality proof”.

      And there of course lies the problem. Every proposition you make to a ‘devout’ person regarding, for instance, equality issues, will be compared against the adherent’s personal value system, and by and large that is firmly associated with ‘scriptures’.

      It’s worth mentioning here a point, the importance of which is widely missed. And it is that among many Muslim communities, what appears to be a genuinely more enlightened and reformed version of Islam, is actually facilitated principally by maintaining a highly selective focus and emphasis regarding scriptural passages… rather than significantly questioning dogma or relaxing the orthodoxy and literalism at the core of Islam’s ideology. A neat trick for adapting to 21st century pressures and expectations in more advanced (or ‘westernised’) nations.

      However, crucially, lacking depth, this type of reform allows conservative believers to label them as weak or ‘corrupt’, it makes it difficult for the moderates to mount either a strong challenge or dependable barrier to extremist dogma and leaves their flock vulnerable to ‘radicalisation’.
      This is easily achieved simply by provoking a sense of transnational injustice and anger and modifying that scriptural focus and emphasis backward to what can be claimed as a ‘more authentic Islam’.
      Inevitably then, as the manipulators know – from the ranks of those radicals will emerge a small minority of dangerous criminal radicals – this arising from the effects of such an intensified credo, group identity and influence on the minds of a subset of vulnerable individuals susceptible in certain ways. (A number of which I mentioned in a prior comment)

      In the case of most Muslims (but far fewer Christians, Jews and so on) dogma is supreme and infallible, and latitude for truly reformed re-interpretation varies but is generally very restricted. i.e. including substantial shifts from literal to metaphor and deeming certain instructions no longer appropriate in a modern context.

      Just look at Mehdi Hassan himself. A generally moderate, modern, ‘well meaning’ adherent. Yet he still cannot help himself from saying in public debate that he ‘loves Mohammed more than he loves anyone in his own family or either of his parents’ This 6th century figure whom it is claimed, whatever good things he did, raped, slaved, kidnapped, horribly tortured, decapitated 600 poor civilian men and boys… and so on?
      Or from zealously quoting from Qur’anic passages likening atheists and their intellects to that of cattle.

      So whilst trying to stick to a secular approach to requesting change –
      As you reasonably explain to Mr Shazamaudoodi that, because it’s now 2013, women are to be treated equally, so he might wish to refrain from beating his wife for shunning blow job duties and criticising him…
      He is likely to be thinking “rubbish, I gave her the prescribed warning and am only using a stick no thicker than my thumb. So I am righteous and you are a nuisance who will be going to hell anyway in due course”

      In the unusual event the adherent/s were to refrain entirely from talking about their scriptural commands and ‘guidance’ whilst debating a human rights issue, they’d still be using it as a prime thought reference… you’d be even more frustrated and rather than making any headway, that heavy eyelid, comfy settee daydream would be overtaking you rapidly.

      Besides which, sticking exclusively to a secular tack in developing an environment more conducive to human rights progress, often Muslims will drag their feet, but eventually, go along with the ideals, in theory… on the face of it. Leaders or governments will make pronouncements, sign declarations – but in many cases, in practice little will change. The behaviour of many UDHR signatory states (Pakistan being but one example) amply demonstrates this.

      I reckon the truth is that progress toward ~more flexibility of scriptural interpretation~ the only immediate solution to the sclerosis of strong belief in unchangeable infallibility and scriptural literalism – is to keep beating them about the head with secular law (where possible), rationality and modernity in a way that’s slightly more persuasive than insulting.

      As long as they remain genuinely 100% convinced and committed to seeing the source of their values as completely infallible and unchangeable, then no matter what bulletproof libertarian, humanitarian reasoning you confront them with, they will keep up that infuriating circular ‘logic’ that always ends with them giving you another justification from scriptures… and you having another ground hog day moment, and developing a weary beaten look, akin to the roadrunner coyote’s expression just before he departs the clifftop for the canyon floor… again, for the thousandth time.

      But if adherents regularly encounter people (whether in person, on the web, on tv or other media), who question the inconsistency, absurdity or cruelty of much scripture, or it’s incompatibility with modern human rights expectations, then what will tend to happen, at least with those who’ve a normal education, is that (eventually) an uncomfortable personal conflict arises that threatens to undermine their whole belief system… unless they can save things and make it more ‘secular rights friendly’ and ‘modernity survivable’ by introducing some of the slipperiness and plasticity of non-literalism, and claiming more metaphorical meaning and ‘living document’ status and so on.

      In the case of Muslims, this shift may occur in the mind of individuals – but (even if they were, for instance a Turk), expecting them to actually verbalise a belief that the Qu’ran need not be taken as 100% infallible literal truth, is another matter entirely. As Dawkins finds out.
      The landscape of their religio-political ideology (not purely religion) is strewn with zealots, inquisition-like characters, sectarianism and fear of reform or blasphemy and apostasy . Nonetheless a snail’s pace process of change is still afoot and possible to accelerate, in some locations at least. Though aside from the pervasive fundamentalist mafia, another major problem is that globally, probably half or more of the adherents are illiterate. (I must do the calc, but I think it’s about half in the Indian sub-continent)

      I’m afraid encouraging a reform process is simply unachievable in any sensible time-frame by sticking to, what would be effectively one-sided, completely ‘theology free’ engagement on such as human rights issues – much as I sympathise with your very sane preference to body-swerve the religion quagmire Rory.
      Politician’s and NGO’s are perhaps obliged to travel that weary more diplomatic road in pressing for reform – but they’d have smaller success without the less tippy-toe cultural and intellectual influences of others constantly maintaining pressure for critical examination of core beliefs.

      I’m smiling as I say;
      As for Richard Dawkin’s evangelical promotion of atheism… I like him but tend to agree with you that he has another kind of slightly arrogant narrow perspective philosophically.
      Personally I have a non standard outlook on such things. For instance my ‘belief’ in something. Whether it is ‘real’ or not, is most certainly not dependent on stubbing by toe directly on it – and more linked to whether I can infer it’s existence by it’s effects on the world. Inferred entities.
      haha ..I might ask Richard about the basis for his belief in dark matter.

      People say to me “Tell me you don’t really believe in Santa Claus? Are you serious?”
      And then helpfully explain to me how he’s nothing but imaginary and doesn’t really exist.
      I say “in some ways he exists more than you or I …and you don’t believe in him?”
      Skeptic: “No.”
      Me: “Then who delivers your kid’s gifts on Christmas eve?”
      Skeptic: “Oh for Pete’s sake, I do!”
      Me: “On behalf of whom?”

      On that lighter, er white coat note I leave you.

      • Ha, great piece, interesting thoughts, especially after Tony Blair jumped into the debate with his Mail on Sunday article. The languages he uses is very similar in some respects, cautious but quite firm in the notion that there are structural problems with Islam that need to be addressed. This has gone down slightly poorly in light of Blair’s past actions that many regard as directly linked to the climate we find ourselves in now, but then I wouldn’t dismiss what he has to say, being as close to the affair as he is!

        What are your thoughts on Tony Blair’s comments? They essentially outline what I think a lot of people seem to hold as the realist perspective – Islam isn’t the only religion with a few nutters but there seems to be parts intrinsic to it that encourage more nutterdome that the rest.

        I feel like I have to bring this idea back to what you say towards the beginning about the moderating process within Islam, that it’s less structural and organised and more a constant process of smaller social units, even down to the individual in many cases, writing off or ignoring parts of the scriptures that become inconvenient to modern living. I lay out in the article “A Problem For Faith Detractors” that this kind of rationalisation as set out in texts like Paine’s The Age of Reason, is an immediate deal breaker for me when it comes to religion. If any religion can make any claim to be genuine then it has to be consistent.

        Essentially this means the scriptures have to be divine mandate, must be followed to the letter and cannot be altered or deviated from unless by further divine mandate. I don’t really feel the need to launch into detail of my view, that the logical inconsistencies of scriptures make them automatically redundant, and as the primary reference points for most religions make them redundant too, but this opens up the crucial question.

        What is it specifically about Islam, given the prevalence of horrendous examples in Christian and Jewish scripture of violence and oppressive, nonsensical law, that has led to it’s particular vulnerability in the area of creating radicals? I think the process you describe, the negative reaction in some sects to the effects of modernity on “pure” scripture driven faith, and the entrenchment around that, is very attractive as an explanation.

        continuing…

      • Christianity and Judaism have had serious teething issues when it comes to modernity as well, I don’t think there can be any argument, but it also can’t be denied that Islam is representing the greatest challenge right now. It’s sorely tempting to get into the socio-economic factors now as I think they are crucial. In fact I would say they are essential to radicalization and form a strong counter-point to the idea that religion is the core problem.

        You were talking about the psychological factors in another post, and they all struck me as very reasonable. But beneath every psychological factor you listed, short of ones that could be prescribed to “mental/genetic” sources, I was thinking about the conditional factors. Poverty and a lack of education etc.. without these issues radicalisation would certainly be a lot more difficult to instill, as with wealth and knowledge comes comfort and a lack of necessity in attributing most things to divinity. This is the climate in which people start to chip off around the edges of their adherence until it is largely even nominal.

        Of course, the dark and doomy scripture has to be there to provide the radicalizing impetus, but then so do a few with the will to impose it, the manipulators, and I don’t think this a chicken or egg thing. The socio-economics have to come first, and in fact, understanding those from which came Islam is a great leap in understanding.

        I guess what I’m trying to say is that actually I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with Blair, although I might caution him on the sensitivities of his position within the debate. There are structural problems with Islam, but this is the same as all religions and we have to be careful. I would say Islam contains the elements that enable it be part of the structure of radicalization.

        • Mac

          Read you with interest.
          I reckon, by and large your observations make sense. You know what though? I’ve come to the conclusion it is not only the presence of education that is required to break the fundamentalist spell among Muslim populations – but the absence of indoctrination. Teaching children ancient texts by rote and everyone “praying” by rote forty times a week, dawn to dusk, must, by the standards of any reasonable person, be said to comprise a very strong element of what amounts to psychological, emotional, political and moral programming.

          The two Islamist “nutters” who got a bit of a hiding whilst attacking Glasgow Airport were both highly educated (one a medical doctor of all things) and from well off families. To me that speaks volumes about the importance of indoctrination/programming relative to other factors.

          So bad enough that Blair endorsed Sharia tribunals, but that he facilitated ‘faith’ schools (of any persuasion), is disgraceful. Institutions for brainwashing young minds and promoting segregation and isolationism.
          When I see the politicians faff around like overgrown schoolboys talking about working against extremism and division on one hand – whilst on the other, actually facilitating it and refusing to acknowledge and deal with these aspects, it makes me annoyed, frustrated, depressed. That calling out and facing these issues has been left to such as BNP/EDL is a sad indictment of modern politicians’ ability to think independently and apply moral courage.

          Even aside from Islam, look at Scotland whose state school system still has non-denominational schools for everyone… and RC schools for Catholics. Politicians know this is undesirable and gave the power to change it, but have always feared the electoral influence of the Catholic church. So what do they do? They move on down sectarianism’s causal stream to a safer part, and enact some laws about bigotry at football matches.

          On this question;
          “What is it specifically about Islam, given the prevalence of horrendous examples in Christian and Jewish scripture of violence and oppressive, nonsensical law, that has led to it’s particular vulnerability in the area of creating radicals?” I’m afraid Rory, feel somewhat deficient in knowledge of Jewish ideological history.

          But key points that do come to mind are; Judaism is not inherently proselytizing and isn’t a creed that seeks world supremacy, or encompasses any duties in that respect. As a diaspora for centuries, it was pragmatic (in fact vital) for Judaism to modernise in step with it’s host countries and subordinate any of it’s non-compatible scriptural laws in favour of the laws of the host nations.

          As for Christianity, the Reformation was of course a huge step toward improved human rights and a central part of that was sola fide, which maintained that there was no imperative or duty to do “good works”, like killing unbelievers on behalf of the ideology (God). And that there was no way for humans to earn themselves heavenly “reward credits”, as the only means of salvation was faith in Christ… Handily Christ just happens to be a pacifist and unbelievably gentle good bloke. Even Mr Dawkins is more than a little enchanted by him as a role model. (Notwithstanding the whole crucifixion thing)

          So – if you were a Christian you might still have a war with those of a different faith, or resort to violence over politics and so on. But whatever your reason, you are unlikely to feel under compelling instruction by Jesus to do so (quite the opposite)… and crucially the decision to engage in or cease such acts, and the responsibility remains your own.

          Consequently there is no ‘compulsive hive mind’ scriptural duty to seek political or legal power or territorial advancement for the ideology. There is no rationale for imposing dhimmitude, dehumanising and mistreating non-believers, no blanket absolution and certainly no divine reward promised for committing such acts according to conditions and instructions given in scriptures.

          Christ incidentally is someone who, as what I call a ‘spiritual inferred entity’, remains alive and (in terms of observable effects on the physical world), is more real than you or I. It is just unfortunate that someone in the 7th century had to go and author a different type of spiritual inferred entity into existence whose nature was a hell of a lot more time-bound and anthropomorphic. Whats more, as I type this part my thoughts have become overtaken by a vision of supper and a glass of cider (heads off downstairs…)

  7. Anonymous

    Good follow up Rory – even if we differ on some points it makes for great reading & intellectual debate!

  8. Appreciate it! Always have time for thoughtful discussion, and disagreements should make them better, not worse.

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