Monday, December 28, 2015

Bureau of Specious Statistics - Islam Division

Do a frightening number of Muslims support terrorism?   Perhaps.  A frightening number of non-Muslims do as well!

In recent months, people have been assembling an arsenal of statistics to prove that a large number (but usually far less than a majority) of Muslims either support terrorism directly, or think that it is "OK" to support terrorism, or Sharia law.   From this data, I guess we are supposed to be afraid of Muslims.   But again, fear is not an emotion to be trusted.  And when someone tries to sell you an idea based on fear, watch out, because they are probably lying to you.

There are two problems with these surveys and statistics.  First is we don't know how the surveys were taken and second, how conclusions are drawn from them.   As I noted in my previous posting, the University of Michigan polls the same 20,000 people every two years and then tells us amazing things like "most people live 18 miles from their Mom!" which may or may not be true.   There are a lot of flaws in these surveys.   The number of people surveyed is small.  They keep asking the same people - who are getting older and older and tend to move closer to their kids.   The way the raw questions are asked is not shown.   The conclusions may not be justified by the data, and I think they likely are not.

And the same is true with these Muslim surveys.   For example, if you ask someone, "Do you think there are instances where terrorism is justified?" that is a pretty open-ended question.   For example, during World War II, the "resistance" would blow up or shoot German Officers in France, as an act of terrorism, designed to demoralize German troops and force Germany to place more troops in occupied France, thus weakening their forces elsewhere.   Clearly, this form of terrorism was justified, unless of course, you are a Nazi, in which case you might think it was unfair.

So if that is the question that was asked, well, an awful lot of people are going to answer "yes" to it, including myself.   And if they answer "yes" they may be thinking of specific situations.   For example, they may be thinking of the situation on the West Bank or Gaza Strip, and not the World Trade Center - not that terrorism is justified in either case.

But of course, a certain percentage are going to say, "Yea, go for it, kill Americans!  Death to the Great Satan!" as that is sort of a popular thing in many Middle-Eastern countries, as evidenced by the number of terrorists acts committed worldwide in the name of Islam.

But is Islam alone in this?   When I was a kid, growing up in a mostly Irish-Catholic small town, the IRA was at war in Northern Ireland, and the Catholics and Protestants were really going at it - blowing up pubs and bars, shooting people dead in the street, gruesomely torturing people to death, the whole bit.   Now, granted, Northern Ireland is a much smaller stage for terrorism, so you could argue it was not as big a deal as say, the Middle East.

But at the time, my Irish Catholic friends were raising money for the IRA (the "widows and orphans fund" it was called) and the IRA was using slogans like "give us the guns to do the job" to raise money.  My Catholic friends would say things like, "Yea, we need to kill those nasty old Prots!" to which I would reply, "You mean like me?" and then they would get silent and say, "Well, present company excepted, of course!"

It seems every religion has its share of terrorists.   Fundamentalist Protestants, for example, blew up the Murrah Federal Building and killed 168 people.   And the two people who did this had accomplices - people who gave them shelter and emotional, if not fiscal support.   And far more people in the fundamentalist movements, if not supporting them directly, would say things like, "Well, after Waco, you have to expect this sort of thing!  Serves the government right!  It's all Hillary's fault!" or something to that effect.

Even Sikhs, who seem like pretty laid-back dudes (although they have a reputation as fierce warriors in the British Army) once blew up an airplane going from Canada to India, and I have absolutely no idea what was pissing them off - and I suspect most other people do not, either.   Apparently they had some beef (pardon the pun) with Hindus, who themselves have been known to go nuts and kill people on occasion, such as when India became independent and many Muslims were slaughtered, or as recently as 2008, when they raped and disemboweled over 100 Christians who refused to convert.

Even peaceful Buddhists will go nuts and kill people, as has been shown recently in Myanmar.

"But wait," people say, "Muslims are different!  Haven't you read the Koran?  It tells followers to go and kill people!  It condones stoning people to death!  It is full of evil!"

Maybe so.  But in my opinion, all religions are evil in that they are just a mechanism to brainwash people and to get them to do things they otherwise wouldn't do - because they are not in their own best interests.  Moreover, almost every religious text published has a lot of evil shit in it.   One reason the Koran has a lot of  "go kill so-and-so" in it is that the same shit was in the Bible and the Torah.    The problem isn't Islam in particular, it is all religions in general.   You can find support for terrorism in most religious doctrines, if you bother to look for it.

 In this video, a copy of the Bible was disguised as a Koran, and Old Testament versus read to people, who believed they were from the Koran - as they advocated killing people for no particular good reason.

This is not to say I am defending Islam.   However, I think as the youngest of the three inter-related religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) they are at the stage of, perhaps, where the Catholic church was during the Spanish Inquisition.   The early days of any religion, it seems, are marked by extreme violence.

But even today, people are finding excuses for violence in the Bible or Torah.   Recently, some Jewish settlers on the West Bank celebrated the immolation of a Palestinian toddler by some Jewish extremists.   And yet, no one is saying this is an indictment of all Judaism (whose religious documents condone slavery, stoning, and the subjugation of women, much as Islam does).

Most Jews condemn such behavior.   And they also realize it is really, really bad P.R. for Israel and Judaism in general.   Hard to get world sympathy when you're burning up little kids, right?   But not everyone in Israel supports that and to say they do is kind of unfair, to say the least.

Is Islam dangerous?  It is backward?   Well, perhaps the context of where Islam is practiced helps put it in perspective.   The majority of Islamic countries are not what we would call wealthy countries.  Even the oil-rich Arab states have a few very wealthy leaders (who indeed are very westernized) and a whole lot of very, very poor citizens - many of whom are indoctrinated in Madrases when they are very young, taught no job skills - taught nothing, other than to memorize one book.  So they are poor and remain poor, and ignorant as well.

And if you look across the world, you will see a correlation between poverty and fundamentalism.  In the rural South, the most fundamentalist Christian religions are prevalent.  In wealthier cities, people tend to go for more relaxed religious practices.   The wealthier and smarter people are, the less they tend to believe in idiotic things like end times theology or Sharia Law.

Even with the IRA thing, it was not the wealthy Brahmans of Boston who supported the killings, but the lower-class Southies who were also virulent racists, gangsters, and thieves.  In other words, they were not nice people on a number of levels other than their religion.

Thus, you will find that wealthier, more educated Muslims tend not to believe in things like stoning adulterers or keeping women under Burkas.  In fact, the wealthiest and most sophisticated are very Western in their thinking, even (or perhaps most often) in places like Iran.  Sadly, not everyone in their country agrees with them, and often the fundamentalists are the ones in power, after taking over from dictators that we've propped up over the years.   If fundamentalist Islam is a problem, it largely is a problem of our own making.

The problem also is, as in Latin America, weak leaders lean on the "blame the USA for everything" crutch, which distracts the population from their real problems, which is usually their religion and their government (which are often intertwined).

The deal is, we are being sold a story here, based on fear and it is not a story to be trusted, just for that reason alone.   Moreover, you are not a statistic, nor is anyone else.   To generalize behavior of people is not only wrong, it is also inaccurate.   You might as well say all black people are criminals, because the statistics certainly back that up, right?  And a far stronger correlation that Muslims and Terrorists.

Or you might just as well say that all Americans want to kill Muslims, based on actual events that have occurred in recent months, where people have shot or killed people who were Muslim or that they thought were Muslim (often Sikhs), or set fire to or vandalized Mosques.   Do these people represent a majority of Americans?  Of course not.

That being said, I have little patience or tolerance for extreme religions.  And by extreme, I mean any religion that tells you what to think, which of course, pretty much encompasses all of them.   If you belong to a religion that requires you to wear a funny hat or costume, I don't have much respect for you as a person, because you are being an idiot, no mater how nice the hat is.  If you want to wear the hat, that's fine.   But to be forced to wear it, that's not right.  And the test is, whether you can take it off.

And if you belong to a religion that thinks that everyone should wear a funny hat and if they don't they should be killed, then fuck you.   I ain't wearing your hat.

What really makes me laugh at these religious types, however, is the amount of hypocrisy they engage in, in order to be "fundamentalist" and yet still appear to obey their religious doctrines.  Baptists say that drinking is evil - even though the most holy sacrament of Christianity involves drinking wine.   The real deal is, of course, many Baptists - particularly the ones who sing the loudest in the choir - are closet drinkers.   They say one thing and do another.

Amish are pretty laid-back people and I've hired a number of them over the years for home improvement projects.   While they eschew modern electronic conveniences, they have a host of "exceptions" to their rules that allow them to use technology.   For example, if they are working on a job, it is OK to use a cell phone, provided they don't own it.  So they hire a non-Amish person to own the phone - and the power tools, air compressor, and pickup truck - all of which they use, but don't own, so it's OK by them.   All I can say is, when you see an Amish on the cell phone it is a bit disturbing.   I haven't seen one obsessively text - yet.

As many people have pointed out, the practices of ISIS or ISIL, which claims to be Islamic, actually go against the tenets of the faith.  But then again, you can find support for any sort of malfeasance by quoting scripture out of context.   After all, the Bible condones slavery and the oppression of women.  It was the style at the time.

And so on down the line.  Jews eat shellfish - and pork, on occasion - and yet go to Temple every Saturday.   Catholics practice birth control, and yet take communion.  People make accommodations in their religion which ironically they would not make for others.  For example, the closet-drinker Baptists decide to outlaw liquor in their county - or forbid beer sales on Sunday.   I can see if they want to not drink, that is fine by me.  But why is is allowed for them to impose their religious views on the rest of us?   Why someone hasn't taken these "blue laws" to the Supreme Court under the "establishment of religion" clause is beyond me.

Myself, I subscribe to the "man in a sheet who wiped his ass with his hands" theory.   Every religion in the world (and I mean every) was started by a man.  Always a man.   And usually it was long, long ago, back when people wiped their ass with their hands.   Yea, that part is true.  Most religions were devised before we invented toilet paper.  Yet those ancients were so wise, weren't they?

And they all wore sheets, of course, or "robes" which today makes them look mystic.   They knew stuff back then, apparently, and today, we don't know jack shit.    So whatever Moses or Jesus, or Mohamed said way back when, well that's the law, buddy and you'd better get with the program because those folks knew it all, right?

Right?   Well, only if you choose to believe that kind of nonsense.  The reality is, our ancient ancestors were a primitive lot, afraid of much of their world.   Refusing to eat shellfish or pork not because it was "sinful" but because you'd get sick doing it.   

However, in 2000 years, we've learned to refrigerate lobster and to cook our pork before we eat it.   We understand so much more of how our world works.   Do the ancient prohibitions still make sense?  Of course not, and most intelligent people realize this.

In the backwoods of Alabama or Kandahar, though, people still cling to primitive beliefs.  And there are host of people who would prefer it stay that way, as it makes people easy to manipulate and control.

Which brings us to the real deal.   What is behind all this violence and strife in the world?   Do Muslims really want to force their religious views on the rest of us?   Are Christians declaring a crusade against Islam?   Of course not.   

What is happening is that people are competing for resources - oil, water, food, land.   And certain people want to be in power.   They want control, they want riches.   And you can use these religious ideologies or nationalism or whatever other brainwashing technique you want to use, to get people to blow themselves up in the name of religion or whatever, so that you can take over the oilfields and establish a Caliphate or whatever it is you want to do.   The leaders of these groups never volunteer to wear the suicide vest.   Of course not!  They're too important for that sort of thing!

Of course, the idiots who are dumb enough to follow a religion - any religion - never figure this out.  Whether it is dying for a cause or giving all their money to a fundamentalist preacher who drives a Rolls, they are being used, and in the worst sort of way.

And so long as the world keeps churning out billions of idiots (again, the stated goal of almost every religion - "go forth and multiply, so we can outnumber the others!") this trend will continue.   For all religions.

Maybe, the real upshot of this all is, is that we need to re-think what religion is, what it should be, and whether it really has a place in modern life.

Because the ultimate struggle of mankind is the struggle of reason over fear, logic over emotion, and reality versus fantasy.   And we know which side of this struggle religion (all religions) lies on.

And sadly, I think the side of reason may lose out in the end.