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Readers respond to recent articles published in The Spectator

20 August 2005

12:00 AM

20 August 2005

12:00 AM

Comments on Don’t blame religion by Theo Hobson 15/08/05

It is not the belief in an afterlife that is the problem, it is the absolute belief in God, the Fuhrer or the working class or whatever else. Once you have that belief it is a short step to being willing to kill those who are not part of the group.

George Bush’s ‘if you are not with us you are against us’ attitude is the basis of all religious violence and oppression through the ages.

The current spate of Islamic violence is not an odd aberration. This is what the religious do, and have done, for thousands of years.
Jeff Tyler

What a load of waffle! Surely the author, as a self-confessed liberal Christian, is mature enough to admit that, given as he says there are many strands and degrees of belief in each faith, there are extremists in each who are liable to do unpleasant things in search of the promised afterlife which they DO believe literally. History after all provides plenty of examples, and yes, Christianity is one of the worse offenders….

Anyway, in the context of terrorism, what makes literal belief in the Muslim afterlife uniquely dangerous is the belief that you can go directly to it by killing, something which is absent from all the other great religions.

It is time we stopped pussy-footing around and pretending that they are all the same! Wherever there is serious religious conflict in the world today, and unfortunately in the 21st century, there still is a fair deal, why is one of the participants always the Muslims? Whether it is with Jews, Hindus, Christians or Buddhists, there is something in the Islamic faith which is more intolerant of others to the point of being prepared to kill.

Twenty years ago my politics final paper set a question ‘Religion has been the cause of the greatest suffering in human history – discuss’ – twenty years later I am still proud of my 14 side essay responding essentially ‘Yes’ !
Mark Solomon

The article on the irrelevance of beliefs in heaven to suicide bombings was cogently argued. The writer might, en passant, have opined that even atheism is a form of religion. For it is evident that what we believe about the origin of the cosmos and our existence within it is irrelevant to the cause of its existence and can have no effect whatsoever on the intrinsic mechanisms that perpetuate it and which govern its ultimate disposition. The impossibility of ever knowing the cause means that whatever cause we can imagine is as valid as any other. To assume a provocative agent – in the form of an omnipotent entity – is of itself pure speculation that has no chance whatsoever of being confirmed or disproved. The atheist view is as valid as the deist view – neither can ever substantiate their view. Arguably, it is futile even to choose a belief in provocative cause – whether by agency of an entity or by sheer randomness over infinity of time and hence possibility.

My own choice to assume a provocative entity is entirely irrational. To compound such irrationality by making further assumptions about the nature, power, purpose and detailed dictat of such an assumed entity with respect to ourselves is a folly that too many indulge.

Were the suicide bombers of a different religious folly, the zeal with which they immolate themselves would be just as intense – for the cause of their terrorisms lies elsewhere than in religion. Were they Christian and we, their perceived oppressors Muslim, we would still have to contend with their draconian expressions of outrage at perceived injustices we had inflicted on them.

The remedy to end their terrorisms is not to blame the religion but fix the problem – by acknowledging our role in that perceived oppression and by then resolving to make honest redress of their real world grievances – at a cost which, compared with what we spend on offensive and defensive systems worldwide might be agreeably less.
Ed Murfin

While I agree with the basics of this article on many levels, I would say that the author is grossly misinformed regarding the tenets of Judaism. To say that the belief in an afterlife is not central to Judaism is categorically inaccurate. Indeed, the belief in an afterlife and the coming of the Messiah is central to the core of Judaism and is codified in Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith as well as many other places within Jewish liturgy. Further, to claim that the idea of Heaven is political is inaccurate to the point of insult. Jewish belief holds that the world is imperfect and G-d given mitzvot, or commandments, which Jews are obligated to follow. Gentiles, according to Jewish belief, also have a share in the world to come and the perfection of the world leading to the Messianic age by following the seven Noahide laws. The messianic age will come when the world has been perfected by man, and the belief is that the Messiah will unite the Jewish people once again. However, heaven is in no way political as the steps towards afterlife, while different for Jew (adherence to 613 G-d given mitzvot) and gentile (Noahide laws) according to Jewish belief, in no way seeks to limit accessibility to heaven or G-d.
Matthew Yeager

If Mr Hobson is going to write an article in green ink he shouldn’t be asking people not to write to him in green ink. It’s all very well that because the author feels a psychological and emotional attachment to the Church he needs to pretend he is a Christian, to make it seem rational and unselfish to attend; but the danger for him in Christ’s teachings on Heaven and Hell is his eagerness to dismiss them in favour of projecting a self-image of worldly sophisticate.
Graeme Thompson

There is only one thing that can be said about atheists in general, and that is not what they believe but what they do not believe. They do not believe there is a God or gods. Frankly, I – an old atheist interested in and quite well informed about religion – simply cannot understand how any intelligent person can believe in God.
Jillian Gordon

The author badly misunderstands many Muslims; they do indeed think that literally, as do an unfortunately large number of Christians.


I wonder what would result if you calculated a violence per head of population by religion (or non-religion). I suspect it would blow that article out of the water provided you did not include Stalin and Mao! Those guys gave anti-religionists a bad name.
Alan Cook

An offensively glib piece. How do we know that Islamist fanaticism is driven by a pathological desire for an after-life Paradise? Because the fanaticists are telling us exactly this all the time. Mohammed Atta, preparing his fellow suicide-murderers for their mission on 9/11, sent each of them a note beginning, “The virgins are calling.” A singularly chilling and often repeated jihadist boast is, “You Westerners love life. We love death.” Do I have to go on? The evidence is everywhere. Islam has none of the secular and pluralist potential of Judeo-Christianity because it has no resources for the sublimation of religious belief, the significance of which your correspondent blithely overlooks throughout. The difference between someone singing “Jerusalem” during Sunday service and someone else shrieking “Allahu akhbar” while slicing off a hostage’s head could not be any more self-evident.
Michael

I wholly disagree with the arguments put forward in this article on the following grounds:

in the first place, the writer is even at a loss as to what makes someone a Christian. It’s faith alone in Christ alone. And so he had the whole concept of Christianity wrong. Christianity is not a religion; it is rather a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ His Son.

Secondly and more importantly the writer seems to interpret the Bible without paying due attention to Isagogics, Categories and Exegesis.
For instance “…Thy Kingdom come …”: the writer should have oriented himself to what period was being referred to by the Lord Jesus Christ.

An isagogic approach should have adequately informed the writer that Jesus was making a reference to the Millennial reign of Christ and not in this Church Age.

And for the writer to have labelled himself as a liberal Christian is something that I think demonstrates his state of confusion!

He needs a some lectures on real, sound biblical doctrine.
Kofi Boateng

Comments on Allow Bakri Mohammed to spew out his rubbish by Rod Liddle

The problem with the view expressed in this article is that we are not free to criticize Islam. If we were, Islam would not be a problem. Instead, it would be a laughing stock. People would be ashamed to be Muslim.
Mentat_99

Let’s make rather an amusing assumption – women are human beings.

Since they are, I would have thought Islamic leaders (forget the lunatic fringe) could be prosecuted for endless breaches of Human Rights legislation.

Compelling daughters and wives to wear the ridiculous hijab; allowing ‘faith’ schools; forced marriages; ‘honour’ killings; stoning to death for adultery (at least that has not happened in England yet.)

Instead of going on and on about the ‘rights’ of purveyors of fatuous incitement to do this and that, why is that silly little ninny from Liberty (the Asian ex-lawyer) not pursuing Muslims for their manifest and incessant abuse of human rights? Why are Left-inclined feminists not battling against these abuses? Sorry, multi-culturalism will not wash. If a family of cannibals installed itself in Wolverhampton or wherever, would it be allowed to pursue its practices in the name of ‘multiculturalism’?

That young woman – and Left-leaning feminists – should look at France and study a movement called ‘Ni soumises ni putes’ – a group of Islamic French women fighting tooth and nail for human rights for Muslim women.

Rod Liddle is so right – that is where the battle should be fought.
Jeremy James

Rod Liddle’s article makes complete sense.

Those of us who believe that a reformation of Islam, akin to that which occurred in Christianity, is necessary for Muslims to come to terms with modernity and all it entails are a beleaguered lot.

What is required is a fearless and robust deconstruction of Islam to highlight it’s more unsavoury aspects, aspects which render it incompatible with Western humanistic liberalism.

I continue to be dumbfounded by the West’s indulgence of grievance-mongering by Muslims who reside there.
Muhammad W.R. Khan
Dhaka, Bangladesh

Mr Liddle has lost his way in his own arguments, which is not at all unusual for him or for one who fatuously states his preference for mass buggery over fox hunting.

He might have tried to connect the dots in his propositions and delayed the finished article until he had done so.

How many incendiary exhortations by Muslims is he acquainted with? Possibly a lot more than is the average Briton, but a tiny fraction all the same compared to those that inundate young Muslims in Mosques, Madrassahs, on the Internet, in their homes and with their mates, from cradle to grave. They are locked into it and Liddle regards that sort of thing as hopelessly primitive yet curable by a dose of Polly Toynbee, of whom they will never have heard.

To advocate allowing the likes of Omar Bakri to spout his stuff, perhaps importing the entire curriculum of the Islamic world into our schools, so that Muslim infants can judge for themselves between Polly & Osama seems, to say the least, to be insanely Quixotic, but without the sympathetic charm of the Don.

Perhaps the time has come for Mr. Liddle to receive a course in pragmatic common sense from Sancho Panza, in which case who is better placed to act the role of Sancho than our beloved Editor?
P.Littman

The freedoms of Western civilization come to its citizens with responsibilities and consequences – not only is the generalized idea of “freedom” not “free,” neither is the responsibility of protecting the institutionalized structures that house those freedoms. One does not allow the denizens of Animal Farm to burn down the barn that shelters all within.

Following is how Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas saw a similar situation. Bear in mind, Douglas was as hard a Leftist as has ever sat on the US Supreme Court.

“As almost everyone knows by now, the Constitution is not a suicide pact — to use the phrase of the moment. But where does it come from and what does it mean? The answer is complicated, reflecting the nation’s ever-shifting balance between liberty and security.

Supreme Court cognoscenti usually attribute the phrase to Justice Robert H. Jackson’s dissent in a 1949 free-speech case, Terminiello v. Chicago. The court’s majority opinion, by Justice William O. Douglas, had overturned the disorderly conduct conviction of a right-wing priest whose anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi rantings at a rally had incited a riot. Chicago’s breach-of-the-peace ordinance violated the First Amendment, the court held.

Where his colleagues saw free speech, Jackson, after serving as a judge at the Nuremburg war crimes trial, saw the dangers of the mob. He countered the 4-page ruling with a 24-page dissent ending: “The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.”

The phrase was picked up the next year in Communications Association v. Douds, an opinion by Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson. He cited Jackson and used the phrase in the same sense — as a warning against na


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