Wednesday, March 29, 2006

True Belief taken to its (Il)logical Conclusion

I came across this on CNN yesterday, dateline Badshahkili, Pakistan:

A battle for the airwaves between two Islamic preachers with their own FM radio stations in Pakistan escalated into bitter fighting that killed at least 24 people.
You can read the entire article here:

Apparently what happened was that supporters of the two clerics decided to fight it out after the men started criticizing each other's beliefs during their respective broadcasts. A local tribal council banned them both from the airwaves and they were banished from the region, but followers of at least one of the men have continued to run a radio station from a nearby village.

Now this was not just a riot or even a gunfight, like they used to have in the Wild West. Among the weapons used by these religious believers were assault rifles, hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars. There were 24 killed in the fighting, and among the 14 injured were two children. And these were not the first deaths in the conflict - five were killed in February in earlier fighting between the two groups.

There are larger issues at hand in the region, of course. The region in question is in northwestern Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan. The Pakistani government, according to the CNN report, has less than firm control of the region, and radical religious groups, including members of the Taliban, have a certain amount of influence. But the fact remains that this is violence based on the theory, I suppose, that anyone who disagrees with one's religious beliefs deserve to die.

And that is one of the issues I have with religious belief taken to the extreme. This theory is not found just in radical Islam. It seemed to be pretty popular during the Inquisition. You saw it during the Protestant Reformation, because goodness knows that it wasn't only the Catholics burning the unbeliever and the unorthodox believer at the stake or torturing them until they confessed their (often nonexistent) sins.

You also see this feeling in practice, if not admitted to, by those who would withhold things like condoms in AIDS ravaged Africa and vaccines against cervical cancer from those deemed too young to be engaging in sexual intercourse. You see it in those who would make abortion illegal again. Most of those on that side of those arguments likely wouldn't admit it, but at bottom their idea is that anyone who has sex who they think isn't supposed, or who decides for some reason to end a pregnancy, deserves to die. You an hear it when they claim that allowing the vaccine or condoms "just encourages them to go out and have sex."

Sometimes, the true believer's contempt is only thinly veiled. I have personally seen one very prominent televangelist say on television that while he "couldn't" advocate the execution of gays on the airwaves, that he knew his followers knew "how it would be" when "we take over." The statement was accompained by a wink that left no doubt exactly what he meant.

I have to say that while there are people in this world who I disagree with very much, who I disagree with violently, I have never wished even one of them any physical or mental harm. Maybe that makes me soft. Maybe it makes me stupid. Maybe it makes me a loser. I don't know. But it seems awfully, oh, uncivilized, to want to destroy all difference in the world.

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