Sunday, November 20, 2005

Late Nights/Morality Monday

Why is it that when I'm sitting at school reading about OSHA an Workers' Comp I can fall asleep sitting up, but as soon as I get home to my warm bed and extra-cuddly wife I am wide awake? Well, my late-night blog readers are the benficiaries (though I'm fairly sure I don't have any late-night blog readers). You will be treated to some ramblings. Of course, they will remain on my blog so there is no real benefit to reading them now. But I digress.

Democrats and election-nearing Republicans have recently launched a new offensive against the war in Iraq. Some are even demanding the immediate withdrawal of American troops. As some people may know (particularly my undergrad roommates), I opposed the war during the lead-up period. I even went so far as to man a table in the student commons at CU-Boulder during lunch. I was sitting next to a large cardboard sign I had made with my roommate Greg and his then-girlfriend (I can't remember her name) the previous night. I had come up with the theme for the sign. In bold letters across the top of the cardboard read, "IRAQ HAS NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION!!!" At the time, I meant it as a joke. Kind of flying in the face of everything we were hearing. It turns out the phrase was true.

Interestingly enough, by the time we had found out that Iraq really didn't have WMDs, I had changed my tune on the war. By the time we invaded, I was (somewhat) solidly behind the war. I include the parenthetical because I'm never entirely sure about any position I have at any given time. The given reasons for war did not interest me. I don't care if they had WMDs (which they didn't), if they were somehow working with Al Quaeda (which no one thought or thinks they were), or if they gassed the Kurds (which they did). I don't care.

The reason I support the war is somewhat hard to articulate. I just had/have this feeling that the middle east is a bad place and in need of something drastic. The region is controlled by dictators, theocrats, and warlords. The massive amounts of wealth diverted to the region by virtue of its position above massive oil reserves have not catapulted the various countries to the pinnacle of technological developement. Instead the money has flown into the pockets of the dictators, theocrats, and warlords to fund their personal consumption. This corruptive effect is fueled by the presence of Islamic extremists, who have no desire to enter the 21st century (or even the 19th century). Instead, the prevalent religion has placated the population. As long as the government stones those who question the religious dogma and sanctions the gang rape of adulterors the masses consent to the rule of the corrupt overlords.

Islamic fundamentalism (and all religious fundamentalism for that matter) endangers every being on the planet that considers survival on this plane of existence a good thing. When you have massive populations who believe in their hearts that the only thing standing in the way of eternal happiness is their mortal shackles, we are all in danger of being forced to take the journey to the afterlife (or nothingness) with them (via some sort of bomb, no doubt).
I support the Iraq war because it is a first step in the long road to end religious fundamentalism. We have many more steps to take, and some of the most difficult will be against extremists in our home country. It doesn't matter whether extremism is cloaked in the auspices of religion or in economics (those who support unrestrained free markets on the one hand and communists on the other). Battling extremism is a cause I support, and inasmuch as I see the Iraq war as furthering my personal agenda on this front, I whole-heartedly support it and oppose any troop withdrawal or reduction until we squelch the causes of extremism there.

Clearly I have said some things to which many people will object. As always, I am willing for my mind to be changed. Even though I am posting this on Sunday, please consider it the Morality Monday topic. I welcome disagreement. Goodnight.


Anonymous Leo said...

Wasn't Saddam's regime pretty much the only secular government in the region?

12:22 PM  
Anonymous cdawg said...

Why do you think your beliefs are better than other peoples, and if your beliefs are so great that you go to war to force them on other people how are you any better than the crusaders. It sounds to me that islamic fundamentalists are no the only ones who need to join the 21st century.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Fishfrog said...

I believe my beliefs are better than other peoples because I believe them. If I thought other beliefs were better, then I would believe those other beliefs. There is certainly some grey area where I'm not comfortable saying my believes are right and other beliefs are wrong, but I also think there are some areas where my beliefs are clearly better than others. One area I have written about before is women's rights, though my beliefs there are only clearly better than Islamic Extremists. My beliefs about the role of women in society may not be better than Sacrlet Panda's views on the subject, though I'm unwilling yet to concede that hers are better.
Anyone who has a belief must necessarily think that any and all beliefs antithetical to that person's belief are wrong (or at least worse).
I think in respect to my desire to invade other countries I am very similar to the crusaders. There may be some nuanced differences, but maybe not. If the crusaders honestly believed in what they fought for (and I think they did), and furthermore if they conducted their actions under a belief that they were helping people in the long run (saving their immortal souls, for instance), then I don't fault their actions except inasmuch as I believe their underlying beliefs were wrong.
Likewise I have no qualms with missionaries or anyone else who tries to convert people to their way of thinking by exposing people to their ideas and arguing their validity.
All that being said, I probably would prefer people use means more akin to missionary work rather than using the means of invasion and warfare. But my point is that I don't necessarily disagree with the means used by many to propogate their beliefs, only the beliefs they want to propogate.
I do believe, though, that if we respect heterogenous beliefs, we have to be wary of beliefs antitetical to other beliefs. This may seem like a paradox, but I'm not so sure it is.
I probably should have made this a new post.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous cdawg said...

My beef with you then is the enforcement of beliefs through warfare. I obviously don't oppose missionary work, but if your beliefs are truely "better" then why is it not possible to convince people through rational means. If statistics hold out, my religion will be the most populous and richest in the not too distant future, at that point should we force everyone to join our religion because we firmly believe what we do? Obviously not.

9:35 PM  
Anonymous cdawg said...

And on another note, when I reread my first comment, I realized that it sounded very confrontational. Let the record show that I have a great respect and like for fishfrog.

9:36 PM  
Blogger scarlet panda said...

I think I basically agree with Cdawg. However, for the sake of argument:

Suppose I believe wholeheartedly in a religion that says that anyone who does not believe in its tenets will be subject to eternal torment (real hellfire-type stuff, not just "distance from God" or something.)

Two questions:

(1) Should I, from my perspective, do whatever I can (including killing and warfare, assuming my religion does not expressly prohibit those things) to convert people to my religion?

(2) Should other people (such as the government) support my right to use force to convert people to my religion?

The answer to (2) is fairly clearly "no." If I don't share your underlying belief, it makes no sense to allow you to force it on anyone.

However, I think you could argue that the answer to (1) is yes. If I truly believe that generation upon generation of people will suffer eternal torment if I do not convert them, it is my moral duty to convert them. What's a little bloodshed compared to eternal hell?

11:14 AM  

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