I, Slamming

If you want to check you understand something, explain it to an imaginary child. Or, the next best thing, explain it to someone who's determined to not understand because their fragile ego can't cope with doing so. Or as they're colloquially known, an "ordinary person".

Thanks to the dark miracle of social media, we have an endless supply of such people to check our understanding on. Here's one exchange between some idiots ordinary people and "Stefan Travis" - a facebook alias I adopted, and then got stuck with.

Stefan Travis: [Sam] Harris makes a very fundamental mistake [in his analysis of ISIS]: He takes jihadists at their word. He wouldn't assume nazi-supporting catholics of the 1930s could describe their own historical-psychological situation accurately. He wouldn't uncritically accept the sophisms of Burma's suicide-bombing Buddhists. But he accepts the self-delusions of muslim fanatics as accurate. This is a bizarre blindspot.

Toza: the jihadis are doing as they say and not shying from it.

Stefan Travis: The quran forbids rape, but that doesn't seem to stop ISIS members doing it. And not just doing it, but systematically, tactically using it as an intimidation method.

The quran forbids suicide, but suicide bombers find a way around the injunction...by redefining it as sacrifice, even though when the quran speaks of sacrifice, it's never of oneself, and never of humans.

The quran forbids lending money at interest. But ISIS has a financial wing that does just that.

Toza: There is no moderate Islam only Islam.

Stefan Travis: Was Maoism a result of confucionism? Obviously not. Did Mao use confucionism to justify what he did? Obviously yes.

Was Mussolini a fascist because he was catholic? No. Did he use religion as an excuse when it suited him? Yes.

Does Buddhism support pacifism? In Tibet, yes, in Burma, no. So are the scriptures different in different countries? No, the situation is.

Toza: between what jihadists and moderates think. There is an overwhelmingly far more support for sharia than there is for non sharia.

Stefan Travis: You don't actually know what "sharia" is.

You think it's "the extreme right wing of islamic law interpretation" - basically "theocracy". It just means "system of rules", and there are as many interpretations of it as there are of laws anywhere.

Toza: in the pew research data, sharia was the dominant ideology expressed overwhelmingly by the majority of Muslims.

Stefan Travis: You're trying to redefine words to fit your agenda.

Perhaps it would be useful to have a word for what you describe, but calling it "sharia" makes as much sense as calling all tools "weapons".

Crazy Joe Devola: the brutal actions done by ISIS are well justified in theology.

Stefan Travis: All actions done by all religious groups are well justified in theology. That's what theology is for.

Crazy Joe Devola: Rape, according to Mohammed and ISIS, doesn't apply within marriage or a master-slave relationship.

Stefan Travis: The same is true of christianity and judaism - according the their scriptures. According to american fundamentalism, a man can't rape his wife, because it doesn't count as rape, because she's his property.

So why do most christians reject that interpretation? Obviously the difference isn't scriptural.

Crazy Joe Devola: suicide bombing is a western term for what is considered a martyr in Islam.

Stefan Travis: No. Sayyid Qutb found a loophole in the quranic suicide prohibition, using the notion of martyrdom. You're confusing a deliberate, strained misinterpretation with the natural reading of the text.

Crazy Joe Devola: Most western apologists don't really know that much about Islamic scripture and exegesis, or they believe it's just another religion like Christianity.

Stefan Travis: Islam is a christian heresy. Just as christianity is a jewish heresy.

Crazy Joe Devola: You won't watch the videos posted because Islam is a religion of peace and you won't even consider you are wrong.

Stefan Travis: There is no such thing as a religion of peace, war, or mashed potato. Religion is politics in disguise, which is why it changes when politics does.

Toza: If christians were beheading homosexuals ... I'd call them out too. But the simple truth is, they aren't.

Stefan Travis: So ask yourself why they aren't, when their scripture tells them to. Then ask yourself why they eat pork, when scripture tells them not to.

Then ask yourself why quranic scriptures which were ignored until the 1950s, were suddenly obeyed enthusiasically.

Crazy Joe Devola: Muslims must consider the Quran not merely inspired, but the perfect rendition of the final word from God to mankind.

Stefan Travis: Christians believe the same of their scriptures. Every religion with scriptures believes them to be infallible and final. Every religion with a notion of hell appoints it for non-members.

Crazy Joe Devola: why does Islam get a pass from you?

Stefan Travis: Every set of scriptural injunctions, if taken literally and obeyed, would lead to mass slaughter and supremacy.

So, why are you giving Buddhism a free pass? Why are you giving Bahai a free pass? Why are you giving Shintoism a free pass?

Answer: Because the arab world is currently dangerous, and like everywhere else it uses its superstitions as an excuse.

Toza: [Islam is] the most dangerous obstacle in the world currently.

Stefan Travis: Islam is the Fox News of the east. It's a tool used by the powerful to keep the masses distracted and confused, outraged and fearful of a nubulous, shifting miasma of protean imaginary threats.

So, how many Americans are motivated by Fox News to blow up abortion clinics? A very few, and it's always isolated nutcases.

How many are motivated to bloviate and fantasise about blowing up abortion clinics, but never do it? Millions.

Now, how many are actually organised into armies to "take back america" and "kill all the gaymarried lib'rals"?


You are confusing a tool of ideological sheepherding with the political movement which creates it. You're confusing the smoke for the fire.

Crazy Joe Devola: Christians readily accept the Bible to be written by human beings

Stefan Travis: They still want their scripture inerrant, so they claim god "inspired" the writers.

Crazy Joe Devola: The Quran is supposed to be a copy of a book that is in heaven and that was already written at the time of creation.

Stefan Travis: No. The tradition is that Gabriel whispered in Mohammed's ear, and Mohammed paraphrased what he heard, and others wrote some of it down, only to lose about two thirds of the writings.

The quran does indeed refer to itself as both a book and a recitation - before it was collated as either. Just another plot hole.

Crazy Joe Devola: Islam more than any other faith lends itself to literalism.

Stefan Travis: So a literal reading leads to a literal reading. But a non-literal one doesn't.

Crazy Joe Devola: Christians ... do not believe the same thing about their scriptures.

Stefan Travis: You mean, christians in secular cultures water down their conception of christianity. And those in religious cultures don't.

Crazy Joe Devola: Criticizing Buddhism on par with Islam would be like going to the doctor with a stake through your chest and complaining about a stubbed toe. 

Stefan Travis: Look up the buddhist verson of hell. Did you even know there was one? It's much worse than the christian or muslim one.

Toza: A dystopian fantasy of conspiracy theory and I'm right.

Stefan Travis: Do you think it's a conspiracy theory to say the powerful tell lies to keep their power?

Crazy Joe Devola: no Muslim believes the Quran to have been touched by man. The umm al-kitab (mother of books) is written in heaven and has been perfectly compiled to today's Quran, after first being revealed to Mo through an arch angel. That notion alone is why Islam is much more doctrinaire and ultimately more dangerous than other religions.

Stefan Travis: So christians are saying "Our book is infallible", and muslims are saying "Our book is even more infallible".

Crazy Joe Devola: different religions contain different values.

Stefan Travis: Religions serve to validate the values of whoever believes in them at the time.

Do christians have the same values now as 1000 years ago? Why not? Now ask the same questions about muslims.

Crazy Joe Devola: Why does Islam fight so hard against secularism, why does Christianity allow the luxury of being watered down.

Stefan Travis: Christianity lost the battle. Islam hasn't yet. Did you think christians willingly let their doctrines be watered down?

Crazy Joe Devola: Tibetan Buddhism [is peaceful].

Stefan Travis: [It] teaches absolute obedience and death to those who don't obey.

Crazy Joe Devola: Rohinga Muslims [in Burma] are not being attacked by Buddhist because of their god belief alone.

Very good. They're being attacked for political reasons, clothed in religious sophism. You have just confirmed my main point. Congratulations.

Crazy Joe Devola: This gem is taken right out of the Reza Aslan playbook and doesn't stand a minutes' scrutiny.

Stefan Travis: His line is: "Terrorists aren't the real muslims". Which means he thinks there is such a thing as "real" islam. Which is the opposite of what I said.

Crazy Joe Devola: some religions are worse than others.

Stefan Travis: No. All religions are incoherent, and all can be used to justify the best and the worst of human behavior.

That islam is currently used to justify the worst doesn't make it worse, any more than a hammer currently used to commit a murder is any more dangerous than one left on the shelf.

Crazy Joe Devola: this religion/politic dichotomy doesn't exist in Islam.

Stefan Travis: So islam is wrong. Exactly as wrong as every other religion, on this point.

Crazy Joe Devola: There are fewer Polynesian animists than Jews or Muslims that circumcise their children.

Stefan Travis: Most christians don't circumcise their children, even though their bible mandates it. A lot of cultural jews don't do it either, even though it's supposed to be the defining feature of judaism - even non-religious judaism.

Crazy Joe Devola: You need to explain then why there are discrepant numbers of sex slaves being taken in the name of Islam vs. Jainism.

Stefan Travis: Economics.

Crazy Joe Devola: The Islamic holy texts explicitly sanction sex slavery, Jain texts do not.

Stefan Travis: Christian scriptures also sanction sex slavery. Christians used to have sex slaves, but now they do not. Did the scriptures change? No. The practices changed.

If the Jains should ever fall into a situation where they have sex slaves, they'll find an excuse for it - probably by reinterpreting their holy writings.

Because that's what holy writings are for.

Crazy Joe Devola: there is both a correlation and causation between religion and the prevalence of circumcision.

Stefan Travis: South America is largely christian, but doesn't routinely circumcise. The United States is largely christian, and does routinely circumcise.

Canada is more atheist than north amerca, but circumcises more.

Southern central europe is largely christian and circumcises. Russia is largely christian and does not.

russell d: Are you saying that Islamic radicals are lying about why they do what they do?

Stefan Travis: Not lying. Deluded.

russell d: And are you saying that you know better why they do what they do then they do?

Stefan Travis: Yes. Outsiders understand a culture better than insiders.

After this, the discussion degenerated into whether it's possible to believe a doctrine is true without understanding it - spoilers sweetie: It is.

So, boys and girls. What have we learned today? Only what we already knew: That the best way to test your ideas is to present them calmly and clearly. And if the result is offended sputtering, insults, or nervous attempts to evade the point, you're probably right.

1 comment:

  1. Dude, you've got way more patience than me. I just block and ignore idiots now--life way is too short to be wasted on stupidity! I'd rather spend the time doing fun things--of course, you could be having fun interacting with online idiots. In which case, Rock On!