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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Crunch Time For The Liberal Atheist



One more reason in an ever-increasing list of  reasons why I'm finding myself less and less liberal all the time (which does not mean more conservative - I don't know wtf it means) is the back and forth the past couple of weeks between the by-the-book liberals and the atheists regarding Islamist fundamentalism. Liberals argue that criticism of Islamic ideology is racist. Atheists say when the liberal value of tolerance extends to tolerating intolerants, it has rendered itself useless. So atheists now find themselves, quite awkwardly, arm-in-arm with conservative anti-Muslim racists and this, understandably, confuses their frequent bedfellows, the liberals.

Despite the animosity, frustrated confusion, and fall into chaos by liberal-atheists, it's a fascinating split, intellectually, regardless of your stance on the issue. Christian conservatives are likely watching the whole spectacle with glee, eating popcorn out of their cowboy hats or whatever they do.

In the not too distant past, I was a fairly devout liberal (and if you think that has anything to do with political parties, just stop reading now and be on your way) and, though always wary of group-think, would naturally be more easily swayed by those with whom I tend to agree on most issues. Whenever that frightening paradox of tolerating the intolerants reared its ugly head, I would, probably, like any faithful servant, avoid it as best I could until it went away again.

But I've finally had to look at it directly, thanks to ISIS quite dramatically forcing the argument to centre stage under the brightest of spotlights, and Canada, yesterday, announcing that we're going to war - again. I'm certainly not on-side with the conservatives who always fear the unknown, and see everything with a simplistic 'us vs them' mentality, and who are only too happy to send our young troops off to die for any reason at all - especially since there's nothing like war to excite their base and provide them with much-needed leverage in the upcoming federal election. But I can't bring myself to hold hands with the liberals either, and join in the chorus of espousing the virtues of loving everyone equally despite the psychotic acts some might perform under the banner of their religion.

The end of the article I'm linking to below provides the solution: sensible Muslims need to rise up and take control of their religion from the nutters, but that won't happen overnight, if ever. The nutters in this case are NOT equivalent to the fringe extremist Christians like Westboro; they are embedded deep and far and wide within the mainstream culture. Westboro-types couldn't recruit a decent-sized theatre troupe never mind a global army; ISIS can. So - and even though I'm aware they're a convenient new boogeyman with which Western powers can scare the shit out of their citizens - I'm on-board with the atheists who say "Fuck 'em. No more tolerance for you cocksuckers".

Though, mind you, liberal-me *still* doesn't like the idea of sending young women and men to die over this shit - and I hate the idea of responding to the provocations of ISIS by doing exactly what they want us to do. If I'm at the bar and some idiot keeps pushing me and wants to fight, I'm liable to give him what he wants, but, just maybe, it'd be more prudent for a national government to act differently than a stupid, drunken Irishman.

You may notice that I've basically said, "I don't know what the fuck we should do" so it's probably a good thing I'm not a leader of any sort. But I do know that liberals need to think a little deeper than they have been, and force themselves to confront the conundrum. Relying on blind ideology in the face of difficult questions, no matter where you fall on the spectrum, is a waste of what might be a half-decent mind, one that could otherwise, feasibly, help us arrive at clever solutions.

But yes, I know most will refuse to admit to themselves that the tough questions even exist. It's much easier that way. 

Back to your popcorn, conservatives. Nothing to see here.

Sam Harris: Can Liberalism Be Saved From Itself?

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