Saturday, December 22, 2007

Is it just me or is the Economist focusing a lot more on religion in the last few issues?


أُمنية said...

it has been always the money who is moving all aspects of life.

do u think there was a time where religion, politics or economey were part from each other?

Wassim said...

Not at all. The rich have always feared religion because of it's great levelling power and it's ability to exert an influence in a way that politics never could. The rich can deal with politics and sell you sand in the desert, with religion, the rich find it more troublesome so they've always opposed it.

أُمنية said...

the religion has always been a tool in the rich and the politcians' hands to control the people, to move them or to keep them still, according to their needs.
or this is how i see it.

Wassim said...

Not at all actually. People commonly say this, but they forget that when they say religion and see it as a tool of the rich and the politicians, what they really mean is Europe and what happened there. Usually this is because they themselves are educated within, or are influenced by, that context and stop seeing themselves as outside of it. So they talk as if they are living the social and historical realities of Europe and not the Islamic worlds. Even in Latin America, liberation theology has meant that religion is the means of resistance for the downtrodden rather than a tool of the politicians.

Also, if religion was a tool, why were all the prophets persecuted and fought against by the rich and elites? Abraham is said to have been cast in the fire by King Nimrod, they tried to kill Jesus, Muhammad had numerous attempts on his life, John the Baptist's head was chopped off and so on.

أُمنية said...

i can not see what "fighting the prophets" has to do with this?

and no i didn't say this coz of what happened in europe.

religion has been a tool in the rich and the politicians hands.

اريد أن أسألك سؤال واحد, هل حدث وسمعت خطبة يوم الجمعة في مكة المكرمة؟
حرب تموز على سبيل المثال؟
هل سمعت ما قاله الشيخ في الخطبة؟
أتعلم أن أثناء الحرب كان هناك موجة في السعودية ضد حسن نصر وضد دعمه لأنه من "طائفة أخرى"

لست بصدد نقاش دعمه ام لا , ولكن لاحظ السبب الذي استخدم حتى لا يقوم أحد بالتفكير بالتحيز لنصر.
حتى الأن أقابل أناس حيث أعمل في دول الخليج وأذا ما طرح النقاش، الجميع يهلل لما فعل ، ولكن دائما ينتهي الحديث ب :
أه لو أنه سني !!

الأن قل لي أن الدين ليس أداة في أيدي السياسيين والأغنياء في الوطن العربي.

and by the way, i can bring u many examples if u want, about the way rich use religion in Damascus.

أُمنية said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wassim said...

Hmm...yes you bring up a good point. Those things you mentioned did happen and I'm sure the rich in Syria have many ways of using religion today.

I mentioned the prophets because of course, the religions we are talking about were in fact founded by them and if you look at what happened when they were born, you find that they did upset power structures and inequalities in society.

You said in your comment:

the religion has always been a tool in the rich and the politcians' hands to control the people, to move them or to keep them still, according to their needs.

I think what my point about fighting the prophets showed was that in fact, religion has not always been a tool of the rich, since they did not invent it. Rather, and I think this is where your point is relevant, they have always managed to gradually absorb it and adapt how it is interpreted to reinforce their position.

Now, I think this tells us that religion then, can be used both ways, don't you think?

If that is the case then, wouldn't you agree that some devices or objects can be very useful, but used incorrectly, they can cause great harm? The same thing happens with religion, so we find that in some cases it can liberate the individual and in other cases, the opposite?

أُمنية said...

(religion has not always been a tool of the rich, since they did not invent it.)

"religion" in its bare meaning has always been a tool.

even before the coming of Jewdism , Chrisitanity and Islam, with all the gods created and the "religions" they used to follow, the rich had their way to interpret the gods' order to serve their interests.
the coming of the prophets was to stop the rich's control over the people, maybe it was stopped for a while , the rich as u know fought against the prophets, coz they came to pull the power away from their hands.
but after their deaths all went back to its normal track. the difference is only in the characters , the gods, and the "religions".

yes religion can be used in both ways, but as far as i see , it has been always used in one way.

Do u think that religions helped the humanity? i have been recenlty asking myself this question .
why do human beings can't live without religions?
what do u think?

Wassim said...

Good questions, well as for myself, I think they have helped humanity immensely. At this stage I think you need to clarify in your mind whether you are talking generally or specifically, because I think it's quite ambitious to say it has always been used one way or another. I don't think we can say with certainty whether it has or hasn't been manipulated all or most of the time.

I think you touched on something interesting when you said that it is a means of control. Wouldn't you also say that laws are a method of control? Punishment for crimes, laws for marriage, inheritance and ownership? If we look at religion as a set of laws, which it essentially is. Then I think the picture becomes much clearer. We start having a meaningful association to the term.

So, if we now understand your question as , have laws helped humanity? Why human beings cannot live without laws, then the topic is something we can grasp much more easily. Human beings cannot live without laws to govern their relationships with one another. Laws ensure our equality and rights. Now, where sovereignty and legitimacy for these laws comes from becomes the main split between philosophies and thought. Some would say it is the "people", others, the king or tyrant, others still believe there should be no laws. Of course in our neck of the woods, the Middle East, the idea that God is the source of laws and legitimacy remains strong.

I personally don't have a problem with the last option though, as my philosophy lecturer once said, there's nothing wrong with it, but the idea that a non-secular or modern way of thought still has legitimacy does cause some discomfort.

My own approach to this matter is I read, I talk to people and I search. I don't jump to conclusions either way and I don't stereotype men with beards as fanatics, nor men in suits as secular supermen or corrupt oligarchs. The easiest option for someone ignorant is to just say, "there is no one truth", or "they're all the same". This way they put themselves in an intellectual cul-de-sac and absolve themselves of the headache of searching and dealing with truth and it's responsibilities head on.

I'm actually enjoying this conversation, what do you think of what I've said so far? How do you feel about this?

أُمنية said...

i'm fully aware that's generalizing and simplifying things in this word "always" is always wrong. i wish i could clarify things in my mind, things are not getting any easier, at least for me.

u have pointed at "religion" as "laws", i'd rather think of "religion" differently. maybe i should rephrase the question:
why can't human race live without the idea of "god" around?since the dawn of history, there has been always gods around.
do we need religions to teach us "morals"?

there was a shikh once said, i can't recall his name. He said:
لقد زرت بلاد كثيرة، ووجدت مسلمين ليس هم بمسلمين ولا يعلمون عن الاسلام شيء.

which means that these people that he had met, are holding the morals mentioned in Islam,more than muslims themselves, and they don't know about Islam a thing.

so do we need religions to teach us morals?

am enjoying this dicussion as well. it's good to exchange thoughts with u.

Wassim said...

do we need religions to teach us "morals?"

Well this is interesting because it's a little bit like the chicken and egg question. Which came first? Well, I think it would be very difficult to find any moral conduct or rules we follow today that has not got as it's origin religion. In particular the Abrahamic faiths. How do we draw up acceptable behaviour for people as to what is right and what is wrong. How can you convince this person to do "right", even when doing "wrong" might appear to their advantage?

Philosophers since Socrates have grappled with this question. How to decide these things? Why, for example, is it wrong to drown a kitten? Abortion, whether it is right or wrong is hotly debated, yet you would have a difficult time convincing anyone that having one is a decision to be made lightly, say, if someone doesn't wish it to interfere with holiday plans for example.

John Stuart Mill's argument was that decisions of right and wrong are based on a decision of whether something contributes to the "Greater happiness" or not, or Kant and his good will and the "Categorical Imperative" (essentially the Christian view of do unto others, etc.). Each of these views can be strong, but in truth, I couldn't convince myself that I do things which are considered "right" because of some abstract "Greater or General Happiness", or due to some categorical imperative, or even (as some people crudely argue) that it makes us feel good. That, and other things such as how I see the world, where things come from, how they fit in and what I read in the Quran, influences my decision that there is something higher than us. I imagine my ancestors staring up at the sky and wondering about day and night, seasons and life. They probably felt a much stronger spiritual urge than we do in our modern tomb of a life. Yet that tug is still there.

As for the idea of Islamic morals within people who are not Muslim. I don't see a problem with that. People seem to think that Muhammad brought a new religion. In fact, he brought nothing new (on his own admission). Only reinforcing morality and religion which had been passed down from generation to generation and which had declined or been subverted by the time he became a Muslim. The Spanish conquistadores were shocked to find a tribe in Central America that had Christian-like ethics and were monogamous when they arrived there. Socrates too, and some of the things he said were similar, even though he was living in ancient Greece and had no contact with the Abrahamic faiths. There have been thousands of prophets throughout history, some we know of and others we don't. Maybe Buddha was one, his teachings are similar to others. Muhammad was simply the last of them, he also said he was happy for people to criticise Islam and put it up for scrutiny. Similar to Jesus' view that "the truth shall set you free", he argued that there was no fear for the truth to be shielded since it would always overcome falsehood (almost Platonic idea btw). Did people come up with these ideas randomly? This similarity? Even if they did, the real problem remains, why do we still not follow these teachings even though thousands of years of wisdom tell us it is for our own good?

Where am I going with this? I think I just want you to realise that when I talk about religion, I don't hold it as a dogmatic set of beliefs. Morality without religion? Why reinvent the wheel? We've already got solutions to all the moral dilemmas that can exist through our faiths. The problem is we continue to be ruled by our desires and what some people want is to remove the guilt of living in such a way, so they try to find justifications and excuses, leading to more problems and whole constructs of unjust thought and conclusions. Erm..sorry for the long reply, I can get carried away!!! :D

أُمنية said...

not at all. really enjoyed this discussion.

take care.