No matter what: never give up!
“When people start hurling insults at you, you know their minds are closed and there’s no point in debating. You disengage yourself as quickly as possible from the situation.” – Judith Martin
“There are all kinds of stupid people that annoy me but what annoys me most is a lazy argument.” – Christopher Hitchens
I have lived a life of debating. I took leave of it for a time, because it became upsetting just how intellectually dishonest people could be. I was so tired. Trying to guide intellectually dishonest people through a logical argument is like dragging a ten thousand pound weight through the mud. It’s exhausting, and in the end, gets you very little. But after some time away, I felt obliged to engage in debate when it arose because it sharpens my ability, and because I shouldn’t throw away any opportunity to inspire a change in perspective from someone I believe is naive, or misinformed. Well, it really hit the fan with my most recent debate.
In response to the recent argument between Bill Maher, and Ben Affleck regarding Islam, I posted to Facebook an article I believed made a good point. Then began the war. Two friends of mine enlisted in this war, but I’ll focus on just one, because it was this person’s words that disturbed, and discouraged me the most.
In response to the article’s assertion, and use of Scripture from the Quran, which showed that radical Islam is widespread, and extraordinarily violent, my friend quoted a passage from Exodus 32, in which the Israelites are commanded by God to execute those who came forward admitting to idolatry. She said that this was an example of violence in the bible which was comparable to Islam, and the Quran, and portrayed positively. She said that anyone can quote things out of context, and use them to demonize other people. She was incredulous, asking that I must not be serious, calling the Quran more violent than the bible. Then she proceeded to bring up the crusades, and desert storm, to argue that western religion/culture are imposed on others, just like Islam is. First, that is not what is being argued. Second, this was my response:
In terms of biblical violence, the passage you offered was a piece of a story. What you didn’t include is that those who were killed by their neighbors, friends, and brothers were violators of the law of God, and those who came forward when asked if they were such violators. This quote is from a commentary of that particular story:
“The Levites were to slay the ringleaders in this wickedness; yet none were executed but those who openly stood forth.” (From Matthew Henry’s commentary on Exodus)
And here is more of the verse that you did not quote:
“And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf. 25 And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies: 26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. 27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. 28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.”
This killing was not wanted, but necessary at the time, according to God. It wasn’t presented in a positive light, as you said, but one of necessity. There is certainly a difference. Punishment is rarely positive, in the way one naturally thinks, but that doesn’t mean it’s evil.
Second, this is a piece from another source online regarding biblical violence versus Muslim violence that I believe is important in understanding, and defining the difference between the two:
“Several important differences can be noted. First, the military violence in the Old Testament was often mentioned as a fact of history rather than the command of God. In other words, many military battles in the Bible were recorded as part of history, but were not recorded as events commanded by God.
Second, God’s commands to Israel to destroy their enemies were limited to a particular time and place. God chose to use Israel to bring judgment on people who had rejected the Lord. However, this destruction was not to serve as Israel’s ongoing mode of operation for other locations or times.
Third, the violence in the Old Testament was not seen as a way to spread the Jewish faith (and the New Testament nowhere promotes violence as a means of spreading Christianity). In contrast, Islam has historically used jihad to spread its faith to new lands. Though accusations are made in this regard with the Crusades in the Middle Ages, these battles do not represent an accurate application of the teachings of the Bible.” (This was fromCompellingTruth.org)
Next, you talk about the recent wars as if those are related to Christianity. That’s like saying that China’s recent oppression of Hong Kong is related to Christianity. They are very different issues, regardless of your opinion of those wars, and occupations in terms of political, and moral rightness.
Next, you say that the violence of scripture is not necessarily indicative of the people who practice that faith. I would argue against that. For the reasons mentioned in the above examples that I provided, the violence in the bible is closed, relating to specific times, and practices, while the Islamic violence is open-ended.
You cannot look at the world as it is today, with the vast majority (and even the word majority fails to convey the breadth of the majority) of terroristic violence being committed by radical Islamists, and not condemn its proponents. Once you condemn those proponents, you must then ask why those people do what they do. They behave the way they do because they believe that their scripture commands them to do so. Are they wrong? Perhaps. ISIS is Sunni, and to the Sunnis, the Shia are apostates who are in the wrong, and must be converted or killed. This is why a large portion of the victims of ISIS have been Muslim. They have been Sunni.
Even if you believe–as you seem to–that Islam is being twisted to condone these acts, you have to admit that a VERY LARGE swath of Muslims in the Middle East believe this so-called twisted ideology. Polls of middle eastern Muslims are indicative of this adherence to the twisted form of ideology you say they follow.
Given that, I cannot understand how you can compare modern Christianity with modern Islam. Certainly, there are peaceful Muslims, and NOT A SINGLE PERSON is arguing otherwise, but an extraordinary amount of Muslims in the Middle East are under the impression that their holy book tells them to utterly destroy any non-Muslims, if the non-believers refuse to convert to Islam.
Lastly, you mention “Christian” holy wars. You mention the crusades. I’m not going to get into the argument that the crusades were a defensive measure against an encroaching Islamic presence (although you should read some opinions on that. There are some excellent, and well researched ones), but I will argue this: Even if you are arguing that at one time, Christians have waged holy wars, that is NOT today. That is not modern. Radical Islamic terrorism is modern, and ongoing. It is a very real problem that must be talked about. Moreover, if Christians have waged holy wars in the past (ones comparable to today’s), that doesn’t mean they were right. Just as those wars would be wrong, the modern jihad is equally wrong. But the modern jihad is what we are dealing with today.
It is talked about as if discussing the reality of modern radical Islam is making people despise all Muslims. I guess if you’re a moron, you would think of your nice Muslim neighbor (such as mine back home) as the same as a radical terrorist, but I’m not a moron. I understand the difference between the two, I understand that there are peaceful Muslims. I also understand that there is a massive movement in Islam today that is violent, and aggressive. Simply look to Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Syria, etc to see that.
It is not hypocrisy. I would hope that you would see that. I would hope that you would see that quoting a verse from Exodus in which God commanded executions of idolaters who were self-professed is not the same as an entire culture of violence in the Middle East. I would hope you would not look at those two things, and cry “hypocrisy!” because that’s just not valid at all.”
My friend replied by telling me that my logic was “flawed,” and “full of holes,” and that she found my viewpoint “extremely ignorant,” and “xenophobic.” She then persisted by saying that while she loved me as a friend, we had reached “an impasse,” she would not debate flawed logic, and that were she not already my friend, she would not be now.
That’s it. There was no further discussion. There was no counter-argument on her part, simply a decrying of my beliefs, my arguments, and accusations of xenophobia, and extreme ignorance. Instead of trying to counter my argument, she simply ducked out, and called me names. Then she tried to tie a pretty ribbon on it by calling out my alleged logical flaws, without actually putting them on display. It was an ad hominem attack at its best, coupled with a base, lazy excuse for an argument.
This debate taught me something. Yes, people can change, they can be inspired to think differently, but if someone is unwilling to engage, they will never change. The Democratic Party is characterized by people who are completely unwilling to engage in thoughtful debate, and is therefore a Party prone to enacting failed, and incoherent policies. I was deeply disturbed, and discouraged by my friend’s unwillingness to engage, because she is very intelligent, and thoughtful. However, she is tied to a philosophical anchor from which she is completely, and utterly unwilling to escape.
After hours of incredible frustration, and discouragement, I realized, why be discouraged? There will always be those who are irrationally tethered to their beliefs, and I cannot change that, but there will also always be people who can be stimulated to alter their perspective. It’s a game in which there are wins, and loses, but the losses shouldn’t dishearten, or demoralize us. Rather, the wins should encourage us to continue to fight for what we believe is right. We fight for a reason: we believe in our perspective as conservatives. And if you believe something to be right, you must never stop pulling that weight through the mud, because sometimes, you make it out, and that weight is lifted.
Never stop debating respectfully, because some people can change—I’ve seen it. But don’t ever be discouraged by those who refuse to change.