Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Who the hell are these barbarians infesting my city?

Okay, this is not necessarily a theism/atheism issue, but it is pretty outrageous all the same. And I think it conclusively illustrates what happens when people dispense with reason and give in to base emotional impulses. Frankly, anyone who values "feeling" over thinking is a rank idiot, and this example settles the issue.

Here's what happened: Following a Juneteenth celebration in east Austin, a man accidentally struck a small child with his car, causing only minor injuries. When he stopped and got out, he was set upon by an enraged mob. When his passenger got out to defend him, the mob turned on him and beat him to death.

Yeah, no shit. This is the 21st fucking century, and this happened.

Would it be redundant to say that this is the same kind of mob mentality that unscrupulous, fundamentalist religions exploit to persuade their lunatic followers to become suicide bombers? Would it be equally redundant to say there's something so very Old Testament about crazed, murderous gangs exacting street justice? What we need more of in our culture is education in critical thinking — the simple art of using your brain, and not just its limbic system, to solve problems in a sensible and non-reactionary manner. Sadly, what too many people would rather see our educational system doing is forcing kids to their knees in prayer and embracing religious pseudoscience in biology class. Actually honing your mind so that it's a skilled problem-solving instrument is less desirable, it seems, than filling it with ancient dogmas so you don't have to think for yourself.

15 comments:

  1. "Yeah, no shit. This is the 21st fucking century, and this happened."

    Well guess what? It happened precisely because it's the twenty-first century. This is not a century of bureaucracy and orderliness, it is the new Fifth-Century, get used to it.

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  2. Well, I think that's just a little simplistic.

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  3. This incident is certainly a vivid example of the worse side of human nature. While I share your view that religious and superstitious tendencies are among the bad parts of human nature, this particular incident doesn't really seem to have anything to do with religion. In light of the fact that religious nuts frequent make jackasses of themselves by pointing to secular liberal values as the cause of every bad event, I recommend discretion in choosing what events to use as launching points to attack religion.

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  4. I knew my point was going to missed.

    People are easily led into mob violence. The kind of mob violence that occured here is of the same sort that is exploited by religion when religion seeks to use violence to further its aims. Ergo, people should strive to be more rational at all times. I was not blaming religion for this event.

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  5. If the point of the article is to say we “need to think critically at all times” then we are making the same error that religion makes by placing standards far above human nature. I personally do not want to be Spock nor a stoic robot. We do have a need for emotions and we can not turn them off whenever it is convenient. We can not ask everyone else to turn their emotions off; we can not ask everyone to do the right thing at times we think is appropriate. That is just too impossible of an expectation for everyone. We can not ask someone to be mature, because it takes an extremely long time to gain maturity. Yes what happen was tragic and unfortunate. The affects of those people’s actions and the lost that occurred will last for an extremely long time. However, based on what little information has been provided, I would like to apply some critical thinking.
    I was not there and the whole story certainly has not been presented. I have no idea who or how people were responding nor who was provoking. Personally, I have had my parked car bumped and in talking with the driver, completely dismiss the incident; only to have a neighbor come rushing out to defend her friend screaming and yelling. When I was pushed, I called the police. Additionally, I have seen fights developed when people have been drinking. Having experience this, I would not judge anyone within this group as to whose fault is who’s; because I do not know all the facts. I also realize that there is no way for me to know all the facts. The news and blogs will spin the information to be provoking while entertaining and most people who are going to talk about it have an opinion already. I am sorry to say, but if I had heard this on the radio or TV, I would dismiss it because it is emotionally charge story with a lack of information; sensationalism.

    Pete

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  6. tracie harris6/21/2007 9:20 AM

    >Okay, this is not necessarily a theism/atheism issue, but it is pretty outrageous all the same. And I think it conclusively illustrates what happens when people dispense with reason and give in to base emotional impulses.

    I think your disclaimer at the very start of your blog article pretty clearly indicated that you weren't blaming religion on this incident. You were only indicating that when emotion is the basis for decision-making (in this case highly charged emotional response), and reason is out-the-window, bad things can happen.

    Religion intentionally subverts reason and appeals to emotion, which puts most religious people at risk of being led down the garden path of horrific behavior, so long as they feel it is correct on a nonrational, emotional level.

    Luckily most adherents don't actually give up their reason, and they tend to just accept the parts of their religion that make sense to them in a more rational realm they've constructed for themselves already. But in areas where this isn't the case--like in many parts of the Middle East, and in the past with Western Civilization, we've seen the atrocities that people will fall into if they believe their god is behind their actions. And reason won't prevail (except perhaps in the longer term).

    It's not that this _is_ happening with relgion in this nation, it's that as long as religion exists, there is a potential it could happen. And religion isn't the only mechanism for producing this in people. It's just the focus of this blog.

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  7. "Okay, this is not necessarily a theism/atheism issue, but it is pretty outrageous all the same. And I think it conclusively illustrates what happens when people dispense with reason and give in to base emotional impulses."

    The point seems pretty clear to me.

    Martin pointed out that it's not a religious issue and then drew a parallel to the fact that the sort of irrational thought that lead to this incident is similar too, mirrored by, perhaps even walking hand-in-hand with some elements of religious thought.

    It's a fair point.

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  8. Yes, I did read the disclaimer at the beginning. But I'm sure you can how a theist could very easily twist what Martin wrote to claim that he is specifically blaming this incident on religion.

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  9. Theists twist things all the time. It's because facts are rarely on their side. You ought to try keeping track of all of the distortions they make about what Dawkins writes (or more to the point, doesn't write) in The God Delusion. If my words are twisted by theists, I'll be in good company.

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  10. tracie harris6/21/2007 2:00 PM

    I agree with Martin--avoiding the twists is hardly avoidable. I guess in the longer term, maybe it's good this came up so that it could be even further clarified in the discussion area. If twisting happens, at least now there is a second layer of protection against it--at least in this one instance.

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  11. tracie harris6/21/2007 2:08 PM

    >We do have a need for emotions and we can not turn them off whenever it is convenient. We can not ask everyone else to turn their emotions off; we can not ask everyone to do the right thing at times we think is appropriate. That is just too impossible of an expectation for everyone. [emphasis added]

    If I believed this, I would say that having laws is pointless. If people can't be expected to behave civilly because they can't control their emotions (and I believe they can control their emotions to a great degree)--then our legal code is grossly unfair to angry murders and spouse abusers.

    The reality is that people can and are at all times expected to, by law, control their reactions.

    I personally don't care how anyone feels, I care what they do if someone else is harmed by it. Anyone can let fly with their emotions all day, all night. But if they act on it, there are real world consequences--and I agree that there should be.

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  12. We can not ask everyone else to turn their emotions off; we can not ask everyone to do the right thing at times we think is appropriate. That is just too impossible of an expectation for everyone.

    Tracie is dead right. This statement is arrant bullshit. I hardly think it's unreasonable to expect people not to turn into rampaging, murderous mobs. Nor does expecting people to engage in civilized behavior require them to become "Spock [or] a stoic robot". As for this being one of those situations where "it is emotionally charge story with a lack of information; sensationalism", well, there's one relevant piece of information you're ignoring that we do have: a man was murdered. And that cannot be excused by an appeal to a "need for emotions," at least not by anyone with a shred of respect for reason or decency. This isn't about people expressing emotions, it's about people whose emotional responses lead them to commit acts of wanton violence and murder. We have every right to expect people to refrain from that, and as Tracie pointed out, it's why laws themselves have existed all the way back to the dawn of civilization.

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  13. Perhaps here is a better example (Washington Post, "An Iraq Caucus of One", George Will, 6/17/07):

    "Last month in Iraq, Sen. Gordon Smith, the Oregon Republican, had lunch with three soldiers from his state, one of whom had been working with an Iraqi officer training police cadets. That soldier told Smith that when the cadets learned that the Iraqi officer was Catholic, they [the Irqai cadets] stoned him. To death."

    Now that's being true barbarians.

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  14. I'd say the one is no less barbaric than the other.

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  15. tracie harris6/25/2007 9:21 AM

    I guess that would be a better example of showing how religious belief can be involved in motivating unreasonable violence, yes. And as Martin says--whether my religious views motivate it (as in your example), or it's more secularly motivated, it's equally as unacceptable.

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