"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."

Proof of evolution: just five years ago Stephen Harper called the Kyoto Accord a money-sucking “socialist scheme”, but today he’s a good steward of the environment. Welcome to the party, Steve.


There was an interesting article in the October issue of The Atlantic called “Prophetic Justice” about the grounds on which terrorism suspects are being tried, the ignorance and fear that allows the situation, and the political climate that fosters it.

That inculcation has ample source material, Haykel said, because many hadith and Koranic verses seem to advocate violence; most Muslims just know not to take them literally. Is it possible, he was asked during cross-examination, that someone radically inclined might take al-Kousi’s words as a call to action? “Well, the Koran can be taken as a call to action,” Haykel answered. “You don’t need to listen to al-Kousi.”

Religious speech is extreme, emotional, and motivational. It is anti-literal, relying on metaphor, allusion, and other rhetorical devices, and it assumes knowledge within a community of believers. Its potency is deliberate: faith is about calling on a higher power, one stronger than ourselves, and the very language we use helps inflate that strength. We arm ourselves (itself a violent metaphor) with prayer.

This is hardly unique to Islam. The question of how to interpret a text may be as old as writing, and it applies equally to determining where the power of religious speech inheres. In authorial intent? A reader’s interpretation? Historical or modern context? Over the centuries, and even today, the Bible and Christian theology have helped justify the Crusades, slavery, violence against gays, and the murder of doctors who perform abortions. The words themselves are latent, inert, harmless—until they aren’t.

It’s long, but worth the read.


My favourite new source of excellent music: the KEXP “song of the day” podcast. It’s usually something I haven’t heard, and is almost always very good.
[tags]stephen harper, kyoto accord, prophetic justice, terrorism, kexp[/tags]

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