Monday, July 5, 2010

A Rather Obvious Point

Often when someone brings up Islamic terrorism, one of the responses given is that other religions and ideologies have their kooks as well, and we shouldn't judge Islam because it has its own share. Obviously this response is at least half true: no matter where you go in life, no matter what group you associate with, there's always going to be what I call an assh*le element. Any and every group will have people who join it for the wrong reasons, so to single out one group because of this is inappropriate.

As I say, this response is certainly half true. However, it's no more than that, because it misses something important, something very important, and in fact, blindingly obvious: Ideas have consequences. Just because every group is going to have its assh*le element doesn't mean that every group is equal in all moral respects. Some groups are going to encourage violence, others will allow it in pursuit of a higher cause, etc. Ideas have consequences, and different ideas have different consequences.

An ideology which rejects the intrinsic value of human beings -- perhaps all people or perhaps just members of other groups -- will obviously have significantly different results than one which upholds the intrinsic value of all human beings, including those who belong to people groups that are usually held in contempt. And this remains true even though the latter ideology has members who obviously don't act accordingly. For example, at the end of the film To End All Wars, the lead character narrates an aspect of the Bushido code which had been introduced earlier in the movie (I'm paraphrasing): "The individual life weighs less than a feather." The narrator responds, "What is the result of believing the individual life weighs less than a feather?" The preceding two hours of the film answer that question.

(cross-posted at Quodlibeta)

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