Where Are the Calls for Condemnation for a Muslim Being Shot?

It is a challenging time in which to be Muslim. Not only is the Islamic world the front line of the fight against radical Islam, but the political realities of being a Muslim in Western nations which pride themselves on their self proclaimed stellar human rights records are becoming increasingly more frightening.

This point was underscored today when media coverage began of the shooting of an imam and his assistant in Queens. They were followed and gunned down in broad daylight while returning from their local mosque.

What I noticed, and felt I needed to write about, is a remarkably different rhetoric in the media. There are no calls for anyone to condemn this act and no immediate conclusions about religious motivations. Instead, we see tempered commentary about an ongoing investigation and no evident religious motive. It’s curious how standards of humanity are applied so selectively. When a priest is shot, or a shooting occurs by a Muslim, the immediate discourse is quite different, though neither event is less tragic than the other.

Muslims live in a difficult time, not only because we are the first victims of Islamic terrorism, but also because we are held to such stringently higher moral standards without sympathy. Every Muslim who is not a terrorist finds him/herself in a position of having to condemn every act of violence perpetuated by select few members who claim the same faith. Otherwise, we’re immediately part of the same radical Islam that the media loves to talk about. We either join a tidal wave of constantly speaking out, or we are effectively playing for the opposite side.

Imagine a world where all human life was treated with the same value and respect. If we stopped considering people who are different as the “other” and showed them the same compassion we show our own, things might be different. I am saddened by every innocent human life that is lost because of senseless violence, Muslim or non-Muslim. I am commanded by my conscience and my God to treat all human life with dignity and respect.

This is a short post, designed only to ask one question. Where are the calls for condemnation for a Muslim being shot?

Stop Pretending ISIS Isn’t Muslim

shahada

I am Muslim, and I know Islam to be a religion of peace. Historically and according to the scripture, Islam is a religion of inclusion. Sharia, as it was practiced during and following the time of the Prophet Muhammad, codified inclusion and coexistence. It protected the rights of women, instituted a reasonable and sustainable tax system, and led to one of the most powerful and successful empires in history. Despite all this, there is a large contingent of Muslims in the modern world who are not only ignorant of this history, but actively act in direct contradiction to its lessons.

It is troubling to me when people say that members of ISIS, and similar groups, are not Muslim. They proclaim the Shahada, the central creed of Islam, and constantly profess that they are acting according to what they believe Allah has ordained for them. The Muslim world’s rejection of ISIS by saying they are not truly Muslims is actually problematic because it takes the focus off a very important aspect of this conflict, that terrorism is being bred in Muslim countries. ISIS is partly the result of what Islam has become in the modern world. The sooner the Muslim community admits and recognizes this, the sooner it can be dealt with.

Yes, unwelcome intervention from other nations has played a direct part in creating power vacuums and societal conditions which lead to radicalization. However, this particular snake has more than one head. The modern Islamic world is comprised of nations with astounding amounts of wealth being put to shamefully bad use. Despite the problems the coalition’s invasion of Iraq caused, Saddam Hussein wasn’t exactly a good guy. Iran’s regime has been supremely oppressive for decades, despite some attempts at popular resistance. I don’t even need to talk about Saudi Arabia. Education is terrible, poverty rates are incredibly high, economies and fragile, and freedoms are limited. Since just before WWI, the Islamic world has been in a decline that is now arguably reaching its apex.

Here’s the problem: Muslims continue to hide behind a rejection of obvious fanaticism while refusing to be introspective about the established regimes and policies which contribute to the rise of that fanaticism. Governmental policies and practices are not rooted in actual scripture. Rather, they are norms designed so that the wealthy who are in control can remain as such, and they’re working. Muslims the world over will immediately get on the TweetBook to reject dramatic acts of violence. Yet, Saudi Arabia publicly beheads over 150 people, and people don’t say a thing. The elite in Pakistan are inordinately wealthy, and yet the total adult illiteracy rate in the country hovers between 40% and 45%. The bombings in Turkey receive universal condemnation, yet Narges Mohammadi is currently dying in an Iranian prison, and you probably don’t even know who that is.

You may say that these things are the fault of a few oppressive groups and individuals. Remarkably, my experience has been quite different. It is the populations of these countries which allow and almost encourage these types of things to happen. When I can walk around after the Orlando shooting and hear people say, “Well, they shouldn’t have been gay,” then I know it isn’t just those in power who allow this hate to fester. Adults will often overtly demonstrate a false politeness but will internally harbor bigoted ideologies and will promote those ideologies among their communities.

It’s easy to say that ISIS isn’t Muslim. After all, what reasonable person would want to associate themselves with that type of ideology that is hated the world over? But, if you denounce their violence and then go home to beat your wife, you have no claim to the moral high ground. If you support women not being able to drive or attain a quality education, then your claims about being a real Muslim are nothing but moral masturbation. If you criticize people fighting for the ability of young girls to attain an education as being “puppet[s] of the West,” then you’re really looking in the wrong place to direct your indignation. If you publicly execute people for drug addiction and refuse to provide treatment for alcoholism, then I wonder where your knowledge of what is un-Islamic comes from. It’s no secret that the social conditions created by these so called Islamic policies create a boiling point necessary for terrorism and violence to thrive. When people are not provided for, when they lack accessible education and liberty, when they suffer from daily lives mired in tiresome difficulties, they turn to what promises them hope of salvation, love, and escape.

ISIS was created, at least in part, by Muslims in the modern world. While these people are quick to reject violence and cite their favorite quotes from the scripture in that effort, they refuse to turn the same critical eye to their own actions. Where is the Hadith of Gabriel when Dubai and Saudi Arabia build the world’s tallest buildings? Where are the references to the Prophet’s wives Aisha and Khadeejeh when women are denied education and economic rights? Where are the references to the many Hadith about kindness to animals when animals are abused and neglected?

What is arguably just as bad as terrorism is the society that fosters it. Islam has provided a blueprint for a successful life and society, and that blueprint has been demonstrably successful, leading an empire to prosperity for 1300 years. I don’t like writing preachy posts like this because God knows I’m not perfect. I have my own sins to repent for, and I’m not really in a place to tell others how to live their live. But, what I am in a place to do is point out obvious inconsistencies. ISIS isn’t the only group of people who have perverted or forgotten the lessons of Islam. It is just the most stark example that we have to point the finger at, but that finger should really be pointed at ourselves first.

Mosques of the World #1 – Saudi Arabia

Welcome to a new series I’m doing. My recent posting in Dubai has afforded me the opportunity to travel around the world with a frequency I hadn’t been able to before. As a result, I’ve made it a point to visit at least one local mosque in every country I visit and comment on my feelings about that country. Let’s start off with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi MosqueThe mosque I visited was quite small, just the small room you see in the picture, enough for 25 – 30 people at most. The inside, however, was beautiful. Calligraphy carvings on the front wall, a clean and comfortable carpet, and a neatly tiled entry way gave the place a warmly welcoming and inviting feeling. The people were friendly, though they were Shia whose prayer rituals slightly differ from my own. It was a testament to what Islam should be, a faith which welcomes others, accepts differences, and provides acceptance.

Unfortunately, the rest of the country isn’t quite as inviting. To start, women are faced with many restrictions limiting what they are able to do. To start, women are not permitted to drive, and in some areas, cannot even own cars, let alone other property. Women must be completely covered with an hibaya, the traditional black veiled covering often worn by Muslim women. In the world of business, this leads to additional complications. The men on our team must secure rental cars and transportation. It’s risky to be seen riding in the same car as a woman I’m not related to. Additionally, business offices must construct a separate area for women to work, although no companies actually make their women work separately unless they’re being inspected.

This has always been interesting to me because Islam does not require, or condone, any of these restrictions. Women are not required to wear abayas in Islam. They are only forbidden from wearing tight clothes which reveal their figure, and even then, this requirement is only applicable to Muslim women. Islamic law does not extend Islamic rules to non-Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) first wife was one of, if not the most, successful and well known merchants in Arabia. Islam was the first religion in the area which allowed women to own property and gave them a place at the political table. The state of affairs in Saudi Arabia runs quite contrary to Islamic teachings.

The country also feels oppressive. Strict rules and punishments, like beheadings, still regularly occur in the country. I have to constantly be mindful of what I say or what I’m talking about for fear of persecution. It’s difficult to understand how valuable freedom of speech really is until you go to a place where it isn’t afforded. I must cover the tattoos on my arms because they might be found offensive as well.

These policies, among others, have resulted in the country being left in a poor state. There is little investment, and commerce struggles to thrive. There is a large reliance on oil money, much of which doesn’t go to the poor in the country. Agriculture is struggling, and the landscape of the country is barren and depressing.

It saddens me, as a Muslim, to see the nation which houses the centerpiece of my faith in a condition like this. It’s not as bad as is sometimes believed in the West, but it’s much worse than I wanted to believe it would be. Coincidentally, the people in the mosque, and those in the surrounding area, were very much against the royal family and the rules which have been imposed in the nation. Well, maybe that wasn’t so coincidental.

I can only hope that these things change in the years to come and the country experiences a rebirth.

Why France’s Free Speech Defense of Charlie Hebdo is Untenable

freedomofspeechBecause people judge before reading, let me start by saying that I do not condone the terrible acts of violence perpetuated against Charlie Hebdo. The teachings of Islam do not support or justify such actions. There are numerous versus in the Quran in which Allah command Muhammad to withstand ridicule and what others say against him. Allah clearly states that he will punish them, and Islam prescribes no human punishment for expressions of opinions which mock the Prophet and Islam. The Hadith also contain many traditions expressing Islam’s protection of peoples’ rights to fully express themselves, and many traditions which command Muslims to be kind in their responses to hateful speech and to restrain from violence. When it comes to speech Islam prohibits only slanderous speech and blasphemy. The blasphemy prohibition is only applicable to Muslims under Shari’ah and nobody else. But, the purpose of this post is not to explain Islam’s view on freedom of speech. You can read the Quran and Hadith for yourself. As a Muslim, I have always condemned all Muslim violence and terrorism committed against anyone, and I invite other Muslims to do the same.

That all being said, this post is intended to comment on the hypocrisy in the discourse around this tragedy. The media, and Western governments, paint a picture of Europe as a bastion of freedom of speech and expression which is being opposed by the restrictive religion of Islam. While terrorist acts committed by Muslims reinforce this narrative, it is actually far from the truth. France is one of the most restrictive societies in the world when it comes to freedom of religious expression. Religious symbols, included the Hijab, are forbidden to be displayed in public. There are restrictions around practice of religion in public and expressions of one’s personal beliefs. Denying the holocaust is forbidden in many countries in Europe, and the EU is the first body in the world to adopt a right to be forgotten which restricts digital freedom of speech. The justification for all these restrictions is that such speech is harmful to people. Religious expression in public incites dissent and tension among people. It has no place in the public sphere. Yet, somehow, completely obscene cartoons intended only to insult particular religions have a protected place in the public discourse. Expression protections in Europe are incredibly hypocritical. They are informed by each country’s history, and often at the arbitrary preferences of the government. Either freedom of speech is absolute or not. A country cannot restrict people’s freedoms with one justification and allow others to express their opinions when the same justification applies.

I don’t necessarily know what types of speech should be protected and what shouldn’t. I don’t know that any country in the world has come up with a system that works for everyone, nor do I know if such a system could exist. But the point is that any policy has to be fair and consistent. Condemning religious expression as hateful while protecting obviously hateful media expression is not consistent. It is a hypocritical policy. The narrative sounds great, and it sells news. It light a fire in people because they cling to the mantra of freedom of speech. I invite you to distance yourself from the narrative you find in the media and examine the truth before making judgments.

The Fatwa Every Muslim Leader Should Be Issuing

fatwaimage

In the Quran and the Hadith, there is no definitive decree on who has the right to issue a fatwa, or religious ruling. Tradition has dictated those with formal education and training in Islamic law should be the only ones issuing fatwas. But, fatwas are not binding, and since there are multiple schools of Islamic jurisprudence, anyone can technically declare themselves a scholar and issue a fatwa. In fact, there are multiple Hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) that say a Muslim is free to disobey a fatwa if it doesn’t feel write in his/her heart. So what’s the point of all this? I think that, instead of writing fatwas that say volunteering for the Mars space mission is against Islam, or fatwas against instant messaging on social media, this is the fatwa that every Muslim should be issuing.

In the name of Allah, most beneficent and merciful.

Terrorism and the killing of innocent people, whether they be Muslims or not, is expressly forbidden in Islam. No Muslim should condone or support that actions of terrorist organizations, nor should any Muslim carry out terrorist actions which target innocent people or attempt to inspire fear in the public. Any Muslim who commits a terrorist act or supports terrorism is committing a sin under Islam and will be punished accordingly in the Hereafter.

The Holy Quran, in Surat Al-Maidah, Chapter 5, Verse 32, states, “For this reason, We made it a law for the children of Israel that the killing of a person for reasons other than legal retaliation or for stopping corruption in the land is as great a sin as murdering all of mankind. However, to save a life would be as great a virtue as to save all of mankind.” The Quran only allows for the killing of a person if it is in retaliation for aggression already committed or for spreading severe corruption in the land.

The Holy Quran, in Surat Al-Baqarah, Chapter 2, Verse 190, states, “Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not, aggressors.” Allah expressly forbids beginning hostilities against others. Aggression is not permitted in Islam.

The tradition of Islamic war further demonstrates that the tactics used by terrorists are not permitted. To be legitimate, in addition to meeting all the criteria for a just war, Islamic war must be declared by a leader of the umma, or Muslim community. No such universal leader exists in today’s world. The Prophet (PBUH) further expressly forbade the killing of women, children, and the old (Sahih Al-Bukhari, 3015). The Muslim, even if engaged in a just battle, will not kill non-combatants, as terrorists regularly do.

All of this also aside from the reality that terrorist organizations commit violence against their Muslim brothers and sisters, which is definitely forbidden in Islam.

Islam does not permit the killing of innocents, nor does it permit violent aggression in the name of the religion. Not even the Verse of the Sword, as it has come to be known, allows for the killing of innocents or for killing as an act of aggression, only as an act of defensive warfare.

So let it be decreed that terrorist actions, and support of those actions, are forbidden in Islam. Truly those who engage in such actions are committing a grave sin and an act of disbelief. Grave punishment, not reward, await them in the afterlife.

The Foundations of Faith – Why We Believe in God

I want to take some time to look at the existential condition of the person who believes in God. I want to talk about how we humans construct our moral belief system, and why this makes us particularly disposed to religion. What is at stake for the believer? What needs does a belief in God serve? I also have to say before I start that this says nothing about the truth of any particular religion. I myself believe that God exists, and I have my own understanding of how He and the world operate. I recognize, however, that these beliefs give me a great deal of emotional security and comfort. They serve a lot of needs for me and help me organize my world. I want to examine how this happens, and how it may happen similarly for other people.

The Human Belief Construct

People generally have intuitive responses to emotional dilemmas and institute logical frameworks as post hoc justifications for these responses. I argue that there is a particular anxiety or need for an organized and secure world which directs particular individuals’ emotional moral reasoning toward the acceptance of God or religion. Before discussing that, though, I should describe why it may be that people construct their beliefs in this particular way.

Freud’s notion of primary and secondary process thinking is useful in explaining this construction. It also provides a good framework for examining religious belief. To put it simply, secondary process thinking is characterized by logic and definition, while primary process thinking is characterized by emotion and vagueness. Secondary process thinking is what we are familiar with, what we can detect through self-examination. We know we engage in reasoning and deliberation, and we can follow these processes within ourselves. Primary process thinking, on the other hand, is largely conducted unconsciously. It does not abide by rules of logic, nor does it follow a clearly identifiable pattern. Stuart Younger explains:

“Primary-process thinking is carried out more through pictorial, concrete images; representation by allusion or analogy is frequent; and a part of an object may be used to stand for the whole. Similarities are not distinguished from identities, and mutually contradictory ideas can coexist peacefully. Primary-process thinking is a magical type of thinking. Not only may wish be equated with deed and fantasy with action, but the perpetrator of a crime or misdeed will be punished with the same injury he or she inflicted.”[1]

There is neurological evidence to support this model as well. Neurologically speaking, human reasoning is divided into levels. Moral issues are sorted through these levels depending upon whether they elicit an emotional or reasoned response from the brain. When faced with emotional problems, individuals respond instinctively. They do not respond based upon reasoning. Different centers of the brain are responsible for different types of reasoning, and therefore, result in different answers to the same normative questions. Joshua Greene argues that impersonal moral dilemmas elicit a response from the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for logic and cognitive reasoning, hence yielding to utilitarian ethics. The more personal or emotionally targeted dilemmas elicit a response from an emotional center of the brain, especially when these dilemmas present conflicts of deontological principles, or conflicts of duties. Using fMRIs to analyze this brain response, Greene and the members of his cognition lab currently maintain the validity of their hypothesis.[2]

Based upon their observations, Greene and his team argue that, “Moral dilemmas vary systematically in the extent to which they engage emotional processing and that these variations in emotional engagement influence moral judgment.”[3] Moral dilemmas, despite being based upon the same moral principles, engage the brain in different ways. Different questions result in varying amounts of emotional response from the brain. As a result, a human being’s moral judgment is affected.

I argue that religions have a unique ability to target primary process thinking in human beings. God focuses upon particular issues which are primarily relevant to people in an emotional rather than logical sense. Most examples of religious thought and discourse show examples of primary-process thinking, particularly those examples mentioned by Youngner. The important thing to note is that the primary process is the motivation behind the reasoning which is conducted under the auspices of the secondary process, and it is the motivation behind the actions which occur as a result. Robert Cooper explains:

“Consciousness thus appears as a moving force that advances on the unconscious, from which it gets its motive power. The secondary thinking of consciousness detects the vagueness and infinity of the unconscious primary process as ‘something missing’ and seeks to fill the gap by translating it into some kind of meaningful form, but since the gap always recedes, it denies consciousness its full presence in space and time while simultaneously creating consciousness and keeping it continually alive.”[4]

This moral construction makes people particularly susceptible to belief in God and religion. Religious ideology is ripe with material which targets primary-process thinking faculties. A belief in God serves to emotionally develop and construct a perspective on the world for the believer. Now, it is important to identify precisely what issues are being addressed by faith.

What’s at Stake with Faith?

In order to properly understand the believer, it is important to ask precisely what is at stake for a human being when he/she believes in God. Well, it may be that the condition of existing as beings in the world drives us to devise methods of organizing it so that we do not lose ourselves in it. We all have a primary desire for ontological security.[5] A belief in God helps to serve this organizational function. In this way, it does not have an epistemic foundation, but rather, it is an epistemic foundation which fastens itself to a person to order help organize their world.

Religious Symbols

It is important to identify the tools which religious beliefs use to target this organizational need. A belief in God, after all, is not a reasoned enterprise. Faith is not brought forward by a logical process or a concentration of will. Rather, it is elicited through the construction of a world. Frankl explains, equating laughter to faith, “If you want anyone to laugh you have to provide him with a reason, e.g. you have to tell him a joke.”[6] Similarly, if one is to belive in God, he/she must be provided with a reason, conscious or unconscious. Religious belief systems have an ability to target deeply relevant emotional issues for any human being through the use of pervasive cultural elements. This is to say that a belief in God serves to help organize the chaos of the primary-process in a number of ways, using common elements of a person’s existence as a functional being.

The first of these is the use of language and symbols. Religions use symbols to define the acting forces in the world, and they develop organizational systems for the universe based on their beliefs.[7] A brief examination of scriptural language shows its incredibly emotional nature. Religious language appeals to human emotions by framing often counterintuitive ideas in the forms of duties and obligations. The important thing to note is that this language serves an organizational function. It answer questions about what one should do and how one should act toward others. It helps one understand, emotionally at least, how to organize the different moral questions which arise throughout one’s life. The language helps to organize the world which is shaped by the belief.[8]

The example of ritual perhaps better illustrates precisely how belief in God targets the primary process. Nearly all religious systems contain a set of rituals or practices. The reasons for particular rituals, blood sacrifices being a good example, are often inexplicable or troubling. The answer given for why these rituals are conducted is often that it is what God, or whomever, would want. The belief which motivates such action is not reasoned. Rather, it is an emotional enterprise. Patton explains, “The Divine influences the human realm and expresses itself by generating human religious practices.”[9] It is evident that there is a primary-process function which is motivating secondary-process reasoning and consequent action in religious constructs. Yet again, however, the important thing to note is that these rituals serve an organizational function. They codify and reify the beliefs upon which they are based. Rituals make the beliefs tangible, and in so doing, legitimize them.

Up until this point, I have said that religious systems provide material for the primary-process faculties to feed on, but now I need to be more incisive and ask another question. What are the factors which allow religion to permeate so deeply into a person?

The Potential Motivations for a Belief in God

There is variety of reasons which may explain why people believe in God. Before beginning to talk about them, though, it is important to note that religious belief is not homogenous. One person’s motivations may be radically different from another’s. Although, I argue that they all share one common element; they all serve an emotional organizational function.

The first reason I will examine is the desire for parental affection. Weston LaBarre argues that a child’s emotional condition as a result of his/her experience with his/her parents is at the heart of the beginning of religion.[10] As evidence for this, La Barre utilizes the fact that we attribute maternal and paternal characteristics to God. He explains, “At times God has traits of the mother; but her psychic presence is more often discernible […] in the para-system magic. […] God most often is the psychic ghost of the father – eternal as his imago is in the unconscious mind.”[11] La Barre contends that people’s experiences with their parents and family inform their development of and adherence to particular systems. He argues, “At the base of every religion is the familial experience, and all religions consequently contain some basic oedipal story in their myths.”[12] It is no secret that religions are typified by parental themes. However, it is important to realize that these themes exist in the context of an organized relationship. Because God does not operate in a fashion similar to one’s parents, one can constantly receive desired love from Him and not have to reconcile contradictory actions, at least not actions which are immediately perceivable. A belief in God allows for the existence of a closed system in which one can constantly have the illusion of received affection. The relationship becomes simple, framed in, “if I do this I will be loved” terms. This desire seems to make sense because of the great weight of love. It may be, “the ultimate and highest goal to which [one] can aspire.”[13]

The next potential motivation for religion may be a desire for purpose and aversion of suffering. People often turn to God, in one fashion or another, in order to cling to the hope for a better future because they are currently suffering. This sort of answer for one’s suffering relies on the acceptance that one’s purpose may be beyond comprehension,[14] and that there is a higher power which has decided it. Frankl uses the examples of concentration camp victims to describe this dynamic, “In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen. […] They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.”[15] Again, though, this search for alleviation and purpose exists in the form of an organized relationship. When it comes to a belief in God, it becomes divorced from the chaotic and uncertain context in which it previously existed. Rather, it gives one the image of something toward which to aspire, and instructions on how to aspire toward it. Frankl explains that religiousness should “be understood as a latent relation to transcendence inherent in man. If one prefers, he might conceive of this relation in terms of a relationship between the immanent self and a transcendent thou.”[16] Through a relationship with God, one can formulate an ideal existence, separate from the suffering of the current, and strive toward it.

A final motivation I choose to examine is the fear of death. People may attach themselves to a belief in God in order to avert a fear or anxiety about their own mortality. Death anxiety, or more aptly a fear of any sort of annihilation, may be a fundamental part of our condition,[17] and this may lead us to turn toward religion and God. Religion often serves the function of averting the awareness of death, and all religions contain some examination of it. This is particularly evident when religious societies are under attack, as interpretations have usually changed to accommodate the need to defend against the attack.[18] This becomes more strikingly clear in the case of the religious terrorist who conducts a suicide bombing. The fear of death needs to be overcome in this situation, or replaced with something of greater worth.[19] This aversion of a fear of death too, however, operates in the context of an organized relationship with God. People’s obligations and duties are outlined distinctly. “If I do this, I will be rewarded when I die.”

Before continuing, I most note an important point; these motivations are not mutually exclusive. They are definitely linked with one another, depend upon one another, and feed upon one another. A person who feels love may be using that love to feel immortal, or a person who seeks to transcend suffering may be doing it through the formulation of an ideal afterlife which addresses the fear of death. These motivations, and several others, exist dynamically in the primary process of the human being.

The Existential Condition of the Believer

We now arrive at the whole question; what is the existential condition of the person who believes in God? I outline this condition in three components, the three components which I have elaborated upon throughout my discussion. The first of these is the primary-process response mechanism to moral problems. People respond to moral questions emotionally and institute post-hoc rationalizations to justify these responses. This is the process by which beliefs are constructed. The next component is the need for organization to this primary process. The primary process thinking faculties of a person exist in a chaotic riddled mess which seeks answers and organization. We use a variety of mechanisms like language and rituals to serve this need to organize and develop an ontologically secure world devoid of ambiguity and uncertainty. The third and final component is the belief itself which uses these mechanisms to serve the need. A belief in God, or religion, is the epistemic foundation which develops the world of the believer. Things are seen and interpreted through the lens of a belief in God. It is a strictly emotional enterprise, motivated by intuitive moral responses, but it addresses the most relevant fundamental emotional anxieties of a human being and seeks to avert them through organizing an otherwise chaotic universe. The self is safe and immortal in the ontologically secure world constructed through a belief in God.

I hope that this discussion has gotten you thinking more deeply about religious beliefs and what people put on the line when they construct their beliefs. People of all beliefs and faiths, even atheists, are subject to their emotional drives. When we don’t understand these drives, communication becomes difficult, and we tend to judge quickly and harshly. A better understanding is the first step to opening the door for harmonious coexistence.


[1] Youngner, Stuart. “Some Must Die.” Zygon 38, no. 3 (2003). Younger’s summary is drawn from Brenner, Charles. Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis. New York. International Universities Press. 1973. I chose Youngner’s summary analysis because it does a particularly good job of highlighting many factors in primary-process thinking which are characteristics of religious thought and discourse. The idea of an “eye for an eye” is explicitly mentioned, along with the use of representation through analogy and the coexistence of contradictory ideas.

[2] Greene, Joshua. “An fMRI Investigation of Emotional Engagement in Moral Judgment .” Science 293(2001): 2105-2108. Print.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Cooper, Robert. “Primary and Secondary Thinking in Social Theory.” Journal of Classic Sociology 3, no. 2 (2033): 153

[5] Laing, R.D. The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness. Pelican. 1965. P. 41-43

[6] Frankl,Viktor. Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press, 1992. p. 162

[7] Paden,William E.. Religious Worlds. 1 ed. Boston: Beacon Press, 1988. pp. 53-54

[8] Ibid. p. 56

[9] Patton,Kimberley C. Religion of the Gods Ritual, Paradox, and Reflexivity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. pp. 239

[10] La Barre,Weston. The Ghost Dance. Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press, 1970. p. 12

[11] Ibid.

[12]. Ibid.

[13]  Ibid. 7 p. 58

[14]   Ibid. p. 52 – 59

[15]  Ibid. p. 56

[16] Frankl, Viktor. The Unconscious God: Psychotherapy and Theology. New York. 1975. p. 61

[17] Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death. New York: The Free Press, 1975.

[18] McTernan, Oliver. Violence in God’s Name. New York. Orbis Publishing. 2003. Ch. 3

[19] Khosrokhavar, Farhad.  Suicide Bombers Allah’s New Martyrs. London: Pluto Press. 2005. chapter 1