Monday, August 16, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque

Let's imagine . . .

Well, many people are familiar with people who protest at funerals for American soldiers saying that each death is God's punishment for America's (rather limited) tolerance of homosexuals.

Let's assume that a group of people under the influence of those individuals takes things a step further. They manage to smuggle a large amount of explosives at some military event and end up killing 216 American soldiers and their families.

Now, 10 years have passed. Somebody wants to build a Christian church a couple of blocks from where this incident occurred.

However, a bunch of people - and politicians - are infuriated by this. They start protesting, any time they are near a microphone, about how insensitive those Christians are for wanting to build a church near such a traumatic event.

One politician says, "The First Amendment protects freedom of religion, but I think that the church should be built someplace else."

If any politician should stand up and say it is perfectly legitimate for Christians to build a church within 2 blocks of this event, they are accused of being insensitive and of "siding against the families of the victims" of this tragedy.

Immediately, we can see the bigotry that would have to lie at the root of these types of protests. The only people who could possibly have their sensitivities hurt in any way by a Christian church 2 blocks away from such a tragedy are bigots who think that everybody who shares the same general religion as the terrorist deserve blame for what happened.

When, instead, we speak to somebody who is a bit more civilized and less bigoted, that person is going to ask, "Why should the practitioners of this branch of Christianity be punished or held accountable in any way for something a fringe element of that branch of Christianity may have done." This person recognizes that moral condemnation belongs only to those who are actually guilty of a crime, and do not make derogatory overgeneralizations against a larger group that others apparently seek an excuse to hate.

We can see this bigotry in the fact that, if this fictitious story actually took place, a number of people would actually welcome a Christian church so close to the site of the attack. Not only would they refrain from making hateful comments about anybody wanting to build a Christian church near such a place, they would welcome it.

Well, that's because the church being built in this fictitious example is one in which the victims are prejudiced TOWARD rather than prejudiced AGAINST. That is the way bigotry works - creating double standards and imposing a standard on those that the bigot hates that are far higher than the standards that must be met by those that the bigot likes.

We can draw another analogy to these protests.

Imagine some Christians did want to build a Christian church so close to 9/11. Now, imagine a group of atheists getting on the air and complaining about how insensitive this is, that somebody would build a temple to God so close to the site of an atrocity committed by people who worshiped a God. Immediately, we would hear counter-protests against the bigotry of such a claim - against those who wish to brand all religious people with the moral crime of a small fringe subset of religious people.

We would hear this protest, and the protesters would be right. Any atheist who would make such a protest is, in fact, a bigot seeking to use an atrocity committed by a subset of people who believe in a God to promote hatred of all people who believe in God, without respecting the many ways in which their beliefs and attitudes differ.

In fact, we have seen these protests against the New Atheists who have tried to make this leap, and to condemn all religion for the moral atrocities of a few.

However, many of the people who so easily see bigotry when they are the victims have difficulty recognizing their own bigotry when it victimizes others. And this is a clear example.

The protests against the "Ground Zero Mosque" is the work of bigots, who want to over generalize the crimes of a few and use it to promote hatred of a much larger group - declaring all of them - every one of them (and their religion) unfit occupants of such a location.

18 comments:

trencherbone said...

Does any politician seriously think that allowing the Muslims to build this Victory Mosque will pacify them or prevent further attacks? In fact, it will only encourage them, in the same way that allowing the Nazis to occupy the Rhineland led to their occupation of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and then the whole of Europe.

The politicians should read the links under 'Appeasement' at EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ISLAM

Hume's Ghost said...

"the Muslims" sounds so so noxious. Kinda like saying "the Jews". Too bad the irony is lost on the fellow above

J. W. Gray said...

Trencherbone,

You offer no insight into the situation. I think that the Atheist Ethicist has a good argument. If he is wrong, you have to prove it.

The Koran has some intolerant things written in it, but so do a lot of holy books.

TGP said...

Mosque? I thought it was supposed to be a community center?

Check the zoning. Check the building plans. Check the lease. If they're good, get out of the way. There have to be about a billion things more important than whether another magical invisible friend house gets built and where.

Collect property taxes on it all and I'm happy.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

TGP: It is meant to be a community center with an area for prayer.

TGP said...

It seems like this is a mosque like a YMCA with a chapel is a church.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

TGP

It seems like this is a mosque like a YMCA with a chapel is a church.

Yep, that is true. It is a community center with a basketball court and cooking school, and two floors (out of 13) devoted to prayer.

Which is why I put "Ground Zero Mosque" in quotes.

The moral point, though, and the condemnation of its critics as hate-mongering bigots, are just as valid even it were a mosque.

I do not want people thinking, "Well, if it's just a community center, that's okay, but IF IT REALLY WERE A MOSQUE that would be different."

Nope. If it really were a mosque, its critics would still be hate-mongering bigots.

Doug S. said...

Playing devil's advocate for a moment:

Is it reasonable to associate the American Communist Party with the atrocities committed by Stalin and other leaders of the former Soviet Union and condemn them for being Communists, or is it bigotry?

See also: http://lesswrong.com/lw/fm/a_parable_on_obsolete_ideologies/

TGP said...

I didn't even get to the bigotry. I was still hung up on the distortion of the basic facts of the purpose of the building.

I hope "The Muslims" build "Victory Mosques" like that everywhere there was a bomb blast in Afghanistan. The country would be filled with slam-dunking master chefs!

Cornelius said...

The mosque opponents are not all saying that Muslims have no right to build in Lower Manhattan. They are saying that rights imply responsibilities to our fellow citizens. Nothing wrong with that.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

cornelius

"There are responsibilities associated with rights; therefore, the mosque ought not to be built" is a non sequitur.

Just like, "There are responsibilities associated with rights so the Catholic church across the street must be torn down."

Please explain the responsibilities that entail these conclusions?

The only ones anybody will be able to come up with are the bigot's responsibilities of overgeneralizing guilt - using the actions of members of a group to sell hatred for the whole group.

The way that one may use the crimes of one black person to condemn all blacks, or the stupidity of one blonde woman to classify all blondes as stupid.

The only justification for opposition to this mosque/community center is the bigot's justification. All non-bigots would find this opposition unjustified.

Doug S. said...

Disclaimer: I have no more problems with the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" than I do with any given Catholic church.

That said, consider this "hypothetical" bit of dialogue with an X-ist:

X-ist: Hi, I'm a follower of X-ism.
Me: I have a problem with X-ism. Some people claiming to be X-ists just painted graffiti on my apartment building. That was wrong.
X-ist: Indeed it was. X-ists shouldn't be doing that kind of thing.
Me: You're an X-ist, so that means that you'd agree that following the teachings of the Book of X is a good way to decide how to act, right?
X-ist: Of course!
Me: But the Book of X says a lot of things. And one of them is that X-ists should go paint graffiti on the apartment buildings of people who don't follow the teachings of the Book of X.
X-ist: No it doesn't!
Me: Yes it does, right on page 121. "Thou shalt go paint graffiti on the apartment buildings of people who don't follow the teachings of the Book of X."
X-ist: But the Book of X also says "Thou shalt respect other people's property rights!" So X-ism opposes graffiti.
Me: It doesn't seem that way to me, and it didn't seem that way to those people who painted graffiti on my apartment building. It seems to me that X-ism encourages graffiti.
X-ist: Well, they're just misinterpreting the Book of X! X-ism respects property rights!
Me: Well, it doesn't look like a misinterpretation to me. And if the Book of X so easily lends itself to such "misinterpretations", then don't people like you, who go around telling people to read the Book of X and do what it says, share some responsibility for self-proclaimed X-ists who go around painting graffiti because they think the Book of X tells them to?
X-ist: No, and if you think so, that makes you a bigot!
Me: Well, um, I think I'll be going now. Goodbye.
X-ist: Goodbye.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Doug S.

If you are going to give the property-rights X-ists moral blame for the actions of the graffiti X-ists, then does it not also follow that the graffiti X-ists should get credit for the property-rights X-ists?

Why does your moral sharing only go in one direction? Why do you hold the good morally responsible for the bad, but you do not give the bad moral credit for the good?

And, of these two forms of moral sharing, why is it that the one you choose to adopt is the one that is the most politically and socially convenient?

I hold that moral sharing is, itself, an invalid inference. The graffiti X-ists deserve no credit for the good deeds of the property-rights X-ists. But this implies that the property-rights X-ists deserve no blame for the graffiti X-ists.

And having this moral sharing go one direction but not the other does demonstrate prejudice.

Doug S. said...

That's...

actually a very good point.

I'll have to think about this some more.

Doug S. said...

Okay, I've thought about it some more.

If you are going to give the property-rights X-ists moral blame for the actions of the graffiti X-ists, then does it not also follow that the graffiti X-ists should get credit for the property-rights X-ists?

I'm still confused at this point, so don't take any of these as a definite statement of my opinions.

Reply A: Well, if the graffiti X-ists are contributing to a social environment in which people are inspired to do good deeds, then maybe they should get moral credit for doing so.

Doug S. said...

Reply B: There is an asymmetry between causing harm and providing help. Not causing harm is almost always mandatory. Providing help is usually supererogatory: praiseworthy, but not mandatory. Similarly, if you accidentally cause harm, you are responsible for that harm and are to be condemned for your negligence, but if you accidentally cause help, you are not responsible for that help. For example, if you're not paying attention to where you're going, and you crash into someone and knock them over, it doesn't matter if, by chance, you happened to push them out of the way of an oncoming car, you don't get moral credit for saving them. Similarly, the property rights X-ist is showing negligence by (accidentally) contributing to graffiti, but the graffiti X-ist is not doing anything praiseworthy by (accidentally) promoting respect for property rights.

Doug S. said...

Reply C:

Another "hypothetical" dialogue:

Me: Hi, I was hoping to see you again. I'd like to talk with you some more about X-ism.
X-ist: Sure.
Me: I received an anonymous letter in the mail yesterday. It said that it was from the person who pained the graffiti on my apartment building, and that, because X-ists respect property rights, he was going to compensate me for the damage to my property. Attached to the letter was contact information for a painter who cleans up graffiti and enough cash to pay for his services.
X-ist: Well, that was nice of him.
Me: It would have been nicer not to paint the graffiti in the first place.
X-ist: True. He shouldn't have painted any graffiti on your apartment building without your permission.
Me: Say, I have an idea. Why don't you revise the Book of X so that it doesn't have that passage about graffiti in it? Then we wouldn't have this problem of X-ist graffiti.
X-ist: But the Book of X is very specific about this. It says, in many places, that you should never, ever revise the Book of X. If we revised the Book of X, then we'd no longer be X-ists.
Me: Maybe, but wouldn't you be something better? I would understand if you said that there were practical reasons why it would be difficult, but if you could get rid of the parts that we agree are problematic and you choose not to, and you continue to promote the Book of X as a good guide to moral action even though you know there are parts of it that have lead people to do bad things, what does that say about you?
X-ist: It says that I'm dedicated to X-ism.
Me: Well, I need to go now. Good day.
X-ist: Good day.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

It seems to me that some Americans are interpreting it like some sort of medieval power struggle.

Americans fear that allowing this kind of strange situation to happen will give the Middle East the impression that we are a bunch of wimps.

Too many people have this underlying assumption that Muslims have teamed up as a monolithic whole and are trying to erect this Ground Zero center as some sort of mocking power grab. They erroneously think of Muslims as this homogeneous gang of capricious thugs, arrogantly toying with our freedom of religion laws in order to further establish their dogmatic convictions. Its what I thought deep down too, which is why I took issue with them at first. Thankfully I came to my senses.

Thunderf00t says that any Muslim nation, if attacked by Christian terrorists, would chortle and derisively hoot any attempts to build a community center over there like they are doing in America. While this may be true, it would be amiss of America, a secular country, to use this as an excuse to emulate Islamic moral principles.