#154- What Do Jihadist Really Want? (2019)

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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24 April 2019 19:15
 

In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris reads from an issue of Dabiq, the magazine of ISIS, and discusses the beliefs and goals of jihadists worldwide.

#154- What Do Jihadist Really Want? (2019)


This thread is for listeners’ comments.

 
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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25 April 2019 06:16
 

Yes, Sam, we get it: you’re convinced, more than ever, by the same old non-sequitur and category mistake about the primacy of propositional truth claims in religion and the doctrinal claims about the reality of martyrdom in Islam.  You are so convinced by these things you feel justified in repeating yourself without qualification, even though your views on this have been dealt with, repeatedly and adequately, by your peers.

For instance, contrary to your view of religion as principally a set of propositional truth claims about the nature of reality, the consensus on religion (by non-practioners) is that it exerts its “effects, good and bad, through its force as a social glue,” where the doctrinal truth claims specific to belief serve this sense of belonging to a social group, not vice versa.  Thus understood, the driver of religious belief is “the community associated with” it, “not the belief system” per se.  Practically self-evidently, this is why so many disparate and mutually exclusive belief systems perform the same social solidarity function in so many different societies.  Whether the specific doctrines of a religion are propositionally true is neither here nor there in light of the function they serve.  Hence the non-sequitur of your entire approach to religious belief.

Second, per this consensus, your view on suicide bombing and Islamic belief in particular is even less coherent than your view on religious belief as such.  Specifically, suicide bombing is not motivated by belief in a specific Islamic doctrine, martyrdom or otherwise, much less by some propositional truth claim about the reality of the afterlife.  Although suicide bombing gets justified this way by the ideologues that deploy it, the motive for actually carrying it out is more direct: parochial altruism.  In effect, suicide bombers are sacrificing themselves for the community in which they believe—the one in which they find their sense of belonging and identity—not for their desire to attain some reward promised by a religious dogma.  To quote the consensus: “it is the commitment to the social group that matters, as reflected by participation in group activities and religious rituals,” not “devotion to particular religious belief”—the very point Scott Atran tried to make to you years ago, and about which you lied by putting words into his mouth, saying for him: “Yes,” he said, “that’s what I’m saying. No one believes in Paradise.”  As he and people who know better have noted, given the power of social solidarity, the “relation between religion and suicide attacks is real,” but it depends on “social participation,” not “particular religious belief.”  Again, almost self-evidently, any given belief system, however true and respectable, can be hijacked by actors who manipulate social bonding to get young men to do heinous things.  That this is happening with Islam and not other religions is a function of the terms and locality of the conflicts, not anything inherent to Islam per se (the category mistake).  In other words, that it’s “Islam” providing the hijacked beliefs is neither here nor there.

So by all means, Sam, repeat your worn-out stupidities about the intrinsic problems of Islam vis-à-vis suicide bombing; about the unique problem Islam represents for the future of civilization.  Even your friends know better, though they seem reluctant to confront you about it publicly (the quotes here are from Paul Bloom, “Religion, Morality, and Evolution,” Annual Review of Psychology, 2012, 63: 179-99, wherein you are mentioned and dismissed as wrong on this issue).  Would you accuse them of moral panic, or does that qualify as intellectually honest disagreement in their dismissal of your views?

[ Edited: 25 April 2019 12:11 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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25 April 2019 07:55
 

Hum, what other “community” believes suicide bombing is a good thing besides religious? Where has the sacrifice for “community” of suicide bombing ever made the “community” better? So blowing yourself and other people up for “community” is in fact for religion and any rational person can see that all past sacrifices for their religion did nothing to help their “community”, yet they do it anyways. That implies that they are either easily manipulated, have mental issues, or have other motivations or the the above.

[ Edited: 25 April 2019 10:22 by GAD]
 
 
brazen4
 
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brazen4
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25 April 2019 10:11
 

In effect, suicide bombers are sacrificing themselves for the community in which they believe—the one in which they find their sense of belonging and identity—not for their desire to attain some reward promised by a religious dogma.  To quote the consensus: “it is the commitment to the social group that matters, as reflected by participation in group activities and religious rituals,” not “devotion to particular religious belief”                                          So some people say, and they may even be people of distinction and accomplishment, others are as entitled to see this particularly virulent collection of ideas (Islam) and comment on it as they wish in a community that sees value in freedom of speech. The true heroes, as I see it, are those who have left Islam and speak out regarding how it has negatively affected their own life and the lives of those they love. This is a death sentence in an Islamic community, not so in a secular community even though there is still danger. Personally, I have never had any problem with Sam deciding to point out the particular virulence of the Islamic collection of Ideas.

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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25 April 2019 11:58
 

GAD:

Suicide attacks or missions for the cause—whatever the cause—are probably as old as attacks, missions and causes.  The Spartans who stood the rear guard at Thermopylae knew it was a death sentence, and their motives were not religious.  Nor were the Kamikaze pilots in the Pacific theater motivated by religious belief—volunteers recruited with far less manipulation than what it takes to indoctrinate and radicalize a Muslim into radical jihadism (if this weren’t true, we’d been seeing far more suicide attacks than we are seeing; far more).  In any case, the history of suicide missions hardly hinges on religion as a particular instigator, though without a doubt religion lends itself to hijacking in this way, some religions probably more than others, given current stages of development. 

As for making the community better, the actual effects of the attack are less relevant than the belief that the attack will serve the cause, so your question ‘where has the sacrifice made the community better’ is a non-starter.  Every Kamikaze died a pointless death that didn’t benefit Japan because at that point Japan had no chance of winning the war, yet these pilots believed—because they were told—that their death would make a difference; that honor required no less.  In fact, their fanaticism may have even lead to more suffering for the Japanese in the end, since it hardened American resolve to kill as many of them as possible to get them to stop fighting, absent actual invasion.  Yet clearly the Kamikazes were deeply motivated suicide bombers.

Of course anyone who can be persuaded to strap on a bomb and blow himself and others up is obviously subject to manipulation, and probably has some deep seated mental and emotional issues.  I doubt the recruits are from the well-adjusted and happy, if that’s the point you are making.  Nor do I see any reason to think they are not monsters, simply because their behavior makes more sense as adherence to a complex ideology, instead of as a consequence of religious devotion to propositional truth claims about the afterlife.

brazen4:

I don’t know any sensible person who has denied that Islamic martyrdom, or radical jihadism, is a particularly poisonous set of ideas.  Nor do I know any sensible person who thinks that death for apostasy—a practice for a tiny minority of Muslims—is morally tolerable.  What they object to—rightly, I think—is Sam’s category mistake that either of these things is somehow essential to Islam, as opposed to one incarnation where certain doctrines are used to justify belief, at the expense of other contravening doctrines.  To use an analogy, the most intellectually neutral reading of the Bible prescribes the death penalty for homosexuals, but no one seriously says killing homosexuals is somehow necessary to Christianity.  To carry the point further, any religion as a belief system is far more complex than the category mistake Sam brings to Islam, where he declares that certain morally problematic or abominable doctrines are essential to it.  In fact, as I see it, if he were as rational and intellectually honest as he claims to be, I don’t see how he wouldn’t disavow his cherished animosity toward Islam, after his collaboration with Nawaz.  For my part I think he looks quite foolish next to him in Islam and the Future of Tolerance, so much so I was bemused he even published it without a mea culpa

[ Edited: 25 April 2019 12:14 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
brazen4
 
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brazen4
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25 April 2019 14:12
 

I don’t claim to know Sams motivations but I am guessing that his collaboration with Nawaz was in the vein of “I’ll talk with anyone from the Islamic world who shows some actual moderation tendencies”. I think that I am just not annoyed by Sams approach and that clearly many people are. I realize that he can sound like a megaphone if his message is a challenge to ones own view of things and that he drives his points home with a jackhammer but do we really expect less of him? or more of him? He’s just a guy speaking his mind and I, for one, often see his point of view. I continue to see Islam, as a collection of ideas, to be more virulent than many other major religions. I realize not everyone does. So be it.

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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25 April 2019 20:08
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 25 April 2019 06:16 AM

Yes, Sam, we get it: you’re convinced, more than ever, by the same old non-sequitur and category mistake about the primacy of propositional truth claims in religion and the doctrinal claims about the reality of martyrdom in Islam.  You are so convinced by these things you feel justified in repeating yourself without qualification, even though your views on this have been dealt with, repeatedly and adequately, by your peers.

For instance, contrary to your view of religion as principally a set of propositional truth claims about the nature of reality, the consensus on religion (by non-practioners) is that it exerts its “effects, good and bad, through its force as a social glue,” where the doctrinal truth claims specific to belief serve this sense of belonging to a social group, not vice versa.  Thus understood, the driver of religious belief is “the community associated with” it, “not the belief system” per se.  Practically self-evidently, this is why so many disparate and mutually exclusive belief systems perform the same social solidarity function in so many different societies.  Whether the specific doctrines of a religion are propositionally true is neither here nor there in light of the function they serve.  Hence the non-sequitur of your entire approach to religious belief.

Second, per this consensus, your view on suicide bombing and Islamic belief in particular is even less coherent than your view on religious belief as such.  Specifically, suicide bombing is not motivated by belief in a specific Islamic doctrine, martyrdom or otherwise, much less by some propositional truth claim about the reality of the afterlife.  Although suicide bombing gets justified this way by the ideologues that deploy it, the motive for actually carrying it out is more direct: parochial altruism.  In effect, suicide bombers are sacrificing themselves for the community in which they believe—the one in which they find their sense of belonging and identity—not for their desire to attain some reward promised by a religious dogma.  To quote the consensus: “it is the commitment to the social group that matters, as reflected by participation in group activities and religious rituals,” not “devotion to particular religious belief”—the very point Scott Atran tried to make to you years ago, and about which you lied by putting words into his mouth, saying for him: “Yes,” he said, “that’s what I’m saying. No one believes in Paradise.”  As he and people who know better have noted, given the power of social solidarity, the “relation between religion and suicide attacks is real,” but it depends on “social participation,” not “particular religious belief.”  Again, almost self-evidently, any given belief system, however true and respectable, can be hijacked by actors who manipulate social bonding to get young men to do heinous things.  That this is happening with Islam and not other religions is a function of the terms and locality of the conflicts, not anything inherent to Islam per se (the category mistake).  In other words, that it’s “Islam” providing the hijacked beliefs is neither here nor there.

So by all means, Sam, repeat your worn-out stupidities about the intrinsic problems of Islam vis-à-vis suicide bombing; about the unique problem Islam represents for the future of civilization.  Even your friends know better, though they seem reluctant to confront you about it publicly (the quotes here are from Paul Bloom, “Religion, Morality, and Evolution,” Annual Review of Psychology, 2012, 63: 179-99, wherein you are mentioned and dismissed as wrong on this issue).  Would you accuse them of moral panic, or does that qualify as intellectually honest disagreement in their dismissal of your views?

I disagree with Sam but I don’t think the enfolded propositions here are accurate either. You say that these concerns have been adequately dealt with. I’m not sure what rebuttal you are talking about specifically but the cultural liability hasn’t been dealt with. The specific harms of religion do not seem dealt with and I personally cannot escape the connection between religious oppression and abuse and specific professions of faith. If terrorism is too blunt an example just consider the current roll back of LGBTQ rights in the U.S. Can anyone really claim that this occurs for reasons other than people with particular religious beliefs attaining high office?

Further, I grew up in and remain in contact with religious believers. I get their views first hand. I also have access to poll data that suggests that my family is reasonably representative of American Christians. I am not making conclusions in some kind of secular vacuum. I am actually just taking people at their word. I would never argue that there isn’t diversity of opinion and conviction. I would absolutely dispute that a majority of believers consider their practice as mainly symbolic or a kind of cultural preservative. Whatever any persons private belief might be what is represented publicly is literal subscription to theological propositions. Again, I say that from immediate personal experience.

Pardon if I’ve missed your point.

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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29 April 2019 04:14
 

Brick Bungalow

I wouldn’t presume you’ve missed the point as much as say you’ve changed the subject.  For instance, I didn’t mean to imply “these concerns have been adequately dealt with,” if by “these concerns” you mean both “cultural liability” and more broadly the “specific harms of religion.”  I’m only addressing religious belief reduced to propositional truth claims about reality and suicide bombing as caused by belief in paradise—i.e. Harris’ view of religion and suicide bombing.  There are certainly broader issues to consider when considering religion, and those folks behind the scenes of the point I was making have devoted much space to considering them.  And to your point, my point specifically is that Harris’ starting point on religion is a non-starter as a basis for considering these issues.  At the risk of belaboring it, I’d say that once my point is granted, one can actually start on those broader issues in sensible way.

I am not sure what you mean by “cultural liability,” but I would point out that “people with particular religious beliefs” rolling back rights amounts to particular people who use religion to justify their beliefs; they do not necessarily represent religion as such any more than Abel Dean represents science as such simply because he peddles his stupidities in the name of science, citing views from scientists to support them.

I too would absolutely dispute that a majority of believers consider their practice as “symbolic” (excluding Catholics, whose mass contains a central ritual that is symbolic for most believers) or as “cultural preservatives.”  But on the same token, I would dispute that the nuances of religious belief—including the mistaken ways in which many believers articulate for themselves those nuances—can be captured in a poll (except perhaps for American evangelical literalists or fundamentalist Baptists, whose views neither have nuance nor represent a majority of believers, contra Harris’ identification of their beliefs with religion as such).  In any case, as far as I’m concerned it’s more or less irrelevant whether the theological propositions believers subscribe to are true or not by the measures of empirical evidence and logical reasoning—Harris’ sole consideration.  Without expanding on this point in detail, I’ll just say that the rights we all agree upon hardly rest on more firm antecedent, objective grounds than some of the more sophisticated theological propositions, and to my mind foundations like Harris’ for his moral beliefs hardly fare any better than some of the sillier of those propositions, amounting to nothing but theology themselves (with delusions of a higher rationality to boot).

But that last point is a whole other topic….

[ Edited: 29 April 2019 04:17 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
Twissel
 
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29 April 2019 09:46
 

The reason why radical Islam is more dangerous than radical Christianity is that ‘Holier than thou’ gets you into leadership in the Muslim world, but not in the Christan one.
Jihadism is basically a popularity contest to pick the Best Defender of the Faith against the Crusaders: Jihadis are first and foremost at war with each other over the honor to be the ones who get to wage war against the Great Satans.
The less the West gets involved, the more the bodycount is limited to other Muslims.

 
 
diding
 
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diding
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29 April 2019 21:07
 

I actually read the Dabiq article after Sam read it the first time.  I read the whole issue.  I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t believe them when they say that they want to be honored as martyrs, go to Heaven, and have all the things promised to them.  I’ve been to Christian rock concerts and sometimes the band stops and yells “Rapture Practice!!!” and all the attendees raise their arms and jump into the air.  They really are looking forward to the Rapture.  They are told about the Rapture in the Bible.  Jihadists are told about martyrdom and Heaven in the Quran.  They tell us in their videos that they want to die and go to Heaven. Why wouldn’t anyone take them at their word?

https://quillette.com/2019/04/28/how-intersectionalism-betrays-the-worlds-muslim-women/