“Innocence of Muslims” and the Faith Fallacy

September 21, 2012 10:37 am 9 comments

In all the discussion of freedom of speech because of the “Innocence of Muslims” video, and the resurgent disputes about Islam – which, if any, aspects of the religion are cause for concern, what in it deserving of regard – both the left’s and the right’s reflexive political positioning tend to overlook a deeper issue. People’s reactions to the politicized debate consistently reflect an unexamined piety that transcends any political divide, even that between the religious and the secular. That piety is the profession that people’s faiths, even if they are not shared, should at least be respected.

In what is considered to be civil discourse, it is usually only the atheist who will criticize doctrines of faith – transgress, that is, against the automatic acquiescence in respect for them. Yet permitting challenges to doctrines of faith to be identified with atheism lets the faith doctrines off the hook. Then, the challenge can be considered by others to function purely as a rejection of faith itself. The critique of a set of ideas is thus frequently overlooked by respondents, who come to the defense of religion in general.

Consider that what we mean by faith is both an activity of the spirit, a belief in something, and of the mind – the organized collection of ideas, symbols, metaphors, and narratives in which the person believes: the doctrine. It is reasonable enough to see the latter as the product of the former. There is a natural human drive toward meaning, with the desire for solace amid our existential mystery and dread. This drive creates out of the spiritual inclination to believe, in various forms and from various historical circumstances, the particular objects of belief: the various faith doctrines, both lesser and greater in the numbers of adherents to them. These doctrines, in turn, in answer to spiritual yearning, produce more of the former sense of faith: the activity of the spirit, as additional people are drawn to believe, to become adherents of an established faith. The doctrines of these faiths are generally total, all encompassing accounts of the world and our being in it, so that they are exclusive of other accounts, of other doctrines.

Historically, we well know, the presence of competing faiths has led to bitter, even greatly murderous conflict. It is currently so, in regions around the world. In response, in the increasing refinements of our civilization, liberal societies have sought to accommodate this multiplicity of mutually exclusive faith doctrines. Because the force of the human drive that produces them is so great, and the dread and the fearful mystery of that drive’s source so universal, a common bond, ironically, is created across these otherwise exclusive doctrinal divides. In our secular historical development toward social accommodation we have created, as an adjunct idea to various social accommodations, an ecumenical accommodation, as well – a kind of holy of holies that seeks to bring peace among all doctrines and between the religious and secular worlds. This meta-level faith-teaching affirms that all faiths are expressions of our deep need for connection with God and God’s love. Accordingly, all faiths are to be respected.

That is the piety. It is rejected by some numbers of religious fundamentalists and extremists, but we marginalize these rejectionists by those very labels we apply to them. It is also rejected by those atheists who, rather than simply lacking or rejecting faith for themselves, intellectually campaign on behalf of their atheism.

A Marxist will reject this principle of accommodation because Marxism is an atheism. However, most people on the political left, because of contemporary notions of tolerance for difference and esteem for diversity, will accept the principle. Most people on the right will accept it, too, particularly in the United States, because the principle is part of the mythos of the nation’s founding in religious toleration and freedom of worship. It is sometimes, too, part of a hard-earned accommodation by religious minorities that struggled to gain respect for their own faiths. However, it should be readily apparent, though it is an appearance mostly overlooked, that for the faithful of left, right, or middle, there is a buried source of potentially continued conflict beneath all of this accommodation – and this is the unaltered totality and exclusivity that persists in each religion’s individual doctrine. These unaltered claims to singularity and supremacy together are the unecumenical bomb in the theological armory whose fuse goes unlit – the Love (Kumbayah) that is actually not love (infidels!) that dare not speak its name.

For the more secular on the left – those whose spiritual inclinations are more casually directed in life – this unacknowledged conflict emerges in the contradiction between their general and profound commitment to reason and the unreason in the faiths to which these secularists offer so much privilege. In the ongoing and emotional conflicts over Islam, for instance, throughout the West and in the U.S., many on the left are quick – because they think the attacks from the right to be politically motivated, emotional, and exclusionary – to claim rejections of Islam to be acts of intolerance and bigotry. If one does not simply accept and assert that Islam is a religion of peace and love – because, according to the piety, all religions are doctrines of peace and love (hellfire and eternal damnation and historical subjugation of the Godless inferior or infidel notwithstanding) – then one commits a form of secular sin.

Jesus Christ’s declaration is “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” But still, though Christianity be not your way, and your eternal soul be damned, and against much historical evidence, you must say it is a religion of peace and love, and you should respect it.

The rules for inclusion in the protected circle of this piety are not codified. Origins obscured by ancient history are beneficial. When reason did not rule, it seems more likely to many, the Creator would more likely have made His appearances in all sorts of now unbelievable ways. For some, the eighth century origins of Islam are a little less beatified by the ancient holy halo. Take it to the Mormon nineteenth century and golden tablets in upstate New York, and though considerable progress toward fallacious respect has been achieved, one can still cry “cult” and not be branded a bigot. If the faith is small enough, conventional of practice, and seeks no political role, respect in toleration is easily proffered.

There is every reason to offer this respect in mere toleration. This liberal ideal is purposeful and valuable. Until we all find our way to that truth that is the one way for all, or that permits, quite lucidly and coherently, all ways for one and all, it is the only way we can live in peace. But faiths will not always go to work, come home, and behind closed doors sup and keep to themselves. They will impinge on their neighbors. When they do, we need to consider religious doctrines as we would any other set of ideas, any other conduct, any other argument or claim about the nature of the world. There is no good reason – no reason at all – to treat religious faiths any differently, and nothing other than circular reasoning to argue that a nonbeliever should acknowledge any religious doctrine, far from sacred, as anything more than just another set of ideas.  No faith, as a system of belief and a practice of living, is automatically deserving of respect just because others commit their lives and pray to it. Ideas, whatever label we affix to them, including that of faith, must earn our respect intellectually, as well as spiritually, and not be uncritically awarded it.

9 Comments

  • You are over thinking the issue. It’s really very simple. There are people (not just Muslims) who seek to control knowllege. We can’t determine the course for the rest of the world. But here, on the USA, we are protected be the Constitution. It gaurantees our most fundamental rights. Rights! Not privleges. Either we have free speech, or we don’t. You don’t pick and choose your RIGHTS! They all matter or none do. It’s really that simple.

    • Well, Ethan, I’m glad we agree on the importance of the principle, but a far greater problem than “over thinking” issues is the more common malady of under thinking them – a more likely danger, too, when someone declares a profound idea still not firmly established in the world after several thousand years of civilization to be really very simple. The Constitution is the product of systematic thought. The distinction between “rights” and “privileges” is arrived at though effort in thought. The claim that “you don’t get to pick and choose your rights” is supportable only as the product of complex thought.

      It isn’t very simple at all. But when one has thought it through enough, it can be very clear.

    • Well, Ethan, I’m glad we agree on the importance of the principle, but a far greater problem than “over thinking” issues is the more common malady of under thinking them – a more likely danger, too, when someone declares a profound idea still not firmly established in the world after several thousand years of civilization to be really very simple. The Constitution is the product of systematic thought. The distinction between “rights” and “privileges” is arrived at through effort in thought. The claim that “you don’t get to pick and choose your rights” is supportable only as the product of complex thought.

      It isn’t very simple at all. But when one has thought it through enough, it can be very clear.

  • How can you substantiate this claim. It sounds ridiculous. The Jews of Medinah, then Yasrab were protected and lived in peace under Muslim rule till the modern era. During the Spanish inquisition thousands of Jews sought refuge in the Ottoman Empire in Morocco, Tunisia Turkey Bulgaria Hungary and they lived in total harmony for centuries in fact lots of the Jews of East European countries were settled there by the Turks, till Israel was created and then they moved there, some still live in these places even today. I have never read of any Jewish slaughter during the time of the Prophet,

    • That is not correct at all.Muslim doctrine had instigate hate and murder of the infidel during the expansion under the prophet? Mohamed.Europe had to faith back to preserve their life. In the Koran is clearly state that people who are not believe in Muslim doctrine are the enemy and can be lie to them and eliminate. Many christian had been killed because of they faith in Jesus and Jews too. Nothing had change as in many Muslim country Christians are persecute and kill on this day!

    • There were massacres of Jews in the Moslem world before Israel was founded.

  • Mohammad had 900 unarmed Jews decapitated at Quaraza. An act identical in quality although not quantity to those of Rudolf Hoss, the Commandant of Auschwitz…The civilized world did not respect Hoss’s beliefs…it executed him because of his actions…War criminals do not get respect..

    • September 24, 2012
      3:43 am
      How can you substantiate this claim. It sounds ridiculous. The Jews of Medinah, then Yasrab were protected and lived in peace under Muslim rule till the modern era. During the Spanish inquisition thousands of Jews sought refuge in the Ottoman Empire in Morocco, Tunisia Turkey Bulgaria Hungary and they lived in total harmony for centuries in fact lots of the Jews of East European countries were settled there by the Turks, till Israel was created and then they moved there, some still live in these places even today. I have never read of any Jewish slaughter during the time of the Prophet,

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Theater US & Canada New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    In his new play Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, playwright Oren Safdie tackles an issue that he has a major concern with: the relationship between Israelis and left-leaning Diaspora Jews with their “I know better” critical views. At the heart of the one-act play is Tony, a Jewish and gay Palestinian sympathizer who expresses strong anti-Israel sentiments when the play begins and at one point even sides with a Palestinian terrorist who holds his captive. Tony, who is also an [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    A Jewish comedy troupe released a parody video on Wednesday of Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off in which they joke about taking extensive time off from work for Jewish holidays. “And the goyim gonna stay, stay, stay, stay, stay. And the Jews are gonna pray, pray pray, pray, pray. I’m just gonna take, take, take, take, take. I’m taking off,” goes the chorus for I’m Taking Off. Menachem Weinstein, the video’s lead singer, is the creative director at [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    JNS.org – The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on Dec. 15 presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed producer, David O. Selznick. Adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” remains the highest-grossing movie ever made. It earned the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture, the same honor another Selznick film, “Rebecca,” garnered in 1940. Selznick [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Music US & Canada EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    Matisyahu got candid in an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner on Monday about his religious and musical journey – after shedding his Chassidic skin, yarmulke, long beard and all – from the start of his career in 2005 when he became a reggae superstar with hits King Without a Crown and Jerusalem. The singer-songwriter embarks on his Festival of Light tour this month, an annual Hanukkah event that stops in Montreal, New York, and other cities before ending in San Juan, [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Personalities ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    JNS.org – It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga.—the son of immigrants who settled in the south and ran a hardware store on Main Street—the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi replaced Israeli star Gal Gadot as the female lead in the new Ben-Hur remake, Hollywood.com reported on Tuesday. The Homeland actress will play Esther, a slave that Ben-Hur sets free and falls in love with. Gadot quit the movie when it became clear that filming conflicted with her schedule for the Man of Steel sequel. The Israeli actress plays Wonder Woman in the superhero film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Actor Jack Huston takes on the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.