Friday, November 14, 2008

Bush: Faith Leads to 'Common Values'. Say what???

As if we needed more evidence that George Bush is out of touch with reality to an extent that borders on the delusional, the Washington Post reports that at a recent United Nations interfaith conference he said:


"We may profess different creeds and worship in different places, but our faith leads us to common values."


Right. Common values like freedom of speech. (Oh, wait, Islam does not believe in freedom of speech.) Like equal rights for women. (Oh, wait, Islam does not believe in equal rights for women.) Like freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. (Oh, wait...)

OK, well, the common values that religion leads us to are what has led the Sunnis and the Shia to get along so well. (Oh...)

All right, surely faith can lead us to agree that people should not be discriminated against because of the color of their skin (Oh, wait...) or their sexual orientation...

The sad fact of the matter is that there is not a single common value that "people of faith" all share. Not one. This is because faith undermines our evolved moral intuitions which lead us to know instinctively that, for example, it's a bad idea to kill a fellow member of your own species unless you have a damn good reason. This is why in the history of the world there has never been a violent conflict between two secular groups over ideology. Not once. But the pages of history are red with the blood of people who died for religious ideology.

"Faith leads us to common values" is not just wrong, it is perversely wrong.

Bush does offer up a clue as to how someone who is not overtly psychotic can come to believe such nonsense:


Bush said religious belief "changed my life" and "sustained me through the challenges and joys of my presidency." He also suggested faith can transform relations between nations and cultures.


No doubt the pressures of the Presidency of the United States (and the overwhelming magnitude of Bush's failure upon abject failure) are easier to deal with if one indulges in self-delusion. And long-time readers of my blog will know that I have a certain amount of sympathy for that position. But there is a huge difference between saying, "My faith helped me" (which can be true) and saying "Faith leads people to common values," which is manifestly, brazenly, and staggeringly false.

5 comments:

coby said...

While I agree with your point, your examples aren't very good. Christianity is not that different from Islam in terms of women's equality or free speech. Extremism is more widespread, but the underlying principals are the same. Same for fundametalist Juewish religions.

Don Geddis said...

Overall, I think you're right, Ron. However, you said: "in the history of the world there has never been a violent conflict between two secular groups over ideology. Not once."

Perhaps it depends on some word definitions. But wasn't the US vs. USSR cold war, basically over secular ideology? Or even, for that matter, the Allies vs. the Nazis in WW2.

I suppose you might say that they just had a conflict between resources or power or something, and the difference in ideology was coincidental. But surely all the "pinko commie" stuff in the US (e.g. McCarthyism) counts...

Ron said...

The cold war wasn't violent. And WW2 was a conflict of territory and resources, not ideology.

Dan said...

I would argue that the millions of people killed in Chairman Mao's China constitute examples of a violent conflict between secular groups over ideology. I think the flaw in the statement you made rests in how extreme it is. The use of the word never (including italics) is inviting criticism.

I have an interpretation of this quote which I think makes more sense. (I don't really like finding a counter argument to an anti-Bush argument, but I think this is more about the meaning behind it than the person saying it.)

The Christian and Jewish faiths expressly forbid killing. I cannot accept an interpretation of these beliefs which says that it is okay to kill a person under certain circumstances. It may be possible to find a loophole but I think that is ignoring the spirit of the commandments. Yet many Christians and Jewish people are soldiers. In this case they seem to me to be examples of horses which have been led to water but can't be made to drink. Their faith has led them to these values, but they actively choose to not practice them. I think in this respect there are common themes in religions around the world that end up collectively supporting positions like, "be nice to the people around you," but just because every member of these faiths does not live up to that ideal doesn't mean that the faiths do not and cannot lead them to it. In this case I take the quote to mean that they have some common values and so by finding uncommon values among them you do not contradict the quote.

I recently started reading your blog and have been enjoying it immensely. I agree with a lot of what you've said here, but I think that this entry falls short of convincing me that the quote is "manifestly, brazenly and staggeringly false."

Ron said...

> I would argue that the millions of people killed in Chairman Mao's China constitute examples of a violent conflict between secular groups over ideology.

Well, that depends on which people you're talking about. Most of the people killed under Mao's regime died in the Great Leap Forward, which wasn't as much a violent conflict as stupid economic policy. But the Chinese revolution is arguably a conflict over secular ideology, so I concede the point, and revise my claim to say that violent conflicts over religious ideology are much more common than over secular ideology. You have Mao, I have the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Troubles in Ireland, the conflict between India and Pakistan, Jews and Arabs, Sunnis and Shiites. I could go on and on and on.

> The Christian and Jewish faiths expressly forbid killing. I cannot accept an interpretation of these beliefs which says that it is okay to kill a person under certain circumstances.

Then you don't accept the Bible. According to the Bible, God expressly *requires* killing under certain circumstances, and often participates personally in the carnage. Read e.g. Exodus 12, 21 and 31, Leviticus 20 and 24, and the entire book of Joshua.

> I recently started reading your blog and have been enjoying it immensely.

Thanks. I hope you stay.