Saturday, July 11, 2009

Article on Religions

Found this on Alternet. Click here for the whole article. It's an interview of Robert Wright on the evolution of relgion. This quote caught my eye.

Asking whether Islam -- or any other faith -- is a religion of peace or of war, is just a dumb question. I don't want to offend anybody, but all religions have their good moments and bad moments. In the scriptures of all of them you see belligerent passages and you see tolerant passages. I wanted to look at what circumstances gave rise to those two kinds of scriptures.

He calls the militant aspects of religion those who follow a zero-sum game, and those who are more tolerant accept a non-zero sum game. A rather obtuse way of saying that fundamentalists have a black/white or good vs evil mind set and moderates see things in shades of gray, or in economic terms mutual profit. What he kind of beat around the bush on is that the more fair trade between nations and regardless of culture and religion allies are made. When there is economic inequality enemies are made and religion is a handy tool to justify killing the other side.

Terrence McNally who is conducting the interview brought up an interesting point:

TM: I interviewed Reza Aslan recently regarding his book How to Win a Cosmic War. He's referring to a religious war that is ultimately unwinnable because it pits good versus evil. His final message: You cannot win a cosmic war, so don't engage in one. Instead, address the actual grievances that fuel conflict, and you can make progress.

We are still fighting two wars and our leaders (Bush and Obama) keep saying we're going to keep fighting until we win, when after 8 years it should be clear to just about any simpleton that there is nothing to win and only more to lose (lives and money) by our continued presence.
The one question they have never answered: Win what?

Clearly the best way to settle our differences in this part of the world is to have fair trade. The problem is that we've had free trade which is based on the win/lose principle instead of win/win.

Concerning the problems with Israel and Palestine:

TM: Let's look at Hamas and Hezbollah. Hezbollah has been allowed to actually govern in Lebanon, and it has moderated their politics. When Hamas won the Palestinian election, I thought that if they had to fix potholes and meet budgets, they were more likely to moderate. But the U.S., Israel and others wouldn't allow them to govern. That's an opportunity lost, do you agree?
RW: To show you how naive I am, when Hamas won the election, I assumed surely we can't say we were just kidding, you don't get to govern. But that's exactly what we did.
TM: Engagement is a non-zero-sum game.
RW: Economic engagement is. That's why blockading Gaza until the religious extremists moderate their views puts the cart before the horse. You moderate people's views by getting them in a non-zero-sum relationship. So much was backwards during the Bush years.
During the recent war on Hamas in Gaza, people asked why Hezbollah wasn't jumping in. Well for one thing, they were legitimate political actors in Lebanon, and they had an interest in behaving in a more responsible fashion.

The problem with engagement and settling differences by win/win negotiation means both sides want peace. The reason why peace is not possible between Israel and Palestine is that both sides want it all. This is the ultimate win/lose senario, and Israel is slowly and gradually with their settlements pushing the Palestinians out. In another twenty years they'll have affected a fait acompli and will control all of the west bank and the palestinians would be second class citizens; segregated like the Southern United States before civil rights (possibly Gaza could be a reservation similar to our Native American Reservations). Technology always wins out over the long haul.

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