April 22, 2004

BLOWBACK:

Saudi Cleric Denounces Suicide Bombing (ADNAN MALIK, 4/22/04, Associated Press)

Saudi Arabia's top cleric on Thursday condemned a suicide bombing that gutted a national police building in the capital as "one of the greatest sins."

Five people, including two senior police officers and an 11-year-old girl, were killed in addition to the bomber, and 148 were injured in the attack Wednesday on the seven-story General Security building, the Interior Ministry said.

The toll increased Friday after a police captain died in the hospital from his wounds. Officials from three hospitals said four other poeple may have died, citing the number of body parts recovered from the scene.

After special prayers for the dead in a Riyadh mosque, hundreds of mourners chanted slogans denouncing terrorism while marching behind the bodies of four victims, wrapped in brown and white sheets, as they were carried to their burials. [...]

Grand Mufti Abdul-Aziz al-Sheik, the kingdom's highest religious authority, denounced the bombing in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

"God revealed the criminality of this wayward group, which harms Islam and the nation," al-Sheik said. "Instead, it aims at destabilizing security, terrorizing the people and killing Muslims."

"Whoever kills an (Islamic) believer on purpose will be punished by being burned in hell, punished by God's anger and will be cursed and suffer great pain," he said.

While visiting the wounded in a hospital, Interior Minister Prince Nayef said the "terrorists are not targeting foreigners; they are targeting the nation," adding that Saudis should not cooperate or sympathize with militants "because those who do will be considered criminals."


As the Saudis helped to create the ideology of the militants so too must they help lead the effort to stamp it out. Happily, al Qaeda is giving them ample cause to do so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 22, 2004 2:27 PM
Comments

Not to be too negative, but I wonder if the Grand Mufti is upset only because the terrorists killed "Muslim believers", rather than infidels or, even worse, Muslims "non-believers" who commit the "sin" of living in other countries without killing infidels.

In which case, the Saudi's efforts will be strictly limited to keeping terrorism away from Islamic countries, which previous to now entailed bribe money paid to those terrorists so they could attack Western countries.

Posted by: Just John at April 22, 2004 2:38 PM

Don't have to wonder, J.J. He made it clear as clear.

It's the same distinction I make between antislavery and moral antislavery.

Everybody is against being a slave himself; it rises to a moral position only if you object to everybody else's being enslaved.

Same with terrorism.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 22, 2004 2:43 PM

Harry:

To the contrary--slavery was an honorable institution and vastly preferable to the alternative until it turned into chattel slavery of Africans. It was moral when we were all at risk, immoral when based on race.

Posted by: oj at April 22, 2004 2:47 PM

So when Islamofascist terrorists nuke the first American city, should we enslave or exterminate the Syrians/Saudis/Iranians/etc.?

Posted by: brian at April 22, 2004 2:57 PM

brian:

Close. Rather, were we as enlightened as our ancestors we'd simply enslave the guys at Guantanamo untilm they'd adapted to our culture. The kids we released a few months ago actually expressed a preference for such an outcome.

Posted by: oj at April 22, 2004 3:02 PM

Am I supposed to feel hope when my sworn enemy promises to stop trying to kill his brother?

Posted by: Peter B at April 22, 2004 3:30 PM

Peter:

Of course. We start by not killing ourselves and end by not killing each other.

Posted by: oj at April 22, 2004 4:04 PM

Orrin:

Ah, now I see. The long term perspective.

Posted by: Peter B at April 22, 2004 5:10 PM

Only the Harry's and Jeff's of the world measure things by their own short span of years.

Posted by: oj at April 22, 2004 6:04 PM

Well, the Jeff of this world can see the false dichotomy between slavery and death.

Slavery was never moral.

Harry was spot on. It takes religious absolutism to put real meaning into the term "moral relativism."

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 22, 2004 6:29 PM

How is it a false dichotomy? Defeated people were killed or enslaved while they became part of the conguering society. Which would you prefer?

Posted by: oj at April 22, 2004 6:35 PM

OJ

Didn't Patrick Henry have an answer for that?

(I was going to ask "what would Jesus do", but forget it)

Posted by: h-man at April 22, 2004 6:54 PM

Bottom line, atheists oppose slavery, Christians don't.

I know which group I want to be in when they blow them golden trumpets.

Orrin, if you'd read "Courtesans and Fishcakes," you'd quickly get over the idea that chattel slavery was a late development.

And if you read either the history of the redemptionist orders in Spain in the 16th century or the history of the Mameluks, you'd get over the idea that slavery before the asiento was not based on race.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 22, 2004 7:09 PM

Orrin:

Funny, I chided you for taking the "long term view." Like Darwin. Look how the darwinists explode!

However, I'm not sure I want to look too far beyond my kids' youth. Which I define as next year.

Posted by: Peter B at April 22, 2004 7:33 PM

Luckily I have enough acquaintances who I either know or suspect are atheists to know that not all are anything like Harry, or else I'd think that something about denial of God made one an absolutely insufferable ass. Based on such comments as above, it is obvious that Harry understands nothing about Christians or Christianity at all (and oj is no more representative of Christians than Harry is of atheists...).

Posted by: brian at April 22, 2004 7:36 PM

Harry:

No they didn't. There were none. At least in ancient times. Actually, if you count pagans as atheists they were pro-slavery too.

Of course, in modern times every atheist regime from Nazi Germany to Communist Russia to Communist China has operated massive slave labor camps. And why not if you don't believe in human dignity there can hardly be anything wrong with slavery.

Posted by: oj at April 22, 2004 8:52 PM

h:

Neither Patrick Henry nor Christ minded slavery.

Posted by: oj at April 22, 2004 8:57 PM

The false dichotomy is in presuming that those were the only two options available, as opposed to the only two taken.

Just because one alternative to slavery is slaughter doesn't mean that was the only alternative. Nor does the option of death render slavery moral simply because most would prefer slavery to death.

Brian:

The sure sign of a bankrupt argument is an ad hominem attack.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 22, 2004 10:39 PM

Jeff:

>Bottom line, atheists oppose slavery, Christians don't.

Does this really need footnoted refuting? It's absurd, and it's a pity that every so often Harry feels the need to resort to such nonsensical statements. Your point that oj has offered a false choice is completely correct. Harry's statement is nonsense, and as is so common on the internet, was likely made purely to provoke. I should have let it slide, since readers here are quite familiar with the style.

Posted by: brian at April 22, 2004 10:49 PM

Jeff:

What other options were there two thousand years ago?

Posted by: oj at April 22, 2004 11:04 PM

Brotherhood?

Maybe I should have said atheists on this blog and Christians on this blog, though whether anybody but Orrin accepts that Orrin is a Christian is a poser.

I understand Christianity very well, having been one for a large part of my life. I just don't like much about it.

Nonetheless, there is such a concept as moral antislavery, and if you are going to claim someone (Jesus, say) as a superior moral teacher and he didn't make the connection, it does raise some doubts about his fitness, doesn't it?

Orrin, I know, has read Thomas on the slave trade, and there he would have found, if he'd been paying attention, that the origin of the European slave trade in black Africans was based on the Portuguese belief (which was incorrect) that the black Africans they encountered as they explored West Africa were Muslims and therefore slaveworthy.

The Portuguese were about the least racist people in the world at the time, as proved by the history of the Congo in the 16th century, which reads as if it happened in Portugal itself. All the kings had Portuguese names and were Catholic and the Portuguese, so far from enslaving them, were their allies.

However, Portuguese names and Christian religion or not, they were all black.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 23, 2004 2:29 AM

>> though whether anybody but Orrin accepts that Orrin is a Christian is a poser.

Not that this matters to you, but it's really irrelevant, in the long run, whether anyone here accepts that Orrin is a Christian or not. What's really relevant is whether _Christ_ accepts that Orrin is a Christian.

Oops, that's right. You don't believe Christ is divine. My bad.

Posted by: Joe at April 23, 2004 5:32 AM

Harry:

No offence, old swot, but don't you think your protestations that you understand Christianity perfectly and even better than the Christians combined with your insistence nobody here understands Darwinism is a tad on the arrogant side? Sort of like a Louis XIV of the intellectual world? L'Idee, c'est Moi!

Posted by: Peter B at April 23, 2004 8:07 AM

Harry:

If they aren't human then it isn't slavery. Cows are not enslaved.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 8:54 AM

True, I suppose, as far as it goes. But Jesus didn't say, love me, love my dog.

He said to love one another, and the Epistles, at least, make it clear than slaves were part of "another." Therefore, to be loved. Therefore, not to be enslaved.

Jesus was confused.

Joe, in the long run, you're right. In the short run, there's lots of heresy hunters out there primed to kill, so it does make a difference.

Peter, I have studied both, so I understand both to the limits of my capacity. Orrin may have a greater capacity to understand Darwinism, but he's skipped the intermediate step of study.

I do try to make a distinction between doctrines (which Orrin says are not important, a point I agree with, except that they are helpful in diagnosis) and behavior. Behavior is objective and open to criticism by anybody.

If I see a slaveholder, I can object to that without also asking whether he is a Christian. If it turns out he IS a Christian, then I can make a diagnosis of the religion, too.

As for modern slavemasters, in addition to your favorite targets, there were the Japanese, and they were very far from being atheists.

Some religions require slavery, almost all acquiesce in it. From the slave's point of view, it doesn't matter, does it?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 23, 2004 2:21 PM

Harry:

They were enslaved rather than killed. We should have loved the Hiroshimites so well.

It, of course, matters utterly whether you are killed or enslaved.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 2:29 PM

"It, of course, matters utterly whether you are killed or enslaved."

Slavery is worse. Anyone who claims to value human dignity would agree. You are justified in defending your own freedom by killing or imprisoning those that would take it from you, but you are not justified in turning them, and their descendants, into property.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 23, 2004 4:26 PM

Robert:

Slaves disagreed. They didn't commit suicide,. they chose life. Give me liberty or give me death is said by people who will do the opposite when the choice is presented.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 4:47 PM

A good many slaves did choose death.

Besides, as I posted earlier today, you are wrong on the facts, Orrin. The only choices were not slavery or murder, and slaves were not always captives.

What was missing from classical and Christian systems of slavery was any sense of morality.

Or, as it was put in the U.S. slavery debate in 1857: "Slavery is of God." Most American Christians believed that, and they were talking about chattel slavery.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 23, 2004 5:00 PM

They became citizerns, family members, leaders.

Blacks under chattel slavery weren't human.


But even American slavery was a beneficial institution. The most civilized, Christian, affluent, etc. black population on Earth is in America. Slavery worked.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 7:12 PM

No, abolition worked. Slavery failed, it's objective was never to create a society of free affluent blacks in America. It not only destroyed the lives of countless blacks, it also stunted the economy of the South and impoverished the larger share of whites in the region. It was an unmitigated disaster for all concerned. It is idiotic to attribute the gains that were made in the aftermath of the turn away from slavery to slavery itself.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 23, 2004 8:41 PM

Yet there were free blacks. In fact there were free black slave owners. The slaves themselves had lives superior to those of the kin they left behind in Africa. And the institution was never going to endure. It was a mistake but it worked out well.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 8:50 PM

Well, with the founding of Israel as a result of the Holocaust you could say the same thing of it.

If you admit that it was a mistake, why do you defend it?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 23, 2004 9:20 PM

Because it's a mistake in retrospect, not at the time. In a hundred years our descendants will consider either the pro-life or the pro-choice advocates to have been evil. This will nbe a semi-universal judgment by then. But today there are responsible and reasonable arguments to be made for both positions. Or, they may even consider us barbaric for not affording rights to animals. They may think no better of us than you think of slave-owners. Indeed, by then it could be determined that animals too have souls and are incipient intelligent beings. We will then have been wrong about how we viewed animals, but it would be wrong for them to think us immoral on that basis.

Or, consider it another way: you and an American of 1850 meet in Hell. You say he deserves to be there because his society enslaved 10 million Africans. He says you deserve to be there because yours killed 40 million babies. Who has the better case?

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 9:36 PM

I didn't realize individuals ended up in Hell because of what others in their society did.

Slavery didn't work out at all well for those who died on the middle voyage.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 23, 2004 11:36 PM

Nice, Orrin:

It may well be in a hundred years our descendants believe animals have souls. I could live with that. The scarier thought is that they will believe newborns don't.

Harry/Jeff/Robert:

When are you going to stop looking at the full swath of Western history as if everyone was a proto- modern American desperately trying to find the road only the Founders were clever enough to find? There are many aspects of our modern lives that would absolutely appall the ancients. Can you honestly claim to conceive of an historical route through ancient and medieval times that featured the rule of law, civil rights, free enterprise, democracy, affirmative action, etc.? Why didn't homo erectus think of such obviously moral things (Hey, what ever happened to natural morality)? Do you think it was all because those evil, lying religious patriarchs pulled a fast one? Talk about Marxism! Doesn't the fact that slavery was universal in ancient times give you pause, or do we just declare that everyone who ever lived minus a few lonely heroes was immoral?

Posted by: Peter B at April 24, 2004 6:57 AM

Peter, you and OJ sound like perfect multiculturalists. I guess I take the meaning of the term "objective morality" seriously.

I hold the current generation just as responsible for discerning and living by a true morality as any other generation. Those who accept abortion are not ignorant of the facts that make it immoral, they are making a conscious moral decision. The very fact that it is such a contentious moral and political issue should prove that.

Likewise with our ancestors who practiced slavery, they were not ignorant of the cruelty and suffering that slavery caused, they made a conscious decision to accept it. The very fact that slavery was such a contentious political and moral issue for which men would fight a war destroys the notion that people were merely ignorant of the moral implications.

And Peter, since when does the widespread societal acceptance of a practice speak to it's moral acceptability? Methinks OJ and yourself have elevated societal conformity to the level of an idolatry. It is the prime virtue in your book, for which you are willing to excuse much. You seem to have faith that God will grade by the curve, that you are safe as long as you live your life within one standard deviation from the mean of your society. I would read your Bible again, the prophets did not think so highly of conformity when it deviated from the Truth.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 24, 2004 11:36 AM

Robert:

You took the words out of my mouth. Well, except yours sound better and make more sense than mine would have.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 24, 2004 12:07 PM

Robert:

That's not objective, but subjective. Objective would require that you judge them by what they knew. Subjective means you judge them by what you know. Morality is unchanging but our knowledge of the world is inherently limited.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2004 12:36 PM

Robert:

Geez, you guys!! Harry talks about how the most exciting thing in man's evolution for him is how man's sense of connectedness expanded from the family to tribe to community to faith to nation to mankind (the later steps quite recently), but then he wants to turn around and condemn everyone in history for not living by the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Take Jeff's preoccupation with interest and usury in medieval times. It seem brutal and poverty-inspiring today, but is was a highly moral position to take in a world where everyone believed wealth was finite and where debt unpaid meant starvation. It is what they knew, not whether they were moral or not.

And, with respect, you are the multi-culturalist, who are marked by their delight in jumping back into history to condemn, compensate and apologize. Can't someone hate slavery and be prepared to fight against it in 2004 without declaring that all pre-civil war Southerners were immoral, which is absurd to the point of meaninglessness. To say slavery could be and frequently was cruel in ancient times means little. It was also common the massacre defeated enemies, so shall we declare Caesar and Alexander the Great war criminals?

Posted by: Peter B at April 24, 2004 5:12 PM

I don't remember saying that, at least not so directly, but I like it. That's how I do feel.

As for slavery (or anything else), every man is entitled to his own opinion, but every man is not entitled to his own set of facts. Orrin has invented an ancient slavery that never existed.

The one that did exist was sufficiently unpleasant that, moral or not, its objects objected to it.

Orrin's argument that the slaves were happy is, of course, the same one my grandfather made about his slaves. It apparently makes Orrin and made my grandfather feel good, but how did the slaves feel?

They did not agree.

The start of this thread was not slavery but the issue of whether killing Muslims is different in quality from killing anybody else.

I'd say no. The imam says yes.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 25, 2004 1:03 AM

Slaves weren't happy, their descendants were and happier than those left behind.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2004 8:34 AM

Peter:

A little off topic, perhaps, but " ... [prohibitiona against interest was a] highly moral position to take in a world where everyone believed wealth was finite ... "

According to my reading on the subject (Durant' History of Civilization, plus one other place I can't remember off hand), interest of any amount was prohibited not because of its effects on the borrower, but because interest was tantamount to creating something from nothing, a task that was ostensibly God's alone.

The reason I make an issue of it is to counter claims of divinely revealed, absolute morality.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 25, 2004 3:49 PM

Yes, Jeff, that was a matter of ignorance, not morality. Those recur frequently throughout history--we're prey to several now.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2004 5:15 PM

Jeff's correct, but it goes further than that.

There were places where the credit issue did not apply the way it did in the rest of Europe at the time -- Bruges, Siena, Augsburg in the High Middle Ages are famous examples. Yet the church attempted to crush interest there as well.

It was not a matter of ignorance, therefore, but of doctrine and, very likely, greed. The shortage of money and wealth did not cause the church to reduce its financial impositions.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 25, 2004 8:16 PM

You're morally obligated to support charity, not to make money off of others.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2004 8:28 PM

OJ:

It was presented as a matter of divine truth. Which is not to be questioned, ever, right?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 25, 2004 8:30 PM

Jeff:

No, the divine truth is right--you shouldn't interfere with your neighbor's pursuit of wealth. What was faulty was their understanding of how wealth is created and that loans assist it. Of course, it is immoral to practice usury even now.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2004 11:04 PM

One episode of the Sopranos suffices to prove your last point.

But go back to Kraynak. Charging interest was sacreligious, because it created something from nothing. Okay, so that is wrong.

But no one is ever going to figure that out without questioning orthodoxy.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 26, 2004 8:54 PM

Jeff:

Yes. Theologians correctly came to question it. What's your point?

Posted by: oj at April 26, 2004 10:55 PM

OJ:

Unfortunately, it wan't theologians who questioned it. It was theologians who sanctioned it after the fact.

The point is, unquestioning acceptance of orthodoxy is ridiculous.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 27, 2004 8:08 PM

Yes, questioning orthodoxy is itself quite orthodox in the Church. That's why theologians changed the teaching on interest, though not on usury.

Posted by: oj at April 27, 2004 8:17 PM

OJ:

I completely agree. All that divinely revealed truth is just a bunch of guys making it up as they go along.

Just out of curiosity, what is the dividing point between interest and usury? Sounds an awful lot like being a little bit pregnant.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 27, 2004 10:40 PM

Interest is a fair return on the loan that lets the borrower increase his wealth (this increase being what makes interest morally permissible). Usury is charging so much interest as to lead him to poverty instead. We still have (or had recently) usury laws in many places. Credit card rates can, for instance, run afoul of usury laws in some states.

Posted by: oj at April 27, 2004 10:48 PM

OJ:

That is a definition, not a dividing line. Tell me, what rate divides interest from usury?

Your definition is vulnerable to the whims of individual fortune. And, beyond that, interest rate is a function of time and risk. People pay the rates they do because they can't get a lower one.

In any event, as your definition shows, those ecclesiastics were just making it all up.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 28, 2004 5:40 PM

Jeff:

Exactly. There is no commandment ragarding a precise interest rate. These are things we decide.

Posted by: oj at April 28, 2004 5:45 PM
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