AS189: Paris and Beirut Attacks

Well, I wasn’t about to ignore this major event that everyone is talking about. I offer my opinion on some of the reactions people are having, from the far right to the far left. As usual, find out why everyone is wrong! (Maybe.)

5 thoughts on “AS189: Paris and Beirut Attacks”

  1. Hi. One of the thing that really upsets me is how repackaged the responses were. It is as if all the memes were there, lying in wait for the inevitable. Yet nothing has changed. The attack has caused no one in my circle to reevaluate their opinions.

    You know all the “nothing to do with Islam” stuff so I won’t go into it too much. But the problem with that is that it creates complacency. They feel that they won’t need to reexamine their faith or believe and totally justified in their thoughts and opinions. This is may be a comfortable place to be but it is not a safe one. It’s also needless to Ex-muslims won’t get a look in here, us being in league with, you know, the US, the Zionists, Big Blasphemy, whoever you want really. We’re easy like that.

    By the way isn’t the pray for Paris hashtag just fucking grotesque, Surely those poor people have had enough divine intervention for one day.

    Also this from Charlie Hebdo:

  2. As you said, most religions have good and bad parts and the question is what makes people choose some parts and not the other?
    I am conflicted on how to respond to the claims that either the religion has nothing to do with a person’s actions or everything? As you say it is probably complicated 😉
    By taking the “neutral” stance it helps to show that religion isn’t a force for moral action and therefore should not be taken seriously.
    The issue of blaming Islam in this case is that it polarises people and ends up pushing people towards the extreme if that is how the media keeps portraying the “true” religion.
    I may have misunderstood part of your Tommentary but it seemed at one point you were saying the fundamentalists were the one truer to the text. Yet them you pointed out that the text was contradictory.
    I think we need to understand what we want to achieve and then decide the most effective response.
    Thanks for another interesting show.

  3. On the issue of possible racist media coverage, I thought it was interesting that I don’t think your position differs much from those who think it’s racist. This is because one of your main explanations for why it could be considered not racist was that of proximity, yet proximity is one of the main mechanisms by which proponents of the idea think the racism comes about. So basically I think they’d agree that nobody is trying to ignore tragedies that occur to people who are different to them, but rather they simply identify more strongly with people similar to them (i.e. cultural proximity) and that leads to the difference in reporting.

    On Piers Morgan’s tweet, it seemed pretty straightforward to me. Piers was arguing that religion is essentially being used as a tool to convince people to do shitty things, without it actually having any relevance to the religion. So if I took in a kid and raised them to believe that evolution says you should kill people who are weaker than you (because of “survival of the fittest”), then the kid wouldn’t really be a true proponent of evolution (since they understand nothing about the theory) and instead it’s just being used for nefarious means.

    This seems to fit with the science of what we know about terrorists and suicide bombers, given that the research suggests that suicide bombings are driven by politics and not religion (decent writeup here: So the ‘nefarious’ reasons would be political.

    This is also consistent with research in general on the nature of terrorist groups and who joins them. Basically the findings suggest that the members of these groups are young, uneducated men, who are recruited similar to how cults recruit people (finding isolated, desperate, depressed people and offering them a place to belong), and perhaps most notably, they usually have little to no knowledge of the religious text that supposedly drives their behaviors (good overview here:

    Even when we look in the literature for some researcher who thinks religion plays a role in suicide bombing or terrorism, we tend to find that at best there’s nowhere near a consensus on the idea that it’s a relevant factor, and at worst any role that religion might play is irrelevant to the actual theology (there’s a decent writeup here but unfortunately it’s behind a paywall: To summarise that article though, they give three possible explanations for the way religion might play a role: 1) that religious differences between group and target are highlighted to fuel political unrest, 2) the social services and intragroup dynamics that come along with religions make terrorism and suicide bombings more likely, and 3) martyrdom from cherry-picked lines from holy texts plays a causal role.

    Only the last option is related to the theology but it’s still far from a confirmed hypothesis and I’d argue isn’t consistent with a lot of the other data we have on the topic. Given all of that, to me Piers Morgan’s comment is pretty uncontroversial, and the idea that religion is used as a tool to further political agendas seems to be the closest we have to a consensus in science on what causes suicide bombings.

    Later in your Tommentary you were making the argument (as I heard it) that maybe we shouldn’t get too caught up in the question of whether it’s caused by the religion or not and just accept that if people hold a belief that harms other people then we should criticise them (feel free to correct me or just ignore this if I’m way off base). I sort of agree, but on the other hand I think there’s a time and a place for different arguments and the appropriateness of the criticism depends on the role religion plays in terrorism. If the scientists are right and religion plays little to no role, then criticising religion when addressing issues of terrorism would be (I think) a distraction and a waste of resources. That doesn’t mean we can’t also criticise religion as a separate issue, but conflating the two is unnecessary.

    Also, you note that your definition of fundamentalist is someone who takes the “truest” interpretation of a holy book, but I don’t think that’s an accurate view given that it assumes holy books aren’t supposed to be interpreted or hermeneutics isn’t an important process. I would agree that a fundamentalist is someone who attempts to read it literally, or just reads the parts they agree with literally that condone committing horrible acts, but viewing this as a “true” meaning would have to dismiss a rich history of how religious people view and understand their texts.

    Even if we ignore all the arguments that go on within a religion over the ‘correct’ interpretation, we have to agree that holy texts are clearly not written to be viewed as entirely literal. There are many aspects which are obviously metaphor or imagery, and someone who interprets them literally would be objectively wrong in their interpretation.

  4. The reason we didn’t pay attention to the Beirut attacks is because it’s commonplace to hear about dozens or hundreds of people being killed by terrorists some places, and not so much in others. It’s as simple as that.

  5. The joke was tasteless, but I loved it. So I’m watching CNN, MSNBC, FOX as they compete over who can make the deaths of 129 people more sensational, and realized I don’t care.
    I suspect most of the people died far less painfully than the 20k+ children who starve to death every day, and that they had far better lives. And don’t get me started on kids dying of cancer, or the hundreds being killed, and seriously injured in car accidents just in the US every week.
    Stop the madness these terrorist attacks are unworthy of the attention, or the trillions of dollars being spent to protect us from them, Hell we could have cured cancer with the money spent just on the Iraq war.
    And I’m sorry Tom but you being “almost in tears” is part of the problem. Save your tears for the real tragedy’s. Cry for those kids starving to death who could easily be saved if more people were crying for them.

Leave a Reply