The Last Shrinking Universe

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Via Twitter – Robin George Andrews

PhD volcanology eccentric, freelance photographer, and Indiana Jones-inspired adventurer. Remember kids: snakes are like bits of rope – only angrier. This blog aims to put science and scientific communication in the spotlight through the eyes of a vagabond volcanologist with an eye for detail, an ardent fan of humans, and someone with a taste for mischief and impatience.


A PRAYER FOR OUR DAUGHTERS: ISRAELIS, PALESTINIANS AND HUMANS

Outspoken atheists are often criticised for being too brash, or too blunt in their arguments. The charge that atheists, such as the late, remarkably eloquent Christopher Hitchens or the effervescently vigorous Richard Dawkins, are as fundamental as their religious counterparts is often heard and is as ridiculous a claim as any other made by the more reactionary members of society. Firstly, the burden of proof is not on the non-believers: demanding evidence of gods and demons and reacting incredulously when nothing is given is not being a fundamentalist; it is simply being rational. Atheists are open to have their minds being changed, it is just that there is no evidence presented by the religious to consider.

Secondly, the Enlightenment has already happened. For the uninitiated, this period in history, commencing in the 18th century, was primarily designed to elevate science and reason over religious superstition and dogmatic belief in Western societies. About three hundred years later, we still nod along when people tell us about healing energies, aligning star signs, crystal auras and other pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo. These people are either merely self-deluding, and thus robbing themselves of the beauty of reality itself, or are at worst charlatans, exploiting gullible people’s minds and wallets.

The topic of religion is one that has been discussed and debated in immense detail, especially recently, and in my opinion, most spectacularly by the aforementioned intellectuals. However, the violence that is currently flaring across Israel and the Palestinian Territories has provoked me to highlight a point that Richard Dawkins made which at the time caused many people to raise an eyebrow, even some atheists.

Dawkins has opined that labelling a child with any sort of religion is a form of child abuse. Now, this seems to many people a little far fetched, but upon ruminating over it, I am willing to say that this outspoken remark is actually not going far enough.

The point is sound: labelling any child with anything before they are old enough to think for themselves is immoral. You wouldn’t call a child a Marxist child or a racist child just because their parents happen to be Marxists or racists. So why apply a religious label to them before they have had the chance to make up their own minds?

 

Written By: Robin George Andrews
continue to source article at thelastshrinkinguniverse.tumblr.com

31 COMMENTS

  1. It is more than labeling, it is heavy indoctrination in too many cases in that part of the world. Some are labeled, but the label never sticks, some are stamped out of religious metal and they never get unstuck.

    So, the opposition to this nonsense begins early, or, in some cases, you might as well not begin at all.

    This presents a problem. The problem of parental rights in indoctrinating one’s own children versus the rights of the child to be free of this nonsense. In the middle East this is not even discussed many places let alone presenting a problem. Here in the US it is a sectional thing and some sections of the country will lag far behind other here, but lag or not the labeling/indoctrination of children  is on borrowed time.

  2. This territorial battle between Israelites and Palestinians is down to the fact that both see this piece of land as the land their god has given to them, and they are being encouraged to fight to defend it with vicious aggression, in what they see as a cosmic battle. Without religion, we would not have such ridiculous labels which automatically divide us into groups based on delusions and ancient misunderstandings about the Universe. There would be no Muslims or Jews fighting for territorial and religious supremacy: there would just be human beings, with no deities pushing them into an endless battle.

    I don’t know about this: humans have always been territorial, even before we began to define ourselves by race or religion. Chimpanzees and other species engage in tribal warfare; I thought it had to do with finiteness of resources and the survival of an organism’s genes. 

  3. The inculcation of religious dogma can result in the production of murderous zealots as exemplified by those children who are brought up to believe in imaginary Allah and also very extreme Christian factions.
    Therefore RD’s statement ,that it is in fact a form of child abuse is obviously true.

  4.  I come to the same conclusion with the thought experiment, would war exist in the absence of religion? Of course it would, and a different banner would be hung.

    Although, it is possible for group identities (based on religion) to create resource distribution problems. When there was a water shortage in Israel at the turn of the century, the likelihood of feeling thirst correlated with belief. “Others” receive less empathy, and that has an economic impact. While resources are finite, it is possible for our systems to limit production and distribution, so that we all receive less, thus we fight wars.

    I do share your dismissal of the John Lennonist worldview, that without groups there would be harmony, but identity politics is inherently harmful.

  5. I agree that under the present structures of world societies and governments that if religion were to become extinct, wars would still be fought. The very reasons you gave concerning the distribution of resources is what necessitates wars and religions. I’m afraid that this unfortunate situation will continue to exist for some time because off the slow evolution of those existing flawed structures and the human psyche.

    Humanity has evolved to this point, along with its religions, societal and government structures, mostly through trial and error. All of these structures are oriented through a top down power framework that leaves a few at the top making the decisions for all. A familiar structure within many species of animals vying for survival.

    Religions are necessary to insure loyalty of the masses to the few leaders. Without this loyalty the whole structure would collapse and anarchy would reign. However, what if our societal and government structures were to change? A global social conscience is already being developed through computer social networking.

    John Lennon’s world view encompassed only, a world view. Pier groups are necessary in any viable society in order to promote competition. We have our disputes within our own countries, states, counties, cities, etc. but, civil war is all but extinct in democratic countries today. This is because we agree to common goals within our country structure and are willing to make concessions to maintain the peace while cooperating toward these common goals. Internal disputes are controlled by common laws and all have a “sense” of equality.

    I believe what Lennon may have been alluding too was that if religious groups were to disappear, a democratic world government promoting a common goal of survival and equality for all mankind would be easier to implement. Or, maybe a new belief in nature, reality and human dignity, where the individual effort is to promote humanity’s future survival in the universe, is what humanity requires. Humanity needs a belief in a common goal to rally the masses under one umbrella banner.

    In any event, some form of world government will be essential when humanity begins to replicate its DNA coding throughout the universe.

  6. Although I agree with the basic sentiments, there are several problems with this article.

    The Israeli-Arab conflict is a territorial/national conflict at heart – religion is only secondary.

    As for the Nakbah: this is only part of the the story (the part the Palestinians like to remember and the Israelis to forget). The other part is that the Israeli Independence War was a _war_ lasting 9 months and involving armies from Jordan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and of course Israel. Describing it as a one-sided ethnic cleansing by Israel is seriously off the mark.

    I’m also having issues with labeling children by their religion. Well, I think this is wrong to give such labels to kids, but there are other labels that children don’t choose for themselves either – e.g. why the label “British” so different than the label “Muslim”? Countries spend a lot of effort in drilling a “national identity” down young children’s throats. That’s one of the major reasons of mandatory schooling. History is written and so forth.

  7. The Israeli-Arab conflict is a territorial/national conflict at heart – religion is only secondary.

    So is the Irish problem…but we would all be very naive to say religion is ONLY secondary.

    Well, I think this is wrong to give such labels to kids, but there are other labels that children don’t choose for themselves either – e.g. why the label “British” so different than the label “Muslim”?

    Oh c’mon now…it isn’t even remotely similar. The term “British” can be as a result of birthplace or as a result of national identity. The former is beyond any ones control, the later is a life choice. I don’t think national identity is shoved down children’s throats anywhere like religion is shoved down children’s throats and I come from Northern Ireland where national identity is a big stickler. Of course, national identity here goes hand in glove with religious indoctrination, or it did do until very recently.

  8. Yes, I agree there are other factors besides religion in this conflict, as in other conflicts, and I think it is a flaw in arguments like this to assume that religion is the main one, or indeed the only one.

    Having said that I tend to think Hamas with its extremist ideology is strongly motivated to carry out acts of violence by religion; childhood indoctrination has fed the bloodlust of the worst elements of Hamas. Israel has its religious zealots too, but secular arguments are also in play from the Jewish side, mixed with the religious ones, motivating them to engage in conflict. There are plenty of secular Jews who are all for the military power of the state of Israel, and my (sadly unscientific) guess is that they are a bigger factor than the corresponding secular Arabs on the Palestinian side. But religion is there too, being used as a justification.

    When they do sit down to sort this out to find peace, both sides are going to have to set religion aside first. 

  9.  
    stylofone
    But religion is there too, being used as a justification.

    When they do sit down to sort this out to find peace, both sides are going to have to set religion aside first.

    I think there is a problem with this idea!

    The state of Israel is based on the idea that the Jews were given this land by god, thousands of years  before the Zionists seized it from the British Empire and the Palestinian Arabs by terrorism!

    The more recent seizures of Palestinian land by Zionist fundamentalist squatters, show no sign of being addressed by the Israeli government, so it is no surprise that the Palestinians regard them as a an army of occupation.

    Religions have caused strife in this area from OT genocides, through the Roman occupation and the crusades, right on to the present day.

  10. The term “British” can be as a result of birthplace or as a result of national identity. The former is beyond any ones control, the later is a life choice. 

    Is it? Let’s put aside limitations on immigration – if you are born in Glasgow, what are your chances of rooting for England in the World Cup 30 years later?
    For that matter – if you were born in Liverpool, what are the chances you’d be an Arsenal fan?

    Sure – you can choose your national identity, or “your” team, or whatever – you can also change your religion (or opt-out of one). Most people don’t.

  11. The state of Israel is based on the idea that the Jews were given this land by god, thousands of years  before the Zionists seized it from the British Empire and the Palestinian Arabs by terrorism!

    Let’s not get carried away… Israel was created via a long process that had much more to do with diplomacy than anything else.
    See:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1

    as major examples.

    In addition, palestinians didn’t refrain from terrorist acts. See
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1

  12. All nationalists born in Belfast would proclaim to be Irish, but the fact is, they were born on British sovereign territory…that’s a fact. They choose an Irish passport, they are entitled to both.

    My daughter was born in a British Military Hospital in Germany….she is entitled to German citizenship…her parents are both Irish, she is entitled to Irish citizenship…the hospital is classed as British sovereign territory, she is entitled to British citizenship. But she was born in Germany, that’s a fact that cannot be changed.

    A person born in Glasgow, while highly unlikely to follow England, is nevertheless at liberty to do so, but they will never be English. I follow Glasgow Rangers and I’m not from Glasgow, I will never be Glaswegian by birth, but I could be Glaswegian by rite of where I live. I have a friend who is Welsh, he also follows Glasgow Rangers, there are Glasgow Rangers supporters clubs worldwide…there is also an Arsenal supporters club in New Zealand for that matter…the football analogy isn’t a great one.

  13. Citizenship is not the same as nationality: I assume your daughter didn’t go to a German primary school – she went to an Irish school, which makes her Irish.

    As for clubs: I didn’t claim where you were brought up (not born) _determines_ what sport and team/club you follow – but I don’t think anyone would doubt there is a strong correlation. If you were brought up in Liverpool, it’s _likely_ you’ll follow Liverpool – but there are other factors that can affect your choices – e.g. your father’s favorite club.

    All I’m claiming is that religion is not that different from other “tribal” markers – it’s something that is usually set early in life and is influenced strongly by the environment. It doesn’t mean that environment _determines_ your favorite club or whether you’re going to follow baseball or soccer for that matter, just that there is a strong correlation.

  14. Citizenship is not the same as nationality: I assume your daughter didn’t go to a German primary school – she went to an Irish school, which makes her Irish.

    No citizenship is not the same as nationality…that’s my point…you can change citizenship, but not nationality. That is not to say a person can’t have more than one nationality depending on their place of birth and parentage. Had I not registered her birth at the British Consulate, she would be a German national liable for all that entails, including conscription, a British national and an Irish national. BTW, the school one attends has bugger all to do with ones nationality.

    As for clubs: I didn’t claim where you were brought up (not born) _determines_ what sport and team/club you follow – but I don’t think anyone would doubt there is a strong correlation. If you were brought up in Liverpool, it’s _likely_ you’ll follow Liverpool – but there are other factors that can affect your choices – e.g. your father’s favorite club.

    It’s just a bit of a red herring argument. One could just as easily follow Everton, Birkenhead or Tranmere Rovers….or Arsenal. I have a pal from Edinburgh who supports Hibernian because his family are Hearts supporters. Granted, not too many from Liverpool will follow a London team, but like religion, the choice is still there if they do. Like those eejits that convert to Islam. Unlike my birthplace. I can’t want to be born in America if I decide I feel like it.

    All I’m claiming is that religion is not that different from other “tribal” markers – it’s something that is usually set early in life and is influenced strongly by the environment. It doesn’t mean that environment _determines_ your favorite club or whether you’re going to follow baseball or soccer for that matter, just that there is a strong correlation.

    I’m not disagreeing with any of that. I’m just suggesting that nationality is not the same in response to…

     Well, I think this is wrong to give such labels to kids, but there are other labels that children don’t choose for themselves either – e.g. why the label “British” so different than the label “Muslim”? Countries spend a lot of effort in drilling a “national identity” down young children’s throats. That’s one of the major reasons of mandatory schooling. History is written and so forth.

    While one could cast off their Muslim religion at some point, that someone born in Britain is de facto British and stuck with it is a given.

  15. Dover Beach,
    I’m not too sure that “fishing competitions” would improve my literary efforts. Perhaps a “”spelling bee” would be more appropriate? LOL I would wager that your moniker, Dover Beach, supports your sensitivity to my misspelling of the word peer. Thanks for the edit.
    Al Garnier

  16. godisnotgreat 

    The state of Israel is based on the idea that the Jews were given this land by god, thousands of years  before the Zionists seized it from the British Empire and the Palestinian Arabs by terrorism!

    Let’s not get carried away… Israel was created via a long process that had much more to do with diplomacy than anything else.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B

    Diplomacy was involved with much wheeling and dealing, but it was armed terrorism which seized power and made it the Zionist  state of Israel, rather than  the planned  homeland  for Jews and Palestinians.
    From your link:

    His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being
    clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
    rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

    No-one is “getting carried away”!  Israel was not created by diplomacy!  The diplomacy failed to secure the rights of most of the native population, and the colonial powers and the UN simply abandoned it while various outside organisations provided weapons to start a war.

    There was no willingness to reach a reasonable settlement respecting the rights of the native population then, and there is none now!

  17. Hi Alan,

    ‘There was no willingness to reach a reasonable settlement respecting the rights of the native population then, and there is none now!’

    I think I would say rather that there was no willingness amongst the Muslim Arab population to tolerate the existence of an Israeli Jewish state then, and there is none now!

  18. inquisador

    I think I would say rather that there was no willingness amongst the
    Muslim Arab population to tolerate the existence of an Israeli Jewish
    state then, and there is none now!

     

    I think the intolerance is two-way, with the Zionist fundamentalists just as dogmatic as the Islamic fundamentalists. 

    As I said in an earlier comment, the Arab Palestinians – with cause – regard the Israeli army as an army of occupation, enforcing laws biased against their rights, and giving them little protection from armed squatters stealing their land. 

    The casual disregard for them, goes back in history to other Arab rulers  and the colonial powers which preceded the state of Israel.

    Genuine unaddressed grievances, give wider support to terrorists from oppressed populations.

  19. Oh, what was it that Romney said, KC?   As for me, I don’t know and I don’t quote anyone knowingly without attribution. 
    We should also be wise not to believe everything the Palestinian propagandists say.

  20. Hamas Charter extract:-

     “The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim).
    Article Eight: The Slogan of the HamasAllah is its goal, the Prophet its model, the Qur’an its Constitution, Jihad its path and death for the case of Allah its most sublime belief.”

    The Gazans elected a hamas Government; Hamas TV inculcates hatred of the Jews and the need to kill them for the sake of Allah as the highest aspiration into the minds of their young people. How can we therefore expect a peaceful co-existence to ever exist in this kind of climate?

  21. The Gazans elected a hamas Government; Hamas TV inculcates hatred of the Jews and the need to kill them for the sake of Allah as the highest aspiration into the minds of their young people. How can we therefore expect a peaceful co-existence to ever exist in this kind of climate?

    Especially when they start off by conditioning their babies like these little darlings….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?N

    …and just in case there is anyone that thinks they don’t start the brainwashing early…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C

  22. inquisador  The Gazans elected a hamas Government; Hamas TV inculcates hatred of the Jews and the need to kill them for the sake of Allah as the highest aspiration into the minds of their young people. How can we therefore expect a peaceful co-existence to ever exist in this kind of climate?

    The Free-French and partizans, had a similar approach to German armies of occupation!  One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

    Israel rules because of foreign supplied superior weapons, and domination by immigrants, not by consent of the native population at large.

    Religion just adds fanaticism to the conflict on both sides.

    The Palestinians have frequently shot themselves in the foot, as when those given sanctuary in Kuwait, sided with Saddam’s invaders  against their hosts.

    The whole area is a confrontational mess, which has spread into surrounding countries.

  23. Agarnier,
    I know from bitter experience how easy it is to send off a comment with typos in it. Thanks for taking my post in the spirit it was meant. Actually, going off topic, Dover Beach refers to Mathew Arnold’s wonderful poem with that title. He was pessimistic at ‘Faiths melancholy long  retreating roar’ whilst for me, as this article shows, it’s not retreating nearly fast enough.

  24. Alan,

    Of course I agree with most of what you say. My view is one of a different emphasis. I think that you fail to give sufficient weight to the greatest cause of chaos and conflict in the region.

    Of all the many international crises in the last 70 years, only that of Palestine has resulted in a permanent population of welfare dependent refugees inheriting their refugee status through the (growing)  generations, despite the many possible solutions and resettlement options. 

    Obviously (to me) this is done for political reasons: to keep pressure on Israel in the hope of gaining more concessions. Hopefully to the point where Israel becomes indefensible. 

    When the Jews were kicked out and dispossessed by the various Arab countries in the 40s they returned to Palestine and worked hard to build a new nation.  Most of the Palestinian refugees were those who left of their own volition, in the belief that those Arab countries would wipe out the Jews and leave all the land clear for those Muslim Arabs to return to and claim for themselves.

    The land and the homes that all the Jews had been forced to leave behind in the exodus would have been enough to pay for resettlement of those Palestinian Arabs, some of whom had indeed been killed or forced from their homes. But that would not have suited the political purpose of those who clung to the object of driving the Jews out.

    Why did the Arab world reject every chance to absorb these refugees; (with some exceptions), and how badly can they be suffering when their numbers have about quintupled over the years. Remember too that Arab Israelis are treated equally to other citizens in Israel. In that respect Israel has been a model of human rights and democracy for all the dictatorships in the region (to ignore).

    Of course the Jews should have a decent sized defensible nation state of their own, considering the appalling travails they went through in the past. The League of Nations drew up a fair settlement, including Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Arab opposition killed off that idea. Since when it has been apparent that any such nation would always have to fight for its’  existence. The many Muslim states would never agree to even one tiny Jewish state in their region.

    The injustice of all this should be kept in mind. But instead we’ve come to accept the Palestinian propaganda, as if there was ever a Palestinian state that should be restored. (there wasn’t).
    As if Jews stole the land; in fact the land was largely state-owned under the Ottomans. The Zionists who planned to live there bought large areas of the remaining privately owned land, much of which was barren, and worked to make it productive. 

    Of course, much of all this is contentious. I can already see the critical comments coming in. Luckily there is no ‘dislike’ button!

    For me, the salient point in all this is the timeless, Quran-inspired hatred of Muslims for the Jews.
    That is what fucks up all the selfless hard work of various peacekeepers, diplomats and others to try and draw up a fair solution. But solutions like others that have worked at other times and places, and that ought to work in Palestine, are simply torpedoed; ostensibly by other political or geographical factors, but actually by the sheer intransigence of the haters, who will not be appeased by anything short of the removal of any governance by Jews, especially over Muslims.

    The Palestinians say it themselves; their only goal is to fight and kill or die for their goal. They do not want peace. Until that changes, there can never be a lasting peace. Obviously.

  25. inquisador
    Alan,

    Of course I agree with most of what you say. My view is one of a different emphasis. I think that you fail to give sufficient weight to the greatest cause of chaos and conflict in the region.

    Of all the many international crises in the last 70 years, only that of Palestine has resulted in a permanent population of welfare dependent refugees inheriting their refugee status through the (growing)  generations, despite the many possible solutions and resettlement options.

    The disingenuous nature of negotiations has been orchestrated to a large extent by the western powers, as have the disinformation campaigns about this.  Many of the refugee problems have been caused by blockades, barrier walls  etc imposed by the Israeli government.

    Obviously (to me) this is done for political reasons: to keep pressure on Israel in the hope of gaining more concessions. Hopefully to the point where Israel becomes indefensible.

    The problem is that many Israeli claims are morally indefensible but militarily enforced due to superior weapons.  I have seen filmed interviews with Zionist settler who have seized Palestinian lands.  Their government pays lip service, but does little to defend the property rights of Palestinians.  Some reading of historic maps helps clarify this.

    When the Jews were kicked out and dispossessed by the various Arab countries in the 40s they returned to Palestine and worked hard to build a new nation. 

    Many Jewish immigrants to Palestine were transported there under the “homeland for Jews”, plans at the end of the second world war.  They were from Germany, Poland and Russia, with a culture totally different to the local Jews.

    Most of the Palestinian refugees were those who left of their own volition, in the belief that those Arab countries would wipe out the Jews and leave all the land clear for those Muslim Arabs to return to and claim for themselves.

    I’m not sure where you got this from!  Many of the Palestinians whose land has been seized, had been farming it for generations.

  26. Alan,

    There are various different sources for this palestinian history. I can’t remember them all. However I just googled an admittedly Jewish source which confirms much of it at least, and, more importantly, gives loads of references.
    Here’s a sample in answer to your last question:

    “According to official records of the League of Nations and Arab census figure 539,000 Arabs left Israel at the urging of 7 converging Arab armies so that they would not be in the way of their attack. They promised the fleeing Arabs they would return and move into the Jews’ houses after the anticipated successful annihilation of the Jews.”

    This is the link:-

    http://www.science.co.il/Arab-

    I haven’t had time to check the site for accuracy, but it seems OK .

    Also, in response to other doubts expressed:

    “We know that 850,000 Jews were ejected from the Arab countries where they had lived for hundreds of years. This included successful people whose property and assets, including community assets were immediately confiscated. 750,000 penniless Jews from Arab countries fled to Israel.”This was a virtual exchange of population. The Jewish refugees were immediately accepted by the new State of Israel. They were provided with shelter (albeit temporary tents) food and clothing.”The Arab refugees who had migrated to various Arab nations were not similarly well received. They were regarded not as Arab brothers but as unwelcome migrants who were not to be trusted. Squalid refugee camps were set up as showpieces to induce the West’s sympathy and kept that way.

    The UN through UNRWA (UN Relief Agency) provided assistance to the camps when the host country could not or would not. These camps became a training ground for terrorist youth to be targeted at Israel. The host country, like Syria, would provide training, weapons and explosives, but refused to absorb the Arab refugees as equal citizens. Keeping them in misery made them valuable and irreplaceable as angry front line terrorists attacking Israel as proxies for the Arab armies who lost to the Jews on the field of battle in declared wars. The Twin Pillars supporting Arab Muslim society are “Pride and Shame”. Losing to the Jews on the battlefield time and again in 6 wars shattered the self perception of the Macho Man.-

    Emanuel A. Winston, Middle East analyst and commentator”

    Now it still remains to check this Winston bloke and check his references. I never heard of him before and I admit I’ve yet to settle the true narrative of these contentious events. I’m certainly not saying that the Jews/Zionists are blameless, but I do believe that the quran-inspied hate of muslims is the big peacebreaker militating against stability in Palestine. The details are harder to pin down.Many more sources at the above link.

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