Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cognative Dissonance

From the Wikipedia:
Cognitive dissonance is the perception of incompatibility between two cognitions, which can be defined as any element of knowledge, including attitude, emotion, belief, or behavior (in lay men's terms, the uncomfortable tension that comes from holding two conflicting thoughts at the same time). The theory of cognitive dissonance states that contradicting cognitions serve as a driving force that compels the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs, so as to reduce the amount of dissonance (conflict) between cognitions. Experiments have attempted to quantify this hypothetical drive.

I've written about how we are in a second Cold War, this time with radical Islam. I just wrote about how Muslim rage is being used as a weapon in this war. What is strange is that the Left doesn't see this. Take this exchange. Sam Harris, a card-carrying liberal thinks it is time for the liberals to get involved.
A cult of death is forming in the Muslim world — for reasons that are perfectly explicable in terms of the Islamic doctrines of martyrdom and jihad. The truth is that we are not fighting a "war on terror." We are fighting a pestilential theology and a longing for paradise.

[...] Given the degree to which religious ideas are still sheltered from criticism in every society, it is actually possible for a person to have the economic and intellectual resources to build a nuclear bomb — and to believe that he will get 72 virgins in paradise. And yet, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, liberals continue to imagine that Muslim terrorism springs from economic despair, lack of education and American militarism.

So, what's the response from the Left? To disown Harris, of course. The interesting, and scary, thing is how they do it. Take this entry
from the Huffington Post by RJ Eskow.
Specifically, Harris would not acknowledge the research of Martin E. Marty and the Fundamentalism Project, whose complex multidisciplinary study found several intriguing patterns in the distribution of fundamentalism throughout all faiths.
 Among the Project's findings was the discovery that fundamentalists, who average roughly 20% of any major faith today, all seek to acquire power using similar techniques and belief systems. Their beliefs share much more in common with fundamentalists of other faiths than they do with their co-religionists, a finding that challenges the notion that Islam is an especially evil religion.
 This finding challenges an assumption that is deeply cherished by Harris and his ilk, and equally beloved by Bauer and the Christian Right: that Muslims are more extremist than other people. That makes great fodder for recruiting wavering Christians to atheism, or convincing Americans who question the Iraq invasion that we're at war with a world of "Islamofascists."
This is the cognitive disconnect in the Left. Whenever someone starts talking about Islamic extremists, they direct their anger at Christian fundamentalists. Take this quote from Rosie O'Donnel    
O'Donnell saved her harshest comments for the war on terror. After Hasselbeck had the temerity to mention the threat of extreme Islam, O'Donnell responded with her slap at Christianity: "And just one second, radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America."
So there are no Islamofascists. There are only fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists have more in common with Islamic fundamentalists than with other Christians.

I took Eskow at his word and looked up Martin E. Marty and the Fundamentalism Project. Not surprisingly, Eskow completely misrepresented their work. Here is how Marty characterizes the two:

As    for futures: combine these fundamentalisms with religious ethnonationalisms    and one finds some of the most perplexing, confusing, puzzling, and bemusing    forces. They are hard to anticipate, locate, or define. They do not fit the    conventions of diplomacy, since such movements "take no prisoners,"    make no compromises, and may resort to forms of terrorism that transcend boundaries    or subvert conventions of warfare.

In    respect to polity, some of them will continue to challenge and replace secular,    pluralist, "compromising" and only nominally religious regimes and    governments, in the name of actively religious, monolithic, absolutist regimes.    They stand more chance of success where what Westerners call "the separation    of church and state" has never occurred either philosophically or constitutionally,    than where they can only hope for a piece of the polity, as in the United States.    Where there was never separation or formal drawing of distinction between religious    and civil spheres, retaking the regime is easier to accomplish than it is in    overwhelmingly secular, pluralist, "republican" nations. In the    latter instance, as in the United States, fundamentalists, if they would gain    power, must coalesce with non-fundamentalist conservatives (as in the old Moral    Majority and the more recent Christian Coalition) and then barter with non-religious    conservatives, where some compromising of purity dilutes the claims. In such    cases, it is easier to stay pure and have influence on local levels—as    at school, clinic, zoning, library and textbook, hospital, and town boards.    But today the local has national significance, as when these coalitions, often    by self-advertised "stealth"-using means, can shape the policies    of a political party, and the platforms that impinge on presidential elections.
Here is a clear distinction between what I would call Islamofascists and the American religious right. One cannot possible mistake a group that resorts to terrorism that transcends boundaries with one that hopes for a piece of the polity.

But we don't need to resort to think-tanks to see the difference. The whole concept of secular government and pluralism grew up within Christianity.  Until the current generation, the leaders of the western world were overwhelmingly Christian.

In the debate over the Pope, much has been made of Christianity's past and it is true that there were forced conversion and other abuses... hundreds of years ago. Beheadings ans stonings are going on in Islamic countries right now. Again, the Left's cognitive dissonance does not let them distinguish between acts by people long dead and by people still alive.

Another of Eskow's points:

Here's Martin Lewis on Islam: "When was the last time agnostics or atheists got offended and went on the rampage when someone trashed - or even questioned - their beliefs?"

You could've said the same thing about blacks after the Los Angeles riots, couldn't you? "When was the last time white people got offended and went on the rampage when someone got let off for a crime against them?"

I'm not defending rioters. I'm simply pointing out some inherent biases in the comment. Ultra-Orthodox Jews have rioted in Israel, and one of them killed the peacemaking Prime Minister. Christians have rioted, too. People tend to riot because they feel powerless, not because they're inherently evil. (Killing's another matter - it's always indefensible.)

And less than one Muslim in 43,000 has ever participated in a riot. (I did the math in a previous post.) Far more Americans have been child molesters, percentage-wise, yet it would be bigotry to say we live in a nation of pederasts.

He is confusing people rioting over conditions affecting their own lives and people rioting over something said half a world away. The los Angeles riots were over treatment of LA blacks by the LA police department. The Jews were rioting over policies that affect the future of their country. Riots happen but they are usually over local issues. And when was the last time that Christians rioted over a slight to Christianity?

If I did my math right, over 23,000 Muslims have rioted. Maybe more if he was only including recent riots.

All of this is a real problem. We are in a long-term war over our values and half of our side doesn't have a clear view of who we are fighting.

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