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The Truth is Subtle

Entry 1114, on 2009-11-08 at 15:27:42 (Rating 3, News)

What's wrong with people? Why do we hear so many stories of evil, immorality, and corruption in the news and so few stories of goodness and integrity? Part of the reason is the bias the media has for bad stories because they are generally more controversial, sensational, and newsworthy than good stories. But I don't think that's the whole story - surely there must be more to it than that.

Why am I ranting on about my evil fellow humans again? Because of several stories I read in the news recently: three about bad behaviour and one about good. These are the stories...

First the most evil. Islamists in southern Somalia have stoned a man to death for adultery but spared his pregnant girlfriend, at least until after she gives birth. Isn't that nice of them? They kill two people for doing nothing which affects others in any meaningful way but at least they spare the innocent unborn child. I know that this represents the extreme of Muslim belief but I still blame the religion in general for this abhorrent behaviour.

A point which has been made against religion in general is that the moderate members in some ways provide tacit support for extremists. In other words, moderate Muslims are OK so we should be tolerant of Islam in general which allows extremist to thrive. The same applies to other beliefs of course - this example involves Islam but it could also be Christianity (although I think Christianity is a far more benign belief system at this point in its history, that hasn't always been the case).

I'm not sure I totally believe this idea though. It should be possible for moderates to be accepted but for extremists to be rejected but I'm not sure that always happens. I would personally prefer beliefs (like religions) which often lead to extremism to disappear completely but I guess that's not going to happen.

The next 2 stories are a bit less serious. They involve more incompetence and lack of integrity for New Zealand politicians. Rodney Hide's credibility continues to plummet as further news of him wasting money is revealed. And now another government party is involved with Maori Party MP Hone Harawira having a holiday at the taxpayers expense. And it gets worse: a rather unfortunate email reveals his crazy extremist beliefs. I wonder how many other members of the Maori Party believe these sorts of things (that will probably be the subject of a future blog entry).

Finally a good story. And just to show that things are always more complicated than you think, its a story about the good side of religion. A New Zealand pastor, Murray Smith, is giving up his $1 million home to help raise funds for his church and build a community center for the town. I'm not sure if there is more to this story that I don't know about but in this case I'll assume the best and say this is the sort of thing that makes me more hesitant to suggest eliminating religion (like I did above).

I should say though that I think the negatives of irrational belief systems, like religion, do outweigh the positives but I would be prepared to reconsider this if the evidence was sufficiently persuasive. The critical point is that looking at only the good or only the bad in any situation isn't enough. The truth is always more subtle than that.

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