Monthly Archives: February 2011

Writing, from Thinking

The thought provoking Lesley has provoked some thoughts, which, in line with her post, has given me the urge to write them down.

I’d agree with the sentiment of spiritedcrone’s comment – that writing is prayer; though from an atheist perspective I’d say writing and meditation, or simply productive exploratory thought, are part of the same process, and writing is the foundation of all productive thought, including philosophy, maths, science, poetry, prose, fiction. If we are flexible enough with the medium then any of the visual, audio, tactile arts fall into the same pattern.

The point being that to write (or paint…) is simply a means of recording and organising one’s thoughts for a productive purpose. Even if that’s in a personal journal that no one else ever sees – and in this respect a blog is a brilliant medium for sharing some of our thoughts, whether we offer them up as words of wisdom, or as appeals for interaction. We are our own librarians.

I’m often struck by how often I have thoughts I wish I could record, but don’t have the means. Driving and listening to a radio broadcast and knowing that some of my ideas will be gone by the time I can record them. I often walk listening to podcasts, and for repeated ones I know that on a previous hearing I had a thought about some point but can’t recall it. Despite this frustration, so far, I’ve resisted carrying a separate voice recorder, to record my thoughts, because I’d have to spend further hours transcribing them. I’m waiting for the thought-transcription gizmo – maybe an app on the iPhone version 20.0. Or a separate device – the iThink?

I feel that without writing, my life would be an endless stream of fleeting events and ephemeral thoughts that would rarely lead to anything. I want to feel in control of my thoughts, and writing gives me this control. And this from someone who thinks there is no free-will – at least not as many of us normally think of it. I want (ok – this organism has a biological urge) to learn something from the electrical impulses that flit through my brain. The biological mush between my ears doesn’t have the appropriate fidelity when it comes to recording ideas. We need other tools.

How many of us who are parents have held on to the treasures that are the school work of our children.

My father was keen on electronics in its early days. I have a notebook of his, with jottings and drawings. It’s not prose. My wife has notes and the odd letter of her mother’s, tucked into her mother’s bible. They’re the only writings we have from them, and as little as they are they are valuable to us. It seems so little. But, archaeologists drool over any fragment from the past of human inscription – even if it’s only the scraping of lines on a bone. We take what we can get.

How many are lucky enough to have family treasures of writings from dead parents or grand parents, or even ancestors you never knew? How many are published? What does it feel like to be a descendant of Darwin, for example?

Transcribing our thoughts, from cave paintings, through hieroglyphs, to writing as we know it, has been maybe the greatest invention of human beings. Writing has given us the capacity to do more than simply conceive of continuity. It has made it real for each of us, within our personal lives; and for some it has made them effectively immortal, at least to others if not themselves.

Why Islam?

One theme comes out in comments by some Muslims on recent programmes about Islam, “Why pick on Islam?”

I’m not a fan of any faith, given that they all have dodgy interpretations. But Islam seems to be at the centre of many faith conflicts. I just happened to catch a few recent episodes of BBC Radio 4’s Beyond Belief.

Try these episodes, while you can:
07 Feb 2011 – Sunni/Shia Tensions – Islam v Islam
24 Jan 2011 – Ayodhya – Hindu v Islam
17 Jan 2011 – Egypt – Christianity v Islam

In addition to the victim question, “Why pick on Islam?”, there’s also the other element, of minimising the extent to which Islam is often interpreted in a violent manner, such as the persecution of apostates, as described in the 17 Jan episode.

Maybe Muslims feel they are the centre of criticism. But maybe that’s because there is plenty to criticise.

Anticipating Islamaphobia-phobia, Again

I think that sometimes those that criticise Islam are seen as Islamaphobes, as if they make stuff up about the extent to which homophobia exists in Islam; or about or how women are viewed; or about how kafirs are viewed; or about how kids are indoctrinated in faith schools; or about the political nature of Islam. As if there is no rational reason to be concerned about Islam, or the reluctance to criticise Islam.

I’ll be interested to see what is shown in this programme, Dispatches: Lessons In Hate & Violence , beyond this clip.

Be prepared for the backlash of denials. It’s happened before, here in 2007, where complainants managed to convince the police that Channel 4 had it wrong. It appears that if the religious make enough noise, if they can be offended enough, their voices will be heard. But, it didn’t end there. There is, or was at that time in 2007, a distinct bias towards tolerating Islamic intolerance. As shown here.

It’s not just police that are in denial. Every Islamist’s favourite non-Muslim Brit, George Galloway, can be relied on to back them, no matter how vile they are. Here, from 2008, is his response to another dispatches programme that had similar evidence. The ridiculous GG doesn’t get how biased he is here. GG seems to lose the plot entirely, and takes on the manner of a berating Islamist speaker. Does GG really think those investigated would say what was recorded under cover if it had been in the open? And GG has the nerve to lecture on interviewing, while making his own political speech. He’s right of course, that there are extremist Zionists and Christians. Some of the crazies on the recent Louis Theroux story from the West Bank, and his reports on US Christians attests to that. But to use this to sidestep the points made in the programme on Islam is just bollocks.

I wonder if the new programme will help the government reconsider its position on faith schools. Sure, most faith schools won’t be like this. But faith schools, indeed faith itself, facilitates this. Because faith, ultimately, relies on accepting stuff on authority. The ultimate authority may be claimed to be God, but in practice it’s the authority of those that claim the authority to interpret the words of God.

And when a religion inherently advocates strong sanctions against those within the religion that criticise it, or against those that want to leave it, or against those that fail to meet its most stringent requirements, then that adds to the stranglehold it has on reason, criticism and scepticism. And when it uses the mechanism of taking offence to attempt to censor non-Muslim criticism of Islam, the results are fiery. I wonder what claims of Islamaphobia will emerge, and to what extent various non-Muslim organisations and individuals ignore the points made in the programme because of their phobia of Islamaphobia – heaven forbid that a post-modern liberal relativist give up their relativism for the sake of common sense and evidence.

So, I’ll look forward to the responses to the Dispatches programme as much as the programme itself.