Religion's Role in the Troubles in the Middle East


Very good choices for judges.

I believe that Xunzian has the much more difficult position to defend and that he is required to play a lot more offense than his opponent. If DorkyD00D can just hang back and sidestep enough arguments, he should come away with this thing.

I disagree. While I agree with Dorky in fact, I think making the case is hard. It’s not at all a given that if religion were removed, the middle east would pacify to any significant degree. Unless you are willing to understand ‘religion’ as the entire cultural/group identity that it involves, removing religion still leaves two tribes that have been fighting over land for millenia. As I see it, Dorky will have to do a lot to show how religion is indirectly causing or perpetuating these disagreements.

Also, Xunzian’s slippery. I think he’ll do a lot to make hanging back a losing strategy.

A powerfully constructed opening argument from Xunzian - it’s got a few soft spots, but chances are they’re bait - even tho i’m naturally sympathetic towards Dorky’s position i have to say he’s going to have his work cut out for him.

I agree with that, but I still say he is going to have to be almost all offense. My main concern for Xunzian would be that having to play more of an attacker’s role and less of a defensive role in this debate may give DorkyD00D the ability to slide a strong, yet subtle, clincher argument in there that Xunzian might miss.

DorkyD00D may have the same obstacle, just in a different way. Since he will be hit with so many attacks throughout the course of this debate, it may end up being difficult for him to recognize and respond to each individual attack. And obviously, the more attacks Xunzian can throw out there, the greater the chance that he throws out two or three irrefutable ones.

In summation, I say this is classic offense vs. defense.

That would depend on whether or not I am being cynical about this. Since I reject the idealistic idea of history, I am presenting my view as I hold it as opposed to arguing with the intention of winning. I’d rather lose but argue well and perhaps convince a few readers than win a purely rhetorical victory. shrugs

Dorky and I have been around the block a few times on this topic, so formally discussing it makes sense for us.


Are all examples. Topics 1, 3, and 4 lead to Dorky starting 2, if I remember correctly. But it will be nice to have the arguments presented in a single place.

There is nothing better than getting a straight answer from one of the participants themselves!

Am I right, ladies? I’m here all week. (That will never get old to me!)


I agree. The way the question is constucted, it appears Xunxian is charged to persuade us that religion has no causitive role whatsoever. I have discussed this issue with dorky not long ago, but I never held that extreme position on the matter. Harris maintains that religion is THE cause of the problem. That is far from the question as framed here.

That said, Xunxian has made an excellent start in his opening thesis. For dialectical materialism, religion is always strategy for controlling the masses not a cause. Dorky will have to prove that it has some causitive role. This he has done before by saying that religion is the avowed reason the suicide bomber gives for carrying out her mission. Xunxian can counter with unconscious motivation. I think I can anticipate how this thing will go.

On reflection, that does seem like an unassailable claim, but it was Xunzian who provided it. There are many ways to interpret it, though.

From his first post, it seems like Xunzian is putting the emphasis on the causality, because he acknowledges that it plays a role (he mentions that those involved have no fear of death), but emphasizes that that role comes after the fact. So emphasized, he can accept that religion makes matters worse, exacerbates the troubles, but consistently deny causality.

Unfortunately, that could make the debate the kind of language game he was interested in avoiding, because d0rky might emphasize the question differently, and treat the role of religion as proof that they are a cause of the current situation, even if perhaps not the cause of the historical situation.

That’s pretty much what I got out of it. The problems (or causation) are not mutually exclusive to religious beliefs, but the beliefs are used in a motivational way.

That would be the easy way to go, but given the relative difficulty of defending Xunzian’s position, I would like to see D0rkyD00d go up against Xunzian on Xunzian’s terms.

Xunxian stole Occam’s razor from Dorky and gave him a clean shave with it!

Pav, you called it. Dorky went at it without so much as quoting a dictionary.

I thought his last quote was strange, it acknowledged the role of land, something I thought Dorky would avoid. Maybe he’s trying to keep a moderate position to stay more plausible, but I think he’s exposed himself to some skillful rhetoric. A trap maybe? Xunzian passed on it, anyway.

I’ll give Xunzian the steal, but I think it was a little more of a hoodwink. What’s the practical difference between motivations and justifications in this case? Without religion, the region is peaceful, are we talking about motivation, or just significant responsibility?

Dorky might be more persuasive if he did not pursue the Harris’ line of reasoning. The problem is he really seems to believe it. But hey, I get it. If the Jehovah Witnesses were my paradigm for religion, I would likely despise religion too.

I agree. I couldn’t say what, but I think he definitely had something in mind. Xunzian probably would have countered had he not had the Occam’s razor thing set up.

The difference isn’t practical, but it’s there. I mean, a justification (to me) is just coming up with a reason to do something that you would be doing and want to do anyway whereas a motivation is something that causes you to do something.

It basically just makes Religion a convenient excuse to do what it is they want to do.

That having been said, I’m feeling a little itchy, might have to get myself in another debate soon. Do you disagree with me fundamentally about anything? I asked Xunzian, I actually promised Xunzian a debate after the ILP v. ILO Debates are over provided he could come up with something that we disagree on.

Rap battle?

I don’t like rap, nor can I rap.

I’m sorry to disappoint you.

Do you think a serious contributor to me not getting in any heated debates with anyone might be my reluctance to take an absolute stance on things?

Need to work on that man. I routinely try and impress on people in the religion section that it is better to take a position, stick with it, and see where it takes you. Sometimes it will be wrong, yes. It does run that risk. I’ve been wrong plenty of times. Ucci, a paragon of Christian intransigence, found himself wrong often enough that he switched from Protestantism to Orthodox. That sort of thing happens when you actually have a position to examine and be found wrong on. May as well lay it all out and see where it takes you – agnosticism, on any issue, cannot be proven wrong so it prevents development. Better a sincere position that is open to change.

But that is just one man’s opinion.

I have problems with the way Xunzian used the distinction between motivation and justification, too - if a person has a ready-at-hand justification to do something, that fact alone will figure into their motivation for doing it - i don’t think the line is all that clear, particularly in the case of religious violence - sure a person may be inclined to kill anyway, but if they have a religious mandate to do so, then that’s all the more motivation to follow through, in which case religion is still playing a causal role . . .

i hope it’s not out of line for me to say so, it not being my debate - but it was alluded to above . . .

It seems as though D0rky has already written his conclusion. I’ll be following with mine shortly (probably later today) but Dorky wants to post his conclusion and finish up the debate. I don’t see anything wrong with this, so I’ll be creating a blank dummy post so he can reply with his conclusion. That allows for more natural reading order, so the final debate will look like:


As opposed to

Especially since the most memorable parts of any argument are the beginning and end, I feel it would be unfair to Dorky for me to both lead and finish the debate.

So don’t be confused when you see a blank post with my name on it. I’ll edit it for my conclusion later.

If Dorky’s argument of 03/07/2009 is his last, then he has lost the debate. Dorky’s side of the issue was easily winnable. There is no doubt in my mind that religion plays a role in the Middle East’s trouble. But Dorky tried to prove that it is the central or primary role. By trying to prove too much he lost the argument.

Religion ultimately boils down to what is believed by individuals. What is written in the Koran is always subject to the interpretation of a someone. If anyone in the Middle East believes that the Koran teaches them to kill innocent people and acts on that belief, then religion has played a role in the troubles of the Middle East. It’s that simple.

But by trying to prove that Islam is ultimately evil or that religion is ultimately evil or is the root cause of terrorism, etc. Dorky took on too much. He is saying that all the Muslims who don’t believe that the Koran teaches suicide bombing are wrong about Islam. He is saying they are not true Islamists. He, Dorky must know what Islam really means and stands for in contradistinction to their millions of professing Muslims who believe it teaches otherwise.

Dorky’s arguments follow Sam Harris’. Harris is already retreating from the extreme positions that he took in the aftermath of 911 when hysterical religion bashing appeared to be more rational than it does now.