“Iran’s Hardliners Renew Calls for Rushdie to Die”–headline, The Independent (UK), 2/15/2003
In 1989, the government of Iran sentenced author Salman Rushdie to death for writing arguments offensive to their interpretation of Islam in his book, The Satanic Verses.
Over the next decade, Salman Rushdie was forced to live in hiding, as assassins spread out around the globe to wage jihad against the infidel. Some of these assassins were Iranian government agents, some were independent operators inspired by the Ayatollah’s call. In any case, fanatics succeeded in murdering the Japanese translator of the book, and wounding people involved in the Italian and Norwegian translations.
The tale of Rushdie is a well known tale. But it is a tale with a lesson that is rarely learned. And that is the lesson of faith and force.
There are two methods commonly used to find the truth about a given issue. One way is through reason, through looking at evidence and examining the logic of arguments, and discerning what explanation best fits the evidence, and proceeding to a conclusion. If this is your method, then you can enlist the aid of others, who have access to other information, to arguments you may not have thought of, who may see flaws in your argument which you missed. And you can help them in the same way in return. You share the same logic, and if you share common starting points and goals, you can work together amicably and promote the progress of human civilization. This is the way of civilization, of cooperation between human beings to accomplish goals.
The other method of finding truth is through faith. Faith is belief in the absence of, or in contradiction to, evidence. Faith is sometimes used carelessly to indicate confidence in someone or something (“I have faith in you”), or as an alternate for trust (“breach of faith”). Faith is belief based on something which cannot be logically justified. When faith is your method of knowledge, you have no means to persuade anyone. You have no basis of agreement upon which to appeal to anyone, since you cannot justify your position logically.
Since faith cannot be argued, what is the genuine man of faith to do when he encounters vocal disagreement? The usual response in the monotheistic tradition is to attempt to intimidate the unbeliever at secondhand, with descriptions of floods or plagues or pillars of salt or hellfire and damnation. But if it is the will of God that his enemies suffer, can it be wrong for God’s faithful to do his will on earth? The Word of God in one place may say that it is wrong, but surely the jihadist’s or the Inquisitor’s interpretation is correct–he has faith that it is so, and arguments otherwise are the work of the devil.
Faith and religion are commonly confused–there are many religious arguments which are based on logic or on evidence, and there are non-religious positions which are justified entirely by faith. Faith, remember, is belief without evidence, belief which cannot be justified logically. In the twentieth century, two new movements called on their followers to believe in a millennium, a magical time at the end of ordinary time when a perfect world will be created. The Communists had faith in the socialist millennium of a classless utopia, the Nazis had faith in the Aryan millennium of the Thousand-Year Reich, and sent millions to their graves, with the faith that these deaths were necessary to serve the great design and bring about the millennium.
When men of faith must work with other men, they cannot do so by persuasion. Their faith is not a chain of evidence, argument and reasoning that others can follow on their own, which can persuade others who seek to understand. It is something they feel inside themselves, it is an emotion. Therefore others must be forced to obey, to do the Will of God, to serve the proletariat, to serve the millennium. Those who resist are not simply misguided, they are agents of the devil and must be destroyed.
Which returns us to the case of Salman Rushdie. To the jihadists, his asking questions about the life of Mohammed was an act of blasphemy–asking questions which must not be asked. Why not? Faith has told us that those questions must not be asked. What happens if those questions are asked? The questioner must die. Why? Because the faith of the jihadists demands it.
Hopefully, the time of the jihadists, in Teheran, in Mecca, in Asbury Park and throughout the world grows short. They have declared war on civilization, and civilization is slowly rising to the challenge of their call.