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Does God Love War? with Chris Hedges

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Event Name: Does God Love War? with Chris Hedges
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 5/9/2019
Transcript Version: 1


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d the
Americans to come
so the reason is because it's a way of
recycling petrol dollars back into our
economy that's all it is
it's raytheon's welfare its General
Electric all of the we bring good things
to death really I mean these are and
we're all complicit you know we have
lights you know GE when you put that in
there we're all we're supporting it and
and that's you know that's the challenge
that we have and I don't envy the young
people because the world that we're
offering them do you the world that
we're handing over to our children for
God's sake do you know I mean I just
feel like we should be doing something
for these children I look at my children
I've got a seven-year-old that's
constantly asking me questions and he
recently asked me if you had to choose
would you rather have a hot death or a
cold death and I don't know if he was
referring to you know nuclear holocaust
as opposed to the global warming that's
actually making our weather in the Bay
Area a little colder but I when I look
at my child with his bright eyes and his
total trust in me and then I have to
realize that he needs to come of age he
needs to leave the Garden of Eden and
and and and abandon that innocence and
come to a realization of the type of
world that has been handed to him much
of it is defined by war we don't like to
think about the conflicts globally but
we are almost directly involved in all
of the major conflicts around the globe
somehow this country our country the
United States of America we are a
country of
like all great nations immense paradox
immense paradox and that's probably at
the root of war because war is
paradoxical on the one hand nobody wants
to go to war or so we say on the other
hand it's something that our culture
rebels in the great generation Tom
Brokaw telling us about the great
generation the great generation bombed
Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear
weapons the great generation is guilty
of war crimes against huge civilian
populations in Germany Hamburg Dresden
we don't like to think about that
because collectively all of the Germans
were guilty
we demonized them not we but the people
before us I was once in a grocery store
and and it was a Time magazine cover
somebody was buying it ahead of me and
it had a big mushroom and it said why
did we drop the bomb that was the time
headline and and the lady bringing it up
said why did we drop the bomb and I just
said listen I didn't have anything to do
with it all right
nothing I wasn't even born yet and I
don't like that implication you know of
Time magazine the the Perron says ticket
typical Omaha de l'homme cosa but those
people are gone and they have what they
earned your previous generations and
this is part of the major problem that
we have on this planet is collective
guilt is this projection of guilt on to
a collective group of people what
Erikson calls pseudo speciation it's a
great word I like words like that pseudo
speciation Erik Erikson the psychologist
said that pseudo speciation is our
propensity to to basically otherwise
people to deem them as less than human
it's what Hitler did with the Jews in
Germany they were less than human under
mensch I think is is the word the
Germans considered themselves uber
mensch
you know like Superman Nietzsche's
Superman so everybody else was Minch and
then you had the less than human
I was once in Spain we were going up a
street in in Granada and very unusual
person was asking for money on the
street and I really I mean sometimes you
see people and you you really marvel at
just their form and where they came from
the womb they came out of it's it's
fascinating but I I was struck by this
person and the person I was with his
Spanish mane he said I were chosen from
on osaki you know he said there's a lot
of info on Manos that was the first time
I'd ever heard that word you know less
than human which the person wasn't but
it was that is pseudo speciation it's to
deem somebody as less than human and we
can't go to war without doing that you
cannot go to war without doing that to
other people
it's called Guantanamo zhing your enemy
right
Guantanamo zhing your enemy they have no
rights they're not human they're
terrorists and terrorists are evil and
we're good and therefore by eliminating
evil we're doing something that is good
this is the justification if you're not
with us you're with the terrorists which
was an attempt at paraphrasing Christ
who made a spiritual statement he's not
with me is against me which is a
spiritual statement but unfortunately
and this is a problem I know that God
once did speak through a bush but we
have we
we have a president who's who's
misunderstanding that that was a burning
bush that that wasn't that wasn't a
burnt bush that was a burning bush you
know and that's a problem with this
country is that we're not setting our
sights high enough really we're not
aiming high enough as a people and when
you don't aim high enough you either
shoot yourself in the foot or you shoot
your friend that's that's a big problem
that we've got in this country you know
it's time that we really started setting
our sights a little higher because the
the foundational principles of this
civilization are very high ones and and
although unfortunately there were
atrocities and there's terrible things
that occurred at the hands of the early
people in this country but again we did
not inherit their evils but we have
benefited from their good and it's very
dangerous to demonize people because of
some of their actions and not
recognizing all of their actions because
all of us are an admixture of good and
evil and in the melodramatic world of
cartoons where good is good and evil is
evil all that was the cartoon as I grew
up now they're quite different Superman
lives in a parallel universe and there's
a negative Superman so there's there's a
whole lot of the thing children are
getting but when I was growing up and
that was the time you know little before
me
George was growing up as well and so
that you know we were given cartoons
where things were clear things were
black and white good people wore white
hats and bad people wore black hats
which is problematic for the Iranian
mullahs right I mean they really fit the
bill don't they you know I was actually
just with Ayatollah Hitomi in in a pop
up he was at the UN he's a he has a PhD
from Germany in German philosophy right
here I mean you know people assume he's
kind of a you know some kind of medieval
throwback I mean the man is is really
far more sophisticated than a lot of
rulers that we've had in the West so
this pseudo speciation is what happens
in the melodramatic universe now what's
interesting is we have a biological
problem because if you look at children
at about seven months a child after an
intense bonding with the mother actually
begins to recognize strangers and often
will be frightened of them they'll
sometimes actually look and cry and it
happens to good people it's not always
you know don't assume they're seeing
something that that you're not although
they might be don't assume they're not
but this is what they do they begin to
recognize something that is foreign or
alien the family is the first in-group
that we have the family is our in-group
what's outside of the family is an
out-group when you go to school you also
have in-groups and out-groups our
society thrives on this idea as I was
driving here I was passing by these Phi
Beta Kappa and you know these sororities
and fraternities around Berkeley which
is a classic in-group out-group
phenomenon when you when you join a
fraternity there's a hazing you have to
get you know really drunk I mean they
kill them sometimes these four people
but really in hazing people die in that
initiation that rite of passage but you
bond you know like George was in in the
Skull and Bones Club and they have very
intense bonding they actually you
apparently have to go and dig up a dead
person and spend a night in a coffin
with a dead person I don't know if those
things are true but people write about
them
that and it's very odd but it's not I
don't think it should shock you
you know if you've just seen you know
the type of things that people are
capable of doing I mean Chris talked
about necrophilia you know it's I mean
lions don't do that you know
monkeys don't do that humans do that
right really it's we're capable of just
immense depravity but these in-groups
and out-groups this is the essence of
war now if you look at what what what is
the foundation of war where does it come
from there's people that again say no
people are men don't like war women
don't like war there's actually whole
social theories that refute conflict
theory that war is thrust upon people I
don't believe that we have a society
that relishes war Patton said anybody
that says Americans don't like a war is
a liar Americans love a good war I mean
that's General Patton now he liked war
obviously I mean it was a passion with
him really very intelligent man I
actually read his his notes from World
War two it's called
our war and on the very first entry he
just arrived at North Africa and he said
just finished the Quran he ended the
entry by saying just finished reading
the Quran a good book very interesting
so I thought that was I mean you know
nowadays just wonder about the generals
nowadays but he was going to a Muslim
country he wanted to work out what they
were about so you read a foundational
book if you want to understand America I
don't know what you would read you know
I don't I think you'd probably have to
see a Quentin Tarantino film
right - real or go to you know big-time
wrestling right go to one I wonder where
all those people come from in those big
giant auditoriums are they walking
around out here are they in the grocery
stores with us you know you just have to
want I mean if you if if you want to
inculcate peace it's a very odd thing by
teaching young children you know having
these two wrestling used to be a noble
thing you know two people got to and
they wrestled then they shook hands
afterwards they don't do that anymore
you know they hit each other over the
head with boards and and smash their
heads up again it's supposed to be fake
but kids can't determine and we had one
for 13 year old boy jumped on this five
year old kid and killed him shattered
his spleen and he got it from big-time
wrestling you know that's why they have
these big don't do this at home and the
only reason I know about big-time
wrestling it's very popular in Saudi
Arabia they actually really like
big-time wrestling and they're convinced
it's real I was once in a in a I was in
a you know uh gajja plays and and
coffeehouse and they were watching and I
said that's not real and they said no
it's real look
I gave up you know how do you argue with
him there's look he threw him down he
fell down it's real so but promoting
that type of a culture because I really
believe Abu Horeb is a direct result I
call these guys Quentin Tarantino's
children they're kids that grew up on
violence on pornography garbage in
garbage out and I really was hoping for
one eye it was a bit of optimism on my
part but I was actually hoping that
perhaps our country would just for a
brief moment be able to recognize our
shadow just to see an aspect of our
culture of who we are
because we are a beret that is part of
us and to deny that to to say it has
nothing to do with the United States of
America is to deny our shadow and Jung
believed that the more you denied the
shadow the greater it grew the greater
it grew unless you were able he felt it
was like a seesaw that you're you're you
know the the beautiful aspect of the
human soul had to be in balance with the
shadow and and and if it wasn't if you
denied it you elevated it and what we do
in war is we project our shadow onto
others this is what we do all the
despicable qualities that we hate about
ourselves we project them on the other
do you see the Arabs you know hate women
they're misogynistic look at some of the
statistics in our own country
pornography is the number one media
industry in the United States of America
what does that tell us about our culture
and how we view women because I mean the
the Arabs that I know
they love women really and I don't say
that you can interpret that as you like
but there's those type of Arabs as well
but every Arab learns from the time
there are little children and gender to
talkto akadama Toma hot paradise is at
the feet of the mother that's what the
Prophet Muhammad taught his community
sallallahu said of paradises that at the
feet of the mother I know
Arabs it would never greet their mother
without kissing her hand and kissing her
forehead would do anything for their
mothers really so we can project all of
that darkness onto the other and it
enables us to demonize them to treat
them despicably to carpet-bomb them to
brutalize them and things that Chris
talked about in his talk that he's seen
I mean I saw some of it in the refugee
camps in the shower during the Afghani
war against the Russians just the faces
of the people and that's that's what
happens when you demonize the other it's
just very easy to degrade cover them in
feces violate them with sticks I mean
this is this is what people can do and
what's interesting to me about war and
religion because it's a paradox religion
of all the religions Islam is most
associated with militancy it's seen as a
militant religion and there's certainly
a militant aspect about Islam Muslims
are people certain eats and said when he
was at the when he was in the gulag in
Siberia and he wrote this it's a very
beautiful passage in one of his books he
said of all the people in the gulag the
one people that refuse to be subjugated
by the Russian guards were the chase
they would not submit to the humiliation
they always stood up and they would
fight and he said in the unusual thing
about this is it they actually gain the
respect of the Russian guards and the
Russian guards had a type of fear of
them chase nians
there the name for their capital Grozny
is fierce Tolstoy wrote a book about a
chase knee and Mujahid called Haji Murad
about the nobility of the chasing and
warrior chase nians are very free and
independent people and one of the things
that islam teaches is never to be a
slave of anybody but God never bow down
to anybody honor people respect people
but never allow a person to abuse you
that's at the essence of the Islamic
teaching because you have been in noble
by God according to the put on all of
the children of Adam and Eve have been
in noble by God we have a human dignity
that is essential to our nature our
character and in honoring that dignity
we must honor others and in honoring
that dignity we do not allow ourselves
to be dishonored and the Prophet
Muhammad said a believer does not
humiliate him or herself so that's
something very essential and that's why
the Palestinians are resistant people
it's difficult for them and even if they
lash out in in heinous ways if you don't
understand what is the essence of that
then you're missing the point you're
missing the point because while I
condemn the use of indiscriminate
violence I'm completely opposed to it
and I believe that blowing up buses in
Tel Aviv is indiscriminate violence I
don't I don't agree with it I've always
been against it I've read arguments for
it by certain scholar
from the middle-east I've never been
convinced by them but it happens and the
question that I think we're confronted
with Dostoevsky said it's very easy to
hate those who do evil but it's very
difficult to understand them and even
and this is one of the great things
about the poet's and why we need the
poet's out in September 1939 he was
sitting in a dive in New York City when
he heard about the invasion of Poland
and he said that scholarship could
explain what was unleashed he said ask
what happened at Linz what unleashed
that imago a psychopathic God I in the
public know what all schoolchildren
learn those whom evil is done do evil in
return
and that's a lesson that we need to
learn we need to learn that what we are
seeing is a projection of ourselves it's
a projection of ourselves and they also
they me we all need to see this on all
sides because as long as we pseudo
speciation the other as less than human
the kaffir right the disbeliever the
infidel justifying with that abuse of
that other then we fail to learn the
essential truths of our tradition
whatever it might be because at the root
of war is injustice it's greed it's
selfishness and it's a total lack of
concern for the suffering of others and
all of those things religions came to
free us from and that's apps
truth whether it's Hinduism whether it's
Judaism Christianity Buddhism Islam they
came to expose to us the worst qualities
our shadow so that we might know
ourselves better and until we have
greater self-knowledge and this is what
we're confronted with a absolute
imperative to have self-knowledge
because that's what this is about it's
about learning about ourselves through
the lens of the other Imam Shafi one of
the great scholars of Islam was once
asked how did you get such excellent
character he said I always listen to
what my enemies said about me and I took
it seriously our enemies have something
to teach us in Latin the word enemy
comes from in amicus not friend not
friend somebody who's not a friend which
in the pre-modern world that's the way
it was viewed the tribe and everybody
else there's a there's a a tribe in the
Amazon called the wary tribe waa RI and
their word according to a linguist even
Pinter their word for dinner or for food
is not a wary
which he said was problematic if you
were ever invited to have dinner with
them being unwary but that that is the
pre-modern world the tribe do you see
the tribe it's me versus them the Arabs
have a proverb me and my brother against
my cousin me my brother and my cousin
against my neighbor and me my brother my
cousin and my neighbor against everyone
else I mean that that's one view of the
world that's a view that our religions
came to remove tribalism provincialism
partisanship nationalism is a disease
it's a disease and I don't believe
patriotism is a disease love of your
country is not a negative thing it's a
good thing people always say my country
right or wrong but they forget the
actual quote of the Admiral that made
that he's a brilliant
I mean extraordinary man he was a
warrior in he actually was in the war of
Tripoli de quatre I think we have
Decatur Illinois Georgia they're named
after him Stephen Decatur or Decatur I
don't know how they say that but in his
famous toast he actually said our
country may she always be right
may she always be right in her foreign
affairs but our country right or wrong
very different to my country right or
wrong when our country is in the wrong
we need to stand by the truth that is
not tribalism that is patriotism because
that comes from love doesn't come from
hate it comes from love of your country
and that's why we're living in a time
when dissent has become once again a
dangerous word a dangerous word if you
ask me does God love war I would have to
say I don't believe God loves war war in
the Quran is used four times the word
it's a negative word in the Quran how
there are two times in which war is
declared by God on people when they
engage
which is considered an economic
injustice it's prohibited in the Torah
it was prohibited in church canon law
and Aristotle said it was most unnatural
form of money or wealth acquisition
condemned by all the ancient
philosophers and much of what we're
witnessing around this globe is directly
due to in immense debt in these
countries all around the globe that are
paying exorbitant yuzuriha s-- returns
to industrialized countries that have
lent them money designed read
Confessions of an economic hitman really
read that book it's an important book
about what we do and where that
resentment comes is trying to understand
it at a deeper level that's what we need
to do so but God according to the Quran
the Quranic narrative there is a verse
in the logic urban America Deen God does
not love those who aggress and there are
two types of war there is a no war of
aggression and there's a war of defense
and all of our religious traditions give
people the right to defend themselves
whether it's Christianity with its just
law theory
st. Augustine st. Thomas Aquinas
believed that it was absolutely
congruent with the teachings of
Christianity the right to self-defense
watching what they call the double
effect which is very stringent criteria
for when good can cause evil so
collateral damage carpet bombing all
these things I mean bombing people from
the air that's one of the things we have
a mechanism in ourselves that protects
us from inflicting people with pain it's
called sympathy compassion pity I mean
these are very powerful emotions that we
acquire early on usually given to us by
our mothers and when you distance when
you use weapons where you drop bombs
from 30,000 feet there's no room for
those inhibitors
there's no room for those constraints so
it becomes pushing a button we don't see
the results of what that button does one
of the things about the and why books
like the unimportant and we honor kale
and people like her that are trying to
bring these images to people one of the
reasons why they're so important is to
see that true side of war what it does
to people the effects it has on just the
common people one of the things that
general william Westmoreland who was
back in the old days in Berkeley he was
called waste more land he was one of the
Vietnam generals but general
Westmoreland who I think is famous for
saying we had to destroy the village to
save it but he said Vietnam was the
first uncensored war and we you don't
censor war it creates confusion in the
public mind what type of confusion
because that's very Orwellian what what
it creates in the public mind is moral
conscience an understanding that what
we're doing is morally wrong it's
repugnant and that is what we have to
take it out I really believe and and I
think we should be inspired by the
abolitionist movement which began in the
late 18th century by 12 people in a
small house in London that house is
still there it's honored when they began
that never did they believe in their
wildest dreams that they would end
slavery in their lifetimes but they saw
it by 1732 the British had outlawed by
1832 the British had outlawed the slave
trade it took some time to stop it but
they did it and it was done by a handful
of men and women committed to that
mostly working in fact really entirely
working from the best of the Christian
tradition the best of the Christian
tradition and that movement took off it
was a great movement in the nineteenth
century in this country
I really believe that it's people like
that that need to emerge from among us
that are really willing to recognize
that we are facing a choice between
consciousness and catastrophe if we
don't wake up we're on a perilous path
to our own destruction and we are the
first generation as it's been said many
times that has in its hands the capacity
to destroy itself our species war is
still a major threat people are
suffering from it all around the world
nuclear proliferation is a major threat
Pakistan and India disaster really it's
a disaster failed States we have a lot
of work to do I really hope that people
will take that home with them and I hope
we can have some more discussion and
conversation and I really Chris Hedges I
read his book when it first came out war
as a force that gives us meaning I
really recommend to all of you that you
read that book it's an important book
because in the absence of meaning war is
certainly one substitute and our our
country right now is suffering from a
vacuum of meaning and purpose
consumerism just doesn't do the trick
you know no matter how many trips to
Walmart you make those products never do
what they say they're supposed to do
they just don't it looks good in the
store and you get it home and it just
seems so different when I first saw it
and before you know it it's in some
corner of the house right and then it's
in the garage sale so consumerism
doesn't do the trick and if you replace
the sacred it's always empty things that
you try to fill that void with god bless
all of you thank you very much
[Applause]
you
you

Part 3

you
but we're going to go ahead and get
started the conversation as we sit here
one of the things that both of you
talked about war a lot but I noticed not
quite enough about religion so I'm going
to trying to bring up some religious
issues about religion Chris Hedges I
know you're working on a project right
now that has to do with the religious
right I can share that the audience can
you talk a little bit about what part of
the religious right what what you
focused on well I want to preface that
by saying that I grew up in the church
my father was a Presbyterian minister my
mother graduated from seminary and was a
professor I graduated with a Master of
Divinity from Harvard Divinity School
which is the degree you get if you are
going to be a preacher I was not
ordained but I did the academic work so
that's the orientation I come from of
course as you know I spent about two
decades abroad and meant much of that
time in disintegrating States covering
countries where extremist movements one
thinks of for instance the nationalist
movements in the former Yugoslavia
appropriated religion was nothing
religious about slobodan milosevic
but he certainly knew how to manipulate
a language and the iconography of the
Serbian Orthodox Church as well as bring
much of the leadership of the Serbian
Orthodox Church into his campaign of
genocide that was carried out in Bosnia
and of course then later Kosovo so
having spent a lot of time around people
who claim to speak in the name of God
for activities that I felt and I think
knew certainly understood were
antithetical to their own religious
tradition as well as my own coming back
to the United States and listening to
the language of the pat robertson's and
the four wells and the Dobson's
I found deep similarities between their
ideology of hate
and exclusion and bigotry and
self-righteousness and language of
violence the the belief that those who
did not embrace their peculiar brand of
Christianity were agents of Satan they
were the demonic forces this triggered a
great deal frankly of anger within me as
somebody who is a Christian and
certainly informed very deeply by my own
religious tradition that somehow my
struggle and stand before God was
worthless because it didn't conform to
their particular vision I think that
that kind of language is poisonous
dangerous in a civil society because it
creates an exclusive group which
empowers itself at the expense of all
others and I have seen such groups at
work in the Middle East in the Balkans
in Latin America in Asia and and it's
those similarities that frightened me I
think you spoke about patriotism it's
certainly a love of my country and a
love of my religion that has led me to
write a book that is not a history of
the Christian Right but very much an
assault against the Christian right I'm
not willing to give people who preach
hate religious legitimacy even if they
claim to speak on behalf of my religion
I'm the use of up I want to follow up on
that if this idea of the religious right
we have similar parallels in other
religions around the world mobile
religions is it's not it's not supposed
to be right or left it's supposed to be
straight right but you know we have that
strain everywhere that that sort of
fundamentalism if you want to call it
that but I wonder if you talk about why
it is so appealing why is it so popular
why does it why is that straight yeah
people accepting I mean part of what's
happening is religion is still reacting
to modernity modernity the Vatican I
think their definition is is a good one
they defined modernity as the
privatization of religion what Steven
Carter calls God is a hobby you know
it's permitted to tinker with God in
your garage but you know one two if you
bring them out onto Main Street and so
religion because people of faith are
informed by their religion and it's
difficult to divorce it's like it's it's
like telling a black person that you
know you can only be black in private
for you know because identity races is a
very important aspect of identity even
though I don't believe in race because I
think it's it's basically been proven
biologically to be a construct but
appearance of race you know different
forms that we have African Asian these
inform people's identity in a world that
you're given a box you know white
Caucasian Asian Mexican other I always
check other because I don't like to be
categorized in those boxes I'm not from
the Caucasus Mountains and I don't feel
comfortable being defined as a Caucasian
but you know I religion is an identity
and that one of the things is you know
we don't accept racial slurs anymore in
the public space it's it's complete
condemned but religious slurs are still
particularly religions that are not our
own but what drives that do and so I
think you know what what you're seeing
is a reaction still the Muslims are
definitely reacting to modernity because
in the Muslim world as you know I mean
you've been there religion is just you
know there's a call to prayer five times
a day it wakes you up at fudger at dawn
and so religion still deeply informs
people's lives
Arabs even secularized Arabs are
constantly using religious formula in
their language that have have really
disappeared from the English language I
mean we used to use a lot like God speed
it was very common term you know God be
with you goodbye is actually a
contraction of God be with you but
people used to use these God willing was
was used the Spanish say ojala which is
from insha'Allah but you know
insha'Allah God willing and that's what
it's supposed to mean now it means maybe
so so you know there it's still deeply
informed by religion and there's three
religious responses to modernity one is
assimilation another is withdrawal and
and the fourth is confrontation and and
so we're seeing a confrontation going on
now and we're in a period of what you
know as sociologists call enemy where
things of the carpets been pulled out
from under people and and we don't
really have a ground for morals anymore
for for really we're just seeing a lot
of major changes in society and religion
which is often informed by pre-modern
concepts of morality which are still
very important to many religious people
they're having they're really groping
with what's going on so you know some of
it is growing pains because there's
things we need to abandon from the past
but others are genuine conflictual
experience inside but there's a reason
why your brand you know what do you
render the slammd of what you talked
about is appealing to people but also is
Osama bin Laden's random what he talks
about Islam that's very appealing to a
lot of people around the world um then
I'm trying to understand what well add
new to me is it's like a Spartacus
character found it's it's the rebellion
of the slaves and so there's a lot of
people that see that that's what they
see like a Palestinian in in Han Eunice
you know who's grown up all his life and
just uh durably unbelievable conditions
and they feel a lot of resentment so
when somebody strikes back you know it's
it's I think I don't think it's these
people aren't if you know if you
actually personalize the suffering
they're against it
do you know but it's more symbolic and
and that's something that's very easy to
do when things are distant when you
watch them on television you know
there's people that can watch you know a
news thing on Rwanda and
and turn off the television go eat
dinner or they'll eat dinner while
they're watching it you know so this is
the ability for humans just to shut
things off inside and I think that's
what happens to people but I really
believe that Islam is in crisis
the Muslims are in crises and we need I
think a new discourse there's a
discourse that was borrowed largely from
the Marxists and it was Islam a sized
you know and and and and Marxism is is
rooted in my estimation it much of it is
rooted in in resentment and some of that
resentment is is obviously valid but
resentment is not a rung on the
spiritual ladder you are much goober
you're quite passionate about your
dislike if I might call it that above
the religious right of the crib you know
and I'm just curious whether that's
something that you feel is really
obviously feel it's dangerous but what
exactly is the threat that they pose you
talk about language they use inaudible
what is the threat that they pose
I think the religious right you know it
what it's done if you look closely is
appropriated language of evangelical
Christians as well as of course the
language of American patriotism but they
have really changed or they have taken
over the institutions and shunted aside
those people within evangelical
institutions who don't buy into this
concept that they have a right to create
a Christian America you I all urge you
to look at Jimmy Carter's book you know
he does a pretty good job of this Jimmy
Carter himself being an evangelical who
when the Southern Baptist Convention was
taken over by these so-called Christian
Reconstructionist these people who
wanted to organize and
and create a drive for political power
but when when all those evangelicals who
didn't buy into this were ruthlessly
shunted aside and you can go back and
read about the the purges that took
place in the Southern Baptist Convention
in 1980 to see this and and and so what
we're seeing is a kind of
cannibalization I mean I don't come out
of the evangelical tradition I come out
I'm a Presbyterian and come out of the
sort of liberal wing of the Presbyterian
Church but these people are not
evangelicals although they look like
evangelicals and and I think that that
that's important to remember that these
people have to have appropriated these
issues that many people care about these
value issues appropriated the language
and and I think the other the other
important point to remember and I think
you've spoken very eloquently about this
is that we do live with a kind of moral
rot I mean the and sometimes there are
most prescient social critics I think
what they what they offer as a solution
is far worse but they're not always
wrong about understanding the problem
but and I just want to say one other
thing I think that the big draw is that
we have created in modern society all
sorts of forms to destroy the human
community so that these people are very
lonely and very isolated you know the
biggest growth of this movement is in
the exurbs
why because there's no community center
there's no connection with their
neighbor they live in these big empty
houses with palladium windows they get
in these big empty cars they drive to
these big soulless offices and they go
home and and I think as writers like
Karl Popper and Hannah Aaron have
understood well and Aaron calls it
atomization as but it's that that
solitude that loneliness that despair
ultimately that is the the essential
element that creates totalitarian
movements this is a movement that and
you know all you have to do is turn on
the 700 club or TBN or you know they
listen to Benny Han or any of these
people who reach tens of millions of
Americans within their households in a
parallel information
system network by which these people
never have to hear reality base news at
all I listen to the language they use
about us I'm just curious I think there
is no III you know I there is reality
base news and and it's it's you don't
see it much anymore on television but
there is such a thing as going out and
reporting a story and and a belief that
other viewpoints are important that
there isn't you know that that not
everything that you report about has to
conform to a law of history that leads
to Armageddon and you know and and and
and much of much of the attack on the
public school system and the effort to
promote the teaching of creationism and
the attack ultimately on the reality
based news media I mean they hate the
New York Times and I was just in a and
and I'm sure we can all critique the New
York Times but the I was just in a
seminar in Missouri where they were
teaching teachers how to teach
creationism and in the middle of it they
went off on a diatribe against the time
so I'm sure was the only Times reader in
the room but what they were doing was
the same thing they were doing by
creationism they were trying to create
this is a system that believes in magic
it's in superstition and signs and
wonders it's not a reality based system
in all reality based systems Inc like
science for instance you know honest
dispassionate intellectual in course it
inquiry and and and you know news
reporting that is not that doesn't carry
a particular is a threat to them and so
they are trying to destroy those
institutions and and and it is not a
matter of wanting their voices heard
it's a matter of wanting that those
reality based systems to be eradicated
but as some people believe that that
that's what the leading to is kind of
borders on being fascism do you think
this is fascism in some form I think
that I thinking the mentality is a
fascist mentality I think if you take
the
the main pillars of fascist ideology yes
I think that they are America's fascist
and humble use of do you think there are
similar fascist leanings and other
religions in Islam and why they're
definitely you know whenever a person
who is informed by faith irrigates to
themselves the gods voice that that's
the most dangerous type of religion one
of the beauties of Islam that I love is
that any scholar that ever gave a relief
at WA they would always end the fatwa by
saying and God knows best you know in
other words this is the best that I can
do at understanding this issue but I'm
human I'm fallible and and and there's
their God speaks through language for
people that believe in revelation and
language is symbols and symbols are open
to more than one interpretation
literalness tradition in religion
historically is not the majority of
religion it's always very small sects
within religion but unfortunately it is
becoming a much larger movement that it
ever was I mean the Catholics are not
literalist they've never been literalist
the the predominant Muslim tradition
both Shia and Sunni is not literalist
tradition I mean there are things that
are taken literally you know because
language is language and something if it
means something it means something just
like law the law is what it stated but
much of the tradition is open to
multiple interpretations and you know
the rabbi's say if you get three rabbis
you get four opinions that there's a lot
of truth in Islam like that you know
that that you really and Islam is closer
to rabbinical Judaism in that it really
does have a very fluid interpretive
community so but the these people do not
have I mean I was just on a Danish
television program
and they brought up this person and he
said there's no such thing as extremist
Islam or moderate Islam there's only
Islam and you're either Muslim or you're
not in other words you're either
following my definition of Islam or
you're not a Muslim that's what he was
really saying and you know my response
to that was my Islam encompasses his
voice I mean I'm not going to negate
that he's a co-religionist but his Islam
does not encompass me you know he's
drawn a very narrow circle and defined
that as Islam my circle is much broader
and I think religion by its nature if it
is not inclusive it's dangerous and and
and these voices that want to arrogate
for themselves the voice of God and tell
us what God is saying without any
ambiguity I don't believe that because I
I boot you know it's very interesting
that in the Islamic tradition before you
can comment on the Quran you have to
master jihad poetry which is pre-islamic
poetry it's actually a prerequisite
before you can interpret the Quran and
and part of the reason is that poetry
precedes revelation all great revelation
is preceded by by poetry and in fact you
know this is in in the Hindu tradition
in India in the Islam even you know if
you consider Plato or Socrates at least
from some kind of prophetic tradition
which many Muslim scholars did
there is no Socrates without Homer I
mean Homer is you know it's he is the
basis for a Socratic thought and the the
beauty of poets is they're never
melodramatic I mean if you look at Homer
and you know William Blake thought we're
never gonna get rid of war until we
changed the foundational book Western
civilization he thought yet to get rid
of the Iliad
but the Iliad could be read as as a
really anti-war testimony and the thing
about Homer that I love is Homer's a
Greek but he never lets you know whether
he's really on the on the Trojan side of
the Greek side he just he won't he won't
do that he won't fall into that trap
and he presents the nobility of the
Trojans and he presents the nobility of
the Greeks and he presents you know he's
actually I think a little harsher on the
Greeks you know if anything
Menelaus I mean there's people in there
that just don't come out looking very
well whereas Hector you know it looks a
lot better than than the Greek leader so
I think when when you teach poetry and I
really believe that that's what we have
to reintroduce into these curricula I
think poetry is a antidote for for
fascism
I think it's an antidote for fanaticism
I really believe that and I'm and people
who know me know that I really believe
in in in teaching literature and and in
spreading literature great literature
for that reason and one of the things
that I've noted is I've never met you
know any of these people that had an
appreciation of literature and somebody
once said to me you said that the
fanatics never liked poetry and then he
quoted some line of poetry which was
doggerel you know from some fanatic and
and I couldn't give him a lesson on what
doggerel was as opposed to really
worthwhile poetry well and I enjoy
reading doggerel everything I write some
doggerel on the issue of literalism
certainly among you know the Christian
literalists is that they're not actually
literalized they're selectively
literalists having studied the Bible
they clearly pick out what is useful to
them and ignore the rest there are many
things in the Bible for instance they
don't believe they don't believe as many
writers in the Hebrew Scriptures wrote
that we have a big dome over us and God
is looking down on us through little
people's cold stars they there are Pat
there are laws in Leviticus that they
don't want to try and enforce such as if
you curse your parents you shall be
executed you know they they create you
know this whole concept of the rapture
is not in the Bible there are
contradictions all throughout
Gospels in the story of the life of
Christ with some Gospels have Christ
being baptized by John the Baptist and
in Luke John's already in prison I mean
it you can't do it I mean the the
writers of the book of Genesis thought
the earth was flat
how can you talk about teaching
creationism in schools among people who
don't understand that we live on a globe
and so clearly there's actually Tom
Thomas Friedman who writes for the New
York Times
yes he clarified that it's actually flat
but I think that those are all tip offs
that there's something else behind this
agenda right and that it is very much in
our interest as Americans who want to
protect the pluralistic and open society
that we live in that we begin to peel
back that religious veneer and uncover
what it is they're actually seeking I
mean look closely at the way they
actually define basic terms of American
democracy such as Liberty you'll hear
them talk a lot about Liberty and
President Bush often speaks in code to
that but when they define Liberty it's
the liberty of being liberated by Jesus
Christ
it is they've taken traditional concepts
that that everyone that is a kind of
common currency in this room and
distorted those concepts so that they
may use the word but they say one thing
it means one thing to us and another
thing to their believers and and in many
ways the book that I'm writing on the
Christian Right is a kind of literary
criticism of the religious right to give
people another vocabulary and another
language by which they can explain and
understand this movement which i think
is very dangerous to our country
obviously I want to
[Applause]
a couple more you said you were saying
earlier that you know that your concept
of Islam is wider and perhaps more
tolerant there's room for and in
relation to what Chris head is talking
about in Christianity I'm wondering
whether people would say similar things
that he's talking about the religious
right people would say about say the
Wahhabis well we don't understand that
but I'm curious what whether you think
that your concept of Islam enclosed them
and if so how do you steal well it does
in that I can't deny they're there from
my faith I mean their their
understanding is not my understanding of
a lot of the same words we're looking at
the same texts and we're coming to very
different conclusions about those texts
so I can't I'm not going to say they're
not Muslim and I actually have some
friends that are from that tradition the
more educated you get I mean there's
there's something that Imam and Matt
city was one of the great Tunisian Imams
they said that he became so
knowledgeable in Islam he rarely saw any
sin because he would always say oh
that's the even of so-and-so you know
that it just there was he found excuses
for people and the Prophet Muhammad
peace be upon him he said the believer
is somebody who looks for excuses for
others and and the hypocrite is the one
who's always looking for the faults and
and you know there's there's a verse
there's a hadith that says that the
believer will look for 70 excuses before
he'll find fault in a person and I had a
friend who was trying to get in touch
with me for a while and I wasn't getting
back to him and he said he'd left me a
message said I'm at 69
ah good I just wanted you know I think
the point that you made about inclusion
is a really important one that you know
having lived much of my life outside the
United States in other faith communities
I fully understood that virtuous and
righteous people arose in all societies
among all faiths to stand up for the
oppressed for me God you know didn't
give any one people one nation and
exclusive ability to understand the
power of the transcendent and this was
of course you know having lived seven
years in the Middle East you know the
the my close contact with Islam
especially how important it was for
Palestinians struggling for their own
dignity and their own survival and and
and I think that that this issue of
inclusion is key because there there
must be a kind of respect for the
various paths that that cultures and
religions have made to struggle with
that experience of the transcendent and
for me that's the greatest testament to
the reality of God and but what this
hard religious right is doing is
excluding that possibility that for them
they are denying my right to be as a
believer and much of my anger against
them comes from that I don't deny their
right to be I don't deny their right to
worship as they see fit and find meaning
in the paths that they take what angers
me and I think when you spoke about the
church names is that that they dismiss
my struggle and the struggle of all
others including people of others faith
as not only worthless but a force of
darkness and and once we cross that line
it's not a matter of dialogue it's it's
a fight for survival
and this becomes the great paradox of
tolerance because I believe in tolerance
I believe tolerance is a great virtue
but if we tolerate the intolerant
then both tolerance disappears and the
intolerant along with it and tolerance
and you know virtue theory is actually a
mean between intolerance and soft
headedness you know the ability of just
not to because even the Buddhists who
are usually they really get off easy
with the world religions because they're
always kind of seen as the good guys and
and you know and I not you know my
mother actually practices Tibetan
Buddhism so our family get together
interfaith dialogues but but one of the
things that whoo suey I think is his
name he was a Chinese Buddhist teacher
from the 7th century um he said when
enlightened beings tolerate evil and
allow it to spread they are no longer
enlightened beings they're demons and
and the the Buddhist actually do have a
just war theory I mean they believe that
there there are times when it's actually
right to to take up arms monks are not
supposed to do that but but Buddhist
laypeople are actually allowed to do
that so and that and that I got that
from dr. Thomas Cleary who's you know
just a phenomenal Buddhist scholar and a
resident of the Bay Area but you know
unfortunately religion is often used as
a justification for for war and and