The Role of Violence

ViolenceSolvesProblemsWe discussed a news story over on the podcast a while ago, where we talked about Christian-on-Muslim violence and cannibalism in Africa and started talking about how to handle such things.  I made some comments about just taking these people out who think that violence is a good thing and got some negative comments.  Some people think that we, as atheists, ought to always take the high road no matter what the religious do.

I disagree.

Okay, I think that violence ought to be the very last thing that we resort to in any conflict and that’s regardless of our religious or irreligious natures.  It shouldn’t be necessary for an advanced human species to resort to killing others in order to put forward a superior social system.  I get it.  However, we, as an advanced human species, shouldn’t believe in imaginary friends in the sky and, as a result of such beliefs, go around eating people in the streets, beheading members of other religions, molesting children, etc.  These are things that we, as a species, should not permit, yet the Religious Horror Show proves that such ideas are rampant and widespread.

I’m not  going to say anything about liberals or conservatives because the idea that we ought to take the moral high ground seems rampant on both sides.  I agree, at least as far as it goes, but taking the moral high ground doesn’t solve the problem.  You cannot debate with people who are unwilling to listen, this is a common problem with the religious.  If they won’t listen to reason and they continue to act in a manner outside of social acceptability, what then?  What do you do?  Do you just sit back in your ivory towers and express your disapproval of their actions while they continue to kill innocents in the streets?  Do we encourage the UN to issue vaguely critical statements against those who are totally out of control?  How do we actually stop the people who are unwilling to stop on their own?

The answer, no matter how much some people don’t like it, is violence.  Taking military action is a tried and true manner of getting things stopped when nothing else works.  We went to war over slavery in the U.S. and put an end to it.  We went to war against the Nazis and wiped them out.  How much good had talking to either side done?  None.  How much good did taking action, even violent action do?  Lots.

Today, we have a problem with some religions, they act to harm others first and foremost and don’t listen to reason.  They don’t want to talk, they want to kill people.  It’s part and parcel with their religious beliefs and those beliefs cannot be intelligently debated in any way.  Therefore, they cause harm to people, what should we do?  Sit back and watch or take action?  We’ve tried all the genteel ways of making these people deal with reality.  What next?

Given a perfect world, we’d never need to resort to violence but this isn’t a perfect world and people who think they can solve all problems with words simply have very unrealistic expectations.  I don’t think we should swoop in with our bombers and our armed forces at the first sign of trouble, but there comes a time when force, even lethal force, is necessary to solve problems and save lives.  Some people and some groups need to be taught a lesson that larger society simply will not tolerate their actions any further.  They need to get slapped down hard because being slapped down hard is the only thing they respect.  It’s a shame but it’s their fault, not ours, that they don’t listen to reason.

And so, while I didn’t mean to offend anyone by talking about violence, neither am I sorry that I did.  Oh sure, a lot of what I did was hyperbole, extremism for extremism sake, done against extremists, I’d never actually advocate walking through the streets of Africa butchering anyone and everyone who admits to practicing witchcraft, but the violence is there and needs to be stopped, no matter how we need to do it.  The same is true of some Muslims who need to be shown, once and for all, that their violent ways are unacceptable to the advanced world that surrounds them.  The same is true of some fundamentalist Christian sects who practice and preach violence on others.  The Buddhists in Myanmar is another example.  Sectarian violence or violence against non-believers needs to stop and it needs to stop now.  Talking hasn’t worked.  What would people suggest if not a proper and decisive application of violence?  How else can we stop these things from happening?  I haven’t heard any realistic suggestions, have you?

7 thoughts on “The Role of Violence

  1. I expected more comments, maybe I am early to the party and will have to check back 🙂

    My opinion on this is that I completely disagree with you, yet I can understand the logic as I also feel this way sometimes. I will admit its something I need more to think about, as the reality is not a pleasant one in that I reach the same conclusions. The only other way is a change from the inside out, but that does not look like it will happen anytime in the next 2000 years.
    My recent post Idiot of the week – Dr. Mark Stengler and the Cancer Cure

    1. The things that I usually expect to get a lot of comments usually don't, you really never know. Far too many people simply react to things emotionally and either get abusive or just don't react at all. It's rare that I get any kind of rationally thought out, introspective comments, just look at the posts I do on drugs or libertarians, those are two that usually get tons of rants and insults, but no real intelligent positions.

  2. "We went to war over slavery in the U.S. and put an end to it."

    This statement is a little misleading. One can make the argument that the South initiated the conflict to preserve slavery under the guise of state's rights. I would have no quarrel with this statement. But, unless you provide some citations of historical research to support it, I don't think you can sustain the claim that the North fought the war to end slavery. Sure, slavery did come to an end. But the North fought to preserve the union. Slavery was not, to my knowledge, an objective of the North's war effort or campaign. At least not at the outset of the war. It is true that Lincoln did work successfully to get passage of the 13th Amendment and that he did issue the Emancipation Proclamation. But these were both events that occurred long after the start of the war. The Emancipation Proclamation was not issued until January 1, 1863, one year and eight months after the start of hostilities on April 12, 1861. The 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, wasn't introduced unntil January 11, 1864. It was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, by the House on January 31, 1865, and adopted on December 6, 1865. If ending slavery were a primary objective of the North's campaign it seems reasonable that these two actions would have been taken in the early months of the war.

    It is also true that Lincoln was elected on a platform that included his opposition to expanding slavery to other states that might be admitted to the union. But he did not campaign on a platform of ending slavery in the southern states. Thus he did not come to office with a plan to end slavery, only to stop its expansion. For more detail on his views on the subject see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln_and_….

    1. Depending on how you look at it, you're right. Lincoln didn't think for a moment that he was going to end slavery in one fell swoop, he wanted to set events in motion that might, 30-40 years later, end slavery. The South did fire first, they did take themselves into a war that was catastrophic for them. It was not a war of northern aggression, it was a war of southern sedition and a lot of the problems that came after were really the fault of Lincoln's not breaking up the southern plantation culture. Whether it was the initial goal, it certainly was the outcome of the conflict.

    1. What exactly is the change you claim we need to avoid revolution? Among other reasons, I need to know this in order to decide whether a counter-revolultion will be necessary following the revolution that you seem to be hoping for.

      I've heard this comment numerous times from people. I am very doubtful that there is a revolution in our future. It is my view that this comment is typically a projection of wishful thinking on the part of the person who says it because they don't like what is happening. But then there are plenty of other people who do approve of the way things are going. The comment is, I think, seldom a conclusion based on a thorough analysis of the current political, cultural, and social conditions in America. I do think that the United States is at present currently politically and socially dysfunctional, though I suspect the dysfunction I see is the result of different causes than the dysfunction you may see. But I don't believe for a moment that this dysfunction rises to a level that warrants the conclusion that a revolution is somewhere on the horizon.

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