Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Knowing How Your Enemy Thinks Prevents Surprises

One of the greatest 'fringe benefits' of saving faith in Christ is that our minds, now Bible-informed, have amazing insights into psychology, if only by virtue of admitting what our true nature is. Because every Christian has confessed his own sinfulness to God, he isn't prone to attempt to justify his own view of himself as a great guy with only minor flaws. He can honestly address the fact that there is a "war in his members" (Romans 7:23) without excusing it, because he's already been given perfect forgiveness and doesn't have to fear the consequence of acknowledging his own evil. 

This enables him to honestly address his own mental state and to work more effectively at pursuing obedience to God and victory over sin, because he's not numb to the reality of the struggle.

Non-Christians don't have forgiveness and so their psychology tends toward one of two faults:

  1. Fail to acknowledge the evil in man. Rationalize that man is generally good, or that his flaws aren't really that bad--diminishing them as minor imperfections, and thus refusing to address them as problems needing to be solved.
  2. Acknowledge the evil -- but deny that it is evil, or is a problem in need of solving. This can lead to a fatalistic resignation to the fact that man is corrupt, OR a denial which necessarily leads to a celebration of the evil. Ultimately either one of these alternatives, for different reasons, reaches the same outcome: affirming or encouraging the indulgence in evil behavior. Examples include justifying promiscuity as a product of evolution (celebration), or being ambivalent in the face of having no way to justify arguing against pedophilia (fatalistic resignation), despite one's discomfort with it.

Without a Biblical worldview, your assessment of human nature will be wrong. Therefore, your conclusions about what man ought to do in order to fix his problems will be wrong. Therefore, you will not solve the problems, but potentially exacerbate them.

And that brings me to this repost of a treatise on the subject pertaining to the secular failure to correctly diagnose and treat the issue of Islamic terrorism. This is from years ago when I was in college the first time.

I'm a biology major, but because I need[ed] to round out my degree with 45 "upper-level" (that is, in the 300 and 400 range) courses in order to graduate, [I chose to] take Dynamics of the Arab-Israeli Conflict because I'd rather have something interesting than something guaranteed to be easy. As it is, it [was] one of my more enjoyable classes, when it comes to the workload.

In class [one day], I briefly spoke with another student on the topic of the final paper. The professor [wanted] each of us to choose a situation in recent history where there has been an ongoing rivalry between a sovereign state and a terrorist state or pseudo-state entity -- examples include Al Qaeda, the IRA, Pakistan-India, North Korea-USA, Hezbollah, Hamas, the PLO, etc, but not terrorist groups that are too amorphous to easily finger, such as the Muslim Brotherhood or the Weather Underground.

We [had] to write a paper on our selected rivalry and address, among other questions, whether the defensive state has successfully employed a deterrence method against terrorism by the other group, by making the latter "learn from their mistakes" and decide not to challenge the sovereign state again in the same way.

The other student I spoke to made a comment, in passing, that Hamas "isn't learning," that is, learning to stop challenging Israel lest it get 'punished' again and again. I challenged his assertion by saying that the assumption that every terrorist organization actually cares about self-preservation or other selfish things like power, money, influence, etc, is fundamentally flawed. In my view, Hamas is ideologically motivated by the political-religious system of Islam, and that this ideology supersedes what Western, humanist mindsets would consider "rational self interest."

The other student disagreed, responding that we can't assume that the other group is irrational. But he misunderstood me. I didn't mean that Hamas was irrational. Hamas is very rational, if its goals are indeed the destruction of the State of Israel at all costs, as its charter declares. If Hamas is just using religion as a means to an end, and doesn't actually care about ideology, then none of what it's doing makes any sense. If it wanted to exact concessions out of Israel, it wouldn't sabotage the latter's attempts to bargain with it by initiating new hostilities whenever possible. But if it is truly driven by not much more than an insane bloodlust for Jews, then its relentless animosity is perfectly well explained.

My peer wasn't having it. He was insistent that political organizations like these are not truly ideological, but only pretend to be religious. They, like atheist totalitarians of years past, merely use religious rhetoric as a means to an end, to justify its acts or drum up support among the masses. But I believe this is a severe mistake on his part. He, as an atheist, is unaware of his own biases. Not recognizing the insidious arrogance of his own view, he is projecting his own philosophy on others. Because all religion is man-made for the purpose of controlling people, surely then that must be the only use that Islamic terrorists have for religion as well. His inability to recognize that other people are not like him is unfortunate. It must also be recognized that the prevailing philosophies taught in American public education are some of the root causes of this lack of critical thinking ability.

Contrary to the misconception of my fellow student, religion plays a much larger role than just a means to an end, in many cases. For many people, it is not a means, but the end in itself. So failing to see that as even a possibility is a tremendous weakness in the atheist's analysis, and it hinders him from correctly interpreting world events. Even if the atheist is right and all religion is false, his hubris numbs him to being able to understand that others who take religion very seriously simply can't compromise on their ideological positions, even if it might seem more rational in that it would offer them more power, money, influence, or even personal safety.

The atheist fallacy is the subtle assumption that all other people in the world are really atheists at heart. It isn't explicitly spoken, but it shows itself when the atheist can't fathom how religious convictions can trump selfishness--because he foolishly sees the former as an outgrowth of the latter.

That is why foreign policies built on an atheist framework -- the West's, in general -- will never adequately understand the Middle East, and will never correctly predict the consequences of present and future meddling. In more than one way, then, for a proper foreign policy to develop, religion is the answer.


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