A little while ago I read ‘From Beirut to Jerusalem’, by Thomas Friedman, a record of his ten years as a correspondent in Lebanon and Israel written c. 1988. It is much longer than that list of logical fallacies, so I can’t very well expect you to go out and read it, but it would be worthwhile. In the last chapter he outlines two possible ‘peace plans’, the first of which is almost identical to the Peres-Rabin-Barak ‘peace process’ of 1993-2001, and the second of which is almost identical to Sharon’s ‘unilateral disengagement’ of 2004-? So he is quite a prescient chap.
He recounts a scene where this Shi’ite militiaman walks into a bar and methodically smashes all the bottles, and he says that he and his fellow barfolk all sat there, completely unable to comprehend this fellow, finding it hard to believe that he still existed in their civilised 20th century. But I don’t find it hard to understand him at all. I find it harder to understand people who can’t understand him. Yet this lack of understanding seems to be very common. The real ‘clash of civilisations’ is between moral relativists, for whom religion is merely something personal that ought to be kept out of politics, and moral absolutists, for whom politics is merely one more arena in which to attempt to implement their religion. By religion I mean the same thing as I mean by ideology- what someone believes about the universe and their place in it; Communism was/is a religion.
One thing that bugs me about many otherwise fine books of science fiction set in the near future- e.g., ‘Titan’ by Stephen Baxter, ‘Teranesia’ by Greg Egan, ‘Earth’ by David Brin- is their appallingly goofy treatment of religion. In the worlds of these novels, the secular protagonists are opposed only by a sort of structureless ‘irrationalist gumbo’, in which postmodern guff and New Age kookiness is mixed in with conventional religion. The authors do not have much understanding or sympathy for that side of human nature and cannot bring it into their worlds convincingly. Better just to ignore it completely, like Asimov. Palmer Joss, the tattooed evangelist of Carl Sagan’s ‘Contact’, is streets ahead...
Which brings me in a saltatory fashion to this fragment, begun some years ago- you can probably locate my old residence in Devil Bunny City, aka Al-Jamila, from it with some degree of precision. It is just a feeble effort to do ‘Greg Egan with Religion’ and I don’t supppose I shall ever finish it, so I cast it out upon the cyber-waters: do with it what you will. Here is the flag of Al-Jamila, by the way: