Dangerous Estimations

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

A lot of people are shocked at the suspects captured for the murder of Sabeen Mahmud and the Ismaili community bus attack. Though there are many others who are not, whether any links are found with foreign intelligence agencies or not.

Many people are dumbfounded by the idea that graduates of the most prestigious secular educational institutes could be involved in such mindless, fanatic violence. A lot of apologists for religious seminaries are rather delighted that the fingers are being pointed toward students of schools and colleges. What they are completely ignoring is how comprehensively the effects of the teachings of their beloved seminaries and pulpits are engulfing the society. Actually, they should be proud of the results.

If these suspects did indeed commit these crimes, as at least one of them with a relatively “sinful”, affluent background has reportedly confessed, that alone is not evidence of the possibility of fundamentalist indoctrination of college students in our society. We know for a fact that there is a pattern. People living our educational institutions experience it firsthand every day.

The misconception that higher education completely turns you into a rational person that is peaceful in all respects is simply wishful thinking. This only goes to show how vulnerable our youth are to religious indoctrination. And if that is not a problem, they are certainly prone to fall for more stupid ideas at least. For example, killing people for “celebrating Valentine’s Day”, or because they happen to have a different religious sect or leader.

The biggest reason to that is that there is nothing about the technical scientific, though secular, education that shuts down the religious indoctrination on the side. As a matter of fact, technical education such as electrical and chemical engineering can only equip them with the necessary knowledge of executing their terrorist missions. Perhaps it would be realistic to expect college graduates to not to turn to religious fundamentalism, had critical reasoning been a mandatory course, just like Islamic Studies and Pakistan Studies are in the junior grades.

Even that is not a guarantee that people would not fall for religious fundamentalism because you always have the option of not applying what you are studying. An option which can be as effectively exercised as shrugging off evidence that disturbs your worldview.

So when people are making assumptions such as these, they are making two critical errors. They are overestimating the structure of the secular education, which does not necessarily promise strict indoctrination, if any at all, of a system of morality. They are also underestimating the effects of religious indoctrination dedicated to the very goal, and the fears and desires of the human nature that it addresses.

We make such mistakes not only in commenting on certain tragedies and acts of terrorism, but even when we vote. And it is probably the same mistake when we apologize for the acts and beliefs of the more radical of the religious fundamentalists across the globe.

Of course, what is the harm in voting for a religious party? It is not like they are going to bring about a Khomeniesque revolution overnight, are they?

However, reducing the problem of religious fundamentalism among college students to the lack of rational application only undermines the problem. Approaching religious fundamentalism at college should also be seen as a political movement, not too different to any other college union, just like the leftists or right nationalists.

You can adhere to the idea that Sharia, or say Marxism, should be enforced in the country without giving a second thought to what the doctrine actually is. You don’t need to know what the ramifications would be anyway. If you do and still want it, even better. Makes you a better foot soldier for the cause.

Besides, it must be harmless if it is a divinely sanctioned code of governance and lifestyle. We’ll change.

A version of this post was originally published in The Nation blogs.
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On Objective Morality

Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio - Source: Wikimedia Commons

Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio – Source: Wikimedia Commons

In my opinion, there is no such thing as an objective system of morality, at least for an (intelligent and) emotional species such as human beings. I would not even consider a single value to be universally agreed upon, no matter how morally correct or incorrect it may seem to any person. Not even instincts of self interest in nature guarantee an objective system of morality.

Ayn Rand called her philosophy of preserving self interest and individual liberty “moral objectivism“. People find her philosophy immoral, but I like it and rather admire her for challenging moral conventions. However, I consider it a bit arrogant and naïve of her to call her philosophy moral objectivism. It is not moral objectivism in the true sense, because it is not objective, you may go with the name, but by her own definition, a more appropriate title would be “rational morality” or “moral rationalism”. Though people would even dispute that, on the count of rationality. I don’t have enough sympathy for the philosophy to even defend that label though.

Even if there is a God, and has ordered a certain set of morality, there is no reason for humans to accept it. God’s opinion is just an opinion and humans may find no reason to find it superior to theirs. And since humans have enough intelligence to reason for themselves, they do not need to follow the opinion of an alien entity, even when enslaved.

Somebody asked me that if there were no objective morality, would it allow people to rape babies. This question has nothing to do with the idea that there is no such thing as objective morality, because this tells more about the person committing the act. While a lot of people may commit the act considering it something wrong, while going on with it, while others would not consider it immoral at all, even if it kills the baby. Take righteous and honor killing for an example. An apparently very wrong act committed for very moral and noble reasons.

There can possibly be a moral system in which even eating the babies would not be considered wrong. On the lighter note, it actually calls to mind Jonathan Swift‘s satire “A Modest Proposal“. But consider someone actually following the outrageous idea for moral reasons

So there is only one explanation of subjective morality systems around the world. Humans came up with it themselves and almost all of them have some sort of contradiction at some point.

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Answer to Quora Question: If there is no God, then how can there ever be any sort of objective system of morality?