Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Secular Humanism: Our Only Hope for Defeating Radical Islam

 

In response to Paddy’s thought-provoking suggestion that a secularized Western culture is doomed to fall before committed barbarians, permit me to start with a statement that might shock: Secular humanism defeated radical Islam centuries ago. Everything we’re doing now, essentially, is mop-up.

The story began when Johannes Gutenberg invented the first European printing press with movable type, one of the most important events in the arc of modern history, if not the most important. Before Gutenberg, the marginal utility of acquiring skills such as reading and writing was low, because the cost of books, laboriously copied by hand, was high. The price of a single Bible could easily exceeded the economic value of a village.

His invention loosed a revolution. Literacy exploded, followed by the Reformation and the Enlightenment. The last came not a moment too soon. The Ottoman Turks had been on a torrid winning streak, seizing territory hand-over-fist in Eastern Europe and Spain. Then came the cataclysmic Battle of Vienna, where the tides of war changed, and the previously superior Muslim forces were handed a defeat from which they never recovered.

Long before Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha’s disastrous foray into Europe, Muslim scholars had sat atop the pinnacle of human knowledge, providing important contributions to algebra, geometry, architecture, astronomy, and medicine. They translated works from antiquity and advanced classical ideas. Intellectual disaster struck in the tenth and eleventh centuries, when adherents of the Ash’arite philosophy seized the reins of Muslim society from Mu’tazilite thinkers. With Asharism came a wholesale rejection of rationalism and an embrace of fundamentalism. The Ottoman Empire’s immense momentum and superior organization allowed it to wash up on Europe’s shores — to the point of massive overreach — centuries after the passing of Islam’s day as a leading force in the arts and sciences.

The Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution were irrevocable changes in trajectory of Western Civilization, just as the trajectory of Muslim society was forever changed by the collapse of Mu’tazilah philosophy. Europeans rapidly embraced rationalism as a means to improve their living conditions. Material explanations of and solutions to vexatious problems displaced explanations previously offered by religious authorities, with immensely positive economic consequences. European per capita GDP zoomed upward, along with standards of living. Muslim societies were left in the dust. This has taken place over nearly half a millennium. It should thus come as no surprise that when Westerners envision the average Muslim nation, they envision a 14th-century basket-case — because in many cases, that’s absolutely true. No similar improvement has transpired in that nation in the past 1,000 years.

Most of the nations of the world where Islam is dominant would rightly be described as third-world hellholes. The exceptions are nations that have immense mineral wealth (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait), and the larger nations at the edges of the Ummah (Turkey, Indonesia). But as a rule, if your country has been under the thumb of Islam for a thousand years, it’s now a hellhole.

The differences are not limited to the economic. There’s evidence that the improved economic success of Western European nations has had an impact upon the intelligence of its citizens. The Flynn Effect is the term used to describe a steady uptick in intelligence scores worldwide in the past century, especially in nations where the public not only values such things as infectious-disease prevention, childhood nutrition, and education, but pursues them in a fashion sufficiently rational as to obtain them.

Poor nations that lack the resources to improve their human capital are further hampered by centuries of ingrained backwardness. Still worse, 50 percent of their citizens — the female ones — are relegated to the status of chattel slaves and breeding stock, where they’re hardly apt to contribute productively. So these nations continue to fall ever further behind. A heartbreaking illustration is the hampering of efforts to eradicate polio by Islamic radicals who insist vaccination is a plot to sterilize them.

Western civilization and the Muslim world inhabit two different planets. On one is a relatively peaceful, prosperous Europe and the Anglosphere. On the other are nations dominated by people whose thoughts do not necessarily dwell upon the evils of Western civilization and their burning need to destroy it. More often, they are urgently consumed by their struggle for day-to-day survival. Their own governments, or sheer chaos, pose a much more immediate threat.

We are no more at risk of being overrun by them than we are at risk of being overrun by ants. It’s true that the insect biomass could be roughly equivalent to that of all human beings, and that if ants decided en masse to attack us, we’d have to rush down to Home Depot. But ants are not a serious threat. Ants spend more time defending their colonies than they do conquering neighboring ones.

What we face is in some ways harder to accept. The mass murder of European tourists on Tunisian beaches makes the headlines, but the vast majority of the victims of Islamist violence live in the Muslim world. We don’t yet know exactly how many people have died in the Syrian conflict, but I’m sure historians will one day find the numbers staggering. Perhaps it will not be as high as the toll of the Khmer Rouge. Perhaps it will be close.

What can we do? Unfortunately, the only thing we can do, realistically, is wait it out. The radicals can’t win forever, and they employ only the simplest of tactics to incite terror. Obviously, we need to try to limit the damage they inflict upon us, because a hornet can sting painfully in its death throes. But we are at no risk of losing our society to Muslims scaling the walls, nor are we in any danger of losing a war of ideas. We could certainly lose our sense of security if they’re lucky enough to land a sucker punch and bloody our noses. But as people worldwide are exposed to the idea that there can be a better life, they will want it. They will be willing to fight and die for it. This might take centuries — after all, we didn’t get here overnight — but happen it will.

The only question is how much worse will it get for them, and for us, before it starts to get better?

There are 103 comments.

  1. Arahant Member

    I would like to agree with you, but suspect you are missing some of the perversities of human nature in your logical salad.

    • #1
    • July 6, 2015, at 1:51 PM PDT
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  2. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    Arahant:I would like to agree with you, but suspect you are missing some of the perversities of human nature in your logical salad.

    One of the consequences of the Flynn effect that I left uncommented upon is the fact that there seems to be an intelligence window in which violence is common – below and above that window people tend to be pretty docile. So naturally, as intelligence has gone up on average in Western Cultures, violence has fallen. This is especially interesting to note with the sudden reduction of murder and violent crime rates in the 90s.

    Would it surprise you if you found out that the average IQ of many Muslim nations falls squarely in the middle of the intelligence zone where violence is common? I’ve been looking for hard data on this, but it’s (shockingly) difficult to find. As I’m sure you can imagine, research of this sort would be badthink.

    • #2
    • July 6, 2015, at 1:58 PM PDT
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  3. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    My biggest problem is that demographics are left out of this. A smarter but shrinking elite can indeed be overrun by greater numbers – just as is happening in Europe.

    • #3
    • July 6, 2015, at 2:03 PM PDT
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  4. Arahant Member

    iWe:My biggest problem is that demographics are left out of this. A smarter but shrinking elite can indeed be overrun by greater numbers – just as is happening in Europe.

    The fact that smarter people often have fewer children is also one of humanity’s perversities.

    • #4
    • July 6, 2015, at 2:09 PM PDT
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  5. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    Great piece, Maj.

    • #5
    • July 6, 2015, at 2:16 PM PDT
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  6. John Walker Contributor

    Majestyk: Would it surprise you if you found out that the average IQ of many Muslim nations falls squarely in the middle of the intelligence zone where violence is common? I’ve been looking for hard data on this, but it’s (shockingly) difficult to find. As I’m sure you can imagine, research of this sort would be badthink.

    There is a paper out in the July 1st, 2015 Nature, “Directional dominance on stature and cognition in diverse human populations” which reports that offspring of first cousin marriages have an IQ around 4.5 points (0.3 standard deviations) lower than those of parents not so closely related. Given the prevalence of first cousin marriage in some Islamic societies (and its being perpetuated in Islamic immigrant communities in the West), this might be relevant to your supposition.

    • #6
    • July 6, 2015, at 2:17 PM PDT
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  7. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    iWe:My biggest problem is that demographics are left out of this. A smarter but shrinking elite can indeed be overrun by greater numbers – just as is happening in Europe.

    I think that the demographic implications of increasing intelligence such as decreased fertility are a problem that ultimately solves itself. Of all the Westernized nations Japan seems to be most locked into a demographic whirlpool, but Japan’s unique combination of geographic isolation and cultural xenophobia are not well-replicated in other places.

    Population is ultimately an economic effect. If you need fewer people or if you make the creation of more people too costly you get less of it. It’s the classic tale of “what you tax you get less of” even though it has been more difficult to get women to have children once you get birth rates down in more developed countries.

    • #7
    • July 6, 2015, at 2:18 PM PDT
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  8. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    John Walker:

    There is a paper out in the July 1st. 2015 Nature, “Directional dominance on stature and cognition in diverse human populations” which reports that offspring of first cousin marriages have an IQ around 4.5 points (0.3 standard deviations) lower than those of parents not so closely related. Given the prevalence of first cousin marriage in some Islamic societies (and its being perpetuated in Islamic immigrant communities in the West), this might be relevant to your supposition.

    John, I don’t have time to read the paper right at this moment, but is the effect cumulative? As in, do you end up increasing the amount of damage you do to your offspring’s intelligence via several generations of such inbreeding?

    Also, I’m trying to get my arms around how deep this well goes – certainly culture plays an immense role in people’s actions, but with intelligence being about 40% heritable (IIRC) just how much damage have these nations done to themselves via this practice?

    I also want to point out that I’m not trying to reach a simple, racist conclusion here, just for the benefit of onlookers.

    • #8
    • July 6, 2015, at 2:26 PM PDT
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  9. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    I don’t find it at all surprising that the data on IQ in Muslim countries isn’t available. As we learned from Charles Murray – the left is scared of any data that doesn’t fit their preconceptions.

    • #9
    • July 6, 2015, at 2:29 PM PDT
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  10. Arahant Member

    This has some.

    • #10
    • July 6, 2015, at 2:32 PM PDT
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  11. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    Arahant:This has some.

    I found that, but distrusted it.

    EDIT: I should point out the reasons why – first, the information doesn’t seem to be well-sourced. It claims to be from Lynn and VanHanen, but I can’t verify that.

    Second – it comes a little too close to being confirmatory of my pre-existing biases. I get nervous when I find data that so conveniently confirms a hypothesis that I find interesting. It’s right about that time that you should expect the rug to get yanked out from under you.

    • #11
    • July 6, 2015, at 2:33 PM PDT
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  12. John Walker Contributor

    Majestyk:

    John Walker:

    There is a paper out in the July 1st. 2015 Nature, “Directional dominance on stature and cognition in diverse human populations” which reports that offspring of first cousin marriages have an IQ around 4.5 points (0.3 standard deviations) lower than those of parents not so closely related. Given the prevalence of first cousin marriage in some Islamic societies (and its being perpetuated in Islamic immigrant communities in the West), this might be relevant to your supposition.

    John, I don’t have time to read the paper right at this moment, but is the effect cumulative? As in, do you end up increasing the amount of damage you do to your offspring’s intelligence via several generations of such inbreeding?

    Also, I’m trying to get my arms around how deep this well goes – certainly culture plays an immense role in people’s actions, but with intelligence being about 40% heritable (IIRC) just how much damage have these nations done to themselves via this practice?

    I also want to point out that I’m not trying to reach a simple, racist conclusion here, just for the benefit of onlookers.

    The effect is almost certainly not linearly cumulative, since the effect is presumably due to deleterious homozygous genes inherited from closely related parents. Eventually the effect will reach a plateau (but then we don’t know which or how many genes control intelligence, or how they interact, so any details are entirely speculation at this point). The authors also found that offspring of first cousins were, on average, 1.2 cm shorter than progeny of unrelated parents, so the effect extends beyond difficult-to-measure properties such as intelligence.

    The effect may increase with inbreeding among a small population, but it doesn’t continue to decline. Interestingly, from pure genetics, it should be easily reversed by out-breeding among a more diverse population.

    Estimates of heritability of IQ (g), run from 0.5 to 0.8; this is in the absence of effects such as inbreeding.

    There is additional discussion of this paper at Greg Cochran’s blog. The comments get into some of the side issues.

    • #12
    • July 6, 2015, at 2:41 PM PDT
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  13. Arahant Member

    One can find several versions from different years, if one looks. Most fall into the same pattern. That isn’t to say they should be trusted, though.

    • #13
    • July 6, 2015, at 2:47 PM PDT
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  14. John Walker Contributor

    Majestyk: EDIT: I should point out the reasons why – first, the information doesn’t seem to be well-sourced. It claims to be from Lynn and VanHanen, but I can’t verify that.

    My database is here. (Zipped archive containing a CSV file.)

    It is directly sourced, by me, from a print copy of Lynn and Vanhanen’s IQ and the Wealth of Nations.

    I could say more about this, but the down-market comment editor at Ricochet makes it too tedious to try. For my comments about this data set, please see my 2004 document: Global IQ: 1950–2050, upon which it was based. In that document I deal with the various dodgy aspects of these data.

    I have a more recent version of this data set, incorporating other data (but still using the original Lynn and Vanhanen IQ data). If you’re seriously interested in pursuing this research, send me a private message and I’ll make it available for you to download. (No support—you are completely on your own.)

    • #14
    • July 6, 2015, at 2:57 PM PDT
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  15. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    I don’t know that you’ve thwarted his thesis. You did a fine job, however, of supplementing the history. If I were to have a problem with your post is that you effectively lump Jewish and Christian traditions in with Islam, but I think you’ll never make the case for that.

    • #15
    • July 6, 2015, at 3:00 PM PDT
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  16. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Majestyk:

    iWe:My biggest problem is that demographics are left out of this. A smarter but shrinking elite can indeed be overrun by greater numbers – just as is happening in Europe.

    I think that the demographic implications of increasing intelligence such as decreased fertility are a problem that ultimately solves itself. ….

    I don’t understand. What stops a radical Islam from overrunning a vastly outnumbered (however theoretically superior in intelligence) European elite of secular humanists?

    • #16
    • July 6, 2015, at 3:12 PM PDT
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  17. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Majestyk:Population is ultimately an economic effect. If you need fewer people or if you make the creation of more people too costly you get less of it. 

    Population is NOT an economic effect when G-d is involved. Religion quite clearly can cause people to act in ways that are not in their economic self-interest. This is why highly orthodox Jews in the US to average half a dozen kids per family.

    • #17
    • July 6, 2015, at 3:12 PM PDT
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  18. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    The King Prawn:I don’t know that you’ve thwarted his thesis. You did a fine job, however, of supplementing the history. If I were to have a problem with your post is that you effectively lump Jewish and Christian traditions in with Islam, but I think you’ll never make the case for that.

    I think it’s fair to say that all three faiths are offshoots of the same tree.

    As far as refuting the thesis goes, history largely speaks for itself. Islam couldn’t conquer Europe when it had a number of advantages on its side. The Ottoman Empire was huge; they were technologically superior for several centuries and the Plague was ravaging Vienna at the time of the Ottoman invasion.

    The window of Europe’s vulnerability closed rather quickly and I don’t see why it’s going to open again. We might see the rise of a nuclear Iran which could spell trouble for the region, but again, the focus of Iranian bellicosity tends to be Sunni Muslims first, Israel second and Us third.

    Nobody that I’ve heard has made the assertion that we could be defeated militarily by any of these nations or groups. What they can do is pick away at us just enough that we aren’t sufficiently provoked to take serious action against them.

    • #18
    • July 6, 2015, at 3:19 PM PDT
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  19. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Majestyk: The window of Europe’s vulnerability closed rather quickly and I don’t see why it’s going to open again.

    Because they’re throwing it wide open would be my guess.

    Majestyk: Nobody that I’ve heard has made the assertion that we could be defeated militarily by any of these nations or groups.

    I’m pretty sure the defeat will not come militarily. When sharia becomes the law of the land in European countries it will be by vote.

    • #19
    • July 6, 2015, at 3:25 PM PDT
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  20. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    iWe:

    Majestyk:

    iWe:My biggest problem is that demographics are left out of this. A smarter but shrinking elite can indeed be overrun by greater numbers – just as is happening in Europe.

    I think that the demographic implications of increasing intelligence such as decreased fertility are a problem that ultimately solves itself. ….

    I don’t understand. What stops a radical Islam from overrunning a vastly outnumbered (however theoretically superior in intelligence) European elite of secular humanists?

    Mostly the fact that their fertility rates are crashing faster than the seculars, which is already bottoming out and may be bouncing back. France appears to have already had a bit of a resurgence.

    The other factor is this: the reason why these Islamic nations have such high birth rates is that their life expectancies and infant mortality rates are consequently worse. They need to have higher birth rates to account for that fact or their populations would be shrinking as well.

    I’m certain that in the final analysis, countries like Libya and Syria will have lost population by the time this conflagration is snuffed out.

    • #20
    • July 6, 2015, at 3:25 PM PDT
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  21. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Majestyk: I think it’s fair to say that all three faiths are offshoots of the same tree.

    You’re free to think that, of course, but good luck convincing anyone from a Jewish or Christian tradition that this is so. You make a pretty good case against it just by the divergent reaction of the different religions to the enlightenment.

    • #21
    • July 6, 2015, at 3:28 PM PDT
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  22. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    iWe:

    Majestyk:Population is ultimately an economic effect. If you need fewer people or if you make the creation of more people too costly you get less of it.

    Population is NOT an economic effect when G-d is involved. Religion quite clearly can cause people to act in ways that are not in their economic self-interest. This is why highly orthodox Jews in the US to average half a dozen kids per family.

    Highly Orthodox Jews are a tiny, tiny percentage of the population. They also place curious restrictions upon themselves (they’re not truly assimilated into our society) by only marrying amongst themselves, which sort of militates against them being able to continue that pattern indefinitely. I’m also sure that the retention rate of the Ultra-Orthodox is not 100% or even close to that.

    • #22
    • July 6, 2015, at 3:29 PM PDT
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  23. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    The King Prawn:

    Majestyk: I think it’s fair to say that all three faiths are offshoots of the same tree.

    You’re free to think that, of course, but good luck convincing anyone from a Jewish or Christian tradition that this is so. You make a pretty good case against it just by the divergent reaction of the different religions to the enlightenment.

    Pardon me, but are we talking about the Islam that claims as one of its Patriarchs Abraham and one of its major prophets Jesus of Nazareth?

    Certainly, there was cultural diversion, but my understanding has always been that Muslims, Jews and Christians are all “People of the Book.”

    • #23
    • July 6, 2015, at 3:34 PM PDT
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  24. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Majestyk: Certainly, there was cultural diversion, but my understanding has always been that Muslims, Jews and Christians are all “People of the Book.”

    So were Jim Jones and David Koresh, but we don’t claim those kooks either. Plus, Muslims have their own book that may repeat many characters, but it tells an entirely different story, one so different as to make them entirely separate from Jewish or Christian history.

    • #24
    • July 6, 2015, at 3:38 PM PDT
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  25. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    The King Prawn:

    You’re free to think that, of course, but good luck convincing anyone from a Jewish or Christian tradition that this is so. You make a pretty good case against it just by the divergent reaction of the different religions to the enlightenment.

    Perhaps there is some misunderstanding here as well – you have to realize that part of the reason that I laid out the history as I did is to demonstrate the fact that it was only once secularism had taken root that the chain of causality that we found ourselves on could take place.

    There are a lot of antecedent assumptions and other unique aspects of Western European society which played contributing roles (the advantage provided by the use of phonetic characters for writing can’t be overstated when it comes to the innovation of movable type, for instance) but I don’t think that “Strict adherence to Judeo-Christian philosophy” is the sole thread that ties the tapestry of European history together.

    • #25
    • July 6, 2015, at 3:42 PM PDT
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  26. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Yikes. Appreciate the history lesson, but oy, I think you’ve made the secularists’ mistake of trying to truncate development of the West at the Enlightenment. And the Hitchensian mistake of lumping all religions together as anti-science, anti-reason, etc.

    The irreconcilable difference between Islam and Judaism/Christianity is the conception of God (yes, the Trinitarian nature of God in Christianity is a problem for Jews, but otherwise our understandings are very similar). To Jews and Christian, God is “Abba” — Daddy. To Muslims, God is Master, and they are His slaves.

    The very philosophical ground of science is the Judeo-Christian idea that God created an ordered, intelligible universe. Otherwise, why bother with a methodical investigation of how the universe works?

    The Muslim conception of god is of a being who is utterly capricious. God wills everything, including that the apple falls from the tree to the ground. He could change his mind at any moment, and apples would float or fall “up.” Reason took hold in Islam for, what, about 50 years? Since then? Not so much.

    • #26
    • July 6, 2015, at 4:19 PM PDT
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  27. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    There were two “Enlightenments.” The secular Enlightenment led to Napoleonic France, Nazi Germany, the USSR, and the current Euro-Leftism. The religious Enlightenment led to Dutch and then British dominance, followed by the rise of the US.

    It was principally the religious enlightenment — especially the British and the US — that put Islam in its subordinate position.

    So the credit is not due to the “secular humanists.”

    It remains to be seen whether the modern Euro-Leftist version of secular humanism can survive. I suspect that they’ll go the way of the Shakers — it’s hard to persist in history if you have few (or no) kids.

    • #27
    • July 6, 2015, at 4:55 PM PDT
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  28. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thank you, WC. You did that exceptionally well, and with more grace than I could.

    • #28
    • July 6, 2015, at 5:13 PM PDT
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  29. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Percival:Thank you, WC. You did that exceptionally well, and with more grace than I could.

    We’re all friends here, and we have a lot to learn from each other, as long as we’re open to it. Thanks for the “Like.”

    • #29
    • July 6, 2015, at 5:19 PM PDT
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  30. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Western Chauvinist: We’re all friends here, and we have a lot to learn from each other, as long as we’re open to it.

    Agreed. I think between Paddy and Majestyk we pretty much have all the bases covered on why Western culture and civilization are superior and hopefully some understanding of how to preserve them. As we fight a religious ideology we cannot excise spirituality from the equation. As we fight a religious ideology bent on political as well as religious domination we must maintain our love of reason and science as well. This is not an either/or thing but a both/and.

    • #30
    • July 6, 2015, at 5:25 PM PDT
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