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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE and HUMANITY ENHANCED.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Udo on Hitler, Stalin, and bin Laden

If you don't treat yourself to reading Udo Schuklenk's blog, you should. Here's a nice piece on Hitler, Stalin, and bin Laden. Hitler was a vegetarian, but that isn't what motivated him to kill millions of Jews and others. (Unlike Hitler) Stalin was an atheist, but the millions of people whom he killed, deliberately or otherwise, died for reasons totally extraneous to Stalin's deity-free mindset. Bin Laden, on the other hand, really is motivated by his particular interpretation of Islam. To exonerate Islam, Udo says, we'd probably have to demonstrate that bin Laden's interpretation of it is wrong, which is easier said than done.

It appears to me that Islam is open to peaceful interpretations, but there is also much in its tradition that is open to bin Laden's murderous one.

12 comments:

drjon said...

Much of the time towards the end of his life, he would restrict meat from his diet to calm his flatulence and stomach cramps.

But Hitler wasn't a vegetarian. He regularly ate ham, and his favourite dish was roast quail.

It's a shame this canard continues to quack.

Blake Stacey said...

Aha! It was the flatulence which made Hitler kill millions of people. I mean, all those gas chambers had to be inspired by something. . . .

(And from the audience I hear cries of "Too soon! Too soon!")

Brian English said...

Sort of reminds me of the old "Don't do that! That's just what the Nazis did" to stop people doing something that another doesn't want. I usually respond that the Nazis also breathed air and ate food. Perhaps we should stop breathing and eating so as not to agree with the evil the Nazis committed. ;)
I have seen the argument that Stalin and his mob were killing or persecuting christians in the name of atheism and so atheism leads to intolerance and violence like fundamentalism. Is there any evidence that Stalin et al persecuted christians in the name of atheism? This wouldn't mean atheism leads to violent persecution of non atheists anyhow. Atheism isn't an ideology, you need a real ideology to do that. Something like Bin Laden has.....

Russell Blackford said...

Well, whether he was only a hemi-demi-semi-vegetarian for health reasons, it hardly defeats Udo's logic. The point is that some things about Hitler motivated his atrocities and some did not. To say that Feature A, one of the things that did not, was a feature of Hitler does not thereby indict Feature A. Likewise for the other two. Vegetarianism is only an example, albeit a nice clear one.

drjon said...

I'd have to argue that Vegetarianism isn't even an example -- he ate meat, which isn't even hemi-demi-semi-vegetarian. His favourite dish was a roast meat dish.

I agree that Udo demonstrates a good point. He just uses lousy examples (Atheism, as a key point of the Communist ideology, was also possibly a weaker example for him to use, but I'm not up enough on the ideological background of Communism to flesh out the point).

Coathangrrr said...

While I agree that Islam is open to violent interpretation, as evidenced by the fact that people interpret it in a way that allows for violence, I think this is true of nearly every religion and ideology minus those that are explicitly pacifist. Being vegetarian isn't and ideology, nor is being atheist, despite the arguments form some theists otherwise. Islam of the form Bin Laden subscribes to is an ideology. I am at a loss to find a single political or Religious ideology which has been implemented on a broad scale that has not been responsible for some level of violence.

This is not to say that Islam is somehow less violent. I don't think that Islam is anything, it's a book and the sunna'. There are a number of interpretations of Islam that allow for violence, as there are interpretations of nearly every ideology. Look at the war in Iraq. One might argue that the justifications given by Bush about democracy and human rights are not "really" democratic or Liberal arguments, but that strikes me as a "true scotsman" argument. It is clear that Liberalism can be interpreted in a way that allows for destruction on a massive scale, but does that indict Liberalism or those who use that interpretation?

Brian English said...

Hi Russell. I've started blogging myself (egad!) Not sure how long I'll have the enthusiasm. If you're bored and want a laugh check it out
My blog

Russell Blackford said...

I'll have a look, Brian.

Obviously any set of ideas could lead to violence if you just throw in the extra idea that all its other ideas must be adopted by everyone for some reason. You don't even need a comprehensive ideology, though this sort of fanaticism is more likely to be found with comprehensive idealogies (such as religions) than with something so obviously non-comprehensive as vegetarianism or atheism.

Still, I can at least imagine someone acting violently in the name of a set of ideas that includes little more than vegetarianism (and the idea that everyone else must be forced to be a vegetarian).

Even among comprehensive ideologies, we need to look at the precise content. Some will lend themselves to ideas of justified warfare more easily than others; some will lend themselves to ideas of justified compulsion in belief (even by torture) than others. Not all traditions and comprehensive idealogies are exactly the same in their political potential and in the interpretations that are reasonably viable.

Coathangrrr said...

Even among comprehensive ideologies, we need to look at the precise content. Some will lend themselves to ideas of justified warfare more easily than others; some will lend themselves to ideas of justified compulsion in belief (even by torture) than others.

Definitely true. Part of the problem I see is separating the actions of those who claim the comprehensive ideology and the ideology itself. I don't know how possible it is to tell at what point those two diverge in causing violence.

Brian said...

I don't know how possible it is to tell at what point those two diverge in causing violence. without encountering the No True Scotsman argument in any case.

Coathangrrr said...

without encountering the No True Scotsman argument in any case.

Well, I think we should be able to say at some point that there is a specific action that is driven by the ideology and that there are other actions that are definitely not. Praying five times daily is one we could say is definitely driven by Islam as an ideology. The problem is when we get to more complicated stuff like killing people.

Efrique said...

Hitler's supposed vegtarianism was simply a bit of propaganda. His doctor put him on a vegetarian diet at one point for his health (a diet on which he cheated, by the way). The supposed vegetarianism was used as propaganda.

This but of Nazi propaganda survives for much the same reason that theists try to paint Hitler (a catholic) as an atheist - it still serves a propaganda purpose (in this case, to discredit vegetarianism).