The question: what if I'm wrong? Wrong thinking, being wrong - and learning. Facts about Islam, truth about Islam, Islam and the West.

The question: what if I'm wrong?
Wrong thinking, being wrong - and learning.
Facts about Islam, truth about Islam, Islam and the West.
Right and wrong .


What if I'm wrong?

Over the past few weeks I've been creating a teleseminar series on Islam and the West. Last week, I sent out an update on this to everyone on my list.

Two people came back with: your understanding of Islam is wrong.

That brings me to an important question: what if I'm wrong? What if I'm wrong about Islam, what if I'm misreading the Qu'ran? In fact, what if the whole teleseminar project I've put together is based on wrong information, wrong thinking, wrong understanding? 

My first answer: Please listen and participate to make up your own mind. You can register here: Personal Journeys Toward Difficult Truths: Understanding Islam, Understanding the West

My second answer: This question is for all of us. We've all been faced with the possibility of being wrong. Often we freeze, do nothing. 

I think of a Canadian case from a few years ago. The neighbors suspected something wrong was going on with a child who eventually died, age 2, starved to death. But such a good explanation had been given by the parents: the child had some severe condition. Still, many of the neighbors didn't feel right about things. None went to the authorities. 

What if I'm wrong about Islam? What if Islam is really a religion of peace, despite all the evidence to the contrary? I could be wrong. I know that different branches of Islam interpret the texts in different ways. 

If I'm wrong ... Over a billion people call themselves Muslim. I don't imagine Islam will suddenly collapse if I'm wrong. It doesn't strike me as that fragile.

And what if I'm right? What if there is much in Islamic texts that goes against reality-based ethics, is antithetical to reality-based ethics: like slavery, the rape of slaves, lack of equal rights for women, death to those it terms infidels? 

An aside: What do I mean by reality-based ethics? I mean ethics which can be backed by research. So the general equality of women and men is backed by studies showing our having very close intellectual and emotional and moral abilities. The equality of people with differing sexual orientations is likewise backed by studies showing our having very close intellectual and emotional and moral abilities. 

In other words, reality-based ethics is not some arbitrary ethical system, based on something like "my god says so." The counter-argument to that can be "my god is bigger than your god" or "my god is better than your god" or ""my god is the one and only god" or "you're misunderstanding what your god said." 

With reality-based ethics, we leave the various gods out of the argument, and check on reality. We ask: what do people need to flourish? We need things like safety - enough to eat, clean water, physical safety, the freedom to learn and explore and express.

And with that, back to what if I'm right about what it says in Islamic texts? What if they don't give us what we need to flourish, what if they don't uphold the equality of women and men, of people with different sexual orientations. What if they uphold slavery and slave rape?  

And what if I'm right about a widespread response of the West - to back away from evaluating Islamic values, and back away from saying things that many Islamic groups term offensive? What if I'm right to think this could be dangerous - like giving in to a bully?

By the way, a brilliant 19th century thinker, John Stuart Mills, argued for what he termed "the harm principle" - meaning to do harm should be prohibited.

He also powerfully argued against what he termed "the offence principle," meaning that offending others is basically irrelevant, unless it produces harm. So calling for the killing of someone or some group - that is likely to produce actual harm. Doing a drawing of someone (unless it calls for harm to be done to that figure), may offend but will not harm. (Yes, this is a reference to the Danish cartoon.)

Once again, back to: what if I'm right about some of the content of Islamic religious texts, that they go against reality-based ethical values? And what if I'm right, that a widespread Western response to Islamic cries of "this offends us" is to back down, rather than to assert our right to freedom of speech unless it creates actual harm (this excludes hurt feelings)? 

It sounds to me like it's worth taking the risk of being wrong. Because if I'm right, something quite potentially dangerous could well be going on. In fact, it seems quite likely that something quite potentially dangerous is going on. 

So take a look, and if this interests you, register here: Personal Journeys Toward Difficult Truths: Understanding Islam, Understanding the West

A few years ago, I wrote a kid's story. It's about Caro Carolina, 13, who is trying to figure out the truth of things. It all starts when an invisible dog comes to town. What's the truth of things? Caro can't see the dog. But it appears to her in her dreams. Most strongly after a classmate it hit by a car and left unconscious in a ditch. Is the dog real? Or not. Here are the first few chapters.

I'm not so different from my heroine.  She wants to make sense of things. I also want to make sense of things, and to help more people make sense of things - and to connect people who are trying to see as well as they can what is there.

What if I'm wrong? Then I will acknowledge it. Not such a tough thing to do. 

One of my favorite songs is Amazing Grace - which is about a slave trader who acknowledged he was wrong, and became a Quaker minister preaching against slavery:

Amazing grace
who sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
but now am found
was blind but now I see

That's my answer to: what if I'm wrong, what if I'm right. In general, there's so much uncertainty. I'm taking into account all I can to make it as likely as possible that I'm reasonably right.

Comments very welcome.

And now, all the best to all of us, 
in our quests for living fully and passionately,
with love, curiosity, caring.


June 4, 2012


Click here to go from this blog on wrong thinking
and being wrong, to my first exploration
of anything to do with Islam

Wrong thinking - the biggest place
I see this is in the political correctness
of many in the West

And what comes next?
Next I wrote on
something very different,


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