Circular logic of one kind or another is common in many religions. Christianity teaches us to believe in God because the Bible tells us to, and that the Bible must be correct because God wrote it. Not allowing to question and doubt is also some sort of circular defense mechanism of religions: Questioning means you’re in doubt and do not have enough faith. Yet, the “faith package” itself arrives with the built-in ban on questioning. This is true for Christianity, as well as for Islam and Judaism.
In a previous chapter, we already mentioned the wonderful logical statement “There’s no proof that there’s no God”. Perhaps this is the proper time to complement that statement with a well-known joke:
A couple went on vacation to a fishing resort up north. The husband liked to fish at the crack of dawn. The wife liked to read. One morning the husband returned after several hours of fishing and decided to take a short nap. Although she wasn’t familiar with the lake, the wife decided to take the boat. She rowed out a short distance, anchored, and returned to reading her book.
Along came the sheriff in his boat. He pulled up alongside her and said, “Good morning, Ma’am. What are you doing?”
“Reading my book,” she replied …as she thought to herself, “isn’t it obvious?”
“You’re in a restricted fishing area,” he informed her.
“But officer, I’m not fishing. Can’t you see that?”
“Yes, but you have all the equipment. I’ll have to take you in and write you up.”
“If you do that, I’ll have to charge you with rape,” snapped the irate woman.
“But, I haven’t even touched you,” groused the sheriff.
“Yes, that’s true,” she replied, “but you have all the equipment.”
And then, perhaps the most disturbing and truly amazing logical conflict is the one that deals with democracy and pluralism. It’s best described as “Help us to make you unable to help!”
1991-1992 was a rather tempestuous election time in Algeria. The Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), an Islamic fundamentalist organization intent on governing by Koranic law, made huge gains in the elections. The elections were considered fair, but still the fundamentalist victory made people think that future elections were not going to be so democratic. Eventually, the regime cancelled the elections that would have created a Muslim state.
In 1997, Mr. Israel Eichler (who later became an Israeli parliament member, in an Orthodox Jewish religious political party) was a regular guest on Israeli TV talk shows. On one particular show one of the discussions focused on a case of a large Orthodox Jewish family, which – for some reason – wanted to live within a closed secular community.
“You must accept them,” said Mr. Eichler, “you believe in pluralism!”
“Would you accept me and my family in your ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood?” asked one of the secular participants.
“Of-course not,” said Mr. Eichler, “we do not believe in pluralism!”
There’s no worse method of abusing the term “freedom of speech” than using it to promote religious ideas that encourage control of speech and thought. Similarly, there’s no worse method of abusing the term “democracy” than using it to promote a religious anti-democratic regime. It’s as fair as using your feet in a basketball game. Either you take part in the pluralistic game and obey its rules, or you don’t, but please choose your arena clearly!
In February 1999 there was a big ultra-Orthodox Jewish demonstration against the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem. Hundreds of thousands of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) people demonstrated against the court’s recent decisions, which they seemed to dislike. In a nearby park, a much smaller demonstration was spontaneously formed, of non-religious people who protested against this mass abuse of democracy. Two of them held a big sign that read “Daddy, why didn’t you protest when it was still allowed?”