Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A 2nd Look at NYC Mosque

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post on the building of a mosque in NYC, a couple of blocks near ground zero. I argued that the government has no constitutional standing to prohibiting such a building. I also argued that the argument for prohibiting the construction of the mosque because it presents a security risk fails. In this post I will argue that it is unethical for the Muslims to choose to build their mosque in NYC.

Principle of Non-maleficence

This principle states that we ought to act in ways that do not bring needless harm to individuals and society. There is an argument that building a mosque in downtown NYC brings unnecessary harm.

First, it is not necessary that they build a mosque in that location. Out of kindness towards others, they could instead build just the student center. Furthermore, they bought the building post-9/11. This revokes the claim that they need to build there since it would be very expensive to buy somewhere else.

Second, people don't just dis-like having a mosque being built in NYC, it really bothers them. Thousands have taken to the street in protest and many claim offense since it is near ground zero, sacred ground. The harm occurs in building a religious building near a sacred site that was tragically created by people of that same religion. It is the same as the Japanese attempting to build a museum for WWII soldiers next to the Pearl Harbor Memorial or building a German cultural center next to a Holocaust site. Hence, people are upset.

Argument from Virtue
By moving the mosque to a different location the builders would be acting virtuously. Specifically they would be respectful. Exemplifying these virtues would do much to help the relationship between Islam and the United States.
-This is not to say the U.S. exemplifies these virtues.

The builders would be respectful by not building the mosque. It would express an understanding of people's views, a consideration of how they feel and in an attempt to express their concern for what has happened in this country. (I think that this last point is very important. If the Islam does not reach out to the United States in love and forgiveness then there will never be reconciliation.)

I believe that it is unethical for the Muslims to build a mosque in downtown NYC. They would be exemplifying the virtue of respect by not building and the principle of non-maleficence is my argument.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Love and Hate, Thomas Aquinas

I have been reading "Summa of the Summa," edited and annotated by Peter Kreeft. It is a very good read. I'll be posting a book review on it when I finish. Presently, I would like to focus on a very small portion of this work.
"Augustine says that all emotions are caused by love. Therefore hatred also, since it is an emotion of the soul, is caused by love... Nothing is hated, save through being contrary to a suitable thing which is loved. And hence it is that every hatred is caused by love." (pg 445)
When I read this statement, I about fell out of my chair. (I have fallen out of my chair from reading such good stuff written by Thomas.) I had never thought of this before, that the existence of hatred stems from love. It made me think a possible reason Satan fell from his status of an angel of God. He began to love himself. Once Satan began to love himself, consequentially he began to hate God. So the first hater became a hater because he was a lover.

Thomas defined love as Aristotle did (no surprise there.), "to love is to wish good to someone." I won't dwell on this definition. One point of clarification, Thomas intended "someone" to be able to mean oneself or anyone else.

The essence of Thomas' point is that love is a cause of hate. When we hate something or someone it naturally follows "what are we then loving?" For instance, I hate it when people talk or make unnecessary noises in the library. What causes this hate is my love for a quiet place where I can work in peace.

In application, one can see how this can help us discover what we really love. When you find yourself hating something or someone, it is good to begin exploring back to find what it is that is causing this hate, what exactly are you loving that is contrary to this hated object. By looking at what we hate, we're able to search back to find out what fuels our passion which love "preserves and perfects." (pg 443)

Friday, August 6, 2010

What is the Issue of Building a Mosque in NYC

Plenty many say. Now, it is important to realize that if Muslims wanted to build a mosque in Indianapolis, San Francisco or Kansas City there wouldn't be a problem. They have the right to build a religious institution on private property. No one with any sense of the constitution would argue against that.

The Issue
So the issue with NYC is different. It's not the fact that they want to build a religious institution rather it is where they want to build it and what religion this building will represent. It will represent the religion that several well-educated men died for when they murdered thousands of people on 9/11. People don't want a mosque to be build near the site of the Twin Towers because they believe that it will be defamation to that site. So they want the government to prohibit it.

Now, if the government prohibits building this mosque, they will be breaking the constitution so they can't prohibit the building of a mosque based on its religion. Anyone who argues that the government should prohibit a mosque being built in NYC needs to rethink their argument. The government simply cannot do that. Mayor Michael Bloomberg sums it up nicely:
“The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution."
Another Argument
A better argument I have heard for denying the right to build a mosque in NYC is that it creates a national security issue. Yet, I don't know what the basis for this is. The closest piece of evidence I can find in the 10 minutes of research I have committed to this project is that the leader of the project to build the mosque is Feisal Abdul Rauf. He is a moderate Muslim who is attempting to bridge peace between the West and Islam. Yet, he doesn't thing HAMAS is a terrorist group. He condemned 9/11. Yet, he said that the United States had this "crime" coming to her since we have done a poor job in our relation with the Islamic world.

This doesn't make Feisal Abdul Rauf a terrorist. Rather, he views HAMAS differently then the U.S. government and sees that the crime of 9/11 is a consequence of our behavior with Islam. This does not mean he is a terrorist or has connections with terrorists.

Besides lacking evidence, this argument also lacks coherency. How will building a mosque be a threat in NYC? That doesn't make very much sense to me. Why would a terrorist organization use a mosque as a base of operation when any building will do? Furthermore, using a mosque only puts them in a more prominent position, the opposite of what you want to do when you're attempting to avoid detection.

Lastly, the United States has had poor relationships with Islam. Will allowing the building of the mosque improve relationships? Possibly, but not allowing it to be built will certainly hurt it.

The United State government cannot prohibit the building of a mosque in downtown Manhatten because it would be breaching the constitution. Arguing that building a mosque would present a national security risk lacks evidence to support its claim and lacks coherency.

Movie Review, Inception (Spoiler Alert!)

Christopher Nolan introduces another mind-altering yet action-filled movie. I was pleasantly surprised by the philosophical depth to the movie though I was disappointed with the lack of plot and character development.

Two Criticisms
First there were many parts of the plot that were rather thin. For instance, the reason the team was attempting to plant an idea into the subject's mind was to destroy a highly competitive company. Okay, what type of company were they attempting to break up, could we get a couple more details besides the fact that it was a really good company? Second, Leonardo DiCaprio's character was well developed, and he did a great job yet this was especially noticeably when the other characters lacked development. Ellen Page's character, Ariadne, was especially noticeable. She was a student of Cobb's father in Paris. She's really smart, is wise but we don't know much else.

The Philosophy of Inception
That being said, let's go on to the more interesting parts of the film. I was left pondering a very important concept. It is an epistemic issue dealing with metaphysics. The movie argued that there is an ultimate reality. (metaphysical belief) The problem that it presented was how do we know if we are in reality. (epistemic issue) The characters used "tokens" as reference points to tell them when they were in reality or not. The key: reference points. This made me think of the famous statement by the French Existentialist Jean-Paul Satre “No finite point has meaning without an infinite reference point."

I don't want to pull any theistic interpreation into Inception because I can't find any evidence that Nolan intended to argue that because there is ultimate reality God must exist, but what I found interesting was: 1. There is an ultimate reality (there is "absolute" truth, truth that is the same no matter which way you look at it and you can't change it.). 2. We are cognitively capable of knowing ultimate reality. In Inception, knowledge came through the tokens, (reference points) which would communicate to the knower (a finite point) whether he was in a dream or reality.

Personal Note
I also enjoyed Nolan's point on letting go and coming to the conclusion that our dreams are not as good as reality. This is found in only one scene of the movie, but it is the climax and focal point of Codd's development. Here, he acknowledges that his wife has died and is ready to move on. Furthermore, he realizes that continuing to imagine her existence is not as good as who she really was. You can dream of someone but it is not as good as actually being with them. Essentially, reality trumps dreams.

Finally, the last scene of the movie shows Cobb seeing his children again. Just before he does, he checks his token (a spinning top that never stops spinning unless it is in reality.) but before the top stops spinning, he sees the faces of his children and runs to them with joy. The camera focuses on the spinning top and the curtain closes before the viewer can tell if its going to stop or not. Great ending: when you are in reality and in relationship with others, your reference point is no longer a material thing (a finite object) but other people.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Psalm 15, Calvin's Thought

In a week from today, I will be giving the Psalm explanation at church over Psalm 15. I have been reading through Calvin's commentary on the Psalm. In verses 1 and 2, David says "LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart" Calvin makes an interesting point on the last phrase of this verse "who speaks the truth from his heart."

David doesn't say "who speaks the truth in his heart" rather David expresses the harmony between our speech and heart, that the two are intricately connected. As tree branches stem from the roots so do our speech stem from our hearts. Furthermore, the one who may live on God's holy hill is the one who speaks the truth from "the hidden affection or feeling within." God's people don't utter the truth. It flows from their hearts as a natural fruit.