[image: text from 1984 by George Orwell]
The most effective way to gag an opponent is to refuse to listen to him/her, and then, within your own community, to redefine the words he/she uses. George Orwell illustrated this with great perception and power in his book, 1984, shown above.
No one is currently trying to say things like “freedom is slavery”, but a contemporary example of an attempt to change the meaning of an important word is the attempt to redefine the word “faith” to mean “belief without reasonable evidential basis”. In other words to define it as delusion or wishful thinking. I mention this here because I have now seen that nasty redefinition taken for granted not just in populist rhetoric but even in some academic philosophy. This is a clear example of a word with a perfectly good etymological basis in trust and loyalty, and which certainly does not and never did mean assent without a reasonable case based in evidence, now being forced into a very different meaning. I say very different, because it makes the difference between sense and nonsense.
In its early days, the movement called National Socialism in Germany did not look like a horror story about to happen. It looked ok to most people. You had to be discerning to smell a rat. Here are some of the features that fascism was showing before it swelled into outright violence and totalitarianism.
Events in Syria and Europe have made me decide to postpone some other thoughts and instead comment on something at the heart of Islam. This overlaps with a Christian issue, and it needs careful handling, so this is a long post (almost 3000 words). I hope readers will give it a fair hearing.
This blog is not a commentary on political and religious affairs in general. It is about science and religion. However, now more than ever, we need accurate thought about what will help, in the long term, to overcome religious violence, and therefore I am posting here some relevant material. I will be discussing the way we approach the Bible and the Qur’an.
Image from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/06/refugees-welcome-oxfordshire-town-grapples-with-how-to-respond
I had some other material prepared for the blog this week, but it seemed appropriate to address something on many of our minds at the moment.