I think extremism could be an effect of group dynamics. People tend to be more extreme and more likely to accept extremism when they are surrounded by others who share their views and passion. Being surrounded by others who share their views and passion would encourage them to go to extremes. This is why we have racism, religious extremism, nationalism-chauvinism -jingoism-fascism, corporatism, gangism, etc. Even when people who are only similar in some ways just happen to be together in the same place at the same time, they can commit extreme acts of violence against an individual or a smaller group of people. This is why there are gang rapes, hazing, and the like.
Read the following paragraph which was taken from Mark Rondeau’s Writing on Religion: Prayer in captivity.
“PERSECUTION WATCH: I think it’s important not to demonize a whole religion because of the chaos and slaughter going on right now in the Middle East. Under the right — or rather wrong circumstances — people of any religious group — or none — can become extremists.
For instance, in Myanmar, the Buddhist majority, including the current authoritarian government, is harshly persecuting the Rohingya, a resented Muslim minority.
The persecution includes shootings, rapes, confinement to camps and denial of medical care.
In a recent online chat about the persecution, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof replied to a questioner who said the repression “Doesn’t seem like something Buddhists would do. What part of story is missing?”
“Frankly, everybody commits atrocities every now and then. It’s not the fault of this or that religion. Buddhists have often been particularly mellow, but Sri Lanka is an example of a Buddhist majority country that has engaged in a long and brutal civil war with its Tamil minority,” Kristof replied. “And Bhutan is a Buddhist country that has been profoundly repressive of its Nepalese minority. Don’t blame any of that on Buddha or on Buddhism, any more than you can blame Serbia’s mass atrocities on Christianity.””
Q: How can some people be so sure of Amanda Knox’s guilt?
A: To be able to understand the logic of Amanda Knox’s conviction, it helps to have followed as many past murder cases as possible, and to have researched about this murder case as much as possible from information available in the news, on related websites, and in court documents. Information on how these past murder cases were investigated and their perpetrators convicted can shed light on why Amanda Knox could have become a suspect, been investigated, and been convicted: the murder of Lacy Peterson and the conviction of Scott Peterson (who is still running a website proclaiming his innocence), the murder of Jennifer Levin and the conviction of Robert Chambers (who has confessed and served his jail time for the crime), the murder of Natalee Holloway and the investigation of Joran van der Sloot (who has only been a suspect for the crime but has been convicted and jailed for another murder), the murder of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman and the trial of O.J. Simpson (who has been acquitted but has always remained suspected of being guilty), the conviction of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, etc.
[Amanda Knox reminded me of Robert Chambers the most. They both were good looking, both took drug, both were initially somewhat idolized by the media. In the Preppie Killer case, it was the victim’s mother who had to fight very hard for the victim’s rights. ]
I wonder if those who believe in Knox innocence has ever followed any case at all. Are they following only this case because the defendant is American while the victim and her family and the court are foreign?
A note on the controversies surrounding this case: As with most such difficult to solve murder cases, this case and the O.J. Simpson case both rely on a lot of guesswork and so are both refuted by the defendants. People have to rely on common sense and the evidence available to make a judgement. The reason why different people come up with different conclusion concerning the same case is that people choose to believe what can prove their points of view and ignore evidence to the contrary. In this case, it is getting harder also because of all the conflicting information being thrown around. Since some people can basically say whatever they want to say, other people don’t bother to look for evidence any more, just stick with what they already know before. And what people already know before is not all the same, due to the different reporting of the case by different media outlets.
Something I have noticed in the course of the persecution of this case is that while Americans did not have any problem with Scott Peterson’s conviction (which was based on much less evidence) when it was announced some years ago, a lot of them are having so much problem with Amanda Knox’s conviction now. I guess the standard of what evidence is good enough to get someone convicted has changed. Maybe it is because so many people have been wrongly convicted in America. The American justice system has been so screwed up that Americans do not have faith in a justice system any more.
Q: Is there any evidence?
A: Yes. Plenty of them if you look for them. Court documents are the best place to look for them. You can also find information on many websites about the case. But all websites have been seen as either pro-guilt or pro-Knox. So if you already have some ideas about the case, you may simply skip all the websites that prove you wrong. It is a human nature. For those who are convinced of Knox’s guilt, their judgement is made based on common sense and knowledge of the basic facts in the case. When people see someone giving different stories or lying repeatedly, they suspect the person’s involvement. When it is hard to explain things without the person of interest being involved, they become convinced of the person’s involvement.
In lots of difficult to solve murder cases, there is not a whole lot of evidence, the only other witness is dead. and the killer does not want to tell the truth. That is the reason why people get killed sometimes – to prevent the truth from being told. That is why we have to try our best to solve murder cases.
Something we also have to know about evidence is that once people have got an initial opinion, it is not easy to change it. Everything will either be explained in some way to serve as proof for an argument that has already been made, or be ignored. The argument over Knox’ guilt has become sort of a political fight between two parties. It has got personal and people are up in arms to defend their rights, not just what they believe to be true any more.
A problem that has made it harder for Americans to be convinced of Knox’s guilt is that the evidence in this case has been under-reported in the US. Those who read from British and Italian media about what had been told by the students, friends of Meredith, the neighbors, etc, and what had been discovered by the Italian police, from the beginning of the investigation, made up their mind about Amanda’s guilt back then. Americans got to know about the case from American media much later and much less. The purpose of the American media’s reporting of the case, from the get go, is to entice Americans to demand Italy set Amanda Knox free. British media’s reporting of the case, on the other hand, is just like American media’s reporting of any American case. The British and Italians made up their mind about this case from their media very much the same way Americans made up their mind about Scott Peterson’s guilt from what they learned from American media way before he was convicted.
Another problem that has made it difficult for some Americans to accept Knox’ conviction is that they have seen people suspected of having committed a murder walk free (OJ, Casey Anthony) while they have not noticed or have chosen to ignore those who have been convicted in the US with little evidence (Scott Peterson, Drew Peterson). A question that must be in these people’s mind is, if not all of those who look guilty are convicted, why Amanda Knox?
Q: What is the motive?
A: There are lots of murders with very simple motives or no motive at all. You may find it strange that someone would kill just for being very angry. But that does happen all the time. As to why Amanda Knox was so angry, that is not what we can answer. Some people can get very angry for very little things, especially when they are on drug.
Q: There is already one person in jail for the crime. Why do they have to convict two more people? Why is the Kercher family not happy with having one person serving jail time for the crime?
A: Just because one person has been found guilty of the crime does not mean that others can not be found guilty of the crime. It has been proven that Meredith was killed by more than one attackers. And the Kercher family know it.
Q: Is it better for Amanda Knox to go to jail?
A: Many killers live most of their remaining life as normal people (never kill again) until they are found at their old age. However, some killers do kill again. Joran van der Sloot came to mind.
Q: How Amanda Knox should have handled this?
A: Amanda Knox’s woes have made me realized how important it is to believe in God. Only when she believes in God can she handle the situation properly and is able to handle what is coming for the rest of her life. Any mistake, however big it is, can be forgiven by God. But she can never be forgiven by God or get help from God if she never turns to God and never starts to believe in God. God’s power is greater than that of all of her relatives and supporters. All the money in the world cannot buy the power that God has. There are more people who believe in God, consciously or unconsciously. That is why Knox’s conviction is reinstated. If Knox believed in God and did the right thing, she would not have to pay such a high price. In fact, at any point in time, if she turns to God, she will get help. It is regretful for her that she never does seem to get that. She always tries to be in control of the situation. She would not let God handle it. She went on TV to lie to the whole world repeatedly, as if she is powerful enough to control the world. This will only turn the world against her.
My last word: Murderers don’t always get anything out of the murders they have committed. In fact, sometimes all they get is regret and shame. In that sense, they are victims, too – victims of their own inability to control themselves. We should not ask for justice. We should just try to help them become normal people if that is possible.
I have met quite a few young women who seem to be very proud of their prostitution. When they are questioned, their answer is, they don’t believe in God, or, they are not Christians.
It is unfortunate that many societies count on religions to enforce certain moral standards. So when religions are challenged, the moral standards advocated by those religions are discredited at the same time. As a result, people think that moral standards do not exist.
In fact, there is a set of moral standards, which most religions advocate, that are the fundamentals that make human societies different from most animal societies and make human beings superior to animals.
The world today desperately need to know this set of moral standards. Too many people are abandoning religions and do not know that there are still moral standards that they need to follow.
When people’s wills can not be reflected in a political system, politics often finds its way into religions. That is why we have Christian churches and Islamic mosques getting criticised for planting hate in people.
In fact, it is not that churches and mosques turn people radical. It is the other way around. People who can not get their voices heard in a political system often turn to religions. That is what turns churches and mosques political.
So when we see a religious entity turning political, we should try to find out if the people who attend that religious entity have some grievances that are not being addressed in their political system.
From this, I see an important reason to elect Obama. The fact that Black churches in America are radical should tell us that Blacks in America are not well represented in the American political system. Since Obama and Blacks have a very good relationship, as shown in the primary thus far, he can represent them well. As long as he can also represent Whites and other ethnic groups well, he will do a good job bringing Blacks into the political process and deradicalizing Black churches. Thwarting their wills will make them even more radical.
The role of religion should be to help people find faults in themselves so they will not get themselves into troubles because of their weaknesses. It should be the opposite of the role of politics, which is to help people fight for their rights assuming that they do not deserve what they have got. In short, religions are to help find faults in oneself, while politics is to help find faults in others.
On the race issues, Rev. Wright is clearly playing the role of a politician, not that of a pastor.
Many “religious leaders” make this mistake. That is why religions have been blamed for many conflicts in the world.
Religions can be a force for peace only if they are practiced properly, which is to emphasize the existence of weaknesses in people and help them overcome their weaknesses. Only when people realize that they share the blames in their problems can they help solve their problems. And only when all people recognize their contributions to a problem can a problem be solved. This is why Obama’s speech on race is historic. No any other politician has been able to see both sides of the race issue.
Politics aims to force parties to accept responsibilities. It often has to be backed by force. This is why we have wars. If religions can play a bigger role in solving conflicts, there will be more peace and less wars.
By the way, Rev. Wright’s opinion on terrorism is a self-reflection on our part and should not be attacked. However, though he helps the public understand the cause of terrorism, his message can be misinterpreted as an endorsement for terrorism. So it should have been delivered in a more meditative environment than in a passionate sermon.
Religions are driven by two different desires: for some people, it is the desire to have a peaceful life; for other people, it is the desire to assert their wills. Organized religions are mostly driven by the latter. Religious organizations are often involved in politics because of this. This is also why religions are often misused and misunderstood.
Religious people who are driven by the desire to have a peaceful life are often conservative and relatively successful in their lives and their careers. For this reason, religions are important for the stability and prosperity of a society and should not be suppressed.
However, because religions are often misused for political purposes, they are often misunderstood as the root cause of social conflicts and are suppressed by other forces, including secular ones and religious ones.
There is one thing that is worth taking notice of. Among all major religions, Buddhism is probably the one that is least involved in politics. Among all organized religions, Jehovah’s Witnesses is probably the one that is least involved in politics. But when it comes to resisting brute forces, they are the ones that can put up the strongest resistance.