Cartoons and the Negation of Reason

jtgagnon's picture
Submitted by jtgagnon on Tue, 2006-02-07 20:01

“Faith … is the negation of reason.” (Playboy's Interview with Ayn Rand," Playboy, March 1964)

In September 2005, a Danish newspaper published a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb. It caused great insult to Muslim communities in Denmark because it is against Islam to portray the Prophet Muhammad. In an effort to “internationalize the issue” Abu Laban, a Palestinian and former assistant to Gamaa Islamiya leader Talaal Fouad Qassimy, formed a delegation to meet with the Arab League, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi, and Sunni Islam’s most influential scholar, Yusuf al Qaradawi.

Once the image hit the international scene, it exploded. Muslim rioters – their faces red with rage and fists pumping in anger – filled streets from London to Kabul. NATO troops, protecting their base, were forced to open fire on Afghani rioters who attacked. Undoubtedly, you’ve all seen the images – the flags burning, the violence, the chaos. These events can be summed up in a single word: irrationality.

More than anything, the Muslim world’s uproar over a mere cartoon serves as a very real reminder that individuals – whatever their religion or philosophy – who are “ruled by blind faith and blind obedience to the dogma that faith is superior to reason” will inevitably resort to the purest form of irrationality – violence. Such individuals allow themselves to be mere pawns, operating on the unsubstantiable promise of an eternal future, taking orders and unthinkingly carrying them out against upstanding, reasonable, and innocent human beings.

History shows us that the darkest period in human history was the age of faith – the Middle Ages. While we as a species have come far from those oppressive days, there remains a large – and growing – contingent of people who retain the belief that faith should rule and reason should perish. It exists in the Middle East in the form of Islam and it exists in the United States in the form of Christianity. Perhaps most troublesome about the current events is the revelation that our modern world may very well be standing on the edge of a cliff – we may walk away from the edge by a return to reason, or we may jump head-first into another age of darkness.

Of course, perhaps the most important question here is: in the face of such irrationality, what recourse does an individual – who holds reason over faith and debate over force – possess to fight against it? While the debate of ideas has had some success, it seems by and large that the voice of reason is being drowned out by the pandemonium of absurdity.

( categories: )


jtgagnon's picture

Thanks for the comments; and Linz, I'm happy to see you can use my post. I'm working on something more substantive which I'll post sometime over the weekend.

Great post. Great thread.

Fraser Stephen-Smith's picture

Great post. Great thread.

Attn Mr. Gagnon!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Your post here will be gracing the back cover of the new Free Radical. Thanks. Smiling



Alex Sagan's picture

It is important here to recognize that faith does not have one eventual consequence (violence); but rather the eventual consequence is a break-down of the society which adopts it. For example, a certain faith may proclaim passivity as its ideal, which would subject its members to all sorts of injustices without desire to recourse. Eventually this faith group would be manhandled by other, more aggressive groups or just wither away into the nothingness which it proclaimed was its ideal.

Sound familiar? Methinks I scent Buddhism.

All forms of 'faith,' i.e., taking things on whim rather than evidence are dangerous. They can never produce anything but failure.


Charles Henrikson's picture

"While the debate of ideas has had some success, it seems by and large that the voice of reason is being drowned out by the pandemonium of absurdity."(jtgagnon)

It's the democratization of thought.


Mark Dow's picture

It’s a great time to confront those that would outlaw flag burning, and those who promote censorship in this country (US)as well.

Thanks you Linz and jtgagnon!

JulianP's picture

Truly inspirational. You reminded me what we are fighting for.



Lindsay Perigo's picture

Great debut post, jtgagnon.

I for one am convinced that the world, as shown by these events, does stand on the edge of that cliff you mention. I'm also convinced not nearly enough people have a sufficient sense of urgency about it to make a difference as yet. What recourse does an individual have? To acquire that sense of urgency and speak out at every turn. In the end it may be to no avail, but for one's own satisfaction, self-respect and peace of mind one should do the best/most one can ... and then be resigned. It is self-sacrifical to take the weight of the world on one's shoulders. It is equally self-sacrificial to do nothing when one still has the option of doing something.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.