That title might be a bit off-putting, but I think it fits. I will explain why shortly. Let me first say that I still remember some twenty years ago, the first lecture of my American Government class in high school was titled, “Don’t Be An Idiot.” I remember it because it jumped out at me–it got my attention. I do not recall a teacher being so blunt in a lecture title before that. And while it is not exactly a friendly word, I confess “idiot” is a word that have used from time to time. It is defined as “an utterly foolish or senseless person” by dictionary.com. The point my government teachers were making is that it is important to be knowledgeable in order to be a capable citizen. Our system of government was designed to work for intelligent, informed voters. Far more disturbing to me than a person who does not vote at all if a person who votes unintelligently (by which I mean without learning about the candidates or issues before casting a vote).
Almost two weeks ago the term “idiot” popped into my head again due to a discussion I became involved in on a social networking site. A former student of mine posted a link to CNN’s story on the “Million Vet March on the Memorials,” which included this statement made by Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch: “I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.” That statement was the only place in which the article made any reference to Islam, and to be honest, I don’t think it had anything at all to do with the real story. Mr. Klayman was using rhetoric he was sure would get a reaction, and the reporters at CNN were happy to oblige. Unfortunately, it was a statement that made no sense, had nothing to do with the government shutdown and completely distracted attention from the real issues. Be that as it may, my former student chose to focus mostly on this statement.
In his comments, he said, “People like to think that Islam is such a violent religion and is so horrible, but in all honesty its not; there will always be some radicals in any religion. Plus Christianity isn’t the most peaceful of Religions either. The Crusades, The Inquisition, The Salem Witch Trials, The Colonization of the North American Continent, The North Atlantic Slave Trade all violent periods in history and all involving some type of Christian believers.” He also made a few comments about the shutdown not being the sole responsibility of one person, and that the shutdown was much more the responsibility of the House Republicans than of the president because they were “holding the purse strings of the nation hostage.” He concluded by saying, “If the worse [sic] thing going on in our country, which was built on religious freedom, is that our President prays to Allah instead of Jesus Christ/God then I think we are doing just fine. We as a nation need to do better our religious, cultural, & social differences are the things that are suppose to make us stronger not divide us.” While I am no fan of the president, I (1) do not think he prays to Allah, and (2) agree that even if he did that would not have been the problem. I disagree completely with the assertion that the House was “holding the purse strings hostage” since the power of the purse is assigned to the House in the Constitution. Like it or not, our government was working as intended during that stalemate. But that is not what I chose to comment on in my reply.
Instead, I said this: “Overall, nicely put. You are correct that the shutdown is not the fault of any one person, and you are also correct that if President Obama is a Muslim that is not, in and of itself, a serious problem and is certainly a protected right within the Constitution. However, you are not correct in your comparison of Christianity and Islam. Yes, there are many peaceful Muslims, and yes, there are numerous instances in world history of Christians doing terrible things, purportedly in the name of Christianity. The key difference, however, is that the Quran teaches violence and the destruction of infidels, and the Bible does not teach violence at all. Christians who resort to violence to prove a point or to forcibly convert unbelievers are violating the Scriptures, while Muslims who resort to violence to destroy infidels are adhering to the teachings of the Quran.” Despite the fact that I knew this would not be a popular thing to share, I felt it important to correct a misunderstanding.
My former student did not respond to my comment. One of his friends did, though, and the tone and content of his reply is what led to the title of this post. Quite frankly, his argument could be Exhibit A in a case against all of the idiots who like to argue their point without ever actually saying anything at all about their point, but simply attack those who disagree with them instead. Here is what he said: “Mr. Watson…. You sir need to buy a clue. Question? Have you read (from cover to cover) either of these two books? More over art thou a theological scholar or perhaps [a] degree holding student of divinity?! If not, you should not profess that which you do not KNOW. Both ‘books’ contain (therefore teach) sex, violence and the worst of human ills.”
I know, I know…I should have just smiled, shaken my head and let it go. After all, Proverbs 29:9 says, “There’s no use arguing with a fool. He only rages and scoffs, and tempers flare.” Fool, by the way, is a pretty good synonym for idiot. I could not resist, though. I enjoy a good debate, and it was clear this was not going to be that. I also recognized at least the remote possibility, though, that setting the record straight in such a public forum might positively influence someone other than the fool who had essentially challenged me to an intellectual duel. So what did I say in response? I said this…
I am not sure that my credentials are the issue here but since you asked, yes, I have read the Bible cover to cover (more than once) and I have both a Master of Theology degree and a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies. I do not claim to be a theological scholar, but I would guess that those degrees satisfy the question you are asking. Furthermore, I do KNOW that the Bible contains “sex, violence and the worst of human ills,” because the Bible presents the reality of human depravity apart from the regeneration that occurs upon accepting the forgiveness of sins made possible through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God created humans with a free will and therefore we have the ability to make choices, and we humans often make poor choices leading to “the worst of human ills.” As I said, though, those who behave that way are violating the Scriptures, not following them. And while I have not read the Quran cover to cover, I do also KNOW that it teaches the elimination of the infidel. As for [another fool who said “this isn’t about religion at all its about race”], my comment has nothing to do with race. In fact, the main thrust of my comment had nothing to do with President Obama or politics at all; rather, I was stressing that the comparison made between Christianity and Islam was not an accurate one.
So how did my esteemed opponent respond? Simply this: “Read the Qur’an and then you have a leg to stand on.” Wow! What a stunning tactic. Ignore the arguments of your opponent and simply accuse him of not knowing what he is talking about. Make him (or her) appear uninformed–or even stupid–and perhaps no one will recognize that he (or she) is actually speaking the truth. Now do you see why I called this arguing with idiots?
I should point out that I am a firm believer in equal opportunity idiocy. I think there are idiots on both sides of the political spectrum, within and without every religion and denomination, in every country of the world, so please do not think I am simply saying those who disagree with me are idiots. Not at all. My point is that people who decide they want to believe something is true and decide to commit themselves wholeheartedly to it are unwilling to even consider any alternative. In this particular case, those individuals who have decided that Barack Obama is the greatest president ever and can do no wrong are certain that anyone who disagrees must be a racist, a bigot or stupid. No doubt if I had responded that I had read both the Bible and the Quran from cover to cover my esteemed opponent would have told me that did not count unless I read them in the original Hebrew, Greek and Arabic.
See, the reality is, the Quran does teach violence and the destruction of the infidel. You probably do not know me well enough to just take my word for it, or to know that I would not say that it does if it did not. I do not mind that at all. In fact, I would encourage you to check for yourself. If you do not have a Quran or have easy access to one, there are plenty of web sites where you can read it (just like there are web sites where you can read the Bible). It will not take long for you to find that what I said is indeed accurate.
All that aside, though, here’s the real point: beware of arguing with idiots!