On First Principles

“I was trying to get a program going about fundamentalist Islam, or not even fundamentalist actually beyond… where it’s extreme radical Islam, so-called you know, basically people who support ISIS, of which there are some in the UK. Although, they’re hard to interview because it’s actually a crime to Glorify Terrorism is what it’s called. And so they have to talk very gingerly around the subject.

But if you get into a debate with someone who is sincerely committed to ISIS’ brand of Sunni Islam, where they’re saying “Actually, yes, sex slaves are okay,” they’ll say “Slaves isn’t quite the right term but we approve of that.” And then they say, “By what authority do you challenge what we believe?”

When you start coming at them with some kind of humanistic, secular, liberal view of life, and you try to explain “Well, I don’t have an authority as such, I’m not preaching a religion, I’m just saying it’s better to be nice to people.” And they say, “Well, based on what? On what authority?” You find that you actually don’t really have… It’s surprisingly difficult when you’re thrown back on first principles, to make the case for a sort of sensitive secular way of doing things. Does that make sense?

One of the appeals, I think, of Scientology, or Islam, or extreme Christianity, you know, whatever form that takes, is that they can say “We have all our answers, they’re in a book, and God told us. And who told you?” Well, no-one told me. I’m relying on a two millennia old tradition, founded in Greco-Roman times, with various interpreters over the years, but actually, I can’t really articulate that in ten words.—Do you know what I mean?—And it’s surprisingly hard… Once you’re in the prison of a faith-based system, it’s very hard to kind of leverage your way out.”

– Louis Theroux

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