What Makes Muslims Tick 3 – Two Sides of the Same Coin

“[Qur’an]… phrases and snippets taken out of context… is the one favored by both Muslim fundamentalists and anti-Muslims – Islamophobes” – Lesley Hazleton

Before divulging the secret formula to the ultimate motivation to Muslims, it is important to highlight an irony. Ironies I find have the power to communicate to that faculty in us that is proud and surprisingly rational because it abhors contradictions, with a pinch of disgust towards one side of the comparison. For instance the Islamophobe (Muslim haters) who sees the truth in the quote above (by Lesley Hazleton), would dissociate themselves from cherry picking verses of the Qur’an that serve their agenda because God knows they don’t like to be like the Moozlims, let alone the fundamentalists! Similarly it would apply to the fundametalist who sees the truth in this. There is a similar irony I wish to point out here. It is important to first recap the previous two parts of this series briefly.

In the first post, we abstracted the different levels of Man which forms the framework we use for the entirety of this series. We identified the fields of knowledge that have access to the different levels of Man. Psychology was noted as quite malleable/fluid between two levels (Animal Self and Calculating Self), in addition to the epistemic problems of moving between Animal Self and Lofty Self. In the second post, we categorized scriptural motivations in to two based on the level of Man addressed: to the Calculating Self, and to the Lofty Self. The Calculating Self pursues rewards and evades punishment, while the Lofty Self seeks closeness to the Divine through meaning and a sense of duty, hence the Lofty self is tightly related to Fitrah (natural disposition of Man towards the Divine and all that is good).

Scala Man - Motivations

Now, to the fluidity of Psychology as a discipline. Psychology being an infant Science, relative to natural sciences, faces the least problems when dealing between the Animal Self and the Calculating Self. Advancement in Psychology has lead to sprouting of specialized field such as Behavioral Psychology which has impact in many fields as Economics, Governance, History, etc. Psychology is able to achieve this without losing much of its identity. However when Psychology tries to deal between the Calculating Self and the Lofty Self, it often loses a part of its identity by taking a more philosophical character, lest it ends up in the familiar epistemic problems. Compounding to the issue is that many Empiricist Scientists who had access to the Lofty Self but with problems, now try to hijack Psychology because it is close enough to their knowledge field, then use it to make claims about the Lofty Self. For instance when they realized it is problematic to make the claim because “Mr A has large veins, he is therefore very compassionate'”, they can use Psychology to modify the statement to something like “because the immediate family of Mr A encourage compassion, he is therefore very compassionate”. This is how the Empiricist Scientists (Animal Self) meddles with Psychology (Calculating Self) to reach conclusion about the Lofty Self.

Empiricist Scientist ***meddles*with*** Psychology ===which=leads=to===> Empiricist Psychologist

The effect of meddling produces a new breed which is the Empiricist Psychologist, which can be broadly placed in two groups. The first group keep on repeating the same epistemic problems as their ancestors (Empiricist Scientists) only this time with some slant in Psychology (the likes of Richard Dawkins come to mind); this group deny the existence of the Lofty Self and it is by delusional dysfunction of the brain that theists claim to have “religious experience”. The second group is the more innovative one who approach the problem with a new “eye” by claiming that the Lofty Self exists but only as a phantom projection by the Animal Self (Jonathan Haidt and his Elephant and Rider Metaphor). Therefore people have “genuine” religious experience but it is simply an extension of the Animal Self. Majority of the Empiricist Psychologist are still in the first group and paying attention to them any longer may rob the reader of some their intellect; the interesting ones are the second group.

Scala Man - Knowldege

There are actually only two levels of man in reality even though Man experiences three levels, this is the claim of the second group. By extension, art and philosophy is explainable by Natural Science! This maneuver is actually genius. There is no longer any need to jump from the Animal Self, skipping the Calculating Self, into the Lofty Self; they are one and the same! In a nutshell, the second group of Empiricist Psychologists (Jonathan Haidt in particular) claim that what people call religious (and communal, and love…) experiences are merely phenomena that can be explained in the language of the Animal Self; i.e. we could open up a brain and observe it. In this view the Animal Self is actually the one in control of the Calculating Self, so much that it gives the latter the illusion of being in control. At the core of the Animal Self is a reward system in the brain which secretes *happy hormones* like Dopamine and Serotonin to reinforce/encourage communal rapport or “religious experience”, because they claim it is actually an evolutionary adaptation for survival. How? because the Animal Self has evolved to understand that having a community at peace, and an illusory God who regulates life, are all ways that evolutionary survival is secured! In summary, the brain rewards a person to be benevolent and “religious”, and that is why we are benevolent and religious. Did I mention Empiricist Psychologists are the prophets of Empiricist Atheists?

“In economics, homo economicus, or economic human, is the concept in many economic theories of humans as rational and narrowly self-interested actors who have the ability to make judgments toward their subjectively defined ends. Using these rational assessments, homo economicus attempts to maximize utility as a consumer and economic profit as a producer.[1] This theory stands in contrast to the concept of homo reciprocans, which states that human beings are primarily motivated by the desire to be cooperative and to improve their environment.” – Wikipedia

Now we move back to scriptural motivations we discussed in the second post of this series. Scriptural motivations to the Calculating Self we found appear to be working on the mechanism of reward AND punishment. Here is the Irony. The popular-Salafi (Hasanat Arithmetician) has much in common with the Empiricist Atheist in their understanding of what motivates a Muslim. Both can have their idea of religion mostly, if not completely, explained in the two lower levels of the Man (Animal Self and Calculating Self) by using the same mechanism of reward and punishment. Reward for the Empiricist Atheist can be reduced to brain secretion and evolutionary instincts, whereas reward for the popular-Salafi can be reduced to the ideal rational economic agent (homo-economicus). The only difference between the rational economic agent in micro-economics textbook and the popular-Salafi is simply the scope; the former concerns with the life of this world while the latter concerns both life of this world and the next world.

“The reduction of Islam to a system of reward and punishment is favored by both popular-Salafis and the Empiricist Atheists” – Winston Churchill 😉

I hope both groups (Empiricist Atheists and popular-Salafis) see the irony in the statement above and they improve their conceptions of religious motivation out of reason, or at least out of disgust for the other group.

The point has been made, the digression will then cease. Next post, we return to the formulas for motivating Muslims. In search of the ultimate Muslim motivational recipe.



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