People act the way they do for reasons. Their reasoning is often faulty; more commonly still, the premises behind their reasoning are false; but nothing more clearly distinguishes the initiate from the non-initiate than this:
People act the way they do for reasons...and, knowing this, those undergoing initiation exert themselves to understand those reasons: to gain a sympathetic insight into what compels people unlike themselves to believe and act as they do.*
This initiatory perspective does not rob one of resolve. The better we understand why a religious fanatic makes war on civilization -- as so many do, today -- the better our chances of isolating him from his network of support and bringing his threat to an end. Nothing is more dangerous at present, more threatens human survival itself, than the belief that a foolish certainty is best combated by another, equally foolish certainty.
People act the way they do for reasons. If we do not bestir ourselves to try to understand those reasons, we are (among other things) leaving to chance our ability to defeat some highly dangerous human beliefs.
This being so, whenever the initiate encounters what looks like evidence of irrational behavior, after indulging the opportunity to congratulate herself on her own enlightenment, she goes on to ask herself:
"Why do you suppose they think that way?"
93 93/93 -- AJ
* Quick example: the riots against the Danish cartoons -- which I am not, naturally, defending, but must as a thinking person (and, by the bye, someone hoping to defeat armed religious fanatics) seek to understand. The riots erupted months after the original cartoons were published. Why? Because some well-placed Muslim leaders decided to publicize them. Okay, why, exactly? Because -- according to a radio interview I heard with a Danish reporter, anyway -- contrary to a widely-published article on the subject, the cartoons were published as a deliberate provocation. The editor of the paper in question, angered by anti-Bush cartoons, held a contest to find anti-Islam cartoons, and published every entry he received.
This still wouldn't have made any difference if the Islamic world weren't one hell of a lot touchier now than it was a few years ago, for fairly obvious reasons...usually unmentioned in this context.
The same editor, btw, had previously rejected cartoons ridiculing Christianity, on the ground that his readers would find them offensive. The test of our respect for free speech being, of course, our willingness to defend speech we loathe, we can cheerfully dismiss this editor's actual commitment to hell-or-high-water free speech. (Y'know...just sayin.)
Again, none of this justifies the rioting, or makes me like religious fanaticism more (or support free speech less, either). But it sure helps explain the whole mess, doesn't it?