What is Islamophobia?

There are three terms that have been bugging me because their definitions are elusive: “New Atheism,” “scientism,” and “Islamophobia.”  Yesterday we dealt with “New Atheism.” In the past few days, Jason Rosenhouse and Massimo Pigliucci have duked it out on their websites about “scientism” (Massimo here, Jason here and here; read all three because the exchange is informative).  I think Jason definitely has the upper hand in the scientism debate, which he sees as a distracting kerfuffle about semantics. On the other hand, while Massimo makes some good points—e.g., some questions have answers that aren’t found by science, like what is the mathematical relationship between the sides of a right triangle and its hypotenuse—he doesn’t show how philosophy or math answers questions about what exists in the real world, and he seems overly huffy about biologists’ neglect and criticism of philosophy.

So let’s take up the third term, “Islamophobia.”  I hear it a lot, particularly when applied to Sam Harris.  But I don’t know what it means, and nobody ever explicitly defines it. It is used by atheists often, but yet those same people never use the term “Christianophobia” or “Hinduphobia.”  I can think of only two definitions:

  • Overweening fear and hatred of the religion of Islam. If that’s the definition, I suppose I adhere to it.  Islam is a pernicious religion and its holy book, the Qur’an, is worse than any other sacred book I’ve read in terms of vilification of apostates or nonbelievers, threats of hell, and percentage of the text occupied by stuff that’s scary and threatening.  It’s about the worst faith going, and I see nothing wrong, nothing pejorative, with using the term in this way. Nor do I see “moderate Islam” acting so moderately: even though there are pockets of Muslim condemnation for rioting and killing when the Prophet is insulted, in general Muslims just keep quiet about the issue. The moderates thus become enablers, so I see the whole faith as a bad business.
  • Fear and hatred of Muslims Many people construe the term this way, and it appears to fit some people, like those who see anyone in a turban or burqa as a threat.  This is obviously bigotry, since many Muslims are decent folks who don’t damn their Christian neighbors or cut off people’s heads. (I do criticize their silence when it comes to more extreme coreligionists.)  Nevertheless, I can damn their religion without damning them as people.  This form of “Islamophobia” is the Islamic equivalent of anti-Semitism, for anti-Semites aren’t nearly as opposed to Judaism per se as to Jews themselves.

It would help if those who throw these terms around would say what they mean, because “Islamophobia,” like “misogyny,” means very different things to different people.

No New Atheist I know of falls under the second definition, though Sam Harris has been accused of bigotry because he favors some forms of religiously-based profiling (and remember, there is a case to be made for that: it appears, for instance, that El Al does it). But even Harris is not a Muslim-hater, and his “profiling” stand is based not on dislike of Muslims, but on the danger he perceives that the faith’s adherents pose to air travel.

Are there other definitions of Islamophobia that make sense?  I see it as a term that shouldn’t be used without an attendant definition.

132 Comments

  1. Posted September 21, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Think of it this way: if a group of Muslims want to build a mosque and they have all of the proper permits, etc. and they are not allowed to do so…but a church is allowed to do so, then that might be an example of Islamophobia. That is, their religion is treated differently than other religions on a legal/social level.

    We aren’t talking about criticism (as per your first definition) but we are talking about the religion.

    • Heber
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      This sounds more like discrimination than ‘Islamophobia’. And discrimination, despite its typically negative connotation, can often be a good thing. Then it just becomes a matter of wether Islam DESERVES to be treated differently.

      I remember Amis’ story about an encounter between Hitchens and another man who asked him “Do you love us or do you hate us (referring to the US)? And Hitchens responded: It depends on how you behave. I think we have the right to treat religions according to their behavior.

      • Voltaire 2
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        Both parties were in the wrong there: The American for begging for his approval, and the Brit for acting superior over the American.

        • Marella
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

          How exactly did the Brit act superior? Is it haughty to judge people by their behaviour.

        • Posted September 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

          This doesn’t make sense. First of all Hitch was an American citizen and would have used “us or we” to mean the United States, not the UK. Secondly, if he was referring to the US, why does he say “religions?” The US is not a religion. It might make a little sense if he is being asked about how the US feels about muslims, but why would anyone ask “Do you love us or hate us” as if those are the only two options? Anyway, his point about behavior being important is a good one.

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted September 22, 2012 at 4:26 am | Permalink

            I suspect a quote fail here is causing some of the confusion; if Hitchens’ response is “It depends on how you behave.” then the paragraph makes more sense.

      • Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        The thing to remember is that the United States has a “no establishment” clause; the government can’t favor one religion over another.

        • Heber
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

          But we can. And we should. Maybe not ‘favor’ but disfavor one religion over another depending on how they behave.

          • Achrachno
            Posted September 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

            No. Sorry. That’s not what freedom of religion means.

            If some muslim (or anyone else) does something illegal, motivated by their religion, we should treat them just like anyone else and prosecute them. No extra penalty or any special favors.

          • colluvial
            Posted September 22, 2012 at 7:05 am | Permalink

            If a religious group is not breaking the law, how is it that you propose to ‘disfavor’ them?

            • Ichthyic
              Posted September 23, 2012 at 1:17 am | Permalink

              if they aren’t breaking laws, why should one even be considering it?

  2. Greg Peterson
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    “Phobia” and “phobic” are lousy suffixes, because they seem to imply something like unreasonable fear…but a hydrophobic cell membrane isn’t AFRAID of water. It just rejects it…or perhaps even that is too anthropomorphic. It resists letting it in. In that sense, I think I have all kinds of “phobias”–but very few fears and even fewer hatreds. Because phobias are associated with terror and loathing, perhaps someone could come up with a better term. I think this one is damned to confusion.

    • Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Agreed: banish the suffix “phobia” altogether as a descriptor of legitimate dissent and criticism. I’m not an Islamophobe any more than I’m a Christianity-phobe — I just think both those religions are false, frequently harmful, sometimes demonstrably dangerous*. To the extent I fear either of them, it is a well-founded apprehension of the last category. And at the moment Islam — averaged over the entire body of adherents — contains more of that than Christianity does.

      *Which is not to deny that it is frequently the interaction of socio-political forces with the religion proper that bring out the dangerous elements.

    • Occam
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Time for a little etymology.
      “Phobia”, “phobic” are derived from the Greek noun φόβος, phóbos.

      Now phóbos has a somewhat wider spectrum of meanings than commonly acknowledged. These nuances are all reflected to some extent in the many composite constructs with the suffix “-phobic” or “-phobia”.
      A: apprehension, fear, terror, alarm, fright, panic;
      B: the act of fleeing: flight, retreat;
      C: awe, reverence;
      D: rejection, repulsion through implied fear or terror (whether active or passive).

      Hence, a hydrophobic membrane is one that rejects or repels water. In a material context, the suffix “-phobic” has usually a less active connotation than the equivalent “-fuge”, of Latin origin.
      Thus, hydrophobic, but ignifuge.

      In the present situation, a Westerner in London or New York may or may not agree with Islamophobia; but a Copt in Cairo may be well advised to become Islamofuge.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 22, 2012 at 3:47 am | Permalink

        Trouble is, ‘philia’ and ‘phobia’ have meanings that fluctuate according to the word they were attached to. Frequently it’s quite misleading.

        For example, I’d expect ‘hemophiliac’ to be a term for vampire, not someone prone to bleeding ;)

        Hydrophobia – commonly refers to rabies, whose victims can’t drink water. Apparently fear of water is aquaphobia.

        English is really not a consistent language.

  3. tib
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    The related term you might hear more often is anti-semitism.

    • Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      To continue the parallel, it’s entirely possible to be anti-Tanach, anti-Israel, or even anti-Judaism without being an anti-Semite.

      This should not be surprising in the slightest.

      It’s possible to be anti-Republican and yet still be in a truly sincere loving marriage with a Republican.

      It’s possible to to hate the New York Yankees with a passion and yet still treasure the time spent with your best friend, a Yankees fan, at the ballpark.

      It’s possible to be anti-Communist and yet still wonder how you could possibly do your research without the contributions of your Communist colleagues on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

      Contrary to the special status the faithful try put upon their own religions, religions are no different in this aspect from political parties, sports teams, and nation-states.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Veroxitatis
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        Yes, at the risk of introducing neologisms I am certainly Israelophobic & Zionophobic. I am not anti semitic. Some Jews simply do not accept such a distinction. Few Muslims would accept such a distinction with regard to their religion. Unfortunately nowadays, the meaning of an expression can be given substance by the reaction of the party against whom the expression is directed. (In UK Employment Law, to an extent, a finding of discrimination may rest on nothing more than the existence of a reasonable subjective experience on someone’s part that there has been discrimination.)
        More broadly, there is often a perception by holders of any static viewpoint that “He who is not with us is against us.” Now who was it that said that? Was it God or was it Bush?

        • Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

          More broadly, there is often a perception by holders of any static viewpoint that “He who is not with us is against us.” Now who was it that said that? Was it God or was it Bush?

          Jesus said it, with a rather nasty exclamation point:

          Luke 19:27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before.

          Cheers,

          b&

        • Posted September 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

          You are afraid of Israel? What do you think it is going to do to you?

          • Veroxitatis
            Posted September 22, 2012 at 5:05 am | Permalink

            Yes, I’m afraid that the State of Israel through its current Govt. will continue to pursue unhelpful and even dangerous policies.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        Let’s not lose sight that the converse can be equally true: One can have a close personal relationship with a member of a race or ethnicity — hell, can be in a romantic relationship with, or even married to — a member of such a group, and yet still be a bigot.

        This is why the bigot’s defense that “some of my best friends are ____” is vacuous; why it is no guarantee you are prejudice-free just because your favorite song-and-dance man was Sammy Davis, Jr.; your favorite ballplayer, Michael Jordan; you never missed a Cosby show, loved Barbara Streisand in Yentl, and think the greatest Miss USA to walk the runway was Rima Fakih.

        Seems that Strom Thurmond banged his family’s black teenage housekeeper like a screen door in a hurricane. Anyone want to make the case that that proves he wasn’t a stone-cold racist?

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      Actually, I think Islamophobia is most similar to homophobia. Both accurately describe a certain mindset held by certain people. Both are also used reflexively, usually by liberals, to tar opinions that diverge from the party line with the brush of bigotry, which effectively squelches any rational discussion.

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        Now, having said that, I obviously can’t think of an instance where something that might be called homophobia would merit debate…I should probably have said that those brandishing the Islamophobia label are trying to hide behind the skirts of those who rightly disparage homophobia…

        • jay
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          Well, was Obama a homophobe until he supported gay marriage? Did he suddenly become an unbigot?

          This has become a shibboleth. Some people favored civil unions with full rights, until Obama’s conversion, now that seems to classify people as secret bigots.

          Generally, no matter what the subject, phobe is attached to create a loaded word. I guess I am a phobophobe.

          • Diane G.
            Posted September 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

            :)

            Like.

      • Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        Expanding on your point a bit…one could think that homosexuality is a mortal sin against Baby Jesus / icky / whatever but still be in full support of marriage rights (and all other civil rights) for homosexuals. Would such a person be a homophobe? If so, of what use is such a term?

        The ACLU has successfully and proudly defended the First Amendment rights of Nazis. Does that make the ACLU anti-Semitic?

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Diane G.
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          I so defer to you. :) Well said.

          Labels in general don’t elucidate much, but they may occasionally serve as shorthand–but only when there’s some agreed upon definition.

          Appears to me that about 90% of any debate (esp. those involving philosophers) relies on what JAC calls a kerfuffle about semantics.

          • Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

            Ain’t that the truth!

            Once you can ask a question properly, the question answers itself.

            b&

  4. Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    [S]ome questions have answers that aren’t found by science, like what is the mathematical relationship between the sides of a right triangle and its hypotenuse[.]

    Actually, I’d argue that that is exactly a scientific question, every bit as much as Newton’s and Kepler’s descriptions of the motions of the planets.

    Draw a right triangle. Draw squares on each of the sides of the triangle. Compare the areas of the squares (by whatever empirical method you favor), and you’ll find that the areas of the two add up to the area of the third. (Turn the triangle into a rectangle by building a rotated copy on the hypotenuse and the “why” behind this should start to become clearer. Do it with an isosceles right triangle and the answer should leap out at you.)

    If you don’t think that that’s how Pythagoras came to his famous theorem, then you’re in need of assistance from a qualified neurophysiologist.

    It was no different with Newton and Kepler. They plotted the locations of the planets precisely enough to determine the shapes of their orbits, and those shapes turned out to be ellipses with one semi-major axis at the center of the Sun. The rest followed naturally.

    Cheers,

    b&

    P.S. I didn’t touch on Islamophobia because you already wrote everything I would have. b&

    • Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      You are right about maths Ben, and it’s worth pointing out the following process:

      1) Deduce mathematical truths empirically, as Ben describes.
      2) Distill your empirical knowledge into axioms and logic.
      3) Use said axioms to prove something further.
      4) Claim that the result has nothing to do with empirical enquiry and that the scientismists are wrong.

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Actually, I’d argue that that is exactly a scientific question…

      Exactly what I was thinking, except for all the detail. ;)

    • Marella
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      Me too.

    • Posted September 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      I agree in general with what you said there, except for this:

      “If you don’t think that that’s how Pythagoras came to his famous theorem”

      Pythagoras’s famous theorem was almost certainly not discovered by Pythagoras. There are references to it in various parts of the world, particularly in Babylon and India, well before Pythagoras. The current evidence suggests that the Babylonians probably discovered the fact empirically, and the Indians either got it from them or discovered it independently (but again, in a plus to your point, empirically).

      • Posted September 23, 2012 at 5:34 am | Permalink

        But there is a tradition that the Pythagoreans *proved* the theorem, i.e., deduced it from other more general principles. This was not done in India, Babylon or China (or any other great mathematical civilization). What we don’t know is whether the tradition is correct. Certainly by Euclid (~200-250 years later) this Greek invention had taken off. Consequently, it is not inconceivable that the Pythagoreans learned about the matter (likely via Babylon, in their case) and did the proof later.

        • Posted September 23, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

          The Pythagoreans did not “prove” the theorem either, at least as far as I know: it was either Euclid or a Chinese text from the Han dynasty that supplied the first proof: see here

          Even the Greeks don’t seem to have credited Pythagoras or the Pythagoreans for the theorem until much later.

        • Posted September 23, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

          In fact the article I quoted suggests that one of the later Shulba Sutras, which is dated ~400 years before Euclid, actually contains a proof of the general Pythagoras theorem.

          However, this is the not the Shulba Sutra that contains the first Sanskrit mention of the theorem (that would be the Baudhayan Shulba Sutra, which predates this one by about 200 years). The Baudhayan version, however, contains only a proof of the isosceles version (based on inscribing a smaller square perpendicularly inside another square), and I cannot independently verify the above stronger claim.

  5. NewEnglandBob
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Your first definition and your comments about it are extremely well said. Thanks. I will steal it ;)

  6. ManOutOfTime
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I love in California and have worked almost exclusively at universities and in professional firms, so I have had almost no exposure to overt racism, sexism, or anti-Semitism. Lots of insensitivity that the academic or feminist in me can detect, but almost nothing you would call overt. I have however had one American Muslim slip into a Farakhanesque rant about “The Jews,” and one Pakistani Muslim referred to “The Ancient International Conspiracy” which, you know what that is. So, totally anecdotal, and not to smear entire populations, but, come on. The most charitable thing I can say about these two gentlemen is that they have internalized a worldview of victimization – and they are not entirely fools for buying into it, they have a point – which legitimizes pointing the misguided finger of blame. I would expect to hear mirror tropes from misguided adherents of any given faith.

    • ManOutOfTime
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      I meant “live” not “love,” though obviously I also do my loving in the Golden State.

    • Marella
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      they have a point – which legitimizes pointing the misguided finger of blame.

      It may explain it but it certainly doesn’t legitimize it.

      I would expect to hear mirror tropes from misguided adherents of any given faith.

      But you didn’t did you?

    • jay
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      Have you thought about how deeply the censorious mind control has worked here. Certain subjects simply cannot be touched, views cannot be expressed. They simply are treated like they don’t exist. Yet you seem to view this as a good thing (perhaps I am wrong)

      In this world there would be no Islamic riots because this film, or any criticisms of Muslims cannot be voiced.

      This speech control started of as a ‘workplace’ thing, has moved to schools, and with the rise of ‘anti bullying’ legislation, is poised to enter our personal lives outside work and school, our expressions on social media, and our expressions in public spaces.

      The rioters may yet get what they demand. And it will be handed to them.

  7. Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    I think we should use the term “Muslimophobia” for the second, ie. the bigotry against actual people. Using different words would discourage criticism of the religion as a set of ideas, practices and institutions from being used as cover for racism.

    • beyondbelief007
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      While technically a better term, both would still be used as conversational circuit breakers akin to “Anti-Semite!”, “Racist!”, “Liberal” “Communist!”

      There is no way to deal with that approach to discussion than to actively refuse to play the game, and to push back against those who do.

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Which is difficult to do when you’re outshouted. Thinking of a certain famous atheist blog…

  8. Barry Pearson
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Although the word “Islamophobia” may have existed since the 1980s, in 1997 the Runnymede Trust provided a “diagnostic” for Islamophobia. According to the Runnymede Trust, “phobic dread of Islam is the recurring characteristic of closed views. Legitimate disagreement and criticism, as also appreciation and respect, are aspects of open views”.

    I have the full table they used, with my own commentary, at:

    http://www.barrypearson.co.uk/articles/gods/islam_islamophobia.htm

    Needless to say, I think their diagnostic is shoddy. The obvious flaw in this diagnosis is that it assumes that the open views are correct! It would be more accurate simply to label the third and fourth columns “Views unacceptable to most Muslims” and “Views acceptable to most Muslims” respectively. My commentary at that link is intended to reveal the unlikelihood that this table diagnoses what it purports to diagnose.

    I also show a table with everything reversed, as an equivalent diagnostic for Infidelophobia!

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Infidelophobia is a very good concept to entertain…

  9. Nancy
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I used to think Dawkins and Harris were anti-Muslim bigots, but in fact they are both probably more likely just plain old xenophobes, with a special fear of Islam. And now I suppose you will maintain that “xenophobia” also means different things to different people and so we mustn’t use it.

    The reason I now think it’s xenophobia is because recently Harris actually claimed that Christian mythology is “more plausible” than Mormon mythology.

    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/on-the-freedom-to-offend-an-imaginary-god

    Dawkins also promoted Christianity as a “bulwark” against Islam.

    They prefer Judeo-Christian mythology because it’s more familiar to them. Now Dawkins merely suggested that Islam makes people more violent than Christianity does (conveniently ignoring Christian history) but Harris actually compares different brands of woo and says that Christian woo is “more plausible.” He’s talking about the re-animation of dead Jesus.

    Dawkins and Harris, for all their claims to be liberal are basically Neo-cons just like Hitchens – although Hitchens was more obvious about it. In the Harris link I provided, his views on the very commonplace diplomatic response of the Obama administration to the US embassy attack is indistinguishable from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.

    But what really astounds me is the continuing hero-worship, especially of Harris, who is a second-rate thinker on top of being a Neo-con.

    http://mcclernan.blogspot.com/2012/09/why-sam-harris-is-second-rate-thinker.html

    But I must ask for evidence on this claim:

    “Islam is a pernicious religion and its holy book, the Qur’an, is worse than any other sacred book I’ve read in terms of vilification of apostates or nonbelievers, threats of hell, and percentage of the text occupied by stuff that’s scary and threatening.”

    Exactly what percentage of the Qur’an displays the traits you claim? How did you do that study? How does it compare to the Bible?

    And if these holy books are responsible for making people violent, why is it that although the text in the Bible has not changed since the days of the Inquisition or the Crusades, the behavior of Christians has moderated? If the words in the Bible haven’t changed then they clearly were not the root cause of the Christian violence.

    And so if the Bible is not the root cause of Christian extremism, why is the Qur’an any different? Is it because “those people” are essentially different some how?

    Or does it come down to percentages? Are you actually arguing that Muslims, just by reading the Qur’an are 50% violent because the Qur’an is 20% violent, while Christians are 20% violent because the text of the Bible is 20% violent?

    • Achrachno
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      “The reason I now think it’s xenophobia is because recently Harris actually claimed that Christian mythology is “more plausible” than Mormon mythology.”

      Harris is right. Regular Christian mythology is nonsense. Mormon mythology is the same Xian mythology but with a whole bunch of even less plausible BS pilled on top.

      Has nothing at all to do with xenophobia. Bigger piles of BS are just bigger piles — objective fact.

      • Nancy
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        Mormon mythology has some things in common with Christianity and others entirely divergent. But that doesn’t matter – what matters is that Harris is actually spending his time refereeing piles of bullshit. Neither of them are right so it doesn’t matter which pile is bigger.

        Not to mention that you could spend ages arguing the particular insanities of religion and make arguments about which has “bigger” piles of bullshit.

        I guess it’s the atheist version of angels on the head of a pin.

        But this is not about mythologies – Harris is promoting some religions over others out of his own xenophobic political views. And atheists who go along with him who don’t share his political views are fools.

        • beyondbelief007
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

          ” Harris is promoting some religions over others out of his own xenophobic political views.”

          How absurd!! The LAST thing Harris would ever do is promote any religions. Saying that Christianity currently poses less threat than Islam (as he did in “End of Faith”) is not “promoting”… it’s damning with faint praise, especially when taken in context. The context was that Christianity has historically been equally danerous, but had been tempered by a few hundred years of schism and internecine religious feuds.

          You clearly have something personally against Harris’ political views, which are a tangent to the topic.

        • Heber
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

          Oh Nancy, you’re so wrong about so many things I don’t even know where to start.

          I’ll answer “in reverse order” as the Hitch would say.

          “The reason I now think it’s xenophobia is because recently Harris actually claimed that Christian mythology is “more plausible” than Mormon mythology.”

          Really? That’s the reason? Firstly, if you think that coming to the conclusion that Mormonism is objectively less plausible than Christianity is xenophobic, you’re just misinformed about the meaning of the term. Harris’ observation is not only true given the level of specificity to which Mormons have reduced their claims, but it has absolutely nothing at all to do with fear.

          But your silliness continues…

          “They prefer Judeo-Christian mythology because it’s more familiar to them.[No, they don't PREFER any mythology, the simply note that no all mythologies are equally pernicious] Now Dawkins merely suggested that Islam makes people more violent than Christianity does (conveniently ignoring Christian history)[No, neither of them ignore Christianity in the Middle Ages. In fact Haris has said that Islam today is in many ways the equivalent of Medieval Christianity. Currently however, it certainly seems that Islam has greater potential to incite violence than Xtianity] but Harris actually compares different brands of woo and says that Christian woo is “more plausible.” [It is] He’s talking about the re-animation of dead Jesus.” [Re-animation of dead Jesus + extra woo is really less likely than just re-animation of dead Jesus on its own]

          “Dawkins and Harris, for all their claims to be liberal are basically Neo-cons just like Hitchens – although Hitchens was more obvious about it. In the Harris link I provided, his views on the very commonplace diplomatic response of the Obama administration to the US embassy attack is indistinguishable from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.”

          So they’re guilty by association? Harris has said that when it comes to Islam, Christian conservatives tend to be right for the wrong reasons. Right by accident. Stalin I’m sure agreed with Harris that there is no God, so what? Agreeing with disagreeable people about the truth of a claim doesn’t detract from the veracity of the claim.

          “And if these holy books are responsible for making people violent, why is it that although the text in the Bible has not changed since the days of the Inquisition or the Crusades, the behavior of Christians has moderated?”

          The answer is manifold. a) Religion has increasingly lost its power. A secular constitution would surely curb the violent urges of Christian devotees. b)Technological and scientific advances have made it impossible to accept many scriptural claims, and thus the Bible has lost much of its credibility. c) The moral zeitgeist has progressed enormously since the Middle Ages.

        • Gary W
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

          But this is not about mythologies – Harris is promoting some religions over others out of his own xenophobic political views.

          Do you have any evidence for this accusation? The fact that someone thinks that one religion is more implausible than another religion is not evidence of xenophobia.

        • Posted September 22, 2012 at 7:02 am | Permalink

          If you reread the Harris article, you might notice why he states that Mormon mythology is less plausible, in that it was created in recent historical times, with documentation from contemporary sources (actually written at the time rather than cobbled together 300-400 years after the fact) by a known fraud and charlatan. How you jump from less plausible Mormon mythology to Xenophobia, I dont quite understand.
          As far as the Dawkins/Xenophobe charge, just please show us Dawkins in his black boots, tan shirt and armband at a rally arguing for keeping England English. His fight, Hitchens’ fight, Harris’ fight, and I dare add myself and most everyone else’s fight on this web site, is and was never against certain types of people living in England or America, rather, a fight against religion and scientific ignorance perpetrated by ANY people in ANY country.

    • Nancy
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      And of course I meant to type:

      Are you actually arguing that Muslims, just by reading the Qur’an are 50% violent because the Qur’an is 50% violent, while Christians are 20% violent because the text of the Bible is 20% violent?

      • gbjames
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        Who is arguing that? I totally missed it.

        • Posted September 21, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

          Nancy made it up. One of many strawman arguments. Nancy is very confused.

    • steve oberski
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      “There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”

      That’s hardly a “promotion” of Chrianity, it’s more like damning with faint praise.

      Like saying that I’d prefer a neighbour who had old tires and car wrecks in his front yard to one who ran a grow op or a meth lab and who was subject to periodic drive by shootings.

      Given that the claims of Moromism are far more recent than those of xtianity, such as negros not having souls (until the passing of the ERA at which point the supreme bishop had a revelation), polygamy being OK until it became an impediment to Utah state hood, Joesph Smith’s criminal con artist past, his “translation” of the Egyptian scrolls known as the “Books of Abraham”, the existence of the planet Kolob (gleaned from the previously mentioned, erroneously translated “Books of Abraham”), Mormon claims are easier to refute and subsequently less plausible than many xtians claims which while equally ridiculous are shrouded in the mists of time.

      It’s difficult for me to say which holy book is more vile, they are both open sewers of ethical and moral effluent.

      However xtianity has gone through the detoxification process of the enlightenment, something that Islam has yet to experience and it still maintains it’s original, undiluted poisonous mixture of misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and genocidal tendancies.

      To call Dawkins and Harris xenophobes in the face of the truely xenophobic behaviour of Islam is to be astoundingly ignorant of the true nature of this religion.

      • Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        …true nature of this religion.

        That’s where you lost me. The only “true nature” I recognize of any religion is what its adherents make it to be. And for any of the larger ones, that includes a huge spread from violent fanatics to people who just want to live and let live while quietly enjoying their personal superstition. The details of the founding documents may skew that distribution, and the intervening history even more so, but I don’t accept any particular variant as the authentic tradition. (And one thing I have against Sam Harris is that he does exactly that.)

        • steve oberski
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

          Populus Muslim Poll – June 2006

          http://www.populus.co.uk/uploads/download_pdf-050706-The-Times–ITV-News-Muslim-77-Poll.pdf

          – Modern British values are a threat to the Islamic way of life
          NET: Strongly/ Somewhat agree 36%
          NET: Strongly/ Somewhat disagree 44%

          Q8 How far would you agree or disagree that the following acts are offensive?
          – Women wearing low-cut tops or short skirts
          NET: Strongly/ Somewhat agree 29%
          NET: Strongly/ Somewhat disagree 44%

          – Public displays of affection between people of the same sex
          NET: Strongly/ Somewhat agree 44%
          NET: Strongly/ Somewhat disagree 36%

          Q10 Are there any circumstances under which you think that suicide bombings can ever be justified in the UK against the following types of targets?
          – Civilians
          Yes 7%
          No 89%

          – The military
          Yes 16%
          No 79%

          – The Police
          Yes 10%
          No 86%

          – Government buildings/workers
          Yes 11%
          No 85%

          – The 7/7 bombers should be considered martyrs
          NET: Strongly/ Somewhat agree 13%
          NET: Strongly/ Somewhat disagree 67%

          Policy Exchange: One third of British Muslims believe anyone who leaves Islam should be killed

          NOP Research: 78% of British Muslims support punishing the publishers of Muhammad cartoons;

          Center for Social Cohesion: 40% of British Muslim students want Sharia

          ICM Poll: 40% of British Muslims want Sharia in the UK

          NOP Research: 68% of British Muslims support the arrest and prosecution of anyone who insults Islam;

    • Adam M.
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      The reason I now think it’s xenophobia is because recently Harris actually claimed that Christian mythology is “more plausible” than Mormon mythology.

      Harris seemed to say this because the probability of the conjunction of two propositions A and B can be no greater than the probability of either one independently, and when dealing with real-world phenomena it will always be less. Therefore, since Mormons accept the Bible (proposition A) as true plus the Book of Mormon (proposition B), the conjunction A&B is less likely than proposition A (or B) by itself. Therefore, Christianity is more plausible than Mormonism. (Similarly, Judaism would be more plausible than Christianity. Not that any of them are plausible in the colloquial sense.)

      I don’t know about Christianity being a bulwark against Islam, but Christians are among the biggest opponents of Islam in the US anyway, so it may be factually true that Christianity “defends” us from the encroachment of Islam, even if their opposition comes primarily from simple turf protection and bigotry. Whether the encroachment of Islam should be considered a threat (engendering the defense terminology) is less clear, but if any major religion should be defended against, it would be Islam…

      • Nancy
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        You don’t know much about Mormonisms if you think they believe everything that’s in the Bible plus the book of Mormon.

        But that’s the real point – Harris just makes ignorance-based assumptions about various religions, and his slavish followers just nod their heads and don’t even think twice about the proposition that Mormonism has more improbabilities than Christianity.

        Sometimes he actually claims not to know something, like when he wonders whether extremists Muslims are 5 – 50% of the Muslim population – but then proceeds to argue with the tacit assumption that it’s closer to 50%.

        It’s truly a stunning display of intellectual sloth, made more depressing by the fact that he makes a living at it.

        • beyondbelief007
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

          Hey, fellow slavish followers of Sam. Remember what it says in our manifesto: Feed not the troll.

          • Achrachno
            Posted September 21, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

            Nancy is not a troll, she’s just seriously off track on a couple of points. She’s quite OK I’m sure, and we should engage with her, IMO. How else will any of us learn anything?

            • pulseteresa
              Posted September 21, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

              This is sarcasm, right? Really straight-faced sarcasm, but sarcasm nonetheless? : )

              I’ve read all of Nancy’s posts on this thread and the only thing I learned from is that she dislikes Dawkins, really dislikes Harris, is blind to her own overpowering confirmations bias, and likes to make ignorant, inflammatory, and condescending comments such as the following:

              “I suppose most people here know exactly fuck-all about the insanities of the Christian doctrines, and so take Harris at his word, but let me assure you, it is exactly as “objectively plausible” as Mormonism.”

              Pretty sure she fits the definition of a troll.

        • Adam M.
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

          Well, the Mormons who have tried to convert me have been quick to point out that they completely accept the Bible as truth and they believe in Jesus and all that. (It seems they want Mormonism to be palatable to Christians, their main target in the US.) Then they say that there was a later revelation from God… If I simply take what they say at face value — Mormonism is Christianity Plus — that makes Mormonism inherently less plausible. This shouldn’t be a point of controversy; it’s as trivially true as it is that “today is Wednesday” is more plausible than “today is Wednesday, October 18th, 2012″.

          That said, I do share your feeling that he may be blowing things out of proportion when he speaks of Islamic terrorism as one of the biggest threats to our civilization. (Personally I’m more afraid of what our own government is doing.)

        • steve oberski
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

          Or perhaps the exact percentage of extermist Muslims is not known and in a stunning display of intellectual honesty he is unwilling to make a figure up.

          And speaking of making things up and a complete lack of honesty, your claim that he argues based on a value of 50% of Muslims being extremists is a lie.

    • Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      As others have pointed out, Sam’s comparison of mainline Christianity and Moronism is spot-on. Christianity is idiotic insanity personified; Moronism is Christianity with cherries and whipped cream on top.

      Where I differ with Sam is that he places all the blame on Islam and the Q’ran. Both play a significant role in the matter, but that’s far from the whole story. To truly understand the matter, you have to go back at least to British imperialism, then to the actions of the CIA in installing the Shah and training and equipping bin Laden, and on with American support for Israel and the non-stop American military actions in the region. And more — much, much more.

      Even if you think that the actions of Western nations in the region were all 100% perfectly justified and absolutely necessary, moral, upright, and honest…you still can’t overlook the role that warplanes and troops with American flags on wings and sleeves will play in the minds of those watching bombs fall and bullets fly.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Adam M.
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        I agree. While Islam may be the catalyst for Muslim terrorism (and the primary motivation behind attacks on those who depict Mohammed), I believe politics determines their usual choice of targets. You don’t see them killing infidels in Norway or Switzerland or Russia or Germany…

        For instance, extremist Pakistani Muslims routinely set off suicide bombs in India because of the long-standing political enmity between the two nations. Pakistan also borders China, but have you ever heard of them setting off a suicide bomb there?

        Positing religion as the only explanation doesn’t explain the regularities in the choice of targets!

        • gbjames
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

          Huh? Does Chechnya count? How about The Netherlands? Does that count? Islamic suicide bombers in Moscow are to be ignored? How about Islamic suicide bombers living in Germany who move to the US and fly planes into skyscrapers. Does that not count?

        • Marella
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

          How about killing dozens of harmless Australian tourists in Bali? The reason Muslims are so angry is because their religion promises that they will rule the world and for many centuries it looked like it would happen. Only now they are clearly seriously disadvantaged in the world and they are looking for scapegoats and to rectify the situation. Since their religion means they can’t rise to meet the West, they want to bring the West down.

        • Gary W
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

          While Islam may be the catalyst for Muslim terrorism (and the primary motivation behind attacks on those who depict Mohammed), I believe politics determines their usual choice of targets. You don’t see them killing infidels in Norway or Switzerland or Russia or Germany…

          Huh? The targets of Islamic terrorist attacks include tourist venues in Indonesia, a Phillipine airlines flight from Manila to Tokyo, Jewish synagogues in Turkey, the Danish Embassy in Pakistan, a foreign workers’ housing complex in Saudi Arabia, and the Madrid subway in Spain. But no doubt some people will try to find a way of blaming these attacks on U.S. foreign policy.

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        The even more ultimate ’cause’ (yes, in my mind there can be degrees of ultimate-, uh, -ness)is the seemingly inherent propensity of a significant portion of humanity to be emotionally manipulated by another, much smaller portion, one that couldn’t give a damn about either religion or political history except to the extent that it allows them to manipulate others.

        The one thing the Xtians got right is the concept of “sheep.”

        • Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

          Sheep — and the “good shepherd.”

          The good shepherd, of course, not only watches over the flocks by night protecting them from wolves…but also shears the sheep, roasts the lambs, keeps milking the ewes after their lambs have been roasted, and turns the adults into stew when they’re old enough to no longer be productive but before they’re too old to be good eating. In olden days, the shepherd would even write poetry on the skins of last week’s dinner.

          And, of course, though the shepherd protects them from their greatest fear, wolves, the shepherd also keeps the sheep in line through the constant threat of attack from domesticated wolves (i.e., dogs).

          Christians like to think of themselves as Jesus’s special pets, but they’re really just livestock.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Diane G.
            Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

            Eggzactly! (A flock’s a flock…)

            There’s a current school of pop psych (does it go beyond that? I wouldn’t know) positing that a significant proportion of our leaders are actually psychopaths…At my most cynical, it makes sense to me!

      • Achrachno
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        Ben “Christianity is idiotic insanity personified; Moronism is Christianity with cherries and whipped cream on top.”

        Hey! I like cherries and whipped cream. Mormonism does not add anything that nice.

        • Posted September 22, 2012 at 7:06 am | Permalink

          Well, some of their kids make fun chew toys when they’re missionizing….

          b&

    • Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      I don’t read Harris as saying that Christianity is more plausible than Mormonism so much as that the latter is more obviously fraudulent than the former (a thought which has also occurred to me). Which may be logically equivalent, but hardly complimentary to Christianity.

      • Nancy
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        You may not have read that but in fact he does use the word “plausible”

        “That final, provincial detail matters. It makes Mormonism objectively less plausible than run-of-the-mill Christianity—”

        “objectively less plausible”

        I suppose most people here know exactly fuck-all about the insanities of the Christian doctrines, and so take Harris at his word, but let me assure you, it is exactly as “objectively plausible” as Mormonism. The fact that we have more historical knowledge of the founders of Mormonism reflects not at all on the actual mythological claims themselves.

        And it’s such a stupid waste of time for atheists to argue in favor of one mythology over another – and on the grounds of “plausibility” yet.

        • lkr
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

          “And it’s such a stupid waste of time for atheists to argue in favor of one mythology over another – and on the grounds of “plausibility” yet.”

          Perhaps, and yet, we know enough to reject both the Universal Flood, the Tower of Babel AND semites doing battle in the Midwest.

          I know that the Calvinists I grew up with fervently believed the first two, and it appears that Mormons are expected to believe all three.

          It also happens that the last myth and its originator also happens to have left a paper trail that addes to its inanity.

        • steve oberski
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

          I think Sam Harris’s point is that it is possible to compare religions using various critera, religion A is more plausible/violent/xenophobic/misogynistic/genocidal than religion B.

          Not all religions are equivalent, a common example he uses is the preponderance of suicide bombers from Jainism versus Islam.

          He also makes the sports/religion analogy, as badminton is to kick boxing so Jainism is to Islam. Both are referred to as a sport/religion but in reality they are worlds apart by any objective measure.

          Personally I don’t care about plausibility, to the extent that they make non evidence based claims they are wrong.

          However the other criteria are important, plausibility is just along for the ride.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

        I don’t understand in what sense Christianity is per se more plausible than Mormonism. The best that can be said is that portions of the Scriptural narrative are more plausible.

        The Jewish and Christian Scriptures can reasonably be judged to be roughly one-fourth folklore (Genesis and Exodus), one-fourth deliberate fabrication & fraud (Deuteronomy & Acts I would say), one-fourth stuff originally written consciously as fiction (Job and Jonah) and one-fourth actual fact (general sweep of narratives of Kings David and Solomon, autobiographical statements of Paul).

        By contrast the Book of Mormon is as Mark Twain put it “chloroform for the mind”

        • Skeptic Griggsy
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

          Esther is fictional. I first learned that in reading a Jewish tract I picked up off the ground.
          An Orthodox rabbi declared to his flock that no Exodus occurred!

          Wow, the Willadr is thankfully self-destructing [ Romney]!

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted September 22, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

          “I don’t understand in what sense Christianity is per se more plausible than Mormonism.”

          Multiplication of probabilities is not very hard really, but you either get it or you don’t. See comments above by Achrachno, Ben G and Adam M, who do get it.

        • gbjames
          Posted September 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

          Mormons take all the implausibility of Xtianity and add a dollop of bat-guano from a 19th century huckster to the mix. It becomes even less plausible as a result.

          If a group of Mormons splinter off into a new sect that believes Mitt Romney is a new messiah capable of empathy for the less well to do, then that sect would be EVEN MORE implausible.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted September 22, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      If Sam Harris is a second rate thinker, where do you rank? I mean, given the level of our greatest thinkers, Harris may indeed rank second to many. In such a rarified league second rate is pretty damn good. He is an articulate spokesman for ideas that are important to me.

      I think you are way off the mark on the xenophobia line of thinking. I don’t think Harris’ point was that the content of the Bible is in some way more true than the content of the book of Mormon. I think the point was that the more recent provenance of the latter, in a context of much more recorded history, makes it easier to falsify the more recent book. We know way more about the author of the book of Mormon than we do the author of the earliest gospel of Mark. This is not Harris subjectively valuing one over the other because of mere familiarity, as you seem to imply. Certainly Harris thinks they are both loads of rubbish. It’s just that the traces of creating these piles of rubbish are fresh in one case, and almost entirely decayed in the other.

      I agree with you on this: if Martian anthropologists came to earth with no knowledge of Western or Islamic cultures, from just reading the books they probably would be able to predict very little about how the cultures might differ with respect to intellectual and technological development, treatment of women and individual freedoms, style of politics, or levels of violence. That is not embedded in the books entirely. The cultures are more like phenotypes, complex expressions of the information in the books that is heavily contingent upon historical, economic, geographic, and accidental factors. The age of the religion might be one of the most important factors. By that reckoning, Islam is just now due it’s Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment.

      Our Martian anthropologists would probably be amazed and befuddled to learn that for American Christians, a man inserting his penis in another man’s anus is an abomination that still makes god very angry, yet the abomination of eating shrimp, lobster, and oysters is casually ignored by god. These both relate to inserting things into orifices, and are related to essential aspects of human survival, sex and eating. A Martian might assume that consuming empty calories in soda would be as counter productive and thus as offensive (or as harmless) as indulging in non-procreative sex. Perhaps more offensive because at least the sex can involve human bonding in a loving partnership, an unquestioned good in our value system.

    • Posted September 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, I think you’re misinformed and possibly disturbed.

      • Posted September 22, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        (and I meant Nancy, not anyone else here)

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

          +1

          Just another recruit (I mean Nancy) to the ‘let’s quote-mine Richard Dawkins’ game, though usually it’s creationists trying to ‘disprove’ evolution…

  10. Gordon Hill
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Islamophobia seems to be a slippery term used as an escape from a rational discussion. With nearly twenty percent of the world population identified as Muslims, the overwhelming majority of whom are peaceful citizens of every country on the planet, the term seems to identify characterization. My suspicion is that it’s used to identify one who is prejudiced against Islam based on events which fall into the smallest fraction of horrid behavior; e.g., being anti-Christian because of the behavior of the Aryan movement.

    As for Islam being a pernicious religion, I have not found it thus. In my community, the Muslims are among the most supportive of those in need, both within and outside the Muslim community and the level of violence is, to my knowledge, non-existent.

    • Filippo
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      What would the Muslims in your community say is the penalty for apostasy?

      Is one Islamophobic if one condemns death as the penalty for apostasy?

  11. Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Are there other definitions of Islamophobia that make sense?

    How about: a word designed to try to shut up anyone who criticises Islam, because Islam is a religion and religions are of course Good Things.

    • Nancy
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Plenty of people who call Harris a bigot are atheists.

      • Andrew B.
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        And not all atheists are anti-theists, so…

      • gbjames
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        Your point?

      • Adam M.
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        That’s true, and personally I don’t think it’s so much because those atheists think that religion is a Good Thing (although some are certainly believers in belief), but rather that they belong to the political correctness and/or cultural relativism camps, which tend to have heavy overlap with the academic crowd from which his more notable critics come.

        • Nancy
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

          Well we know that both Dawkins and Harris think Christianity is a “good thing” – or at least, it’s a bulwark against Islam (Dawkins) and it’s more plausible than Mormonism (Harris). They clearly find some religions useful for their own neo-con political ends. So I guess that puts them in the non-anti-theist category.

          • Adam M.
            Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

            I’m not sure how Richard Dawkins could possibly fit the definition of a neo-con, and stretching the term to include Harris would render it almost meaningless. (For instance, his views on torture, for which he gets the most flak, are pretty much identical to those of the authors of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I’d bet that they’re stereotypical “liberals”. Are they neo-cons too?)

            Also, “more plausible” doesn’t equal “good”. For instance, it’s more plausible that Obama was born in Kenya than it is that he was born on another planet, but neither are good theories. As for being a bulwark against Islam, I guess that’s a qualified good, but it’s kind of like voting for the least bad political candidate because you don’t want the worse guy to get in. It’s not an endorsement of the religion as a whole.

            • Nancy
              Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

              So your argument is that Harris agrees on a word definition with the authors of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy excludes him from being a neo-con? He defended torture, he just didn’t always agree with how it was applied.

              About his neo-con views:

              http://mondoweiss.net/2012/09/sam-harris-in-full-court-intellectual-mystic-and-supporter-of-the-iraq-war.html

              • Adam M.
                Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

                No, my argument is that if he’s a neo-con and Richard Dawkins is a neo-con, then the word “neo-con” must be defined so loosely that it encompasses pretty much everyone on this forum. And I’m pretty sure everyone here, as well as actual neo-cons, would disagree with that definition. My argument is that you’re just redefining the word “neo-con”.

                I read the article you linked to, and it’s hard to take it seriously when it starts out by claiming to represent his views accurately and then going on to clearly misrepresent them. For instance, the first accusation the article levels at him is that he “thinks it is scientifically valid to hold that blacks are intellectually inferior to whites”. “Thinks” is a link, but the link doesn’t appear to substantiate that claim. Then they give a quotation from Harris and clearly misrepresent it:

                “… it is … possible for a brilliant scientist to destroy his career by saying something stupid. James Watson … recently accomplished this feat by asserting in an interview that people of African descent appear to be innately less intelligent than white Europeans… Watson’s opinions on race are disturbing, but his underlying point was not, in principle, unscientific. There may very well be detectable differences in intelligence between races…”

                Sam is not saying that he “thinks it is scientifically valid”. He’s saying that it’s possible that it could be scientifically valid. I.e., it’s a testable hypothesis. And that is true. Anyway, this was merely leading up to a point he was making about Francis Collins’ unscientific beliefs.

                It then says Sam “blame[s] the monumental suffering of the Holocaust on the Jewish people”, offering the following quote:

                “The gravity of Jewish suffering over the ages, culminating in the Holocaust, makes it almost impossible to entertain any suggestion that Jews might have brought their troubles upon themselves. This is, however, in a rather narrow sense, the truth. Prior to the rise of the church, Jews became the objects of suspicion and occasional persecution for their refusal to assimilate…”

                The quotation makes it pretty clear that Sam doesn’t blame the Jews for the Holocaust with any usual meaning of the word “blame”, even if the actions of the Jews played a part in the causal chain of events leading to the Holocaust. Which of course they did, but that’s trivial. And while I don’t have the book in front of me, I’m pretty sure that Sam only mentioned this in service of a larger point.

                Then it goes on about his views on torture… anyway, the picture the article tries to paint of Sam Harris doesn’t sound anything like the Sam Harris I know. Or if anything, it says that Sam, like Steven Pinker, isn’t afraid to give serious thought to taboo subjects, which happens to be a quality I respect.

                Anyway, lunch time for me. :-)

              • Gary W
                Posted September 21, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

                So your argument is that Harris agrees on a word definition with the authors of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy excludes him from being a neo-con? He defended torture, he just didn’t always agree with how it was applied.

                Nancy, your comments just get more and more ridiculous. If the belief that the use of torture may sometimes be justified in an effort to prevent terrorism makes you a “neo-con,” then a large majority of Americans appear to be “neo-cons.”

            • Nancy
              Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

              And nobody is saying that plausible equals good, so why are you bothering to address that? You think I don’t know what “plausible” means? Really?

              And no, saying Christianity is a bulwark is not an endorsement of all things Christian but it does promote the idea, to which “New” atheists all seem to subscribe, that the very mythologies and holy books of Christianity itself render it less evil than Islam.

              It seems to me that Jerry Coyne believes he is able to quantify just exactly HOW much more evil Islam is than Christianity, based on “terms of vilification of apostates or nonbelievers, threats of hell” by percentage in the Qua’ran compared to the Bible.

              If his theory is correct, we not only could use this knowledge when profiling people at the airport, but could develop some holy-book-text-based predictions for future Muslim vs. Christian violence. Let’s make these grand theories empirical, shall we?

              Since Coyne has clearly studied the matter he needs to share exactly what the percentages are, per each holy book. Let’s get started.

          • steve oberski
            Posted September 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

            That’s bullshit.

            To say that Christianity is more plausible than or a bulwark against Islam is not a claim that it is a “good thing”.

            Chickenpox provokes an immune repsonse that provides protection against the far more deadly smallpox but that does not make chickenpox a good thing. In a pre-vaccination world chicken pox was useful, but the risk of fetal damage if contracted by pregnant women and the possibility of adult shingles make it something to be avoided.

            In fact that’s probably not a bad analogy, the less toxic and virulent form of religion known as Christianity may provide some degree of protection against the far more dangerous varient known as Islam.

            But the world would be far better off if neither existed.

            • Posted September 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

              Totally off-topic…but you don’t have to wait until you’re 50 to get the shingles vaccine.

              Sure, your insurance might not cover it, but you can still pay for it out of your own pocket; just think of it as self-insurance with a very low annualized premium.

              As they say, “ask your doctor,” especially if you had chicken pox, and doubly especially if you have a family history of shingles. It’s one disease you don’t want to suffer through, and, thanks to the vaccine, you don’t have to.

              Cheers,

              b&

        • Diane G.
          Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

          …rather that they belong to the political correctness and/or cultural relativism camps…

          This.

  12. Skeptic Griggsy
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    I prefer the term Judeophobia, as it is accurate whilst anti-Semitism should include any inaccurate attack on Arabs and Jews.

    • Dave
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      No. “Anti-Semitism” means SPECIFICALLY hatred or animosity towards Jews. It doesn’t mean hatred towards people speaking Semitic languages, or hatred towards vaguely brownish-skinned people from the Middle East.

      A person who would like to see all Arabs rounded up and exterminated in gas chambers is an anti-Arab bigot (among other things), but he isn’t an anti-semite.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 22, 2012 at 4:22 am | Permalink

        Why not? (I mean, why does ‘antisemitic’ NOT relate to dislike of Arabs but only to Jews?)

        Apparently Arabic is a semitic language so it really should relate to both.

        I guess this is just another of those words where the commonly accepted meaning is different from the etymological meaning.

      • Posted January 9, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        True, but I still prefer Judeophobia, because it pertains to Jews specifically. Anyway, the Holocaust- deniers are so idiotic and malignant.

  13. marycanada FCD
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    sub

  14. jeffery
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I do not necessarily have a “fear or hatred” of them, but when I recognize (by their actions or speech) that ANY person is a firm believer in a spurious belief system, it automatically makes me cautious around them and somewhat dismissive (as even if they are seemingly “good” people, they are probably doing the right things for the wrong reasons). I know that, having accepted vast amounts of false or unprovable information on faith, what’s to stop them from accepting more? I have to watch what I say, as to provoke their defense mechanisms may cost me the future opportunity to give them proper information. Islam is just a particularly amped-up example of how wrong belief in religion can be and the extremes to which it can be taken.

  15. DV
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Islamophobia doesn’t necessarily mean fear of Muslims, though it could also be accompanied by that. In the same way that homophobia doesn’t mean fear of gay people themselves (there’s nothing threatening about them) but rather fear of the deterioration of society due to the acceptance of or exposure to homosexuality, Islamophobia could rather mean fear of the effects on society if Islamic beliefs and practice become widespread or dominate.

  16. Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    sub

  17. Posted September 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Postsharia Stress Diosrder, Chronic, w/o Delayed Onset

  18. Marella
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    A phobia is an irrational fear. There is nothing irrational about fearing Islam, especially if you are a woman. Islamophobia does not exist. People who dislike Muslims are just old fashioned xenophobes and bigots. It’s highly unlikely that they only target Muslims for their anxiety, they almost certainly have a long list of other people they like to vilify.

  19. Posted September 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    There are currently protests in Benghazi against the militia that attacked the ambassador compound last week: Libyan demonstrators wreck militia compound in Benghazi

    I note that about 30,000 marched calling for peace (ironically, destroying the militia compound in the process) and for the restoration of order in Libya by disbanding the heavily armed militias. A militia protest organised at the same time only attracted a few hundred supporters. Oddly enough, these protests are not currently covered by BBC, CNN etc.

    So I am hopeful that things will get better, and I hope people get to hear about it.

  20. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Various “phobias” (Islam/homo, whatever) fail to distinguish prejudice based on malice, plain insensitivity, and fear based on actual experiences.

    The term “Islamophobia” was first coined in the late 1990s by the British Runnymede trust.

    According to Wikipedia
    “Robin Richardson, an original member of the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, at a 2009 symposium on “Islamophobia and Religious Discrimination”, said that “the disadvantages of the term Islamophobia are significant” on seven different grounds, including that it implies it is merely a “severe mental illness” affecting “only a tiny minority of people”; that use of the term makes those to whom it is applied “defensive and defiant” and absolves the user of “the responsibility of trying to understand them” or trying to change their views; that it implies that hostility to Muslims is divorced from factors such as skin color, immigrant status, fear of fundamentalism, or political or economic conflicts; that it conflates prejudice against Muslims in one’s own country with dislike of Muslims in countries with which the West is in conflict; that it fails to distinguish between people who are against all religion from people who dislike Islam specifically; and that the actual issue being described is hostility to Muslims, “an ethno-religious identity within European countries”, rather than hostility to Islam. Nonetheless, he argued that the term is here to stay, and that it is important to define it precisely.

    Some scholars have criticised the Runnymede Trust’s definition quite harshly. For example, Johannes Kandel, in a 2006 comment wrote that Islamophobia “is a vague term which encompasses every conceivable actual and imagined act of hostility against Muslims”, and proceeds to argue that 5 of the criteria put forward by The Runnymede trust are invalid.[23] Still, he recognises the term and phenomenon. As opposed to being a psychological or individualistic phobia, according to professor of religion Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg, “Islamophobia” connotes a social anxiety about Islam and Muslims.”

  21. xmaseveeve
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Sam Harris is sick of making it clear that he does not condone torture. It sounds as though Nancy hasn’t even read his work; just the junk of those who seek to discredit him.

    I’m of the opinion that anyone who says that Sam Harris is a poor thinker is too dumb to understand what he is saying. The additional evidence from her posts unfortunately illustrates that Nancy is squarely in this category, and proud of it.

    Either that, or she’s here for a troll. I’m not even going to address her no fixed abode ideas about Dawkins and Coyne.

    The best working definition of Islamophobia is ‘the bleeding obvious’.

    Goodnight, sweet infidels.

  22. Jeff Johnson
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    I think there is a difference between Islamophobia, and a healthy rational disagreement with Islam and the beliefs and cultural values it encourages. Pretty much any sane person, including a majority of Muslims, doesn’t like blasphemy laws, doesn’t like beheadings or stonings or honor killings, and doesn’t support terrorism or mob riots protesting insults to Islam. Far too many Muslims and Islamic countries tolerate these horrors, but it simply isn’t fair or accurate to equate these things with all Muslims or all of Islam. I’ve known enough Muslims and traveled in enough Muslim countries to recognize that most Muslims are kind and peaceful, and capable of tolerance. The worst of them get all the press.

    To understand Islamophobia you have to check out Pam Geller and her website “Atlas Shrugs”, or Robert Spencer and “Jihad Watch”, his Islamophobic website. These are people who were quoted admiringly by Anders Breivik in his manifesto. Think of Michele Bachmann and her accusation that Hilary Clinton aide Huma Abedin is a spy for the Muslim Brotherhood. Think of the panicked Christians who fear the US is a half step away from adopting Sharia law, to the extent that they believe states need to defend themselves with laws banning Sharia law. The dedicated Islamophobe imagines there is a coming cataclysmic holy Crusade that either Christianity or Islam, but not both, will survive. I see Islamophobia as truly paranoid and phobic.

    There is an annoying trend among apologetic liberals to level the accusation of Islamophobia against people willing to publicly offer legitimate criticism of truly bad Islamofascist behavior. There is a danger of protecting brutal thuggery in the name of cultural sensitivity, and such soft headed foolishness should be avoided. But this does not mean there is no such thing as truly paranoid unhinged Islamophobia.

    Distinctions need to be made between 1)being overly culturally sensitive and defending brutality, 2) engaging in reasonable criticism of barbaric practices and irrational beliefs, and 3) the unreasonable fear of world domination by Islam, which is in some ways akin to fearing that the world is controlled by an international conspiracy of Jewish bankers.

    Christopher Hitchens, in his words that live on, and Sam Harris are not Islamophobic. Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are not Islamophobic. They all are hostile toward Islam and make rational arguments to defend their opinions.

    Michelle Bachmann is Islamophobic. Pam Geller and Robert Spencer, and Glen Beck are Islamophobic in the same way that John Birchers and McCarthyites carried anti-communism to insanely fearful levels. They may have some legitimate complaints about Islam, but they add an exaggerated fear and hyperbolic claims about the immediate peril to the republic posed by Islam.

    • xmaseveeve
      Posted September 22, 2012 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      And usually this is accompanied by a desire to promote another ideology, such as political Christianity.

      • Jeff Johnson
        Posted September 22, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        Yes, practically by definition. Secularists respect freedom of thought. For the religious fundamentalist, the only thing worse than their own side not controlling everyone, is for the other guys to be controlling everyone, hence Islamophobia. This resentment of the rivals is the best hope for a kind of grudging secularism when fundamentalists are present, as it was between the Baptists and the Presbyterians and the Congregationalists and the Unitarians and the Lutherans when the nation was founded. This reuniting all the Protestant sects under the banner of Evangelism is a dangerous trend for the country. It is in our interests that religion remains fragmented into as many faiths and sects as possible.

    • Skeptic Griggsy
      Posted September 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      Yes. I’m not Islamaphobic or otherwise a bigot,but I find that people should not believe in a superstition that a man just made up and who was a child abuser and war monger!
      Men just made up all those superstitions without supernatural sanction. No God can possibly exist!
      What are the good metaphors for the evil passages of the Qur’an? Of the Buy-bull? The answer is none at all.
      Whilst we still need to answer the arguments and show up the lunacy of any scriptures, we need also to address the psychological needs of the superstitious.We gnus do recognize the angst of the believers. The Lamberth non-genetic argument shows that the supernaturalist superstitious themselves in effect admit to that angst and that hope for happiness and purpose.

  23. gravelinspector
    Posted September 22, 2012 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    Maybe it says something about my upbringing (in one of the towns in England which “vied” for the title “highest proportion of Indian sub-continent descended residents”), but when I see a turban, I think “Sikh”, not “Muslim”.
    OTOH, when I see a shalwar chemise in the snow, I think “brrrr”, not religion. Same for “sari”, though I still try to persuade my wife to get one for formal wear (and because they’re sexy).

  24. Posted September 22, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I have met many and got to know some Muslims. My personal and business experiences have been positive. It is fair to say that I have not debated belief issues with them. I realize that when events like 9-11 or such like occur I have felt a sense of outrage towards these extreme acts of hate crime. That’s how I see extremists in general ‘hate criminals’. As with the IRA these Christians full of hate agendas are no different.
    It is also not lost on me that these extremist will commit as many vile acts against their own people. Islam and Christianity have in history and in modern times been spoiled by vindictive and repressive control inflicted on their own people. Such is the power of Islam and Christianity to hold back progress and wage war to stifle opposition that I am truly fearful. No matter what one can demonstrate and prove with regard to these highly questionable bibles people seem to be much more upset about atheisms challenge for reason and factual truth. I do dread and fear the unreasonableness of religiosity but it is not an irrational fear as phobia might suggest. If one is in the vicinity of an extremist then keep quiet and move away for the spite and vindictiveness of extremism is all consuming.

  25. xmaseveeve
    Posted September 22, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/22/for-mormons-missouri-rema_n_1905057.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

    I’m not great a at links, but the above is a piece which illustrates the greater implausibility of Mor(m)onism. You need a much bigger gulp to swallow any of that.

    Nancy, go to Sam Harris’s blog, where he recently explained his frustration at being labelled an advocate of torture. (You touched a nerve when you casually bad-mouthed Hitchens, for whom I have a lot of time.)I hope you change your mind.

  26. gasilhane
    Posted September 22, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I’m not good at English so I’ll match the events and the feelings that I got when I think of.

    Crusaders- Islamophobia

    Burning Turkish homes in Germany- Discrimination

    Burning mosques in Germany- Islamophobia

    Beaten up Arabic teen in London- Dicrimination

  27. Ichthyic
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    while there appears to be a lot of people, including the host, apparently, that have decided Islam simply is too violent to allow to exist, I remind them, yet again, that when people are allowed to make decisions for themselves, they usually DO choose the moderate path:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/22/unarmed-people-power-libya

    In what has to be reminiscent of the era of Ghandi, unarmed civilians trashed the compounds of ALL of the islamic extremist militias in and surrounding Benghazi.

    I wonder if that action will fall on deaf ears?

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted September 23, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      This action has been widely reported and is a very welcome development. I think the only ones interested in suppressing this information are the Romney campaigners who want to continue the fiction that these demonstrations are evidence that under Obama the US projects a weak image. In fact, Libyans have shown their friendship with and gratitude to the US for helping them overthrow Qaddafi, and their reasonable desires to disarm these militias and install rule of law. These are very very positive developments.

      Islam simply is too violent to allow to exist

      Here is where your thinking smells fishy, if you will forgive the pun. Nobody is talking about allowing or not allowing something to exist. Perhaps you should find a quote to substantiate your interpretation, which I see as completely misguided.

      It’s just that no major ideological system that governs the lives of billions of people, or far fewer for that matter, should be shielded from criticism in the free market of ideas. Saying “it hurts our feelings, and if you persist we will strike you down with violence,” is simply not acceptable way for anyone holding any set of beliefs to respond to public expressions of criticism.

      People here are atheists who think that the faithful in every religion are mistaken in their beliefs, and we claim the right and freedom to say so publicly, and to say what we believe is true. This has nothing to do with allowing or disallowing anything to exist; it has to do with freedom of speech and intelligent debate, and the possibility that the best arguments with the best evidence and logic behind them should have a chance to be aired and to gain traction.


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