More Islamic lunacy: mentally handicapped girl imprisoned for (maybe) burning a page of the Qur’an, faces death

According to multiple sources, a 12-year old Christian girl was arrested outside of Islamabad for allegedly burning a page or pages of the Qur’an. Such a crime is considered blasphemy in Pakistan, and is punishable by life imprisonment—or even execution. As The Washington Post reports:

Amid the conflicting claims, this much is certain: As many as 600 Christians have fled their colony bordering the capital, fearing for their lives, officials said, after a mob last week called for the child to be burned to death as a blasphemer.

The girl, who authorities have described as mentally challenged, sits in jail in Rawalpindi, charged by police with blasphemy, while her family has been put in federal protective custody. The evidence against her is muddled at best, but police said they arrested her in part to assuage the mob and also because they knew she would be safer in jail.

. . .Some Christians who stayed in the area said shopkeepers are refusing to sell them food and have issued threats.

“They said they will burn our house down if we don’t leave,” said a 17-year-old who lived near the accused girl’s family. “They are also saying that since a woman burned the Koran, they will come after our women now.”

Laws against defacing the Qur’an aren’t just for show: people have been killed for this. As HuffPo reports:

This is one of the latest high-profile incidents to draw attention to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, which state that people who are convicted of insulting the Quran or Islam’s prophet can face the death penalty.

In 2010, a Christian mother of five was sentenced to death for blasphemy.

And last month, a man accused of desecrating the Quran was dragged from a police station in Pakistan and beaten to death before his body was set on fire.

Salman Taseer, a Pakistani governor, was assassinated by a bodyguard in 2011 because of his reported opposition to the laws.

It reminds me of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s description in The Gulag Archipelago of someone getting sent to the camps for wrapping a fish in a sheet of newspaper containing Stalin’s picture.

Besides the obvious over-the-top sensitivity of Muslims to this incident, there are two other problems:

1. According to AFP, the girl had Down Syndrome.  She could hardly be held responsible even if she did burn the holy book.

2. It’s not clear if any pages of the Qur’an were burned at all.  The Washington Post details the ambiguities:

The incident involving the girl happened Thursday afternoon, evidently while she was gathering trash — but beyond that, everything is in dispute. Some locals claim to have witnessed her and her mother burning the entire Koran.

But Tahir Muhammad, a 30-year-old shop owner and landlord, said the girl found just one page of the holy book while cleaning a house, mixed it with other papers and burned it.

A 10-year-old neighborhood girl said she saw the whole thing and took the ashes to the mosque — with no pages of the Koran extant. In interviews Sunday, two men at the mosque said that only ashes remained and that the imam mixed in some pages himself before turning over the “evidence” to police.

“Somebody must be confused when they said pages were mixed in — no such thing happened,” Imam Hafiz Muhammad Zubair said Monday. He said community leaders decided to turn the girl and her mother over to police for their safety.

“Both the women confessed to us that they had indeed burned the Koran,” he said.

I wonder how those confessions were obtained.

Among the local Islamic population, there’s no presumption of innocence in such cases, and some Muslims are baying for blood. Besides the threats that have caused 600 Christians to flee the village, there’s this:

“The one who burned the Koran should be burned,” said Shaukhat Ali, an assistant at the local mosque, expressing a sentiment shared by many Muslims in the community.

Such are the lunacies of Islam. Yes, there are moderate Muslims who decry this kind of violence (although they tend to remain silent when stuff like this—or Rushdie’s fatwa—take place), but who can say confidently that Islam is not among the world’s most dangerous faiths? Can you imagine someone being imprisoned or killed for burning the Book of Mormon or the Bible? If that were true, P. Z. Myers would have been dead long ago.

I’m always surprised at atheists who take out readily and gleefully after Catholics or fundamentalist Protestants, but remain largely silent on the greater excesses of Islam.  Those who are more vociferous are often branded “Islamophobes.”  But it’s not the people we hate: it’s the extremist ideology that leads many Muslims to kill apostates, imprison girls with Down Syndrome, threaten a teacher with flogging for naming a teddy bear “Muhamed,” and systematically disenfranchising half of their population: the ones with two X chromosomes.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but my impression is that atheists, with the exception of people like Dawkins and Hitchens, are loath to go after Islam nearly as strongly as they go after Western religions. Perhaps that’s out of fear of appearing racist, or perhaps it’s just out of fear for one’s skin.  But being “Muslim” is not a racial trait, any more than is being “Jewish.” These are religions, and their adherents include a broad mixture of ethnicities.  What we deplore are the beliefs, not the genes.

237 Comments

  1. Posted August 26, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    First, to get it out of the way: fuck Mohammad.

    And I can’t help but observe that he is one damned impotent deity. He can’t even smite one young girl with Down Syndrome, and has to leave it to hordes of angry mobs? Jesus Christ, what a pathetic excuse for a “prophet.”

    It also goes to show just how fragile the whole “philosophy” is, that its adherents are so mortally terrified at the thought of a young girl with Down burning a few of the pages on which it was written. I mean, really? They seriously think that anything she does even has a remote hypothetical possibility of causing harm to the words preached by their imaginary friends?

    Pathetic, the whole lot of ’em.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      It also goes to show just how fragile the whole “philosophy” is, that its adherents are so mortally terrified at the thought of a young girl with Down burning a few of the pages on which it was written.

      Just to add that there is a strong suggestion here that they contrived the whole accusation in order to get the law to acquiesce (or at least stay silent) while they religiously cleanse the neighbourhood of Christians, and that they picked on a Down’s syndrome child so that the child couldn’t defend themselves and say it wasn’t true.

    • Achrachno
      Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Muslims don’t think that Muhammad was a deity, that’d be very bad in their view, they just think he was the final prophet. In theory they agree with us that Muhammad is now a dead man with no particular powers. They’re always saying that “there is only one God and Muhammad is His prophet” or words to that effect.

      • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        So?

        Christians would have you believe that Satan, angels, daemons, the patriarchs, and all the rest aren’t gods. Yet they have no trouble categorizing the Hindu pantheon all as gods (never mind Brahman as the unifying head honcho), or the Olympians and the demigods and the like as gods, and on and on and on and on.

        Muhammad had extensive conversations with angels, performed miracles, ascended to Heaven on a flying horse, and is strictly worshipfully revered (don’t you dare name that teddy bear “Mohammad”!). That makes him a god, whether they want to admit it or not.

        Or, if Muhammad wasn’t a god, then neither was Hermes, the messenger of the Olympians, and neither were the comparable gods of too many other religions to name (including Mercury and Turms). Since to deny divinity to those gods is clearly absurd, so, too, is it to deny it to the god Muhammad.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

          I suggest you go and correct the muslims on this right away, for surely Ben Gorens understanding of comparative religions gives him the right to define exactly what each of their tenet “should” really be.

        • Achrachno
          Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

          I agree that monotheists believe in as many supernatural beings as any of the honest polytheists. Still, Muslims don’t think Muhammad was a deity exactly. He was a person, and now they think he’s an incorporeal spook, just as they imagine their ancestors are. I don’t think they believe that the spooks can smite people. I’m pretty sure they think Allah would have to do that personally. Since He’s disinclined to act, they get to have the fun themselves.

    • jeffery
      Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Muhammad is not a deity; just the “last” prophet of Allah. It would be Allah who would do any magical “smiting” Muhammad’s dealings with those who displeased him were decidedly “Un-supernatural”: he would simply suggest to some of his more earnest followers that Allah wished a person to die, and they’d go and kill them, afterward claiming this as evidence of the killing being “Allah’s will”- talk about murderously circular reasoning!

  2. Posted August 26, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    =but who can say confidently that Islam is not among the world’s most dangerous faiths?=

    I would contend that it IS the worlds most dangerous faith.

    • Achrachno
      Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      Crazy Christians have their fingers on a lot more nuclear launch buttons. After you get past a certain level of dangerous, does it really matter any more which might be relatively a bit worse?

      • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        What matters is the fundamental message of thereligion itself. Christianity nowhere commands violence for the purpose of spreading its message.

        • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

          Muslims sometimes go in for death threats, while Christians make do with after-death threats.

          • Achrachno
            Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

            Christians go in for death threats too. They apparently just got an atheist billboard taken down using them.

            And of course, Christians are strong supporters of US military engagements in the ME and many are pushing right now for launching yet another invasion of a Muslim country.

        • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

          Why are you lying for Jesus?

          Luke 19:27, as has been cited by me and Peter N both.

          And there’s Matthew 10:34 and 12:51. The whole of Matthew 10 is nothing but a call to arms. Matthew 10:39: “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” And so on.

          Jesus himself almost non-stop threatens non-Christians with eternal hellfire and damnation.

          Jesus personally withered the fig tree, a symbol of Rabbinic Judaism in that day and still to this day. He wreaked havoc in the Temple, and called Jews the “brood of vipers.”

          And, as I previously mentioned, the Old Testament is nothing but a paean to genocidal warfare and horror.

          Pro tip: don’t lie about Jesus and Christianity to a bunch of atheists; your lies will come back to bite you in the ass, hard. We’re the ones who’ve actually read the Bible, remember?

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

            Not one of the passages cited incite violence against non-believers. Matthew 10 is a call to absolute devotion to God, and nowhere claims that Christians should be violent to others. You need to go back and read the original claim which I responded to.

            • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

              Sorry. Demanding absolute devotion to war gods such as YHWH is a call to violence, especially when phrased in language such as “I bring not peace but a sword” and “I love martyrs.”

              Love gods don’t talk of swords, don’t encourage suicide attacks, and don’t set fathers and sons and mothers and daughters at each other’s throats.

              In the Classical world where Christianity was invented, that was the job of the demons of the underworld, after which Jesus was co clearly modeled.

              Your love-and-kisses Jesus, in fact, is nowhere to be found in the Bible, and I’ll prove that fact to you and everybody else right here and now.

              You will not, cannot, name one single chapter of the Gospels which both contains a passage you would cite as one fitting of a love god that does not also contain something horrific. Your failure to do so will constitute my proof.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

                Is that the sound of moving goalposts I am hearing? Where have I claimed that Jesus is “only loving” (He isn’t), or that there aren’t very unsettling things in the NT?

                The only thing I have claimed in these comments is that there are no calls to violence against unbelievers in Christianity. This was made in response to another poster, who claimed that Christianity and Islam were roughly equal in their calls to kill unbelievers. They are not.

              • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

                So, your position is that there are some very unsettling things in the New Testament, but that Jesus didn’t really want his followers to bring those who would not have him reign over him slaughtered at his feet, despite actually saying actually that in those exact words?

                What is, this, some sort of variation on the abused spouse theme?

                Look. Jesus spoke non-stop in a loving way about violence. He was quite violent, himself. He promised the ultimate in future violence (that whole Armageddon thing where he’ll ride in on a white horse bearing a blazing sword and kill all the non-Christians). And he self-identified with the ultimate fantasy of violent overlords (that whole Flood / Plagues / genocidal wars thing that YHWH had going on).

                That he added, “wink wink nudge nudge” to the end of the “kill ’em all and let me sort ’em out” line doesn’t mean shit.

                Now, would you be so kind as to explain why you’re so eager to excuse a violent psychopath’s call for epic bloodshed? Just what sorts of violent fantasies are you hiding, that you’re adding your own “wink wink nudge nudge” to Jesus’s?

                And who do you think you’re fooling? Yourself? Because you’re not fooling anybody else, that’s for sure.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

                *facepalm*

                Again, Ben, the above post demonstrates nothing but your complete (I still assume unintentional) ignorance of what the text means. No matter how you try to twist, turn and extrapolate ad absurdum, it STILL is not a call to violence against non-believers, and it never will be. It is, and remains, a foreshadowing of the second coming, when Christ will indeed bring judgment on His enemies. It is NOT a command (or even allowance) for Christians to go and kill non-believers, or even harm them.

              • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

                You really haven’t learned the first rule of holes.

                You yourself have just stated that Jesus is announcing his plans to personally slaughter all non-Christians. Jesus being the ultimate role model and all (“WWJD?”), that right there would be all I’d need to make my case that Jesus wants all non-Christians to die a horrible death.

                And you somehow think that this passage isn’t somehow saying, “Do as I say as well as I will do”?

                Come on.

                Jesus explicitly set it in the form of a parable, the same form he used for so many other instructions on what to do and how to do it. And the parable was explicitly set in the mortal coil, with mortal actors. And Jesus reserved the ultimate punchline for the the “KILL ZEM ALL!” commandment, and he had his first-person stand-in say it as if it were Jesus’s own command.

                Really, it doesn’t get any clearer than that.

                Try running your theory past any criminal lawyer — prosecutor or defense, it doesn’t matter — and see just how long and hard they laugh at you.

                “Billy, I’m going to ignore the question you just asked me about what to do with that shopkeeper who won’t buy our special insurance, and instead I’m going to tell you a very bloody story about what I’m going to do some day real soon now to everybody who doesn’t buy our special insurance.” But he didn’t tell Billy to kill the shopkeeper. Uh-huh. Sure. Right. So totally believable.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

                Ben, no, the text still does not mean that.

                I think I will just cut this discussion short, both as per prof. Coynes request, and due to the reason that trying to convince you to just read the text for what it means is fruitless. You labor with all your might (and frankly in very impressive ways) to by all means make the text mean what you want it to mean. The fact stands that it still means no such thing, and never will.

                All the best.

        • Posted August 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

          “If there be found among you … that … hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them … Then shalt thou … stone them with stones, till they die.” Bible, Deuteronomy 17:2-5
          “They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.” Bible, 2 Chronicles 15:12-13

          Christians believe the whole Bible is the word of the same god. Just because these lines aren’t in the New Testament doesn’t mean they don’t count. And you can find most of the other Islamic craziness in the Bible as well–the virgins, the orders to kill non-virgin brides and blasphemers, etc. The difference between Muslims and Christians is not so much in their Holy Books as it is in their interpretation. This does not make Islam any less dangerous, but I think it is an important thing to keep in mind as we try to find ways to make it less dangerous.

          • joe piecuch
            Posted August 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

            “If there be found among you … that … hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them … Then shalt thou … stone them with stones, till they die.” Bible, Deuteronomy 17:2-5

            “Christians believe the whole Bible is the word of the same god. Just because these lines aren’t in the New Testament doesn’t mean they don’t count.”

            oh…wasn’t there something about him saying ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone…’?

            and does he not, in matthew 5:17-18, say “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled”, and then proceed to itemise a bunch of alterations to the law?

            so, the new testament is incoherent, and people who call themselves christians argue vehemently about what it says and what it means. how is castigating a a huge group of people, on the basis of them being ‘christians’ or ‘muslims’, any less ignorant, obtuse and bigoted than condemning any other group of people for some prejudiced reason?

            • Posted August 26, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

              In fact both holy books are incoherent, and followers can see what they want to see in them. That is why, when a group of believers acts irrationally and dangerously, they deserve blame; it is not entirely the fault of their book. (And if their book WAS consistently hateful, the followers would still deserve to be blamed, for following an old book without reason.)

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 26, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

                EVERYONE is irrational, to some degree and with respect to some things. the point i was trying to make was that demonising ‘christians’ or ‘muslims’ as ‘dangerous’ or ‘evil’ is ridiculous. some christians are dangerous; so are some muslims, some atheists, some physicians, some politicians, and some scientists.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 5:12 am | Permalink

                Yes, joe piecuch, many christians are nice people and the same can be said for muslims. But Christianity and Islam are not nice. In fact, they are dangerous ideologies as has been demonstrated repeatedly for centuries.

                I will agree, however, on one thing. Calling them “evil” is a word word I try to avoid. It implies offense against one or another deity that is best treated by exorcism or some other nonsense.

            • gbjames
              Posted August 27, 2012 at 4:38 am | Permalink

              how is castigating a a huge group of people, on the basis of them being ‘christians’ or ‘muslims’, any less ignorant, obtuse and bigoted than condemning any other group of people for some prejudiced reason?

              Because the religious all make the same basic error. They all think that they own a book of sacred insight that was provided to them by a deity. This profound delusion is one they hold in common. They disagree about details because they have no way of distinguishing which bits are factual and which bits are metaphorical and they can’t say what the metaphors are for.

              It is not prejudiced to condemn that sort of thinking.

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

                it is usually a mistake to make sweeping generalisations and broad-brush accusations. there are plenty of religions who have no sacred books, and even more who don’t have one they believe provided by their deity. the point was that making general defamatory statements about muslims and christians is indefensible, because those names represent an enormous spectrum of beliefs.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 4:38 am | Permalink

                Perhaps you define “religion” differently than most of the rest of us. But if you are arguing that Xianity and Islam are except from the general “defamatory” statement I made then I must conclude that you haven’t the remotest understanding of either. The fact that believers quarrel among themselves about details of what The Deity wants and which documents The Deity authorizes does not make the general observation of their common delusions prejudiced.

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 5:48 am | Permalink

                “Because the religious all make the same basic error. They all think that they own a book of sacred insight that was provided to them by a deity.”

                there are people who call themselves christians who do not consider the bible to be the inerrant word of ‘god’; who do not consider jesus divine; who do not necessarily believe there is a god at all.

                “Perhaps you define “religion” differently than most of the rest of us. ”

                i do not define it as amounting only to christianity and islam. and why omit the jews?

                “But if you are arguing that Xianity and Islam are except from the general “defamatory” statement I made then I must conclude that you haven’t the remotest understanding of either.”

                i responded to the error ridden statement you made, not the one you seem to have expected me to understand you to mean.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 5:56 am | Permalink

                Come on, joe piecuch, be real. The number of people who call themselves “Christian” and don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus is trivially small unless you include non-believers who identify as “culturally Christian” or some such.

                And by all means, include religious Jews! I certainly would. They also share foundational delusion of Christianity and Islam.

                What exactly is the error in my “error ridden statement”?

              • Posted August 28, 2012 at 5:58 am | Permalink

                @ joe

                “there are people who call themselves christians who do not consider the bible to be the inerrant word of ‘god’; who do not consider jesus divine; who do not necessarily believe there is a god at all.”

                There certainly are, as the RDF-sponsored Ipsos-MORI poll clearly showed.

                But take all those things away, in what sense does Christ remain “Christ”? Thus in what meaningful sense are they still “Christians” (rather than, say, just “census Christians”)?

                /@

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 7:08 am | Permalink

                Ant, FCD: i’m not particularly interested in internecine squabbles over who is and isn’t a ‘real’ christian; the point is that there is a broad spectrum of views represented by the name and making blanket statements is not of much use.

                gbjames: for starters,

                “Because the religious all make the same basic error.”

                no, they don’t.

                “They all think that they own a book of sacred insight…”

                no, they do not.

                “…that was provided to them by a deity.”

                that is incorrect.

                “This profound delusion is one they hold in common.”

                it is not.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink

                I think you are living in a make-believe world where Christians, Muslims, and religious Jews don’t believe in the sacred nature of their foundational documents.

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

                if by ‘religious’ people, you meant only christians, muslims, and jews, then it would have been helpful for you to be more specific. there are many religions besides those three. if you mean to say that all christians, muslims and jews think alike, well, good luck to you, sir , in your intellectual pursuits.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

                I think you are being intentionally obtuse. My original comment, the one that seems to have gotten your knickers in a twist, was a response to your question specifically about Christians and Muslims. I subsequently responded explicitly referencing Xtianaity and Islam. And added religious Judaism at your request.

                I stand by my assertion that they are belief systems that share common foundational delusions. They all claim to possess divine guidance provided by sacred books, notwithstanding your make-believe world of Christians, Muslims, and religious Jews who don’t believe their own religions’ doctrines.

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

                you made a general statement about ‘the religious’; it was accurate neither in its stated form, nor in the more specific sense which you apparently meant to imply. i think we are getting closer to clear statement of what you meant; i would propose putting it this way:

                Many jews, the majority of christians, and most if perhaps not all muslims make the same basic error. They think that they own a book of sacred insight that was provided to them by a deity. This is a profound delusion. They disagree about details because they have no interest in distinguishing which bits are factual and which bits are metaphorical, and they can’t agree what the metaphors are for.

                i’m more interested in achieving understanding than in squabbling, so i am suggesting that version of the statement to you, and i’d be interested in your thoughts.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

                My thoughts are that you should provide some evidence for the existence of communities of Christians, Muslims, and (to a lesser extent) _religious_ Jews who do NOT believe that they possess divine foundational documents.

                I made a general statement. The fact that it is general does not make it false. And denying that this is overwhelmingly true of the three great monotheisms strikes me as silly.

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

                the generality of your statement DOES make it false, which is exactly my point. the burden for clearly communicating a thought rests first on the person making a statement; it is not reasonable to expect a reader to understand your unstated assumptions. you have repeatedly modified the subject of your first sentence: from ‘the religious’, to ‘xianity and islam’, to ‘christians, muslims, and religious jews’. you are changing your statement by more carefully defining it, and claiming it is the same statement; it is not.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

                I am waiting for your list of Christian, Muslim, and religious Judaic sects that violate the generality. In the absence of this list I maintain my assertion and conclude you are squabbling for the sake of it.

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

                you are making an absurd attempt to put words in my mouth. you made a demonstrably untrue statement; it was incorrect in its original formulation, it was mistaken in the context of the discussion, and it is still in error after you have modified it. here is some evidence for you:

                http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/644941-rdfrs-uk-ipsos-mori-poll-1-how-religious-are-uk-christians

                http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/260-most-american-christians-do-not-believe-that-satan-or-the-holy-spirit-exis

                i suspect that this link may be more valuable to you than those two:

                http://www.amazon.com/Elementary-Logic-Benson-Mates/dp/019501491X/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346175532&sr=1-2&keywords=elementary+logic

              • Posted August 29, 2012 at 5:27 am | Permalink

                Just read the book ‘The Invention of God’ the natural origins of mythology and religion, by Bill Lauritzen .. Now isnt that easier to believe that volcanos when erupting were thought to have been signs from gods, lava balls as angels.

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 29, 2012 at 5:34 am | Permalink

                i’m afraid your point is lost on me.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

                I’ll ignore the underhanded snark as unworthy of response.

                The “Christians” you refer to in the non-stupid links are included in my comment several rounds back where I said: “The number of people who call themselves “Christian” and don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus is trivially small unless you include non-believers who identify as “culturally Christian” or some such.”

                People who just check the “Christian” box on a census because they grew up in an Xtian household but do not practice (or have) a faith were explicitly excluded. READ IT AGAIN.

                So… I await your list of Christians who practice it but don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus, etc. I’m sure there are just hoards of such sects. Oh… and don’t forget to list those Muslims who don’t believe that the Koran is the word of the Divinity.

              • Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

                @ Joe

                Surely you mean internicene squabbles?

                /@

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

                gbjames:

                changing the goal posts! multiple times, for that matter.

                be that as it may:

                jehovah’s witnesses and other nontrinatarian sects, christian scientists, the way international, iglesia ni cristo, some mormons, some quakers, some anglicans…there are many.

              • Steve in Oakland
                Posted August 29, 2012 at 4:57 am | Permalink

                So what? Most of those you mentioned do, indeed, have “the book.” I only believe in one less book than any of them do. Book, no book; Jesus Christ, no Jesus Christ: Religion is the opiate of the people, however they construct their own seperate “faiths.”

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 29, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

                good for you, sir; most excellent. however, your interjection is irrelevant to the discussion.

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

                Ant, FCD: certainly i could have. very good, although i would have preferred not to be reminded of scott stapp.

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

                unless i’m giving you too much credit for making a pun, in which case, no, i meant internecine.

                my argument with gbjames is about something else altogether, despite his strenuous attempts to change it.

              • Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

                Never heard of him. Sorry.

                /@

              • gbjames
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

                That’s right, Ant. joe piecuch is (apparently) convinced that generalizations are verboten, although how one can get through the day without using generalizations is beyond me. More specifically, he objects to my assertion that Christians, Muslims, and religious Jews share a common delusion, that they possess an sacred document attributed in one way or another with a divine being. (Allah be praised.)

                Evidence of this apparently includes the Jehovah’s Witnesses. How is that? I have no clue since their entire religion/cult/club is based on the Bible being the inerrant word of God, true in all it’s grim detail.

                I guess I’m wrong because there are, apparently, some people of Quaker origin who don’t believe in Jesus as a divinity and just “follow his example”, whatever that means.

                And he offers “Iglesia ni Cristo” as further evidence. Again, I don’t understand how that works for Joe’s argument is a mystery to me since the InC guys believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God.

                Go figure.

              • Posted August 28, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

                Well, I think my “internicene squabbles” pun was exactly right.

                To my mind (although this may be a bias from my Catholic upbringing), the only “authentic” Christians are those who firmly believe the Nicene Creed. The further your faith departs from that, the less meaningful the label “Christian” becomes.

                But even the extremely liberal, God-is-the-ground-of-being Christians, who don’t view Jesus as divine, still follow the teachings of Jesus as set down in the Bible. Absent extra-Biblical evidence, how can they accept this as a reliable guide to those teachings?

                It all comes down to the Book – for all “peoples of the Book”.

                /@

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

                gbjames:

                you said, ” I await your list of Christians who practice it but don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus, etc.”

                i responded with a list of christian churches who do not regard jesus as divine, and you object that these churches believe the bible is the inerrant word of god. those aren’t the same thing. the churches i mentioned, as a doctrinal matter, deny the divinity of jesus.

                you originally made the statement, “Because the religious all make the same basic error. They all think that they own a book of sacred insight that was provided to them by a deity. This profound delusion is one they hold in common.”

                your arguments in defense of it have since amounted to ‘what i really meant was…’. i responded to what you said; consider the possibility of saying what you mean.

                i suggested what i thought was a statement reconciling our differences, and you responded by demanding i provide evidence for something i did not say. this argument is pointless; i concede defeat. when it comes to making inconsistent, illogical, incoherent arguments in defense of untrue statements, you prevail.

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

                Ant, FCD:

                scott stapp, singer for creed, a wretched christian heavy metal band; yes, it was a good pun.

                i don’t grasp the point of the rest of your post, but it does seem in part to run afoul of the ‘no true scotsman’ fallacy.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

                joe piecuch: It may seem odd but I’m not really motivated by the “common ground” notion. I’m more concerned with whether or not things are true. From the beginning of this thread you have disputed the point that christianity and islam share a common foundational delusion, that The Deity, in his radiant glory, gave them a sacred book (or books, if you like) which we are all to use as some kind of guide to living.

                To you that is a “sweeping generalization and broad-brush accusation”. But this generalization is, I think, true, despite the fact that the gazillion sects (of both faiths, and add Judaism if you like) disagree with each other in all manner of detail, both large and small.

                I have not moved goalposts. And I have attempted to over-the-top insult by pointing you to web pages that teach one how to tie his shoes. Still, I agree that the conversation has beyond the point of diminishing returns. And I’m off to worship a pint of something flavorful and amber colored. Have a pleasant evening.

              • Posted August 28, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

                @ Joe

                Well, I think your comment runs afoul of the “‘“no true Scotsman” fallacy’ fallacy”!

                By analogy, I’m trying to establish what defines a true Scotsman. Say it’s someone born in Scotland. Let’s leave it as simple as that.

                Now, is someone born in England with no Scotsmen in their ancestry, but who habitually wears a kilt and recites Burns’s poetry a Scotsman? No. (Was Idi Amin? NO!)

                But that’s all that some “census Christians” are. They just affect some Christian tropes, but lack authenticity. Counting them as Christians in this context is meaningless.

                I disagree that GB was deliberately moving goalposts, but I think that the particular defining characteristic of authentic Christinity – Jesus’s divinity, the authority of the Bible, etc. – under discussion was fluid and might have been misremembered from one comment to the next. I’ll admit to that.

                So, if those Christian churches you cited don’t accept Jesus’s divinity, which exemplify those who reject the divine origin and authority of the Bible?

                /@

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

                none of that crap was referred to in his original statement; those were all qualifiers introduced after the fact. he said, “Because the religious all make the same basic error. They all think that they own a book of sacred insight that was provided to them by a deity. This profound delusion is one they hold in common.” that statement is rife with errors of fact and logic.

                who are you to decide who is entitled to call themselves a christian? you’ve given YOUR definition, but it’s hardly universal, and, by your standards, there was no such thing as a christian before the early 4th century.

              • Posted August 28, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

                So? The conversation’s moved on. If you don’t want to answer the question, fine.

                Well, we’re not living in the 4th century. If we were, many of those “census Christians” would be considered apostates or burnt as heretics (OK, this might not have been the practice at that time).

                But that’s what Nicea was about. What is it, to be a Christian?

                Nowadays, how relevant is that? Mainstream Christian churchgoers certainly recite the Creed.

                I’m not at all claiming any authority to decide who is entitled to call themselves what. I”’m just trying to establish reasonable criteria for when it’s meaningful to consider someone a religious, theistic Christian for the purposes of a forum where we’re typically critical of theistic religions.

                I think that’s a laubale goal, but if you think it’s futile, fine. But lacking such criteria only engenders the kind of spiralling argument set out above.

                /@

        • Posted August 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

          At least not any more!

  3. Posted August 26, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    It’s barely worth mentioning but all the other reports on the incident that I’ve read say that the girl was 11.

    • Dominic
      Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      When the BBC reported this last week they said all the information/stories were very confused & contradictory. They also spoke to an islamic expert I think who said the idea of blasphemy is not in the Koran. It is a modern law in Pakistan but it is only concerned with Mohammedanism, as it should be called, not other religions.

      Appalling & shocking demonstration of mob mania.

      • jeffery
        Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        I can’t bring to mind exactly which one it is, but there’s an Islamic country where you can get the death penalty just for translating the Koran from the original Arabic.

        • Explicit atheist
          Posted August 26, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          Ghows Zalmay was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment in Afghanistan for translating the Qu’ran into Dari. Since this was blasphemy, he could have been sentenced to death.

  4. Posted August 26, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I’ve long thought the maturing of Islam (religiously and culturally) got stuck back in the 13th century; I see I was WAY too optimistic…

  5. Explicit Atheist
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Sam Harris also makes distinctions between religions. He asserts some religious communities, and some religions, are worse than others and he says he is more troubled about the greater tendency for religious extremism found within Islam than other religions. He also appears to at least partially blame the problems to the nature of Islam, not just to socio-economic problems. I think his willingness to rank religions this way is one reason he is disliked by some people on the left. We all want to believe that Islam will eventually be tamed like Judaism and Christianity by more access to knowledge and prosperity. And we need to be careful about over- generalizing from current context, which in any case is mixed, it isn’t all negative. But there are differences between religions, and there is some reason to think Islam presents some additional obstacles to moderation because it depends so heavily on the author of the Koran being God’s prophet. The Koran is either 100% the words of god or it is 100% fraudulent, there isn’t much room for a middle ground like there is in Christianity and Judaism where the authorship and accuracy of the holy books is murky. The book of Morman has a similar problem of a single known author, but that text isn’t as intolerant as the Koran.

    • Posted August 26, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Eh, huge swaths of Christianity adopt the same hard-line either-or literalist / authorship stance towards the Bible as Muslims do towards the Q’ran. And, at least stateside, there’re fair numbers of Muslims who hold beliefs towards the Q’ran that’re pretty liberal, all things considered.

      And the Gospels have at least as many “kill all infidels” and “make war, not love” statements attributed to Jesus as the Q’ran has for Mohammad.

      The difference is only in the relative proportions of militant fundamentalists to Enlightenment-influenced liberals. Islam in general is skewed more towards the lunatic nutjobs…but, even then, the correlation is with economics and social justice, not the religions or their holy books.

      The best way to put an end to religions and the nonsense associated with them is to bring all the populations of the world up to Western middle-class standards of living. The rest will pretty much take care of itself.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Posted August 26, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        “And the Gospels have at least as many “kill all infidels” and “make war, not love” statements attributed to Jesus as the Q’ran has for Mohammad.”

        Respectfully, this is nonsense. Jesus NOWHERE commanded violence against unbelievers or dissidents.

        • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:20 am | Permalink

          Squeeze me?

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

          Yes, yes. “Waaah! Parable!” But not only is the character Jesus is quoting in that parable a stand-in for Jesus himself, the whole parable itself is a riff on the Armageddon theme, where Jesus personally slaughters all non-Christians.

          And let’s not forget the whole “I come not to bring peace but a sword” recurring motif, Jesus’s claim that came to set families at each other’s throats, that you were either with Jesus or against him, that none shall “come to the Father” (i.e., go to Heaven) but through Jesus (damning all non-Christians to Hell), and on and on and on and on.

          This, of course, is all long before we get to the virulent anti-Semitism than runs rampant through the Gospels as well, from that “brood of vipers” epithet to the cursing of the fig tree to the portrayal of the Sanhedrin as a bunch of poo-flinging monkeys — and, again, on and on and on and on.

          Hell, even in Jesus’s “gentle” moments, such as the Fucking Sermon on the Goddamned Hellmount, Jesus is unspeakably vile and repugnant. Right there in the opening verses, he not only implicitly dismisses women as little more than chattel property to be toyed with by men, he condemns all men who’ve ever looked lustfully on a women to infinite torture lest they chop off their own hands and gouge out their own eyes, right there on the spot.

          And that’s just the Gospels! Before that, it’s one non-stop horror story of genocide, rape, infanticide, biochemical warfare, and more, all at the hands of or in the name of YHWH.

          Jesus does not love you, and the Bible makes that fact painfully clear to all those who’ve actually read the bloody thing.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

            Oh dear.

            I still have no idea how you manage to turn Luke 19:27 into a call for violence (which was the subject of the comment I initially replied to). It simply isn’t – it is a foretelling of what will happen at return of Christ, as you yourself also pointed out. The same for your other examples – NONE of them call for violence against nonbelievers, as the Quran does.

            • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:43 am | Permalink

              So, Jesus in his own words telling Christians to make his altar run red with the blood of non-Christians as a means to prepare the way for Jesus’s own triumphant return where he personally will send all non-Christians, living and dead, to suffer eternal torture…

              …that’s not a call for violence?

              I’m sorry, but you have no fucking clue what a call for violence is. Just try to do what Jesus did in Luke 19 at a mosque or a synagogue today. No, really — I beg of you: please try to do so. Because that would be most correctly interpreted as a violent threat and a hate crime, and you with your “loving” violent fantasies would be locked away from the rest of society for a good long time.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

                Your post demonstrates, unfortunately, that you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about with regard to the text. Please, re-read the above posts, and give it some thought.

          • joe piecuch
            Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

            re: luke 19:27

            do you believe that is what it ‘really’ means? do you believe that a significant fraction of the 1/3 of humanity that identifies themselves as christian, or of the 3/4 of the population of the united states that do, would agree that the message of that story is as you portray it? which is more significant: your interpretation, or the way it is understood by most people who hear it? even if you could make a convincing case for your your reading, which you have heretofore signally failed to do, do you believe that your interpretation is more astute than that of the people for whom it is a sacred text, in that it reveals some truth about christianity of which the vast majority of its adherents are unaware? or, more pointedly, do you think that people who subscribe to a collection of beliefs are evil, even though they would profoundly disagree with your interpretation of a scripture, because you know what it REALLY means, even if they don’t?

            and does it ever give you concern that your reading of new testament texts seems very much in the spirit of fred phelps, that spiteful, hateful wretch?

            • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

              I believe that damned few Christians have actually read the Bible, and that the overwhelming majority of those who claim to have read the Bible have instead read the annotations and ignored the Bible itself.

              And I also believe that those statements are documented by study after study, and that Jerry himself has numerous posts on this very site to back up those claims.

              So, the fact that Christians are clueless about the contents of the Bible and have a perception of it that’s completely unrecognizable from reality is completely irrelevant.

              Cheers,

              b&

            • jeffery
              Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

              The great thing about science is that it is extremely difficult to come up with different, conflicting “interpretations” of reality.

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 26, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

                unless i missed the news that all scientists have agreed on everything, i think your statement may have been made without a sound basis.

              • pulseteresa
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

                Joe,

                Individual scientists can indeed interpret evidence differently, but science isn’t about the differing interpretations of scientists. It’s about forming a theory, developing a way to test that theory, and then going wherever the results of that test take you, whether it confirms or disconfirms your theory. Another very important aspect of science is that the test be repeatable and that the theory is able to stand up to other tests. Religion, and the interpretation of religious texts, has no such method of confirming or disconfirming it’s claims. It’s all faith and opinion, which are useless when attempting to discern truth from nonsense.

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

                uh, yes, i’m familiar with the basics as you describe them. there are nevertheless conflicting ideas about many matters of scientific concern, not least the nature of reality itself, for which testable theories have yet to be formulated, let alone tested; proposing and considering conflicting ideas is part of that process. i’m certainly not arguing for the ‘truth’ of any religion. the point i try repeatedly to make is that it is unnecessary to distort and even fabricate evidence about religious nonsense in order to make the case that it is nonsense. indeed, making demonstrably untrue claims undermines that case.

        • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

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

          • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:24 am | Permalink

            Oops, I see that I was too slow for Ben Goren.

          • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

            Now please explain how on earth this is a command to physically assault, maim and kill unbelievers?

            • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

              There’s a slang meaning of “slay” which is “to affect or impress very strongly by means of amusement”, according to my Webster’s Unabridged. Do you suppose that’s what Jesus meant?

              • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

                Its irrelevant, but of course that is not what He meant.

              • Greg
                Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

                Hmm. Perhaps when God commanded the Israelites to “slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Samuel 15:2-3), he was actually suggesting they stage an enormous interspecies comedy show…

              • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

                Red herring. What we are discussing is whether Christians are commanded to practice violence against non-believers. The passages cited have nothing at all to do with this.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

                I think, Peter N, that you are on to something. It could account for the two thousand years of comedy Xtianity has inflicted on humanity. I get a chuckle every time one of them talks about peace and understanding.

          • Dominic
            Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

            I don’t want to feel the lash of Ben’s tongue (keyboard!) but you can take odd quotes from many texts & yet they do not always reflect the broad drift of the theme of those texts. I do not care enough about poor Luke’s bit of writing to check the context, but that is key.

            • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

              Thanks, that is exactly what is wrong with Bens analysis of the text.

            • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

              As I mentioned above, the parable is itself a riff on the Armageddon theme. It’s about a king who serves as a stand-in for Jesus. The king / Jesus goes to a far-off place (Heaven) to receive his inheritance. When he returns, he finds that some of those he left behind have rejected his sovereignty. In the parable, the king flies off the handle, judgmentally issuing the call for bloodshed that everybody’s been quoting. At Armageddon, Jesus is expected to kick off the Final Battle, triumphantly leading the charge to slaughter all non-Christians, and then he sends those he just killed to Hell.

              Luke 19 is a short read, though I’ll admit it’s as hard to stomach as anything Hitler wrote. Still, it wouldn’t take long for you to verify what I’ve written here.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

                …yes Ben, and this has _NOTHING_ to do with what we are discussing.

            • dale
              Posted August 26, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

              I think Ben and Christopher are talking past each other. Does Jesus say kill unbelievers? I think the key (as Ben made an earlier reference to it) is that Education makes a difference here. If we look at different times in history we will have a different interpretation of the words. For example If we look at The Speech of Pope Urban II at Clermont, 1095, we will see many similarities with the words of Islamic leaders today (there are many versions of the speech, but the sentiment is the same).

              ” … to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends … Moreover, Christ commands it”

              “All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins.”

              “O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race, which worships demons, should conquer a people which has the faith of omnipotent God and is made glorious with the name of Christ!”

              People were told that they would go straight to heaven if they retook Jerusalem

              And of course the crusades were a “just war”. When the Pope finished his pronouncements the crowed responded with “Deus vult” (God wills it).

              What people read into the gospels (or any other religion) will depend on the their education and the sentiments of the day. Did people back then interpret the words of the bible and of Jesus as a command to rid the world of unbelievers? I would say probably more did back then than now.

              The point is that Education and the era people live in affects how they interpret the words in whatever holy book they adhere to.

              • pulseteresa
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

                Excellent point! History tells us quite clearly that many Christians interpreted their Bible as kill the unbelievers.

      • joe piecuch
        Posted August 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        “…the Gospels have at least as many “kill all infidels” and “make war, not love” statements attributed to Jesus as the Q’ran has for Mohammad.”

        and, anyway, what’s the big deal, in either case? surely you have no objection to suffering intentionally inflicted by humans? or do you only object to suffering inflicted intentionally on other HUMANS, because humans are all special and stuff, like (choose your god) tells you?

        • darrelle
          Posted August 26, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

          Where did that come from? I think you are making some assumptions about people, or perhaps just one person in this case, that are just way off target.

          • joe piecuch
            Posted August 26, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

            it’s a leading, sarcastic question, directed at one person, and not based at all on assumptions.

            • pulseteresa
              Posted August 27, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

              It is, in fact, an incomprehensible question based entirely on assumptions and, as far as I can tell, ignorance, intentional or genuine.

              Feel free to prove me wrong with actual evidence (such as quotations from the person you’re questioning).

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

                it’s an effort, dating back to november of last year, to get ben goren to actually engage in a discussion as to whether torturing animals is morally defensible. he’s quite adept at calling names, changing the subject, and as a last resort avoiding it entirely.

              • pulseteresa
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

                My bad. I didn’t know the context.

      • Brygida Berse
        Posted August 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        The best way to put an end to religions and the nonsense associated with them is to bring all the populations of the world up to Western middle-class standards of living. The rest will pretty much take care of itself.
        Well, it hasn’t worked in the United States, has it?

        • darrelle
          Posted August 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

          Not yet, but there are many other 1st world nations where that has seemed to work quite well. And in addition to significantly less religiosity those nations also rate significantly better on just about every metric that is used by modern social sciences to gauge the function of a society, from health outcomes to education to murder rates.

          • Brygida Berse
            Posted August 26, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

            And in addition to significantly less religiosity those nations also rate significantly better on just about every metric that is used by modern social sciences to gauge the function of a society

            I am aware of this correlation and Jerry wrote (and spoke) about it recently quite extensively. Of course, the jury is still out on the issue of causality: do healthier societies become less religious, or the other way around? Either way, the US remains quite religious and thus doesn’t fit this overall trend. One can argue that the US lags behind other Western democracies on numerous metrics of societal functioning (income distribution, universal healthcare, incarceration rate etc.), but it is obvious that high GDP alone doesn’t correlate with less religiosity. That’s why I think that Ben’s statement was a substantial oversimplification – it ignored other possible mechanisms (cultural, historical, psychological) that make people adhere to religion. 

            • joe piecuch
              Posted August 26, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

              “…it ignored other possible mechanisms (cultural, historical, psychological) that make people adhere to religion.”

              do you think the psychological factor is iffy enough that the qualifier ‘possible’ is necessary? it always puzzles me that ‘religion’ is so often discussed in atheist circles as though it is something extrinsic to humanity: some sort of brain infection, or a cruel hoax perpetrated by evil geniuses. gods and religions came out of people’s brains, to meet needs; religious people adhere to religions because those needs demand meeting.

              • Brygida Berse
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 4:19 am | Permalink

                Of course, everything that we do depends on our brains. But for every newly born human, we can debate whether religious feelings are already “programmed” in their brains, or they need a specific set of circumstances to develop. Some need for religion may be innate, formed by our evolution (for example, it could’ve been advantageous to ascribe agency to natural phenomena). However, there are also external factors, like poverty and lack of education, that lead to superstition and fanaticism and obviously Ben was talking about those.

        • pulseteresa
          Posted August 27, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

          Most of the US is not up to Western middle-class standards. The US has a horrible social safety net (think welfare, social security, unemployment, healthcare) by the standards of Western Europe. The US also has much more wealth disparity. Sweden, one of the least religious nations in the world, has the most comprehensive welfare system in the world and the lowest wealth disparity.

          As you mention in a later comment, the arrow of causality is uncertain, but it seems a safe guess that the arrow goes both ways: insecurity leads to a greater embrace of religion and religion leads to social policies which increase insecurity (think the US currently, especially the religion-soaked Republican party).

    • Explicit atheist
      Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      That is because part of the Qu’ran is rooted in a historical context of conflict and military conquests. It is that part of the Qu’ran which is the favorite of militants and which moderates have to interpret differently to dispute the arguments of militants. It is at least partly a dispute over applicability, is the current context one in which believers are required to follow the Qu’ran’s warfare time fighting context instructions or the peace time co-existence context instructions? Jesus never led an army.

      However, contrary to what I said earlier, it turns out that there is some murkiness regarding the authorship and accuracy of the Qu’ran. The Qur’an we see today was canonized by Uthman ibn Affan (653-656). Upon the canonization of the Qur’an, Uthman had the other codices that existed at the time destroyed and burnt. Due to this, no manuscripts of Qu’ran before canonization remain and all that is left is varying accounts from different historians. We don’t know if the Qu’ran was first written by Muhammad, or by the first caliph Abu Bakr as-Siddiq after the death of Muhammad, or by a combination of the two, and how closely the canonized Qu’ran resembled the original. The earliest surviving copies of the complete Qur’an are centuries later than Uthman. (The oldest existing copy of the full text is from the 9th century). Furthermore, the text of the Qur’an used today is taken from one of the seven variant readings chosen by Ibn Mujahid (he reported there were fourteen) in the 10th century and published as the Royal Cairo edition by King Fuad of Egypt in 1924. Early Qur’anic Arabic lacked precision because distinguishing between consonants was impossible due to the absence of diacritical marks (a’jam). Vowelling marks (tashkil) to indicate prolongation or vowels were absent as well. Due to this there were endless possibilities in the meanings of verses and countless errors in transcription.

      • jeffery
        Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        To debate whether the Qu’ran is the ORIGINAL Qu’ran is useless speculation, as much as is trying to guess who the true authors of the Babble were: points to remember are (1)The current form of the Qu’ran is what the “literal” Muslims believe to be the absolute word of God (Allah), whether it’s historically the same, or not- anyone wishing to call themselves a “Muslim” has to avow to this. (2)The Qu’ran, BEING the word of God, is not subject to the interpretation that Christians so love to indulge in concerning the Babble; if two suras contradict each other, the rule of thumb followed is that the later one is right (interestingly enough, Muhammad’s later writings were the ones most filled with intolerance and incitements to violence against non-believers). The Muslims who chop off hands, stone adulterers, etc. are actually doing a better job of practicing their religion (actually a system of socio-political control that masquerades as a religion) than the supposedly “moderate” Muslims, who in their eyes, are not seen as “Muslims” at all, but apostates seduced by infidel culture.

        • Explicit atheist
          Posted August 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

          When people learn about the convoluted history of their holy book being canonized it weakens their confidence that their holy book is divine revelation.

          • pulseteresa
            Posted August 27, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

            True, this has indeed happened with the Bible (Bart Ehrman is an excellent example of someone whose views were changed, at least in part, due to learning the convoluted history of the Bible). I don’t think this has happened as much in the Muslim world (mostly due to shit like that described in Jerry’s article…the Muslim world really needs a reformation and enlightenment – I’m not confident that this will happen any time soon, if ever).

  6. Posted August 26, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    As far as the “pass” that Islam sometimes gets in the US from atheists: I see two factors here:

    1. Many atheists are also liberal, and liberals tend to stand up for underdogs. IN THE US, Muslims could be considered underdogs (witness the reactions to new Mosques, the shootings of the Sikhs (thinking that they were Muslims)

    2. Right wingers hate Muslims and who wants to be seen as being on the same side as, say, Fox News?

    My view: what others said; too many Muslims haven’t learned to ignore or rationalize away the more noxious/harmful parts of their faith; they seem to be still in their Inquisition period.

    And if they want to live in the US, they have to adapt to our “freedom of expression” culture; e. g., if I say “Islam in stupid” they can whine about “being a victim”, call me stupid, eat at Halal versions of Chick-Fil-A, etc. But they can’t execute me and avoid jail.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      You forgot those who are committed to the concept of cultural relativity.

      • jeffery
        Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        Look at some of Pat Condell’s talks on Youtube.

  7. Posted August 26, 2012 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Here’s the problem:
    – The strongest current evidence is no free will, thus no conscious control, thus no conscious explanations for behavior
    – Why believe abusers, violent or tyrant’s explanations of their behavior anyway? Violent folks are likely even less capable of understanding and explanation. However, they appear to be far more adept at lying and deception. In fact, they, along with all the rest of us, can’t “explain” our behavior
    – All we can say is that religious statements are correlated with abuse/violence. Causality? That needs to be tested. Correlation is not causality.

    In fact, accepting religious (or any verbal) explanations for behavior likely just distract from looking for more empirical explanations.

    More likely there are far more complicated ecological explanations for defensive violence protecting in-groups/ideologies in Mideast.

    After all, all behavioral drivers are “local” ecological not verbal, ideological or conscious.

    • Greg
      Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      I honestly can’t tell whether you are serious, or whether you are satirizing the pedantic, convoluted explanations of Islamic violence coming from people like Scott Atran.

      It is perfectly empirical to observe that people who profess to value a book over human life are more likely to perpetrate violence than those who don’t.

      • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        Correlation is not causality and there is no empirical evidence one causes the other. Chances are they don’t since “Information is expensive” and religious explanations of anything by anyone are so popular because they are so inexpensive and easy to comprehend, thus, of little informational and explanatory value.

        • Greg
          Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

          Sigh. I never claimed any causal relationship because it’s obvious that not everyone who believes in the primacy of the primacy of ancient books over human life actually goes out and hurts people. (Just like we can observe that humans have a confirmation bias without All the foundation one needs to associate violence with Islam is a significant correlation between profession of Islamic belief and violent action; such a correlation has been clearly demonstrated.

          Considering the outrageous suffering that’s happening in the name of religion, your sophistry about “expensive information” is unseemly. 😦

        • darrelle
          Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

          I am trying to understand why you appear to place so much confidence in the claims you have made. It just does not make sense. There sure as hell is empirical evidence that one causes the other. It is true that such evidence is not definitive, but you are going way beyond that. At the same time you seem to ignore that there is no good evidence for any of the counter claims you are making.

          Trying to counter a claim you don’t like by making claims that have no better evidence is not very persuasive.

          Also, you like to remind that Correlation does not mean Causation, which is true, but these types of phenomenon never have single discreet causes and when there is correlation there often turns out to be a strong relationship. Contrary to what you are trying to imply our experience suggests that it is not unreasonable to suppose that religious beliefs do contribute to shaping behavior. Religious beliefs are stimuli just like anything else sensed, consciously or unconsciously, by the brain.

  8. gbjames
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    This atheist has no trouble calling Islam the leading candidate for the Most Dangerous Religion Award. If it seems that Christianity takes the bulk of my (liberal) hostility it is only because there are more of them close at hand and they are a more immediate threat to my country’s institutions.

    • Dominic
      Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      I would find it hard not to say that but then I look at the polarisation of politics in the US & the lunatic right who seemingly want to bring on some end-of-the-world scenario (screwing the earth in the process). A good bit on that by – believe it or not – Andrew Sullivan – in the Sunday Times Review today (his regular column).

  9. Tim
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    To be perfectly honest, I don’t know enough about Islam to rank it as worse the Christianity. It does seem that there are countries in which Islam is allowed a much freer rein to dominate and terrorize the populace that is currently the case in Christian-dominated countries. Having said that, I have little doubt that if Christian fundamentalists could have their way, the United States could eventually be pushed to the point where Islamic theocracies are today. The most important thing that makes Islam worse than Christianity seems not to be anything inherent in either of their lunatic dogmas, but in the restraints placed on them by the broader secular ideas extant in their societies.

  10. exsumper
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    The term Islamophobe is nonsensical. It’s not irrational to fear Islam.

    Islam’s basic tenets incite its followers to commit murderous acts against non-believers/atheists, homosexuals, adulterers and apostates etc.

    The idea of the moderate muslim is a myth!.

    Any reading of the Quran/Koran demonstrates that adherence to Islam and moderation are as incompatible as science and religion.

    To believe otherwise is not only sheer foolishness, but extremely dangerous as well.

    The adherents of Islam will not be satisfied until the bones of un-believers/athiests lie bleaching in the sun!!!.

    • Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      ‘The idea of the moderate muslim is a myth’

      No, the average Muslim is hardly more interested in his religion than the average Christian in Christianity.

      • exsumper
        Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        Stephen you’re talking rubbish! . I have lived and worked in the Middle East and lived amongst muslim communities in the north of England.

        I can assure you that even the most apathetic believers are at the Mosque at the required times and fully support the ideology.

        In addition, if you wish to see the most extreme forms of racism in the modern world, you should see how the ordinary Saudi Arabian treat Migrant workers from the Phillipines and the Indian Sub-Continent; Sub-Human doesn’t even describe it!!!.

        It is a backward and stupid ideology!!

        • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          ==I can assure you that even the most apathetic believers are at the Mosque at the required times and fully support the ideology.==

          As one who lives among muslims, I would be the first to call you on this nonsense. It is simply not true – there are indeed moderate muslims. Hordes of them.

          • exsumper
            Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

            Christopher: I stand by my assertion that the tenets of Islam are incompatible with moderation. I would be interested to see your refutation of this assertion!

            I was almost thrown out of Saudi Arabia for threatening violence to a Saudi citizen (our site manager), he and his Saudi colleagues thought beating his Indian labourers (because they were unbelievers)was acceptable behaviour. The reason no action was taken against us, was because of our specialist knowledge.

            • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

              I agree with your assertion, so no refutation is needed. My beef is with the claim that there are no moderate muslims. However, if we agree to define a muslim as someone who literally follows the Koran (and I think that is reasonable, since to my understanding this is what the Koran teaches), then I will agree that this can be dropped as well.

              • exsumper
                Posted August 26, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

                Thank you Christopher, It makes a pleasant change to be able to make a contentious point, without it being met with a load of foul mouthed abuse.

                Despite the truth of my assertion I do appreciate the good intention behind your comment;that of tarring everyone in a single community with the same brush.

                I do understand where you are coming from.Its just that with Islam compromise seems impossible.

                In the late 1980’s early 1990’s I took part in several caving/speleological expeditions to the Philippines. The poor inhabitants of the remote villages we stayed in were kind and wonderful people, generous to a fault; ordinary people who were just trying to get along. To the corrupt Phillipino and U.S. Governments however, they were dangerous Communist/Muslim Jehadi vermin.

                In the years immediately after 9/11 it caused me considerable distress to see news footage of US/Phillipino troops attacking villages in the same areas I’d stayed in and claiming great victories against the “Jehadi menace”.

                Only history will tell how many innocents were slaughtered.

          • jeffery
            Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

            These “hordes” of “moderate” Muslims are not Muslims at all; they’re people who like to call themselves, “Muslims” just as many who claim to be Christian would never turn the other cheek when struck, or “sell all they have and give to the poor”- the problem is that the REAL Muslims use them to insert themselves into “infidel” societies where they immediately set about (1) terrorizing the MMs into, at the very least, not interfering with them through threats or acts of violence (2) “Radicalizing” the children of the MMs by insisting that they attend their own schools, which the REAL Muslims run where they are taught the same medieval thinking that characterizes the “religion” in the first place. One the REAL Muslims can produce mobs in the street, they begin a constant protest of anything that offends them coupled with claims of the very same prejudice and intolerance at which they are so proficient/

        • Mark
          Posted August 26, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

          Most Muslims do not live in the Middle East, though. The two countries with the largest Muslims populations are India and Indonesia. India has a significant population of “Muslims” — especially from the educated middle class — who treat their religion the way many secular Jews treat Judaism. Salman Rushdie hails from this community as do many Indian celebrities.

          Now, it’s true there are fanatics in these two countries and within other Muslim communities but it is not right to generalize. Singapore and Malaysia also have relatively tolerant and cosmopolitan Muslim communities.

  11. Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    True, this is pretty atrocious behavior and religion is an important component of it. But is it the only component, or is it just a cover for deeper lying motivations? For example is religion sometimes a cover for ethnicity, racism or nationalism?

    For evidence on a related atrocious tactic, suicide bombing, that religion is not the principal motive see the following article from the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.

    http://www.yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/what-motivates-suicide-bombers-0

    So while I agree with Jerry on the pernicious effects of religion and that this applies to all religions including Islam, I don’t think progress will be made until other factors are also considered and addressed.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      “I don’t think progress will be made until other factors are also considered and addressed.”

      Yeah. Goat meat. And let’s not forget rice and yogurt.

      Give me a break.

  12. Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Professor Coyne, I think I disagree with your comment that, “…being ‘Muslim’ is not a racial trait, any more than is being ‘Jewish.'” I think christian would have been a better choice than Jewish. Jewish can refer to an ethnicity. It is why you can be an atheist Jew. In much of Europe, the Jews were more or less reproductively isolated from their surrounding countrymen. So a Polish Jew would be more closely related to a Russian Jew than to a Christian Pole. Jewish can refer to a religious belief system, a culture, and/or an ethnicity. No?

    • Posted August 27, 2012 at 4:28 am | Permalink

      as an atheist born in to a jewish home, I am also Labour not conservative. I hate religion how it takes over peoples lives. The brain is a funny thing and so many do not know right from wrong. We just sit back and moan but do notsave these people who are being put to death. No one was going to abuse my son by circumsision. It is another of Priest and rabbi abuse on little children. .

  13. whyevolutionistrue
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Okay, Christopher and Ben, you’re dominating the thread, and it’s VERY unlikely that you’ll change each other’s minds. So could you take it to private email or something? I’m loath to have one or two people dominate the comments in a post.

    Kthxbye

    • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Alright, my apologies.

    • Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      ack

      • Marta
        Posted August 26, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        I’ll tell you the truth.

        I love it when you dominate a thread, Ben. I don’t care if you change anyone’s mind. I love your enthusiasm for the argument, that you won’t say “uncle”, that you are prepared for it with a fine granularity that approaches dust. More important than all the sheer enjoyment I get from reading your comments–I learn.

        So don’t say “ack”.

        • Marta
          Posted August 26, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

          And, oh yes, when the religious loonies show up, you’re the first person I look for, and if you’re here, I relax and think “oh, good. Ben’s here.”

          • Diane G.
            Posted August 27, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

            Ditto to both of Marta’s posts.

        • gbjames
          Posted August 27, 2012 at 4:24 am | Permalink

          +1

    • joe piecuch
      Posted August 26, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      does that just apply to their conversation, or is ben proscribed from replying to me?

  14. Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Always wanted an excuse to start persecuting Pakistanis.

  15. Posted August 26, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I think even Dawkins’s says that the reason he directs most of his criticism against christianity is that that is the religion he is most familiar with. Personally I hate it when we are criticizing christianity and someone tries to avoid the debate by saying we aren’t brave enough to go after Muslims. Hardly the case, we are just staying on topic.

    I saw the movie ‘Agora’ recently, which is mainly about Hypatia in the final days of the Library of Alexandria. Christians are not sympathetic characters for the most part, and it is interesting to see some of the ways they justify inhumane behaviour (at least in the movie).

  16. Diane G.
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    (sub)

  17. Krishan Bhattacharya
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Good post, Jerry. I generally agree. Going after the Jerry Falwell’s of the world is necessary, and good, but nobody is going to lose their neck over it.

    Although Taseer was religious believer, he saw the evil done by hunt for ‘blasphemers’ in Pakistan. Taseer’s stand for free speech, and against blasphemy laws was an act of great courage against real evil, and we secularists should honor him for it.

    It seems to me that almost nowhere in the world is secularism more needed and simultaneously more threatened, than in the former British Raj. I have been doing some reading on the recent history of India, and the fortunes of India’s secularism over recent decades are profoundly depressing. India is supposedly a secular, democratic state. But in recent years its secularity has been revealed as tissue then. India’s fundamentalist, Hindu-nationalist party, the BJP won the general election in the 90’s, and now Hindu nationalism and fundamentalism are reaching a fever pitch. India is approaching a moment of religious nationalism not seen anywhere in the world since Iran 1979, or perhaps Europe before WWI. This at the same time when the Pakistani state is so paranoid as to put supposed blasphemers on trial on national television. These nations have nuclear weapons pointed at one another. Its a terrifying situation.

    I must recommend to anyone interested in the subject to consult the magnificent trio of essays by Perry Anderson, published this summer in the London Review of Books: “Gandhi Center Stage”, “Why Partition?”, and “After Nehru”. Anderson, whom Christopher Hitchens once described as “the most profound essayist wielding a pen”, performs a detailed analysis of India’s recent political and social history. In particular, he focuses on how India’s nationalist independence movement was infected with religious delusion from its inception, and how that negatively affected the character of India’s development since Independence. These problems run the gamut from the disaster of Partition, to severe religious discrimination in Indian society today, to the standoff with Pakistan.

    How India and Pakistan will move away from this precipice is beyond me, but they will have to do it somehow. Taseer’s stance was a step in the right direction. His assassination was ten steps back.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

      India is approaching a moment of religious nationalism not seen anywhere in the world since Iran 1979…

      Other recent (or soon-to-be) secular-ish casualties include Turkey, Iraq, Egypt…Libya? Tho of course only India is a democracy. Nonetheless, replacing dictators with theocracies seems a bit Pyrrhic to me…Plus, religion is resurgent in parts of China. Not to mention the religious backlash in parts of Europe. It’s hard to be optimistic about secularism, IMO.

  18. Sam Salerno
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    We are predominantly christian in America. And we also don’t get death threats for bashing Christianity. As an American it’s much easier to bash what is in your face. Certainly we deny Islam as much as Christianity. But it does us no good to deny Islam here in America. And if we go to a Muslim country and do it we risk our lives. I guess the best thing to do is figure out how to take down Sharia law all over the world.

  19. jeffery
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    “Scapegoating” another religion (the Jews drink Christian babies’ blood!), race, tribe, etc. has been a convenient way for centuries to seize the assets of those accused, as well as accentuating the juvenile posturing of, “Look at OUR gang! We’re unified! We’re BAAAAD!
    William James, in his “Varieties of Spiritual Experience” hit the nail on the head concerning the cause of Muslims’ fanatic defense against even imagined slights to their faith:
    “First of all let us take Devoutness. When unbalanced, one of its vices is called Fanaticism. Fanaticism (when not a mere expression of ecclesiastical ambition) is only loyalty carried to a convulsive extreme. When an intensely loyal and narrow mind is once grasped by the feeling that a certain superhuman person is worthy of its exclusive devotion, one of the first things that happens is that it idealizes the devotion itself. To adequately realize the merits of the idol gets to be considered the one great merit of the worshiper; and the sacrifices and servilities by which savage tribesman have from time immemorial exhibited their faithfulness to chieftains are now outbid in favor of the deity. Vocabularies are exhausted and languages altered in the attempt to praise him enough; death is looked on as gain if it attract his grateful notice; and the personal attitude of being his devotee becomes what one might almost call a new and exalted kind of professional specialty within the tribe. The Buddha and Mohammed and their companions and many Christian saints are incrusted with a heavy jewelry of anecdotes which are meant to be honorific, but are simply abgeschmackt ( German: “outrageous, tasteless”) and silly, and form a touching expression of man’s misguided propensity to praise.
    An immediate consequence of this condition of mind is jealousy for the deity’s honor. How can the devotee show his loyalty better than by sensitiveness in this regard? The slightest affront or neglect must be resented, the deity’s enemies must be put to shame (emphasis mine). In exceedingly narrow minds and active wills, such a care may become an engrossing preoccupation; and crusades have been preached and massacres instigated for no other reason than to remove a fancied slight upon the God.
    Fanaticism must then be inscribed on the wrong side of religion’s account, so long as the religious person’s intellect is on the stage which the despotic kind of God satisfies. But as soon as the God is represented as less intent on his own honor and glory, it ceases to be a danger.”

  20. emmageraln
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on emmageraln.

  21. matunos
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Not that I agree at all with this modern-day witch-hunt among this semi-feral population, but since when does having Down’s Syndrome ipso facto absolve someone from responsibility?

    There are different severities of Down’s Syndrome; I wouldn’t want to conclude anything without knowing this girl’s particulars.

    At any rate, even without Down’s Syndrome, she’s still only 12, and the case against her spuds ridiculous on its face.

    Most religions are among the most dangerous, aside from Buddhism and Jainism, and maybe a couple others. Certainly the Abrahamic ones have a lot of blood on their hands. Does anyone doubt that if the Vatican had maintained its clout from the Dark Ages, they would inspire any less bloodlust? They only tamed themselves because they have to. Think of it as a chronic infection that our cultural immune system is able to contain, as long as that immune system is not otherwise compromised.

    • Posted August 27, 2012 at 4:23 am | Permalink

      Religion is evil full stop. How does the pope sleep at night . He is really an atheist but wont admit it. Being in the German Nazi Youth must have made him one.
      Cowards kill and abuse.

      • Posted August 27, 2012 at 4:30 am | Permalink

        Rubbish. The Pope is bad enough without making him worse than he is. Many people were automatically inducted into the Hitler Youth without their knowledge and with no choice, i.e. all people of a certain age were automatically inducted, at least on paper. This was the case with Ratzinger. Valid criticism is fine, sure, but don’t stoop this low, especially since there are enough valid points to criticize.

  22. Posted August 26, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    “I’m always surprised at atheists who take out readily and gleefully after Catholics or fundamentalist Protestants, but remain largely silent on the greater excesses of Islam.”

    Let me explain: Catholics are not prone to great excess like the followers of Islam, but that’s because they have been forced to avoid excess by Western secular laws that restrain them.

    However, it is Catholics and other Christians who insist that Canada was founded on Christian principles instead of on the greed for fur and fish, who insist that God and the Lord’s prayer is and should ever remain an important part of public procedure, and who have to be physically restrained from killing or maiming abortion clinic employees.

    Pardon the cliche, but we all pick our battles, and Catholics/Christians are the focus of my battle against religious bigotry and influence.

    • Explicit atheist
      Posted August 26, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      It is not practical to say we will react differently to the same offense depending on the identity of the offender. That doesn’t work, it is self-defeating, it undermines the integrity of the complaint by turning the complaint into an attack on particular groups instead of a defense of general principles.

      • Posted August 26, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

        I did not say I “react differently to the same offense depending on the identity of the offender.”

        The integrity of the complaint is not undermined because the Catholic Church that is the offender. The RCC is the organization that uses its not inconsiderable power to affect policy in publicly funded Catholic schools and in legislation on physician assisted dying.

        • Explicit Atheist
          Posted August 26, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

          “A battle against religious bigotry and influence” is compromised insofar as it selectively focuses on targeting particular groups because targeting particular groups shifts the emphasis towards attacking those particular groups and away from defending generally applicable principles representing positive values. You know the expression ‘justice is blind’.

          • darrelle
            Posted August 27, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

            Instead of going right to patronizing her based on a rather labored rationalization of her comment, why don’t you first ask her if what you extrapolated from her comment is an accurate interpretation of her position?

            “Justice is blind” is not relevant criticism about focusing on a specific opposition group because that is the group that you are actually in contact with. What makes you so sure that because she says she reserves her resources to oppose the religious groups that have a direct impact on her life that she is not “defending generally applicable principles representing positive values.”? One does not preclude the other.

            Apologies if it seems like I am trying to speak for you Veronica. That is not my intent.

            • Posted August 27, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

              darrelle

              Thank you for your comment. It is exactly what I would have like to say if I were not so frustrated by Explicit atheist’s refusal to understand my point.

  23. Yazhi
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Not you, too, Jerry!

    That “deafening” silence you seem to think you hear from atheists is not us excusing Islam; rather, it is us loudly pointing out that Islam and Christianity are indistinguishable when it comes to burning people, save for the accident of a few hundred years of secularism.

    But of course, we can scream “Inquisition” and “Crusade” and “Pogrom” at the top of our lungs all day long, and never make a sound. It’s a new koan: if an atheist says something historically and objectively true but unpleasant, does anyone hear it?

    Every single time the Christians hit the fainting couches over some new Islamic atrocity, we try to point out that Christian theology leads to exactly the same thing when unchecked by secularism, and every single time, the Christians respond with, “Why aren’t you outraged over this atrocity?’

    For the record, we are outraged over the atrocity; but we are still outraged over all the atrocities the Christians committed, too. And we know that the people bemoaning this tragedy only care because it’s their team getting burned; 1,000 stories of Christians doing the same to Muslims goes completely unheard – whether historical or contemporary.

    I cannot say how disappointing is to see you fall for the same, sad, Harris line. The correct response to these tragedies is not, “Look how bad Islam is” but rather “Look how bad all religions are when they wield power.”

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted August 26, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      Fair enough, but I’m talking about present circumstances. But I doubt the Quakers would do the same thing if they were in power!

      And I’m not so sure that if a religious state were established today, say under the Methodists, they’d behave the same way. The advance of secular values might prevent that.
      Catholicism is pretty bad, but they don’t execute people in Vatican City.

    • Explicit Atheist
      Posted August 26, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      I see people like Pat Robertson asserting that advertisers should refuse to run advertisements for atheism. I see the Pope slamming atheism as incompatible with civilization. I see Protestants forming an alliance with the Republican party to enact policies favoring ideology over weight of the evidence. That is all bad enough, but everything bad isn’t equally bad.

      I don’t see crowds of thousands of Christians burning Arab embassies, issuing threats, and even taking hostages—in protest over cartoons published in a Danish newspaper.  I don’t see Christian preachers declaring to “not accept less than a severing of the heads of those responsible”.
      I don’t see seventeen Christian governments issuing a joint statement of protest, calling for the punishment of those responsible for the cartoons. Sometimes, it looks as though a portal in time has opened, and the Christians of the 14th century are pouring into our world.

    • Posted August 27, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      Yazhi, I think you do have to recognise that violence towards infidels is pretty indelibly written into the Qu’ran and the Hadith. While Christianity can be as violent, and has often been more violent than Islam, is not due to the inherent violence of Christian beliefs. Indeed, forgiveness and love, despite evidence to the contrary, are an integral part of Christian ethics, and have been since the start. That there are violence of God traditions in Christianity and Judaism I would not deny, but they are not so deeply embedded in either religion as they are in Islam. It is important to acknowledge this.

      • Posted August 27, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        I’d agree that violence is much more integral to the modern religion of Islam than to the modern religion of Christianity, but I’d note that violence is a cornerstone of Christian scripture, just as it’s a cornerstone of Islamic scripture.

        The Old Testament is one giant bloodbath, of course. And the Gospels are very much about the ultimate battle at Armageddon and how everything in the life of a Christian is a mirror of said battle.

        In Luke 19, Jesus’s parable exhorts Christians to do as he himself will do at Armageddon, and kill all non-Christians. In Matthew 10, Jesus clearly lays out his plan for war and encourages his followers to martyr themselves. That this violence should in no small part be directed against Jews is repeatedly made clear, from the “brood of vipers” epithet to the violence outside the Temple to the cursing of the rabbinic Fig tree to the unrealistic injustices meted out by the Sanhedrin to…well, the list is pretty much non-stop.

        Modern Christianity as it’s typically practiced today is much more a reflection of the Enlightenment than anything else. Even the love-n’-kisses bits of Jesus are pretty repugnant when viewed through the lens of the Enlightenment…go ahead and look up your favorite examples of such, and see how far you have to read back or ahead to find something about slaves and masters or women as chattel or self-mutilation or hellfire and damnation or something else equally noxious. Often, it’s right there in the exact same verse people quote, and it’s never more than a line or three away.

        And those not-awful bits themselves are lacking or fragmentary. The Christian version of the Golden Rule, for example, is incomplete in a horrific way: it gives blessings to the Torquemadas who think it better that you should suffer some weeks of Earthly torment so that you might have the chance to be spared an eternity of damnation. Before “do unto others,” you need some form of “do not do unto others that which they don’t want done unto them,” and the fact that the Gospel writers missed that entirely gave them the righteous moral justification to pursue the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the Conquest of the New World. “I’m only doing this to you because I love you!” Such “love” is exactly the “love” that Jesus preached.

        The problem with Islam is that they’ve yet to have their Enlightenment. They had their Renaissance (about the time the West had their Dark Ages), and then Islam turned around and retreated right back into their Dark Ages. I can’t for the life of me figure out why.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Christopher
          Posted August 27, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

          “In Luke 19, Jesus’s parable exhorts Christians to do as he himself will do at Armageddon, and kill all non-Christians. In Matthew 10, Jesus clearly lays out his plan for war and encourages his followers to martyr themselves.”

          I thought we had passed this, but apparently there is no end to your deliberate twisting and misrepresentation of what the text actually says Ben. Your claim above is nothing but your own misconstrued, completely baseless interpretation, completely overturned by both the text itself, its immediate context, and the rest of the New Testament.

          I challenge you to find it supported by ANY major Christian denomination throughout history (not even the warmongering Roman Catholic church of 2nd millenium understood the text the way you do). Hint: you won’t. The text speaks for itself, and means NOTHING even remotely close to what you would have it mean.

          • Posted August 27, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

            First, you won’t find any Christian denomination that admits that the Bible opens with a story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard, or that it features a talking plant that gives magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero, or that the grand finale is all about a zombie who gets his rocks off by having his thralls fondle his intestines through his gaping chest wound. So why on Earth should it come as any surprise that they obfuscate about the warmongering in the Bible the exact same way they do about the faery tales?

            And, while we’re on the subject, you’ve yet to explain how Jesus explicitly stating, “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me,” in a parable paralleling Jesus’s own plans to do exactly that himself, is not a call for bloodshed.

            All you have done, and repeatedly, is stomp your foot and whine that I’ve misrepresented the text. Never mind, of course, that I’m the one who keeps quoting it referring to the context of the whole chapter — a context that you yourself have agreed I’m accurately representing.

            So, what is it? Jesus said it but didn’t really mean it? He meant the bloodshed to be figurative, not sanguine? He was just pulling everybody’s leg? And how do you know that, and on what authority do you claim to portray your god as a liar?

            If you want the last word on this, you can have it. Just neglect to answer the questions of that last paragraph, and it’s yours.

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Christopher
              Posted August 27, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

              ==First, you won’t find any Christian denomination that admits that the Bible opens with a story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard==

              You again misrepresenting the text aside, last time I checked the majority of Evangelicals in the US alone take Genesis as a whole literally.

              ==And, while we’re on the subject, you’ve yet to explain how Jesus explicitly stating, “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me,” in a parable paralleling Jesus’s own plans to do exactly that himself, is not a call for bloodshed.==

              I am genuinely puzzled as to how on earth you can even understand it as one. Your problem is not just that you completely misunderstand the text itself, but that you ignore the rest of the New Testament as well in the process. Christians are nowhere commanded to be violent to non-believers. In fact, the complete opposite holds – love youre enemies, walk in wisdom towards those who do not believe, do good to all men, do NOT avenge yourselves, etc etc etc. You will not find a single verse in the entire NT that as much as encourages Christians to work violence towards non-believers. It is not even there if you WANT it to be there – the text simply does not allow it. The only way you could even remotely argue it is by nebulous interpretations as your own.

              ==All you have done, and repeatedly, is stomp your foot and whine that I’ve misrepresented the text. Never mind, of course, that I’m the one who keeps quoting it referring to the context of the whole chapter — a context that you yourself have agreed I’m accurately representing.==

              I cannot believe you are serious. The only one here who has been blatantly ignoring the context is you Ben, and I highly doubt that there is a single other person on these comments that fails to see that. All one has to do is to read the chapter to see that it has *NOTHING* *WHATSOEVER* to do with your claimed meaning. Not only that, but your interpretation is so overturned by the rest of the NT that it is not even worth debating.

              ==So, what is it? Jesus said it but didn’t really mean it? He meant the bloodshed to be figurative, not sanguine? He was just pulling everybody’s leg? And how do you know that, and on what authority do you claim to portray your god as a liar?==

              I have already responded to this, and the answer is very simple – Jesus is giving a foreshadowing of His own second coming, when He will judge His enemies. To reinterpret this as *even a permission* for Christians to be violent to non-believers, is so ridiculous that I cannot believe the claim is even being made.

              ==If you want the last word on this, you can have it. Just neglect to answer the questions of that last paragraph, and it’s yours.==

              Nice try, but I am not going to let your duck out of this one, especially not since you insist on making the same amazing claims even when the truth of the matter is rather clear.

              • joe piecuch
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

                you may as well give it up; ducking out is a standard ‘ben ‘never say uncle’ goren debating technique.

              • Posted August 27, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

                I have already responded to this, and the answer is very simple – Jesus is giving a foreshadowing of His own second coming, when He will judge His enemies. To reinterpret this as *even a permission* for Christians to be violent to non-believers, is so ridiculous that I cannot believe the claim is even being made.

                So, according to you, Jesus is the only genocidal warlord in all of literature who would go out of his way to describe, in explicit detail, his intended mass slaughter of the objects of his wrath, but for whom it would be unthinkable for his own lieutenants to do likewise when he directly tells them to do.

                How ’bout we meet halfway and just agree with what you’ve already admitted to, that Jesus himself plans to do the bloodletting, and that you have a personal doctrinal difference with the “WWJD?” set of Christians?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Christopher
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink

                *sigh*

                ==So, according to you, Jesus is the only genocidal warlord in all of literature who would go out of his way to describe, in explicit detail, his intended mass slaughter of the objects of his wrath, but for whom it would be unthinkable for his own lieutenants to do likewise when he directly tells them to do.==

                Ben, it is absolutely irrelevant what me, you or anyone thinks here. What matters is what *the text actually says*, and we have already established that it says no such thing. The only thing that does, is your ridiculous interpretation, which has no basis whatsoever. What is so hard to understand here?

                ==How ’bout we meet halfway and just agree with what you’ve already admitted to, that Jesus himself plans to do the bloodletting, and that you have a personal doctrinal difference with the “WWJD?” set of Christians? Cheers, b&==

                No, we will not meet halfway, because your point is utterly and completely invalid. As already said, Jesus stating that He will bring judgment at His second coming is NOT a command for Christians to be violent. Not. Even. Close. Not only is it dismissed by the text itself, but by the rest of the NT as well. Again, I fail to see what is so hard to understand here.

                Further, could you please show me who these “WWJD Christians”, who interpret these passages the way you do, are?

              • Christopher
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

                Actually, let’s just do it like this:

                Ben, find me a single interpreter in history, from the 1st century until our day, who has interpreted the text the way you do. I will even accept extreme fringe groups and cults (which would in actuality just serve to demonstrate how out of place your interpretation is).

              • Posted August 27, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

                Wait.

                I’m confused.

                Are you somehow claiming that Jesus won’t be triumphantly leading the Battle of Armageddon? Or that said Battle somehow won’t be bloody? Or that it won’t in the deaths of all non-Christians, followed by the eternal torture of all non-Christians? Because you’ve repeatedly acknowledged that Jesus’s “KILL ZEM ALL!” line is directly referring to Armageddon.

                b&

              • Christopher
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

                …or maybe I am just being significantly trolled, in which case I will concede defeat 😦

              • Christopher
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

                ==Are you somehow claiming that Jesus won’t be triumphantly leading the Battle of Armageddon? Or that said Battle somehow won’t be bloody?==

                There he goes, moving the goalposts even further away. This has nothing at all to do with what we are discussing, and you know it.

              • Posted August 27, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

                Ben, find me a single interpreter in history

                See, that’s the difference between science and religion.

                Science starts with observations. I observed that Jesus is quoted as saying, “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before.” And I concluded that Jesus did, indeed, command his followers to bring forth all his enemies, defined as those who did not submit to Jesus, brought before him and slain at his feet.

                Religion starts with authority, and is an eternal game of “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

                You can easily spot the difference.

                Jerry’s book presents the evidence for why evolution is true, and directs you to ways to verify the facts for yourself, including by going to the original sources and performing the same experiments for yourself.

                You Christers, on the other hand, get all huffy when a non-Christian has the unmitigated gall to go to what you claim are the original sources inspired by the ultimate creative force, and then observe that said sources are a fetid pile of bloody bullshit. And that’s when you begin the dodge-and-weave — “But you’re reading it all worng! Jesus wanted us to send valentines to our kittehs, not kill all his enemies!” And you then retreat into more bullshit like insisting that non-Biblical sources are more definitive on the subject of the Bible than the Bible itself.

                I think this is more than enough on the subject from me. As you might have heard some Christians say, “Jesus said it, so that’s good enough for me.” You, on the other hand, seem to think that Jesus was either a liar or the absolute worst rhetorician in all of history…why you should then decide to worship such an incompetent monster is utterly beyond me.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Christopher
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

                ==See, that’s the difference between science and religion. Science starts with observations. I observed that Jesus is quoted as saying,==

                Yes Ben, and then what does science do? It formulates a theory to explain the observations, does it not? And if the theory fails to account for additional observations, is it not modified or discarded? Yes, it is.

                You are not being very scientific here at all, in other words. You dogmatically cling to your ridiculous interpretation of the observation in question, and you absolutely refuse to concede that not only does the observation itself, but other ones as well, completely contradict it. That is flat-earth thinking, not intellectual honesty.

                [rest of post]

                …oh Ben, but has it not been made abundantly clear that *THE TEXT _DOES NOT SAY_ WHAT YOU ARE CLAIMING IT DOES*? In other words, your entire argument is moot, and nothing but an absurd strawman.

              • Posted August 27, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

                Just for the record — and this truly is my last post on the topic, at least in this thread — in the King James Version, the Gospel According to Luke, Chapter 19, Verse 27, in red-letter text, quotes Jesus as saying, “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Christopher
                Posted August 27, 2012 at 11:22 am | Permalink

                I know Ben, this is the text we have been discussing all along, verbatim.

                All the best.

            • joe piecuch
              Posted August 27, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

              “…the grand finale is all about a zombie who gets his rocks off by having his thralls fondle his intestines through his gaping chest wound…”

              you embellish considerably, don’t you? the orgasm, the fondling, the intestines…descriptions such as that do a lot to establish the credibilty of your interpretations.

        • joe piecuch
          Posted August 27, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

          i’m not seeing nearly enough piling on with respect to JEWS; exodus and deuteronomy have plenty of imprecations regarding non-believers: kill them! destroy them! the jews; they’re evil, right? hey, this is fun.

  24. Posted August 26, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    “Catholicism is pretty bad, but they don’t execute people in Vatican City.”

    Catholicism is much more than “pretty bad”; it is awful. However, the present pope is, at times, very conscious of public opinion and how public opinion affects the Catholic Church. But if he could, the pope would execute people in Vatican City.

  25. Posted August 26, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Another example of radical religion’s contribution to humanity. Radical Christians need to take note. Is killing infidels, including abortion doctors, OK if you think God commands it?

  26. suya
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    It is interesting that all the examples given of people being killed for defacing the Quran are Pakistani. That would make me wonder whether there was something else going on other than the “Islamic lunacy”.

    I don’t know that I have any reluctance to “go after Islam” — I hope I take pains to distinguish my own views of Islam from Dawkins (in his shall we make common cause with evangelists mode) and Hitchens (in his shall we drop bombs on Iraq mode) and you (in your last three paragraphs).

    • gbjames
      Posted August 27, 2012 at 5:21 am | Permalink

      I guess those were Pakistani mobs in Afghanistan killing people when some korans were burned a few months back. And those must have all been Pakistanis rioting in Europe over the horror of a cartoon of Mohammed. And It must be Pakistanis who are running Saudia Arabia’s legal system where blasphemy is punishable by death.

      No, it couldn’t be Islam that is the common thread here. That suggestion would be racist.

  27. Posted August 26, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Coyne, a small typo… s/b “RusHdie’s fatwa”.

  28. Posted August 27, 2012 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    “the girl had Down Syndrome. She could hardly be held responsible even if she did burn the holy book.”

    True, but irrelevant. To not hold her responsible because of this requires a level of understanding which, if it existed, wouldn’t have allowed such a fiasco to happen in the first place.

  29. Katkinkate
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    It seems obvious to me that the incident with the girl burning the koran was staged to make an excuse to evict the christians out of the town. What I wonder is how much of the increasing intolerance of some groups against others worldwide is a result of the stressors of increasing population and competition for resources?

  30. Posted August 27, 2012 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    I wouldnt like to come face to face with any gods as they all seem evil,teach evil.
    Why doesnt the world stand up to these barbarians.
    Near me at one of the many churches in my area it says ‘Jesus loves you’ If this is what they say is love they are round the bend.Is this what some priests say to the children they are about to abuse.
    Governments are more concerned with the Banks than human beings rights.

  31. Arnie
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure this whole thing was made up to eliminate Christians from that area.

  32. Coolred38
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Having lived in a Muslim country for 23 years I can say from experience that even the most self proclaimed moderate Muslim will argue and get offended like an extremist when pushed on certain points…like Israel, disrespecting the prophet, treating the Quran with anything but awe and reverence and when trying to excuse “unislamic” behavior by Muslim govts. That’s not real Islam is generally the excuse given…personal experience has shown me that many many Muslims have no idea what Real Islam is.

    Btw according to Islamic beliefs…burning the Quran is the proper way to dispose of it…either that or burying it in land not likely to be spoiled later. To accuse people of blasphemy in this regard is usually saved exclusively for nonmuslims. It’s not the burning they are upset about but the religion of the person who did it. Sunni Muslim govts tear down Shiaa and Sufi mosques all the time resulting in qurans being destroyed, burned, defaced…nobody cares.

    • Christopher
      Posted August 27, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      This is very true – Al Jazeera ran a very interesting round-table a few months ago about the riots following a Quran being unwittingly burned at a US army base. One of the participants pointed out this farce immediately – it is only when non-muslims do something “offensive” that it truly becomes offensive to the muslims. When the Taliban bombed schools and blew up Qurans in the process, nobody complained.

  33. Posted August 27, 2012 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    I think this is particularly important.

    I’m always surprised at atheists who take out readily and gleefully after Catholics or fundamentalist Protestants, but remain largely silent on the greater excesses of Islam.

    I have no doubt in my mind that Islam is a dangerous religion, and it will be dangerous wherever Muslim live in large numbers. This kind of violence and intolerance is a defining feature of the religion, and moderate Muslims remain silent, I believe, largely because they know that this is so. It’s one thing to live peacefully, it is another thing to deny some of the foundational tenets of your faith, and violence against infidels is written indelibly into the defining documents of Islam. That, I think, is inescapable, and Muslims will continue to be a danger where they live in large numbers.

  34. Christopher
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    ==Wait. I’m confused. Are you somehow claiming that Jesus won’t be triumphantly leading the Battle of Armageddon? Or that said Battle somehow won’t be bloody?==

    And there he goes, moving the goalposts again, now even further away from the last place he left them at.

  35. Posted August 27, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    “Perhaps that’s out of fear of appearing racist, or perhaps it’s just out of fear for one’s skin”

    Fear is my reason.

    Where my husband used to work there was a muslim who was very intense. One day he sent a message to my husband saying that, among other things, America got what it deserved on 9/11 and that there should be more such things until America paid for its crimes.

    It terrified me, I knew he was involved with an extremely strict type of muslim practices but I never thought that the people who believed this were the people in the next office at your work. I thought it was always crazies in other countries with horrible lives and no education.

    I wanted to inform on him to someone/anyone, even the FBI but I was too scared to be found out as an informer and be killed by him or his friends. Even now I am too afraid to speak out because this man knows my name, my husbands name and my husbands family members.

    The monsters are all around us in plain site, we just don’t know it.

    I am still scared of him.

    • Posted August 27, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Chilling.

      Statistically, this has to be an isolated incident. You stand far more chance of being killed in a car accident than in by a religious fanatic. So why worry?

      But when you’re exposed to this at first hand…

      /@

  36. Posted August 27, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Science and Atheism and commented:
    I cannot get my head around killing someone for damaging a book.

  37. religionenslaves
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Why do you (we?) lower the standards of morality when it comes to islam? Why is it relevant whether the girl is handicapped or not? Why does it matter whether she burnt or not pages of a pernicious fable? Are you (we?) saying that if a fully rational adult first pooed on the Koran, then set it alight and finally doused the flames with his urine, then he would be any more deserving to be persecuted than the girl in question?

  38. Posted August 27, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    “But for good people to do evil things…”

    /@

  39. Steve in Oakland
    Posted August 28, 2012 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    Another example of how religion twists minds.

  40. Steve in Oakland
    Posted August 28, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    While we’re working on bashing religions equally, I’d like to tell a story about a workplace event that could’ve gotten real nasty instead of just very unpleasant.

    I worked as a paralegal at a big lawfirm in San Francisco for several years. There was a big turnover in legal secretaries there – truly a “now you see them; now you don’t” situation, with secretaries taking other jobs, or being fired for things like having lied on their resumes.

    One time Human Resources hired three women secretaries at the same time. Because they had all started together they would go to our breakroom together, too, for lunch and breaks. Not too long after they started one of the secretaries asked the other two what religion they were. One of the other secretaries responded that she was an atheist, and had been brought up as an atheist. This upset the woman asking, but nowhere near as much as she was when the third woman told her that she had been raised a Hindu but was now an atheist, also.

    The inquisitive secretary turned out to be a Pentecostal nut case: She went ballistic on the other two women. The thought of one being an atheist was bad enough, but for one to have also been a Hindu was more than she could handle. She started screaming and creating quite the scene. The Human Resources manager was summoned by one of the other people in the breakroom who was frightened by this strange turn of events, and she [the HR mgr] came in to the breakroom to try to calm things down. But the Pentecostal woman was having none of it. She turned her wrath on the HR woman, accusing her of “hiring blasphemers and godless communists.” Far from calming down, she got even crazier than before, sweeping the food and other things off of a table onto the floor, and continued screaming bloody murder, interspersed with her claims that god and Jesus loved us, and it was the act of total ingrates for anyone to not believe that.

    The HR woman called building security, who had to physically restrain the woman and remove her from the building. She was fired as she was hustled out the door, screaming that she “was going to come back and shoot this place up.”

    Building security posted her picture for all the security people to see, with instructions to not allow her in the building, and, if she did get in, to not let her get on an elevator. Our floor was “a secure floor,” which meant we had to carry cards in order to get through any doors. It made for some strange comings and goings for the rest of us for about a week, as we all feared that the woman had become so crazed that she may indeed “come back to shoot this place up” before we could get through a security door where it was unlikely she would get to us.

    Another big lawfirm a couple of blocks away had been shot up about ten years before [“The 101 California Street Massacre”], with several people killed, and many more wounded, so we took those kinds of threats seriously.

    Religion can be murderous. It seems ironic that someone who claims to worship Jesus, “a man of peace” [they say], would be so quick to resort to threats of violence because someone wouldn’t share her beliefs. It was like a bad dream, and everyone was glad that the Pentecostal woman did not come back to make us the latest workplace massacre. It also got everyone talking about religion. I was pleasantly surprised to find so many atheists among my fellow workers once the Pentecostal nutcase got us talking about such things.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 28, 2012 at 6:40 am | Permalink

      Queue the “that isn’t _real_ Christianity” commenters…

      • Christopher
        Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        It isn’t. There are clear criterias laid forth in the Bible as to what constitutes a Christian.

        • gbjames
          Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

          Some things are soooo easy to predict.

          So, Christopher, who gets to define what a “real” Christian is?

          (Two thousand years of sectarian dispute on this subject provides the answer: Anyone who feels like it!) (Although, I don’t doubt that YOU have the TRUE answer based on YOUR reading CORRECT reading of God’s Divine Word.)

          • Christopher
            Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

            Your comment here and elsewhere demonstrates a rather clear ignorance of just how coherent Christian theology has remained throughout history, especially since the reformation (do your homework, and you will see that conflicts in doctrine have concerned well-defined specifics, not the massive extremities you would claim). The example given in the post here, about a woman who got raging mad and started making threats of violence, is a clear example of what the Bible labels “acts of the flesh (see Galatians 5). People who practice such thing will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

            What makes a Christian is laid out rather clearly in Scripture: a Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ, someone who is indwelled by the Spirit of God, and who lives according to Gods Word.

            • gbjames
              Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

              I was right! You have the TRUE definition because you read it right there in the Bible! Unlike those other not-real-Christians who get it wrong. I’ve never heard of a Christian who would say anything different on this subject.

              (And, fwiw, I don’t need to claim “massive extremities”. I only need to glance at two thousand years of sectarian dispute, much of it violent, to recognize that differences in what constitutes a “true” Christian is ubiquitous in history.)

              • Christopher
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

                Yes, because I read it right in the Bible, and because the interpretation of the Bible is rather clearcut, if you are willing to simply read it as it is. Again, do your homework – you will find that the cults who pervert the plain meaning of Scripture are those who refuse to read it plainly and in context. It truly is not that difficult to interpret the text – the problems arise when you have people like our friend Ben Goren here, who labors hard to make the text mean something he KNOWS it does not mean.

                Further, you will find that the sectarian disputes you claim have more or less always included specifics, not generalities.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

                “…because the interpretation of the Bible is rather clearcut…”

                And now you are just trying your hand as a stand-up comic.

              • Christopher
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

                Trust me, it is. The text means what it says, and it is far from being as cryptic as critics like you (whom I honestly doubt have ever done any honest research of what you are critiquing) would have it be. The problems arise when cults and other heretics do not want the text to mean what it plainly says, and hence read something different into it. That, or they cherrypick whatever parts they like (or which suits their belief systems) and leave out the rest.

              • Christopher
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

                And yes, I am well aware that there has been disagreement between “Christian” denominations throughout history. The reason is simply because there have not been many real Christians at all since the days of the apostles. History thus paints a very poor picture of what actual Christian coherence is like. See: http://www.atruechurch.info

              • gbjames
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

                “…there have not been many real Christians at all since the days of the apostles..”

                OK.. So which is it? There have been very few REAL Christians or, as you claimed earlier, that this is all CLEARLY laid out in the Bible and that disputes are only minor quibbles over detail? You can’t have it both ways.

              • Christopher
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

                Have what both ways? My contentions were only these:

                1. The Bible lays out clearly what constitutes a real Christian

                2. There has been (based on this standard) few real Christians in history.

                Now where is the contradiction?

              • gbjames
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

                “Trust me…”

                OH! Well never mind then! It’s all so clear now!

                Grow up, Christopher. There is no reason to believe in your invisible friend and “trust me” is not going to win you a convert.

              • Christopher
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

                Why so many red herrings? You are moving the discussion miles away from where it was. You made an argument about disagreements in interpretation, and I answered it. Nowhere did we discuss the existence of God or proselytizing.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 11:20 am | Permalink

                The heart of religion is belief in things without evidence. And as a consequence there is no way to objectively determine who has the One True interpretation. Which means that one person’s True Christianity is another’s vile heresy. And I just have to trust you.

                It is inevitable that given faith-based world views there can be no resolution as to who has the true interpretation of God’s divine rule set.

                Whenever some horror is motivated by religion we hear the same thing. “That wasn’t the True Faith.” But yes, it is the true faith. The horror-generator’s faith is just as true as yours is.

              • Christopher
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

                ==The heart of religion is belief in things without evidence.==

                Not Christianity, no. Christians believe on the basis that they have “evidence of the things not seen”, and thus good reasons to believe.

                ==And as a consequence there is no way to objectively determine who has the One True interpretation. Which means that one person’s True Christianity is another’s vile heresy. And I just have to trust you.==

                Sorry, but this is nonsesen. The fact is that the Bible is a collection of documents, written for a target audience, with the intent of being understood, while being written in a way that is indeed understandable (and this is the claim of the text itself, not a claim of me or anyone else). For an example, you need only look to the letters of Paul. These were letters written by a man to his associates, in very plain language, and the meaning is not at all cryptical. They are letters, meant to be understood, and phrased accordingly. This mythology that believers cannot “decide what is allegory and what is not”, as if they were all completely confused as to what the Bible means, is pure nonsense. Read it for yourself and see – the text itself makes it very clear when it is being allegorical (such as in the Psalms), and when it is not (such as in the historical accounts). The times “disagreements” arise about this, again, is frequently when people are uncomfortable with the plain (and correct) meaning of the text, and thus resorts to calling it “allegorical” in order to make the discomfort go away. The text, however, stands on its own.

              • Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

                Yes, the Bible means what it says

                /@

            • gbjames
              Posted August 28, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

              ==The heart of religion is belief in things without evidence.==

              Not Christianity, no. Christians believe on the basis that they have “evidence of the things not seen”, and thus good reasons to believe.

              Please provide this evidence. In its absence, the rest is all self-serving noise.

              • Christopher
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

                An example is Daniels prophecy regarding the Messiah being killed, predicted to the very year over 500 years prior to the event itself. Such fulfilled prophecy, in my book, is strong evidence of divine origin.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

                Oh, Jeebus, you have low standards for evidence.

              • Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

                @ Christopher

                Such fulfilled prophecy, in my book, is strong evidence of textual amendments and revisionism.

                Unless you can provide pre-Christian manuscript sources for that prophecy and extra-Biblical evidence of Jesus’s death. No?

                @ GB

                You’re doing a sterling job arguing against joe’s unreasonably broad view of Christianity on the one hand and Christopher’s unreasonable narrow view on the other!

                /@

              • Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

                * unreasonably

              • Christopher
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

                ==Oh, Jeebus, you have low standards for evidence.==

                I don’t – only a fool would follow the doctrine of the Bible if they were not sure it is true. From every aspect I have examined it, I find that the Bible holds up. The alleged criticisms that can be leveraged sometimes look good up front, but on closer examination they fall apart.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 29, 2012 at 5:43 am | Permalink

                Face. Palm.

        • Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

          Anybody boneheadedly stupid enough to use such a crass solecism as “criterias” MUST be a christian. No rationalist could ever be so thick.

          • Christopher
            Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

            Please explain how this is a “crass solecism”, when this is the very set of criterias that have been present since the dawn of Christianity?

            • Posted August 28, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

              The word is “criterion” and its plural is “criteria”, you shitwit

              • Christopher
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

                I am not a native english speaker. Even if I was, that is an incredibly pathetic comeback.

                Thank you, by the way, for not answering the question.

              • whyevolutionistrue
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

                Okay, we’re not having any namecalling. You apologize or I’ll ban you, donotwash.

              • Christopher
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

                Ah, I see your beef, I got solecism confused with something else. My apologies, again, not a native speaker.

                That does not, of course, in any way take away from your fact that calling people out on grammar is a low debate tactic. All the best.

              • Posted August 28, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

                I apologise.

                It might be an interesting debating tactic to ensure that the words you use are those with whose usage you’re familiar (in whatever language). Otherwise your argument loses force.

              • Christopher
                Posted August 28, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

                I agree, but slips do happen at times unfortunately.

          • Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

            Grammar Nazi? Then you’re probably an atheist!

            But even educated, rational people aren’t above making such mistakes…

            /@

            • Posted August 29, 2012 at 5:32 am | Permalink

              Dont make fun of anything nazi. Ilived during the war and saw on pathe news ive men being put in to ovens. I should not have seen this as I was a little girl, but from that day Ibelieve I was an atheist. Would a good god allow this to happen, no.
              Good without god is possible you know although religious apologists say this cannot be so. Read the bible and see how many died at the hands of a so called god.

              • Posted August 29, 2012 at 5:57 am | Permalink

                I’m sorry if you’re offended, elaine, but that boat has already sailed; “nazi” (or “little Hitler”) is widely used for any kind of petty authoritarianism and “grammar nazi” is a very well established internet meme.

                I think no-one who uses “nazi” in those contexts is making light of the Holocaust.

                /@


%d bloggers like this: