Sam does it again

A lot of people malign Sam Harris, usually over torture and Iran, but also about his perceived “Islamophobia” (I swear, that word is misused as often as is “misogyny”).  Yet he’s right on the money in asserting that Islam really is different from—and more malign—than other faiths. It almost amuses me to see the gyrations of atheists and liberals who pretend that this isn’t true.

Over on his website Sam has a beautifully written piece, “On the freedom to offend an imaginary god,” that is aimed perfectly at those who claim that all religions are the same: equally benign or equally malevolent.  A quote, or rather sizable chunk of Sam’s piece:

Consider Mormonism: Many of my fellow liberals would consider it morally indecent to count Romney’s faith against him. In their view, Mormonism must be just like every other religion. The truth, however, is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more than its fair share of quirks. For instance, its doctrine was explicitly racist until 1978, at which point God apparently changed his mind about black people (a few years after Archie Bunker did) and recommended that they be granted the full range of sacraments and religious responsibilities. By this time, Romney had been an adult and an exceptionally energetic member of his church for more than a decade.

Unlike the founders of most religions, about whom very little is known, Mormonism is the product of the plagiarisms and confabulations of an obvious con man, Joseph Smith, whose adventures among the credulous were consummated (in every sense) in the full, unsentimental glare of history. Given how much we know about Smith, it is harder to be a Mormon than it is to be a Christian. A firmer embrace of the preposterous is required—and the fact that Romney can manage it says something about him, just as it would if he were a Scientologist proposing to park his E-meter in the Oval Office. The spectrum between rational belief and self-serving delusion has some obvious increments: It is one thing to believe that Jesus existed and was probably a remarkable human being. It is another to accept, as most Christians do, that he was physically resurrected and will return to earth to judge the living and the dead. It is yet another leap of faith too far to imagine, as all good Mormons must, that he will work his cosmic magic from the hallowed ground of Jackson County, Missouri.

That final, provincial detail matters. It makes Mormonism objectively less plausible than run-of-the-mill Christianity—as does the related claim that Jesus visited the “Nephites” in America at some point after his resurrection. The moment one adds seer stones, sacred underpants, the planet Kolob, and a secret handshake required to win admittance into the highest heaven, Mormonism stands revealed for what it is: the religious equivalent of rhythmic gymnastics.

The point, however, is that I can say all these things about Mormonism, and disparage Joseph Smith to my heart’s content, without fearing that I will be murdered for it. Secular liberals ignore this distinction at every opportunity and to everyone’s peril. Take a moment to reflect upon the existence of the musical The Book of Mormon. Now imagine the security precautions that would be required to stage a similar production about Islam. The project is unimaginable—not only in Beirut, Baghdad, or Jerusalem, but in New York City.

The freedom to think out loud on certain topics, without fear of being hounded into hiding or killed, has already been lost. And the only forces on earth that can recover it are strong, secular governments that will face down charges of blasphemy with scorn. No apologies necessary. Muslims must learn that if they make belligerent and fanatical claims upon the tolerance of free societies, they will meet the limits of that tolerance. And Governor Romney, though he is wrong about almost everything under the sun (including, very likely, the sun), is surely right to believe that it is time our government delivered this message without blinking.

I wish I could write like that. I love the dry humor of the seer stones and underpants, and the bracing truth of  “Take a moment to reflect upon the existence of the musical The Book of Mormon. Now imagine the security precautions that would be required to stage a similar production about Islam. The project is unimaginable—not only in Beirut, Baghdad, or Jerusalem, but in New York City.”

If you can imagine that, then your rational faculties need checking.  While I can’t match Sam’s prose, I take pleasure in sharing his views, and in seeing them so well expressed.

128 Comments

  1. Posted September 19, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    You said something nice about Sam, used the word misogyny and atheist. I’ll be handing out the popcorn.

    Also, I’m not so sure that this is a typo: “I sweat, that word is misused as often as is “misogyny””

    Seems apropos to me!

    • Posted September 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      I’ll be handing out the popcorn.

      A bag over here, if you please!

      b&

  2. Posted September 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    I’ll agree with Sam that Islam as practiced is much worse than the various flavors of Christianity as practiced.

    Where he and I part ways — and, to be fair, I haven’t gone to the source documents and I’m only reporting on quotes of his that others have offered up — is in his claim that there are scriptural properties unique to Islam that explain this difference.

    Is the Q’ran horrific? No doubt.

    But so are the Gospels, so is the Tanach.

    And Christianity had its Crusades, its Inquisition, its Conquistadors — and, let’s not forget, quite recently, the Holocaust, which was carried out by devout Christians with “Gott Mitt Uns” on their belt buckles at the behest of a man whose writings were clear echoes of Martin Luther.

    Clearly, there’s something else at play here other than the relative nastinesses of the holy texts. Anybody who can’t imagine that this should be the case has rational faculties in need of a checkup.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Chris Quartly
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      Sam does say that other holy books and religions have terrible messages in them, but the thing he tries to hammer home is that right now, Islam poses a more real threat in the world (in terms of physical violence). The recent riots is evidence of this.

      • Heber
        Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        ^^ That’s exactly right. Sam has said that Islam right now is much like Christianity 400 years ago. I don’t think he has never said that the Qu’ran is worst scripturally than the Bible. Though if he has, I agree.

        The bible is at least mitigated by some few peaceful injunctions in the NT (love thy neighbor as thyself, turn the other cheek, do onto others as you would like to be done onto you, etc..) And so Christians can choose to ignore the violent verses and cherry pick the more noble ones. The Qu’ran doesn’t lend itself to this discriminatory culling.

        • Heber
          Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

          *It should be “I don’t think he has ever said”

        • Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

          Oh, there’re plenty of fluffy bunnies and butterflies in the Q’ran — at least, if you put on the same shit-filtering rose-colored goggles as Christians wear when reading the Bible.

          http://www.juancole.com/2006/03/peace-and-love-in-quran-list-of.html

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Heber
            Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

            Not without its caveats.

            “68. They do not call on any deity other than the one God. They do not kill a person, the taking of whose blood God has forbidden, except for just cause [feel free to interpret ‘just cause’ as you will]. They do not commit adultery. Those who commit these acts must pay [I wonder how. It’s not monetarily]. Their torment on the Judgment Day will be doubled, and they will be consigned to eternal abasement [who could’t tolerate the torment?–”

            Anyway, my main point was to dispel your idea that “his [Sam’s] claim that there are scriptural properties unique to Islam that explain this difference.”

            • Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

              So? All the warm-n-fuzzy passages in the Bible have their caveats as well. “Thou shalt not covet,” for example, implicitly equates women with chattel slaves and livestock.

              b&

              • Leo
                Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

                It “implicitly equates women with chattel”. That’s the difference. It is implicit and not prescriptive and in our society we have managed to get past that attitude.

                The Qur’an is quite clear that the woman is inferior to the man and there is a vast body of Hadiths that institutionalize that view.

                And that is just one example. The Bible is not pretty, the Qur’an (with its attendant prophetic traditions) are just downright ugly.

              • Posted September 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

                Exodus 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

                Should that not be made explicit enough for you, there’re plenty of other passages dictating how many scheckels a bride is worth and so on. The only reason it’s implicit in the Decalogue is that it had already been made explicit.

                b&

              • Posted September 20, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

                “Who can find a woman of valor, for her price is far above rubies.”

        • Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

          Actually, Sam has said, in at least a couple of recorded debates, that parts of the Old Testament (Timothy, Judges, Leviticus, etc) are worse than anything in the Koran. But luckily, Jews and Christians don’t take those books seriously anymore…

          • Leo
            Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

            1. Timothy is New Testament and cannot hold candle to anything in the Qur’an.

            2. Judges, Joshua, Leviticus are still taken seriously by the Jews and some Christians but they are historical narratives (Leviticus is only partially so) with no prescriptive force. ALL Of the Qur’an has either prescriptive or, at least, hortatory force.

            • Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

              Apologies, clearly when I wrote Timothy I was thinking of a different, Old Testament book. Sorry.

              Also, doesn’t Leviticus contain prescriptive rules? The gay-bashing Christian fundies certainly seem to think so…

              • Leo
                Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

                Correct, as I said, Leviticus is partly prescriptive and contains some seriously ugly stuff. Christians who use it are morons because you cannot eat pork and bash gays using Lev 20:13. There are passages in St Paul that they ought to use for that purpose (not that I advocate gay bashing, mind you).

                Jews claim that since the destruction of the Temple no one has the authority to apply the punishments in Leviticus although they are still valid.

                The Qur’an prescribes cutting off hands and feet of the thieves and flogging and killing adulterers and it is the current and immutable state of the Sharia law.

        • Tumara Baap
          Posted September 19, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

          Your assumption that the Koran has no positive social message is not true. You don’t get to be one of the largest religions by being singularly malevolent. The Koran contains flowing poetry about brotherhood, egalitarianism, love and justice. Whenever Muhammad was the political underdog, he would emphasize virtues such as peace and understanding. When he had the upper hand – well he would be his true self. This was caravan raiding, slave peddling, pedophile of con man bent on world hegemony. You also cannot lump all muslims into a single basket of sickos. One can argue that throughout history muslims have been more civil towards Jews than have Christians. Even today there are numerous sufi influenced Islamic sects from Turkey to India that are progressive, tolerant and accepting of modernity.

          • gbjames
            Posted September 20, 2012 at 5:09 am | Permalink

            “You also cannot lump all muslims into a single basket of sickos.”

            That depends on the scale you are measuring on. While it is certainly true that not all muslims advocate violence, they all do belong lumped into the “believes in the virtue of faith and in a set of propositions about the world for which there is no evidence” pile. And by virtue of being in that pile, even nice muslims (and nice christians) lend support to the extreme sickos.

    • Gary W
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      Where he and I part ways — and, to be fair, I haven’t gone to the source documents and I’m only reporting on quotes of his that others have offered up — is in his claim that there are scriptural properties unique to Islam that explain this difference.

      Harris cites, for example, more than 50 passages in the Koran expressing hostility and contempt towards non-Muslims, many of them virulently, violently hostile. This is why jihad is such a central component of Islamic teaching. If you think you can cite an equivalent set of passages in the Christian scriptures, do it.

      • Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        I’ll see you your 50 passages and raise you an entire evil Bible:

        http://www.evilbible.com/

        http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/

        Cheers,

        b&

        P.S. Be sure to follow through the links on those pages, in which, for example, you’ll find over fourteen times as many intolerant passages as Sam says are in the Q’ran. b&

        • Gary W
          Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

          P.S. Be sure to follow through the links on those pages, in which, for example, you’ll find over fourteen times as many intolerant passages as Sam says are in the Q’ran.

          The issue isn’t “intolerant passages” (whatever that’s supposed to mean), but passages that express hostility and contempt towards non-believers, because that is the basis for jihad and Islamic terrorism against the west. The list you cite is a mixture of all sorts of stories and rules, few if any of which address the treatment of non-believers. Among the first ten, one is about masturbation, two are about circumcision, and three are about marriage.

          • Posted September 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

            #1 is YHWH’s land grant to Israel.

            #2, #3, #5, #6, and #7 all establish the superiority of the circumcised Israelites over the non-circumcised Canaanites.

            Shall I continue?

            No. No need.

            b&

            • Gary W
              Posted September 20, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

              Shall I continue?

              Only if you’re trying to say something that is actually relevant to the point at issue.

        • Posted September 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

          Here’s what I gleaned from one of the sites:

          Intolerant passages

          Tanakh – 444
          New Testament – 286
          Quran – 534

          “But I’m for toleration and for drinking at an inn, says the old bold mate of Henry Morgan.”

      • Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        Have you not read the Old Testament? What is the OT except one long bloody orgy of god-ordered jihad/genocide against cultures that worshipped other gods?

        • Gary W
          Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

          Have you not read the Old Testament? What is the OT except one long bloody orgy of god-ordered jihad/genocide against cultures that worshipped other gods?

          But for Christians, the Old Testament is superceded by the New Testament. Jesus’s death and resurrection supposedly wiped away all that sin. There is no equivalent to this in the Koran.

          • Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

            Okay, pop quiz time.

            What is the origin, meaning, and significance of the phrase, “jot nor tittle”?

            b&

          • Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

            Christians believe the god of the NT is the same eternal unchanging being as the god of the OT. The OT god ordered lots of genocide against unbelievers (and also himself once killed all the people in the world except 8 people). The Christians of today CHOOSE to ignore those parts of their story. They didn’t always—we used to burn witches here in the US, Europeans used to torture and kill heretics (even if they merely believed the wrong “flavor of the day” of Christianity). Christians still use OT arguments when it suits them, such as the ten commandments, or when looking to justify gay-hatred or slaveholding. And of course, the Jewish religion is all about that bloody, vengeful OT god.

            • Gary W
              Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

              Christians believe the god of the NT is the same eternal unchanging being as the god of the OT.

              Yes, but they also believe that the NT describes a “new covenant” between God and Man arising from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Indeed, this is one of the defining features of Christian theology. There is no equivalent to this in the Koran. The old rules are still in force. Those rules include a profound hostility towards unbelievers, which is manifest in the Islamic duty of Jihad. As Sam Harris puts it, Jesus spread the faith by sacrificing himself. Mohammed spread the faith at the point of a sword.

              • Posted September 19, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

                Still waiting for your quiz answers, Gary.

                b&

              • Posted September 19, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

                But even today’s Christians use the OT stuff when it suits them, and Christians of previous centuries killed people because of that stuff. Culture, not religion, determines whether Christians take that stuff seriously. And you forgot the Jews, who have only the OT

                Your “new covenant” doesn’t fit in with Christians’ belief in absolute, unchanging ethical rules such as the ten commandments (also an OT thing).

                Part of the reason they cite the OT is the answer to Ben’s quiz question for you, which you still have not answered.

              • Posted September 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

                Read this article for some perspective:
                http://news.yahoo.com/egypts-mufti-urges-muslims-endure-insults-peacefully-155031953.html

                This Egyptian Islamic leader (the highest-ranking Islamic legal official in the country) says to Muslims “Turn the other cheek.”

                Islam, like Christianity, admits of many interpretations. A person chooses an interpretation that depends partly on the character of the religion but also on the person’ socio-political perceptions.

                I am not saying all religions are equal; some are more poisonous than others, and Islam is up there with the most toxic. But this mufti can say that followers of Mohammed should follow Mohammed’s example and turn the other cheek when insulted. He is apparently giving a common interpretation of Muslim doctrine. To me this shows that the causes of the violence are not strictly religious; we must consider why some Muslims choose harsher interpretations while others choose tolerant interpretations. We see this same dichotomy among Christians.

              • Gary W
                Posted September 20, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

                even today’s Christians use the OT stuff when it suits them,

                But the OT doesn’t suit Christians very well, because they believe it’s been superceded by the NT. Again, there is no equivalent to this in Islam. That’s one reason why the laws and customs in Islamic nations tend to resemble the harsh and primitive morality of the Old Testament (barbaric punishments for crime, extreme oppression of women, extreme intolerance of other religions, etc.) while laws and customs in Christian nations do not.

                To me this shows that the causes of the violence are not strictly religious

                You cannot draw conclusions about the nature of Islam in general from the (unorthodox) views of a single Muslim cleric. I see no evidence that the statement you quote is representative of the views of Muslim clergy (or non-clergy).

                According to the Wikipedia entry on apostasy in Islam:

                The majority of Muslim scholars hold to the traditional view that apostasy is punishable by death or imprisonment until repentance, at least for adult men of sound mind.

                I am not saying all religions are equal;

                No, you’re just trying to promote a false equivalence between Christianity and Islam.

              • Posted September 21, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

                Gary, if you’re not even able to demonstrate the most elementary scriptural literacy — as evidence by your ignorance with respect to “jot nor tittle” — what makes you think anybody is taking you seriously when you make such sweeping and baseless theological pronouncements?

                b&

              • Posted September 21, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

                Gary, that wasn’t just “one guy” I was quoting. He is a top leader in Libya. And yesterday, after a French periodical published cartoons of Mohammed, an influential Muslim leader in that country also urged people to be peaceful and not react violently. Furthermore, there are now numerous condemnations by Muslims of the murder of our ambassador, and today mobs attacked the bases of the group implicated in his killing.

                I am not defending Islam. I am only saying that its holy book is, like the Bible, complex enough that its followers can choose virtually any path. Political and social issues largely determine the path that people take when approaching the Quran (and the Bible).

    • Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCOQukCn0kg

      Sam talks about the differences between Christianity and Islam based on the holy books themselves.

    • papalinton
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

      Ben
      ” Islam as practiced is much worse than the various flavors of Christianity as practiced.”
      That may be case as seen relative to today’s comparison. Go back pre-Enlightenment and I suspect the temperament between the two would have been indistinguishable. And I also suspect Islam has yet to experience being dragged kicking and screaming into modernity as has Christianity since the 17thC.

      • gbjames
        Posted September 20, 2012 at 5:46 am | Permalink

        Actually, the kicking and screaming bit is exactly what we are experiencing right now.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted September 20, 2012 at 6:06 am | Permalink

        “…Islam has yet to experience being dragged kicking and screaming into modernity as has Christianity since the 17thC.”

        Thomas Friedman has made that point in the past, and that much of the current strife reflects Islam in transition. The girls in Iran that knocked the cleric over may support that argument. Anyway, Friedman’s column from a couple days ago has some quotes showing that they’re not all one big happy family.

    • Posted September 20, 2012 at 12:08 am | Permalink

      And that the Mormons were quite as nasty 150 years ago. They’ve calmed down since then.

    • MKray
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 2:48 am | Permalink

      The Romney influence! It is `Gott mit uns’

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted September 20, 2012 at 7:33 am | Permalink

        +1

    • hexag1
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Here is the what makes Islam different:
      Islam has a shorter and more uniform holy book.

      The holy book(s) of Judiasm and Christianity contain many commands from god that are every bit as absolutist and life destroying as anything you would find in the Koran, but if the modern Christian doesn’t want to follow, say this hideous passage (Deuteronomy 13:7-11):

      If your brother, the son of your father or of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the spouse whom you embrace, or your most intimate friend, tries to secretly seduce you, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods,” unknown to you or your ancestors before you, gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near you or far away, anywhere throughout the world, you must not consent, you must not listen to him; you must show him no pity, you must not spare him or conceal his guilt. No, you must kill him, your hand must strike the first blow in putting him to death and the hands of the rest of the people following. You must stone him to death, since he has tried to divert you from Yahweh your God. . . .

      he can simply ignore it, and read the Jesus of Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount (the above verse is never read in church anymore). He can turn to Ecclesiastes, or what have you.

      In Islam, however, it is difficult to do this, because the Koran is a short book, and non-belief is relentlessly demonized on almost every page of the Koran and the Hadith. Turn the page, and you just find more calls to destroy the infidel.

      If the behavior of Joshua can be taken as a guide, Judaism used to be the same way as Islam, but now we have Reform Judaism. Christian Europe was burning scholars alive for five centuries, but it has managed to change. When societies decided they want to liberalize, they could simply ignore the totalitarian passages of Exodus, Kings II, and Deuteronomy, and read the nicer bits about consolation and parables of morality. Love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, etc.

      But the totalitarian, warlike bits of Islam are too thoroughly woven into the fabric of Islamic literature, so it’s too difficult to create a Reform Judaism version of Islam, and that’s the problem. If a Muslim wants to argue for a more liberal interpretation of the religion, he is left to split hairs, and sift through mountains of Koranic venom to find a single grain of peace.

      Christian literature gives more wiggle room for theologians, more sustenance to liberalizers.

      • Posted September 20, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for that. It’s an interesting thesis, and one worthy of further consideration.

        Cheers,

        b&

  3. Posted September 19, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Sam does sometimes seem islamaphobic. However, he is right this time. Islam should be open to ridicule as much as any religion. That muslims overeact to this says something bad about muslims. It does not warrant them special privilege.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      People who aren’t both male & Muslim are wise to be “Islamaphobic” [taking the literal meaning of the term “Islamaphobic”]. Yes?

      • Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        I’ll pass on that.

        It seems to me that much of the problem is due more to Arabic culture than to the religion. They are, of course, intertwined, but we should not ignore the problems due to a culture that has failed to adapt to modernity.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted September 19, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

          I agree with your use of “modernity” since much of the world’s non-first world communities base their alliances/allegiances along tribal/clan/ethnic/religious lines rather than national borders. However the term “Arabic culture” doesn’t fit the bill given that [for example] Persians are not Arabic & yet their institutions, politics & laws are informed by Islamic AND tribal values. Most of the Islamic world is not at all Arabic.

          In the Middle East & Africa at least
          The common theme that I see is despotic [mainly] Islamic theocracies propped up by a variety of foreign nations eager to swap currency, technology, weapons & local influence for minerals [Africa] & oil [Middle East].

          Islam is the glue that is holding these failed states together while simultaneously holding them back from “modernity”. Democracy & “modernity” can’t grow in the cracks & magically flourish under these conditions. Especially when the big money in the more established countries can’t see anything in it for themselves.

        • Posted September 21, 2012 at 5:13 am | Permalink

          But it isn’t just Arab cultures that have blown up over this latest round of outrage over art, and criticism. The conflagration of piety has spread to twenty or so nations not all Arabic. Indonesia isn’t Arabic.

          • Posted September 21, 2012 at 9:01 am | Permalink

            Most Muslims aren’t Arab. Indonesia is the most Muslim nation.
            What I blasphemed against Muhammad is the truth whilst that film lies.I objurgate it.Study ” The Transcendental Temptation” for information on the top religions/superstitions.

      • steve oberski
        Posted September 20, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink

        The same would apply to people who are male and Muslim.

        Far more violence, destruction and death can be attributed to Muslim on Muslim internecine conflict that that due to external causes.

        Islam was barely out of the delivery room before the Shia/Sunni conflict started and 1400 years later people are still being killed over who was the true successor of Mohammed.

    • Marella
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 4:49 am | Permalink

      A phobia is an irrational fear. Fear of Islam is entirely rational especially if one is female, therefore it is not a phobia.

  4. Jim Jones
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    If you can be a Christian, you can be a Mormon. Both are batshit crazy; the only thing Christians have additionally is complete ignorance of the sources of their belief system.

    We know Joseph Smith was a con man – we have to presume Paul of Tarsus was the same.

    • Frank
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      I disagree, and agree with Harris’s point – the origins and scriptures of both Mormonism and Christianity do show an abundance of irrational or wicked claims, but the newness of Mormonism nicely allows us to see much more clearly how the nonsense was invented and spread, and so it seems to take a greater departure from rational thinking to swallow Mormonism than most branches of Christianity. Plus, adding an entire new “book” leaves Mormonism with even more testable (and therefore easily falsified) predictions – that there were vast civilizations of Middle Eastern descendants in North America, with cities, metallurgy, Old World animals, etc., all of which disappeared without a trace relatively recently! And the claim that some Native Americans (they used to say all, but that got too embarrassing) trace their ancestry to the Middle East only a couple thousand years ago is so easily falsified. Any thinking person has to be a bit more gullible to be a Mormon, and, in my experience, Mormons often show a tendency to care about the goal (worldwide conversion) much more than the truth. Many Mormons are fuzzy on their own dogma (which has changed often) and aren’t terribly concerned about the veracity of the religion’s claims.

      • Frank
        Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        I also think that the disrespect for the truth that is more prevalent in Mormonism than elsewhere is in part an explanation of Romney. His shifts on virtually every position, his willingness to alter his views to suit his immediate audience, all point to a person that keeps his eye on the “end” and will do whatever works in terms of the “means.” Harris wonders how Romney could swallow the obvious falsehoods of Mormon dogma, or how he could be comfortable with its official racism until 1978, but none of this is surprising or inexplicable if you realize that Mormons are pragmatic and shrewd about going with whatever works.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      It is also worth noting that the Jewish and Christian bibles are a compilation of works by various different writers some of them writing about fairly mundane things, and of varying levels of credibility. In contrast, both the Koran and the Book of Mormon are a one-man job., and both with virtually no credibility.

      Religion can have its origins in deliberate dishonesty, madness, naivete, any number of things. Some psychologists have suggested Paul had temporal lobe epilepsy which can induce visions.

      • Posted September 21, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        Judaism borrowed the Gilgamesh myth for the Deluge,from Zoroastrianism, the future state [ Not all Orthodox, I understand, believe in the future state.].
        Christians took all the Tanakh,twisting some of it to prophesy about the ever-dead Galilean jerk. Muhammad took from both religions. Smith’s Fraud adds the Book of Mormons.
        And WLC credulously believes what un-accredited writers wrote!

  5. Posted September 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    “I wish I could write like that.”

    So do I!

    Before I go to Harris’ site I would like to highlight my favourite line: “For instance, its doctrine was explicitly racist until 1978, at which point God apparently changed his mind about black people (a few years after Archie Bunker did). . . .” I wonder how many people who are under 30 and reading this post know who Archie Bunker is.

    • Mal
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

      “I wonder how many people who are under 30 and reading this post know who Archie Bunker is.”

      And I wonder how many under the age of 40 know who Alf Garnet is 🙂

  6. xmaseveeve
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Very scary times. The maker of ‘Innocence of Muslims’ is now being sued by an actress he duped into being in the film. She wants the film to be removed from Youtube. For obvious reasons.
    I don’t intend to watch the film, but I understand that it also insults homosexuals. I suppose if they riot they’ll be killed by the Muslim rioters! It’s nuts. It’s the ‘Life of Abdul’.

    • Bebop
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      You should watch it. It is so bad that I can’t see how it can be considered offensive. You really have to want to feel offended to find this “movie” offensive…

      • gbjames
        Posted September 20, 2012 at 4:47 am | Permalink

        Bingo!

        As Salmon Rushdie has pointed out recently, there is a well developed offense-taking industry that has developed in the world of Islam over the past several decades. This kind of “flare-up” will happen over and over until the societies that participate figure out that the world is full of offense and nobody has a right to not be offended.

    • gbjames
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 5:02 am | Permalink

      I agree with Bebop on this. You should watch it. You are not protecting yourself from anything more scary than “Plan 9 From Outer Space”. You won’t become a bigot by watching it.

      • Posted September 20, 2012 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        “I agree with Bebop on this.”

        Words I never thought I’d read here! 😀

        /@

        • gbjames
          Posted September 20, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

          He and I are no doubt just as amazed!

    • Georgia
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Freedom of speech does not protect fraud. Since the actress’ allegations are facially credible (the film maker is a convicted swindler who allegedly violated his parole by using aliases and by accessing the Internet without permission), shouldn’t Youtube and whoever consider taking the trailer down voluntarily until the lawsuit is resolved? Why risk potential further injury to the reputations of innocent parties merely to showcase a meretricious trailer for a film that may not even exist? Seems morally dubious to me.

  7. Heber
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    I enjoy reading everything Harris writes. His style is incomparable. But, this is by far the most brilliant piece Harris has produced in a very long time. Some parts of his prose even seem imbued with a Hitchen-esk’ pungency that never fails to gratify.

    My favorite quote:

    “Carrying a sign that reads “Behead Those Who Insult the Prophet” may still count as an example of peaceful protest, but it is also an assurance that infidel blood would be shed if the imbecile holding the placard only had more power.”

    This is absolutely true, and it may explain the behavioral difference Muslims in the West and Muslims in the Middle East. The less power these people have, the less likely they are to carry out their pernicious intentions.

    • Nicolas Perrault
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      Agreed!

    • Marella
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 4:53 am | Permalink

      I’d say it’s an incitement to violence myself.

  8. jose
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Heresy meant automatic death in my country… centuries ago. No doubt islam is now more dangerous for us than christianity.

    Maryam Namazie reports girls are being sold in secret to “husbands” -owners- which is permitted under sharia law… in the UK. (No links, as I don’t know if a link to her network would be welcome in this website. People interested can get to her blog easily by googling her name.)

    I think however than the accusations of islamophobia Harris received were due to his desire to assign a priori the traits of current islam as a religion to individual persons, confusing the population and the individual levels.

  9. Cremnomaniac
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Sam is exactly right in the passage,

    “The freedom to think out loud on certain topics, without fear of being hounded into hiding or killed, has already been lost. And the only forces on earth that can recover it are strong, secular governments that will face down charges of blasphemy with scorn.

    There appears to be an obvious parallel between Muslim’s reaction to criticism of their religion, and the manner in which they exert control and exercise power on more local levels. Violence and intimidation are often the tools of that control. I’d suggest that Islamic belief is simply a convenience that grants (so interpreted) justification for violence, and hence control.

    I think the mistake that many Muslim’s make is believing that they can threaten violence and act violently, in an attempt to exert control, in an international context. If ever, any country begins to sensor speech to avoid upsetting Muslim’s it’s as Sam states, “The freedom to think out loud on certain topics, without fear of being hounded into hiding or killed, has already been lost.”

    Muslim reaction reminds me somewhat of a child throwing a temper tantrum. Once you give in to the tantrum, and they learn it works, it’s guaranteed they’ll use it whenever they want their way.

  10. gbjames
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m in agreement with Sam except that he suggests that Mitt Romney has a modicum of insight on this subject. He does not. Craven and stupidly expressed political exploits are not to be confused with insight.

    • gbjames
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      Andsub

    • DV
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 6:59 am | Permalink

      Sam’s confusion of Romney’s opportunism for admirable courage of principle is regrettable on this otherwise fine piece. That and Sam’s embarassing ignorance of badminton.

      • Posted September 20, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

        Gotta agree. Sam’s characterization of Romney in this scenario as “hapless” and “confused” misses the mark, perhaps even qualifies as disingenuous.

        Romney’s actions are much more unscrupulously motivated by selfishness and unctuous opportunism. I don’t think I’d go so far as to say he actually has something like a black heart, but the only principle guiding his actions seems to be “what should I say or do to advance myself in the eyes of the GOP?”.

  11. lisa
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Well Mormons are not trying to build nuclear missiles or other WMD’s. At least I don’t think so; probably think Utah is radioactive enough.

  12. E99969F1
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Sam’s written a lot of offensive stuff before, but this crosses the line. I’d like to see him try his hand at badminton or rhythmic gymnastics before he spews more hate speech about them.

    • gbjames
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 5:58 am | Permalink

      Hate speech? Did you actually read it or were you too busy with badminton to bother? Please provide evidence of the “crosses the line” material that has you in such a huff.

      • Claimthehighground
        Posted September 20, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

        gb: It was a joke

        • gbjames
          Posted September 20, 2012 at 6:39 am | Permalink

          Oh. Never mind.

  13. Greg
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Sam’s distillation of the central dilemma of this situation is magnificent: ” These maneuvers [by the Obama administration to censor the offending video from YouTube] attest to one of two psychological and diplomatic realities: Either our government is unwilling to address the problem at hand, or the problem is so vast and terrifying that we have decided to placate the barbarians at the gate.”

    • Pete UK
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

      Even though his touch is pretty light compared to his predecessor, Obama has made the usual God Bless America noises. In other words, he’s gone along with the particular batshit crazy ideas prevalent in the US, known as Christianity.

      Once you’ve decided to embrace one set of batshit crazy based on no evidence, you have no alternative but to allow others to have their own batshit craziness. That’s Faith for you. And if that version says “kill anyone who insults our batshit craziness”, you haven’t really got a leg to stand on. Their batshit craziness just has different rules.

      The only way out is to separate state fom religion and, ideally, to preside over a population that has completely moved on from batshit crazy. Then you’re on much firmer ground when it comes to condemning and/or setting an example.

      • Posted September 20, 2012 at 3:25 am | Permalink

        Good point.

        To the proposition: “There’s an invisible man in the sky who wants me to kill you.”

        It’s a fatal error to respond: “You’re right. There is an invisible man in the sky who wants you to do something, but…”

  14. Posted September 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    “Mormonism stands revealed for what it is: the religious equivalent of rhythmic gymnastics.”

    Come now, rhythmic gymnastics can be quite pleasant to watch.

    • Hayden
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      The team competition is especially impressive.

  15. karlvonmox
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I too am dismayed by the absurd response coming from many secular liberals to this. Some are actually advocating the restriction of speech rights due to the actions of murderers – I cant think of a response more disgraceful.

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

      The same crowd that laudably endeavors to address bullying in schools has phenomenal blinders on when it comes to recognizing Islamist bullies.

    • DV
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      1. Who exactly are advocating restriction of free speech, and what did they say?
      2. I’d like to see those criticizing the de-escalation efforts by the Obama administration, to put their money where their mouth is, and endorse the denigration of Islam in the streets of Benghazi.

  16. Raonoc
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Posts and combox discussions like these exemplify a recent comment made by a prominent atheist author:

    “American atheist movements, though fancying themselves a lion, are more like the gimpy little zebra crossing the river full of crocs.” – Jacques Berlinerblau

    • pulseteresa
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

      What, exactly, does that quote have to do with the conversation on this page?

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 4:13 am | Permalink

      This is just a trollish comment, meant to display the superiority of the commenter. In fact, the person is dead wrong: atheism has grown tremendously in America in the last decade.

      • Posted September 21, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        Tell that to Alister Earl McGrath- ” The Twilight of Atheism.” He thinks that real atheists should be like Sartre and others about the absurd and the angst. John Loftus answers him.

  17. Jim Sweeney
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Everybody realizes of course that Europe and the U.S. have been constantly meddling in Middle Eastern affairs for the last two hundred years, right? That one country had to fight off the French, another the Italians, another the British? That the U.S. overthrew an elected government in Iran and imposed the rule of the Shah? That’s not to mention two wars upon Iraq, military bases in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the occupation of Afghanistan … there’s kind of a long list.

    Islam does seem to be short of redeeming virtues. The oft-heard complaint that it hasn’t undergone a Reformation is arguably wrong; it occurred very early and the fundamentalists won.

    The principal difference between Christian and Muslim fundamentalists is that the oppressions suffered by the former are entirely imaginary, while at least some of those suffered by the latter are quite real. They aren’t always wrong when they identify their oppressors, even though we may have invaded, subverted or exploited them for their own good.

    In short: maybe it’s actually about foreign policy.

    • gmunny33
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

      Except that doesn’t explain the backlash against the depictions of Muhammed in a Dutch newspaper, or the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, or the inexcusable way Islamic extremists (hell, even the moderates) treat women, or any of the numerous other awful things certain Muslims do.

      Terrorism often kills more Muslims than it does anyone else – which doesn’t make sense if it’s all about foreign policy.

      I think most reasonable people can agree that the history of Western imperialism (in the Middle East and elsewhere) is pretty bad. I think Sam would agree with that point. But then, why aren’t Tibetan Buddhists blowing themselves up and taking as many innocent people with them as possible? Where are the Navajo and Hopi and Cherokee and Aborigine terrorists? Pick whichever subjugated, dishonored group of people you want.

      • Claimthehighground
        Posted September 20, 2012 at 6:38 am | Permalink

        “Danish” newspaper; and now a French satirical mag…but more to come from that one, one would predict.

    • Occam
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 2:22 am | Permalink

      Everybody realizes of course that Europe and the U.S. have been constantly meddling in Middle Eastern affairs for the last two hundred years, right?

      Europe, yes, if by “Europe” you intend France, Britain and Russia. The US, not so much, until WW II.

      Speaking of “meddling”: you do, of course, realise that the Ottoman empire, the greatest Islamic entity of its time, had been “meddling” in Europe (and all over the Mediterranean) ever since the 1300s? The Ottoman occupation of Belgrade, Bucharest, Buda, the Turkish sieges of Vienna are still lingering in local memories. I have no sympathies for the sanguinary nationalisms of the Balkans, but I suggest you try explaining to a staunch Serbian or Montenegrin Orthodox (or Macedonian, Cretan, Cypriot for that matter) that the vexations suffered by his ancestors were, quoting you, “entirely imaginary”.

      As of the other wars you mention: the history of wars between Muslim powers, the conquests of Muslims over Muslims, shed a harsh light on the presumed benefits of a “religion of peace”: Muslims have often enough been “invaded, subverted or exploited” by their supposed co-religionaries, and not exactly “for their own good”. There is no case for angelism on any side.

      • Dave
        Posted September 20, 2012 at 2:53 am | Permalink

        And how exactly has the oh-so-evil West “exploited” the muslim world? As far as I can see, by buying their oil. Let’s leave aside the fact that the oil was discovered by western geologists, is extracted, refined and transported using technologies invented in the west (and still largely manned by western experts), and is used to fuel technologies and industries developed in the west, and in other non-Islamic parts of the world such as Japan and China. Apart from oil, the Arab world contributes absolutely nothing to the advancement or well-being of humanity. They produce nothing else that anyone in the rest of the world needs or values. Their culture is mired in the Dark Ages and they show no signs of wanting to climb out. If we didn’t buy their oil the Arabs would still be impoverished camel herders eking out a living in the desert. They would be utterly irrelevant to the modern world and we wouldn’t have to take any notice of their silly tantrums.

        And it’s only down to the decency and fairness of the west that we go through the pretence of treating these failed states as part of the civilised world at all. We could take their oil by force if we wanted to, but we don’t. We pay them for it – and in return we get baying mobs, terrorism, and endless, escalating demands for “respect”. Well, as we say here in the UK – bollocks to that.

        • steve oberski
          Posted September 20, 2012 at 7:53 am | Permalink

          The west does have a vested interest in ensuring that oil rich Muslim nations act strictly as providers of the raw material and do not have the ability to process and market the product themselves. There is minimal refining of the product, there are no middle eastern commodoties exchanges that would allow these nations to exercise financial control over their resources.

          This means that none of the infrastructure is in place in these nations that would allow them to start the transition to a secular democracy.

          For an intersting look into this issue I would recommend the movie Syrina.

        • Mark Fuller Dillon
          Posted September 20, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

          “And it’s only down to the decency and fairness of the west that we go through the pretence of treating these failed states as part of the civilised world at all.”

          As “decent and fair” as we might be in the civilized west, our governments and corporations have tended to favour pliable dictatorships over democracies in that region: uncivilized local thugs have been considered a better business investment.

          It’s hard to be civilized and stable when foreign money is paying for the guns and jails that keep you in the dark….

          • Rhetoric
            Posted September 20, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

            Or how about all those embargos and trade sanctions we place on countries like Iran, Iraq, etc. You really think the top-tier of the government is effected by those, or the rabble in the street? The price of everything skyrockets and they are supposed to have warm-fuzzies for the people responsible for that?

        • Rhetoric
          Posted September 20, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

          “And how exactly has the oh-so-evil West “exploited” the muslim world? As far as I can see, by buying their oil.”

          The real world is so much more nuanced than you would like it to be. It must be really hard for you.

          • Cliff Melick
            Posted September 20, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

            Actually, it is much easier to see the world in terms of just two colors; all those intermediate shades of gray just confuse things.

  18. TJR
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    As has been pointed out before, most of the current unrest is probably just the local ruling classes stirring up trouble to draw attention away from their own greed and incompetence.

    IMHO the main problem in moslem countries, and indeed in the third world in general, is that people have never learned to stand up to their own ruling classes.

    My proposed solution is that all citizens of all third world countries be forced to listen to The Who’s “Won’t get fooled again” on a constant loop until they get the point.

    • Mark Fuller Dillon
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      “IMHO the main problem in moslem countries, and indeed in the third world in general, is that people have never learned to stand up to their own ruling classes.”

      Here in the “western” world, by contrast, we learned how to stand up to *our* own ruling classes… but then we sat back down again, and forgot the lesson. :/

  19. religionenslaves
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 3:23 am | Permalink

    Debating whether the Old Testament is more rabid than the Qu’ran misses the point completely. Even a cursory acquaintance with history shows that revealed religion (whichever fable is based on) unchecked by rationality leads to barbarism. The problem with Islam is not the Qu’ran but rather the combination of 7th century desert “ethics” with 21st century technology (Internet, airplanes, easily detonated bombs, etc.). Moreover, does anyone seriously think that Islam would be a problem for civilized societies if large reserves of oil did not happen to be controlled by Muslim rulers?

  20. Ichthyic
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    The freedom to think out loud on certain topics, without fear of being hounded into hiding or killed, has already been lost. And the only forces on earth that can recover it are strong, secular governments that will face down charges of blasphemy with scorn.

    …and therein lies the REAL difference between the excercise of the various abrahamic faiths around the world.

    you will find, if you bother to look, that the more secularized the government, the less violent the expression of the religious adherents in that country is. It’s damn near a perfect linear fit.

    so, no, those who say that Islam is simply worse, have simply excluded an entire range of variables. The most important of which is the one I just mentioned.

    fail.

    • Sigmund
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure I get your argument.
      There have been many violent incidents in Europe – the 7/7 attack in the UK, the train bombings in Spain and France, the Theo Van Gogh murder in the Netherlands, the suicide bombing in Sweden and the various murder bids on cartoonists and newspaper owners in Denmark.
      All these places have secular governments – much more so than some other places in Europe (for example the Republic of Ireland) that have had little or no religious violence in recent years.
      The violence doesnt seem connected with the secularization of the government but rather, the numbers of fundamentalists who live in the particular nation.

  21. mordacious1
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    My thinking is that christianity would be as bad as islam, if we let them. Luckily, we made it quite clear, long ago, that we won’t put up with stoning and other atrocities long ago, or we’d have plenty of women and gays being stoned. Their are plenty of christians that hate. If we ever become a theocracy, as dominionists want, you wouldn’t be able to tell them (islamic countries) from us.

    • mordacious1
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 5:19 am | Permalink

      Crap, one too many long ago’s…

  22. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    In their view, Mormonism must be just like every other religion. The truth, however, is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more than its fair share of quirks.

    Say what? A religion with quirks? Surely Mormonism must be the only religion with quirks.

    The reason I criticise Harris is his tendency to oversimplify, to put things in “with us or against us” terminology.

  23. DV
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    I reject Sam’s denigration of rythmic gymnastics and badminton. Really he should try actually playing badminton before comparing it to standing in the shower.

  24. Posted September 20, 2012 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Islam is worse than Christianity at this particular juncture in time. I think this is Sam’s point. If we go back to the Middle Ages, the situation would be reversed; Islam was the moral paragon while Christians were self-flaggelating themselves to end droughts and burning heretics.

    “Did you know that 0 – 9 are Arabic Numerals?!? We should go back to Roman Numerals so that we are no longer supporting the terrorists”

    • Leo
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      The “Arabic numerals” are actually Indian and that is what they are called in Arabic.

      Islam was never a “moral paragon”, there was a time when Muslim hygiene was superior to the Christian and periods here and there when a particular ruler was less intolerant than most of the bunch but that was pre-1200 and not the norm even then.

  25. Mark Fuller Dillon
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    When I was nine years old, I read Mark Twain’s LETTERS FROM THE EARTH, and that book more than anything else made me see religion through a human lens. Twain went beyond criticizing the bible: he blasted the damned thing apart and then pulverized the ashes; and he did so in the name of human ethics and human dignity.

    Doing so, he made me realize that the bible was a fallible human text written by fallible human beings: there was nothing divine about it, nothing mysterious, nothing that set it above the moral scrutiny of ordinary, kind-hearted people.

    Islam desperately needs for that kind of scrutiny, that kind of mockery, to come from the inside. So perhaps the best thing that we can do here, on the outside, to encourage that fighting spirit, would be to take these words to heart:

    “Muslims must learn that if they make belligerent and fanatical claims upon the tolerance of free societies, they will meet the limits of that tolerance.”

  26. Posted September 20, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Yeshua was just another apocolyptic, cullt-leader, god-man, miracle monger and man of his times, with no better an ethic than others, and a silly and dangerous on e at that. Christ-insanity is just another superstion as is Smith’s Fraud and Moses’ Folly [ no Moses existed!] and the other religions are just as faith-based- the Buddha Wrong Path, the Dao Noway, the Zoroastrain Rump [Parsees],the Shinto Warrior, and it has the White Black Magic and others.
    So, I blashpheme all religions, becasue they all blaspheme reason and -humanity!
    However, that’s not to deny some good aspects.
    As Paul Kurtz says of the twin superstitions the supernatural and the paranormal, they are ” The Ttranscendtal Temptation.”
    WEIT,am I too intemperate about this?

  27. Posted September 20, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Yet he’s right on the money in asserting that Islam really is different from—and more malign—than other faiths
    I wonder how many years worth of data has been analyzed to arrive at this conclusion.

    I swear, that word is misused as often as is “misogyny”
    or Accomodationist.

    • Posted September 20, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      But not misspelled as often…

      /@

      • Posted September 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

        you can blame wordpress for not having that on the list of suggestions.

  28. Journalmalist
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    The thing — maybe the only thing — that really, really pisses me off about Harris is his ridiculous generalizations about secular liberals. He has been doing this for years, and all of his jeremiads on Islam share the same feature: there is zero evidence to support Harris’s broad-brush claims about liberal views. Sometimes he’ll based it on “emails” he claims he receives; sometimes he’ll just toss off liberal (sic) bastions like NPR and The New York Times — conveniently leaving the secular liberals unnamed and their columns unlinked — without giving it another thought. Why should he? Something he heard on the radio or read in an Op-Ed column satisfied his confirmation bias. I think there’s a word for making sweeping generalizations about a whole class of people to the point where you prejudge them. Let’s see, what could it be …

    • Leo
      Posted September 20, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      There can hardly be any scientific evidence on the subject so I will stick to anecdotal.

      Harris was trashed on Pharyngula a few weeks ago on the subject of torture and profiling. I tried to stick up for him saying that while he might be wrong in some respect his overall view of the “Muslim problem” is on the money. I was eaten alive by the denizens of PZ Myers’ lair (who are the epitome of liberalism as far as I can tell). I was accused of bigotry, racism, ignorance and every other mortal sin in the liberal book.

      HuffPo has its mix of liberals, conservatives and idiots but judging by the comments it is the liberals who look askance at Harris for the same reasons as the Pharyngula crew. So, on the whole, I would say that Sam has good reasons to complain.

      • Posted September 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        I’m as liberal as they come, but, from where I’m at, though PZ and the A+ crowd ticks most of the same checkboxes that liberals do, they’re missing some of the most important ones.

        That writ, I’ve been known to rip Sam on his positions on torture, profiling, and nuclear weapons policy as well. I can’t think of any liberal who wouldn’t.

        But I’m sure there’re plenty of conservatives who’d also take issue with him on, for example, the role of religion or whether or not science can address moral questions.

        In other words, Sam not only doesn’t fall neatly into any of the common sociopolitical categories of the day, and he speaks forcefully on a broad spectrum of controversial matters. Is it any surprise that he’s taking heat from all quarters?

        b&

        • Gary W
          Posted September 20, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

          That writ, I’ve been known to rip Sam on his positions on torture, profiling, and nuclear weapons policy as well.

          Given how extreme your political views are, this isn’t terribly surprising. You’d be expected to “rip” anyone in the political mainstream.

      • Tim
        Posted September 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        I think it is a mistake to conflate Harris’s views on Islam (and Muslims) vs. Christianity (and Christians) with his views on torture. I think a lot of liberals (among which I count myself) are fine with what Sam has written above (with the caveat, like Ben Goren’s, that I doubt the essential difference is scriptural). His arguments on torture are, well, tortured. While it may not be “fair” to fail to make a distinction between these two matters, the ways in which Sam presents the arguments and the “hypotheticals” which Sam offers to make his argument for torture are not conducive to making his opponents want to treat his fairly. He really ought to expect to be interpreted uncharitably and so, in that sense alone, he doesn’t really have a good reason to complain.

        • Gary W
          Posted September 20, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

          His arguments on torture are, well, tortured.

          No, his arguments on torture are compelling.

      • gbjames
        Posted September 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        I’m with you, Leo, on this. I’m an exceedingly liberal fellow myself. But I’m always impressed (no, make that depressed) about the extent to which other liberals recoil from what to me is obvious: Islam is not a friend of liberal thought and, if given half a chance, will eliminate everything that liberal western society holds dear. It seems that if you point out this obvious fact, you are seen as what we all hate: a bigot.

        I’m not exact;u sure what the solution is, except that it doesn’t entail validating the repugnant anti-muslim attitudes of the religious right. Somehow the idea of opposing and disrespecting Islam (an idea) while not hating muslims (actual humans) is hard for people to understand.

        • Posted September 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

          Somehow the idea of opposing and disrespecting Islam (an idea) while not hating muslims (actual humans) is hard for people to understand.

          This is especially curious considering the overlap between those who cry, “Islamophobe!” and those who say, with reference to homosexuality, “Hate the sin but love the sinner.”

          b&

  29. jimvj
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    “Romney got the timing of events wrong—confusing, as many did, a statement made by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo for an official government response to the murder of Americans in Libya.”

    That sentence in Harris’s piece is misleading. It glosses over the fact that the Cairo embassy statement was made BEFORE the consulate in Benghazi was attacked. And Romney gave his statement to reporters at 10 pm on 9/11 with the caveat that they couldn’t release the statement before midnight; so he could claim to have lived by the self-imposed moratorium on “dirty” politics on 9/11. There was no attempt by anyone in the Romney team to get the facts right, on a serious and fast evolving story. Then they doubled down on their – clearly incorrect – description of the events. Truly despicable behavior by the Romney team!

    I know that Sam Harris has bodyguards when he goes out in public; but he begrudges the embassy employees their attempt to calm a mob that could predictably become violent.

    It is okay to pontificate about the right to free speech, and the stupidity of religions – and I do both – but it is also wise to take prudent precautions in dangerous situations.

  30. Posted September 26, 2012 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    2 pieces in the Times of Malta portrait the Iman in Malta first condemning the of abbuse of Free Speech Freedom. Copied from the newspaper: “It is high time to discipline the extremely abused freedom of expression!” by Imam Mohammad El Sadi (see http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120926/opinion/No-peace-without-respect.438445)

    At least in a second Editorial to the newspaper he stopped Muslims in Malta asking for organising a protest because of the film: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120926/local/Imam-halts-film-protest.438409

    quoting from the newspaper page: ““But I chose not to do so fearing it may get out of hand and send the wrong message and because there are other ways to protest and convey our message,” he adds [Imam Mohammad El Sadi]”

    The last statement read out of context can be seen as a man rational and moderate, and expressing rightly that he is still baffled by the movie (Ok, I accept that). But put the quote in context and you can imagine pressures to stop the demonstrations here. Today Malta closely related to Libya in business, and with a long history of being in the middle of battles that I’m sure Maltese didn’t wanted to be involved in (Rome vs Carthago, Great Siege of 1565, Siege of 1941 to 1943, savagely bombed by Italians and Germans furing WWII)


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  1. […] Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, and no doubt many other atheists have landed especially hard blows against the Muslim religion recently, prompted specifically by the recent wave of deadly protests over the trailer for the film Innocence of Muslims. So here are my two bits. […]

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