Maher, Harris, Kristof, Steele, and Affleck squabble about Islam

In this YouTube video from Bill Maher’s show last night, Maher and Sam Harris criticize Islam against the protests of Nicholas Kristof, Michael Steele, and Ben Affleck, who claim that Muslims are terribly maligned. Affleck, in particular, comes off very badly, appearing as a whiny, interrupting brat who loses his temper. Here are the YouTube notes.

October 3, 2014 – Ben Affleck, Bill Maher, Nicholas Kristof, Michael Steele, and author Sam Harris got into what could only be described as a tumultuous continuation of Maher’s comments on Islam from last week, with Maher and Affleck tearing into each other over the influence of fundamentalists in the Muslim community. “We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where criticism of the religion gets conflated with bigotry towards muslims as people,” Harris began. “It’s intellectually ridiculous.”

“Hold on — are you the person who officially understands the codified doctrine of Islam?” Affleck, on the show to promote his movie Gone Girl, interrupted, and argued that criticizing Islam, as Maher and Harris were doing it, was “gross and racist. It’s like saying, ‘Oh, you shifty Jew!’”

What follows is a few minutes of Affleck and Maher going at each other and yelling over each other, with the occasional interjection from Kristof and Steele providing intelligent perspective on reformers in the Muslim world, smart statistical analysis from Harris about the spectrum of fundamentalism, and then another few minutes of Affleck and Maher yelling at each other

Reader Derek, one of many who sent me this link, notes:

My favorite part is when Affleck claims that “[the members of] ISIS couldn’t fill a Double A ballpark in Charleston, West Virginia”. I did some math. They could easily fill more than 10 Double A ballparks in West Virginia.

Derek apparently participated in some fact-checking on The Uncertainty Blog; Maher and Harris were, by and large, right, though Maher exaggerated the figure for Egyptians who favor the death penalty for apostasy. Also, Sam tw**ted this, implying some kind of reconciliation. I still think that Affleck acted like a complete ass:


What Professor Ceiling Cat can say about this is to agree in general with Harris and Maher: the polls do paint a dismal picture of Muslim beliefs, and not just in a few countries, either. A while back I did a post on a recent worldwide Pew poll of Muslims, “Pew Report on Muslim world paints a distressing picture.” 39 countries were surveyed, each having more than 10 million Muslims. The survey did not include Iran or Saudi Arabia, where the pollsters euphemistically say, ““political sensitivities or security concerns prevented opinion research among Muslims.” Uh huh.

Read and weep. I’ve shown these bar graphs before, but it wouldn’t hurt to see them again.

sharia equality homosexuality

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 12.41.36 PM

Good for liberal Indonesia and Malaysia: only 35% of Muslims in the former state, and 52% of Muslims in the latter, think that adulterers should be stoned (I’ve multipled the proportion of Muslims believing in sharia law by the proportion of those who favor stoning)!  Every Muslim country is strongly anti-gay and anti-women (look at the “wives should obey their husbands” statistics). As for sharia law, The proportion of Muslims favoring its adoption as national law for Muslims are 86% in Malaysia and 72% in Indonesia. Pity that Affleck, Kristof, and Steele don’t take those figures aboard.

As for Ben Affleck, I have no words for his brand of unthinking and petulant liberalism that ignores facts when he doesn’t like them.

h/t: Peter


  1. merilee
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink


    • Posted October 4, 2014 at 10:42 am | Permalink


      • GBJames
        Posted October 4, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink


    • Filippo
      Posted October 4, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Permalink


  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I recorded Real Time last night so I am saving viewing the whole kerfuffle until then and I’m sure it’s going to be interesting.

  3. Kaymaker
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    The United States, with its near-universal approval for the death penalty and its 300M+ guns and gun deaths at over 30K/year, and with its having started a needless war that resulted in at least 100K deaths and literally millions of people violently displaced, might consider hosing down its own abattoir before accusing others of culture-driven gore.

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted October 4, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      What in the criminey does that have to do with the price of eggs?

      Your comment is the intellectual equivalent of “I know you are, but what am I?”

      I’m European, and I also think that the large percentage of Muslims who approve of homophobia, misogyny and death for apostasy is something that needs to be taken very seriously and combated (peacefully where possible) as a matter of urgency. Not for the sake of me, but for the sake of the hundred of thousands of Muslims that want to live normal lives free of extremist murderers in their own countries.

      And trust me, your position is not going to be improved by saying: “yeah, well Hitler was European too.”

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 4, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        +1 for the content and another +1 for the use of “criminey”.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted October 4, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      By “near-universal approval for the death penalty” I guess you mean that 35% oppose it.

    • Posted October 4, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      While I oppose the death penalty under all circumstances, I certainly can see a world of difference between supporting the death penalty for murder and apostasy. I think the leaders of my country who foisted the war in Iraq off on my countrymen using a pack of lies as a pretense to be war criminals, but I certainly don’t use that fact to excuse people who support the stoning of accused adulterers – “guilty” or not.

  4. Hal
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    R.Joseph Hoffman has what I consider a good discussion of Islam and its problems at this link:

    • Posted October 4, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Yes, I was going to post about that at some point, but never got around to it. I recommend it. I’ve had my squabbles with RJH before but this piece is definitely worth reading.

  5. exsumper
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    “The Shifty Jew” comment tells us all we need to know about Affleck!

    • Posted October 4, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      What is that?

      • Frank
        Posted October 4, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        That he combines a glaring inability to apply reason and logic with a childish arrogance. It apparently didn’t matter to him whether 1% of the people surveyed held heinous views or 99%. In his mind, even if 99% are like-minded, we still can’t use a “broad brush”.

        Affleck’s immaturity and silliness was on display recently when, on the set of his most recent movie, he refused to have his character (not him, his character!) wear a Yankees cap during a scene.

        • microraptor
          Posted October 4, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

          Why was Affleck even on the show with the others? I’m just looking at the names and thinking “one of these things is not like the other…”

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 4, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

            I wondered the same. Typically Real Time doesn’t have people on simply because they are celebrities.

            • Mike
              Posted October 4, 2014 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

              I would have rather seen Sam be a guest in the panel.

              But Affleck has been on real time at least twice to my knowledge and he managed to not be a really bad panelist when he wasn`t intoxicated (coke/roids/drunk??)

              Hitchens wouldn`t have been as polite as Sam. Damn I`d be willing to pay good money to see Hitch slap down Affleck like he did with Mos Def.

              It also didn`t help that Maher kept interrupting Sam.

              • microraptor
                Posted October 4, 2014 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

                It’s not a question of why Bill would have Aflleck on his show, it’s a question of why he’d have him on for this particular segment- there’s nothing that really sets Affleck apart from any other random person on this subject that I’m aware of.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 4, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

                Yes, I kept yelling at the TV, “let Sam speak!”

              • Filippo
                Posted October 5, 2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

                This interrupting business more or less reflects the standard of discourse across the fruited plain here in Amuricuh, or so it seems to me. Much if not most of the populace takes its conversational cues from celebrities. If you watched the 2012 U.S. presidential “debates,” you see what I mean. The omniscient Maureen Dowd and others raked Obama over the coals for what they perceived to be his sub-standard first debate performance. He was inclined to let Romney complete his sentences/thoughts. The self-regarding Romney was not inclined to return that courtesy/consideration, seemingly inclined to treat Obama as one of his private enterprise subordinates/servants/serfs. So, Obama returned as good as he got in subsequent debates. Compare this to the civilized Nixon-Kennedy debates.

              • Posted October 5, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

                I’m getting seriously off track here but I knew a guy who studied at Oxford after WWII. History I think. Once a week he was expected to dine on hall, full gown, etc. He said he would go back just for the conversation. You might sit next to a philosopher or a physicist but there was an expectation that each would jump in and, with that great British passivity, ‘converse’. It’s something that I miss about the college and research days – you could always find someone interesting and smart.

          • Cliff Melick
            Posted October 4, 2014 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

            One of my favorite actors is Brad Pitt. When he was dong the movie Seven Years in Tibet, he was asked a question about China and Tibet. He reportedly replied “You shouldn’t speak until you know what you’re talking about. That’s why I get uncomfortable with interviews. Reporters ask me what I feel China should do about Tibet. Who cares what I think China should do? I’m a fucking actor! They hand me a script. I act. I’m here for entertainment. Basically, when you whittle everything away, I’m a grown man who puts on makeup.” Pity that Affleck wouldn’t shut up and learn something, rather than think his opinion actually matters simply because he’s a celebrity.

            • Diane G.
              Posted October 5, 2014 at 1:17 am | Permalink

              Absolutely! Yay for Pitt.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 5, 2014 at 7:51 am | Permalink

                I remember an interview with John Cusack where the interviewer asked him how he dealt with fame. His answer really showed he was someone who had great self awareness – he said, “there are a lot worse things you can be than famous in America”.

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted October 4, 2014 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

            There’s no great mystery about it. Affleck was on the show because his new movie opened this weekend. Whether he was the ideal person for that panel probably didn’t enter into it.

          • Posted October 4, 2014 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

            it’s like when Maher had Mos Def with Hitchens and Rushdie.

            That was pure comedy.

            • Filippo
              Posted October 5, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

              I will try to watch all of that one day. I had to stop looking after a few minutes. Hitchens was as implacable as the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (or my mother 😉 ).

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

                Here it is if you don’t have it. Mos Def drove me nuts throughout it.

              • merilee
                Posted October 5, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

                at least he can pronounce nuclear better than Dubya.

              • Filippo
                Posted October 5, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

                And Hitch drove him nuts (or nuttier), eh?

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 5, 2014 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

                I think he chastised him very well when he said, “you didn’t hear Mr. Rushdie’s point and that’s a shame”. It made Mos Def actually shut up a moment.

            • microraptor
              Posted October 5, 2014 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

              I have no idea who Mos Def is. I assume from the name that he’s a rap musician?

              • Ralph
                Posted October 5, 2014 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

                Yes. He’s the son of the great jazz musician Dan Tootin.

  6. exsumper
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Hi Jerry

    Have you got graphs showing the views of muslims in the UK and US?

    If so would you please post them too!


    • Posted October 4, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      No, sorry, they weren’t part of that survey.But there’s one site that collects polls, and it has some data from the US and UK, though the polls are surely of variable quality. It’s here.

      • Mike
        Posted October 4, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        That`s also the site I did like to link to when having discussions about islam.

        But I hate that this site is apparently run by a bigot (at least many told me, because he cites Robert Spencer as his inspiration and links to some racist sites).

        So in online arguments people often don`t read the statistics when I link to them because of the source (even when I point out that they can follow the links on his site to the original researches Pew).

    • ploubere
      Posted October 4, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Here is a 2011 Pew poll of U.S. muslims. It didn’t ask specifically about Sharia but did about extremism. It showed that U.S. muslims are moderate on most issues, the only exception being homosexuality, to which most are opposed:

      • ploubere
        Posted October 4, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        My guess is that most muslims who immigrate to the U.S. are better educated and more progressive to begin with, and the ones that grow up here benefit from a more liberal atmosphere than in most Islamic countries. Perhaps they feel more at liberty to express honest opinions, too. They were big supporters of Obama and democrats.

        Only 44 percent accepted evolution, however, compared with 52 percent of the general public.

      • Marella
        Posted October 4, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        I wish they’d asked a different question on homosexuality. You can be opposed to something and think it’s immoral, without wanting people gaoled or killed for it. bbn

        • Marella
          Posted October 4, 2014 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

          “bbn” is just a typo, sorry.

  7. Les
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    The Salafist/Wahhabi extremists and the Iranian theocracy are causing most of the problems. Both are lavishly funded by oil.
    The Saudis made a deal with the devil: you get to control our laws, education, books, and lavishly fund exporting your theology. You support Saudi rule.
    We have give them trillions of dollars. We get oil and grief.

    • Les
      Posted October 4, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      (Please ignore trailing “A”: typo)@

  8. Posted October 4, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    The difference between Islam and Christianity today is that absolutist literalist interpretation of Christian scriptures is popular only amongst a minority of Christians but a parallel interpretation of Islamic scriptures is the mainstream one.

    When Christianity was comparably absolutist and literal, we got the Inquisition and the Crusades and the Conquistadors. Islam will only become civilized to the extant that it abandons its core values, same as with Christianity.


    • Bob Michaelson
      Posted October 4, 2014 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. Their official statement of Basic Beliefs says “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.” And “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” So perhaps a literalist interpretation of Christian is more popular than you suggest.

      Religions can evolve, but as you know evolution isn’t directed and things can go any way. Fundamentalism is relatively new in American protestantism; far from abandoning “core values,” large groups of Protestants adopted new and more reactionary core values. And Muslim beliefs as well can go in any direction. At one time the Salafis were somewhat liberal, and in their early period “encouraged accepting much of modern science, such as evolution”

      I would say that it is premature to congratulate ourselves on the abandonment of literalist interpretations of ANY scriptures.

      • Posted October 4, 2014 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        If I gave the impression that I’m not concerned about the trends towards increasingly radicalized conservatives in the Christian world, please permit me to hastily correct that.

        My point is that, even with that “wives graciously submit” bullshit from the Baptists and the closing of abortion clinics across the Bible Belt and Prop Hate and all the rest…Christian fundamentalism is most tame compared to the Islamic variety. We’ve had a couple religiously-motivated criminal attacks on abortion clinics over the past decade or so…and, in the past month, the Saudi government has decapitated, what, dozens? for trivial religious offenses. A few deaths by criminals successfully prosecuted is a far cry from the regular barbaric butcherings by the state.

        We’ve still got plenty to do to clean up our own house, sure…but it’s mostly taking care of a lingering sewer roach problem in an otherwise-not-bad apartment. The Islamists haven’t even figured out this whole indoor plumbing thing and are shitting wherever they happen to be standing and not worrying about cleaning up the mess.


      • Filippo
        Posted October 5, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”

        At 19 or 20 I genteelly and gingerly posed my mild skepticism about this to the pastor of my SBC church. He responded words-to-the-effect that “Someone has to be in charge; someone has to make a final decision.”

        I left it at that; after all, he was a really nice fellow, and I was so accustomed to “accommodationism” in my youth in dealing with a couple of “hot reactor” blood relatives. But, my immediate thought was, “Well, if not a democracy – or at least an equal partnership – at home, then why a national, state, local representative democratic government?”

  9. DrDroid
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    I watched it last night and again this AM. My first viewing left me feeling shocked and dismayed by Ben’s anger and outright hostility toward Sam. I had no idea that someone who is a nominal “liberal” could harbor such ill will. I saw Ben on the Tonight Show just a day or two ago, where as usual he talked a blue streak while Jimmy Fallon fawned over him and treated him like showbiz royalty. I suppose Ben gets that a lot and is not used to having his opinions contested by an upstart scientist and a comedian. Sam and Bill were trying to point out that it is important to criticize bad ideas, which Ben interpreted as a racist-like attack on Muslims. It is true that having your ideas criticized can make you feel personally attacked/offended/angry, but the proper response is a defense of your ideas that does not involve decapitation of your critics. All in all it was an embarrassing display of anger by Ben IMO. He needs to learn more about what Muslims the world over say they actually believe. The whole episode goes to show that sound thinking does not necessarily go with A-list celebrity status (think Tom Cruise, Jenny McCarthy, etc).

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 4, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      I love it when people get all emotional around Sam and Sam just remains calm.

      • Posted October 4, 2014 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

        That guy is completely unflappable. Right thinking can do that. That and a little meditation.

    • Posted October 4, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      I was also pretty shocked by his hostility. I remember feeling flushed myself at the end of the episode and couldn’t stop thinking about it for a while afterward. Typical of Harris to remain completely composed. How I would have loved to see Hitch respond to Affleck!

      • Mark Reaume
        Posted October 4, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps it’s time for Mr. Affleck to cycle off his workout supplement.

      • Posted October 4, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        I just watched my recorded Real Time and Affleck behaved like a typical alpha narcissist. I actually felt angry during it because it brought up lots of memories of dealing with this in the office. The way he talks over people, won’t listen, is highly emotional when his views are criticized -all narcissistic behaviour.

        The thing that actually made me feel better is that Sam was on the end of his narcissistic rage for two reasons: 1: Sam had very rational arguments to make and he actually listened to his opponent instead if straw manning him. I hope thinking people will realize who was the right person to listen to. 2: Sam is a man and it’s nice for me, as a woman, to see that normal men have all the same challenges with narcissistic alpha males as women do.

        • microraptor
          Posted October 4, 2014 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

          You aren’t related to any narcissistic alphas, are you?

          If not, be very grateful for that.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 4, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

            Even if I were, I’d just avoid them. My family has a lot of females in it & those ones are in squabbles all of their own. 🙂

            • Filippo
              Posted October 5, 2014 at 10:15 am | Permalink

              One can observe them in the U.S. Congress, especially in committee hearings where they have subpoenaed a female employee of the Executive branch of government.

        • DrDroid
          Posted October 5, 2014 at 5:16 am | Permalink

          Yes I think “alpha male” intimidation is an apt characterization of Ben’s behavior. I was glad to see Bill jump in to forcefully contradict Ben’s alpha-asshole comments on occasion. The thing I kept wondering about was where Ben was coming from. From the moment Sam was introduced Ben had that scowl of disapproval on his face. Has Ben been absorbing the atheist-bashing that is so widespread in the media these days? Reading too much Glenn Greenwald? Has Ben actually read anything Sam has written?

          • darrelle
            Posted October 5, 2014 at 6:57 am | Permalink

            There is a rather large segment of the people, ranging from liberal religious believers to atheists, who generally consider themselves rationalists / skeptics that are very contemptuous of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. Contempt for those two is trending very strongly in that general population.

            I am discouraged by that, but not particularly surprised. The two main criticisms of both of them is that they are misogynists and islamophobes. It is positively normal to read comments on websites dedicated to science, skepticism and rationalism, from people that typically are models of rational thinking, that make just such claims about Harris and Dawkins, but without the characteristic rationality. As if on this subject something is short circuiting their critical thinking modules. Such comments are largely claims, accusations really, disparaging commentary, expressions of distaste and contempt, and very little evidence or assessment of evidence. I’ve got no problem with disparaging commentary or expressions of contempt in general. I think they have their place. But when you’re wrong about the target, especially when you haven’t done your due diligence, you are the one showing your ass.

            It is disheartening and disgusting to see such people relying on hearsay and garbled accounts from others and then forming such strong negative opinions, and continuing, adding to, the character defamation. Particularly when the source material is so easy to find for yourself. Instead of relying on what some other blogger or journalist has said, you can easily find out exactly what was said by the people in question themselves and what the context was. And instead of relying on what someone else imagines Harris or Dawkins meant, or making something up yourself, you can easily find explanations and clarifications directly from them.

            Ben Affleck is one of those people. He dislikes Sam Harris because that is what the group he considers himself to be a member of does. It is extremely unlikely that Affleck has anything but a very passing familiarty with anything Sam Harris has written or said, let alone a reasonably informed idea of Sam’s overall views on these issues. And he doesn’t need to in order to justify his opinions because he is on the side of righteousness. And he is The Man.

            Thankfully I never liked him as an actor so I am spared the disappointment of being disappointed by his display here.

            • DrDroid
              Posted October 5, 2014 at 7:29 am | Permalink

              Yes, I think your assessments of Ben and where his animosity comes from are probably spot on. Sam and Richard have chosen a hard life for themselves, it’s true: calling attention to popular delusions in which people are so heavily invested is guaranteed to incite hatred. The most discouraging part is the number of supposedly rational people who have jumped on the “I hate Sam” bandwagon without actually reading or thoughtfully considering what he has said. It’s sad really. I’m not saying that I’m a categorical supporter of Sam, but I do think he has said much that is undeniably true and deserves better than the kind of knee-jerk crap he gets from people like Ben Affleck.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted October 5, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

              Group identification does seem to be what is at play here. It is disappointing, especially with journalists like Green as he has done some very good work and I find I agree with much of what he says. What I just did above (think through what people actually say), group identifiers don’t do. They go with the group and that is extra disappointing when it comes to liberals. Perhaps we should start pushing a liberal value that doesn’t get much play – critical thinking.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 5, 2014 at 8:11 am | Permalink

            Yes, he was barely containing himself. He was flushed and waiting to pounce. I liked that he seemed somewhat sulky after he didn’t get his way.

      • Brendan
        Posted October 4, 2014 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

        I was kind of hoping it’d get physical: Sam’s a martial artist. A real one, not a movie one.

  10. davidintoronto
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I liked the part where Kristof refuted Harris/Maher by mentioning three liberal Muslims… two of whom were shot, the other in prison. Touché.

    • mordacious1
      Posted October 4, 2014 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Yeah, that made me chuckle also.

    • Ralph
      Posted October 4, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Imprisoned or dead liberal Muslim –
      “Some widely held Islamic ideas are bad”

      Bill/Sam –
      “Some widely held Islamic ideas are bad”

      Kristof –
      “But some Muslims are liberal, they are fighting against bad Islamic ideas, it’s wrong to hate all Muslims!”

      Why can’t such smart people grasp the complete non sequitur?

      The “Islamophobia” conflation of ideas with identity was a stroke of genius. I have no idea why so many intelligent liberal people just can’t see through it. Ben Affleck seems to have such a strong preconception of bigotry that his angry self-righteous brain won’t engage.

    • Posted October 4, 2014 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

      Yes, talk about irony. Sam and Bill could have rested their case there.

  11. mordacious1
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I hate the kind of argument that Batman is making. Because less than 10% of catholic priests have been accused of child abuse, we shouldn’t criticize catholicism as a whole. No, catholicism is wrong because they allow the culture of sexual predation to exist within the organization. Islam as a whole is wrong and should be criticized for the same reason.

    • Posted October 4, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      Great analogy. As several of us have said before, and Ben has said again already today, Islam needs its own version of the Enlightenment. However, the atmosphere within Islam is largely to shut down dissent and criticism and open debate is all but impossible. DAESH (ISIL) effectively uses social media to dominate the narrative within Islam. More moderate groups have tried in the past, but have been shut down by the state in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia. That’s where change has to come from, and we can only really hope that education and access to information are making change inevitable.

      • Filippo
        Posted October 5, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        There’s an article in the NY Times today about combating “Islamic State” terrorists’ propaganda efforts to attract Western fighters by refusing to identify them with their preferred “Islamic State” moniker, and rather the Arabic-derived “DAESH,” which sounds close to the word for “crush. The end of the article makes the point that the terrorists are in any event contemptuous of the Western media and any such “branding” efforts.

        (I’d like to observe Ben Affleck sit down with these terrorist nimrods and hear what scintillating pearls of wisdom he would direct their way, and observe if in response they exhibit Harrisesque restraint.)

        • Filippo
          Posted October 5, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

          Also, the article reflected the rather rare occurrence of Muslims criticizing other Muslims . . . or perhaps not, in that some were seeking to “brand” the group the “Non-Islamic State.”

        • Bill the Cat
          Posted October 6, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

          Ben might find it difficult to listen when the location of his head might well be on the floor.

  12. Posted October 4, 2014 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Gone Boy.

  13. Posted October 4, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for these most enlightening statistics. You made however an error in commenting that “only” 48 or 60 % of the CITIZENS of Indonesia and Malaysia advocate stoning as punishmet for adultery. The percentages refer only to those Muslims who favour sharia (which are many, but less than 100%)

  14. Larry Esser
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    It took a while as an out gay activist to see how clearly homophobia and misogyny were the same thing. Hatred of women = hatred of gays. When women did better, got more rights, and climbed closer to equal treatment with men, then gay people did better, too.

    • Ralph
      Posted October 4, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      Can you explain further why you think they are associated – I think you are saying that there is more to this than just a generalized concurrent decrease in bigotry?

      • Posted October 4, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        I won’t speak for Mr. Esser, but the gender construction of “what it means to be male” in a patriarchal culture is the explicit denigration of all that is feminine (a threat to traditional masculinity).

      • Marella
        Posted October 4, 2014 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        One of the main reasons bigots hate gays is that they seen as acting like women. Indeed the Bible specifically describes homosexual behaviour as “lying with men as they do with women” and says it’s an abomination.

        • microraptor
          Posted October 4, 2014 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

          Quite a few homophobes that I’ve known have thought that being gay meant that a man wanted to act (and dress) like a woman.

  15. Don
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I think Professor Ceiling Cat mis-interpreted the results: “only 48% of citizens of the former, and 60% of the latter, think that adulterers should be stoned!” That question referred only to people who thought Sharia should be the law of the land. Not all citizens. Love the blog, though.

    • Posted October 4, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Yes, of course. I forgot to correct the figures by multiplying by the proportion of Muslims who favor sharia law. I’ve done that now, but the figures for Malaysia and Indonesia don’t change much since such a high proportion of Muslims in each place adhere to sharia law. The figures at the bottom are now the total proportion of Muslims favor stoning or death for apostasy. Thanks!

      • Jonathan Livengood
        Posted October 4, 2014 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

        You might be over-correcting, here. If you want the total percentage that favor death for apostasy (or stoning for adultery or whatever), you need to also count all those who do NOT support making Sharia the law of the land but still DO support death for apostasy. [This is just the law of total probability: Pr(A) = Pr(A | B)*Pr(B) + Pr(A | ~B)*Pr(~B).] The percentage that favor death for apostasy but do not favor making Sharia the law of the land might be low, but it is almost certainly not zero.

        Take Pakistan as an example. According to your figures, 84% favor making Sharia the law of the land, and 76% favor death for apostasy. That means that AT LEAST 64% of the population favors death for apostasy. But as far as these numbers go, the total percentage who think that apostasy deserves death might be as high as 80%.

        In fact, more general polling suggests that the percentage of Pakistanis who favor death for apostasy is actually 78% (see the text box at the bottom of page 3 of the Pew report here: If all these numbers are reliable (and they might not be), then the Pakistanis who do not favor making Sharia the law of the land are actually MORE likely to favor death for apostasy than are those who favor making Sharia the law of the land.

    Posted October 4, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    My response to Affleck would have been: even though Christian and Jewish scriptures contain bad ideas like death for adultery, apostasy,or homosexuality, when was the last time this punishment was actually enforced by religious authorities? Bad ideas from scriptures do not have to be acted upon. By the way, stoning is practiced in Saudi Arabia but they have modernized the practice–they just use a dumptruck to dump a load of rocks on the victim

  17. Scientifik
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    “Read and weep. I’ve shown these bar graphs before, but it wouldn’t hurt to see them again.”

    Absolutely. These data need to be viewed by as many people as possible, and reposted on every site, and brought up in every debate on Islam. Maybe if Bill Maher or Sam Harris showed the three deluded apologists in the studio the hard data on paper, they would be more willing to listen to their arguments. They need to realize that what’s being put on the table by Bill Maher and Sam Harris are not mere opinions. Let’s talk data which reveal an inconvenient truth about the world of Islam.

    Were are the sociologists studying the Muslim world when you need them?

    • Marella
      Posted October 4, 2014 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Not wanting to be murdered they all chose to study social mobility in the Midwest instead.

  18. Randy Schenck
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    The very poorly thought out mix of quest is why I pretty much stick to Bill’s new rules and forget the discussion period.

    It’s really too bad that an appearance by Sam Harris gets so wasted. You would think this HBO show would see this and fix it.

    This Affleck character is another very good example of the wise old saying — If people think you might be stupid, why open your mouth and remove all doubt.

  19. Amy
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    It is hard to believe someone who shot movie Argo to be so naive about Islam, & he is an actor… :)))

  20. Posted October 4, 2014 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    I watched the entire episode before seeing this blog post and was shocked by Affleck’s instantaneous attack. Before Harris was even done speaking Affleck started in with what appeared to be a biased and scripted attack. It came off to me as if his PR folk have taken him aside and said ‘you know, there comes a time in a man’s life when he has to stand for something…’ This was hammered home further when both Harris and Maher tried to explain to Affleck that he was missing their point but that didn’t help to swerve Ben from his course. I don’t think he had another course. So you double down with anger. Hey – great entertainment!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 5, 2014 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      What struck me was Affleck saying to the others, while Sam was trying to explain his reasoning, “No no let him talk” & then proceeded to make the “wrap it up gesture”. He had no interest in hearing what Sam had to say. His mind & ears were closed and he was thinking of how best to attack the next strawman he constructed.

      When this has happened to me, I typically call the behaviour. It’s too bad the forum of Real Time doesn’t really allow for that as they are running on a schedule and they don’t have time to have a thorough discussion.

      • DrDroid
        Posted October 5, 2014 at 8:47 am | Permalink

        Real Time is a bit of a train wreck: people talk over and interrupt each other constantly. It’s not a good format for rational discussion though it may be fine for comedy of the kind Bill frequently injects. But this particular episode was the most acrimonious I can recall and it did not suit Sam’s scholarly style well. What was needed was a street fighter like Hitch.

  21. avijit1971
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Ben was in delusion. Islam is an ideology, not a race. His ‘race card’ was misplaced totally …

  22. @eightyc
    Posted October 4, 2014 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Batman’s immediate rebuttal to Harris’ beatdown of him is “a lot of talk”.


  23. Hempenstein
    Posted October 5, 2014 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that the majority of Muslims don’t support all the extreme views that the polls show they do.

    Then, to all those who maintain that they don’t support this stuff – the evidence shows that they’re awfully silent about that.

    The only way that things will change is for the moderates to become more vocal, and the only way I think that they’ll start to do that is for the non-Muslim world to push the issue. Extreme Muslims won’t change from pressure from the West, but they might change if they were denounced by their moderate brethren.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 5, 2014 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      There still is the problem of protection. Many will not speak up because they fear for their lives. The secular world somehow has to figure out how to support and secure the safety of these people.

      I know in Canada moderate Muslims have spoken out against radicals and have stopped terrorist attacks. I don’t know how safe these dissenters are though.

  24. DrDroid
    Posted October 5, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    “As for Ben Affleck, I have no words for his brand of unthinking and petulant liberalism that ignores facts when he doesn’t like them.”

    Well stated and succinct summation.

  25. maurits
    Posted October 6, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    As I think I may have responded the previous time these public opinion statistics were shown, it is easy to jump to unwarranted conclusions about Islam from these data.


    – in 1987, 87% of Americans considered engaging in homosexual behaviour morally wrong. Most populations in the table Jerry copied are far poorer and less well-educated than Americans were in 1987, yet their response is not that different.

    – Pew’s survey of African states also asked Christians whether they wanted biblical law to be the law of the land. 70% of Christian Nigerian respondents wanted this, compared to 71% of Muslim Nigerian respondents. The same goes for the other countries in the sample: percentages are so close as to be statistically indistinguishable. Clearly not something intrinsic to Islam, then.

    – As an earlier contributor to the discussion here pointed out, it is far from obvious that non-Muslim populations in these countries would be less likely to agree that women should obey their husbands than the Muslims sampled.

    On the whole, what we know about public opinion on these types of issues suggests that wealth, education, and local cues matter far more than a particular religion.

  26. Posted October 6, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    I finally got around to watching this video. On the night it aired, I attended a live taping of Startalk Live with Neil deGrasse Tyson featuring Malcolm Gladwell in New York.

    Tyson’s program focused on sociology, particularly the effects of biases and tipping points as they apply to social movements. At one point during the show, Tyson (at least half tongue in cheek) mentioned that he played the board game Risk as a child and all the turmoil always occurred in the Middle East. He said this happened repeatedly, and as a young child, he obviously wasn’t consciously aware of political or religious strife in the region, so maybe the contention there is geographical. Alondra Nelson, Dean of Social Science and professor of sociology at Columbia University, was also a featured guest and quickly dismissed Tyson’s assertion as demonstrably false based on the entirety of human history.

    Joking aside, none of the panelists, nor Tyson, dared delve into the sociological aspects of the region’s religious values. For the most part, the discussion tiptoed carefully around this topic. At one point, I turned to my friend who was sitting next to me and said, “I wish Bill Maher or Sam Harris were here to add some insight into the problems the Middle East faces.” I was not aware at the time that Harris and Maher were doing just that at a different venue.

    More to the point, I think Affleck is certainly suffering from Western bias, maybe it can even be termed as a sort of Western exceptionalism. From personal experience, the people I’ve talked to who are practicing Muslims in America don’t seem to be proponents of extremism. I’d like to see a study on the views here, but regardless of the results, I suspect Affleck is suffering from a bias which results from interactions similar to the ones I’ve had. Sufficiently liberalized Muslims reject the barbaric views of their religion in the same way that liberalized Christianity (which is a dominant form in Western society) has moved past the Inquisition and witch burnings of centuries past.

    One other thing was crystal clear in watching this interview; Affleck argued with emotion, not reason. Harris calmly responded to Affleck’s non sequiturs, all while maintaining his usual laid back demeanor, as Affleck broke down into hysterics. You’d think an actor would be better at reigning this type of response in…

  27. Posted October 6, 2014 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    It does seem a mystery why Ben Affleck has chosen his position, given that he’s not a great orator, intellectual or anything of that sort. However, I am wondering if it isn’t a simple case of loyalty to friends. He’s friends with George Clooney who has just recently married a woman of Muslim parentage. Just wondering.

    • Posted October 6, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      So I think any bias on his part might be due to ties. Every atheist with Christian and other religious relatives understands a bit of this. Sometimes loyalty gets in the way of truth and rationality.

      • Posted October 6, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know that this is exactly the same thing. For example, I don’t think the large portion of my family who adhere to Catholicism in a strict way approve of child rape. I do think that by giving the Church money, they are supporting it whether it is intentional or not. My father, who is a now a clergyman supports it even moreso. Their view, however, is that the Catholic Church only has problems because the members fail to adhere to the teachings (which is partially true, the Church doesn’t officially teach that pedophilia is acceptable but the institutional makeup is such that it is still promoted).

        My point is that I do not think the just criticism of Catholicism, both in practice and again at many of its teachings, is some kind of criticism of my friends and family in a way similar to racism. Affleck seems to miss this important type of distinction completely.

        • Posted October 21, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

          Sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier, so this reply is pathetically late!

          I take your point, and I’m in agreement. But perhaps Affleck’s vocalizations were more of a knee-jerk reaction and not necessarily well thought out and presented. I was just wondering if, at the top of his mind at the time, he was considering his friendships. I’m not suggesting that, while atheists might ‘understand’ their religious friends and associates, they *always* resort to accommodation etc. Sometimes the occasion might call for keeping quiet, such as a family celebration when ‘Grace’ is being said and the cook is being thanked, etc. Simply good manners as a guest. But certainly in a debate on the issues, for one, we should speak the truth.

          Regretfully, many religious people do take it personally when their religion or church is criticized. And to be honest, I do wonder about and mistrust the lack of rationality in their thinking and their almost stubborn alignment with flawed institutions. It seems that some are just fine with just going along with cultural traditions and teachings and not making a rational choice.

          • Posted October 24, 2014 at 6:42 am | Permalink

            No problem, I’ll return the favor with an equally late reply. These threads move so fast, sometimes responses get buried.

            Perhaps you are right about the way Affleck was thinking about this, but certainly in a public debate, there shouldn’t be this desire to mince words. In private, I’m sure most of us know religious people spanning the spectrum of religious belief, so obviously a discussion in this setting would be different. I have had several Muslim friends and acquaintances, and I don’t think I’ve ever discussed religion with them and I certainly don’t label them as batshit crazy or extremist. Each person should be assessed by what he actually believes, but that should not prevent us from criticizing Islam as a whole. It seems this is the point that is so often conflated and religious people take critiques personally and maybe people such as Affleck feel that giving these critiques is also a personal attack. It isn’t.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 6, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      With narcissistic tendencies (and celebrities typically test higher for narcissism), Dunning-Kruger Effect tags along.

  28. thomasR
    Posted October 6, 2014 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Affleck indirectly made a distinction which seemed to pass unnoticed (including by him).

    Which is that there’s a difference between the % of people who believe in X and the % who would believe *and enact* X.

    (where X is something bad like killing apostates)

    People will often do the former in order to express tribal loyalty. But they wouldn’t necessarily support it in practice.

    Which doesn’t mean that we should let up on criticising X, of course. But it might mean that other forms of criticism are more important in trying to get religious people to take their ideas seriously.

  29. Posted October 7, 2014 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Numbers don’t lie. I do miss the Hitch, Affleck would have been handled well. The only solution is to give Muslims in 1st world nations is a choice: 1) Shut up and deal, as they aren’t the majority and must learn the concept ‘live and let live’. Want Wahabi unis, schools, and mosques, raise money in your community and petition KSA, they’ll give you some as well. No alcohol and pork before your eyes? Open up your own businesses that keep to your areas, we infidels will steer clear, won’t even ask for work with you. Have your mullahs ask that no infidel mix with you under any circumstances. Halal meat? Open up your own abbatoirs that supply your stores only. 2)If you’re still not satisfied, you gave the option of returning to your place of birth/origin or emigrate to KSA or Iran. Sharia law in full swing, you’ll be happy I’m sure.

  30. Posted October 14, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Just wanted to add that Affleck was part of a ‘cultural white wash’ already in a 2002 Tom Clancy filmatization The Sum of All Fears, in which the original muslim terrorists were replaced by german neo-nazis.

  31. Posted October 14, 2014 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Oh and just wanted to add that 2002 was painfully close to 9/11 so it was quite understandable. It’s just convenient that Batman may have had exposure to islam apologism quite early in his blockbuster career. A long time to make one’s mind on having the right things to say.

    I see many people here too see the ‘enlightment’ necessary for islam. Agreed, but I’d like to see poll results from muslim world on how many actually consider Koran a literal truth from god and Muhammed’s life as perfectly emulatable. That could tell a lot about how resistant specific muslim population may be to a liberalization project altogether. I totally acknowledge it’s a complex matter, but the current islamophilia has hardly helped at all but muddling things even more. When USA gov says Libya embassy muredrs were because of some weeks old youtube videos, one knows we’ve gone a bit too far in making excuses for maniacs who also happen to be muslims.

    The thing is, the current western postmodernist, postcolonialist and cultural relativist academic doctrine on faith criticism is a form of moral order that is highly effective in making the claims of ‘other’ religion and cultural systems highly resistant to any criticism. Islamophilia is a vital part of this, since no other ‘outer’ religion needs a fraction of critical explaining because of the violence it’s curiously associated almost every day.

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  1. […] Coyne at Why Evolution is True has posted some notable charts from the Pew report, along with comments about the episode. Check out the “Must a Wife Always […]

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