Islam vs liberalism

It looks like a day of discussion about Islam today. I don’t mind posting twice about it in a row, for I do see it as perhaps the most important issue of our day: a clash between a modernity born of the Enlightenment and a group of people (I’m not referring, of course, to all Muslims) whose views and morality are positively medieval. It is as if modern civilization was suddenly put into contact with our morally retrograde ancestors, except that it’s occurring now.

And here is the problem of liberalism encountering Islam: a video op-ed by MSNBC‘s Chris Hayes on his show All In on Monday:

Hayes emphasizes that any discussion of Islam that doesn’t involve Muslims is invalid. That’s bogus. Islam is a code of belief, and is open for discussion by anyone. Certainly discussions should try to avoid distortion, but really—Hayes think that Reza Aslan is a good participant in such discussions? Aslan has a view of Islam that is even more biased than that of many non-Muslims, for he’s a dedicated apologist for the faith—so much so that he even distorts Muhammad’s personal history in an attempt at The Big Whitewash.  To think, as does Hayes, that Aslan’s apologetics is “more enlightening” than the views of Harris and Maher shows how misled (or cowed) many liberals are when it comes to Islam. And if you’re going to ask a Muslim what he or she believes, well, you certainly need one in the room, but Aslan is the one you’d pick only if you want the most favorable view possible of Islam. Actually, nobody is a good representative of the faith given the polarization—or so I hope—among Muslims,a s well as the personal costs incurred by making the least criticism of the religion. Would Hayes like it if a member of ISIS explained what he believed? Would he find that equally “enlightening”? Would Hayes be “enlightened” if a Muslim explained why he  cheered (as so many did) when 3000 people were murdered in the name of faith on September 11, 2001?

Somehow I see the recent discussions about Bill Maher’s, Sam Harris’s, and Ben Affleck’s views on Islam as a watershed moment: the moment when liberals really must confront the fact that their Enlightenment views on matters like the equality of women and gays come into direct conflict with another liberal tenet: tolerance of religion.  If  “tolerance” means—as it seems to for people like Hayes and Affleck—avoiding criticism of faith, then please excise that trait from my own liberalism.

I suggest reading Sam Harris’s take, newly published on his website, about the exchange between him, Maher, and Affleck (and Kristof) on Real Time. His piece, “Can liberalism be saved from itself?” gives us some inside information about what went on during and after the vitriolic exchange that, to my mind, completely discredited Affleck as a thinker—and as a civil human being. Here are a few excerpts:

One of the most depressing things in the aftermath of this exchange is the way Affleck is now being lauded for having exposed my and Maher’s “racism,” “bigotry,” and “hatred of Muslims.” This is yet another sign that simply accusing someone of these sins, however illogically, is sufficient to establish them as facts in the minds of many viewers. It certainly does not help that unscrupulous people like Reza Aslan and Glenn Greenwald have been spinning the conversation this way.

Of course, Affleck is also being widely reviled as an imbecile. But much of this criticism, too, is unfair. Those who describe him as a mere “actor” who was out of his depth are no better than those who dismiss me as a “neuroscientist” who cannot, therefore, know anything about religion. And Affleck isn’t merely an actor: He’s a director, a producer, a screenwriter, a philanthropist, and may one day be a politician. Even if he were nothing more than an actor, there would be no reason to assume that he’s not smart. In fact, I think he probably is quite smart, and that makes our encounter all the more disheartening.

The important point is that a person’s CV is immaterial as long as he or she is making sense. Unfortunately, Affleck wasn’t—but neither was Kristof, who really is an expert in this area, particularly where the plight of women in the developing world is concerned. His failure to recognize and celebrate the heroism of my friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali remains a journalistic embarrassment and a moral scandal (and I told him so backstage).

I hadn’t an inkling that Affleck might be a politician some day. I hope he keeps his day job.

The following is one example of how Sam manages to inject some dry and sardonic wit into discussions of even the most serious issues:

After the show, a few things became clear about Affleck’s and Kristof’s views. Rather than trust poll results and the testimony of jihadists and Islamists, they trust the feeling that they get from the dozens of Muslims they have known personally. As a method of gauging Muslim opinion worldwide, this preference is obviously crazy. It is nevertheless understandable. On the basis of their life experiences, they believe that the success of a group like ISIS, despite its ability to recruit people by the thousands from free societies, says nothing about the role that Islamic doctrines play in inspiring global jihad. Rather, they imagine that ISIS is functioning like a bug light for psychopaths—attracting “disaffected young men” who would do terrible things to someone, somewhere, in any case. For some strange reason these disturbed individuals can’t resist an invitation to travel to a foreign desert for the privilege of decapitating journalists and aid workers. I await an entry in the DSM-VI that describes this troubling condition.

And Sam on Reza Aslan, who gives me the creeps:

His thoughts about religion in general are a jumble of pretentious nonsense—yet he speaks with an air of self-importance that would have been embarrassing in Genghis Khan at the height of his power. On the topic of Islam, however, Aslan has begun to seem more sinister. He cannot possibly believe what he says, because nearly everything he says is a lie or a half-truth calibrated to mislead a liberal audience. If he claims something isn’t in the Koran, it probably is. I don’t know what his agenda is, beyond riding a jet stream of white guilt from interview to interview, but he is manipulating liberal biases for the purpose of shutting down conversation on important topics. Given what he surely knows about the contents of the Koran and the hadith,the state of public opinion in the Muslim world, the suffering of women and other disempowered groups, and the real-world effects of deeply held religious beliefs, I find his deception on these issues unconscionable.

I believe Aslan’s agenda is to become the Karen Armstrong of Islam. But let no one say that Dr. Harris pulls his punches. There’s a lot more, and I recommend reading it all.

Finally, before I leave, a rare event: comity between Sam and someone with whom he’s clashed before—Andrew Sullivan. At the Daily Dish, Sullivan takes Harris and Maher’s side in the debate:

Christianity has a bloody past and a deeply flawed present. Islam has a glorious past in many respects, and manifests itself in many countries today, including the US, humbly, peacefully, beautifully. But far too much of contemporary Islam – from Pakistan through Iran and Iraq to Saudi Arabia – is more than usually fucked up. Some Muslims are threatening non-believers with mass murder, subjecting free societies to shameless terrorism, engaging in foul anti-Semitism, and beheading the sinful in Saudi Arabia just as much as in the Islamic State. And if liberals – in the broadest sense – cannot stand up for freedom of speech and assembly and religion, and for toleration as a core value, then what are liberals for?

Does this make me a bigot? Of course it doesn’t. Criticizing a current manifestation of a religion is a duty – not a sin. And it’s not as if I have spared my own church from brutal criticism. And it’s not as if I do not respect – because I do – those countless Muslims and Muslim-Americans whose faith is real and deep and admirable. But it’s precisely because of those true representatives of the best of their faith that we should not hesitate to point out the evil and intolerance and violence of too many others. Some things really are right in front of our nose – and contemporary Islam’s all-too-frequent extremism and fanaticism is one of them.

As for Sam Harris, we are never fully in agreement, but on this issue – the unique threat that Jihadism represents in our world and the disgrace it represents for Islam as a whole – we are as one.

Well, I’ll be. . .

92 Comments

  1. Posted October 8, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    When you say “conflict with another liberal tenet: tolerance of religion” I think you really should say “conflict with another liberal tenet: multiculturalism”

    Feminism and other liberal values have been tying the ideologically PC left into knots since the 80s when they try to square the circle with multiculturalism.

    • Posted October 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I agree, the conflict would be with multiculturalism so long as that’s construed as the view that no culture is “better” in any way than any other.

      • Posted October 8, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        Precisely.

      • eric
        Posted October 9, 2014 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        Yep, I was going to post something similar. The good news, as I see it, is this: liberalism became infected with this postmodernism offshoot sometime around the ’70s, but it been beaten back slowly ever since. Postomodern false equivalency hasn’t died out, but it seems to be dying out (IMO). PoMo doesn’t have anywhere near the respectibility it used to have, and tomorrow, it’ll probably have even less.

        • Posted October 9, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

          “PoMo doesn’t have anywhere near the respectibility it used to have, and tomorrow, it’ll probably have even less.”

          Holy carp I hope so. My effectively worthless college education was an exercise in PoMo inanities. Don’t let your kids major in communications.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 9, 2014 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

            I don’t know how I escaped those horrors but I went to school in the 90s when PoMo was at its height. I’d never even heard of it until I heard about it here on this site.

    • Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Very astute analysis.

    • Filippo
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      Since you speak of feminism, what is your opinion about “masculinism”?

  2. GBJames
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I had seen that bit by Chris Hayes the other night when it aired. Yesterday morning I hopped over to the MSNBC web site to chime in on the subject since I was so annoyed by the stupidity of his position. It was refreshing to see so many of the comments were supporting Harris/Maher on this subject.

    I have once before written to Chris Hayes following an irritating comment he made regarding “atheists in foxholes”. I was surprised that he wrote back to apologize. This time I couldn’t find a direct email address for him so I expect no response.

  3. Posted October 8, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  4. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    “Even if he (Affleck) were nothing more than an actor, there would be no reason to assume that he’s not smart. In fact, I think he probably is quite smart, and that makes our encounter all the more disheartening.”

    It’s not just that he’s an actor. He’s an actor who had relationships with Gwynyth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez, and he’s an actor who starred in Gigli.

    • Posted October 8, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      I’m well acquainted with a cousin of his. While he obviously has certain talents he will never be confused with an intellectual by anyone who knows him. He can barely recite text from a piece of paper, which means his political career is done before it starts.

      • Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        *snort*

        That’s what teleprompters are for.

        And jobs like Vice President.

        • Chewy
          Posted October 8, 2014 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

          Or gov of Texas. All you need is smart looking glasses.

      • Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        This actually surprises me: He’s done some good things as a screen writer, director, producer, and sometimes even as an actor.

        I’m totally on Sam’s side here.

        • Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

          On Sam’s side that Affleck was unreasonable in their interaction that is

      • Posted October 8, 2014 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

        Ronald *cough* Reagan

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted October 9, 2014 at 6:24 am | Permalink

        “He can barely recite text from a piece of paper…”

        That’s curious, since it is one skill you would expect an actor to be able to handle.

    • Henry Fitzgerald
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Well, what actor hasn’t appeared in an embarrassing movie or two? And the relationships they form, while often weird-looking from the outside, make perfect sense when you consider the nature of their profession and working conditions.

      I’m inclined to respect Affleck: he can do at least two useful things (act and direct) better than I, for one, can do any useful thing. And these two things are in large part intellectual attainments – it’s not like I’m saying he’s a good weightlifter or model.

      (I also agree with Harris and everyone else here that Affleck made a prize fool of himself in this discussion, but that’s another story.)

      The stereotype that actors, particularly young and good-looking ones, must be a bit dim rather annoys me; I don’t think there’s the slightest bit of statistical truth in it at all. (Actresses, particularly young and good-looking ones, suffer even more from this stereotype, which therefore annoys me correspondingly more in their case.) I’m not saying you in particular are appealing to this stereotype, by the way; I’m just indulging in a favourite rant of mine.

  5. John Taylor
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    At some point in the past I posted a link to my favorite peak oilers bl*g because he put up a post on free will that was very close to the views expounded by our post.

    Well here are his thoughts on the Ben Affleck kerfuffle.

    http://peakoilbarrel.com/departure-standard-format/

    You have to scroll down past the stuff about oil production.

    Something strange seems to be going on in the universe. Why does my favorite peak oiler post things on Islam and free will on a peak oil bl*g and why are they so close to the views of my favorite biologist?

    • DrDroid
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      “Afflac”. LOL!

  6. reasonshark
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Hayes emphasizes that any discussion of Islam that doesn’t involve Muslims is invalid. That’s bogus. Islam is a code of belief, and is open for discussion by anyone.

    I think this is the other side of the confusion between attacking a belief and attacking a believer. Unusually, instead of complaining that critics who do the former are doing the latter, he’s complaining that they’re not, and can’t.

    What a preposterously silly idea! Or do I mean it’s a cynical one?

    • GBJames
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      It is absurd. How many times have I listened to him talk about stupid Republican politics without having a Republican in the room? Does he decline to discuss climate change if there are no denialists at the table?

      • Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        Oh, but see, religion is SPECIAL!

      • Marella
        Posted October 8, 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        And how about discussing communism with no communists present? I guess it’s completely unacceptable to ever discuss the ancient religions of Greece and Egypt at all!

    • Mark Hess
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      Good point.

      One need not include other muslims when analyzing/criticizing their dogma or actions.

      It would be a completely different set of circumstances if we were going to discuss the regulation or implementation of change within their religious community.

    • Sastra
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      This is where the gnu atheism method of categorizing religion is really felt. We stick it in with ideas — science and politics and philosophy and economics. Religious beliefs are hypotheses, explanations and answers to questions. We need to debate them in a diverse environment.

      The accomodationists who accuse us of bigotry and intolerance see religion as being in an identity category, along with race, culture, and personal lifestyles. We need to protect them in the name of tolerance for diversity.

      The fact that a Little People argument can invoke racial minorities, the third world, and guilt over colonialism makes it seem even more persuasive to those already eager to credit faith as a virtue.

      • Kaymaker
        Posted October 8, 2014 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

        Resa Aslan just made this same point in a NYTimes column.

      • Posted October 9, 2014 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        Very insightful – as is so often the case with your comments. Affleck has so conflated religion with identity that he doesn’t even have a terminology with which to disagree with Sam Harris other than to call him a racist.

        Richard Dawkins is loathed by religionists when he calls the labeling children by religious identity “child abuse”. Richard, of course, is is putting religion in the category of ideas and considers such labeling to be a kind of socially permissible/desirable brainwashing. My own tack along these lines is to challenge religionists by asking them why they don’t wait to tell their children about religion until they’re old enough to understand how “deep” it is. Of course, I can rarely suppress a snickering follow up: “Because you are afraid that a reasoning adult would never buy this bullshit.”

        • Sastra
          Posted October 9, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink

          Yes. I’ve asked that question and gotten responses which involved children being less corrupted by the world and closer to God — ‘trailing clouds of glory.’ They’re more receptive because they can still remember His presence.

          They also act like you’re advocating keeping a child away from their own parent. You’re not letting them learn how much they are loved … and this could warp them. That sort of thing. It seems that Love is trumps and they play it as often as they can.

          • reasonshark
            Posted October 10, 2014 at 7:25 am | Permalink

            Figures. The only response to drivel, it seems, is more drivel.

            It seems that Love is trumps and they play it as often as they can.

            Romanticism in general seems to act as trumps. Play the moral credentials card, play the morality card, play the defending humanity card, play the awe and mystery and wonder card, play the dehumanizing card, play the arrogance and humility card, play the “everyone is right” card, play the “we’re only human” card, play the tone trolling card, play the let’s-be-civil card, play the love card, play the virtue card, play the spiritual journey cosmic hippie gush card… play anything that suggests intellectual inquiry is just as much about having a good heart as having a good head. The implication seems to be that, if your heart’s in the right place, you’re either excused your errors or assumed not to really make any. In any case, you’re presumed more often than not to be harmless and/or wise in some way.

            It sounds nice and intuitive until you look into summaries of psychological literature such as Baumeister’s work, Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis, and Pinker’s talk of the moral sense in Better Angels. Then you find that many perpetrators of evil usually think of themselves as upstanding moral people who are either hurting no one (important) or punishing wrongdoers for some transgression. It also loses its lustre when denialists of such things as genocides, war crimes, global warming, and evolution are almost entirely motivated for “moral” concerns that apparently trump the evidence. In short, most perps of both moral and intellectual distortion are romantics of one sort or another.

            Although not all romantics are perps, after a while you do tend to be a little more skeptical and suspicious of a mind that’s willing to let emotional tugs supersede or sometimes even replace explicit and critical reasoning.

  7. Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    It’s not uncommon for me to disagree with Sam about what actions we should take or consider, but there’s rarely significant daylight between the two of us on analyses of what is.

    Islam and Christianity are equally toxic, but it’s only Muslims who’re intoxicating themselves on the poison in statistically significant numbers. Whatever it is that’s making them chug the Kool-Aid, it’s the Kool-Aid that’s the problem.

    What the solution is to that problem I’m not at all certain, but I very, very, very much doubt it involves sending in the cavalry….

    b&

    • Posted October 8, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      Ben, I’m not so sure Islam and Christianity are equally toxic. Christianity has lots of attenuating, what shall we call it, memes? And they have not been abrogated.
      Give Ceasar what is Ceasaers, whom who is without sin throwest the first stone, and the out-group Samaritan doing the right thing. Those kind of memes.
      These things are lacking in Islam, or have been abrogated.
      Hence I do not think the toxicity is really equal.

      • GBJames
        Posted October 9, 2014 at 4:53 am | Permalink

        Better way to phrase it, IMO, is that both are equally wrong but Islam in its current form is more toxic than Christianity in its current form.

      • Posted October 9, 2014 at 7:11 am | Permalink

        The Q’ran has verses calling for peace and brotherly love, and there’s red-letter text in which Jesus orders his followers to kill all non-Christians. Maybe proportions differ between the two, but not in any meaningful way — just how many times does Jesus have to tell you to slaughter those who won’t have him as lord and master, anyway?

        The difference is that, since the Enlightenment, Christians have tended to cherry-pick the peace-and-love verses and at first reinterpret (as spiritual struggle or the like) the many more calls to violence, and eventually to basically flat-out ignore everything but the “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam toaster oven” verses. The Islamic world never did have its Enlightenment and so it’s still stuck on “Kill zem! Kill zem all!”

        b&

        • Posted October 9, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

          Ben, please cite the “-letter text in which Jesus orders his followers to kill all non-Christians.” There is no such text, to my knowledge, but I await your attempt to do so with interest.

          • Posted October 9, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

            Really, Eric? This is the hill you want to plant your standard on?

            <sigh />

            Well, okay…you did ask for it.

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

            If you don’t have your printed copy handy, you can check the coloring here:

            http://wn.elib.com/Library/Religious/KJV/NR/NewTrl_luke.html

            b&

            • Posted October 9, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

              😳

            • Posted October 9, 2014 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

              As usual, Ben, you are as flatfooted as you can be in interpreting the gospels, and, for all I know, literature of any kind. I knew, of course, that this is the text you had in mind. But, as I have told you before, the verse you quote is from a parable. It cannot be read in any sense of containing Jesus’ commandments to his followers, and was, to my knowledge, never so interpreted. The king in the parable says this about his worthless servants, whose stewardship of their lord’s treasure, entrusted to them, had been grudging and self-serving.

              In the gospel of Matthew the same parable has a different ending, and speaks of the worthless servant (singular) being cast into the outer darkness where men will weep and gnash their teeth. The point, once again, is that you cannot take parables to be spoken as direct statements or commands of the story-teller, and it is an improper interpretation of language to treat them in that way. If I tell you a story in which one of the characters says something you deem morally objectionable, it would be simply a logical mistake to attribute that morally objectionable view to me.

              Let me remind you, once again, that following this verse, we are told that Jesus went up towards Jerusalem, which intimates his coming suffering and death. There is no red-letter text, as you claim, “in which Jesus orders his followers to kill all non-Christians.” This is simply absurd. He says nothing of the kind. (For one thing, there were no Christians in those days.) That you should repeat it in this way is evidence of a lack of an ability to reason clearly, and certainly a lack of skill in understanding anything beyond factual statements.

              • Posted October 9, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

                But, as I have told you before, the verse you quote is from a parable.

                Yes, of course. The standard apologetic reply — and one no different from those offered of similar passages in the Q’ran. And equally…well…sorry.

                The king in the parable says this about his worthless servants, whose stewardship of their lord’s treasure, entrusted to them, had been grudging and self-serving.

                The king in the parable is a stand-in for Jesus, and the parable is a stand-in for the coming Armageddon…where in other well-known passages we are told that Jesus will do exactly as the king in this parable does: return in a glorious battle which will end not merely with the death of all who would not that Jesus should rule over them, but with their infinite torture, just to rub it in and drive the point home.

                And, even if your interpretation really is the one that “Luke” had in mind — a ridiculous notion, but we’ll run with it — you’d have to be perfectly ignorant of human nature to think that nobody would ever interpret it as Jesus ordering death to all non-Christians. For every argument about Jesus’s battles being metaphorical spiritual struggles with the inner self, ten can be made about how, no, the plain text really does mean exactly what it says.

                Remember, Jesus isn’t offering up this king as a bad example of how not behave. Lacking an explicit statement as such, anybody and everybody knows that, at the very least, this is a “Wink wink, nudge nudge” instruction. “I’m not saying you should go out and kill Dr. Tiller. I’m just saying he’s a baby-killer, and this is his address.”

                In the gospel of Matthew the same parable has a different ending, and speaks of the worthless servant (singular) being cast into the outer darkness where men will weep and gnash their teeth.

                Oh, like that’s any better? That the worthless servant is sent straight to Hell rather than being made into a blood sacrifice?

                Eric, you of all people should know that parables are teaching devices, and that the point of the lesson doesn’t come until the “twist” at the end. And what’s the twist here?

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

                And it’s not like it’s at all out of character for Jesus, either. “Bring not peace but a sword”…rip families asunder…hellfire for those who love their families more than Jesus…eternal damnation for men who look admiringly upon women but fail to immediately thereafter pluck out their own eyes — and that last one right there in the opening of the Sermon on the Bloody Mount, no less!

                Fact is, the Jesus of the Gospels was every bit as horrific a motherfucking sonofabitch as Hitler; let’s not forget that Hitler, too, kissed babies. Yes, you can pluck a few pleasant-sounding deepities here and there amidst the rubble…but, really: how many times does Jesus have to order somebody off to the infinite torture chamber before you get it through your skull that maybe, just possibly perhaps, he’s not exactly a a very nice guy?

                To their credit, modern Christians are generally completely ignorant of the Gospel Jesus, and instead worship a fluffy bunny love god who wants them for a sunbeam. But this is very much a more recent invention with no bearing whatsoever in the original texts.

                Nor is it a traditional interpretation, either: see the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Conquistadors, the (very Christian!) Holocaust, and all the rest. I would hesitate to disabuse them of the notion, save for the fact that I tend to think these people love peace and civilization much more than they love Jesus, and they’re much more likely to abandon the latter in favor of the former than the other way ’round.

                b&

              • Posted October 9, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

                Ben, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anyone as invincibly ignorant as you. Your statement:

                Fact is, the Jesus of the Gospels was every bit as horrific a motherfucking sonofabitch as Hitler.

                is so ridiculous as to place you outside the limits of rational conversation. When you have learned to reason, then come back, we’ll talk.

              • Posted October 9, 2014 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

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

                And:

                Matthew 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

                35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

                36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

                37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

                38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

                39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

                And:

                Matthew 5:27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

                28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

                29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

                30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

                31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:

                32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

                (Emphasis added, of course.)

                And:

                Mark 11:11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.

                12 And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:

                13 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.

                14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.

                It must be noted that the fig tree was then and remains to this day the symbol of Rabbinic Torah study; this curse, typical of much of the Gospels, is but one small example of the rabid anti-Semitism displayed therein; see the “Brood of Vipers” epithet, the portrayal of the Sanhedrin, the scene with the moneychangers, etc., etc., etc.

                Finally, the prosecution will rest its case with a final quote from the defendant:

                Matthew 12:37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted October 10, 2014 at 6:59 am | Permalink

                Ben, notwithstanding your attempt to find a commandment of Jesus that his followers should kill all non-Christians (an anachronism if there ever was one), I am not denying the very troubling doctrine of hell and the idea of an eternity of suffering. This has always a concern of mine, even duing my believing days. But accuracy in criticism is as important as accuracy in scientific observation, and your earlier criticism is entirely unjustified (in particular your entirely ridiculous pairing of Jesus and Hitler), including your remark about the meaning of a parable being the twist at the end. The importance of the parable of the shares is not in its ending, but in its appeal to people to make the most of the gifts they have received, and to emphasise the importance of making the most of those gifts. My response is not, as you suggest, a typical apologetic reply; it has simply to do with the meaning of the parable, as well as the nature of the parabolic way of speaking.

                When you get to the point of criticising the doctrine of hell, which seems to have made inroads into Judaism (possibly from Zoroastrianism) in what Christians call the “intertestimental” period, you are on much stronger ground. No one can reasonably deny the horror of this doctrine. But the idea of God’s judgement does not, in itself, amount to a command to Jesus’ followers to kill non-believers in Jesus. Indeed, the point here is that the emphasis is placed on God’s judgement, not on ours.

                Nor, of course, am I denying (or could I deny) the deeply rooted anti-Semitism in Christianity, which I have condemned for years as a blight on Christianity. Most of the anti-Semitism arose in texts later than the gospels, due to what was apparently an intra-Jewish conflict over the status of Jesus and his significance. The idea developed that Christianity superseded to the promises of the first covenant in and through the second covenant (which is, of course, what ‘New Testament’ means), and this led to horrendous anti-Jewish words and acts, culminating in the Holocaust. While the Holocaust was not a Christian act, its roots lay within Christian anti-Semitism. But do please let us keep our criticisms within reason, otherwise we appear like ignorant yobs, as, in my view, too many new atheists do.

                As for the verse about bringing not peace but a sword, and ripping families apart, I suppose that, just by asking people to make a choice, the implication is that there will be disagreements and division. No one can teach a doctrine of any kind, whether religious or political, without realising that divisions are bound to occur, that there will be disagreements, and that the outcome will not be social peace. Anyone who knows anything about families must realise the truth of this, for even without political or religious divisions, families are often divided. Adding specific teachings to the mix, which will not obviously be shared by all family members, of course the outcome will be division. This is only common sense.

              • Posted October 10, 2014 at 10:06 am | Permalink

                Eric, you make my case for me almost as well as I could, myself. Do you not think Neo-Nazis fail to make parallel apologies for the Third Reich and Hitler as you just made for Christianity and Jesus? Did you not notice that this whole thread is devoted to Muslims doing the same with respect to Islam and Muhammad?

                Hitler made some rousing speeches with justifiably wide popular appeal that happened to contain some very disturbing — nay, more than merely disturbing — elements in them. He was the leader of a popular political party, many of whose planks (right of self-determination; equal rights for all citizens; abolition of war profiteering; expansion of retirement / social security; expansion of the middle class; tax reform; education reform; abolishing child labor; encouraging public health and fitness; abolition of mercenaries in the army; even a nod to freedom of religious expression) would fit right in amongst any other civilized nation…and, again, scattered throughout are all sorts of utterly unconscionable monstrosities. He was the instigator and leader of the most destructive war the Earth has ever known, and ordered and organized the most infamous atrocities in history.

                Jesus made some rousing speeches with justifiably wide popular appeal that happened to contain some very disturbing — nay, more than merely disturbing — elements in them, including elements you yourself just admitted to struggling with, yourself. He was the leader of a popular religious movement, many of whose principles would fit right in amongst any civilized people…and, again, scattered throughout are all sorts of utterly unconscionable monstrosities that you again just identified. He will be the instigator and leader of the real war to end all wars (Armageddon), and orders and organizes the most horrific atrocities imaginable.

                Either your defense of Jesus by only focussing on the niceties but glossing over and downplaying the nastiness (even whilst admitting it’s problematic) equally applies to Hitler, or we must condemn Jesus every bit as forcefully as we condemn Hitler.

                And, yes, of course — the Jesus of the Bible and later Christian doctrine is purest fiction, even if I grant you for the sake of this particular argument the existence of somebody with the same name who bore not even the slightest semblance to the one “known” to history. So? Would you not agree with me that Iago, Scarpia, Darth Vader, and Voldemort are all also horrifically evil characters with no redeeming virtues of any significance (even despite noble youths and deathbed conversions)? And yet not a single one of those fictional characters can even hold a candle to the evil of Jesus’s Armageddon and Hell.

                I thoroughly understand that the Jesus you used to preach bore little semblance to the Jesus of the Bible, being presumably devoid of hellfire and millennialism and anti-Semitism and never once uttering any of those “difficult” passages. But even you must be able to see that that’s no different from “reinventing” Hitler as a children’s storybook character who never had anything to do with WWII or the Holocaust and never wrote Mein Kampf — or who did write it, but we ignore all the nasty bits and reinterpret the less-nasty bits to apply to metaphorical inner spiritual struggles.

                I’m sure you can imagine how shocking it would be for somebody who had been a lifelong member of such a de-fanged enlightened liberalized Nazism to encounter somebody who didn’t pull any punches and identified Hitler as one of the most evil figures in all of history. Hopefully, you can recognize that same shock in yourself in your reaction to my identification of Jesus as the second most evil character in all of fiction, only after Daddy YHWH Hisself.

                Cheers,

                b&

        • Posted October 9, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

          Sorry, left out the ‘red’ in ‘red-letter’

  8. Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Chris Hayes is making the classic liberal mistake of allowing conservative politics to define the entire conversation. All that he, and every other progressive media personality whom has made the same argument, is doing is adopting the opposing position of the conservative right, whom typically vilify islam in service of advancing their own agenda of christian primacy. That there is a lot of racist scapegoating of Muslims in the right wing press must mean that all criticisms of islam are racist. To me, this is an indicator of people who put very little thought into their positions, which is disappointing coming from Chris Hayes, I thought he was better than that.

    • GBJames
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      Word, as the kids say.

    • Tumara Baap
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      Well said. The Right’s reaction to muslims stems from a narrow minded xenophobic premise. Their criticism is laced with hypocrisy. They will highlight the differences in cultural values between muslim and western societies. And some things are always left out.
      1)The sacred texts of both Christians and Muslims are repellent.
      2)Christians have often been worse in centuries past – Muslims in Turkish areas gave safe haven to the victims of the Spanish Inquisition.
      3) Western civilization is what it is today because of the people who refused to accept a special hallowed status for religion and bravely pushed back – John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, not to mention Voltaire’s brilliant adulterous wife Emilie du Chatelet, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Green Ingersoll, Elizabeth Catie Scanton, Margaret Sanger, and countless others.
      We have modern Western values precisely because of people who in their times were what Frances De Waal today is not… they were gutsy souls willing to critique religion in the marketplace of ideas on an even keel and gave no quarter. Yet the Right would have no qualms with a shift toward a Christian theocracy. And it is no surprise at all that those spewing their xenophobic hatred would be inclined to present the more truthful and troubling elements of Islam for their ends. Who wouldn’t? And nothing in this quandary negates that truthful plain fact – Islam is a nut job belief system with a disproportionate number of nut job adherents in its ranks.
      P.S. on pushing back on religion by Enlightenment figures don’t miss the Danish film “A Royal Affair.”

      • Posted October 9, 2014 at 8:08 am | Permalink

        Now that is a well evinced criticism.
        It’s very difficult to imagine that any list of religious apologists would be 3/8’s female. And yet, we hear Harris, Dawkins, et al being branded as racists for stating that islam oppresses women. It’s just sad when dumbass political correctness is what is standing in the way of criticizing legitimate oppression.

  9. Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    BTW Al Sharpton, who has a show on MSNBC, holds that god exists and is necessary for morality. I wonder if Hayes has ever criticized Al Sharpton for discussing atheism without an atheist present?

  10. Peter C
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    The problem I see with this discourse is that, in essence, both parties are partly right.

    Hayes is not right in saying that a discussion about Islam is invalid without muslims. However, such a discussion would certainly be incomplete. I think that neither Maher nor Harris would dispute this point, and it certainly does not invalidate their position.

    But, as you correctly pointed out, liberals must not forget that Islam would not be represented by the likes of Resa Aslan or Karen Armstrong in any complete. I would gladly count these broadly liberal thinkers as on my side of the debate, and I consider the fighting between these factions to be a disgrace of leftist dialectic.

    I therefore do not hold it against Aslan or Armstrong that they do not represent the views of the muslim majority. Their heart is essentially in the right place, even if their head is not (as Harris so beautifully phrased it).

    However, polls and statistical analysis show us precisely that a representant of the muslim majority, at the very least, believes in physical punishment for adultery, apostasy, and blasphemy.

    We are having this extremely necessary discussion about islam precisely because these values clash with what we believe to be the core virtues of the Enlightenment, of which we are the cultural descendants. Therefore, we would be well-advised to have discussions with actual representatives of the majority muslim opinion. I believe that both sides of the debate would benefit from that, as I am afraid that the current climate between islam and the west could escalate into something truly frightening, if our sides do not immediately start talking.

    The problem with terrorism and war is that it makes talking impossible. The words spoken by the leaders on either side do not represent any meaningful conversation, and it certainly does not allow the general public, who forms the opinions that are supposedly in conflict, to contribute meaningfully to the discussion.

    What we need, therefore, is diplomacy.

    • GBJames
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      “What we need, therefore, is diplomacy.”

      This notion, at times like this, seems rather a bit of a fantasy. Unless you use that magic wand of yours to cause ISIS and such to alter their primary mode of operation.

      • Posted October 8, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        I think that is precisely my point. ISIS does not represent the muslim majority position, and thus, I’m not expecting any diplomaticy from them.

        The majority of muslims do, however, favor draconian law against adultery, apostasy, blasphemy, and homosexuality (how could I forget) — it’s only that they would be more civilized about enforcing such laws, and about the extent to which they apply.

        Still, compared to the standards of human rights in the West, this would represent a huge step backwards. That is why there needs to be an honest discussion between actual representatives of the people who are supposedly represented by this conflict. Again, my point is that these two factions are not represented by ISIS and the governments of western democracies.

        • GBJames
          Posted October 8, 2014 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

          I’m not understanding you. Who is supposed to be being diplomatic with whom? Is the diplomacy a negotiation? Over what?

          • Posted October 8, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

            Well, let me give you an example that will be close to the hearts of the JAC readership. When people like Dawkins and Dembski have a public debate, they are essentially engaging in diplomacy between the subcultures of humanism and biblical literalism. It does not matter that they themselves never change their opinions during these events. It matters, however, that enough people from either side experience the argument taking place, if only because it clears up misconceptions that both sides have about each other — which is, after all, an important part of diplomacy.

            The Maher/Harris/Affleck debacle is essentially a debate about misconceptions. Either Affleck/Aslan/Armstrong/Greenwald/Hedges/etc. or Maher/Harris are under a misconception of what the muslim majority opinion actually is. As scientists, we know that the facts speak in favor of Maher/Harris. It quite rightly leaves us speechless that such level-headed people as many of the figures mentioned above fail to see the contradictions between their claims and such statistical evidence.

            If there was a debate between Maher/Harris and a muslim whose opinions actually represent a majority of the faith (certainly not Aslan), it would certainly clear up a lot of liberal people’s minds about what the global situation appears to be. In my original post, I merely suggested that perhaps this is what Chris Hayes meant in his piece. I mean, isn’t this what this debate is all about?

            So, when I said diplomacy, I meant it as a metaphor for a dialogue between respected public figures who genuinely represent the opinion of either side. In the Dawkins/Dembski debate, it cannot be denied that they, at the very least, represented a genuine display of the opinions of secular humanists and creationists. How often does such a debate occur between secular thinkers (of whom we have many), and prominent muslims who support physical punishment for adultery, apostasy, blasphemy, and homosexuality? How many muslim figures engage in debates with Anderson Cooper on CNN that genuinely defend and argue for the subjugation of women? Part of the bias of our media is that such voices are almost never heard, and almost never taken seriously. As societies, we are not having a “debate” by any stretch of the imagination. I think that is a big problem.

        • jaxkayaker
          Posted October 8, 2014 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

          Diplomacy or democracy?

  11. Posted October 8, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    It sure seems like whenever someone does not have a good argument to present for their position, that pulling out the Islamophobe/bigot/racist card is the first thing that they do to try to immediately redirect the criticism away from Islam, a dogmatic idea, and onto the speaker who then feels compelled to defend themselves.

  12. Rhaeyga
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Yes , in Indonesia women are treated as equal to men, which is why they had to make “women-only” train cars because of all the sexual harassment.

    /sarcasm

  13. Latverian Diplomat
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I agree, having a debate about atheism without including actual atheists is unfair.

    Wait, I got that wrong somewhere didn’t I?

    In any case, as the 1950’s showed us, the fact that the majority of atheists worldwide are communists shows us that all atheists hate freedom.

    Hmm, still messing this up somewhere.

    Less sarcastically, I agree with the general principle that everyone should be included in a conversation that concerns them. At that point, the merits of their arguments can be judged.

    And yes, Harris has facts that support some of his contentions, but anyone familiar with the history of Christianity and Christian extremism knows there’s more to what’s going on in Islamic countries than just the particulars of what’s in the Koran vs. the Bible, and that Christianity resisted moderation every step of the way.

    And yes, while Christian and Jewish conservatives don’t have the political power they crave, they do as much damage as they can. Look at the war on abortion rights here in the US, or in Ireland, or El Salvador; or the treatment of women and girls generally in the Ultra-Orthodox areas of Israel.

    Funnily enough, I see feminists in the front lines of those struggles, as well as in calling out the misogynist aspects of Muslim culture. So it’s tough to for me to see feminists as part of the problem here, as some clearly do. But, I’m just a stupid liberal, I shouldn’t have intruded into this conversation about liberalism.

    • Taz
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      “In any case, as the 1950’s showed us, the fact that the majority of atheists worldwide are communists shows us that all atheists hate freedom.”

      What statement by Maher, Harris, or Coyne are you mocking here?

      • Grania Devine
        Posted October 8, 2014 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

        It was a joke!!!

  14. J Smith
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    It does bother me that so many liberals are so knee-jerk about interpolating any criticism of Islam as Islamophobia or a form of racism. Affleck’s rant was completely polemical and over the top, embarrassing actually. However in our actor intoxicated culture, he comes across as the good guy, and I fear that bashing Harris based on ignorance succeeded. Kudos to Andrew Sullivan for defending Sam Harris position on his blog, the only “mainstream” defense of Harris that I am aware of.

    As a side issue, Argo was a great movie, but is manifestly false as anything close to accurate. It severely underplays the role Canada had in the rescue mission to promote a pure patriotic message. This is neither here nor there, but it always bothered me that no one seemed to notice or care.

    • Posted October 8, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      Regarding your side issue, that bothered me too. At least Jimmy Carter noticed! http://goo.gl/0Fi1o

      Unfortunately, probably not too many people noticed him. :/

    • Lars
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Just about everyone in Canada who saw the film, or read about it, or heard about it, did notice. We’ve all given up caring about this sort of thing, though.

    • Posted October 9, 2014 at 6:16 am | Permalink

      It’s why I didn’t want to see the movie. I remember those events and how Americans played the Canadian national anthem on radio stations every day for a week as thanks.

      But Canadians are used to being ignored by Americans and having their accomplishments down played so to that I say, “meh”.

  15. Keith Cook
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    For my part, discourse is paramount.

    Two quotes from Harris from his The Blog:
    “As I tried to make clear on Maher’s show, what we need is honest talk about the link between belief and behaviour”
    That is it in a nutshell, but I also endorse this statement as well.
    “Whatever the prospects are for moving Islam out of the Middle Ages, hope lies not with obscurantists like Reza Aslan but with reformers like Maajid Nawaz. The litmus test for intellectual honesty on this point—which so many liberals fail—is to admit that one can draw a straight line from specific doctrines in Islam to the intolerance and violence we see in the Muslim world”
    It amounts to the same thing as the first statement, but it seems very hard to take it in when your trying to be tolerant as a individual but not honest about the damage this is inflicting.

    Hayes is just theatre and polished garbage.

  16. Jimbo
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I saw Sam Harris last night at Harvard speaking with Greg Epstein for 1.5h

    Excellent stuff and the issue of crossing swords with Affleck on Maher’s show did come up (Sam said he posted the essay above an hour before this appearance). Not a lot to add to what he wrote but Sam did take a swing at the failing of liberalism on this issue and reiterated that criticism of the principles of jihad, martyrdom, apostasy, mistreatment of women (etc.) is more effectively communicated by Muslims like Ayann Hirsi Ali or Majeed Nawaz (discussion forthcoming) than from himself who can be dismissed as a white, priviledged male non-Muslim atheist. He excoriated Glen Greenwald and Reza Aslan in particular as being completely dishonest. I agree completely and can’t stand Aslan. Aslan appeared on Maher’s show on Aug 1 and was up to his Islamic terrorist pathetic apologetics and Doug Heye called him out on it: “You’re going to defend Hamas today?” with Aaron Sorkin jumping in as well:

    (advance the video 10sec in)

    • Jimbo
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      Shoot–didn’t mean to embed the video, sorry.

  17. Posted October 8, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Affleck should stop blustering, and so listen more and think.

    It’s always frustrating to hear these discussions/debates, because the nub of it all is that religion and belief in a personal god, supernatural being, etc are bogus things.

    Good people like Sam Harris and Bill Maher try to point out truth, but their critics merely look at the finger that’s pointing, instead at the truth (to borrow from Lao Tze’s analogy of the finger pointing to the moon, which is a pointer, but not the moon itself).

    • Filippo
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      “Affleck should stop blustering, and so listen more and think.”

      He should stop interrupting and cutting off. But, that’s more and more the conversational modus operandi in The Land of the Fee and The Home of the here Craven during the last twenty or so years.

      • Posted October 9, 2014 at 6:19 am | Permalink

        I think this style of discourse grew with the popularity of Fox News and “talk shows” like Maury Povich.

  18. Mark Hess
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Reza Aslan is a silver-tongued, religious apologist, who has perfected the art of rewriting the historical accounts of fictional people. Obviously, he has a “dog in this fight,” with respect to religion…you’d think people would be more skeptical of his claims.

    I’ve noticed that many wannabe intellectuals – specifically, those who conflate the irrational hypocrisy of religion and the belief that “we can all just get along” – tend to love Aslan. I think he gives liberals a sense of propriety; and no one is more smug than us liberals (I’m guilty).

    It makes you wonder if his admirers have ever read their holy books.

  19. ROBIN CORNWELL
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    I hope we do not turn into the UK where no one is aloud to speak their mind about Islam. Religion is racist, sexist, homophobic, and stunted. Being against religion is far from being racist. Religion is NOT a race – you are not born a muslim, jew, hindu, catholic or protestant. You are raised as one through indoctrination.

    • Posted October 9, 2014 at 12:41 am | Permalink

      ‘I hope we do not turn into the UK where no one is aloud to speak their mind about Islam.’
      Don’t believe everything you hear on Fox News.

  20. Randy Schenck
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Maybe in 5 or 6 hundred years their will be discussions/debates between atheists and Muslims as we now see between the former and Christians and Jews. The religion will have to undergo a huge change before this is possible. When we can not even have a dialog with the liberal Hollywood types about this religion, as proven on any number of television moments, do not hold your breath.

    Just as it is very difficult to understand any of the so-called atheist apologist slamming the true atheists the liberal rescuers fall for the same junk. I suspect much of it comes from the religious beginning of most people.

    As many already suspect, many of these atheists are not really so unbelieving as they claim. Nearly all came to this reason after years of religion in one form or the other. The Afflecks and Aslans of the world are certainly religious and they cannot see straight when it comes to these matters.

    I think these people must be let go because they cannot be moved and they only waste our time. Join ffrf and continue to fight the good fight where some good can be accomplished.

    • Sastra
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      Taner Edis, an atheist, has had some debates on the existence of God against Muslim opponents, with primarily Muslim audiences. The elaborate rituals of constant reassurance from speakers and moderators that this debate was in no sense supposed to indicate any doubt that Allah really exists would have been amusing if it weren’t so frustrating.

      Their arguments are if anything worse than those of Christians, I think, for they seem to have had so little practice of dealing with actual rebuttals. Iirc they rely a great deal on self-evident truths, spurious similarities between scientific discoveries and vague passages in the Quran, and really bad arguments against evolution.

      • J Smith
        Posted October 8, 2014 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        Too bad Taner Edis isn’t more well known. He’s a terrific writer, and a physicist by profession. His book The Ghost in the Universe, is one of the most comprehensive books on atheism that I’ve come across, combining arguments refuting god from science as well as those proposed by traditional religious texts -the Bible, Koran etc. Recommend it, if you can find it.

        • Sastra
          Posted October 9, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

          I bought it when it came out, since I already admired Taner from his essays on Secular Web. And yes, I consider it an early and excellent ‘new atheist’ work (though for some reason he rejects the ‘new atheist’ label.)

      • Todd Steinlage
        Posted October 8, 2014 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

        Do you remember the BBC debate about “The Life of Brian”, with Michael Palin, John Cleese, and a bishop (or whatever he was)? I can’t imagine a similar film being discussed in a predominantly Muslim country.

  21. Kevin
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Affleck needs to understand that people who do not want you dead if you stop believing are not Muslims and they, ‘true’ Muslims, do want those people dead. This is a tenet of their religion.

    Christianity has moved to the secularism-stage of its career…not too long ago it was as bad as Islam. Soon it and Islam will vanish altogether, unfortunatley it looks like Islam is about have a millenia behind schedule.

  22. DrDroid
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    I’m coming to appreciate the extent to which multiculturalism has hardened into a dogma that is preventing many liberals from thinking clearly.

    I thought Sam’s post-mortem was a masterpiece; he has a way with words that cuts to the core of an issue. It’s almost as much of a pleasure to read what he writes as it was to listen to Hitch destroy pretentious BS.

    Sam emphasizes that he’s criticizing bad ideas, not attacking all Muslims. But given that Muslims identify so strongly with their religion and its ideas, to them it must surely seem that *they* are being personally attacked.

    BTW, Andrew Sullivan participated in an online debate with Sam years ago. Sam utterly demolished him IMO, and since that time I think I see evidence that Andrew has thought more deeply about a few things.

  23. Bhagwan
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    This sums it up: Some on the Left have joined the crazies

    • Posted October 10, 2014 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      Bhagwan. Interesting that you should have chosen a pen name (if that is what it is) that means “Lord.” Nevertheless, what you say in putting the resistance of criticism of Christianity in parallel with criticism of Islam, is simply wrong. While Christians may sometimes express resentment at criticism, people criticise Christianity at will, and have done so for decades, if not centuries. Criticism of Islam, however, is in a different category. The moment criticism of Islam is offered, especially by those in the public light, death threats are not far away.

  24. Posted October 9, 2014 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    I maintain that a culture who respect abd upholds Huma Rights is BETTER than one who deniesthem

  25. Posted October 9, 2014 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    The guy uses air-quotes without irony – who would pay him any credence?

  26. Jack Rawlinson
    Posted October 9, 2014 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    Okay Chris, and while we’re at it, let’s not allow any discussion of atheism unless an atheist is there. Let’s not allow any discussion of Nazism unless a Nazi is there. Let’s not allow any discussion of cookery unless a chef is there.

    And so on.

    Rank stupidity of this calibre ought to be a sackable offence.

    • Graham Martin-Royle
      Posted October 9, 2014 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      Indeed, does he advocate this position for everything? I.E., no discussion of peadophilia unless a peadophile is present? What an intellectually bankrupt position.

  27. Posted October 9, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    I have read Sam Harris’s article and Sullivan’s response, and I fail to see any agreement between them. For Sullivan to say that Islam “has a glorious past in many respects, and manifests itself in many countries today, including the US, humbly, peacefully, beautifully,” is (and I am sure that Sam Harris would agree), mere persiflage.

  28. Curt Nelson
    Posted October 9, 2014 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    It seems like singling out Islam for criticism may be too problematic because of the inclination to see it as racism, Islamaphobia, etc.

    Maybe it should be criticized for being just another example of the harm religion causes. Instead of trying to prove that Islam is the mother load of bad ideas, most of which are shared by most muslims, one should just point out what is irrefutable: religion is tearing the middle east apart.

  29. jay
    Posted October 9, 2014 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    It’s amazing that Greenwald, who really did us all a service in the NSA outing can get this so wrong

  30. jay
    Posted October 9, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Interesting thought. Affleck was in Carlin ‘s film “Dogma “. If that film had been about Mohammed, he probably would have been a target for execution.
    Doesn’t he get it?


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  1. […] Saved from Itself two weeks ago too. Jerry Coyne has done a couple of great posts on the subject: Islam vs Liberalism and a couple of days later, Sam Harris responds to the Islam Fracas. The Canadian Atheist site […]

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