Julia Ioffe’s dreadful journalism: All religions are equally violent

Julia Ioffe is a Russian-born American journalist who’s had a good career for someone so young (she’s only 34). She was a Russian correspondent for both The New Yorker and Foreign Policy, and then moved on to The New Republic where she became a senior editor. Because I also wrote for TNR, I read some of her stuff, which I found pretty good. She resigned when the magazine changed owners, and is now a writer for The New York Times Magazine as well as Politico.

And she still writes for Foreign Policy as well, though I was appalled to see her latest piece at that site, “If Islam is a religion of violence, so is Christianity.” The title pretty much gives the thesis: that although many religious scriptures are violent, including the Bible and Qur’an, no religion is inherently violent. In fact, they all promote roughly equal amounts of violence, which is due not to the religion itself but how its scriptures are misused by those who have other grievances. And so we shouldn’t demonize Islam more than any other faith—and among those she includes Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and, I suppose, Jainism, Quakerism, and every other one of the thousands of religions on this planet. And so we have her last paragraph, which, if I didn’t know better, I would have attributed to the Great Apologist, Reza Aslan:

No religion is inherently violent. No religion is inherently peaceful. Religion, any religion, is a matter of interpretation, and it is often in that interpretation that we see either beauty or ugliness — or, more often, if we are mature enough to think nuanced thoughts, something in between.

But Ioffe’s journalism is dreadful and her argument is weak. First, the argument.

All religions inspired violence sometime during their history, ergo all are violent. Christians had the Crusades and the Inquisition, as well as wars between Protestants and Catholics and a vicious history of violent anti-Semitism. And much homophobia today is inspired by Christianity.

Even the Jews, which Ioffe calls her “co-religionists” (implying she’s a believer) practice violence. She refers to Hanukah as a celebration of violence, although the holiday isn’t a celebration of violence per se but of the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a struggle between two sects of Jews. But let’s grant her that thesis, and and admit that, according to the Old Testament, the Jews engaged in a frenzy of genocide on Yahweh’s orders.

To further prove that Judaism promotes violence, she mentions Yishai Schlissel, who stabbed six people at a gay pride parade in Jerusalem in 2005, serving ten years for his crime. Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Palestinian worshipers and wounded more than 125 in 1994, and was beaten to death on the spot, is also an exemplar of Jewish violence. These are indeed examples of religiously inspired murders.

Finally, Ioffe indicts Buddhists, too, citing the persecution of the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

There’s no doubt that, with very few exceptions, you can find members of any faith who have done bad deeds, and done them in the name of their religion. But does that mean that they’re all equally violent, as Ioffe claims?

You’d have to be blind to think that. We don’t see mass Buddhist, Jewish, or even Christian terrorism inflicted on the scale of what radical Islam is doing. We don’t see members of these religions blowing up airplanes or flying planes into buildings. Has a Quaker stabbed anybody lately in the name of Quakerism, or a Yazidi attacked innocent civilians in the name of their faith? Where are the Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist suicide bombers attacking cafes and nightclubs, citing the Bible or the teachings of the Buddha?

What Iofee is doing is using cherry-picked anecdotes to support a general thesis about the world today. This is not good journalism. Nor does she note that most of the anecdotes, at least about Christianity, are from the distant past, while what we’re concerned with is what’s happening in the world today. While Christian homophobes and anti-abortionists exist, there is no Christian church I know of, or any Jewish synagogue, for that matter, that dictates explicitly to its followers to kill nonbelievers, apostates, gays, and adulterers—as sharia law dictates in several Muslim countries.

By and large, the non-Islamic Abrahamic religions have been defanged by the Enlightenment. But that process is only beginning with Islam, and mostly among Muslims who have moved to the West. We can indeed make the argument that both the Qur’an and the the Bible are violent scriptures (though, on a word-for-word basis, the Qur’an is twice as violent), but what matters is how the scriptures are interpreted today, and how they inspire people to do bad things.  Ioffe more or less admits this, but won’t go so far as to say that Qur’anic scripture is more often used to justify bad deeds than is the Bible or the teachings of Buddhism. In fact, she claims that even scripture itself isn’t to blame: that’s just a convenient excuse people use to justify their inherent violence—which brings us to her second argument:

People simply use religion as an excuse to act on their inherently violent tendencies. As she writes:

No religion is inherently peaceful or violent, nor is it inherently anything other than what its followers make it out to be. People are violent, and people can dress their violence up in any number of justifying causes that seek to relieve people of their personal responsibility because the cause or religion, be it Communism or Catholicism or Islam, is simply bigger than themselves. It’s very convenient for both the perpetrator of violence and his accuser, and yet totally useless: Something can be done with a person who has transgressed, but what can you do with an amorphous concept?

“Dress up their violence in justifying causes”? Doesn’t she believe what terrorists say about their motivations? Perhaps not, for she knows better. And does she not realize that what Muslims make of their doctrine leads to more violence in today’s world than what Christians make of their doctrine? Why is that, if people are all equally violent for other reasons, and use their faith to justify what they do? As for “what can be done with an amorpous concept” (religion), is Ioffe not aware of antitheism and secularism, which argue explicitly against “amorphous concepts”. Is she ignorant of how for years people have called out Christianity and Judaism for their misogyny, homophobia, and, in the case of Catholicism, for enabling child rape? The statement “what can you do with an amorphous concept” is simply silly for a political journalist to make. Christianity and Islam are no more amorphous than Communism or the Republican party.

And yet when discussing specific cases, Iofee seems to accept that religion can indeed inspire violence. To make that point, she dwells at length on Dylann Roof, who killed 9 African-Americans at a church in South Carolina exactly a year ago today. Everything I’ve ever read about that case implicates racial bigotry as Roof’s motivation rather than religion (he was brought up Christian). But Ioffe tries to get around that:

Friday will mark the one-year anniversary of Dylann Roof killing nine people in the middle of a Bible study in Charleston, S.C. Before his rampage, he wrote a manifesto declaring his allegiance to the white supremacist cause and pointing to the Council of Conservative Citizens, which claims to adhere to “Christian beliefs and values,” as a major source of information and inspiration. By some accounts, Roof came from a church-going family and attended Christian summer camp. Did Roof kill his fellow Christians because he was deranged or because Christianity is violent?”

The answer is neither. They are not exceptions, nor do they speak to a violence inherent in Christianity. Because my point is not that Christianity is evil. It isn’t. But neither is it inherently peaceful and loving. And neither is Islam. Nor Judaism nor Hinduism nor Buddhism.

Yes, Roof came from a churchgoing family, but there’s simply no indication that religion sparked his killing spree, nor did he say so, for he wrote a manifesto. As the Christian Post noted (my emphasis):

There was no mention of religion in Roof’s alleged 2,400-word screed explaining why he had “no choice” but to take action after finding “pages upon pages of these brutal black on white murders” on the Council of Conservative Citizens’ website.

The Council of Conservative Citizens, which calls for the U.S. to adhere to “Christian beliefs and values,” explains in its “Statement of Principles” that it “oppose(s) all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called ‘affirmative action’ and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.”

By pointing to the Counsel of Conservative Citizens as having some connection to Christianity, Ioffe is simply grasping at straws, trying desperately to find some connection between Roof’s killings and his faith, even though she refuses to blame his faith.  But there is no evidence for that connection. On the other hand, it’s not hard to name the mass killings by Muslims, including the latest one in Orlando, where the killers explicitly mention their faith as a reason.

Ioffe does the same guilt-by-association tactic when she drags Laura Ingraham, a conservative talk-show host, into her argument about why Islam isn’t any more violent than other faiths. Ioffe:

I am tired of hearing, from Bill Maher and from Donald Trump, that Islam is inherently violent. I am even more tired of hearing that Christianity is inherently peaceful. I have witnessed this debate play out many times over, including at one dinner party when Laura Ingraham turned to the other guests and took a poll: Raise your hands if you think Islam is a death cult. Most of the (politically conservative) guests raised their hands and then took pains to explain to me how, unlike Islam, Christianity is inherently a religion of love.

With all due respect to my many Christian friends, I seriously beg to differ.

I am not sure what point she is trying to make here, other than that some Conservative Christians, as polled by Laura Ingraham, think that their Christianity is more tolerant and loving than is Islam. In fact, I doubt that many of those present even know what the notion of Islam as a “death cult” really means. The term, by the way, may have been coined by Sam Harris (I found a reference to it from 2006).

In the end, this is abysmal journalism fueled by the author’s prejudice, which she tries to justify by stringing together anecdotes, including mentions of Christian violence from hundreds of years ago. She gives no figures nor displays any knowledge of the Qur’an or of Islam itself, but simply declares that it’s no more violent than any other faith. Above all, she doesn’t seem to recognize that when we argue that Islam is the most dangerous religion on the planet, we aren’t saying that it’s scriptures are inherently more odious than other scriptures, but that the religion is interpreted in such a way that makes it more dangerous. This is not rocket science. It’s the height ot inanity to make the claim that, in terms of how their scriptures are promulgated and interpreted, all religions are equally malicious, down to the fifth decimal point.

I am not sure why Ioffe, who has a history of good journalism behind her, wrote such a shoddy piece. One can speculate that this is an extended example of virtue-signaling, or of Regressive Leftism. Or maybe she’s trying to distance herself from the outrageous anti-Muslim statements of Donald Trump. But I’m not a psychologist, and so will leave her piece as an dangerous example of fuzzy, Aslan-ian style apologetics, and hope that Ioffe will get off this horse and resume her usual good reportage.


  1. Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    It’s like saying that women are as dangerous as men, because there are some female murderers.

    • Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Good analogy.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      Female murderers are scarier than male murderers because we associate women with motherhood, but it does not follow (just as you say) women are generally as dangerous as men. We also note that in protecting young women can be dangerous.

      Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Female of the Species” is an example of this kind of problematic thinking. Every stanza ends with the line “the female of the species is deadlier than the male”.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

        Every stanza ends with the line “the female of the species is deadlier than the male”.

        Or to cite the oft-repeated (though I don’t know if it’s been properly sourced) claim that in Bader-Meinhoff times, the strategy of German paramilitary police was to shoot the women first, because they considered them more dangerous.
        May be an urban myth. But having made the mistake of trying to break up a cat-fight (of the human variety) … I’m not going there again.

  2. Cindy
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Great rebuttal PCC.

    I was just like her a couple of years ago. I naively believed that *most* religions were equally violent, and that Muslims were only engaging in terrorism because of the terrible injustices that have been foisted upon them by Western powers, namely the USA with both Iraq wars. Though Christians, in that part of the world, can certainly act in deplorable ways, it is not possible to argue that Christianity, and every other religion, as a whole, is equally violent.

    Where are all of the young Christian men and women traveling to the Central African Republic to genocide Muslims and take sex slaves? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_African_Republic_Civil_War_(2012%E2%80%93present))

    However, thousands of second and third generation Muslims are traveling from Europe to genocide the Kurds and take Yazidi sex slaves, praising Allah as they burn them alive and rape them. Colonialism is not to blame for this attitude. An Afghan laborer was recently skinned alive because he was a very distant relative of a man who had killed a Taliban leader. And once again, colonialism is not responsible for this barbaric stone age behaviour.

    These people are very tribalistic, they believe in the absolute authority of the Koran, and they think that their culture is superior to Western culture.

    P.S. #NotAllMuslims

    • Stonyground
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      “…and they think that their culture is superior to Western culture.”

      Actually, I think that they are acutely aware of just how inferior their culture is to Western culture. The problem is that dragging their primitive culture up to Western standards would require several decades of discipline and hard work. So much easier just to hate and murder and blow stuff up.

      • Cindy
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        They believe that their culture is superior and that they have been unjustly denied their Allah given right to rule the world.

        • somer
          Posted June 17, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink


      • Zado
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        They are well aware of their material and military inferiority. Rather, they believe their culture is morally superior, and they regularly contrast their pious ways with our decadent, drug-fueled, libidinous ones.

        And they do have a point. I can only speak for myself, but I’ll take sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll over piety any day.

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted June 19, 2016 at 6:29 am | Permalink


    • respublicus
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      You’re both right and wrong, I think, about colonialism–it’s not the direct cause, but there’s an argument to be made that by essentially continuing the (rather cruel) peace of the Ottoman Empire, Sykes-Piquot delayed the growing pains of a new geo-political equilibrium, and was continued by Western and Soviet backed strong men until very recently. So now what you are seeing is a vicious multiparty war exacerbated by religion, since in that region of the world, all politics is also religious, and vice versa.

      So really, ultimate cause is probably the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, with proximate causes being colonialism and religion. But it’s hard to say for sure because just like in, say, the 30 years war, religion is tired up in literally everything.

      • Cindy
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        I can get behind that. Historian also made some great points. It is a complex issue for sure, and there is no one answer.

        There are multiple contributing factors and I think that the very nature of Islam triggers a certain reaction from its adherents that you won’t necessarily see from the followers of other religions…

        Also, how does Saudi Arabia fit into this? They are Wahhabist Islamists, no? The Bedouin tribes who set about murdering anyone who did not convert to their flavour of Islam.

        Saudi Arabia, as I understand it, is currently a major source of funding for many of the various Imams who are preaching hate around the world.

        • chris moffatt
          Posted June 17, 2016 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

          Not only funding hate preachers but also funding and arming terrorists. They seem to think they will somehow be able to control them at some point in the future when the holy war is finally won. Seems to me rather like riding a tiger to which you toss large chunks of meat regularly – problem comes when you run out of meat and need to get off.

          • Cindy
            Posted June 17, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

            The oil rich Gulf states refuse to take in refugees – ‘the culture is too different’ – they say.

            Yet they expect Europe to absorb millions. And they oh so gladly fund the mosques and the terrorists…

  3. Les Robertshaw
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I am sick of all religions but Islam is the most dangerous at the moment. Not too keen on religious apologists either

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      For an integral of {dangerousness of adherent}*{number of adherents}, I can’t think of any competitor. For second place … I don’t know if it would be Christianity or Hinduism (because there’s a lot of violence in India that gets little reporting).
      Hey – I just thought of a good use for a megabuck or several of Templeton’s money!

  4. Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    The piece also doesn’t consider how very odd it would be if all religions were equally violent. Why should they be, since they are products of different cultures, have different scriptures and different histories and are followed in different parts of the world under different conditions? Moreover: is the thesis that they all equally violent at the present time? If so there is no guarantee that they will stay that way; it would just be a fleeting, freakish moment of synchronisation, that all regions happened to be equally violent at one particular point in time. But if the thesis is that all religions are not just equally violent now, but always have been and always will be (and that any new religion would automatically generate exactly the same level of violence as all the others) – well, you only have to state it like that to see how implausible it is. What could possibly be the mechanism that ensured this enduring equality of violence between religions?

  5. Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    sorry, typo – I meant “all religions happened to be equally violent”, not regions! (Though that would be a very odd coincidence too, of course!)

  6. Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I see this equation amongst the regressive left frequently. Islam has a body count?! Oh yeah, how about this, this, and this, huh?! (where they list some abortion doctor murderers).

    Well, yeah, there are nuts out there; but your entire body count wouldn’t cover one day’s count in the middle east for Islamists.

  7. sensorrhea
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    She seems to have nicely summed up the creed of most western journalists.

    I’ve noticed that identity politics are supremely important until something like Orlando happens. At that point the press goes into overdrive to strip the perp of any identities that could be seen as at fault. He’s not really Muslim. etc.

  8. Zado
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    All religions are the same.

    Scriptural interpretation is entirely subjective.

    Beliefs, even beliefs about a moralized afterlife, don’t actually matter.

    Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

  9. Himanshu Sekhar Pand
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Islam commands the believers to turn Dar-ul-hub to Dar-ul-Islam by waging Jihad against the non believers.No other religion including Christianity ordain the adherents to convert members of other religious faiths forcibly.This is the basic difference between Islam and other faiths mentioned by the author.Well,violence is instictive in human beings from the time when they lived as hunter-gatherers.So any association whether religious or social is not exemt from violence in some form or other.But what makes Islam forlorn is its’ directive to resort to violence for conversion.Now the most convinient alibi for violence is “Jihad” by Muslim fundamentalists.So I think that makes Islam inherently more violent as we are experiencing before and today.

    • somer
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      The Quran is jihadist enough. But the hadiths just as much or more so. Eg Hadith Al-Bukhari “He who dies without having fought or having desired to do so will die guilty of a type of hypocrisy.”

      According to Amr G.E. Sabet:
      “Since classical times around the 8th century AD onwards, the Islamic paradigm of law of nations basically divided the world into two opposing domains [Islamic domain of peace versus Non Islamic domain of war]. ….. This law of nations was not considered to be separate from the broader aspects of Islamic jurisprudence, but rather as an extension of the Shari’ah or sacred law. (Al-Ghunaimi 1969: 133)

      and Ibn Khaldun (famous Islamic scholar and historian, died 1406)
      “In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty because of the universalism of the mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense ….Only Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.”

      Sayyid Qutb referred to Islam being the “religion of peace” but he explained that this peace – Pax Islamica – would exist when the whole of the world had been subdued by jihad war and ruled according to the sharia.

      In the Ottoman empire peace was only ever supposed to be struck when an advantageous for gathering forces for the next assault on non Muslims (
      and 10 chapters comprising the “Institutes” section of the Hidaya commentary of the Islamic laws (used in South Asia) are concerned with the obligations of jihad, conduct of this and post conquest procedure

      • somer
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        Ottoman empire reference taken from Suraiya Faroqhi The Ottoman empire : A short history

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

      In general I agree with your main point. However, this claim needs backing up.

      Well,violence is instictive in human beings from the time when they lived as hunter-gatherers.

      At least some archaeologists assert that “organised” warfare is something that started in the proto-agricultural stage, as population densities increased and the option of going somewhere else became harder. It’s a contended point.
      Historically, Islam hasn’t had any major problems with tolerating the presence of other faiths – particularly the other Abrahamic religions. Sure they were literally second class citizens – had to pay a tax for being non-Muslims, for example ; often required to wear identifying dress – but beyond those relatively minor harassments (not the mass indiscriminate deportation that Trump promotes) were free to operate in society. So, the question is – what has changed in Islam between then and now?
      Of course, it’d be better if a hard rain would fall and wash all these scum off our streets. But that scum is all religious adherents, without discrimination. (I’d throw Trump out first, so that he’s at the bottom of the pile. With the Popes. And “little list” of America’s most vocal Xtians. But after that, alphabetically, or order of height, doesn’t really matter.)
      Now there’s another good use for a few megabucks of Templeton money. Let’s call it a “Bullshit Detector” (in deference to The CrⒶss) – a device that unambiguously can tell if someone genuinely believes in a religion – any religion – from someone who simply mouths the bullshit to keep on the right side of the neighbours/ family/ Thought Police.

    • somer
      Posted June 18, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      Humans have been aggressive since chimp time – many modern hunter gatherer people actually have a very high rate of mortality in their middle years from non natural causes (ie violence) compared to settled people.
      Lecture 3 and 4 – Professor Robert Wyman, Global Problems of Population Growth, http://oyc.yale.edu/molecular-cellular-and-developmental-biology/mcdb-150. Also way too many accounts by native peoples of shocking inter tribal/band violence (Inuit account in Pinker, Better Angels or Maoris saying its their culture to wipe out the smaller people, the Maorari, and the accounts of Yamamoto and many others in Wyman recounting gratuitous killing and torture of defeated enemies. Chatters study of 9,000 yr old skeletons in several sites in North America reveal very high levels of violence p 356 Violence and Warfare among hunter gatherers. The book concludes continuous archaeological evidence of violent conflict since paleo times tho slightly increased in early mesolithic – reasons given differ. Wyman’s sources find no link between community size and warfare in early village period. In Africa farmers and pastoralists displaced hunter gatherers to small, marginal areas over a period of hundreds of years – mostly Before Western contact. (John Reader)

      Chimps of course do organised raids to exterminate smaller groups and move into their territory (Jane Goodall only observed it at 25 years of observation but observed many times since) They also do frequent battery of females to soften them up to not resist for copulation at some other time. Also very common worldwide today according to many recent surveys – but even more common in traditional societies where many women actually say they “deserve it” (Wyman)
      That’s part of the acculturation.
      Females have lower status but maintain what status they have in the system by upholding it as it regards families, as part of their “honor”. Because the culture and religion is “morality” its model of family/sexual relations becomes goodness.

    • somer
      Posted June 18, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Just around 55% of the Quran rails against, curses, threatens and calls war on heretics and apostates, other People of the book and polytheists

      Its standard in Muslim mosques – including in Western countries like Canada – to begin with a prayer to defeat non Muslims
      “Muslims shouldn’t pray to defeat non Muslims”
      Tarek Fatah 13 January 2016
      “In the supplication, the cleric prays to Allah for, among other things, to grant “Muslims victory over the ‘Qawm al-Kafiroon,’” the Arabic phrase that lumps all non-Muslims — Jews, Hindus, Christians, Atheists, Buddhists and Sikhs — into one derogatory category, the “Kuffar”, or non-Muslims.”
      There is a strict limit to how conciliatory we should be to Islam – because it just its not just deeply regressive on its home turf

      Islam has always been aggro – it was milder in the 20th C for a while because it had to westernise/russianise for a bit and adopt some western style law to keep a favoured ruler in power or to modernise its military or to avoid intervention. Yes the Western interference was bad esp Mossadeqh – but so were the Russian threat to Afghanistan, Turkey and Soviet allegiances and power play (adding to the current sit in Syria, Iran, Lebanon)
      Indian patriarchy might be just as bad but its only maintainable within the caste system and its not a revelatory religion – they tend to happily liberalise outside India when they do well, which is usually. Thats why Islam is different – its more of a threat to an escape from our primate awfulness if we don’t STOP saying we are a worse culture and we deserve to let it work its magic in us without Us acculturating it in our own home base – fair enough muchly. Yes our foreign policy is messy and we’ve done some bad things but then we live in a crap world and we have to deal with some mean guys like Russia, competing hatreds in the region that don’t mean us well either, elements of Chinese behaviour etc etc. China plans to eventually have a naval base in the pacific just near the US coast and already has one on the Arabian sea in Baluchistan.

      Over the period of Islamic empire, it took as many slaves as Western Atlantic trade. 60% of them female sex slaves (both from Ronald Segal) used as domestic workers and for masters pleasure so perhaps that doesnt count. Even Segal concurs with Bernard Lewis that at point of conquest, the parents would be killed to take the slave, and that raiding just for the purpose of taking slaves occurred in africa. Europe had a levy of 10% of the boys taken – after conquest for 100s yrs. These mostly “elite” slaves, not legitimate to rule, serving a sultans guard and senior administrators thereby acting as political and military buffer between ruling clan and other tribes. These totally dependent on whim of sultan/caliph, taken from infidel lands as boys, forcibly converted, never allowed to return home and either not allowed to pass inheritance, or not allowed to marry. Of course til 19th Century Tunisia took slaves from the eastern mediterannean coast, including Irish coastal villagers, mainly fishers. Up til the 1860s Christian rebels/ bandits (Hadjuks) would be publicly impaled alive through the rectum by the Muslim authorities. In many places the dhimmi lived in dire poverty

      • rickflick
        Posted June 18, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        So, it’s not all American imperialism?😉

        • somer
          Posted June 19, 2016 at 5:49 am | Permalink

          OF Course it is, How COULD you suggest such a thing?💩😉

  10. John
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    “Above all, she doesn’t seem to recognize that when we argue that Islam is the most dangerous religion on the planet, we aren’t saying that it’s scriptures are inherently more odious than other scriptures…”

    Uh, some of us sure are saying that, yeah. You yourself even noted: “…on a word-for-word basis, the Qur’an is twice as violent [as the Bible]…”

    Jesus never told his followers to kill anyone. Muhammad most certainly did. Repeatedly.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      Jesus did order non-believers to be killed.

      Luke 19:27 “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me.'”

      But these lines have not gotten a lot of traction. That is a big difference.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

        Ken Ham, and the Paisleys (pere et fils) need some spiked shoes for better traction.

      • Alan
        Posted June 18, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        Luke 19:27 is called the Parable of the Ten Minas, and it does not command Christians to kill people. Nice try.


        • Jeremy Tarone
          Posted June 18, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

          Every Muslim I’ve ever talked to about the Quran says the same thing.
          We’re not interpreting it right.
          Those who do interpret it wrong are not real Muslims.

          I wonder how many Christians have interpreted it to mean exactly what it says, and how many are dead because of that text?
          Christianity has killed many non believers, including the wholesale slaughter of Jews in towns and cities.

          • Alan
            Posted June 18, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

            When the Quran says “slay the infidels,” we turn to the hadith and sira and find out that Muhammad spent the last 10 years of his life slaying infidels. The violent interpretation is a plausible one, because the Quran’s best interpreter (Muhammad) literally slayed infidels.

            It’s different with Jesus.

            You’re accusing Christians of cherry picking and misinterpreting biblical verses, which is ironic because that’s exactly what you are doing with the parable in Luke 19 in order to paint an image of Jesus that is at odds with his portrayal in the New Testament.

            Muslims have done exactly the same thing using this same parable. In his 1985 book “Crucifixion or Crucifiction,” the well-known Muslim apologist Ahmed Deedat alleged that this parable proves that Jesus was calling for jihad against unbelievers. Basically, this was a way for Deedat to defend Muhammad’s behavior: “See! Jesus did it too!”


            And this whataboutism continues to this day. We still cannot discuss Islamic terrorism without someone reminding us that “Christians did it too!”

            Before I say anything else about the Parable of the Ten Minas, you should go and read all of Luke 19 for yourself. This chapter is not very long and it will give you some context.


            Okay, ready?

            What is the point of the parable? Luke 19 tells us: “The crowd was listening to everything Jesus said. And because he was nearing Jerusalem, he told them a story to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away.” (Luke 19:11 NLT) In the parable, a nobleman goes away to a distant land to become king. While away, he expects his subjects to continue to serve him. But some of his subjects reject his kingship and behave more like his enemies, so when he returns he has them slain.

            The Jews of Jesus’ time are the servants in the parable, because they reject Jesus as their king. The punishment of the unfaithful servant might refer to one of two things: either it is a reference to the judgement at the end times, or it is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. The latter interpretation might be supported by the prophecy Jesus makes later in the chapter: “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation.” (19:42-44).

            In other words, Jesus says that the Jews will be punished for rejecting him, and he predicts that the Romans will be the instrument of God’s punishment. Whatever the case may be, the important thing to remember is that Christians do not interpret this parable as a call for jihad. Why? Because that interpretation would be utterly preposterous in light of Jesus’ teachings throughout the New Testament.

            When Jesus is arrested and one of his disciples cuts a Roman soldier’s ear off, Jesus rebukes the disciple: “‘Put away your sword,’ Jesus told him. ‘Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?'” (Matthew 26:52-53).

            Later during Jesus’ trial, he makes it clear that he is not a worldly king: “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

            On the one hand, we have a man who tells his followers to turn the other cheek, pray for their enemies, and who rebukes his followers for becoming violent. He says he is not a worldly king and does not want his followers to fight. Jesus taught pacifism and he practiced it (he never killed anyone). On the other hand, we have Islam’s prophet. Muhammad taught violent jihad and he practiced it.

            So when someone points to Luke 19:27 and tells me that Jesus commanded his followers to kill unbelievers, I have to ask why that is a plausible interpretation in light of his actions and teachings. And when a Muslim tells me his is a religion of peace, I point to Muhammad’s life and actions and ask why that is a plausible interpretation of Islam.

            • HaggisForBrains
              Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:54 am | Permalink

              Thank you.

  11. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    It’s probably more correct to see Christianity as polymorphous than amorphous. Individual schools of thought have fairly well-defined beliefs, but new species are frequently evolving.


    The Enlightenment is surely the main factor defanging Western Abrahamic religions, but has its precursors including Renaissance humanists like Montaigne and Erasmus, and the Mennonite and Quaker ethics of non-violence and pacifism.


    Although Eastern Orthodox churches in the Middle Ages persecuted Jews, they did not participate at all in the Crusades (and were often victims of same) nor did they have anything resembling the Inquisition.


    A few months after 9/11 I Googled (in quotes) the following just to count the hits:
    “Muslim terrorist” “Christian terrorists” “Buddhist terrorists” “Amish terrorists”. The relative frequency was what one would expect.
    Of course, getting more coverage doesn’t mean the phenomenon is more frequent.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

      A few months after 9/11 I Googled (in quotes) the following just to count the hits:
      “Muslim terrorist” “Christian terrorists” “Buddhist terrorists” “Amish terrorists”.

      The necessary second datum is, what were the results when you did the same experiment a few months before 9/11 (but maybe after the 1998 Nairobi bombing).
      Does the Wayback Machine have the tools to do that? It’s possible.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

        From the Wayback Machine’s help :

        Can I search the Archive?
        Using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, it is possible to search for the names of sites contained in the Archive (URLs) and to specify date ranges for your search. We hope to implement a full text search engine at some point in the future.

        So, not yet.

  12. Curt Nelson
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    What you do with an amorphous concept is criticize it. But what’s amorphous about a black and white book?

    The idea that the content of a religion’s guiding holy book has nothing to do with the behavior of the religion’s followers is so absurd it’s a joke.

    But of course the alternative, that the beliefs and actions of religious people are pulled out of their asses, gives plenty of reason to fear and criticize religion.

  13. Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    All religions are equally violent, but some are more equal than others.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

      Bacon sandwich, Napoleon?

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink


  14. Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    “No religion is inherently violent. No religion is inherently peaceful. Religion, any religion, is a matter of interpretation…”

    No food is inherently fattening. It is a matter of how much you eat.

    No gun is inherently lethal. It is a matter of where you point it.

    No rocket is inherently fast. It is a matter of whether it’s flying or not.

  15. somer
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Global warming plus resurgent superpower tensions plus the return of Islamic power plus naive regressives **** bye bye now Enlightenment. Following destruction of economy and infrastructure world wide, after generations of slow decline of technology, standard of living and all humanism with it world wide, fundamentalism/traditionalist violence worldwide, back to 16th Century Christendom in Europe with large minorities of medieval Islam interspersed. To quote Recep Erdogan ‘”the term moderate Islam” is ugly and offensive. There is no moderate Islam. Islam is Islam’
    I must be a monster ….

    This is Bigotry – proceedings in a Muslim gathering in America

    Islam is More traditionalist again and has more built in features to spread and maintain its rigidity. It has an emphasis on extended kin not institutions and its an evangelical end of world religion like Christianity but with more emphatic intolerance and an huge value on machismo, mate guarding and everything discussed in the first four lectures of Professor Wyman – The Problems of Global Population Growth.

  16. Aimsworthy
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    > Doesn’t she believe what terrorists say about their motivations?

    Do you? Osama bin Laden cited motives like the US/UN sanctions on Iraq (“the greatest mass slaughter of children mankind has ever known”), US support for Israel, the presence of US troops in Mecca and Medina, and support for corrupt Arab dictatorships.

    I quote: “More than 600,000 Iraqi children have died due to lack of food and medicine and as a result of the unjustifiable aggression (sanction) imposed on Iraq and its nation. The children of Iraq are our children. You, the USA, together with the Saudi regime are responsible for the shedding of the blood of these innocent children.”

    Do you believe what he said about his motivations, or do you “know better” as well?

    • Posted June 21, 2016 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      Bin Laden has said many different things, often mutually exclusive, but his foot soldiers and other Muslim terrorists lay down their lives with the cry “Allahu akbar!”.

  17. Historian
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    It is wrong to say all Abrahamic religions are inherently violent. It is wrong to say all religions are inherently peaceful. It is correct to say that religion can be used to justify peace or war or just about anything else. Currently, certain adherents of Islam justify violence by citing Islamic theology. Also, Islam theology justified the spread of the faith by violence in centuries past. In the past, Christians cited theology to justify the butchery of the Crusades and the pogroms against the Jews in Czarist Russia and elsewhere. Even today, a few lone wolf Christians cite theology to justify mass killings even if they don’t engage in it themselves. Think Pastor Roger Jiminez.

    So, various faiths in various historical eras have used theology to justify extreme violence. But, the existence of such theology is not sufficient to explain the outbreak of violence. Specific historical circumstances have to exist for outbreaks of violence. This only makes sense because religions have gone long periods relatively peaceful. In other words, a trigger event is needed. What has been the trigger to set off segments of Muslims over the last 20 years or so? That’s a hard question to answer, particularly because so much energy has been expended trying to deny the obvious Islamic link to violence and terrorism. Maybe the trigger was imperialism. Maybe it was the extreme poverty so many live under in the Middle East. Maybe it was the dictatorial regimes. I don’t know the answer, but maybe it will emerge over time.

    Since religion is a necessary but not sufficient element in explaining much violence throughout history and any religion, under the right circumstances, can turn violent, the disappearance of religion would certainly make the world more peaceful. The trend is positive in western countries. Of course, the same cannot be said for Islamic countries. Perhaps things will change for them in coming decades. One never knows.

    • Zado
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      I think all Abrahamic religions are inherently violent (and Jainism is inherently peaceful). Which is to say, I think monotheism is inherently violent. Islam just happens to be the most monotheistic monotheism.

      Its “recitation” comes from one prophet and is considered word-for-word beyond dispute, transmitted directly to Muhammad from the “uncreated” original in heaven via an angel. Ideas like this are inherently violent, for they cannot bend; they can only break.

      Also, Islam is apocalyptic, for the same reason its predecessors are: the contradiction of monotheism. Namely, the world was created by a perfect being, but the world is not perfect. This contradiction will be resolved on the Day of Judgement, when all humanity is to be bifurcated between the righteous and the wicked, and this world will pass away (along with the latter category of people). Again: an inherently violent idea.

      With that said, there are good reasons why people born into these faiths don’t normally try to bring their theology to life. But that doesn’t excuse the theology.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

      Christians cited theology to justify the butchery of the Crusades

      Without checking – does that include the “Sack of Constantinople” in Crusade-3 or Crusade-4? (I lose track of in which Crusade which city got butchered by which side.)

      • Pali
        Posted June 18, 2016 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

        Well, they were Orthodox rather than Catholic, so quite possibly they were seen as fair targets on religious grounds. I don’t know anywhere near enough about the period to know if it was actually so, though.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:37 am | Permalink

          They were “other”, and so an ideal target for xenophobia.

    • somer
      Posted June 18, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      As Ive said elsewhere, muslims started attacking France within 20 years of the death of the prophet. Actual remains of Islamic soldiers of the period have recently been found. They were driven out by Charles Martel. Not long after they conquered most of Spain and Portugal, whose populations resisted them for 800 years. From the late 1200s they started conquering Eastern Europe and eventually Greece and Byzantium, which (apart from Istanbul of course) likewise struggled for hundreds of years to reassert Non Muslim majority identity. Of course there was the famous siege of Vienna that failed (two actually, the last one in the 1ate 18th) and the Barbary pirates capturing slaves for the Berber Muslim authorities, from all over the Western Mediterranean

  18. Posted June 17, 2016 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I tend to agree with Jerry, but think it is complicated and not as easy as it might seem.

    Religion can be defined narrowly (Dennett) or wide (Durkheim), and both centre other elements in their concept. For Dennett, it’s the aspect of worshiping a deity in order to gain something from the relationship (typically securing your own afterlife). For Durkheim, it’s more about groups organizing themselves around shared sacred values, and hard-to-fake customs that foster mutual trust and cooperation.

    And then, religions are to culture as what metastasing cancer is to other tissue, frequently inseparable, fused together with values and identities, so much that Richard Dawkins (and I as well) consider ourselves “cultural Christian” even when that label is to a considerable degree a historical fiction.

    When we talk about Islam, we also mean the societies in Muslim-majority countries. We often want to create a separation between believer and doctrine, but I think everyone halfway suspects the futility of this maneuvre. People feel as offended when you attack their faith as if you insulted their mother (i.e. their family, their blood, their origin) — this analogy was made by the current Pope himself in the aftermath of Hebdo (I believe).

    Another complication is that West did meddle in Islam-ruled countries and demonstrably did support most backwards, extremist and monarchist elements (the gallery of “friends” include such outspoken democrats and humanists as Al Quaeda, Taliban and the Sauds). The Durkheimian aspects of religion do play a role and we know this from research after research. It’s an identity that gives individuals a common cause and something to feel important, and maybe a meaning in their otherwise perspectiveless life.

    When Noam Chomsky’s arguments are shortened so that they sound fantastically silly, a critical thinker should perhaps be cautious whether Chomsky really proposed such things. Of course he doesn’t say that it’s the West’s fault that Muslims throw gays off roofs. But Sam Harris also never proposed torture was a good idea. We have to get away from such silly, and increasingly partisan interpretations.

    As of now, Islamic societies are considerably more conservative, pious and literalistic than those of other faiths. They are also far more homogenous, all things considered, than other societies — which appears to have reasons in their religious tenets, too. It is uncontroversial that lack of experience breeds prejudices, which can be subsumed and amplified in the Islamic world into their faith. Which appears to happen.

    It is also no secret that children of immigrants are often torn between worlds, and the lack of integration of their parents generation impose additional disadvantages that result in relative poverty and lack of perspective. Where the parents once chose to settle somewhere and probably know their local community well, their offspring has no place there. But we make no bones about identifying the role of ideology and beliefs in about any other case, except when it looks like mental illness. But making matters more complicated, when a murderer later confessed he did it because Jesus told him so, we consider this as a serious mental impairment rather than religious belief. Even that depends. However, generally, when someone firebombs an asylum shelter, and collects Nazi items, we are not left wondering what exactly is to blame. We readily accept that ideology played a big role, alcolohic and abusive father and difficult childhood notwithstanding.

    In my view, the argument for us can only be decidedly anti-theistic. Religions are powerful rationalizers, where prejudice and bigotry allow followers to indulge in them, despite (secular) pressure to give up such notions. Further, some societies, cultures or followers are consistently more pious, conservative and bigoted, because they stick to belief systems that are rooted in a prehumanistic mindset. Islam is among the worst offenders, but it may be not so in absolute terms, since we don’t know how a comparable Evangelical Theocracy would look like (because the West is far more diverse, and has been “theologically” since the 16th century, which I view as an additional factor next to the humanistic taming).

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 18, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Great thoughts here Aneris!

      The “culturally Christian” part is funny, isn’t it? I don’t label myself that as I never went to church but Christian holidays and customs are so intertwined in my culture that I consider it just part of my cultures. I think this is what Dave Silverman talks about as well when he says that Christmas is for everybody.

      A colleague of mine, who is Russian and Jewish, said she loves Christmas as it reminds her of Russia. She lived there during the Soviet times so Christmas wasn’t an official holiday, but everything was decorated for Christmas. When she moved to Canada, she sent her kids to Jewish schools and she had to stop getting a Christmas tree because it was frowned upon by others at the school. That’s a real shame and I think she really misses it.

  19. Posted June 17, 2016 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    After some early, unknown date when humanity tried to find a way of controlling the dangers of the universe, s/he came up with religion(s). Each tribe developed its’ own belief systems and rituals. As long as they stayed home, change was not rapid. When they started moving about and interacting with other tribes, they picked up a lot of new ideas and incorporated them. Religions, as we know them today, are a mish-mash of ideas we’ve picked up over the many centuries in our travels and interactions with those that are not “us”. We’ve modified these new religious practices to make them “coherent” within “our” religion. (You’ve read and seen how well that worked.)

    Give science a chance!

  20. jay
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    The problem with her, and with many others, is that the narrative gets priority over the facts. The sacred concept of equality, or non discrimination, suggests that all groups are not only treated equally but (it is assumed) will respond equally. So if a culture or group behaves badly it *must* be because of some outside pressure.

    This unwillingness to look outside the ideology spills over into many areas. The EU ideologs seem to actually believe that bringing large numbers of people from a relatively violent, misogynistic, primitive religious culture into a liberal secular democracy that has been centuries in development would not cause side effects. But not all immigrants are equal: a hundred thousand Jews from Eastern Europe would be a benefit to the host country, in a way that a hundred thousand Wahabist Muslims might not.

  21. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    I had been lately considering the idea, which I suppose is mine, that any doctrine that declares what is moral and what is immoral will gather around believers who will that are distributed around that doctrine, but among those will be some who will want to defend the doctrine with violence.
    In this distribution of believers will be those who will move from considering something is immoral (‘homosexuality is a sin’) to hating the sinner (‘I hate gays’). And from those will be some who want to act on their hatred (‘I want to kill gays’).
    Lately we are hearing a lot from various religions about how they do not approve of homosexuality, as they consider that to be a sin, but that they do not themselves condone violence against gays.
    What they are conveniently forgetting is that every doctrine is surrounded by a range of beliefs and actions that are spawned by that doctrine.

    • Sastra
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      The insistence that “I do not judge; I leave that to God” sometimes runs head first into “we need to live according to God’s ways, not man’s.” God routinely holds its followers accountable for the tone and habits of the society in which they live: they are supposed to influence and guide others. That’s not always going to be by setting an example or just giving advice. Not if the wickedness of the nonbelievers matters.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

        The insistence that “I do not judge; I leave that to God” sometimes

        The other side of that coin is Cromwell’s (alleged) line in Ireland of “Kill them all ; let God sort them out.”
        Modern version : objecting to the distribution of condoms in Africa to attempt to control the spread of AIDS.

  22. Heather Hastie
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I can’t help wondering whether this sort of writing, when it comes from a previously good writer, is some kind of mental backlash against Trump and those who, while distancing themselves from Trump’s egregious statements, are nevertheless supporting him. Trump is causing increased random hatred to be expressed towards Muslims and so the reaction of many, I think, is to try to counter that by extra support for Muslims. The problem comes when the arguments they use, such as Ioffes’, don’t hang together.

    A better approach imo is to attack Trump’s arguments directly – it’s not as if they’re very difficult to counter and it might make some people reconsider voting for him. The current societal pain will start to ease and heal once the poison is removed.

  23. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    A similar idiotic comparison would be – All religions treat women equally bad today. Islam gets the prize for both violence and misogyny. You are number one, Islam.

  24. Posted June 17, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Religious and political beliefs can spawn rigid, dogmatic interfaces like theocracy and fascism. A perspective based on secular enlightenment principles doesn’t. In that sense, most religions can give way to theocracies under certain conditions.

    Islamic theocracies are numerous. That characteristic alone sets Islam apart from every other religion at present, making it the most actively dangerous and recalcitrant one of the lot. American Christian fundamentalists would love a theocracy too, but separation of church and state makes that desire very difficult to realise. Violent tendencies in general are formed because of both nature and nurture. How nurturing is a theocracy?

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      If nurture is also brain washing – Islam does a better job of it, therefore, theocracies. Very much like Hitler and the Nazis.

  25. chris moffatt
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Koran 47:3-4.”Those who disbelieve follow falsehood, while those who believe follow the truth from their Lord… So, when you meet in Jihad in Allah’s Cause, those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly on them,… If it had been Allah’s Will, He Himself could certainly have punished them, but He lets you fight, in order to test you, some with others. But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost.” (there’s lots more like this in the Koran and yet more in Hadith)

    I’ve been trying to find an equivalent passage in the Diamond Sutra and the Blue Cliff Record but without success. I don’t even think there’s anything like it in the New Testament, is there?

    If anyone wants to know about a religion, read their scriptures – it’s easy!

    Unfortunately today what passes for journalism doesn’t include fact checking – viz. the journalistic dolt who recently reported the Queen of UK was dead. O tempora – O mores.

    • Alex SL
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

      No doubt about the differences between scriptures, but admittedly the Old Testament contains more than enough promotion of genocide etc, and the NT can be interpreted freely as either re-endorsing all of the OT or as having given new rules…

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      the journalistic dolt who recently reported the Queen of UK was dead. O tempora – O mores.

      You got my hopes up for a second there. “Big Ears, the Plant-talker, for King!”
      Oh Times, Oh Daily Mirror!

  26. Graham
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    “No religion is inherently violent. No religion is inherently peaceful.”

    Is she saying that all religions are morally neutral? That no religion takes a stand on matters of peace or violence? And that therefore religions have nothing to teach us about these issues? If so, then what’s the point of religion?

  27. keith cook ±
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Islams’ perpensity for violence is equally depressing as it is horrfying for here we are experiencing the babaric medievil days of yore with all the sophisication of modern weapons and devices for spreading and coercion of it’s nasty side.
    Religion does not stand alone, political ideaology knows no bounds along with historical tribal hates for whatever reason that leads to violence, but the real crime is the impedement to rationality and reason, without it we are nowhere.

  28. bluemaas
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Ms Ioffe’s article I am not able to keep open online in order to be able to read it through. Thus, I am not certain if she within it made this point or not: the murders of Native Americans en masse (very many of these in numbers of persons slain profound and unfathomable) by USA’s militias and on North American soil by others as well was often backed by, certainly encouraged by and, as well, carried out by and as some of the killers themselves declared at the times as they did so … … “in the name of” the gods of those various folks so religiously soaked.

    The caption of the picture here http://www.oregonlive.com/today/index.ssf/2016/06/orlando_shooting_headlines_glo.html is thus, “A photo of Big Foot’s camp three weeks after the Wounded Knee Massacre of Dec. 29, 1890, shows the bodies of four Lakota Sioux wrapped in blankets in the foreground as U.S. soldiers stand amid scattered debris of camp. Some Native Americans have taken issue with the headlines surrounding the attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando over the weekend that left 49 people dead, saying that calling the attack ‘the deadliest in U.S. history’ erases the plight of Native Americans.”


    • Filippo
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      “Some Native Americans have taken issue with the headlines surrounding the attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando over the weekend that left 49 people dead, saying that calling the attack ‘the deadliest in U.S. history’ erases the plight of Native Americans.”

      Thank you for reminding me of that. I’m embarrassed that it didn’t quickly occur to me.

      The so-called Philippine “Insurrection” (approx. 1899-1901) comes to mind.

      I’ll be interested in hearing about who complains about Native Americans bringing up that inconvenient history.

  29. @eightyc
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    lol that’s the equivalent of a 5 year old’s logic.

    So let’s use another example.

    Since white people enslaved black people back in the day, then it’s OK for black people to enslave another group of people because everyone goes through these phases.


    • Randall Schenck
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      If your comment was intended to be in reference to #27, you missed on both points. If the headlines concerning the attack in Orlando stated – largest loss of life on American soil in U.S. history it is flat wrong as pointed out by reference to the Wounded knee killings. Your logic, 5 years old is crude and wrong.

  30. Victoria
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Defending Islam has become the quintessential virtue signal of the elite. The ‘social justice’ movement in general reminds me most of Calvinism and the ‘virtuous’ left must show the rest of us they are the Elect. Those of us who question the inconsistencies and flaws of their worldview, especially as it applies to Islam, are met with the fury reserved for heretics.

    On some level, Islam is cherished because Muslim immigration is actively disrupting nation states around the world. Global elites and those who aspire to be such almost uniformly believe in ‘internationalism.’ They hubristically believe their good intentions can overcome human nature (i.e. a proclivity to tribalism) right here and now, when cultural values remain often fundamentally incompatible.

    Of course I think globalism is inevitable, but the head-long charge we’ve seen in recent decades actually makes preservation of the best achievements of human culture less likely. I’m particularly disturbed by how globalists pay almost no heed to population sustainability.

    • Posted June 21, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      To me, it seems that they as Westerners are self-hating to such a degree that want to see the population of Western countries totally replaced.

  31. jeffery
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    If anyone is a good candidate for literally drowning from drinking too much “Kool-Aid”, it’s this woman! What part of, “Slay the unbeliever wherever you may find him” does she not understand?

  32. Posted June 17, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I think that the notion of “fit” also need to intervene in these discussions.

    If we see a member of a certain religion, pretending to act a certain way X in accordance to his scripture, and we then see that, in those scriptures, there is indeed an injunction to do X, then we will be right in saying that the religion is a contributing factor to the behavior.

    So, for instance, if we see that Muslims pray five times a day, then we will be correct in saying that the religion causes or is at least a contributing factor of this behavior, since there is a fit between what is contained in the scriptures and what the faithfuls are doing.

    At best what Ms. Ioffe is suggesting or demonstrating with the evidences she brings forward is that the way specific religious injunction are transformed into behavior is mediated by other processes. But the basis of that transformation is never the less the religious texts which, presumably, will constraint the domain of plausible interpretations.

    This notion of a “fit” also help us analyzing these instances in which the behavior doesn’t correspond to the scriptures. So if a muslim was to eat bacon, this would not be evidence that Islam condone the eating of pork, but rather that, at this moment, the force of the religious injunction against it was lesser that whatever else was influencing the behavior of the individual at that moment. (Bacon is bacon after all.)

  33. Posted June 17, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Great isn’t it. Rather than standing up for religious freedom as a human right, we are instead reduced to trying to argue that religions are all the same. I don’t care. People should be free to profess whatever beliefs and publicly identify with with whichever (non-violent) group they wish without fear of discrimination. Much simpler statement than convoluted and spurious arguments.

  34. rickflick
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    There seems to be a deep seated, ambivalent, desperate, angst ridden, intersection of major league, forces of liberal rationalization going on right now, between getting right with race and ethnicity and calling a religious spade a religious spade.

  35. Nick Cimdins
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Whenever this argument is made, I like to make the same offer that Sam Harris gave Glenn Greenwald. I propose a cartoon drawing contest, where we have to pillory the figurehead of a religion and post it in the public domain. I pick Islam for my opponent, and they can choose any other religion for me. Like Greenwald, no one has ever accepted the offer.

  36. Posted June 17, 2016 at 9:02 pm | Permalink


  37. Posted June 17, 2016 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    I strongly doubt that any agreement or even progress can ever be made on this issue. Even if everybody were perfectly unbiased and well-meaning, what does “all religions are equally violent” or “religion A is more violent than religion B” even mean?

    Is a religion the body of teachings? If so, of today or of 1,000 years ago, or both? Or is it the daily practice of its adherents? If so, of the majority, of those who follow most closely the teachings, or of all of them together? Is leading genocidal crusades more violent than suicide bombing? If a religion is less violent because it has been changed by the enlightenment, is it really still the same religion? (What is the true religion for any given religion?)

    Of course one person could clarify how they see the questions, but it is very likely that the next question does not consider that view the relevant one. I can see how people can reasonably arrive at opposite conclusions; it is like trying to nail a pudding to the wall.

  38. Posted June 18, 2016 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    “We don’t see mass Buddhist, Jewish, or even Christian terrorism inflicted on the scale of what radical Islam is doing.”

    I agree that Buddhists shouldn’t be included. However, if one is to believe the claims of the Jews, and the historical record of the Christians, they have done as much harm as they could, with the weapons of the time, to reflect the scale of what some Muslims are doing now. Was this techinically terrorism? that can be debated, I think.

    • Posted June 21, 2016 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      Please note the present tense in the quote and the past tense in your comment (that in English for some bizarre reason is called “present perfect tense).
      People of the past fought their plagues as well as they could. Now, it’s our turn, and our plague is first and foremost Islam.

      • Posted June 22, 2016 at 6:03 am | Permalink

        did note the tense and whether harm was done in the past or present doesn’t excuse the actions done. Nice try though. Unfortunately, religion causes harm and some Christians were as much a “plague” as some Muslims are today.

        • Posted June 23, 2016 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

          I did not mean that actions in the past are excusable, just that they are often of little relevance to our efforts to improve our lives today. Worse, reminding past atrocities usually aims at muddying the water and generating the excuse for doing nothing about today’s atrocities. When Pres. Obama compared ISIS to the Crusades, some commentators immediately said that this indicates his intention not to attack ISIS with full force.

          • Posted June 23, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

            Sorry, don’t agree. Reminding of past atrocities helps make sure that no one forgets the atrocities done for religion and in religion’s name. All you are doing is trying to ignore the problems that religion causes, has caused and will cause, by your attempts to say that no one should mention the actions of the past.

            and which commentators? vague claims mean nothing.

            • Posted June 24, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

              “Let me add that a variation on the “no bad Muslims” stance is that of Pres. Obama, who insists that we aren’t any better than ISIS because of the Crusades and the Inquisition. One wonders, What does that have to do with today? Ok, he also brought up slavery and Jim Crow laws, but even though those episodes are more recent, they are still receding quickly into the distant past. So, I have to say that yes, Mr. President, we are better. But what is more disturbing about Obama’s comparison than this nonsense about the past is that it means that, as usual, nothing will be done about ISIS or any other bad Muslims. See, they don’t exist. (One would think that he would be just a little bothered by a group that has threatened to behead him in the White House.) And what is most disturbing is the impression that Obama, like every other liberal and leftist these days, seems to have no will to resist fundamentalist Muslims as they impose shari’a on us.
              A somewhat more enlightened stance is that of the liberals and leftists who acknowledge bad Muslims, but who insist that not all Muslims are like that. When I ask what they intend to do about those that are like that, they go silent.”

              (Emphasis mine.)

              • Posted June 24, 2016 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

                Again, nice try in your attempt to ignore history and try to pretend that no one should mention that religion causes harm. Christians are no better and no worse than Muslims. Each has belivers in it that see the harm commanded in their holy books and then they do their best to do that harm.

              • Posted June 25, 2016 at 12:59 am | Permalink

                Religion does cause harm. But some religions cause more harm than others.

  39. Dick Veldkamp
    Posted June 18, 2016 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    I am not sure that terrorism per se is the problem. As some people have remarked here before, the probability to die in a terrorist attack is of the same order of magnitude as dying by lightning strike. You are much more likely to die in a car crash, or -in the US- to be shot by accident.

    Based on death count alone, terrorism should get no attention at all (and some have even argued that thit could be a good counter strategy).

    It seems to me that the larger problem is that 1.6 billion people are living in societies where regressive medieval ideas do immeasurable harm, and that those ideas are now also exported to the rest of the world.

    • somer
      Posted June 18, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink


    • Posted June 21, 2016 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      However, Islamic terrorism contributes much to achieve submission of the majority of the world’s population to Islam.

  40. Bob
    Posted June 18, 2016 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Never take seriously anyone who writes “the one-year anniversary.”

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Thank you! I fear that, as in so many areas, we’re losing that one.

  41. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 18, 2016 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Oh that’s disappointing because I really like her stuff she does about Russia, etc.

    • rickflick
      Posted June 18, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      Good grief! At least they are honest about their hatred. How do you enlightenment these people in a big hurry?

      “Al Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, BBC Arabic and a number of Egyptian news outlets to gauge how the Arab world was responding to the Orlando shooting. The results were disappointing, alarming, and depressing to say the least. Each page’s comment section was inundated with comments showing sympathy towards the attacker, praising him for his actions and wishing death upon members of the international LGBT community.”

      So, how DO you enlightenment these people in a big hurry?

  42. Helen Hollis
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    I searched Rawanda on this site and found nothing. Same with Dafur.

  43. Helen Hollis
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    It could be because I spelled both locations incorrectly! I forgot to check Cambodia and other places too.

  44. Cindy
    Posted June 25, 2016 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    An interesting essay on Islamic honor culture…


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