Sunday, August 31, 2008

Islam, free speech, understanding and bewilderment

Recently, the blogger Question Everything asked what religion is the biggest threat to the secular world? Most of us answered Islam. This is a tough one (even after 9/11) for many American freethinkers to wrap our heads around. We see our freedoms constantly encroached upon, primarily by various Christian cults of the bloody sacrifice. It's quite natural to fend off the hornet buzzing around your face, even while a malignant tumor insensibly grows in your abdomen.

Pat Condell, as a Brit, has had a lot to say about "The Religion of Peace". Here's his most recent:

Our friend Lynet over at Elliptica believes we should have a bit more compassion about what might be going on in the heads of theists and others. She argues that we can be as bad as them when we fail to understand the commonalities we all share that can lead to seeing the world differently. But how can we, when you have things like this in the world? It's very, very difficult.

I'm not sure which religion we Yanks should be most focused on. I do believe that, ultimately, Islam is the much greater threat to a humanist society. Let's not miss an opportunity to point it out.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that this is really "Islam". Yes, the killers were muslims and so was the maniac who defended it.

But, even he defended it as "tribal custom" not something intrinsically OK in Islam.

If you read the story, you can see that there were several other Muslims who spoke and all were outraged.

Such obscenely misnamed honour killings can be found throughout the world, among people of different religions.

So, why does this crime get reported as "islamist" (as Pharynguula reported it, for instance)?

I'll risk Godwin's law getting invoked and say that this sounds to me like invoking an international jewish conspiracy every time there was a downturn in the pre-WWII economy.

Does every crime in the US committed by fundamentalists or Catholics necessarily originate from their religion?

I think this sort of viewpoint is partly a side effect of the war on terror and we should resist it, just as if we were in 1930s Germany and could chose not to blame Judaism for every Jewish misbehaviour.

John Evo said...

Fair enough, Heather. And my point still stands, unless you care to present something that would refute it. This story is one of thousands (some more repugnant, others less) about the "Religion of Peace".

No, not every crime committed in the U.S. by Christians has anything to do with their religion. But when a Christian murders a doctor because he helps terminate unwanted pregnancy and the Christian attributes that to a belief that the doctor is a murderer then, yes, I blame religion.

So it is with voluminous lists of Islamic actions, based on belief, that run contrary to any notion of secular humanism. Of all present religions, Islam presents the greatest danger (now and in the near future).

Even Muslims who claim to have no respect for the fundamentalist actions of some, can be found out on the streets tossing rocks when Allah is "insulted" in one way or another. This is unacceptable from any religion. They are doing damage and harming people due to superstition.

Whether the group in the article represents a typical Muslim or one of the many sects of Islam is kind of irrelevant, don't you think?

The Exterminator said...


I agree that not all followers of a religion should be blamed for its most extreme adherents. However, these murders were not inspired by "tribalism;" they were inspired by Islamic tribalism. Religious belief was behind them.

Hitler's Germany is, yet again in BlogWorld, a dumb analogy. The Jews were not hated because of their non-adherence to the predominant religion; they were hated because of their so-called "race." Hitler may well have used latent anti-Judaism to stir up his followers, but the slaughter wasn't about the Jews' religious disobedience.

So I invoke Godwin's Law and sentence you to six months of not mentioning Hitler, Nazis, or "1930s Germany" (you're sneaky).

Lynet said...

Well, heck. Trying to understand is different to condoning!

To be perfectly honest, I have to admit that 'trying to understand' is not my first reaction to 'honour' killings, and no amount of compassion for the perpetrators could erase the outrage created by my compassion for the woman slaughtered. I admit it, my compassion has limits.

Nonetheless, I wouldn't rely on that outrage when arguing with people who believe such things are justified. I'd express my outrage, sure, but I'd also be open to arguing about other issues where a little more understanding might be possible. In exchange for their understanding of me, I'd be willing to try to understand them. I guess I'd hope that the corruption to their worldview would be greater than the corruption to mine. I trust myself that far.

You know, there are some issues where a proper understanding of the situation leads you straight to placing the blame on religion. Don't mistake my call for understanding for a call to misunderstand when religion is truly at fault; don't mistake my call for compassion on perpetrators as a call to have less compassion for victims. Weigh your understanding and guide yourself as best you can, and someday, if we're very lucky, we might learn how not to make up our minds without closing them.

Lynet said...

Gaah! Erase the 'not' in that final sentence!

Prash said...

Radicalism in any religion is a big threat to our society.

A peaceful religion co-existing alongside the atheists, agnostics & others is always ?

I can't really point my fingers to Islam...Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism plays same role too.

Sean Wright said...

In the US I think Christianity is still the greater threat to democracy than Islam. The religious right seems to be firmly entrenched with both parties and the closing down of American society under Bush has done far more damage than those planes ever did.

PS Evo I have sent you the package, should take about 2 weeks

PhillyChief said...

I see no reason to focus on one religion. In fact, I see no reason to focus on religion. The focus should be human rights. Perhaps "understanding" a religion, a tribe, or any other motivation can be helpful, but the primary focus should be the infringements on and outright abuse of human rights.

I'd say when it comes to honor killings, the talk shouldn't be so much that Islam is evil, but that killing people is evil. Denying people rights due to their gender, race or sexual orientation is evil. Jeopardizing children's health and education is evil. Working to spread, not curtail an epidemic is evil. Hammer this home and perhaps people will be more likely to forego practices called for by religion or any other social group. It could potentially lead to a change in these groups or their extinctions perhaps.

Anonymous said...

What he said (Philly Chief.)

Anonymous said...

Its not all that common for me to agree with Heather on a topic like this, but here I do. Sort of, anyway.

As far as I know Heather is not trying to justify the actions, or say they are any less horrible - and neither am I, so please keep this in mind.

The part of the reporting of this that concerns me is the way this is described as an "islamic" action. The act was not carried out because the family were muslims, it was carried out because they were from a cultural background that is way out of kilter with what we (and the UN thankfully) see as acceptable.

This f*cked up mentality is common in Islamic nations but is not exclusive to them. Hindus do this and so do Christians. I live 10 miles outside a city where a Protestant who goes out with a Catholic will now just be beaten rather than killed but that is a recent change.

If there was a predominantly atheist nation where people had a strong tribal culture (could something like that exist?) I am sure honour killings would take place.

To blame this sort of act on "Islam" is, in my not very considered opinion, a touch worrying.

At best it is a poor descriptive tag - as the act is actually cultural rather than religiously inspired - and at worst is part of a deeper trend towards vilification of an enemy.

That said, Islam is a fucked up religion. It has many aspects which can, and should, be ridiculed and despised. But, I think, caution should be made to ensure the targets are accurate.

For me, I am with phillychief - the focus has to be on acceptance of and adherence to human rights. Any religion that tries to remove them is a "danger."

Despite how it sometimes feels, I dont think Western society is really under any threat from Islam. The rights and freedoms currently enshrined are strong enough to survive. The real problem is if we dismantle these freedoms, we dismantle our defences.

Unknown said...

@ Prash and sean,

I’m not sure how radical Christianity (those that hold to Jesus’ teachings) can compare to radical Islam. I think there’s a difference from loving your enemy and blowing them up.

And Sean, freedom of religion is truly a radical Christian teaching. Your free to choose.

John Evo said...

@ TW - your last paragraph was right on target. The problem for us in American in regards to Islam is that our government has so terrified the population that the people are willing to give up those hard-earned freedoms. I don't want the government to protect me from religious nuts, nearly as much as I want them to protect my freedoms, which themselves protect me from religiosity.

PhillyChief said...

Well Pastor Mike, I don't give a rat's ass between radical Christianity (those that hold to Pastor Mike's interpretations of select passages from a select version of the Christian bible), radical Christianity (any one of hundreds of other sects different from Pastor Mike's sect who each claim they know, like Pastor Mike thinks he knows, the "true" Christianity), radical Islam (shiite or sunni or any other sect who think they know the "true" Islam), or radical ANYTHING. The key word is radical, and if that gets defined by actions that violate the rights of others, than there's a problem.

and if you think freedom of Religion somehow is a product of Christianity, you're nuttier than a PayDay. I suggest you read up on Abd al Rahman III and the Golden Age of al Andalus. Muslim, Jew and Christian peacefully coexisted, and his doctor (I forget his name) ushered in a Golden age for Jewish writing I believe.

Btw, the US Founders were Deists and other*. Get over it.

Unknown said...


Let me clarify something: (Via my interpretation) God gives us all free choice…and it therefore accurate to say freedom of religion is a Christian concept.

Now as to all that other crap you said out of anger and pure hatred, the ex-atheist in me wants me to simply say....Oh the temptation! God bless you man.

Sean Wright said...


Interesting interpretation.
That's why the Christian right wants a Christian nation with the Ten commandments plastered in public institutions, so that we can have a choice?

That's why Catholics and Protestants killed each other in Ireland for 600 years or why we had a number of crusades, one of which was on french soil to wipe out another sect of christians.

So I call bullshit on that one.

Oh and reinterpreting Philly's comment as being said out of anger. If you consider his comments angry you need to get out a little( or perhaps listen to Ex).

Unknown said...

Evoking the misguided behaviors of those who acted outside the teachings of Christ is not a “bullshit” on my argument my friend.

I have listened to Ex…and I capitulate on this front.

The Exterminator said...

Even theists recognize high-quality ire when they see it.

So I guess that's something less for me to be pissed off about. But, oddly, losing that opportunity for anger -- pisses me off.

Pasture Mike says:
God gives us all free choice…and it therefore accurate to say freedom of religion is a Christian concept.

That's a disingenuous and dishonest comment. Your god commands people, again and again and again, to worship only him. There's no free choice about that as far as he's concerned. Read the bible.

And don't come back with some nonsense like: A person is free to choose eternal torment. That's not free will.

Sean Wright said...

Ah Mike,

So here you go redefining what it means to be a Christian. I called bullshit and you pull the "not true Christian card".

Slippery as an eel.

I think I know how this will go-

I'll quote from the ten commandments say:

"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;

Do not have any other gods before me.( what no choice?)

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me. (yes you have a choice, you must choose me or your up shit creek in a barb wire canoe)"

You'll mention something about Jesus coming along and making that all irrelevant (until you need to dredge them up in another argument where they will apply like one on Morality).

Freedom of Religion as a concept springs from the enlightenment and freethinkers, who were deist, christian and other and owe nothing to the perverse, outdated strictures presented in the bible or church canon - look up Luther and his love of the Jews( but dang he's not a true scotsman).

To argue anything else is to be intellectually disingenuous.

But I am sure you will try.

Sean Wright said...

you're not your

Unknown said...

@ Ex. I’ve read it. Thanks for the recommendation though.

@ Sean. Your right I’m going to be a little intellectually disingenuous. But from my perspective you have clearly chosen not to worship Him. If God is all powerful He could force you to do anything He wanted…couldn’t He. And if He could and you choose differently, then you have choice.

I failed in your prediction to say that Jesus made it irrelv.

Sean Wright said...

Damn it I am not psychic :)

Mike what ever floats your boat whatever mental gymnastics you have to do to convince yourself that freedom of religion is a christian concept?

The Exterminator said...

Wait a minute, Pasture. You're not going to get away with comments like Jesus made it irrelv.

Isn't the New Testament filled with commands to follow him. Don't non-followers get threatened with all kinds of disasters? Maybe you've only read parts of the bible.

And, still on free will: If a guy puts a gun to your head and says "Do what I say or I'll kill you," would you argue that the victim has freedom of choice? How stupid is that view?

Sean Wright said...

So it's settled Freedom of Religion is not a christian concept.

Mike can feel free to cling to his delusion regarding the existence of god and the "gift" of free will.

Unknown said...

@ Ex.

It’s pastor…not pasture. And, please read a person’s entire post before replying or we will ask you to give up your intellectually elite card.

I said I would not say that Jesus made it irrelevant.

And just because Jesus said follow me, doesn’t mean you don’t have free choice. Here let me illustrate: Ex, for now on you will be respectful to other people.

Well, how did we do? Still an disrespectful elitist? Probably so. Even though I gave a command, you still choose to be who you are.

John Evo said...

@ Pastor Mike - I don't usually play at this. It's a terrible waste of all of our time. But let me ask you as question that, I hope, when you reflect on it you will see how vacant your belief system is.

Imagine I'm the atheist I am, but I live in a distant land and while I have heard many myths and rejected them all for the reasons that I do, I have never yet heard of the god of the Hebrews or the god of the Christians that arose from that myth. You find me and explain your myth and want me to drop my atheism and come follow Jesus. What is it about your religion (the version of Christianity that Pastor Mike accepts, which makes him a true Christian) that is so different from any other mythology that I should clearly see that this isn't just another myth?

I'm guessing you are going to tell me something about how in this story, the god is all about LOVE and that he came to die for me. Maybe you really think this is a much more palatable fable than Zeus or Brahma or any of the others. But so what? You are just telling me another story. I thought I'd heard them all. Now I'm hearing one more.

Unknown said...

My friend, your right, I now see how vacant my belief system is. Thank you for enlightening me (you are my Zarathustra).

Sarcasm aside: You’re right…no need to play “games.” You know the apologetics that I espouse (historicity of Jesus; dating of Paul’s works; not enough time for myth to creep in) and I know the counter apologetics that you have.

PhillyChief said...

Like I said, I really don't care between what Mike thinks is "The Truth", other Christians think is "The Truth", various Muslims, Jews, Jains, Hindus, Scientologists, Ralians, Native Americans, Trobrianders, or any other religious people think is "The Truth" as long as that so-called truth doesn't involve human rights violations and/or actions which are detrimental to humanity.

Believe whatever shit you want for whatever reasons you can cook up. If it floats your boat, so be it. It's like drinking. Drink yourself to oblivion for all I care, just as long as you don't try and drive drunk, drink on the job, or allow in any other way for your drinking to hurt anyone else. Religion is no different. Just remember though that just like I've laughed at drunks falling over, pissing themselves and passing out, I'm going to laugh at your hilarious religious nonsense. What can I say? It's hilarious, I'm only human, and most important, it's my right.

Anonymous said...


"I don't want the government to protect me from religious nuts, nearly as much as I want them to protect my freedoms, which themselves protect me from religiosity."

I like that quote! Unless you object I am going to add it to the quotebox on WhyDontYou.

Basically, I couldn't agree more.

Pastor Mike:

You must be a troll. Claiming christianity is the basis for freedom of religion is laughable. So much so I had to give up trying to read anything else you wrote.

John Evo said...

TW - not only can you use it, you don't even need to credit me.