If ISIS Is Not Islamic, then the Inquisition Was Not Catholic

By Jerry Coyne

 

As ISIS slaughters its way though Syria and Iraq, it became inevitable that we’d hear from apologists who claim that ISIS is not in fact “true Islam,” and that its depredations are due to something other than religious motivation. Those motivations, say the apologists, are political (usually Western colonialism that engenders resentment), cultural (societal tradition), or anything other than religion.

These apologists, of course, which now include President Obama, are motivated by a desire to avoid criticizing religion at all costsespecially Islam. In America, criticizing religion is political suicide, and Obama naturally wants to do all he can to encourage “moderate” Muslims. As Sam Harris concluded on a post on his website, some “scholars and pseudo-scholars” cling to a ludicrous notion that the actions of jihadis like those of ISIS aren’t motivated by religion. As he noted: “experts claim that one can’t take Islamists and jihadists at their word: Their incessant declarations about God, paradise, martyrdom, and the evils of apostasy are nothing more than a mask concealing their real motivations.”

The apologists are also motivated by another form of denial. Yes, they say, jihadis may be motivated by Islam, but it’s not “true” Islam. True Islam is peaceful, and its adherents would never slaughter apostates, behead journalists, or forcibly convert non-Muslims. This is what Obama said the other night when explaining his plan to dismantle ISIS (or “ISIL,” as he calls it):

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. … ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple.

 

Read the full article here.

196 COMMENTS

  1. Religions of all flavours want the best of both worlds, plaudits, if it does anything good and when it does the inevitable bullying or worse slaughter of non believers then comes the apologists claiming it is not representative of the true religion. What Isis is doing is entirely representative of Islam and all it stands for.

  2. It’s simplistic to say that ISIS is a religious movement and nothing but a religious movement. It’s also very mistaken to say that religion has nothing to do with it. It’s true that the Spanish Inquisition was Christian but there are various forms of Christianity.

  3. If we keep shouting “LOOK! Theres religion. Lets kick its arse”, and not look at real reasons why muslims are fighting muslims (of which there are various forms) then I see no difference between a religious “nut” and and atheist “nut”. From what I have seen RD provides evidence and explanation wherever he can and that is the doctrine to follow. Maybe a good place to start would be to ask why Obama is so desperate to get international involvement in action against ISIS, unlike Bush who ignored them.

  4. All too often, when Islamic extremists commit some atrocity we see moderate muslims stepping up to say that they do not condone these actions. But what I have never seen said before is that their actions are incompatible with Islam, that the majority of muslims will actively disown those that misrepresent them. So I am pleased to see Obama and Cameron saying it for them and hope it starts to stick. No longer should the extremists draw comfort from the numbers of ‘fellow’ muslims. It’s long past time to force the issue that not condoning is not good enough, violence is either in their religion or it is not.

  5. Hi Clive, When Obama and Cameron describe Islam as a “peaceful religion hijacked by extremists” they are deluding themselves with euphemisms. The are over 100 verses in the Koran that instruct Muslims to kill infidels. In the hadith, the Prophet demands the death penalty for all gays and apostates. The West is at war with Islam and the way of life that is prescribed to ALL Muslims in their so-called holy books.

  6. Terrorism has everything to do with Islam. There are all sorts of phobias out there. The islamophobia that our leaders suffer from is fear of offending Muslims. Then there is fear of being labelled racist, and fear of being considered inhuman. Because of these phobias large and growing populations of Muslims have become established in our once stable societies. These phobias have resulted in us having to live in fear of the Islam that is in our midst.

  7. It’s important to argue the semantics isn’t it? wouldn’t want to cause offence.

    of course I imagine in Iraq or Syria very few muslims phone up their local news offect to complain if the reporter doesn’t us the suffic “so-called” (like the BBC does so well). When faced with the question “am I going to loose my home, be beheaded, flogged, stoned, crucified or raped?”, which I imagine is the sort of thing you’d ask yourself if news that the Islamic State were marching towards your town, I wonder how many innocent victims were killed because instead of running to safety they decided to have a theological debate over the correct use of the word “islamic”

    Complaining about Islamic State’s connection or otherwise with Islam is very much a luxury afforded by muslims living in secular states, for those muslims who are being victimized by IS, I doubt the name matters so much.

    Equally, should a paramilitary organization rise up and call themselves “Secular State” and go about murdering their way into power, I can’t see myself getting too worked up on the media using the name they call themselves, not without really making myself look like an uncaring yet pedantic twat.

    no offence

  8. Hi aldous,

    It’s simplistic to say that ISIS is a religious movement and nothing but a religious movement.

    If I understood you correctly, you mean that we’re treating a complex issue as if it were far simpler than it really is?

    I believe that I can cover the whole issue by giving a detailed account, thus: ISIS is a religious, political and criminal movement and nothing but a religious, political and criminal movement – but does that really help?

    I’m tempted to drop the word political. From the evidence: ISIS is very clearly criminal, and as Jerry Coyne points out, ISIS itself makes a coherent and supportable claim to be religious. But ISIS appears only to be political in the sense they’re making a violent bid for power.

    It seems to me that I’m no better off than before – with or without political in my description of ISIS – I still have to deal with the other two factors.

    It’s true that the Spanish Inquisition was Christian but there are various forms of Christianity.

    Your use of the word “but” suggests that you think some forms of Christianity are not as violent as the Spanish Inquisition and that this proves that some forms of religion are better than others?

    There can be no doubt that this is true – today. Most ‘peaceful’ religions are essentially non-violent and are not criminal. Though – and here comes the reason I don’t take political out of my description of ISIS – all organised religious organisations are political organisations.

    My conclusion from that is that even though my description is more detailed I haven’t really changed anything if I remove political and simply say religious.

    As far as the description criminal goes it seems that ISIS has crossed everyone’s threshold of what counts as ‘reasonable force’ to enforce any laws. They also appear not to follow the ‘laws’ they claim to follow, and have been recorded as fully engaged in acts of barbarism that anyone – law or no law – would describe as criminal, just like the Spanish Inquisition. Therefore, we’re free to conclude, surely, that ISIS is criminal, and, as much of a religion as the Christians who were engaged in the similar criminal acts visited on innocents by the Spanish Inquisition.

    Again, I conclude that by adding the word criminal, I have added nothing that was not already present in the word religious.

    What Jerry Coyne and I are saying is that the separation of the religious elements of ISIS from the criminal and political elements of ISIS is not merely irrelevant (or an over-simplification) – but downright dishonest and dangerous.

    The members of ISIS claim to be motivated by their shared religion.

    President Obama, among others, claims ISIS cannot be motivated by a “true” religion – and Jerry Coyne spells out how they go about this verbal trickery and that the word true, in this context, is meaningless.

    The bottom line is: If I say I’m motivated to sail across the Atlantic by my god Oden, and to kill the natives I find on any lands I discover because I’m commanded to do so by Oden, Presidents (or anyone else) have no right to pretend that one part of my religion is “true” and the other “not true” because one has an outcome they like (meeting happy smiling people in other lands) while the other outcome does not (cutting their heads off).

    To pretend that there are two types of religion (true ones and false ones) is not only just wrong, as Jerry Coyne so beautifully details, it gives every other religion a free pass.

    As the late Christopher Hitchens observed [paraphrase]: Religions today come to us in this smiling ingratiating way … but you have no right to forget how they acted when they really did think they were in charge – no right.

    Jerry Coyne’s use of the Spanish Inquisition as an example of simply not forgetting how all religions are – if given enough power.

    ISIS are doubly delusional: They believe in their god, and they believe they’re in charge. But they’re still ahead of Obama.

    President Obama is triple-deluded: If we are to judge him by his actions; he says he believes in a god, that he’s really in charge and he believes there’s such a thing as a religion that can only be true, nice, positive and liberal.

    ISIS is a religious movement that sprang from a nice and true religious movement and ISIS remains nothing but a religious movement. It makes not one iota of difference that the President of the United States attempts to hide that fact with silliness.

    Religions, by their very nature, are powder kegs simply waiting for an incendiary minister. To pretend otherwise is simply to bury one’s head in the Sands of Fantasy on the shores of Lake Illusion …

    Peace.

  9. I’m just going to quote reddit user fuddruckerz:

    I don’t think the parallel is accurate because ISIS is an offshoot group, whereas the Inquisition was institutionally sanctioned, organized, and perpetuated by the Catholic Church after the mid-13th century. Comparing ISIS to the Inquisition is much less appropriate than comparing ISIS to, say, the Westboro Baptist Church. As an atheist, I would say that it is even suggestive of a dangerous tendency among us to ignore the economic underpinnings of religious trajectories throughout history. As others have noted, the power and scope of ISIS is almost certainly exaggerated, especially by the US media. Comparing the vast psycho-economic authority of medieval European Catholicism to ISIS is a woefully simplistic historical error.

  10. Hi Olgun

    If Muslims are fighting Muslims then the religious are fighting the religious. Why introduce atheists into this?

    I don’t understand your use of the word “desperate”?

    Peace.

  11. Hi G,

    I don’t understand that distinction?

    In both cases an organised religion is essentially in charge politically. In both cases the religious leaders act / acted with impunity. In both cases the religions claimed laws (sharia or canonical) that supersede[s/d] mere Earthly law. Both involved in large scale murder and torture, robbery and and forced religious conversion …

    We’re not short of parallels.

    … [comparing ISIS with Inquisition] is even suggestive of a dangerous tendency among us to ignore the economic underpinnings of religious trajectories throughout history.

    On that point you’re clearly working at a different level of evidence to me – do tell.

    As others have noted, the power and scope of ISIS is almost certainly exaggerated, especially by the US media.

    Well they do have a history. On the other hand I would have preferred links to quoted evidence for media frenzy and bias. Any chance?

    Comparing the vast psycho-economic authority of medieval European Catholicism to ISIS is a woefully simplistic historical error.

    You’re entitled to your opinion. That’s a big claim. Without similarly big supporting evidence I’m afraid I can give that opinion no credit.

    Peace.

  12. Religion is the first word in their name—Islamic. There may be other Islamic people who don’t want any part of this fight, just as there are atheists who don’t accept freedom of religion as a reasonable freedom. I see a blanket statement like freedom of religion sounding as ridiculous as freedom of accounting, freedom of policing, freedom of rocketry, freedom of business, freedom of lying and so on. I would expect most atheists don’t have an issue with freedom of religion but an atheist fight against it would still be an atheist fight.

    Actually, when you consider the fact that we do enjoy freedom of religion in the west, the concept of “true religion” is entirely up to the worshiper. In fact, I would say it is illegal for a political figure to even cast an opinion on what constitutes a true religion. That would hamper the freedom clause and remove the adherents right to freely practice their chosen religion. It places the government in a position of determining which faiths are or are not acceptable and who can be considered an adequate holder of said faith.

  13. In fact, I would say it is illegal for a political figure to even cast an opinion on what constitutes a true religion. That would hamper the freedom clause and remove the adherents right to freely practice their chosen religion. It places the government in a position of determining which faiths are or are not acceptable and who can be considered an adequate holder of said faith.

    I agree and would also add that Obama cannot afford to offend all Muslims if he wants allies against ISIS such as Saudi Arabia, Quatar etc.

  14. ” In fact, I would say it is illegal for a political figure to even cast an opinion on what constitutes a true religion. That would hamper the freedom clause and remove the adherents right to freely practice their chosen religion. It places the government in a position of determining which faiths are or are not acceptable and who can be considered an adequate holder of said faith.”

    I agree and would also add that Obama cannot afford to offend all Muslims if he wants allies against ISIS such as Saudi Arabia, Quatar etc.

  15. Of course ISIS is all about Islam. There are a number of versions. ISIS wants to “convert” the world. They want to reclaim the glory of the Caliphate, the Islamist state, the pure state of universal Islam, and Universal submission (Islam). They have the dream of conversion and destruction; converting everyone to Islam and killing the rest so that they can present this as a gift to their god, like the faithful tabby presents a dead offering to their human keeper, so they can say, “Look, we the faithful have done all the work that has been commended. All on earth are now faithful worshipers of thee.” No need for “god” to be bothered having to decide who goes where. True believers will have already done away with non-believers and such is the Gift to (their) god.
    Hitchens said it clearly, Islam (and most religions) are obsessed with fallacy of purity.

  16. Religion is man made. Interpretations are convenient belief for the type of believer. As far as Islam is concerned, just read Hadith…

    Just read the books themselves. Do not allow anyone to interpret them for you. Interpretations are charlatans’ opinion to keep religion going. However, if you read the books, you realize that the non-existing God is an experimenter and humans are his guinea pigs.

    Well, on this blog I do not need to remind anyone about these facts. Just in case someone from the delusional world is reading my post, here are the facts.

  17. Religions are at their heart institutions which are dedicated to controlling people’s thoughts.

    ISIS and the Spanish Inquisition are merely the small segments of their respective religions most dedicated to this part of their dogma.

    They both use terror to achieve this aim (in fact all religions use terror to do this, ISIS and the Inquisition simply use the terror immediately rather than threatening it will be applied after death).

  18. Obama and Cameron are lying for their own internal political reasons. ‘Moderate’ Muslims are lying in the permitted Islamic manner, by evasion, whilst in most cases being perfectly well aware that the greater part of their ‘scriptures’ is devoted to the promotion of: forced conversion, subjugation or murder of all who do not submit to ‘Allah’ in this life (i.e. Muslims arrogate rule on his behalf to themselves), with the additional prospect of eternal torment by the boss himself in the afterlife. Oh, and most women, Muslims included, end up there as well, Mohammed said so. Ye gods – as you might say.

  19. Well, maybe, but small consolation to the thousands of poor buggers they’ve murdered, raped and enslaved already. On a numbers basis I should think they’re catching up fast, and they’ve only been at it a few months.

  20. Hi Stephen,

    I introduce atheist into this because the idea is that “we” are supposed to be better at reasoning and not just spout idealistic rhetoric straight out of RD’s books without understanding what we are saying. I see no difference to religious zealots quoting the bible, or their local priest, without any thought. Maybe it’s just me but there are people here who seem to be atheist “spotters” that need to be praised for their atheism. “Spotters” as in “I’m the first to spot a religious outrage. Please love me”. I joined this forum to find fellow atheist that show respect and understanding as well as intellect because my circles have very few atheist that go beyond “how can there be a god if he lets all the little children suffer”!!!

    The desperate part is that I believe Obama is embaressed by what Bush has left him to deal with and going in to clear up Bush’s mess will be easier with international support, politically.

  21. I think I understand why people like Obama and Cameron state that ISIS is not Islamic. It is because they don’t want to give any ammunition to other thugs like EDL. So the sound-bite is:- Islam=good; ISIS=bad; Islam=/=ISIS. Simples!

  22. Comparing ISIS to the Inquisition is much less appropriate than comparing ISIS to, say, the Westboro Baptist Church.

    The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) was started in the 1950s. They only have a few dozen members and most of them seem to be from one extended family.

    I don’t think they are likely to be setting up a caliphate in Kanas State any time soon. Over the years, quite a large number of journalists have interviewed members of the church and none of those journalists have been beheaded as far as I’m aware. How many thousands of enemy fighters has WBC massacred? How many thousands of women and children has WBC kidnapped and how much ethnic cleansing have they been up to recently?

    Here is a report by Amnesty International detailing the extent of the ethnic cleansing carried out by The Westboro Baptist Church (oops ISIS, it’s so easy to mix them up).

  23. I am going to have to disagree with ou on some points,

    … not look at real reasons why muslims are fighting muslims..

    Obviously Islam is radically different from all the other mainstream religions, Perhaps that is the real reason

    … difference between a religious “nut” and and atheist “nut”. …

    religious nuts kill, atheist nuts tend not to.

    ask why Obama is so desperate to get international involvement in
    action against ISIS, unlike Bush who ignored them.

    Because Bush was a religious nut, and Obama is not?

  24. old-toy-boy

    Obviously Islam is radically different from all the other mainstream
    religions, Perhaps that is the real reason

    Really? This lady doesn’t seem to think so. Perhaps you should be more scared of this charter.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJMm4RAwVLo

    religious nuts kill, atheist nuts tend not to.

    TEND???? Not sticking your neck out and saying “will never”!!!!

    Because Bush was a religious nut, and Obama is not?

    Already made that point!!

  25. Hi Olgun.
    I’ve just watched the TED talk and consider her’s a vain hope. It would be nice to think that religions could re- discover their altruistic roots but this is pie-in-the sky wish thinking in my opinion. I’m not even convinced that these noble sentiments were ever at the heart of any religion, but instead became a rationale after the fact.

    When I stand back and observe religions in practice from the position of a life-long atheist, I mostly see a quest for good luck. The rituals, distinctive dress, scriptures all seem to be window dressing put in place to confer good fortune on the participant.

    A sort of tribalism and group-think takes over at this point. I think a more compassionate outcome could be arrived at by secular means.

  26. Olgun Sep 24, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    The desperate part is that I believe Obama is embaressed by what Bush has left him to deal with and going in to clear up Bush’s mess will be easier with international support, politically.

    That would be the mess from both Bush Snr and Bush Jnr!

    Both jumped in with macho-bravado and with no plan for a restored peaceful end-game!

    They also seem to have learned nothing from this or from Vietnam, as the clandestine, and not so clandestine, undermining of regimes in Lebanon and Syria has now shown!

    Bush being buddy-buddy with they Bin Laden family, and then chasing around Afghanistan looking for Osama Bin Laden when he was in Pakistan all along, does not look very bright either!

  27. In reply to Bob Springsteen

    Hi Clive, When Obama and Cameron describe Islam as a “peaceful religion hijacked by extremists” they are deluding themselves with euphemisms. The are over 100 verses in the Koran that instruct Muslims to kill infidels. In the hadith, the Prophet demands the death penalty for all gays and apostates. The West is at war with Islam and the way of life that is prescribed to ALL Muslims in their so-called holy books.

    There’s plenty of stuff in the Bible exhorting followers to engage in all sorts of unpleasantness, but we don’t assume Christians routinely dash their infant children against rocks or offer up the household’s comeliest daughters to be raped by interlopers who have a beef with a male houseguest and wish him to be handed over. That’s because while the text of a particular holy book may be static, the interpretation is dynamic. There are plenty of gay Christians who don’t believe God hates them, despite its being right there in black and white that he considers what they do an abomination which will earn them a one-way trip to Perdition. Similarly, plenty of Mohammedans are perfectly content to live alongside those who don’t share their faith.

    Non-Muslims who insist Islamic writings are inviolate and not open to any sort of interpretation are behaving like religious extremists themselves. I’m not really sure what those like you, Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ann Coulter who maintain the West is at war with Islam want to happen.

    Well, I do with the last of these: she thinks we need to invade such places and forcibly convert the denizens to Christianity. I assume non-believing saber rattlers think those billion and a half souls should be converted to… what, atheism? Not gonna happen. Ms Coulter’s plan stands a better chance; much of the Old Testament material is common to all three members of the Abrahamic religions. Eradicating Islam, though, is impossible, without resorting to ethnic cleansing. Even then, there’s just too many of those pesky devils, inhabiting every corner of the planet.

    So, where are we? Islam can’t be gotten rid of by nuclear or biological warfare; even if there were a successful atomic bombing campaign by western powers on a nation such as Iran, wiping its entire population of nearly seventy nine million off the face of the Earth, it seems unlikely this would result in anything other than massive retribution from the rest of the Muslim world. An axis of revenge/justice would surely be the inevitable outcome. Even if those guys themselves don’t possess the sort of weaponry that would allow for significant retaliatory counteraction, Russia and China do.

    Ann Coulter’s idea? Impractical, and hardly conducive to universal harmony to have another billion point five new Christians suddenly appear. There’d still be sectarian division between these neophytes and the Christian old guard; the position of women and gays wouldn’t improve because as already stated, the homophobic, misogynistic content of the Koran is also right there in the Bible. The only ones I can see benefiting, other than fundamentalist Christians who hate liberalism and are secretly envious of people who get to belt their wives around with impunity, are those in the pig farming and alcohol producing industries. It’s not like booze ever made anyone more belligerent, thankfully.

    The only practical solution as far as I see is to accept that Islam isn’t going anywhere, stop all this silly talk about how we are at war with it, and do our bit in attempting to liberalize it and remove its teeth, the same way Christianity has been liberalized and defanged. This is achieved by engaging with moderates, and with anyone who says ISIS does not represent the one true face of Islam; that there is no true face.

    Years from now I’d hate to see Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or one of his successors step out onto the White House lawn as the black flag of militant Islam flutters in the chill breeze above him, and say to the cameras while disgustingly picking bits of lamb kebab from between his teeth that he was grateful to the atheist movement for the part it played convincing the West it was possible to see the content of every Muslim’s heart and mind simply by leafing through the pages of the Koran and Hadith.

  28. I joined this forum to find fellow atheist that show respect and understanding as well as intellect because my circles have very few atheist that go beyond “how can there be a god if he lets all the little children suffer”!!!

    Damn your friends for spouting “idealistic rhetoric straight out of RD’s books”. If I was you I’d have a word with them. You may want to start with: “I’m an atheist but…..”.

  29. Clare45 Sep 24, 2014 at 11:27 am

    ” In fact, I would say it is illegal for a political figure to even cast an opinion on what constitutes a true religion.

    Politicians and judges are fully entitled to tell religious groups, that whatever they may believe or claim, they are not above the law of the land as some Islamic and Catholic teachings claim!

    That would hamper the freedom clause and remove the adherents right to freely practice their chosen religion.

    There is no “right” to practise any part of a religion which is illegal. Anyone claiming their religion permits human sacrifice for example, or killing apostates, is going to be told and prosecuted if they don’t listen!

    It places the government in a position of determining which faiths are or are not acceptable and who can be considered an adequate holder of said faith.”

    Laws are laws. People my entertain whatever delusions they like, but if they start to inflict them, or plan to inflict them, on others, the law can and should intervene, regardless of anyone playing a “religious card” or an “offended card”!

  30. Hi Nitya,
    I agree with you. It will get more backing than any atheist movement though and that was my point.

  31. I believe there was an end game Alan and I said on another thread what that was. The breakup of Iraq connected with gas to the EU. That’s my understanding so far.

  32. Hello Stephen and hello to Wimbledon,

    If I understood you correctly, you mean that we’re treating a complex issue as if it were far simpler than it really is?

    All the Arab forces in the Syrian civil war are Muslim. Therefore, it can’t be because ISIS is Islamic that Obama has begun attacks against it. It may be over-diplomatic — not to say a denial of reality –to claim that the Islamic State is not Islamic. Nevertheless, how can it be maintained that the terrorist tactics of ISIS are an inherent part of Islam? They are tactics that are associated with Islam because they are typical of asymmetric warfare against military superpowers like Israel and the United States. That’s an accident of history.

    When Muslims have the capacity to do so, they employ the same civilized methods of warfare as Christians do, dismembering and smashing their enemies with the latest technology from Raytheon and other arms manufacturers.

    The analogy of Jerry Coyne is inapt because he compares a Christian denomination with all of Islam. If he had said that the cruelty of the Spanish Inquisition and ISIS is a defining characteristic of both religions, as a symmetrical analogy would require, I don’t think his argument would seem even superficially plausible.

  33. ‘Moderate’ Muslims are lying in the permitted Islamic manner, by evasion…

    Not this taqiyya nonsense again.

    Yawns in an exaggerated manner

    I guess every movement has its conspiracy theorist contingent.

    The scare quotes around moderate suggest you believe there’s no such creature as a moderate Muslim.

    For some reason when I read comments like this, I’m reminded of Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible.

    Witch, communist, homosexual, feminist, hippy, Mohammedan; as long as there’s some monster hiding under the bed, it’s of little importance what form it takes.

    So it goes.

  34. Islam needs our help. It has inadvertantly given people the idea that it has some sort of supernatural power over others, a singular, inviolable force..

    But, just like all other religions, it is made and remade, mostly by the value added resellers who profit from it but increasingly by those who buy into it, its users.

    A religion, as lived, is what its adherents say it is.

    Rather than do the clerics’ work, atheists should not insist that Jesus and Mo’s words are clear cut, unambiguous stuff. How can that possibly be? Who have they been listening to?

    There are a growing number of examples of Muslims building communities with pro-democratic, anti-sexist intentions, some whose faith is getting increasingly metaphorical. Pieces like Jerry’s stymie more than they enable. The near meaningless tag of Muslim is precious to Muslims and it will be the attribute last to go as dogma slithers away with our help.

    By not insisting we know what Islam is, by allowing anyone to call themselves Muslim whatever they actually believe, by allowing , no, by encouraging, by pointing out the myriad new facets of Islam, by not backing Muslims up to the cliff edge and expecting them to jump, but allowing them to take the twisting path winding to the bottom, we give Islam’s adherents the decent way out from its bullying ways into something quaint and then something forgotten.

    Help Islam not be singular. Don’t stymie its reformation, leaving the bad old ways (newly surfaced) behind. Rather point out it has started its reformation whether it likes it or not…

  35. Bravo!!

    Can I just ask them not to make me, and people like me, to choose between my moderate Muslim parents and family and my atheism. It does not take a genius to work out what any person would do.

  36. Hi Phil. That’s a really good thought. Offer every encouragement for a moderate expression of the faith instead of providing impenetrable opposition.
    Watering down Christianity is probably why we enjoy the secular world we live in today, not by stubborn opposition. Interfaith dialogues must help as well.
    Good one! A realistic approach.

  37. Hi Katy, There are good teachings and there are bad ones – and it should now be obvious to everyone that the Koran and the hadith have more than their fare share of the latter. Christianity can be made to sound as bad – but it has been a few centuries since it even killed witches. The Old Testament Law that demanded the death penalty for gays, adulterers, witches, and heretics was challenged by Jesus in the New Testament. When the religious authorities wanted to stone to death the woman caught in adultery, Jesus intervened and stopped them, and told the women to go on her way and advised her to “sin no more.” (John 8:1-11). Jesus teaches his followers to love their enemies. There is no such teaching found in the Koran or the hadith. In my opinion, the New Testament is weird, but the Koran is nefarious. It does not seem much of an exaggeration to say that our future lies largely in the hands of “moderate” Muslims. Unless Muslims can reshape their religion into a ideology that is basically benign – or outgrow it altogether – it is difficult to see how Islam and the West can avoid falling into a continual state of war.

  38. Damn, I wish I’d said all that. This is the reason I think Maryam Namazie’s Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain should incorporate into its brief, and its title, the notion of a cultural Muslim. Apostasy is punishable by death according to Islamic scriptures, yet we know there must be millions of Muslims, particularly those that had a western upbringing, who believe in things like evolution, sexual equality and the like and don’t believe in Allah.

    If these people were permitted to self-identify as culturally Muslim, the apostasy thing would become moot.

    “You are an apostate, you have abandoned Islam.”

    “No I haven’t. I’m still a Muslim, I just don’t believe in God. I believe Mohammad was real and a great man, although I don’t think he rode on a flying horse; I dress modestly, respect my elders, don’t consume pork or shellfish or drink alcohol. Even if I did decide to go out on the lash with the girls or partake of a bacon sarnie, I am Muslim because I say I am.”

    The Islamic rules on apostasy were codified at a time when atheism wasn’t even an option. Anyone who left the faith was doing so in order to join another one, probably Christianity. Apostasy equated to treachery at a time when Christianity and Islam were at war with one another. Up until recently during wartime, we in the West routinely put traitors to death.

    I can’t think of a better cause for the new atheism movement to espouse than one which informs Muslims they can identify as such and be free to believe what they want.

    We have atheist Jews, cultural Christians. I know Islam is a few hundred years behind the second of these and a couple thousand behind the first, so let’s help to give it a boost.

  39. Bob Springsteen. Just a small point but I’ve been told lately that the John 8:1-11 quote was a more recent addition to the text.
    It was never claimed to be a response to an actual situation but was given in answer to a hypothetical situation.

  40. Not this taqiyya nonsense again. Yawns in an exaggerated manner

    Qur’an (16:106), (3:28); (9:3); (40:28); (2:225); (66:2); (3:54).
    This last states that even Allah lies- “And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers.”

    Bukhari (52:269); (49:857); (84:64-65); (50:369)
    Muslim (32:6303)

    Many other instances exist in Islamic doctrine and in addition to taqiyya there are 3 other forms of dishonesty advocated in the Religion of Lies, namely-

    • Tawriya (deception of non-Muhammadans – by concealing, and it could be called “creative lying”).
    • kitman (deception of non-Muhammadans – by telling only part of the truth).
    • Muruna (deception of non-Muhammadans – by using “flexibility” to blend in with the enemy or the surroundings).

    So please stop your OWN taqiyya and learn to be truthful about Islam.

  41. And Father Christmas came downeth the chimney and puteth presents under the tree. 23:59(Time for bed)

  42. Non-Muslims who insist Islamic writings are inviolate and not open to any sort of interpretation are behaving like religious extremists themselves. I’m not really sure what those like you, Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ann Coulter who maintain the West is at war with Islam want to happen.

    A big disagreement between Sam Harris and many liberals is his claim that many Islamists insist Islamic writings are inviolate and those writings are justification for the sort of violence being committed by ISIS currently. I have not heard Harris himself claim that Islamic writings are inviolate – that would be surprising from an atheist. He has this long-standing disagreement with Scott Atran and others who claim that Islam is not a primary motivation for Islamist suicide bombers.

    Here are Harris’ views on Islam.

    So, where are we? Islam can’t be gotten rid of by nuclear or biological warfare;

    Say we were visited by aliens who offered to remove all trace of religion from the world. Not by killing all the religious but by removing our (including atheists) memory of religion and removing religious texts, historical references etc. They wouldn’t remove our ability or tendency to be religious. Perhaps they could leave the churches, mosques etc, without the contents of course – that would be a puzzle for us.

    Religions would probably spring up again, but hopefully they would be much milder than the old religions we have today. Difficult to see many people taking seriously the the sort religious texts of the Abrahamic religions if they were just invented today. Anyway, if there was a referendum to decide whether to accept the aliens’ offer would you vote yes?

  43. Oh, okay. All this stuff from a millenium and a half ago is evidence of what present-day Muslims believe.

    Jeezalu, first Mohammedens are assigned their religious status at birth and told if they abandon it they can be put to the sword. Then they’re informed, not just by imams or political leaders but by atheists that this is how they can be expected to behave because it’s written in a manky old book they might not even have read.

    The passages you cite are evidence that it is permissible for Muslims to engage in all manner of deception; not proof that they do.

  44. If people are prepared to back up their words by killing or dying then we have to assume that their words are sincerely meant. “Dying man’s testimony….” “death-bead confession…” and all that. I certainly believe IS is murdering for god.

  45. Yes, that is all well and good and I agree with it all but the issue in my statement wasn’t whether or not Islamic people were obeying the law, which they should (except when the law is changed to suit them, which is bullshit), the issue is whether or not they are true adherents and if a government which upholds freedoms of belief should be involved in determining the truthyness of any religion.

  46. I certainly believe IS is murdering for god. (Philoctetes)

    God rejects your claim. Don’t you know that God is on our side? Our gallant Muslim allies would find your view highly offensive.

    On Monday, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and United Arab Emirates joined the U.S. in airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, with Qatar playing a support role.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2768662/US-allies-launching-airstrikes-Syria.html#ixzz3EJFVM3Go

    Here’s a thought for Jerry Coyne. The Inquisition was Christian but Christianity wasn’t the Inquisition.

  47. Meanwhile, it has been religious business as usual in the CAR!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-29354134

    The International Criminal Court has opened a formal probe into war crimes in the Central African Republic (CAR).

    ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said there had been “endless” instances of rape, murder, forced displacement, persecution and pillaging since 2012.

    She said both sides had committed atrocities in what has become a religious conflict between mainly Muslim rebels and Christian militias.

    Almost a quarter of the 4.6 million population have fled their homes.

    The turmoil began in the run-up to the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group seizing power in the majority Christian country in March last year.

    Rebel leader Michel Djotodia resigned as president in January under intense diplomatic pressure but the killings continued.

    Muslims had to flee revenge attacks from largely Christian militias, known as anti-balakas.

    Other war crimes and crimes against humanity included attacks against humanitarian missions and use of child soldiers, the prosecutor said.

    “The list of atrocities is endless. I cannot ignore these alleged crimes,” she said in a statement.

  48. Katy Cordeth-

    Oh, okay. All this stuff from a millenium and a half ago is evidence
    of what present-day Muslims believe.

    Again you show your gross ignorance of Islam- this is indeed what devout Muslims DO believe; that you don’t is irrelevant. You also need to know that the [manky old book] Koran is considered the infallible word of Allah, FOR ALL TIME.
    Which other ‘religion’ promotes lying, by the way?
    Simple question, your answer?

  49. The separation of religion from politics is a very recent development in Western societies and has never yet become the norm in the Middle East (except, of course, in Israel and Turkey, both founded on Western notions of government). The men of ISIS cannot but be both religiously and politically motivated — theocracy is their traditional politicoreligious norm. Does this mean that they are (to put it mildly) behind the times? Yes, but that is hardly news.

  50. Your’s is a perfect illustration of why this process must be freely allowed to happen. The tales of broken families brought by newly resolved atheists are legion here. The fracturing of families harms not only the families and their newly wise offspring/partner, but also the whole process of letting the spiritous nonsense of religion evapourate away. “Atheism breaks homes and threatens communities” goes the cry and the bully parasites get their chance for a conservative backswing.

    Where parents are wise enough to know their dear child is just as good as she could be, then sharing the fact of your atheism is probably just the start of many fruitful dinner table discussions. A perfect outcome.

    Where parents are mad, bad and dangerous, then keep your head down until you can escape. For all those other families, deluded but loving, take as much delight in them as you can. Hurt them as little as you can. Accept their gifts as they bundle you off to university, the weird scarf to keep you warm, the crock of Irish stew to keep you fed, their religion to keep you safe. You can always send out for a curry.

    Passionate atheists forget that all other atheists may be passionate first about other things, their acting carreer or becoming a brain surgeon. Spectacular disruption in their lives from family or societal grief would be seriously detrimental to their dreams.

  51. A realistic approach.

    Ta.

    Betterism is so much better than idealism at bringing useful change. I discovered a new word for it recently…politics. I love it because it is more like evolution than intelligent design. Though slower it better interfaces with evolved creatures and all their curious ticks and twitches.

  52. But you have said most of this stuff, Katy. And more. Your point about a politically viable solution to Bob Springsteen was entirely on the money.

  53. Thanks. And I have.

    Cracking, prescient idea. David Frost produced it and claimed it as some of Cook’s best work. Cook claims to have modeled his performance of megalomaniacal Rimmer on Frost himself and to have eternally regretted saving Frost from drowning in a swimming pool…

  54. To my surprise, for the first time, I was finding myself in agreement with Karen Armstrong; but, when she got thirteen minutes in it all flew apart.

    Nonetheless, I think that what she was saying up until then was enlightening and worth thinking about; although, even while I was writing those few last words I realized that it was probably just more of the same, from a died in the wool religious apologist.

    In any case, I think I’m capable of figuring stuff out for myself; well, we all are, and that’s the tragedy of it, because these young guys who’ve gravitated towards – ISIS?ISIL?IS? – are also able to think for themselves, but, have had their vulnerability exploited atrociously.

    Religion poisons …!

    Apropos of the article by Jerry Coyne, I’d already read it and decided that it cuts straight to the heart of the matter.

  55. In reply to Jim Fox

    Katy Cordeth-

    “Oh, okay. All this stuff from a millenium and a half ago is evidence of what present-day Muslims believe.”

    Again you show your gross ignorance of Islam- this is indeed what devout Muslims DO believe; that you don’t is irrelevant. You also need to know that the [manky old book] Koran is considered the infallible word of Allah, FOR ALL TIME.

    Which other ‘religion’ promotes lying, by the way?

    Simple question, your answer?

    You’re painting with pretty broad strokes when you use the word devout. Stephen Colbert and Shirley Phelps-Roper are devout Christians both, but I think it’s fair to say their worldviews couldn’t be more different.

    In the same way a page from a cook book giving instructions for baking a cake would taste horrid because it isn’t the cake, a religion’s holy books are the manual for what it should be; these writings are not the religion itself. A religion is composed of people, and people hold all sorts of private opinions. Homophobic Christians will cite Leviticus to justify their prejudice, whereas open-minded ones will point to Jesus’ views on tolerance and casting the first stone.

    As I said in another comment on this thread, religious writings are static, their interpretation is dynamic. Q: What do Islamophobes and radical Muslims have in common? A: Neither group thinks Islam should be permitted to evolve.

    Taqiyya involves concealing one’s beliefs when broadcasting them would place one in danger. I don’t know if the Bible or Talmud endorse such behavior. It’s worth remembering the Koran and Hadith were written quite some time after the New Testament and a long time after the old one. The Arab world was on its way to becoming a major trading power, so advice about not revealing one’s religious affiliations when in unfamiliar territory would make perfect sense.

    Go to the travel section of any bookshop and you’ll find tons of advice about staying safe while abroad. When traveling overseas I tend to leave my USA-A-OK tee shirt at home and pack a couple maple tree pins just to be extra safe. Am I Canadian? Nope. Am I not to be trusted in these places? That usually depends how many margaritas I’ve drunk, but rarely is it my intention to alter my host nation’s entire geopolitical landscape. If that happens, it happens.

    The far right likes to use taqiyya to foment mistrust of all Muslims. It’s right there in black and white, they’ll tell you: deception is encoded into these people’s spiritual DNA; none of them is to be trusted.

    It behoves us here on our little oasis in a desert of internet intolerance and ignorance, not to fall into the same patterns of thinking.

  56. I wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t pointed it out, but LOL.

    It’s a bit like:

    “I have five hundredweight of manure here for Mr Wilson.”

    “Sounds like a good trade.”

  57. in Israel and Turkey, both founded on Western notions of government

    Definitely not so in the case of Israel. It is where it is and what it is because of the religious myth of the land promised by Yahweh to the people chosen by Yahweh.

  58. Q: What do Islamophobes and radical Muslims have in common? A: Neither group thinks Islam should be permitted to evolve.

    @Katy

    No. It is much wider spread than this. Even atheists who merely dislike Islamism, non Islamophobes like Jerry Coyne, think this. This is the tragedy of the situation.

    Don’t take every opportunity to smear people when you can make a bigger, stronger point by not doing so.

  59. Here are Harris’ views on Islam.

    Yeah, I’ve read that before and have no wish to revisit it. I’m firmly on the side of those who believe Islamist hatred of the West didn’t come about in a vacuum, and has very little to do with the religion itself; that we must shoulder much of the blame for events of the past few decades.

    I saw Billy Connolly interviewed by David Letterman on the latter’s show many years ago. Dave asked him why Islamic terrorists hate Americans so much, and the Big Yin’s response was, “Because you’ve got all the stuff.” Roars of laughter and applause from the audience. It would be convenient if we could attribute all the hostility to simple jealousy or because it’s been commanded by a book. My personal favorite is “It’s because they hate freedom.” Yeah, I’m sure when Gazans are being shelled to bits, the last thought many of them have is “At least I am not free.” I’ll stop here before I enter full-on rant mode.

    I don’t know how to answer your question about the aliens. My guess would be E.T. had designs on our planet and plunging us into a world so different would be his and his pals’ way of getting us to bump each other off once and for all, or at least dispense with so many of us that it would be a simple matter for them to land and either kill the remainder or enslave us to help rebuild the place.

    I don’t see any reason why new religions that sprang up would be any milder than the old ones. The absence of religion would create a vacuum which I can envisage being filled with all manner of death cults. Religions came about because we needed them to; they weren’t some Lovecraftian other imposed on us without our knowledge or desire. Our species appears to have an inbuilt need for the kind of fellowship and hierarchy that religion provides. And, as G. K. Chesterton wrote:

    “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.”

    Like it or not, religion assists in keeping communities stable. Since your hypothetical alien benefactors/slime-drooling genocidalists won’t have removed our ability or tendency to be religious, I’m inclined to think that after many years of chaos, things would become pretty much as they were before, with prosperous, stable areas developing a milder type of religion and unstable hellholes going for more authoritarian, strident ones.

    Anyway, if there was a referendum to decide whether to accept the aliens’ offer would you vote yes?

    If there was a worldwide referendum in which everyone got to have his say, the result would be an overwhelming no; if it was a referendum of one—me—I don’t know what I’d do.

  60. Have I just been been given a ticking off? I’m not entirely sure who I’ve been smearing this time.

    I’ll admit to being a little confused by this comment.

  61. Its “Islamophobes”. I have this issue. I come over all twitchy. Children here are crying…

    Who are the Islamophobes you intend? Did you intend Jerry Coyne amongst them? I cannot imagine him being fearful of meeting Iranian physicists at a conference.

    Or is this perhaps the one ideal use of the term I’ve argued for?

    An irrational fear of Islam. Irrational because Islam is not a singular or supernatural thing?

    In which case….erm, carry on….

  62. religious nuts kill, atheist nuts tend not to

    Hm.

    It doesn’t seem to follow.

    One could argue, “nuts kill”, “religion tends to attract more nuts than atheism”. What comes first, religion or mental disease? Are the “religious nuts” nuts because they are religious, or are they religious because they are nuts?

    On another perspective, there are plenty of non-violent “nuts”. Including plenty of non-violent “religious nuts”.

    And on a third perspective, do people kill others because of religion, or is religion merely an ex-post “justification” of the killing?

    We are told that

    If ISIS Is Not Islamic, then the Inquisition Was Not Catholic,

    but if the Inquisition was Catholic, does that mean that all catholics are (at least potentially) inquisitors? Or does it mean that post-Inquisition Catholicism is no longer Catholic?

    Logically, “ISIS is islamic” is a very different statement from “Islam is ISIL”; but pragmatically we know that this kind of fallacy, “All A is B, therefore all B is A” is a very common one, and that it is compelling for many people.

  63. Rather than do the clerics’ work, atheists should not insist that Jesus and Mo’s words are clear cut, unambiguous stuff. How can that possibly be? Who have they been listening to?

    Who have you been listening to Phil? One of the main tactics employed by atheists is to point out to theists that Jesus & Mo’s words are NOT all clear cut, unambiguous stuff. I expect most days someone on this site will be quoting from the holy texts and pointing to the contradictions and obvious errors.

    But of course there are occasions when we will point out clear cut examples of bigotry, immorality & terrorism in the holy texts. On these occasions we may be countering claims that these holy books are perfect user guides for life or we may be retaliating when theists (inevitably) claim that atheists have no basis for morality.

    By not insisting we know what Islam is, by allowing anyone to call themselves Muslim whatever they actually believe, ….

    Doesn’t sound like Jerry Coyne would have a problem with that, although he might say he is in no position to allow or not allow anyone to call themselves Muslim. In fact you could say he is defending the right of the members of ISIS to call themselves Muslims, in opposition to the majority of the Muslim world and in opposition to leaders of Western countries.

    Obama says ISIL is not Islamic and Cameron says ISIS are not Muslims, they are monsters. Jerry Coyne says:

    “In the end, there is no “true” religion in the factual sense, for there is no good evidence supporting their claims to truth. Nor are there “true” religions in the moral sense. Every faith justifies itself and its practices by appeal to authority, revelation, and dogma. There are just some religions we like better than others because of their practical consequences. …”

    “By all means let us say that ISIS is a strain of Islam that is barbaric and dysfunctional, but let us not hear any nonsense that it’s a “false religion.” ”

  64. Say we were visited by aliens who offered to remove all trace of religion from the world. Not by killing all the religious but by removing our (including atheists) memory of religion and removing religious texts, historical references etc. They wouldn’t remove our ability or tendency to be religious. Perhaps they could leave the churches, mosques etc, without the contents of course – that would be a puzzle for us.

    Religions would probably spring up again, but hopefully they would be much milder than the old religions we have today. Difficult to see many people taking seriously the the sort religious texts of the Abrahamic religions if they were just invented today. Anyway, if there was a referendum to decide whether to accept the aliens’ offer would you vote yes?

    So we start believing in benevolent non-entities as a solution to our problems?

    Yes, I have seen that film before, and I didn’t like it.

  65. Taqiyya involves concealing one’s beliefs when broadcasting them would place one in danger. I don’t know if the Bible or Talmud endorse such behavior.

    Aquinas does.

    And frankly, it seems just sound common sence. When the thought police knocks at your door, asking

    Are there any Muslisms/Communists/Jews/Atheists/ here

    you would like to have an ethical system that allows you to say

    NO

    while hiding your copy of the Quran/Manifesto/Talmud/God Delusion without feeling too much guilty.

    Lying is a necessity in social life, and moreso under dictatorships. Those who have no entitlement to the truth should be denied it.

  66. Luis Henrique Sep 25, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    They wouldn’t remove our ability or tendency to be religious. Perhaps they could leave the churches, mosques etc, without the contents of course – that would be a puzzle for us.

    The soviet regimes partly did this, but without removing the history. – I recall looking over various detheisticated museum Basilicas and churches in Moscow and in the Kremlin, during the communist era of the 1970s while visiting their space exhibition with a group of scientists.

    Religions would probably spring up again, but hopefully they would be much milder than the old religions we have today.

    That certainly has happened there under Putin! – I’m not convinced about the “milder” bit!

  67. Who are the Islamophobes you intend? Did you intend Jerry Coyne amongst them? I cannot imagine him being fearful of meeting Iranian physicists at a conference.

    I meant Islamophobes in general, with perhaps a particular nod to the fellow who has as his avatar a quote from Sam Harris proclaiming the West to be at war with Islam. It would be easier if every user nailed his particular colors to the mast in this manner.

    I’m familiar with the difference between legitimate critique of Islam and Muslims, and Islamophobia. It’s people like Mr Harris who level the charge at their detractors that any criticism of what they say is by its very nature knee-jerk political correctness. This is a very convenient shield for them to hide behind.

    As you sometimes point out, I’m inclined to overread harms, so when your Mr Coyne uses the term “moderate” Muslims, enclosing moderate within quotation marks, I’m probably wrong in thinking he is suggesting there’s no such thing.

    Were I to read a comment by someone which incorporated such scare quotes when speaking about black “Americans” or “President” Obama, the sense I’d get would be that this person thought African-Americans are not actual Americans and Barack Obama’s presidency is illegitimate.

    Coyne goes on to say:

    In the end, there is no “true” religion in the factual sense, for there is no good evidence supporting their claims to truth. Nor are there “true” religions in the moral sense.

    Scare quotes again, only this time we are well aware of the reason they’re being employed because Jer’ makes it clear: there are no “true” religions. There are no “moderate” Muslims.

    I’m not familiar with Jerry Coyne, but if this piece is anything to go by he seems to be cut from the same cloth as Harris, Hirsi-Ali… well, all the usual suspects who make me uneasy about my, however peripheral, association with modern politicized atheism: yet another in the long line of those who would prefer to define Islam on their own terms and dismiss adherents of the faith who don’t fit the stereotype of the ululating, sword-wielding, explodey maniac that fits the NA agenda.

    As with the campaign to have Islamophobia removed from the collective vocabulary, perhaps if enough people use scare quotes whenever they write about “moderate” Muslims (air scare quotes may be used in verbal communication), a shift in western consciousness will be effected and pretty soon the idea of a moderate Mohammedan will come to be considered an oxymoron.

  68. I don’t see any reason why new religions that sprang up would be any milder than the old ones. The absence of religion would create a vacuum which I can envisage being filled with all manner of death cults.

    I figured that the reason the old religions were so extreme was that the people (mainly men) who made them up were living in a world of constant tribal warfare and were ignorant of the knowledge of the natural world that we have gained over the last few thousand years.

    Religions came about because we needed them to; they weren’t some Lovecraftian other imposed on us without our knowledge or desire.

    Some would argue that religion has been imposed on them. The number of non-believers seems to be rising fast in many countries – do we really still need religions?

    Our species appears to have an inbuilt need for the kind of fellowship and hierarchy that religion provides.

    There are a few countries with majority non-religious populations – how do they survive without this fellowship and hierarchy? Is this a special kind of fellowship that us life-long atheists will never have experienced?

    And, as G. K. Chesterton wrote: “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.”

    Do you believe in God or do you believe in anything?

    Like it or not, religion assists in keeping communities stable.

    Do you really believe that? So shouldn’t the most non-religious countries be the most unstable?

    Given the religiosity statistics, you are almost certainly correct that the referendum result would be “No”, but my vote would be a definite “Yes”. I think that in a few centuries the world will be largely non-religious, I was just dreaming of a possible short-cut.

  69. Perhaps I should have made it more clear that this was a hypothetical scenario providing a way to reduce the time taken to remove our beliefs in benevolent non-entities as a solution to our problems?

  70. . I don’t see any reason why new religions that sprang up would be any milder than the old ones

    I don’t know about that. I would imagine these new religions of which you speak, would be similar to the sort of “new agey ” spiritual stuff that keeps popping up now. They are the new religions to my way of thinking, and pretty harmless. I can’t see followers taking up arms to align their chakras, or whatever passes for wisdom in these groups.

    I think we should really look to those countries low on the scale of religiousity and see what sort of irrational ideas hold sway over there. Perhaps it’s astrology?

  71. As the late Christopher Hitchens observed [paraphrase]: Religions today come to us in this smiling ingratiating way … but you have no right to forget how they acted when they really did think they were in charge – no right.

    Hitchslap 27

  72. In the end Jerry gets it right-

    By all means let us say that ISIS is a strain of Islam that is barbaric and dysfunctional, but let us not hear any nonsense that it’s a “false religion.”

    This is not consistent with your reading that he believes “moderates” are entirely a phantom. I don’t think they are scare quotes as such, rather more what Obama actually said. They are indeed, simply, quotes.

    I think he is right but politically a little behind the curve. In the US religious = moral. This is not, of course, true but Obama must say it is true. Jerry’s concern is simply with the obvious falsity of this, not that all Muslims must be immoral.

  73. The religions would be fragmented wish-thinking. Very likely new agey and rather like the views of the Danish. Religion’s main task of facilitating and justifying super tribes is done in the spun off secular activities of politics, arts, science, justice, education and welfare.

    Religion was best before 600BC, turning to more simply parasitical meddling after that by underwriting the earthly power of princes.. Not even the consolation for dying is needed in my view. Kids not promised everlasting life seem to be simply accepting of an eventual death. Salesmen keep promising though…

  74. In reply to Phil Rimmer

    In the end Jerry gets it right-

    “By all means let us say that ISIS is a strain of Islam that is barbaric and dysfunctional, but let us not hear any nonsense that it’s a “false religion.” ”

    This is not consistent with your reading that he believes “moderates” are entirely a phantom.

    If you say so.

    I don’t think they are scare quotes as such, rather more what Obama actually said. They are indeed, simply, quotes.

    You can read the full transcript of “President” Obama’s statement here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/08/20/statement-president

    I didn’t see the m-word anywhere. Mr Obama may have said other stuff about ISIL in days past, of course, but this was the official pronouncement.

  75. And while the debate about religion rages on, we forget that money “IS” the “route” (not misspelt) of all evil!!!!!!!

    Note that recent findings of Cyprus’ Block 12 (or Aphrodite) along
    with those of Israel’s in the Leviathan block, rank among the largest
    discovered worldwide in the last 10 years.

    http://www.defencegreece.com/index.php/2012/01/cyprus-hydrocarbons-a-presentation/

    Take a look at the pipeline map and work out where all the trouble spots are and who wants to join onto the existing pipelines and the possible objectors. Don’t forget one successful overthrow and one in progress and who might have had a hand in them. Then ask why Hamas would do what they did and why now. Then tell me again that ISIS is on a religious crusade.

    Maybe time to draw another new line on that map!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST9nOuvia_w

  76. Phil Rimmer.
    I think our future can be seen in Denmark. We’ve adopted all the Scandinavian attitudes in the past,albeit slowly. Think of the more tolerant attitudes to gays and sexuality in general.
    It strikes me that this will seep in eventually. I don’t think we ‘re likely to follow the American model. Could be wrong of course, as this is usually the case.

  77. Im writing this before I read the comments….theres so many…..Isis are as religious as christian vikings…….but i dont even care about their religion – just the fact that they are murdering criminals…..it doesnt matter what religion they call themselves or even their enemy in Israel – causing innocents deaths are still deaths whichever way its perpetrated….or by whoever…im not racist just noting the hypocrisy

  78. Hi Aldous. The modern state of Israel is not based on biblical Judaism. It is a secular democracy. That is not to deny that many of its inhabitants, along with many Jews and Christians living elsewhere, believe that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews by right of divine gift; nor, sadly, is it to deny the possibility of Judaism being made part of the basis of Israel’s constitution in the future. There are communities of Jews who have kept themselves isolated from Western culture even as they lived for centuries in the West and have still not applied secularism to their political thinking with regard to Judaism. Such people, most of whom used to condemn the founding of a Jewish state prior to the coming of the Messiah, are now moving to Israel in large numbers to claim the land they believe belongs to them by virtue of the myth you mention. Such a growing influence may well pose a threat to the secularism of Israel’s constitution.

  79. What part of the term “The Jewish State” in common usage used interchangeably with “Israel” in the media since the establishment of the state of Israel did you misunderstand?

  80. Then I’m stumped. I don’t understand the use of “moderate” here. Maybe you have the right reading. I don’t know what he thinks other types of Islam are if he thinks one type is barbaric and dysfunctional. I’m pretty sure he has not barbaric and possibly functional covered.

    It may be a mistake or simply thoughtless. I hate imputing bad thoughts to people without good evidence. Reputations are tenacious things.

  81. Who are the Islamophobes you intend? Did you intend Jerry Coyne amongst them? I cannot imagine him being fearful of meeting Iranian physicists at a conference. phil rimmer

    Jerry Coyne is a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago so he probably doesn’t go looking for physicists all that often. But you are confusing ‘phobia’, used of a medical condition, and it’s use to refer to a form of prejudice and discrimination. Agoraphobia is a fear of open spaces which may require the attention of a psychiatrist. Homophobia may include a fear of homosexuals but it manifests itself, principally, by prejudice and discrimination. Islamophobia is in this category. Whether Jerry Coyne is guilty of it doesn’t really matter.We can concentrate on his argument.

  82. Brain slip over JC. Thanks.

    So rephrasing-

    I cannot imagine JC being prejudiced towards or discriminating against Iranian biologists at a conference.

    Fixed.

    If, however, he believed Islam were some immutable thing with some innate power to resist change, then I think irrational thinking has won and the Islamophobic tag bursts into utility. BTW irrationality underlies prejudice and discrimination.

  83. Afterthought: I forgot to thank you for putting me in bed with the beautiful Ann Coulter. I’d love to fire the first missile. Hope you can join us one day?

  84. I find it hard to accept that there will ever be one single thought that enables us to overcome all our problems. I take the documentary (below) with the Western lowland gorilla and the Bonobo as an example. Separated by the Congo river, they evolved their separate ways in which the gorilla uses violence to sedate and the bonobo sex. The bonobo being our nearest ancestor suggests that we should be shagged out and content but we can see that we are not. We have recently been told that our species lived along side the Neanderthal and even interbred so maybe it was the same further back in time. For me, the link in control goes into religion and is a vital part of evolution and just understanding that is not enough for it to disappear over night. The solution was tribal councils and politics to give a voice to all. It is our politics that needs cleaning up along with the understanding of our primal needs. My thoughts!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pYQRqiTf2E

  85. I cannot imagine JC being prejudiced towards or discriminating against Iranian biologists at a conference.(phil rimmer)

    What would he be doing to ‘show prejudice’? Shaking his fist and shouting, ‘You nutty Twelver’. And what would the Iranian Twelvers be doing to reciprocate? Do brawls generally break out at scientific conferences along religious lines? I’m always amused when I hear about fighting among the various religious factions in charge of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem but science is supposed to be a reasonable pursuit.

  86. What would he be doing to ‘show prejudice’?

    Dunno. Showing prejudice was not my point. Being prejudiced might involve unfairly discounting the other fellow’s biological ideas… I suspect he wouldn’t.

    So he isn’t an Islamophobe having no irrational thoughts about the singularity of Islam.

    And I propose he is unlikely to be a Muslimophobe and will not make presumptions about individuals based on descriptors (and ambiguous ones at that, by his own telling).

    But what to make of his use of the quotes in “moderate”?

  87. I have only just come up to speed with this discussion (oh!the headaches)

    I should have gone with my initial reaction to reading JCs piece. The quotes in “moderate” meant, to me, that Obama is using the word to separate ISIS from religion as a whole and not just from Islam. JC is still blaming religion as the reason for all the woes in this world. A long way around and just saying, ” look there’s religion, let’s kick its arse”. No better than just blaming Muslims as a whole which is not what he is doing. “You might be “moderate” but it is still the belief, your belief, that is the motivator”. Guilty by association. “You are either with us or against us”…………….

    If you use that kind of language, as the Bush’s did, then you get thousands of Muslim young men travelling half way around the world to fight with those that they DO belong with. Most of these young men that have been allowed to say a few words on western media are soon cut off when they start to explain they went because of the injustices and treatment of the region for political reasons often citing the USA. We are then left with an image of a man with his head covered and a beard on dark skin. How is the ordinary person on the street supposed to think anything different???

  88. My comment is short. I’m so fed up with all those “moderate”, “liberal”, “left” and apologizing politicians, can’t hear it anymore, ALL religions are NOT peaceful, as long as those politicians are religious themselves they won’t face the truth and call it what it is!

  89. Not good enough. You can’t call absolutes like that. (British) Quakers did more good, peacefully than just about any. And though not peaceful, as oppressed Muslims, needing to get out from under Russia, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and IS, those led by Ahmad Shah Massoud and the (mostly) Sunni Kurds champion(ed) democracy and the rights of women. These are people moving in the right direction. Their politics did not come from their religion. Would that half or more of the US could say the same.

    Don’t deny people the opportunity to improve for the sake of rhetoric.

  90. And I am trying to finesse things. I don’t want to condemn JC, as others would the religious, rolling them up into a singular problem, and rolling him up into the same class as the hateful bigots. I see this tendency on both sides of this issue, making cleanly defined groups by strawmanning and polarisation.

    JC’s position was that religion could be both barbarous and by implication, non barbarous. This was true and served his purpose in nailing the political fudge from Obama that religion is only nice. But I say he stymied an opportunity by stopping there. He could have rolled out a vision of religion at the nicer end of the scale, shot through with axial age wisdom and enlightenment values, retiring gracefully into the fabric of truly modern cultures. Why should he do this? Because he would trump Obama’s unhelpful and dishonest vision with a goad to all religious of his own. There’s bad. There’s not so bad and there is rather better.

    JC is still blaming religion as the reason for all the woes in this world.

    This is too much, surely? All woes? All religions? And by implication equally?

  91. Pretty emotional response by someone who demands logic!!!!

    Let’s not bother to look at the causes just shout the same old response.

  92. I get that point now rereading it, and maybe, as you said, he did not go far enough in his explanation. I was going to say “for someone like me” but others have misinterpreted as well.

  93. Take a look at the pipeline map and work out where all the trouble spots are and who wants to join onto the existing pipelines and the possible objectors. Don’t forget one successful overthrow and one in progress and who might have had a hand in them. Then ask why Hamas would do what they did and why now. Then tell me again that ISIS is on a religious crusade.

    ISIS is on a religious crusade.

    The Vice News video posted above by NearlyNakedApe was more telling.

  94. Yes!! And all wars are just to promote weapons…….

    Some weapons promotion for you:

    ” We Muslims are the ones who want to enforce Sharia in this land. I swear Sharia can’t be established without weapons”

    at time 39:41 in the Vice News video.

  95. That’s ok then. I will throw out all other information and listen to what’s on that video only, use it’s words as psalms and create a religion on it. Wait! That’s been done. Oh well! Back to looking at the bigger picture.

  96. Don’t think you quite got it……….

    That’s a tendency we all suffer – assuming that people who don’t agree with us just don’t get it.

    I suggest you could have made your case more clear by instead of this:

    Then tell me again that ISIS is on a religious crusade.

    you said:

    Then tell me again that ISIS are driven purely by religious motives.

    although the “again” seems superfluous, since I don’t see that the article makes that claim.

    The point made by JC is that it’s ridiculous to say that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, just as it’s ridiculous to say that the Inquisition had nothing to do with Christianity (Catholicism). He is not saying Islam=ISIS or Catholic=Inquisitor. He is suggesting that Obama should have said something like:

    ISIS are terrorists, promoting a strain of Islam that is barbaric, dysfunctional and irrational.

    I would add:

    A strain that the majority of Muslims reject.

  97. @Marktony

    I am sorry if I was unclear and will try to make it clearer. I disagree with your interpretation because it concentrates on the Islam factor. I prefer Obamas version, albeit incomplete, because I believe it has been politics first and religion second. Ofcourse ISIS are using religion in a barbaric way but but if there were to be any negosiations it would be on a political platform and not a religious one. Obama is a politician not the pope. I can understand the diplomacy if not the sentiment.

  98. This comment just expressed my feelings at the moment, there’re probably muslims who condemn those extremism, but where are they, why we don’t hear them expressing their opposition? At the end, when it comes to a situation where they have to decide for one side, I’m quite sure most of those “moderate” muslims will stick to their religion and not to a secular and democratic system. A good example for this kind of behavior are the people in Iran and I know what I’m talking about, some relatives are living in Tehran and I’ve been there for several times. There are moderate, secular non-religious people in Iran, but the vast majority is in principle religious, though in a more passive way, not active. Those who don’t believe at all live abroad, like my husband, they are a minority, most of them left Iran right after the revolution and belong to the well-educated, intellectual “upper-class” from 1970s Tehran. It’s 35 years now since the revolution and, from my point of view, there’s no change in sight, the people in Iran are not ready for it. Tehran has nearly 20 million people now, they come from all over the country, there’re only a handful native Tehranians left. At the end they don’t do anything for a change and they won’t do so in the foreseeable future, that’s the sad reality.

  99. Claudia!! What are you asking? I am an atheist and my parents are Muslims. Are you asking them to apologise for what ISIS are doing? What have my parents got to do with it? You want them to associate themselves with terror and hang their head in shame because they happen to be Muslim? I don’t get it!!!!

  100. This comment just expressed my feelings at the moment,

    Quite understood. I’ve been there.

    there’re probably muslims who condemn those extremism.

    The Muslim Council of Britain issues condemnations with monotonous regularity. Each barking Islamist outrage is identified and disowned. Whilst their endorsement of faithy things depresses the hell out of me, they try and set a high moral tone.

    Others don’t comment because some Islamic communities have quite a high bully content, old men and their young henchmen can make dissension a scary prospect. But mostly, as Olgun points out, the thought is, this is not my doing and not my religion. You wouldn’t get pro-papal apologetics from an orangeman in Northern Ireland. Whilst there are fewer obvious schisms, there are enough and more to come.

    Those I mentioned previously have no time to apologise for their enemy’s crimes. ( The Kurds [mostly Sunni, but a big mix of everything else] cross most of the borders in the region. They are wonderful, open and brave. And very politically smart. Read/hear about male and female co/mayors. We need those. Egalitarianism (recently won) way above our own. I have written much here about Ahmad Shah Massoud, assasinated by his nemesis Osama Bin Laden two days before 9/11. Massoud hugely popular even now in Afghanistan, totally committed to democracy and equality for women.

    The stories of these people appear rarely in the most conservative media. Getting our blood boiling is more likely to keep that advertising revenue up, and those papers sold.

    The BBC World Service is a breath of fresh air sometimes…

  101. The stories of these people appear rarely in the mostly conservative media…

    This delay to postings with links entirely steals any editing time.

    Please, can’t we have our hour back? 30 minutes?

  102. Your parents should condemn ISIS and be ashamed that atrocities are being committed in the name of their religion.

  103. At the end of a piece on his blog today, about the murder by ISIS of an Iraqi womens rights lawyer, JC made multiple use of the dreaded quotes. While I can understand his anger at the terrible way this woman was tortured and then murdered (after a Sharia conviction for Apostasy) , he goes too far in linking this sort of behaviour with moderate Muslims via criticism of the treatment of women in Islamic societies.

    Although other Muslims have condemned the group as “un-Islamic,” it’s a charge I find ludicrous, for this killing, rape, and abduction of women is merely an extension of the more moderate Islamic doctrine of marginalizing and oppressing women. Though you can face charges of “Islamophobia” for saying so, we must incessantly condemn the “moderate” Muslim practice of not allowing women to achieve their full potential. A large proportion of these “moderates” may not engage in beheadings, rapes, and tortures, but they still treat half of their population as second-class citizens—if you can even call them “citizens.” “Breeder cattle” is more like it.

  104. The way I see it is; I am British. My government has issued a statement condemning ISIS. I agree with it and there is no need to make any other comment. If I didn’t agree I would be on the streets against it. Why do I need to come out and issue my own statement as if I am just a temporary citizen or do not belong. Of course I have the right to protest against as a citizen and voter. When there were protests against Blair going into Iraq, should it have been only English protesters? Stinks of segregation.

  105. Olgun, since you are at your computer right now and not in the streets we can then safely assume that you agree with the British governments official position on every topic.

  106. No I don’t. It is my right. I don’t agree with their policy on Cyprus. I lobby to change. All as a British citizen. Are you saying I don’t have that right? I agree with a lot of their policies but all I am asked to do is vote every four years not issue a statement every time.

  107. Phil

    You are right of course, but still the wave of fundamentalist miltancy keeps on spreading in so many parts of the world.

    The terrorists and fighters are often incited by political as well as religious propaganda, but the certainty and ferocity of their mindset is exactly like that which fuelled the companions of Mohamed in the 7th century. Because, unfortunately, the Quran and Sunnah have remained unchanged since those early battles of conquest and plunder; prefiguring Isis, al Qaeda, Boko Haram and others.
    Most of the many attempts at reform have failed, normally by the death of the reformer. The texts are entirely consistent with the atrocities of Isis. As well as with those of the many Islamic campaigns of history.

    Isis is Islamic.

    The duality of Islam allows it to be presented as a religion of peace. The unwary fail to find out about the abrogation of the tolerant verses in favour of the intolerant. For our own protection as well as that of moderate Muslims, these things and more need to be more generally known.

    I think that we do need to avoid alienating or estranging those Muslims who are our friends if possible; but if it means that we must all continue living in denial of the truth, then the price is too high. We really do need a much better understanding of the facts; all of us I mean, including Muslims. It may even result in more Muslims apostatizing.

  108. The last time anyone was authoritatively made guilty simply by the actions of a mostly unrelated third party was 4004BC, when Eve screwed it for all of us….

  109. You can do whatever you want. It would be nice if you acted consistently and didn’t contradict yourself, but that is certainly not mandatory for any citizen.

  110. In one post you say that your silence is enough to show your support for your government. If you disagreed you’d be out protesting.

    In the next post you say that your silence is not indicative of anything.

  111. Those with the least are the easiest to exploit. It happens in equally ugly ways in Africa with Christianity. The texts aren’t quite so rich for military application, and serve more personal money making schemes as Leo pointed out here. But the Koran was written to a more singular specification and suits those with a taste for caliphates.

    So, I now think your point is a truism. It is tired and mostly useless to us in dealing with things. It gives us no tools, no points of leverage to the situation. We need to tackle other things. Work to educate and empower women. (Kurdish women are some kind of exemplar here.) Relieve poverty and ill health. Remove dissatisfactions where we can. Not rip their countries off quite so much and not reward the chiefs only. Recognise and work with the Massouds and not those other Shahs quite so much, the tyrants, the sociopath bullies. Not be so commie and PKK-phobic. Left wing may actually be our friends here….even yours!

    I take your point but so what? We need political solutions and in the absence of any practical good ones from right wing commentators, the Massouds and the Kurds were and are fixing it, as best they can.

    Maryam Namazie was lampooned here for her political stance as a communist. As you know I loath all ideologies…..but….socialist solutions may be the right way to quickly relieve a lot of the grinding poverty feeding discontent.

  112. Oh I see!!! That’s rubbish really isn’t it. It is by degrees. Some things are urgent to one person and not to others and some issues are better left to the end of term vote. I was at the FCO and after the meeting I was asked how long I had been in the country as if to say “you have no right to go against us you bloody wog”. I have come to associate that with Cameron’s government and their push for Christianity

    If I feel that asking me to make a statement is racist then I will not make it. Perhaps we can go back to another thread on the pledge of allegiance, keep the “in god we trust” and also add “I am sorry for the birth of Mohamed”, compulsory for all Muslims.

  113. Sorry, one more thing. It was in my view utterly right to correct Obama in his claim that religions are only nice and that therefore ISIS has no religious foundation. It clearly and profoundly does have that foundation.

    But the failure to endorse the view that a religion as lived, is defined by its adherents is to miss the the way down from the heights of madness.

  114. I don’t agree with their policy on Cyprus. I lobby to change.

    Covers it for me. Olgun is not obliged to lobby but is moved to do so on occasions. Like any of us.

    How is Olgun’s (or his parents’) obligation different from mine or or yours? What are they guilty of? What do you know of the details of their guilt-making views?

    This is surely petty and pointless?

  115. In reply to Marktony. No reply button

    “I don’t see any reason why new religions that sprang up would be any milder than the old ones. The absence of religion would create a vacuum which I can envisage being filled with all manner of death cults.”

    I figured that the reason the old religions were so extreme was that the people (mainly men) who made them up were living in a world of constant tribal warfare and were ignorant of the knowledge of the natural world that we have gained over the last few thousand years.

    We in the West may live in the lap of luxury, flying around in our hovercars, watching our hover-flat screen televisions, heating Pop-Tarts in our hovertoasters, and cutting our grass with our hovermowers. For much of the rest of the world not a lot has changed since the precepts of the religions which maintain a grip there were laid out. For a Chinaman living in one of that country’s rural provinces his day-to-day life will be hardly any different to his great great great great grandfather’s. Following the act of extra-terrestrial intervention you imagine, I don’t see this guy and his family embracing a form of neo-Scientology or Rastafarianism to fulfill their spiritual needs.

    “Religions came about because we needed them to; they weren’t some Lovecraftian other imposed on us without our knowledge or desire.”

    Some would argue that religion has been imposed on them. The number of non-believers seems to be rising fast in many countries – do we really still need religions?

    Religion is imposed on individuals without their having any say, and if the Almighty in His infinite wisdom chooses to make you gay, for instance, and stick you with a faith which takes a dim view of those sort of goings on, then sucks to be you. Religion is terrible for those who do not conform to the norm; and women, and goats whenever the annual Time to Slaughter all the Goats Ceremony rolls back around. It’s good for societal cohesion though. Why else would Vlad Putin make such an example of Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina? Is the psychopathic house elf a devout Christian?

    ‘Course not. But he’s savvy enough to know that the urge to gang up against a threat to the larger group, real or imaginary, is in us all. Make an example out of a few young women who imperil the status quo and the rest of conservative Russia is placated. That’s what conservatism is about: being on the side with all the power.

    “Our species appears to have an inbuilt need for the kind of fellowship and hierarchy that religion provides.”

    There are a few countries with majority non-religious populations – how do they survive without this fellowship and hierarchy? Is this a special kind of fellowship that us life-long atheists will never have experienced?

    It doesn’t have to be religion providing the fellowship and hierarchy; religion just happens to be damn good at filling this role. The more prosperous a nation, the less need it seems to have for organized religion. If a man has a roof over his head, a full tummy and a warm bed to sleep in, he’s less likely to feel aggrieved about his lot than someone freezing in an unheated hovel while his guts growl out for sustenance. Less aggrieved means less likely to rise up and attempt to overthrow the ones in charge, and less need for a fiction informing you that although your life now is awful, when you die it’s going to be peaches and lollipops forever after.

    “And, as G. K. Chesterton wrote: ‘The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.’ ”

    Do you believe in God or do you believe in anything?

    Do I believe in God? No, I’d struggle with any notion of there being an entity somewhere in the universe superior to me.

    “Like it or not, religion assists in keeping communities stable.”

    Do you really believe that? So shouldn’t the most non-religious countries be the most unstable?

    I said it assists, not that it’s the be-all and end-all of stabilizing societies. I mentioned prosperity, but actually social justice is the key: it isn’t so bad not being rich as long as you know you won’t be arrested and then disappeared by thuggish government forces, or that a tiny percentage of the population is not hoarding a ridiculously disproportionate share of all the wealth like some dragon from the latest syncope-inducing Peter Jackson bromide, ably assisted by the government which is supposed to be representing you.

    We smarty-pants westerners may laugh at all those stupid, backward foreigners and their “faith delusions”, but we’re not exactly free from self-deception. For us there is the ignis fatuus of democracy convincing us we have a say in the running of the world or at least our part of it, that our vote somehow matters.

    Given the religiosity statistics, you are almost certainly correct that the referendum result would be “No”, but my vote would be a definite “Yes”. I think that in a few centuries the world will be largely non-religious, I was just dreaming of a possible short-cut.

    I don’t see anything to suggest the world is becoming less religious. We may only be an election away from having as president of the United States of America someone who believes the planet came into existence after the domestication of the dog (Where did I read that?), that a woman’s place is chained to the stove or as a hole in the mattress, that the Constitution should be rewritten to reflect what the founding fathers really wanted their fledgling nation to become: a Christian theocracy.

    What will the Earth’s population be two hundred years hence, and a hundred years after that? Some on this thread have suggested that any future religions are likely to be of the “new-agey” sort. I don’t see the twelve billionth human being being born into a world that has much need for healing crystals and incense cones. Things don’t tend to get better the more densely packed humans are. English police forces know this which is why in crowd control situations they practice kettling, forcing demonstrators together so they feel threatened and will lash out, meaning the Babylon can then use their batons to knock seven shades of shinola out of the protesters because they made the first move.

  116. Afterthought: I forgot to thank you for putting me in bed with the beautiful Ann Coulter…

    I’ve found it’s worth reminding people on occasion who their intellectual bedfellows are. I have little doubt the other two would take exception to a comparison being made between them and far-right lunatics like Coulter.

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Sam Harris believe Islam needs to be defeated, by military means if necessary, as do rightists both religious and secular. Harris and, as far I know, Hirsi Ali think racial profiling at airports and elsewhere is a dandy idea, a view shared by the far right. Harris’ opposition to gun control puts him right at home with the ‘from my cold, dead hands’ brigade, in his case the boogeyman being Islam rather than the U.S. government. Harris writes articles with titles like ‘Sleepwalking to the West’s Destruction’, and while he may be much smarter than the typical contributor to sites such as Gates of Vienna and Jihadwatch, his message is the same as theirs.

    Both Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali identify as liberals while voicing manifestly illiberal sentiments. Just how far to the right is it possible to go and maintain the fiction that one is a liberal?

    Apropos of not much, I’m a vegetarian. Have been for years. I eat fish, because you need protein. And chicken, I partake of quite a bit of that; it’ll be my Jewish ancestry asserting itself I shouldn’t wonder. And a bacon sandwich can never be resisted by yours truly. I’m partial to steak, too. And lamb chops. Oh, and veal sautéed in its own fear. It’s not always easy keeping vegetarian, but I manage.

  117. This delay to postings with links entirely steals any editing time.

    Please, can’t we have our hour back? 30 minutes?

    I agree, but as the moderators would say, tell it to the blue question mark at bottom left of screen.

    Since the latest iteration of the site doesn’t seem like it’s going to be replaced anytime soon—Sighs—it would be helpful, especially on longer threads like this, if users were to grab themselves an avatar. I have no trouble locating my comments, or Phil’s, Nitya’s, Inquisador’s etc.

  118. Olgun, you have issues with racism and perhaps religious prejudice that you need to deal with, but these have nothing to do with me or what I’ve said here.

  119. The practices of ISIS are wholly within the boundaries of Islam. Sunni Islam has no magisterial structure like the Catholic church (or to some extent, the Orthodox church) that can “officially” validate beliefs and practices. There are respected religious scholars, but they lack the authority of the Papacy or College of Cardinals. Shiism has a little more structure, but not much.

    People often say that Islam has never experienced a Reformation. IMHO, it has, way back at the time of the original Sunni-Shiite split. What it hasn’t had is an Enlightenment that beat back superstition and cleared the way for a large secular space in society. If you read the history of the first millennium of Islam, it is a sad story of a society evolving toward tolerance beaten back time and time again by the forces of obscurantism.

  120. Really?? How do you accomplish this feat? It would be really helpful but I’m such an un-tech savvy individual I have no knowledge of this procedure.

    I know. I should consult the blue ?

  121. I don’t know if you mean I have a problem with something that isn’t there or you are just disassociating yourself from racism but I neither sound foreign or look it. This means I have not personally suffered at the hands of racists to any great extent. Only on occasions when people actually know, like the FCO and at work which was low level and soon countered. Most of my experience is through people mistaking me for a Englishman and whispering their racism to a fellow white. I do hate racism what ever form it takes and that includes hiding behind atheism and fuzzy logic.

  122. Isis is Islamic.

    That may be true, but how is it helpful? Muslim community leaders are coming out left, right and center in an effort to convince young men who might be on the verge of getting on a plane and flying off to join the Islamic State that everything those psychopaths stand for contravenes Islamic teachings.

    It might be worth reminding ourselves what the derivation of the word politics is:

    politic
    /pɒlɪtɪk/
    adjective

    (of an action) seeming sensible and judicious in the circumstances.

    So on the one side we have “moderate” Muslims—dang if that meme isn’t catching on—and President Obama trying to prevent IS recruitment and the growth of a planet-threatening caliphate in the Middle East. Then there are those like Jer’ and Sam sending out the message that IS is entirely Islamic and any Muslim packing his suitcase before jetting off to Iraq or Syria can whistle a happy tune as he does so, secure in the knowledge he isn’t betraying his faith.

    I thought New Atheism’s goal was to eradicate the evil of religious extremism, not facilitate its growth.

  123. No, I meant I can locate my comments or yours on a particular thread because we have distinctive avatars. The non-avatar people have a white boob with an enormous nipple on a gray background so there’s nothing to distinguish their posts when scrolling up or down; one has to identify them by name alone, which is a fag. I have no access to anyone’s comment stream.

  124. I thought New Atheism’s goal was to eradicate the evil of religious
    extremism, not facilitate its growth.

    First, a fundamental (to me at least) component of any type of atheism is honesty. Compromising on that (by not calling a spade a spade) would undermine our credibility even if it served a short term goal.

    Second, who is to say that pushing the issue by creating more extremists and fewer moderates wouldn’t be the fastest way to eradicate all religion. I’m not saying that’s a given, but it certainly is a plausible strategy.

  125. I do certainly endorse that view. I always have, for what it’s worth. Let Muslims define their creed as benign and at least as tolerant as other religions. I really hope they can continue to do that as they often have in the past; push back, and reaffirm their human values in places where sharia law is being harshly imposed.

    Unfortunately the imams and Baghdadis of the umma have other ideas, and the authority and clout that they wield is greatly leveraged by their demonstrable conformity and agreement with the actions of the prophet; the ultimate infallible exemplar, according to the holy books.

    So the task before us; if we can recognize the true scale of the problem, is to persuade the top Islamic scholars, like Qaradawi, at the leading centres like Al-Azhar University in Cairo, to issue fatwas to announce that the intolerant Medina Koran chapters are no longer applicable for our times, and to teach the adoption of the earlier, Mecca chapters as more suitable for our densely populated, multi-culti present time.

    Something like that would be a minimum requirement for a realistic prospect of peace; and of course there would need to be equivalent steps by the other sects as well.

    I don’t see much chance of this ever happening, and that is why I have my doubts about your ‘let Muslims define it for themselves’ solution.
    The Vice part 3 video above is an illustration of how the hard-line sharia rules can be enforced over a city population (Raqqa) by just a small band of smiling, well armed thugs.

    If I were living in that city I don’t think I would be able to withstand the lethal coercion being applied to enforce the sharia. I would simply and cowardly become a devout Muslim, at least to all appearances, rather than let them kill me. How easy it is to subdue people and take power in the system of the religion of submission.

    Your practical ideas are good, but any progress or success of that kind will only take root if radical reform or at least ‘defanging’ of Islam to allow more tolerance can somehow be brought about.

    I wish I could be more optimistic. Finally; if as you say, it is a truism to say that Isis is Islamic, then why do Obama and Cameron state the opposite? Are they actually signalling that they are going for a policy of denialism? If so do you think it might work?

  126. I inserted myself because this forum lacks personal discussion and seems to exist on oneupmanship and name dropping. It’s all fair and good to philosophically discuss what should happen to millions of people from the comfort of your armchair and hide behind so called logic but some of us feel the effects for real. You have not taken a single concern of mine and thought it through. You preach your logic regardless. You then tell me it’s my moral duty to act. What?…

    Standing by while your government commits atrocious acts in your name
    is reprehensible IMHO

    And as an American you ask me how I have time to sit in front of my computer. Ha!!!!!

  127. In reply to Sedan. No reply button

    Phil, Olgun asked what we thought his parents should do and I gave my opinion. His parents obligation is different than mine or yours because they are Muslim and ISIS is acting in the name of Islam. If they don’t support ISIS then IMO they are morally obligated to speak out against ISIS, remaining silent is tacit approval of their actions.

    Sorry to be a buttinsky, but this is nonsense. Do I have a moral obligation to speak out either in defense or condemnation when an atheist anywhere on the planet commits a criminal act? If I don’t, should this be interpreted as my giving tacit approval?

    Similarly, as an American I should speak out when America or Americans act immorally and do so under our flag.

    Do you speak out, though? I suspect if asked you would shake your head disapprovingly or offer a brief explanation why you objected to these goings on, but not on every occasion. That would be a full-time occupation, one which would eventually result in your being committed to the loony bin.

    No one is his brother’s keeper.

  128. so than the inquision was entirely catholic and all it stands for… NOT quite true is it . Having said that I am no apologist for religion. Its more like religion provides a cover and excuse to practise base animalistic behaviour but still create a feeling something other than that baseness.

  129. Katy. What a pity! I think they’re just going to wait for the ‘old-guard’ to die off and be replaced by newcomers who cannot remember the glory days when one could delete a comment …AT ANY TIME..and check up on past comments by clicking on one’s avatar. Those were the days!

  130. I thought New Atheism’s goal was to eradicate the evil of religious extremism, not facilitate its growth.

    This is not in our power if religions as lived are defined by their adherents. Indeed it this very idea that contains the seeds of destruction for any monolithic religion. The true Scotsman is ever a phantom, but by having Islams (plural) acknowledged, reformation is increasingly seen to have already begun. People and their offspring’s offspring can start their climb down.

    It is certainly not in the power of complete outsiders to choose the true Scotsman, let alone define his nature as a nice harmless fellow.

    Obama’s comment was, as I said earlier, a political fudge,.One that is simply, transparently wrong and trying to buy a slightly easier life at home. Religion defined as goddy things that are nice will go wrong.

    Now, of all times, it is necessary to come clean with the observation that religions do things differently one from another. Shocking as this may be to the American people, it does start to lay that winding path down…

  131. Do I have a moral obligation to speak out either in defense or
    condemnation when an atheist anywhere on the planet commits a criminal
    act? If I don’t, should this be interpreted as my giving tacit
    approval?

    Is that what you think I said? If so, you should think about it a little longer this time.

    Do you speak out, though? I suspect if asked you would shake your head
    disapprovingly or offer a brief explanation why you objected to these
    goings on, but not on every occasion.

    Of course. The only logical way to interpret what I’ve said is that everyone should speak out against every moral shortcoming 24 hrs/day even on subjects they know nothing about.

  132. @Sedan

    Similarly, as an American I should speak out when America or Americans act immorally and do so under our flag.

    But you lot pledge allegiance!! You are officially your brother’s keeper. I rewrote the pledge for you (see thread). I implied you were only indivisible in seeking liberty for everyone, which I tought neatly paradoxical and in consequence a getout.

    None of what you’ve said about infectious guilt makes any sense to me either. When you have owned and ravished a quarter of the planet like we Brits, it comes easy to whistle and look innocent.

  133. Anyone can be a smart arse and almost stubbornly refuse to put ourselves in other people’s shoes or you can see that what they mean by this statement is that they are Muslims and they want to have nothing to do with the what Isis represent. It is statement saying that they do not hold my values! So I’m not one of them and they are not one of us. That is what these statements mean and we would do well to support them unless our project is to create a clash of civilisations and to deny people their moral agency unless they give up on their beliefs and take on ours. This is as literalist in its reading of what others think and write as the fundamentalists and he doesn’t seek to understand with his heart, he seeks to prove he is right because he has not got beyond the emotional level of a 6th form debate, where it is all about winning the argument and not about understanding your fellow man. He is a highly intelligent but still emotionally an adolescent. Modern psychology and neuroscience would say that we experience a virtual reality created by our brains and as such we experience an online construction to help us muddle through the infinite complexity of life. We experience the world subjectively and it is only by inference that we come to the conclusion that we are not the hub and centre of our own universe. The process of natural selection has meant that certain kinds of virtual realities are more conducive to survival than others. We also know that the human birth canal is smaller than other animals as a result of our upright posture. This means our babies are born weaker and more vulnerable and as such we have a better survival advantage if we become emotionally attached to our partners and our offspring. Human beings survival advantage has been largely based on cooperating in groups and that also requires the development of empathy. also based in emotion. Currently our planet faces all kinds of problems rooted in what I would call the empathy deficit. It is technically and financially possible to feed everyone on the planet but it doesn’t seem emotionally possible. Why because of the empathy deficit? So returning to arguements trying to prove God doesn’t exist. Well God surely exists at least as an abstract concept. Just like love and justice are abstract concepts that we could subject to the same deconstructinalist logic we apply to God and prove do not exist. What have we gained? Nothing. The need to prove God doesn’t exist is based on the false premis that religion is the cause of all these problems rather than greed, a lack of empathy, rigid thinking and placing obedience to authority too high in your moral hierarchy(see the Milgram study for its effects). So if we return to the need to attack the logic of statements made by muslims who wish to distance themselves from ISIS by calling them unislamic we can say that people who need to do this live in a virtual reality where religion=delusional=subjective=impossible to discuss things with. This view is in fact in denial of its own subjectivity and in denial of the fact that atheist, secular societies and groups have also committed atrocities. So again the logical conclusion would be to look for another cause apart from religion. One rooted in the mammalian and reptilian part of the brain rather than simply the neocortex, the source of ideology. Good luck with your cool objective position on this.I’ll continue to argue passionately for being more empathetic in analysis of other people’s belief systems be they religious or secular.

  134. Darn. Found this too late for tonight. Will try tomorrow…

    But, quickly-

    I have my doubts about your ‘let Muslims define it for themselves’ solution.

    They don’t need our permission. Kurdish women pick up rifles and scare the bejesus (..er) out of those would be patriarchs. Their Islam looks pretty sorted to me. (See pics in my earlier post.)

  135. You’re going to have to a lot less subtle if you’re trying to insult
    me or America. I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Not an insult. Just an observation of fact……I am not in the blame game. Just looking for answers. You seem to have selective understanding though.

  136. The key requirement is for Muslims to grow accustomed to the idea of schism and reformation, not try and rebuild a monolith. It ain’t going to happen and like Sunni and Shia brands this radical schism won’t agree to a name change either. Sticking your fingers in your ears when they say Islamic State won’t work….(Besides the media Love It!)

  137. Moderators’ message

    Please discuss the topic civilly and courteously, without personal remarks about, or digs at, other users.

    Thank you.

    The mods

  138. Ben,

    You can be as empathetic as you like, but it will not change the facts.

    I have to say that you make some very interesting and thoughtful points, that are worth further consideration. Maybe some are just a little off-topic though for this thread.

    No-one is attacking Muslims for distancing themselves from Isis. Go ahead Muslims, you have my full support!

  139. For much of the rest of the world not a lot has changed since the precepts of the religions which maintain a grip there were laid out.

    Oh come on, that sounds rather depressing. Have you read Pinker’s Better Angels?
    Many countries outside the west have had the fastest growth rates and not just during the recession. Here is a short video with a more positive message.

    For a Chinaman living in one of that country’s rural provinces his day-to-day life will be hardly any different to his great great great great grandfather’s.

    Depends where he was living. Over the last few decades China has been going through a process of urbanization which has reduced the rural population as a fraction from about 3/4 to 1/2. People from rural areas have migrated to cities for work (and sent money back home) and also a lot of rural areas have been industrialized, although not necessarily by choice. Not all have benefited (many have suffered), but there has certainly been a lot of change in china’s rural areas.

    Religion is terrible for those who do not conform to the norm; and women, and goats whenever the annual Time to Slaughter all the Goats Ceremony rolls back around. It’s good for societal cohesion though. Why else would Vlad Putin make such an example of Pussy Riot members….

    So when you said religions came about because we needed them to, you meant we needed them for societal cohesion, to maintain the balance of power. ISIS don’t seem to be good for societal cohesion. Then again, when they have killed or kicked out all the infidels, those that remain (who aren’t ISIS) will likely be very obedient lest they get sent for re-education – societal cohesion made easy.

    It doesn’t have to be religion providing the fellowship and hierarchy; religion just happens to be damn good at filling this role…..

    You don’t go on to say how it is good at providing fellowship, just how it provides the promise of peaches and lollipops after death, which is consolation (providing they believe) for those who have a shit life. And you seem to suggest the correlation between religion and quality of life is one-way, ie. quality of life improves (for any reason) and religiosity drops but if religiosity drops does quality of life improve?

    Do I believe in God? No, I’d struggle with any notion of there being an entity somewhere in the universe superior to me.

    So (according to your Chesterton quote), you could believe in anything. Or nothing. That quote is often used by theists to imply that those that reject god (who provides the basis for morality) can believe or do anything, no matter how immoral. I know, it’s a pathetic argument.

    I said it assists, not that it’s the be-all and end-all of stabilizing societies. I mentioned prosperity, but actually social justice is the key:

    Prosperity, social justice & equality, access to education (not the sectarian sort), the rule of law, secular democracy – all good for stability.

    I don’t see anything to suggest the world is becoming less religious. We may only be an election away from having as president of the United States of America someone who believes … that the Constitution should be rewritten to reflect what the founding fathers really wanted their fledgling nation to become: a Christian theocracy.

    Did you have someone in mind for president? Do you think the US is being held back by religion? They do seem to have more problems in the more religious states – 2 way correlation? Again, I am more positive, I think the growth of the non-religious in the US will continue and be a positive thing. Let’s hope that secular democracy spreads and science & technology continues to improve our lives (in all countries) and that religion (and other ideologies) doesn’t hold back that progress. Then maybe the world population will stabilise in time and start to decline.

  140. Like.

    I was going to link Hans Rosling for a great view on the extent of global improvements and relate my problems with China’s manufacturing costs as it runs out of peasants and discobers its burgeoning internal market. But you had it better covered.

    Chesterton’s quote was ever a cheap trick ignoring the myriad functional and satisfying things, then as now, available to be “believed” in that together served the same functions.

    The steady progress of unbelief amongst US younger generations, has certainly caused a backlash amongst religious conservatives, more audibly gnashing teeth now. Demographics is not on their side, however.

  141. Phil,

    They don’t need our permission.

    No, not our permission.

    But that of their leaders, which may or not mean some hard-line theocrat.

    I recall that Christopher Hitchens was a great supporter of the Kurds, and it seems they are fighting hard now against Isis, with some support from the air, which is good to hear. Even so, I did once see a clip on youtube of a crowd of Kurdish men in the street, some filming on their mobiles while others are stoning a young woman. It’s insane. Most of them may be fine, but the mad bad ones seem to get everywhere.

    We are all in for a long haul. I don’t want this cult on my planet.

  142. No-one is attacking Muslims for distancing themselves from Isis. Go ahead Muslims, you have my full support!

    Why do Muslims in the general population of Britain, or other countries, have to do anything at all about ISIS? This is an armed conflict. A British taxi-driver, teacher, civil servant, waiter who is a practising (or a cultural) Muslim has no obligation to pay any attention to ISIS any more than somebody of another faith or of none. What counts is the performance of the military and political forces ranged against ISIS. The Iraq and Syrian armies and our coalition partners Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are, of course, Muslim. They are not ‘distancing themselves’ from the conflict but are right in the front line. The issue for Britain is that it has been committed by its government to serving the supposed interests of American foreign policy yet again, with predictable unfortunate consequences.

  143. I think Hitchens was very much ahead of the curve (2002) in detecting this upswing in the Kurdish people’s civilising, political ambitions. The far left roots of the PKK have created great antipathy amongst right wing countries like the US, though left leaning European countries give it low profile support. Hitch had no such qualms and saw it for being a force to counter (at least locally) the right wing theocratic oppressors by dint of its robust, thought through left wing ideology.

    The point is they are politically much freer to move than their enemy. They have recently renounced a policy of seeking autonomy and nationhood, realising that the region is chaotic enough as it is and that it may also be a barrier to accessing more open handed support from outside.

    As for your youtube stoners, I don’t fancy their chances these days. The women soldiers (BBC link above somewhere), constituting 30% of frontline troops are fiercely contemptuous of such theocratic patriarchs. They rightly guess their very appearance will reduce them to jelly. If not I am sure they could achieve that by other means.

    The green shoots Hitchens saw have flourished.

    I want this group of mostly Sunni Muslims on my planet

  144. Hitchens was well ahead of the curve on this (2002). He saw the potential in the Kurds as a force for good in the region. The Marxist PKK put off for decades a sensible response from right wing countries like the United States and these stateless people via their favoured political representative PKK were branded terrorists.

    Oil policy nearly fucked this up as it did for Massoud in Afghanistan. Bush came to his senses over Massoud just too late. A better call has been made here.

    Hitch saw clearly that the left wing politics was a savvy tack to take, yes an ideology but one sorted and civilising and fit for doing battle with right wing theocrats, so too some northern European countires who gave low key support. Even the UN didn’t go with the consensus and brand them terrorist like Al Quaeda.

    Nor are they ideologues they have reverted their policy of seeking statehood, accepting the region could not sustain further disruption and have adopted a policy of working peacefully where possible within states to secure the lifestyles they want (e.g. male and female co-mayors in Turkish/Kurdish towns.)

    Your youtube stoners would not survive long today. Things have moved on quickly. From the women soldiers (30% of front line troops) I linked to in a post above, they believe their very appearance would reduce such theocratic patriachs to jelly at the mere fact and sight of them. Such confident women with guns could surely achieve this one way or another…

    Hitch’s green shoots have matured rapidly Like Hitch this is a bunch of Sunni Mulims I am proud to have on my planet.

  145. Twice I’ve tried to post here. First was pretty good until it vanished afte posting. Second was better but seems to be taking ages to appear. (Two Hitch links)

    Sorry. Now I have to find blood pressure tablets or some leaches. I do find them hard to swallow though…

  146. The issue for Britain is that it has been committed by its government to serving the supposed interests of American foreign policy yet again, with predictable unfortunate consequences.

    Here is the full text of the motion debated in parliament.

    It says nothing about American foreign policy. It focuses on an official request from Iraq for international support and recognises the threat ISIS poses to wider international security and the UK directly. After a 6 hour debate the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the motion.

    It seems UK foreign policy coincides with American foreign policy, and with the foreign policy of Saudi, UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, & Netherlands.

  147. It focuses on an official request from Iraq for international support

    That’s the art of diplomacy for you. The presence of NATO members in the coalition is no surprise. NATO exists to serve American foreign policy. The alliance of Arab autocracies and others is fairly routine as well. Didn’t you know that America is ‘the leader of the free world” and that Britain is a particularly subservient follower. Essentially, Obama doesn’t want to seem ‘weak’ for domestic reasons and Britain is obliged to go along with the charade. The Arab autocracies, however, do have a real interest in keeping revolutionary armies like ISIS at bay, even if it does mean propping up Assad. Iraq, of course, is an American dependency with a very precarious existence whether ISIS is successful or not.

  148. On Friday, Russia offered to help support Iraq in the fight against ISIS. The Russian foreign ministry said “Moscow is ready to continue supporting Iraq in its efforts in fighting the terrorist threat, and, first of all, the one from the Islamic State.”

    Of course they say they are supporting Iraq, but that’s just diplomacy and they are really helping Obama out so he doesn’t look weak.

  149. The Kurds are selflessly coming the rescue of Obama’s domestic status it would seem.

    28th Sept.-

    A senior official in Syria’s dominant Kurdish political party welcomed the U.S.-led coalition that bombed ISIL positions around town Saturday and said that Kurds were ready to work with the alliance to fight ISIL. Asya Abdullah, of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), also said that Turkey should provide them with weapons.

  150. And I’ll pop this here for Inqui. The Charter of Social Contract, as the foundation of Syrian/Western Kurdistan’s autonomous cantons.

    The first paragraph of the Charter’s preface says,

    “[w]e the peoples of the democratic self-administration areas; Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians (Assyrian Chaldeans, Arameans), Turkmen, Armenians, and Chechens, by our free will, announce this to ensure justice, freedom, democracy, and the rights of women and children in accordance with the principles of ecological balance, freedom of religions and beliefs, and equality without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, creed, doctrine or gender, to achieve the political and moral fabric of a democratic society in order to function with mutual understanding and coexistence within diversity and respect for the principle of self-determination and self-defense of the peoples.”

    It continues,

    “The autonomous areas of the democratic self-administration do not recognize the concept of nation state and the state based on the grounds of military power, religion, and centralism”

  151. Nomorewoo, if you think I have misunderstood something, I would be grateful if you enlightened me.

  152. Of course they say they are supporting Iraq, but that’s just diplomacy and they are really helping Obama out so he doesn’t look weak.

    The Russians are supporting President Assad as they have been doing from the start. The same political rhetoric can be the flimsy cover for differing intentions. And, I suppose, Putin will play the strong man to his domestic audience. Will there be visits to the war zone posing by the helicopter?

    The issue of ‘ISIS is Islamic’ is not much of a point. The regional players on rebel and government sides are Muslims (including the Kurds, don’t forget).

  153. It should be kept in mind, that until meddling foreign powers conspired to undermine the “repressive” Assad Regime, which was keeping ISIS in check, there was only the smaller mess that had been made by the invasions of Iraq!

  154. The issue of ‘ISIS is Islamic’ is not much of a point.

    Its huge. The American people need to be disabused of the fact that being faithfully religious is no guarantee of goodness….whatsoever.

    This single idea, this perfect self-excuse, is how religion gets to poison everything, not least politics and morality.

  155. First, a fundamental (to me at least) component of any type of atheism is honesty. Compromising on that (by not calling a spade a spade) would undermine our credibility even if it served a short term goal.

    I thought the only thing required to be an atheist was lack of belief in deities. If you mean proactive, politicized atheism then I refer you again to the dictionary definition of ‘politic’. If atheists wish to enter the big wide world of political activism, they will be required to learn that simply stating something is true, even if it manifestly is, won’t be enough to earn them a seat at the grownups’ table. Diplomacy is a requisite.

    If by speaking out atheists do more harm than good, better they remain schtum. A child on a train who says to her mother, “Mommy, isn’t that lady over there fat?!” in a loud voice is being extremely honest.

    Second, who is to say that pushing the issue by creating more extremists and fewer moderates wouldn’t be the fastest way to eradicate all religion. I’m not saying that’s a given, but it certainly is a plausible strategy.

    A plausible strategy if one is playing a version of The Sims on one’s computer, perhaps. Sadly, this isn’t a game; it involves real people dying, now, at this moment. We are not the gods atop Mount Olympus in the movie Clash of the Titans, moving humans around just to see what happens.

    Perhaps, though, you are aware of instances from history—the best predictor of future behavior is always past behavior—in which creating more soldiers and supporters of a particular cause led to its downfall.

    I’ll spot you Pyrrhus of Epirus.

    Eradicating all religion is a pipe dream, and not one worth gambling human lives on for an instant.

  156. Noting that religion, proper scripture compliant, magisterium compliant, hadith compliant religion is not automatically good or appropriate behaviour in this day and age, is not a matter of merely making a social faux pas. Having the right Catholics understand that their honest to God religion is downright immoral in this and this circumstance is an awkwardness worth bearing. Does it give more moral (less “good”) Catholics an unfair twinge? Maybe. But the careless presumption of morality just because its a religion with a long pedigree needs ever guarding against.

    IS is an extreme example. RD in a just published interview here allows that the few we see committing the monstosities are of course psychopaths. These are not to be taken in any sense as representing some religious norm. BUT he rightly points out a broad base of support for their regressive values comes from a familiar religious source.

  157. Marktony Sep 28, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    It seems UK foreign policy coincides with American foreign policy, and with the foreign policy of Saudi, UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Australia, Belgium , Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, & Netherlands.

    I see Belgium is actively dealing with a problem!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29415165

    Forty-six people have gone on trial in Antwerp on charges of belonging to a group that sent jihadists to Syria, the largest case of its kind in Belgium.

    Prosecutors say the Sharia4Belgium organisation sent recruits to militant groups such as Islamic State (IS).

    Only eight of the accused appeared in court. The rest are thought to be on the frontline – or dead – in Syria.

    European governments are increasingly worried about the risks posed by their citizens fighting in Syria and Iraq.

    More than 3,000 European Muslims are thought to have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight for IS and groups that share its ideology, such as al-Qaeda-allied Jabhat al-Nusra.

    European security agencies fear that jihadists who return from those countries could mount attacks on domestic targets.

    Officials estimate that up to 400 Belgian nationals have gone to fight in Syria. Of these, about 10% are thought to have links to Sharia4Belgium.

  158. “I thought New Atheism’s goal was to assist in eradicating the evil of religious extremism, not facilitate its growth.”

    Fixed.

    Obama’s comment was, as I said earlier, a political fudge,.One that is simply, transparently wrong and trying to buy a slightly easier life at home. Religion defined as goddy things that are nice will go wrong.

    Now, of all times, it is necessary to come clean with the observation that religions do things differently one from another. Shocking as this may be to the American people, it does start to lay that winding path down…

    In an America which could be only a decade or so away from becoming a Christian theocracy, what do you think the effect would be if Obama were to try and link IS with all strains of Islam?

    You say he was trying to buy himself an easier life at home. Well, I think the first result would be that the right-wing media would for once in his presidency agree with him. I can envisage Sarah Palin putting out a clip on her new, must-see online channel informing her low-IQ subscribers that in this instance the President was as right as a moose in a casserole, by golly.

    You’re trying to introduce rationalism into a place where it simply couldn’t gain a hold; a place where those twin bedfellows spin and stupid are firmly anchored. We’ve already had a commander in chief who used terms like Axis of Evil and said we were on a crusade, and look how that worked out.

    I don’t think it would be shocking to much of America to hear that religions do things differently from one another. Christianity does things the correct way, all other religions do them the wrong way.

    Pre-posting edit. I’ve just realized I’m replying to your comment from a couple days ago, not the one you just submitted. Did you ever play with one of those cheap plastic jigsaw-type puzzles where you had to slide the tiles around until they formed a picture? Imagine one with nearly two hundred tiles…

  159. Yep. Its a nightmare to navigate here….Must think carefully about your post though. Its missing information. I think I need to put words into Obama’s mouth. He needs to piss off extreme Christians just enough maybe.

  160. Just for the records, I didn’t say any of that.

    … and I don’t believe it either. Religions do not come down from heavens, they are responses to our very material problems. So, if some group of people rally under a violent religion, and that religion is magically suppressed, they will find or create another violent religion to follow. Or they will find some non-religious violent ideology perhaps. But only when violence in itself ceases to be a logical outcome of their terrestrial situation they will abandon violent ideologies, religious or secular.

  161. I believe that I can cover the whole issue by giving a detailed account, thus: ISIS is a religious, political and criminal movement and nothing but a religious, political and criminal movement – but does that really help?

    I’m tempted to drop the word political. From the evidence: ISIS is very clearly criminal, and as Jerry Coyne points out, ISIS itself makes a coherent and supportable claim to be religious. But ISIS appears only to be political in the sense they’re making a violent bid for power.

    And in what other senses it would have to be political to “be political”?

    They want to exert power over people, and they want to do it by establishing a State. If they are or want to become a State, they are political. Or is there any other definition of “political” that I am not aware of?

  162. Phil,

    I don’t want you to think that your advocacy for the Kurdish people is going unappreciated. Their willingness to place concern for humanity above concern for Mohamed and his theology is evidenced again here, in a memri video clip of German Kurds in the fight against Isis.

  163. Hi aldous,

    Sorry for a late response, but I only just found your reply. The new Site-posting format claims another victim.

    All the Arab forces in the Syrian civil war are Muslim. Therefore, it can’t be because ISIS is Islamic that Obama has begun attacks against it.

    True. Of course that does not exclude the possibility that – as well as being, say, criminal and political – that ISIS is also islamic.

    It may be over-diplomatic – not to say a denial of reality – to claim that the Islamic State is not Islamic.

    I would say that it is a denial of reality, yes, there’s a clue in there somewhere …

    On the evidence that we have ISIS members who claim to be motivated to become members – sometimes leaving families and former lives behind, remain members despite what they see and are asked to do, act in ISIS’ name and to be willing to act (including, but not limited to, doing evil things) because they are motivated by their islamic faith and because they identify with ISIS claims to be islamic.

    Nevertheless, how can it be maintained that the terrorist tactics of ISIS are an inherent part of Islam?

    As far as I’m aware no-one has claimed that. We do claim that ISIS is acting under the influence of islam, and that it is islamic. Because its members claim to be islamic. Because ISIS claims to islamic. Because we can see the same identifying cultural traits in ISIS members that we see in others who claim to be islamic in other islamic groups. Judge them by what say and do.

    [ISIS tactics] … are tactics that are associated with Islam because they are typical of asymmetric warfare against military superpowers like Israel and the United States. That’s an accident of history.

    War is a political dialogue carried on by non-democratic and non-diplomatic means. Terrorism is the distortion of politics by attempts at coercion of the polity through fear. As such, terrorists claim to wage war, and that what they do is therefore valid where any political asymmetry exists. These are ISIS tactics – islamic or not. But the use of universally understood political tactics does not alter the nature of the political organisation. The Catholic Church’s use of PR is no different to Raytheon’s. They may claim to have different objectives, in some respects – but they have identical goals in others. Fishing line, like PR, can be used for feed or fatality. But did Jerry use descriptions of which tools ISIS employ, and how they employ them? I think not.

    When Muslims have the capacity to do so, they employ the same civilized methods of warfare as Christians do, dismembering and smashing their enemies with the latest technology from Raytheon and other arms manufacturers.

    To make that more accurate all we need is one word, as in:

    When [some] Muslims have the capacity to do so …

    ISIS, it has been widely reported, has access to large quantities of modern weapons. Mostly manufactured, I understand, in Russia and not the US. They continue to use Bronze Age terrorism, as well.

    The analogy of Jerry Coyne is inapt because he compares a Christian denomination with all of Islam.

    I think not. Having read Jerry’s piece with great interest I came to the conclusion that he was comparing one violent religious sect with another. To us it is of no consequence that one is islamic and one is christian. The key point here is that Jerry was responding to Obama. Obama was claiming that there is such a thing as a true religion (i.e. one that could never be violent). Jerry is responding that in both ISIS and the Inquisition we see what any previously true, nice, pretty, peaceful, religion gets up to – given half a chance.

    If he [Jerry] had said that the cruelty of the Spanish Inquisition and ISIS is a defining characteristic of both religions, as a symmetrical analogy would require, I don’t think his argument would seem even superficially plausible.

    Jerry was not using analogy. He was using two well-documented instances as evidence for a thesis: Religions are only nice if we force them to be nice. All nice religions can turn nasty. Most nice religions have a nasty past. Ergo: Obama is wrong. There is no such thing as a truly nice religion.

    To me, Jerry made this point clear: The Spanish Inquisition and ISIS (and he could have added Viking Raiders and the Conquistadors for all I care) show defining characteristics of all “true” (Obama’s phrase) religions. The only difference between then and now is the then and now. Time, incendiary leadership, and the collapse of the checks from alternative political spheres will make any cutsie-oopsy-woopsy religion into a bloodthirsty raving hoard. Unless history is one long continuous, detailed, well-evidenced and complex lie …

    Like Jerry, I understand that Obama needs all his people behind a single, coherent, plan. He must, therefore, avoid being controversial and labelling any religion too strongly – lest people find that label all-too-transportable.

    This forum, perhaps more than any other, should recognise that when the President of the United States makes such an obvious error – and runs away from one fight in order to win another – he should still be held to account. Let us keep at least this one difference between us and ISIS.

    Peace.

  164. There are Muslims who challenge the authority of ISIS. There were no Catholics who challenged the authority of the Inquisition. Those sorts of excesses were part of the Protestant churches too.

Leave a Reply