Is Islam Intrinsically Violent?

Inspired by a recent dust-up at the Huffington Post over some remarks by Sam Harris, as well as the furor provoked by the Pope’s recent verbal attack on Islam quoting the Byzantine emperor Manuel Paleologos II, I’ve decided to offer some thoughts on whether Islam is an intrinsically violent or evil religion.

First off, the obvious: Like every religion on this planet, Islam exists only in the collective actions of the people who follow it, and people can act in ways that are either generally good or generally bad, depending on the circumstances of their upbringing and their culture. It would be extremely naive, not to mention wrong, to assert that Islam’s teachings are so pernicious that anyone who joins will automatically become a violent fanatic. To say otherwise would be to deny human free will and vastly exaggerate the power of religion to direct and shape its adherents’ thoughts. Regardless of what the Qur’an says, people are not fated to become terrorists or fanatics just because they become Muslims.

On the other hand, it is not unfair to point out that most of the violence being committed in the world today in the name of religion is being committed by Muslims: the September 11 terror attacks on America, the 7/7 transit bombings in the U.K., the March 2004 train bombings in Madrid, the 2005 Bali bombings, the rocket attacks launched by Hezbollah against Israel, the ongoing civil war and genocide in Darfur, violent Muslim separatist groups such as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah throughout Southeast Asia who seek to create a theocratic Islamic super-state through bombings, kidnappings and murder, and last but not least, the ongoing civil war in Iraq and the terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaeda and the reconstituted Taliban in Afghanistan. Many other examples could be added to this list as well. Fundamentalist Christians and other religious extremists unquestionably constitute a force for evil that must be fought against, but in terms of which world religion currently poses the greatest threat to civilization as a whole, the answer must unquestionably be Islam.

This is where the first article, R.J. Eskow’s piece in the Huffington Post, goes astray. He asserts that “less than one Muslim in 43,000 has ever participated” in a violent act, but this is a red herring. The most crime-ridden nation in the world (whichever one that is) certainly has not acquired that status because most of its citizens are criminals, but rather because more crime happens there per capita than anywhere else. The fact of the matter is that fundamentalists, especially the extreme fundamentalists willing to resort to violence against their fellow human beings, need not be especially numerous to pose great danger to others. The issue is not whether moderate Muslims condemn these attacks, because all the condemnation in the world will not undo the harm they have wreaked; the issue is whether they can stop them, and in this respect moderate Muslims seem impotent to restrain their radical brethren.

Secondly, Eskow asserts that “the enemy isn’t Islam… it’s fundamentalism, those rigid believers who over-identify with a ‘religion’ and authoritarianism”. This is both right and wrong. It is true that fundamentalists who value their religious beliefs over the lives and happiness of others are a great threat, no matter their religion. But although there are fundamentalist Christians (as well as fundamentalist Jews and Hindus and fundamentalists of many other religions) whose teachings threaten liberty and democracy in the countries where they live, relatively few of them go so far as to openly advocate violence and terrorism against those who oppose them. By contrast, calls for violence and actual violence against outsiders are very common in fundamentalist Islam. Similarly, there are many Islamic states that regularly engage in horrific violations of the rights of others; for example, Saudi Arabia’s policies forbidding women to appear in public without a male relative to escort them, or its laws mandating death by beheading for people who convert away from Islam. There is nothing the equivalent of this from any other religion in any country in the world today. (Christian Reconstructionists and other theocrats do exist, but do not exercise the same level of influence and have so far failed to achieve most of their goals.) Again, although I do not deny that the evil beliefs of fundamentalist Christians and others must be opposed and defeated, they do not pose the same kind of direct and immediate threat posed by violent Muslim terrorists.

In this respect, Harris is absolutely right, and Eskow wrong, when it comes to the claim that “Islam is an especially evil religion”. At this time in history, it is – its most fervent adherents are willing to commit acts of horrendous evil to achieve their goals, to a degree unparalleled by the fundamentalists of any other religion. Islam is not the only religion whose followers have committed atrocities in its name, of course, but it is the one in which violence is most frequent and most widespread.

This brings us to the remarks of Pope Benedict. Ordinarily I would not concern myself with the chief advocate of one superstition attacking a slightly different superstition; but the violence provoked by the Pope’s comments – firebombings of churches in the West Bank, the murder of a nun who worked at a hospital in Somalia – and his subsequent half-hearted apology are evidence of an unsettling trend that began with the violent response to the Muhammad caricatures published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. This trend consists of Muslim fanatics rioting and threatening violence in response to any criticism of Islam, and getting their way – usually aided and abetted by religious moderates of various denominations who piously intone that we must “respect” any and all religious beliefs. In reality, it is society’s refusal to criticize any religious beliefs that has brought us to this dangerous juncture in the first place. The proper response of a free society, when religious fanatics threaten violence on anyone who criticizes their religion, is for every member of that society to join in denouncing such beliefs. This shows the zealots that people of courage and principle will not be cowed by their evil demands, and just as importantly, protects everyone who does speak out by giving the fanatics no single target. If we are not to encourage Muslim radicals to adopt these tactics even more frequently in the future, we must speak out against them loudly and plainly, to make it absolutely clear that they cannot silence dissenting voices with the threat of violence, and that any attempt to do so will only bring further opposition to their evil tactics.

The question remains, however, of whether Islam is an intrinsically violent religion, and on this one count alone I will find it not guilty. Islam is undoubtedly a violent religion, but I do not believe it is intrinsically so, any more than Christianity or Judaism is. Rather, Islam’s violent nature is incidental, and is caused by the circumstances in which it currently exists. These circumstances include the widespread poverty and lack of political influence of Muslims, situations which often give rise to radicalism; an aggressive and bellicose foreign policy on the part of the United States which makes the image of a clash of civilizations tempting to extremists on both sides; and a flourishing cult of martyrdom and violence that was first incited by a few influential Muslim leaders and has now grown into a self-sustaining meme complex.

The violent verses in the Qur’an further support this juggernaut, but they are not its sole cause. I have read the scriptures of several major religions, and if anything, I think the Bible is significantly more violent and bloodier than the Qur’an. Yet Christians, on the whole, do not endorse terrorism and theocracy to the degree Muslims do. This is not because Christianity is an intrinsically more peaceful religion – history bears record to the many atrocities which Christian armies, witch hunters and inquisitors have committed. Rather, a different set of historical circumstances led the Christian world to pass through an Enlightenment when concepts such as rational debate, scientific investigation and legal separation of church and state became established, effectively housebreaking the more extreme elements of that religion. Islam has yet to experience a similar renaissance, and unfortunately, the fiercely dogmatic strain of anti-intellectualism which has now taken root in that religion seems to make such a reformation less likely than ever. It is an open question whether this dangerous trend can be reversed, or whether the gap will continue to widen and the secular sentinels of the West will from now on be forced to be continually on guard against Islamic violence and terrorism.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Prof. V.N.K.Kumar ( India )

    Good post. There is one missing word in the 3rd sentence of the last paragraph. “Yet Christians, on the whole, do endorse terrorism and theocracy to the degree Muslims do”. This should read as “Yet Christians, on the whole, do not endorse ……..”

    I belong to the majority community of Hindus in India. There are basically two ways of reacting to Islamic terrorism. One is the way of George Bush ( Kill them all- show them who is the boss ) or the way of RSS in India ( Demolish the Babri Masjid and kill those muslims in Baroda Bakery ),which only antagonizes the muslims even more. The other way is the way of compassion and understanding. Why do some muslims become terrorists ? Most of the muslims are suspicious of other communities because of the way they have been indoctrinated and educated. Madrassas in India, Pakistan, saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Indonesia teach only Arabic, Quranic interpretation, Islamic Law, Recorded sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad & Islamic history. My several muslim friends, who are better human beings than I am, have told me this. Optionals would be English and maths, but no science. I strongly feel that with that kind of a background, I would have become a terrorist myself !

    Moreover muslim countries don’t spend much on education. Madrassas are normally run by the clergy through donations and the clergy may feel that a better educated population would be more difficult to control and only create more troublemakers for the clergy. The Govt. expenditure on education is like this : USA 5% of GNP, Pakistan 1.7 % and India 4.3 %.

    The solution therefore is with the Governments of these countries. They must take over the management of these schools and make a budget for this and see that children in these madrassas learn Sciences in school and at the Islamic college level: World History, comparative Religion and Critical Thinking skills apart from their specializations.

    Also once muslims are exposed to global cultures and they start interacting with people belonging to different religions, they will become more tolerant. Such muslims, when they become parents, will teach their children empathy and compassion, which the parents or teachers of the present generation of Islamic terrorists haven’t been able to do.

  • http://corsair.blogspot.com corsair the rational pirate

    Also once muslims are exposed to global cultures and they start interacting with people belonging to different religions, they will become more tolerant. Such muslims, when they become parents, will teach their children empathy and compassion, which the parents or teachers of the present generation of Islamic terrorists haven’t been able to do.

    Given this statement, how do you explain all the Muslim terror problems coming out of England, Spain, and other European countries. Most of the various bombers in Europe were actually born there and had little if any contact with the folks “back home.” Many of them even started out non-religious and tolerant and then decided at a later date to blow themselves up in the name of Allah.

    Is there something intrisinsically wrong with Islam that doesn’t allow its adherents to fraternize with the liberal, secular communities in which they live? I know it is only a “small” minority of believers in this nonsense, but only a small minority of bacteria will actually kill me and people fight tooth and nail to eradicate it everyday. I don’t see the same commitment against Islam.

  • http://raath.org/ Anton Raath

    Very few religions are intrinsically violent, as you rightly point out. However, most (if not all) monotheistic religions are exclusionist, labeling those who don’t follow their god as heathen hordes. It’s up to the individual believer to decide how violent they’re going to be in protecting the exclusive franchise their god claims, and I’m probably as likely to get thumped if I question the existence of Jesus in the Bible Belt as I am if I mock Mohammed in front of devout muslims.

    Jealous gods beget jealous followers, and the “People of the Book” (Christians, Muslims and Jews) all inherited a pretty nasty culture of violence (“Let us talk this through,” said the Lord thy God, “Before we do something rash.”). If these religions are built on thousands of years of violent solutions to life’s problems, what are the chances that people who grew up in this culture will (a) see non-violent solutions as a first option, or (b) view violence as an unacceptible option?

    So perhaps Islam isn’t intrinsically violent, but its followers sure do a good job of creating that impression. Majority or minority, it doesn’t matter; if you don’t like the crowd don’t join the club.

  • Al Comb-ova

    Islam allows polygamy. This creates a large and permanent underclass of unwived men whose only hope of sexual fulfillment is to become martyred via jihad (and get those imaginary virgins in paradise). This creates a permanent state of war for a significant portion of the followers of Islam.

    And hence, wherever Islamic law is the law of the land, Islam is intrinsically violent: even if the entire world became Islamic, jihad would still continue between various subgroups of Islamists on the smallest of pretexts. In countries where polygamy is illegal, this effect diminishes markedly.

    There, see how easy that was?

  • http://sidragon.net/weblog/ [Si]dragon

    Al Comb-ova, that hits the nail on the head, in my opinion. Origins of Peace and Violence has some interesting materal related to this subject.

  • Christopher

    All religion is intrinisticlly violent!

    I know; you may ask why we don’t see this kind of violence from christians, jews hindus, etc… But all of these religions ARE intrinistically violent, the only difference is that other powers exist in society that force them to check their own violent ambitions (economic factors, church-state separations, etc…). These things don’t exist in most Islamic societies, so the religion is free to prosecute war on non-believers without restraint.

    Since they are untempered by soicial forces, they only understand one thing now: brute force. If these fanatics are willing to wage a scorched-earth campaign against us, we need to be willing to return the favor many times over. Reasoning, barganing, negotiating, or attempting to educate fundamentalists is ultamately futile (believe me, I tried), so we have no other options than their total eradication.

  • valhar2000

    Perhaps this article will be of interest: http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/PSEUDOSC/TOXICVAL.HTM

    I found it very interesting when I first read it, and I beleive it does have some bearing on the issues discussed in this blog post.

  • http://sidragon.net/weblog/ [Si]dragon

    Christopher, I think you are intrinsically violent. Does that mean we should eradicate you? Violence begets violence, regardless of the context. The solution to eliminating religious violence is to eliminate religion by eliminating the reasons people adhere to it in the first place. As others have pointed out, at the root of (extreme?) religion is poverty, despair, and frustration. People who feel their lives are empty or lack influence will turn to “divine” sources to give them purpose and fulfillment. Providing higher standards of living, where survival is not a principle concern, yields secularism. It affords people the opportunity to become educated and think deeply about what it is they are doing rather than just clutching at whatever so-called solution presents itself. This is not achieved by destroying cities and killing people.

  • http://blog.atheology.com Rastaban

    Good post. But I have to question your claim that

    “… most of the violence being committed in the world today in the name of religion is being committed by Muslims: the September 11 terror attacks on America, the 7/7 transit bombings in the U.K., the March 2004 train bombings in Madrid, the 2005 Bali bombings, the rocket attacks launched by Hezbollah against Israel, the ongoing civil war and genocide in Darfur, violent Muslim separatist groups such as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah throughout Southeast Asia who seek to create a theocratic Islamic super-state through bombings, kidnappings and murder, and last but not least, the ongoing civil war in Iraq and the terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaeda and the reconstituted Taliban in Afghanistan.”

    This seems to me to be a questionable assertion. It is rather odd, for example, to list “rocket attacks launched by Hezbollah against Israel” without mention of Israel’s far more extensive and violent bombing campaign against Hezbollah. Just as odd to mention “the ongoing civil war in Iraq”, as if a fundamentalist Christian in the White House never ordered a U. S. invasion there. (Perhaps civil war in Iraq just happened spontaneously.) Your defense, I suppose, is that you are only talking about violence “in the name of religion” and that neither the U. S. nor Israel act in the name of religion when they attack Muslims. That is to say, violence carried out for nationalistic reasons shouldn’t be counted, but violence carried out for religious reasons should be.

    Why?

    Furthermore, according to Robert Pape’s extensive study of suicide terrorism from 1980 to 2003, it is nationalism, not Islam, that is the driving force behind suicide terrorism. In every case, in fact, it seems that suicide terrorism is a response to foreign occupation of someone’s “homeland.” I have no doubt the religious belief in an afterlife is an enabler, but Islam is not alone in valuing afterlife more than it values life. (Indeed, according to Pape’s survey, 71% of Hezbollah suicide bombers from 1982 to 1986 were Christians.)

    As we know, religion thrives on feelings of insecurity. It feeds on manufactured fear, such as the fear of not going to heaven or fear of the torments of hell. But any insecurity will do, which is why there was such a strong outpouring of religiosity among Americans immediately after 9-11. And I would suggest that religious leaders exaggerate the dangers we face from terrorism and from Muslims in general precisely because insecurity and fear is good for their business.

    As an American atheist, I have never felt that my freedom to think and live as I choose faced any danger from Islam. Rather, what endangers my freedom is the fear and irrationality of my fellow citizens, who are all too willing to give up liberty, ignore our bill of rights and sanction torture because they are frightened by what is, after all, a relatively small number of terrorists.

    Furthermore, fear has led us to behave cruelly and irrationally, as well as to sabotage our own interests. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has swelled the ranks of terrorists ten-fold, and the likely bombing of Iran after the election in November will only serve to make the threat of suicide terrorism a thousand times greater.

    Insecurity and fear serve the interests of the faith-based religions, not the interests of secular society. I believe atheists have an important role here because, for one thing, atheism is all about defying fear. Whether the fear of God or the fear of personal non-existence, it is a fear atheists have successfully overcome. Nor should we be afraid to criticize Islam and rigorously expose its faults, just as we do with Christianity.

    No doubt Islam is a threat to the freedom of those forced to live under an Islamic state, but my point is that in the United States the greater threat to freedom arises not from Muslims but directly from our own fear and irrationality. In fact, the focus on “Islamofascism” distracts us from what should be our real concern.

  • http://blog.atheology.com Rastaban

    Oops! Here is the correct link to the Wikipedia article summarizing Robert Pape’s book, Dying to Win: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dying_to_Win:_The_Strategic_Logic_of_Suicide_Terrorism

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    Thanks for an interesting and timely post Ebonmuse. I feel that a significant part of the Islamic world is caught in a time warp. They are essentially where the Christian world was hundreds of years ago. Western civilization has for the most part neutered Christianity. This has been accomplished by effectively relegating religion to an arena outside government. It has also been accomplished due to the understanding of freedoms in western culture.

    Is there occasional back-sliding? Sure. Misguided people on a school board somewhere may try and initiate religious indoctrination in a public school – as was attempted recently in Dover, Pennsylvania. This was eventually countered by the secular court. And when it was, Christians who supported the religious instruction didn’t riot and call for beheadings. We were not treated to a version of the so called “Arab Street” burning effigies of the judge.

    Unfortunately these western style checks on religion do not exist sufficiently in other parts of the world to counter Islam. So one sees Islam in bed with governments and courts. And significant parts of populations who do not appear to understand basic concepts such as freedom of speech. For these reasons, I as an atheist am more concerned for both myself and especially for others, with the threat from Islam, than from anything Christianity currently has to offer. It’s not that I currently fear my house being blown up by a terrorist – I understand statistics. But the world is shrinking, and the reach of people who would do harm is growing. And many good decent people, who should be and want to live in freedom, are under the thumb of these religious thugs.

    I actually think atheists have a particular calling today when it comes to what is going on with Islam. This is due to our rejection of all religion. Because of this, we are in a unique position to critique Islam, without being dismissed as just continuing the crusades. The very idea in this day and age of a woman not being able to go out for a drive on her own, or Sharia law, or child brides – is appalling. We should actively be apposing this religious inspired nonsense.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    There have been some excellent and insightful comments so far. As always, I’m very happy with the quality of discussion on this site, and the way we can discuss even controversial topics like this one without degenerating into flamewars. Thanks to everyone who’s offered their thoughts! (And thank you, Prof. Kumar, for that correction, which I’ve made.)

    Islam allows polygamy. This creates a large and permanent underclass of unwived men whose only hope of sexual fulfillment is to become martyred via jihad (and get those imaginary virgins in paradise)…. In countries where polygamy is illegal, this effect diminishes markedly.

    I still think there’s another missing ingredient. After all, the fundamentalist Mormons about whom I recently wrote also practice polygamy and also must deal with the problem of an underclass of unmarried males, yet there are no known instances of polygamist Mormon suicide bombers.

    Since they are untempered by soicial forces, they only understand one thing now: brute force. If these fanatics are willing to wage a scorched-earth campaign against us, we need to be willing to return the favor many times over. Reasoning, barganing, negotiating, or attempting to educate fundamentalists is ultamately futile (believe me, I tried), so we have no other options than their total eradication.

    This is an excellent example, as [Si]dragon pointed out, of precisely the wrong kind of thinking we need to deal with this problem. The American invasion of Iraq has shown beyond reasonable doubt that force alone cannot stop extremism (unless, Christopher, you side with those neoconservatives who argue that our only fault in Iraq was not being ruthless enough). Violence begets violence, and the more of it we use, the more Muslims will be convinced by the rhetoric of extremist leaders like Osama bin Laden and will flock to the terrorist cause. There are close to one billion Muslims living on this planet, and it is simply not feasible – economically, militarily, politically, or morally – to defeat or subjugate them all. This is not appeasement; it is reality. If we want to stem the tide of extremism, and if it is indeed possible to do that, we will achieve it not by the indiscriminate use of force, but by a concerted and realistic effort to reach out to and engage the Islamic community worldwide, and to sow the seeds of democracy and liberty in Muslim theocracies to counteract their violent teachings and show their people the better way. I realize I sound a bit like George W. Bush there, but you will never hear me saying that more liberty is a bad thing. The Bush administration’s blunder (well, one of their blunders) was in the belief that such an outcome can be brought about by externally imposed force.

    This seems to me to be a questionable assertion. It is rather odd, for example, to list “rocket attacks launched by Hezbollah against Israel” without mention of Israel’s far more extensive and violent bombing campaign against Hezbollah.

    I had a feeling this was going to come up. In fact, I deliberately omitted discussing whether Israel’s acts against its neighbors are motivated by religion – that is an issue I don’t wish to get into here. Suffice it to say that regardless of Israel’s culpability, Hezbollah’s terrorist actions are not thereby excused, and clearly are motivated in large part by religious anti-Semitism. As far as Iraq, although there are still numerous attacks against American soldiers, the civil war which I was referring to mainly consists of (Sunni) Muslims fighting (Shi’ite) Muslims. That animosity has existed since the founding of Islam, and the American invasion had little to do with it, other than to destabilize the previous government and create a power vacuum where that tension could rear its head.

    Furthermore, according to Robert Pape’s extensive study of suicide terrorism from 1980 to 2003, it is nationalism, not Islam, that is the driving force behind suicide terrorism. In every case, in fact, it seems that suicide terrorism is a response to foreign occupation of someone’s “homeland.”

    Don’t you think the 9/11 attacks are a fairly significant counterexample? I know, I know, bin Laden claimed to be angry that American forces were stationed in Saudi Arabia, where two of the most religiously significant cities to Muslims exist. But I still think it’s a stretch to say that Americans are or were “occupying” Mecca and Medina in any meaningful sense. Following Pape’s logic, shouldn’t we have expected the 9/11 attacks to be against the Saudi government?

  • http://corsair.blogspot.com corsair the rational pirate

    Furthermore, according to Robert Pape’s extensive study of suicide terrorism from 1980 to 2003, it is nationalism, not Islam, that is the driving force behind suicide terrorism. In every case, in fact, it seems that suicide terrorism is a response to foreign occupation of someone’s “homeland.”

    How does that work with all the dummies blowing themselves up in Iraq today outside mosques and markets where there are no “occupiers” present? Is it just the Sunnis who are pissed that they are not in power anymore (not really nationalism) or are they pissed that Shiites exist since they follow the “wrong” Islam.

    And how about the Bali bombings (not suicides, I think but still violent). No one is occupying Indonesia. Or the Pakistani youths in England. Why blow up a train full of Brits if your family is from Pakistan to protest what is happening in Iraq? It does not make sense.

  • Tommykey

    Ebon, from what I have read about bin Laden, he decided to target the United States rather than the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt et al. because he believed that the power and influence of the United States propped them up. Kick the United States out of the Middle East, he reasoned, and then the Western leaning monarchies will fall.

  • Christopher

    Response to [Si] Dragon

    “Christopher, I think you are intrinsically violent. Does that mean we should eradicate you?”

    Technically, all human beings alive have intrinistic violent tendencies. But notice how I don’t recommend exterminating them… Read the rest of my post for context!

    While it’s true that religion is intrinistically violent, most modern religions have had those tendencies tempered (read: restrained, disabled, removed from core doctrine, etc…). I don’t suggest the violent eradication of all religion, but I DO suggest the violent eradication of violent fundamentalist followers of religion.

    “Violence begets violence, regardless of the context.”

    This is true to a point, but eventually one side of the conflict will grow weary and either surrender or perish.

    “The solution to eliminating religious violence is to eliminate religion by eliminating the reasons people adhere to it in the first place.”

    They adhere to it because it’s authority and they have been trained to blindly follow it! Besides, eliminating religion is a long, frustrating proccess; it took Western society centuries to remove religion from most of it’s institution, I doubt that Islamic society is capable of doing any faster.

    But we don’t have centuries to spend purging religion from that society. Since we can’t reason with them or ignore them, the radicals must be destroyed forcibly.

    “As others have pointed out, at the root of (extreme?) religion is poverty, despair, and frustration. People who feel their lives are empty or lack influence will turn to “divine” sources to give them purpose and fulfillment. Providing higher standards of living, where survival is not a principle concern, yields secularism. It affords people the opportunity to become educated and think deeply about what it is they are doing rather than just clutching at whatever so-called solution presents itself.”

    In theory, this may work in the long run. But in practice, any real change in this direction would be excrutiatingly slow. All the while, the fundamentalists would consoladate power and lash out with a vengeance (probably blaming us for “corrupting them with the cares of this world” or some other such religious nonsense) and destroy us. These radicals must be removed before we can even start this proccess.

    “This is not achieved by destroying cities and killing people.”

    It is regretable that ionnocents will die in the conflict, but it’s a neccisary sacrifce for our own survival. But, for change to take place, the old guard has to die so that a new guard may take his place. Thus the wheel or revolution goes around and will continue to go around until the end of time.

    But once the death and destruction ends, we can rebuild those civilizations we conquer; making them into our own image. Only after this rebuilding occurs can lasting peace exist.

  • Christopher

    Spelling: “ionnocents” sould be innocents.

  • http://blog.atheology.com Rastaban

    You write, “regardless of Israel’s culpability, Hezbollah’s terrorist actions are not thereby excused, and clearly are motivated in large part by religious anti-Semitism.”

    I don’t think it is correct to attribute Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel to racism any more than to claim Israel bombed Lebanon from racist motives. Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers (within Lebanese territory according to Hezbollah, within Israeli territory according to Israel), and Israel responded with a bombing campaign intended to completely destroy Hezbollah. Given that Hezbollah employs about 14 or 15% of the Lebanese population in various civilian enterprises, such an effort was sure to lead to extensive destruction and civilian deaths — which it did. Hezbollah responded the best they could with largely ineffective rocket attacks on reachable Israeli cities. You see anti-semitism in this, but I only see a vastly weaker military force using whatever weapons it has to respond to an all-out attack.

    And Hezbollah’s enemy is Israel — not Jews per se. But notice how easy it is for us to confuse the two. That’s because Israelis, like their Arab neighbors, conjoin religion & state. Thus Israel is a “Jewish” state, and attacks on Israel are mistaken for anti-semitism.

    You suggest that animosity between Sunni and Shi’ites “has existed since the founding of Islam, and the American invasion had little to do with it, other than to destabilize the previous government and create a power vacuum where that tension could rear its head.” I would suggest we did a bit more than “destabilize” Saddam’s government – we completely decapitated it. We did so deliberately with “shock and awe” which targeted all Iraqi government offices, not just military ones. After we finished the result was, I suppose, the Libertarian dream: a country without a central government. (Apparently the idea was that everything the central government used to do could be outsourced to corporations. Iraq is a case study in the importance of a strong government and the flaws of Libertarianism. I imagine you would agree.)

    The American army also staged hundreds of thousands of night-time raids on Iraqi residences, terrorizing families & taking their men away in the middle of the night, sometimes never to be seen again. This was done on the basis of rumors from Shi’ites — no trials, no invesigations, nothing that we would recognize as related to democracy or even civilization. Yes, animosities were already there, but surely we had something to do with the result.

    I think bin Laden’s letter to America in 2002 reveals the anger that al Qaeda fed on to recruit the 9-11 suicide terrorists. Every American ought to read it. As I see it, it supports the “occupation” hypothesis. To me it is clear that they didn’t “kill themselves to kill us” just because we are immoral “infidels” or because Islam hasn’t discovered the enlightenment yet. In their minds we have committed some very real outrages against them, and continue to do so.

    If we recognize that, then we can do things — politically, not militarily — to eliminate their motivation to “kill themselves to kill us”. We can push Israel and the Palestinians to an equitable two-state solution. We can get our troops out of the middle east’s hot spots. Then bin Laden’s recruiting would dry up.

    If instead we insist that “we are fighting a pestilential theology” (as Sam Harris puts it) and continue with our military aggression, we will get Islam against the West all right. Bin Laden is convinced Muslims can win that battle. I don’t think he’s right. I think everyone will lose.

  • Sympathetic Fallacy

    I have a hard time swallowing the notion Islam (much less an extremist minority therein) poses so much as an iota of threat to any civilization.

    “These circumstances include [...] lack of political influence of Muslims”

    Where/How do they lack political influence? The religion is growing.

  • Archi Medez

    Ebonmuse,

    I read the Pope’s speech and it seemed to me to be a thoughtful, scholarly piece. I was about as impressed as an athiest could be, reading all of that talk about the relationship between reason and faith,…and, oh yeah, he mentioned something about Islam.

    Apparently the Pope has studied Islam in detail. I also did not see any problem with his quotes of others’ comments about Islam being spread by the sword because (a) that is to a significant extent historically true, (b) it is derived from the Koran and Sunnah and is the official policy of all major schools of Islamic jurisprudence, even today, and (c), ironically, abundant evidence for the proposition was shown in the response. I will also cut the Byzantine Emperor some slack because he and his people were under threat of the sword of Islam at the time of the dialogues in question.

    “In reality, it is society’s refusal to criticize any religious beliefs that has brought us to this dangerous juncture in the first place. The proper response of a free society, when religious fanatics threaten violence on anyone who criticizes their religion, is for every member of that society to join in denouncing such beliefs.”

    Indeed. I was surprised at how many non-Muslims, instead of defending the Pope’s right to free expression (!), chose to blame him for being insensitive or reckless, rather than blame those commiting murder and terrorism in response.

    “This shows the zealots that people of courage and principle will not be cowed by their evil demands, and just as importantly, protects everyone who does speak out by giving the fanatics no single target.”

    Exactly.

    “The question remains, however, of whether Islam is an intrinsically violent religion, and on this one count alone I will find it not guilty. Islam is undoubtedly a violent religion, but I do not believe it is intrinsically so, any more than Christianity or Judaism is. Rather, Islam’s violent nature is incidental, and is caused by the circumstances in which it currently exists.”

    I think we can also look at the instruction manuals, as well as how the users interpret those manuals.

    Regarding circumstances, the manuals do give instructions on how to handle a variety of circumstances. Poor Christians in Africa do not riot or shoot Muslim women in the back in response to statements offensive to Christians. It is much more often that Muslims, compared to people of other religions, go from a non-violent state to a violent one, especially over criticism of Mohammad. Once the violent state is set, Islam contains no policy for de-escalation (unless Muslims are in a weakened state, at which point they can call for a temporary truce, in order to rebuild their fighting capability), whereas Christianity does have mechanisms for de-escalation, e.g., turn the other cheek, forgiveness, reconciliation, etc. (Whether those are actually used, or always necessarily wise, are other matters).

    This Muslim violence is nothing new. This has been Muslims’ standard treatment of Christians and other non-Muslims for the past approximately 1400 years. This happens in countries all over the world where there are Muslim populations. A non-violent condition is turned into violent conditions because Islam does not permit criticism of itself and Mohammad. This violent suppression of criticism is actually more likely to occur where Muslims are the majority and have the political power.

    “These circumstances include the widespread poverty and lack of political influence of Muslims, situations which often give rise to radicalism; an aggressive and bellicose foreign policy on the part of the United States which makes the image of a clash of civilizations tempting to extremists on both sides; and a flourishing cult of martyrdom and violence that was first incited by a few influential Muslim leaders and has now grown into a self-sustaining meme complex.”

    The violent response of the Islamists is caused by the Islamists, first and foremost. That is where the responsibility is put. Each person has the responsibility to handle problems in the most effective and ethical way. Jihadists choose violence instead of other available options because they have been taught to do so in their education system and in their societies. Islam does not contain long-term conflict-resolution mechanisms whereby Muslims and non-Muslims can live in peace as equals.

    “widespread poverty”

    You will have to show me some evidence that poverty causes Muslim radicals to kill nuns, teachers, and schoolchildren.

    “lack of political influence of Muslims”

    Sure the jihadists want more political influence. Again, I would ask for evidence that Muslims have less political influence than others and how that somehow contributes to the types of violence we see.

    I don’t see how the killing of apostates, heretics, critics, homosexuals, women who try to choose their own spouse, etc., can be attributed to a lack of political influence. On the contrary, it seems to me to be an expression of too much political influence of those among the Muslims who are of this strict mindset. The political influence they want is totalitarian.

    Muslim leaders at the U.N. are using their clout to try and impose restrictions on any negative expressions about Islam. Several Muslim countries made economic boycotts on Danish products earlier this year, just because there was one newspaper in Denmark which first ran some cartoons of Mohammad. (Subsequently other countries were also boycotted, and their embassies destroyed, if a media outlet in that country had published the cartoons). The free world listened to Kofi Annan telling non-Muslims that they should not criticize Islam or Mohammad. Frank criticism of Islam is stifled a great deal in the mainstream media due to pressure from various political Islam groups, and due to the attention-grabbing violent productions of the radicals (which are tactical moves designed to regulate what can and cannot be said about Islam).

    “an aggressive and bellicose foreign policy on the part of the United States”

    Certainly some jihadists think they are responding at least in part to the U.S. and coalition invasion of Iraq. Bin Laden had already stated prior to 9/11/01 that his intention was to draw the U.S. into a long-term war and bleed it financially and otherwise. Jihadists are attacking people all over the world today in places that have nothing to do with the U.S. However, jihadists were attacking non-Muslims before the U.S. ever existed. Jihadists attack other Muslims; jihadists attack other Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. The jihadists claim they are fighting to achieve justice for the Muslims they are destroying on a daily basis.

    No one has figured out a way to negotiate with the innumerable jihadist franchises who deliberately started this mess with the explicit aim of forcing a response. Nothing short of our submission to sharia law will satisfy them. Ultimately the violent jihadist franchises in question, for all practical purposes, need to be either captured or killed. There is no way to do that without evoking the ire of yet more jihadists. We (being the international community) either deal with them now, or deal with them later when they are greater in number and strength.

    “and a flourishing cult of martyrdom and violence that was first incited by a few influential Muslim leaders and has now grown into a self-sustaining meme complex.”

    Mohammad himself incited it, and set in place a self-sustaining meme complex. It sustains itself because, once it becomes established in the brain, it contains instructions demanding political implementation and use of force to control defectors and dissidents. This is not a small minority of extremists. Jihad fighting to make Islam supreme and establish sharia is mainstream Islamic policy. It is taught in schools throughout the Islamic world. 49.9% of “Arabs” say they support Bin Laden (“Do you support Bin Laden? Yes/No”). That figure would likely be higher if non-Muslim Arabs were excluded, and if bin Laden’s group had not attacked Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and Shia Muslims in Iraq. Also, the reported results were not broken down in a way that would allow us to distinguish between Shia and Sunni support. Support would probably be much higher among Sunni, whereas Shia would be less likely to support bin Laden and more likely to support other terrorist groups such as Hizb’Allah. Anyways, terrorism cannot survive without that kind of social and political support. (Which is why we need to tackle the education aspect of this).

    “I have read the scriptures of several major religions, and if anything, I think the Bible is significantly more violent and bloodier than the Qur’an.”

    This is a difficult comparison for several reasons.

    Should we compare the Old Testament or the New Testament, or the entire Bible, with the Koran…or Koran and Sunnah? If it is Christianity, one would think that the comparison should give the New Testament more weight, even if one does use the whole Bible. The NT doesn’t have much violence other than in the Book of Revelation. But regarding End Times, both the Koran and Revelation are apocalyptic and basically all the disbelievers are destroyed.

    But, in the meantime, before we’re all wiped out in both religions’ End Times scenarios, which one presents a bigger threat to our humanity and freedom? Islam (Koran and Sunnah combined) incorporates much of the Old Testament brutal injustice: Killing apostates, blasphemers, adulterers, homosexuals; God or Allah’s mass annihilations of entire cities and towns and nearly complete wipe-out of whole generations of people; permission to rape female war captives (implied in the Old Testament, described fairly graphically in the Sunnah).

    While the Old Testament describes a lot of violence, it is not something that Christians generally take from their religion as policy for action. In other words, the instructions to kill apostates in the Old Testament are not taken by mainstream Christians as prescriptive for action today or in the future. But the Koran-plus-Sunnah instructions regarding the killing of disbelievers including apostates are taken by mainstream Islam as prescriptive for action today or in the future.

    Another key difference between Christianity and Islam is that the latter mandates imperialist warfare for the purpose of spreading the religion and setting up totalitarian religious law (sharia) everywhere on earth until the Last Day. There is doctrinal support for this official Islamic policy in the Koran and Sunnah. There is no such doctrinal support for such a policy in the Bible. In the Bible there is localized violence in past historical circumstances, yes, but not imperialism; mission to spread the faith, yes, but not through the use of force).

    Still another key difference between Christianity and Islam is that, in fact, Islam mandates the subjugation of Christians by law, whereas Christianity does not mandate the subjugation of Muslims. The subjugation involves various humiliating conditions and requires Christians to pay a mafia-style “protection tax” (jizya) to the Muslim authorities. These conditions are imposed subsequent to the jihad capture of Christian lands. Failure of the adult male Christian to pay protection results in execution. Historically, some Christians in Spain who revolted against these Muslim policies were crucified in accordance with Koran, 5:33.

    The Old Testament does contain some graphic narrative descriptions of violence, whereas the Koran’s discussion of violence—though frequent and severe—is often vaguely-worded in references to “painful doom” and “terrible chastisement” etc. But according to the skeptic at the skepticsannotated site, the percentage of violent verses in the Koran is almost double the percentage contained in the Bible. In addition, that does not include Sunnah and Sira, which are loaded with graphic violence carried out in the name of religion. Furthermore, linguist Tina Magaard has examined the texts of 10 of the world’s major religions (including Christianity), and has found that Islam’s texts encourage more terror and fighting than the others.

    “Yet Christians, on the whole, do not endorse terrorism and theocracy to the degree Muslims do. This is not because Christianity is an intrinsically more peaceful religion – history bears record to the many atrocities which Christian armies, witch hunters and inquisitors have committed. Rather, a different set of historical circumstances led the Christian world to pass through an Enlightenment when concepts such as rational debate, scientific investigation and legal separation of church and state became established, effectively housebreaking the more extreme elements of that religion. Islam has yet to experience a similar renaissance, and unfortunately, the fiercely dogmatic strain of anti-intellectualism which has now taken root in that religion seems to make such a reformation less likely than ever. It is an open question whether this dangerous trend can be reversed, or whether the gap will continue to widen and the secular sentinels of the West will from now on be forced to be continually on guard against Islamic violence and terrorism.”

    A religion is a combination of a doctrine and people who interpret and follow that doctrine. We cannot blame the doctrine when people don’t follow the doctrine, but we can cite the doctrine as a causal factor when people do follow it. Islam when it is followed is more dangerous than Christianity is when it is followed.

  • jake3988

    Christians (as well as fundamentalist Jews and Hindus and fundamentalists of many other religions) whose teachings threaten liberty and democracy in the countries where they live, relatively few of them go so far as to openly advocate violence and terrorism against those who oppose them.

    Yeah. I, for one, am happy all those violent and nasty laws aren’t being practiced by Jews and Christians. (We still have hate and prejudice, but hate is only a belief in this case and not an action. So, its perfectly fine with me.)

    At least recently anyway. Can’t say much about the past though. And the catholic church holding back human advances. Etc.

  • jake3988

    More dangerous than christianity Archi? I don’t know. I mean, we’re splitting hairs here. It requires murder from humans in at least 30 different laws.

    Christianity quotes stoning to death those of other religions in Deuteronomy 13:5-10: If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers … thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die.

    That’s about 5.5 billion people right there. Islam supports the same thing too. But, regardless, that would be a LOT of deaths. If we’re talking Islam is more murderous we’re talking comparing 6.1 billion to 6.0 billion or something. Its not exactly something to brag about.

  • Archi Medez

    Jake,

    It’s not about splitting hairs. It’s about making an informed and realistic assessment of the threat. Muslims leaders criticize Christianity and all other religions and there is no violence. Anyone criticizes Islam publicly and there is violence or threat of violence. Anyone who apostatizes from Islam publicly today is under threat of being killed. It doesn’t require hair-splitting to discern which religion is worse as it exists today.

    The issue was raised in Ebonmuses’ post about whether Islam was worse than Christianity. An important issue concerns how those texts are interpreted and applied by users.

    Christians don’t kill apostates, blasphemers/critics, homosexuals, and adulterers today, whereas all of those kinds of people are under threat of being killed by some of those following Islam today.

    I cited the apostasy death penalty from the Old Testament in my post. Publicly encouraging apostasy falls under the same umbrella.

  • Archi Medez

    Rastaban,

    “And I would suggest that religious leaders exaggerate the dangers we face from terrorism and from Muslims in general precisely because insecurity and fear is good for their business.”

    Really? What about all the foiled jihad plots this past summer? Are the governments and police and intelligence agencies of Canada, Britain, Denmark, and Germany all collaborating with the Americans to just to scare the public?

    “And Hezbollah’s enemy is Israel — not Jews per se. But notice how easy it is for us to confuse the two. That’s because Israelis, like their Arab neighbors, conjoin religion & state. Thus Israel is a “Jewish” state, and attacks on Israel are mistaken for anti-semitism.”

    (Hizballah Leader) Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah: “If Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” (NY Times, May 23, 2004, p. 15, section 2, column 1.)

    Nasrallah has warned Arabs and Muslims to leave Haifa so that his rockets will hit only Jewish civilians.

    “I don’t think it is correct to attribute Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel to racism any more than to claim Israel bombed Lebanon from racist motives.”

    Hizballah’s stated short-term goal (like that of HAMAS) is the destruction of Israel, which means the annihilation of the Israelis. The longer term goal is the complete genocide of the Jews.

    “Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers (within Lebanese territory according to Hezbollah, within Israeli territory according to Israel), and Israel responded with a bombing campaign intended to completely destroy Hezbollah.”

    You believe the propaganda of a terrorist organization? Hizballah launched 500 rockets at civilian areas in the week prior to the kidnapping incident. All the G-8 leaders who discussed the crisis at the time came out with a joint statement agreeing that Hizballah initiated the conflict. When the kidnapping occurred, Hizballah also killed 8 other Israeli soldiers.

    “Given that Hezbollah employs about 14 or 15% of the Lebanese population in various civilian enterprises, such an effort was sure to lead to extensive destruction and civilian deaths — which it did.”

    Which is exactly what Hizballah set out to do—to force Israel’s response so that innocent civilians would be killed. Hizballah accomplished this by launching its rockets from civilian homes, in densely-populated areas. They set up rocket launchers on balconies and on top of apartment buildings so that Israel will either have to bomb those targets (killing

    I understand that the Nazis also employed civilians.

    “Hezbollah responded the best they could with largely ineffective rocket attacks on reachable Israeli cities.”

    Hizballah was launching rockets at civilians in cities and you say they were “doing the best they could”? You are expressing sympathy with the intention to kill civilians?!

    “You see anti-semitism in this, but I only see a vastly weaker military force using whatever weapons it has to respond to an all-out attack.”

    Of course anti-Semitism is part of what Hizballah is doing. But if Israel were a Christian or Hindu nation, the jihadists would still be attacking it because it is not Muslim and it is lodged in the centre of what they think is Islamic territory. Indeed, even if it were Muslim, they’d be attacking it because it is not the right kind of Muslim.

    Hizballah is supported by Iran and Syria. Hizballah would be a weaker force if they were facing the Israelis in open combat in a warzone. But in the actual context, they are a stronger force because they intentionally kill civilians and intentionally use human shields (even Amnesty International claimed this), whereas Israel is averse to doing this..

    “I think bin Laden’s letter to America in 2002 reveals the anger that al Qaeda fed on to recruit the 9-11 suicide terrorists. Every American ought to read it. As I see it, it supports the “occupation” hypothesis. To me it is clear that they didn’t “kill themselves to kill us” just because we are immoral “infidels” or because Islam hasn’t discovered the enlightenment yet. In their minds we have committed some very real outrages against them, and continue to do so.”

    In their present state, nothing we do will satisfy them except submission to sharia law, period. These are people who are calling for full-scale wars over remarks from the Pope or Danish cartoons.

    “If we recognize that, then we can do things — politically, not militarily — to eliminate their motivation to “kill themselves to kill us”.”

    The jihad franchises aren’t interested in a political solution. These people manufacture crises for the express purpose of disrupting any attempts at political solutions. They are interested in subjugating or killing us. An unrealistic goal, perhaps, but that is their goal and they have proven that they believe in it whole-heartedly.

    “We can push Israel and the Palestinians to an equitable two-state solution.”

    That has already been tried. These jihadist groups will not sincerely agree to a peace deal with the Israelis because to do so violates Islamic law. They would be conceding territory that was once ruled by Muslims (and thus in their view, “Muslim lands”) to a non-Muslim power. They would have to agree to a peace deal that lasts more than ten years, which is not binding in Islamic law because of Mohammad’s example. The Israelis simply by living there as free people are living in defiance of the Islamic requirement to subjugate the People of the Book. That means Muslims have to fight them because they have refused to embrace Islam and have refused to accept the dhimma status. Muslims in the region quote the “sahih” hadith which states that Muslims must fight the Jews and exterminate them in order to bring about the End Times. (This is quoted in the HAMAS Charter for example). Finally, even if through some radical departure from Islamic orthodoxy HAMAS or Hizballah agreed to a long-term peace, this would be regarded as the ultimate outrage by other jihadist groups who would immediately take steps to sabotage the peace.

    “If instead we insist that “we are fighting a pestilential theology” (as Sam Harris puts it) and continue with our military aggression, we will get Islam against the West all right. Bin Laden is convinced Muslims can win that battle. I don’t think he’s right. I think everyone will lose.”

    In other words, don’t criticize Islam. Don’t say Islam is a terrible ideology because in response jihadists might prove just how terrible that ideology is. No thanks. The best thing for Muslims is a complete dismantling of mainstream Islam, and then abandonment of the religion, or else radical-surgery reforms—and quick.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I don’t think it is correct to attribute Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel to racism any more than to claim Israel bombed Lebanon from racist motives. Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers (within Lebanese territory according to Hezbollah, within Israeli territory according to Israel), and Israel responded with a bombing campaign intended to completely destroy Hezbollah… Hezbollah responded the best they could with largely ineffective rocket attacks on reachable Israeli cities. You see anti-semitism in this, but I only see a vastly weaker military force using whatever weapons it has to respond to an all-out attack.

    Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups have stated that Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel were deliberately targeting civilians. (Again, this is not to imply that Israel is without similar culpability.) If Hezbollah was merely “responding” to the Israeli attack, why would it fire rockets at Israeli cities and not at the Israeli military units?

    I think bin Laden’s letter to America in 2002 reveals the anger that al Qaeda fed on to recruit the 9-11 suicide terrorists. Every American ought to read it. As I see it, it supports the “occupation” hypothesis. To me it is clear that they didn’t “kill themselves to kill us” just because we are immoral “infidels” or because Islam hasn’t discovered the enlightenment yet. In their minds we have committed some very real outrages against them, and continue to do so.

    If we recognize that, then we can do things — politically, not militarily — to eliminate their motivation to “kill themselves to kill us”. We can push Israel and the Palestinians to an equitable two-state solution. We can get our troops out of the middle east’s hot spots. Then bin Laden’s recruiting would dry up.

    If instead we insist that “we are fighting a pestilential theology” (as Sam Harris puts it) and continue with our military aggression, we will get Islam against the West all right. Bin Laden is convinced Muslims can win that battle. I don’t think he’s right. I think everyone will lose.

    I agree with this to an extent. I do think we should insist on an equitable two-state solution for the Palestine situation, and I do think we should withdraw from the Middle East – but I think we should do these things because they are the right things to do, and not because it will eliminate bin Laden or the threat of Islamic terrorism. On the contrary, I think that if bin Laden were to get everything he wanted, he would simply issue a new set of demands, like for America to become an Islamic theocracy and outlaw other religions and atheism. I do not think al-Qaeda is a rational organization or that they have a specific and limited set of goals, and though these moves may well undercut their support, we are still going to have to be vigilant against them for some time to come.

    As far as the “pestilential theology” remarks, let me point out that terrorist attacks against civilians are not the only crimes of fundamentalist Muslims. There are also things like sharia law, like beheading as a punishment for apostasy, like honor killings, like forbidding women to drive, to be educated, or to appear in public without burqas. Muslims are not doing these things as revenge against America; they are doing them because they want to impose their narrow, fanatical view of Islam on the world. This is a pestilential theology and it is a view we should fight, although not necessarily with military force.

  • Prof. V.N.K.Kumar ( India )

    There is an article titled as “Top ten reasons why Islam is not the religion of peace : Violence in Muhammad’s life & the Quran” by James M. Arlandson, which is available at this site : http://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Arlandson/ten_reasons.htm

    Readers of this site might be interested in this.

  • Al Comb-ova

    [Si]dragon – nice link! Thanks.

    Ebonmuse – Fundamentalist Mormon polygamy generally lacks suicide bombers because there is no “jihad => martyr => 72 virgins” theology in Mormonism – and, because that sort of polygamy is quite rare compared to Islam. Nevertheless, violent episodes, including bombings, are often linked to Mormon polygamy as well – see (http://www.exmormon.org/violence.htm). The unwived (or underwived) Mormon men sometimes adopt other unsavory responses – the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping and rape come to mind, for example (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Smart_kidnapping).

  • Shawn Smith

    <offtopic>

    Spelling: “ionnocents” sould (sic) be innocents.

    LOL! That has got to be one of the funniest comments I have seen from Christopher, especially following these gems:

    …have intrinistic (sic) violent tendencies…

    …religion is intrinistically (sic) violent…

    …because it’s (sic) authority…

    …from most of it’s (sic) institution, (sic) I doubt…

    …would consoladate (sic) power…

    …before we can even start this proccess. (sic)…

    …it’s a neccisary (sic) sacrifce (sic) for our own survival…

    …the wheel or (sic) revolution…

    Dude, Google toolbar will perform a spell check for you on things you type into any web form. You can get it from here. And yes, I’m a dick for pointing these out. Please tell me something I don’t know. And, of course, you are completely free to rag on me for the spelling and grammar mistakes I make. :-)

    </offtopic>

  • Fight_for_Truth

    where do people get the 72 virgins from? Every time I search the Holy Quran I can’t find it.
    This entire article is bias and all its evidence and opinons are derived from the media’s propaganda. If Islam is violent then what about Hitler and Stalin who was atheist. America who used Atom bombs in WW2 on Japan which murdered hundreds and thousands people from pregnent women and children to old people. What about Korean War, Vietnam and other pupped wars. I totally disagree with this article.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    where do people get the 72 virgins from? Every time I search the Holy Quran I can’t find it.

    The specific number 72 comes from the hadith, not the Qur’an, but the general concept is definitely there. See, for example, sura 78, verses 31-34; 44:54; 55:56; 55:71-74.

    America who used Atom bombs in WW2 on Japan which murdered hundreds and thousands people from pregnent women and children to old people. What about Korean War, Vietnam and other pupped wars.

    I suggest you brush up on critical thinking; yours is a classic tu quoque fallacy. Even if your claims are true, they wouldn’t in any way diminish Islam’s violent nature. Similarly, if I’m accused of murder, I can’t defend myself by claiming that other people commit murder also.

  • Alex Weaver

    This entire article is bias and all its evidence and opinons are derived from the media’s propaganda. If Islam is violent then what about Hitler and Stalin who was atheist. America who used Atom bombs in WW2 on Japan which murdered hundreds and thousands people from pregnent women and children to old people. What about Korean War, Vietnam and other pupped wars. I totally disagree with this article.

    …….are you perhaps under the impression that the term “violent”, like the term “world champion”, denotes a position that can only be held by one entity at a time?

    Incidentally, while I certainly agree that the nuclear attacks on Japan were horrific and tragic (and that their supposed necessity should be critically examined), if you’re looking for an example of atrocities against “hundreds and thousands of people from pregnent(sic) women and children to old people” (or are tempted to fall into the trap of portraying the Japanese as noble victims of Western imperial aggression) I suggest you look up Unit 731.

  • Alex Weaver

    …incidentally, your language here is ambiguous, but Hitler was not an atheist. Now, will someone PLEASE take that shameless lie outside and shoot it?

  • Fight_for_truth

    Ebonmuse like you said other people also murder but why do you only blame one of them as murderer? Only Stalin was atheist. Islam is a religion and what some people do “in the name” of Islam is not Islam. If you look in the Holy Quran you will find my verses which condem transgression. Muslim do good deeds to gain Allah’s mercy and grace and not for the 72 virgins as ignorant media shows.

  • Alex Weaver

    In other words, Bin Laden is No True Scotsman?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    If you look in the Holy Quran you will find my verses which condem transgression.

    You’ll also find plenty of verses like this:

    “O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you.”

    —9:123

    Like it or not, there are thousands of dedicated, believing Muslims worldwide who’ve devoted their lives to waging war and terrorism against all non-Muslims. I don’t grant you the sole right to decide that these people aren’t “real” Muslims or that your interpretation of Islam’s teaching is the only valid one.

  • Fight_for_truth

    Ebonmuse you forgot to read the Surah 9 verse 6. my interpertation? “real” muslim? where did you got that from? All Muslims are now terrorist. Then I all atheist are Stalins. The funny thing about Bin Laden is how he is a great friend of the West and how the West backed him. But then the West don’t want to mentioned that, snice it’s bad publicity. Best example of Irony.

  • Fight_for_truth

    Do Atheist fear Death?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    All Muslims are now terrorist.

    No, all Muslims are not terrorists. That is clearly not true. But some are. That is just as clearly true. I don’t believe that you have the right to decide which group is the “real” Muslims, just as I don’t believe that the terrorists have the right to decide that.

  • Alex Weaver

    Ebonmuse like you said other people also murder but why do you only blame one of them as murderer?

    …because the post is only about one of them.

    Why do you only blame one of the many people beside who criticize Muslims? By your own nonsensical standards, you’re no better.

    Do Atheist fear Death?

    Do I even want to know why you think this question is relevant to the topic?

  • Friday

    To fear death is instinct, a totally natural fear. That being said many creatures (not just humans) can overcome this fear, even sacrificing their own lives, to accomplish a goal.

    Your average atheist fears death as much as your average Muslim, as much as your average human, as much as your average creature capable of experiencing fear.

    Of course, you already knew that – but it needed to be said.

  • Fight_for_truth

    First, I did not mention anything about “real or fake” muslims. If this posts about criticizing muslims then why there aren’t any for every religion and group? or is it double standard? You Atheist think you are any better, explain what North Korea government is doing, snice they are all atheist. A Muslim don’t fear death because they believe in live after death. Atheist don’t believe in this, which make this world enough more precious to them. This can result in a fight for survival.

  • Fight_for_truth

    Fun how in the cold war era atheism was the root of all violence and evil.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I criticize all groups who do evil in the name of dogma, including Christians, Hindus, and yes, even communists. This post happens to be about Muslims. Your whining does not alter the fact that enormous evil has been committed in the name of Islam, nor can you hide that fact with your clumsy attempts to change the subject.

  • Fight_for_truth

    Atheist, don’t hide with communists Ebonmuse. Besdie is not as if you are perfect so you can criticize others.

  • KShep

    Besdie is not as if you are perfect so you can criticize others.

    I can’t even begin to find words that adequately describe the sheer richness of irony in the above quote.

  • DamienSansBlog

    Scrumptastic? Cromulent? Hurrr-larious?

  • Friday

    “A Muslim don’t fear death because they believe in live after death.”

    Next he will tell us that if a Muslim does fear death they aren’t ‘real’ or ‘truly faithful’ eh?

    Humans can prepare themselves for death, and learn to accept it – even embrace it.

    But to still not feel the fear? Absolute rubbish.

  • James B

    A Muslim don’t fear death because they believe in live after death.

    You know I’m not sure that’s actually that healthy…

  • Mrnaglfar

    Fight_for_truth (that’s some good irony),

    A Muslim don’t fear death because they believe in live after death. Atheist don’t believe in this, which make this world enough more precious to them. This can result in a fight for survival.

    You don’t fear death and don’t want to survive? Let’s see the proof. I’m sure you shouldn’t have any issues with not eatting and giving up all your food so that others may live. Not eatting may only leave you alive for about a week, but hey, you’re going to a better place anyway, right? Let’s see some smoke, to match that passionate fire you got in your belly.

  • Randall

    Careful, Mrnaglfar. That might be construed as encouraging suicide : )

  • Mrnaglfar

    Or as Ghandi might call it “protesting”

    Or as religion might call it “a test of faith”

  • thesarge

    This was a very interesting blog. Well stated points of view. I think someone stated early in the blog…remove the cancer and bring on the cure. All religions, in my opinion are very divisive, very inclusive and very dangerous(for obvious reasons). We need to concentrate on making this world and our lives better right NOW. Thank you all for a very lively and informative debate.

  • Joshu

    Firstly, I’d just like to say this was an excellent post, and the resulting discussion has definitely been an interesting one. So naturally, I have a couple questions;

    Violence begets violence, and the more of it we use, the more Muslims will be convinced by the rhetoric of extremist leaders like Osama bin Laden and will flock to the terrorist cause. There are close to one billion Muslims living on this planet, and it is simply not feasible – economically, militarily, politically, or morally – to defeat or subjugate them all. This is not appeasement; it is reality. If we want to stem the tide of extremism, and if it is indeed possible to do that, we will achieve it not by the indiscriminate use of force, but by a concerted and realistic effort to reach out to and engage the Islamic community worldwide, and to sow the seeds of democracy and liberty in Muslim theocracies to counteract their violent teachings and show their people the better way. I realize I sound a bit like George W. Bush there, but you will never hear me saying that more liberty is a bad thing. The Bush administration’s blunder (well, one of their blunders) was in the belief that such an outcome can be brought about by externally imposed force.

    While I certainly agree with this statement overall, I wonder what your opinion is on the situation in Afghanistan, Ebonmuse? The country has large regions where the central government is totally ineffectual (for sheer geographic regions as much as political problems), and local tribal control is the norm. In many of these areas, the Taliban (and al Qaeda) have gained quite a bit of control, largely out of a sense of there being nobody else. I’m curious what your opinion is on the recent amplification of American military presence in Afghanistan, and the basic policy of getting rid of the Taliban so that al Qaeda (or other Islamic fundamentalist groups) won’t have as secure a presence there?

    (I’m not sure how relevant this would be to the question, lol, but I’m asking this as an atheist considering enlisting with the National Guard. With the fact that if I were to do so, I’d more than likely end up in Afghanistan, I’m just curious to hear what your thoughts are on that situation.)

  • Polly

    This is dated before I first saw your blog. I pretty much agree with everything you wrote. The only mild exception is that I think the Muslim world DID have a period of enlightenment, or at least tolerated enlightened thinkers within it, several centuries prior to THE Enlightenment. What happened and why it didn’t gain steam, I don’t know. I suspect wealth has a lot to do with liberalism.

    Nothing in history is irreversible. Most of the Middle East only gained independence after centuries of colonialism (yes, it was mostly a Muslim Empire but they gained independence from Euro’s as nations) within a generation of our lifetimes. This is pretty major. Whole new insecure, relatively poor nations sprang up almost overnight. Couple that with our “bellicose” foreign policy and you’ve got a recipe for violence.


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