Our Religious Extremists Aren’t as Bad As Theirs

On last night’s Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher spoke about the problem with extremist Muslims and how, even in America, our religious extremists are nowhere as crazy as those elsewhere in the world who would threaten (or commit) murder over a simple cartoon:

(via Mediaite)

  • Richard Wade

    I love Bill Maher. He speaks truth to lunacy.

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV

    Yes! Finally a post bashing Muslims.

  • Stephanie Johnston


  • Charles

    Fantastic… and the wrap up about what is not negotiable is the sense of it all.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    It’s good to hear that we don’t have crazy Christian extremists who would make death threats over a cartoon. A play, on the other hand, is a totally different matter:

    A Texas university class production of “Corpus Christi,” by Terrence McNally, below, has been canceled by college officials citing “safety and security concerns for the students as well as the need to maintain an orderly academic environment,” The Austin Chronicle reported. “Corpus Christi,” Mr. McNally’s 1998 play depicting a gay Jesus figure, was scheduled to be performed on Saturday. . . university officials changed course late Friday night, canceling the performance after receiving threatening calls and e-mail messages. . .

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    I have to disagree that Fred Phelps is the worst of the religious loons in the US. So far, he’s only using words. What about people who kill abortion doctors?

    Also, your Christian loons may not be as violent as the Muslim loons, but they still have a lot more real power and influence.

  • mikedave

    I disagree, our religios nut are just more restrained by our lsecular aws and customs. Give them a little more power in society and they would be just as bad.

  • Staceyjw

    Our xtian loons are bad (and yes, killing abortion docs is worse than Phelps!), but what one look at any majority muslim country should show that muslims are SO much worse. They are 500 yrs behind the xtians, but they have modern weapons! Even if the worst of the xtians took over, I doubt they would spray women with acid for showing an inch of skin, or gas attack girls schools, like the Taliban. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be terrible, but pretending that muslims aren’t more insane and dangerous is ignoring the facts.

    One example, of MANY:

    Thanks Bill Mahr! At least ONE station isn’t censoring out of weakness and fear.

  • Staceyjw

    And they HATE non-believers!!!

    ….contempt that Islam inculcates for the unbeliever, “the most vile of created beings” (Qur’an 98:6), and the Qur’anic directive to Muslims to be “merciful to one another, but ruthless to the unbelievers (48:29).

  • H89

    What about the fanatical christian wing nuts killing abortion doctors in the U.S.?

  • http://www.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    Yes and no. Death threats have shown up in response to the atheist bus ads, and in response to various atheist articles/op-eds in newspapers. My wife and I have both received them on our blogs from Christians and Mormons. Most of these are probably idiots being idiots, but still…

  • Andrew Morgan

    Any equation between Christian extremism in the US and Muslim extremism is pure lunacy, and anyone claiming they’re remotely similar needs to get their head out of their ass.

  • http://centerforinquiry.net/dc Simon

    How “theirs” is the group that made the threats? They’re based in NYC: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolution_Muslim

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Richard Wade: “I love Bill Maher. He speaks truth to lunacy.”
    Except when he speaks lunacy to truth, as with his ranting about “Western” medicine. And he manages to be far too blithe about the worst that non-Muslim extremists have to offer. Color me unimpressed.

  • cathy

    I don’t think Maher would be so willing to dismiss Christian terrorism if he were not in such a position of privilege. A bunch of Christians getting together, hunting someone down and beating or killing them based on their gender presentation? Happens all the time. Denial of rights and attacks on queer people due to Christianity? Happens every day. Christian white-power groups (including the Klan) citing scripture as their justification? Happens all the time. Doctors being murdered and threatened? Happens all the time. Wars being waged in the name of religioun? Yes, we’ve got one of those going on too. Government support of religious run social services that deny certain groups access? Yes. Death threats over criticism? Yes.

    It is much easier to see the flaws of a culture as an outsider than to notice the fanatic bullshit that you have become habituated to. We also have a cultural image of the (dark skinned) Muslim as some evil bogeyman while we put up with the same shit from white christians and write it off. How many news station decried Tiller’s murder as terrorism? Now, if a Muslim had shot a doctor after being part of an organized group that stalked him and had attempted to kill him before, you can bet your ass that terrorism would be the word on everyone’s lips. “Our culture isn’t different, it’s better” is far more a statement of imperialistic supremacy than it is about actually dealing with the international relgious problems. Muslims are “uncivilized” and “less evolved”, classic racist imperialist buzzwords.

    Also, the assumption that the US is free of violence against and oppression of women, denial of freedom of speech, and has perfect seperation of church as state is ridiculous.

    Maher routinely makes sexist comments himself, but that’s because women’s rights aren’t actually a priority for him, blindly stereotyping brown people to excuse imperialism is.

  • cathy

    Oops, I just realized I used “blindly” in a derogative sense in that comment. Sorry, that was wrong. I’ll say ‘ignorantly stereotyping’ instead.

  • http://ntrygg.wordpress.com/atheistindex/ nina

    that christian extremists shoot and kill doctors, bomb abortion clinics and so forth

    doesn’t make them any more respectable or less extreme than freaking out over cartoons

    which, xtians also freakout over cartoons, teletubbies and other things that they do mindless mass letter campaigns and threaten consumer boycots for products they don’t buy anyway

    and, I don’t see much difference between threatening violence over cartoons

    and raising funds and organizing denying rights or taking them away from gay people

  • http://www.leefleming.com/neurotwitch lee

    Maher is wrong. The group that threatened over the South Park cartoon is home-grown — founded by a guy born in America and raised a Jew. So this is not a case of “their” extremists — it is “our” extremists. And I’m sure there are probably plenty of instances of “our” non-Islamic fundies making threats because they disapprove of what someone or some group is saying, starting with the Puritans in the 17th century.

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV

    Any equation between Christian extremism in the US and Muslim extremism is pure lunacy, and anyone claiming they’re remotely similar needs to get their head out of their ass.

    Agreed. Many liberal atheists equate Christianity with tradition and since they blithely dismiss any traditional concepts as archaic and oppressive, Christianity becomes even more vile than is warranted.

    I wrote about liberalism, Islam, Christianity, and atheism here:

    http://onestdv.blogspot.com/2010/03/problem-of-liberal-atheism.html (125 comments thread for more discussion)


  • Mak

    Thanks, cathy. I honestly still agree with him that Muslim extremism is way more ‘extreme” than the Christian version, but he came off as pretty ignorant in that little rant.

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV

    I just read cathy’s comment carefully, including this tidbit:

    “Our culture isn’t different, it’s better” is far more a statement of imperialistic supremacy than it is about actually dealing with the international relgious problems. Muslims are “uncivilized” and “less evolved”, classic racist imperialist buzzwords.

    but that’s because women’s rights aren’t actually a priority for him, blindly stereotyping brown people to excuse imperialism is.

    In my linked to article above, I wrote the following:

    Further, the overarching liberalism pervading structured atheism affords members of a minority religion, such as Islam, the “protected minority” treatment. Any condemnation of Islam isn’t a result of real-world events or rational discourse, but rather a reflection of bias and intolerance. Thus Islam, a force responsible for this and this, is dismissed as the quaint beliefs of a poor and oppressed minority, like voodoo but with scarves and nifty hats.

    I called that one!

  • trixr4kids

    @Cathy: “…classic racist imperialist buzzwords.”

    Newsflash: “Muslim” denotes a religion, not a race. And Maher did not say that Muslim people are less evolved; he said that radical Islamic culture is worse than ours. It is. Hands down.

    “Also, the assumption that the US is free of violence against and oppression of women, denial of freedom of speech, and has perfect seperation of church as state is ridiculous”

    Nobody made that assumption. Maher did not contend that we all spend our days weaving daisy chains and singing Kumbaya. The point is that we have codified freedom of speech, separation of church and state, and equal opportunity into law. Compare and contrast with radical Islam, dear.

  • Chal

    Dunno why people bother replying to Cathy. S/he’s obviously a troll…

  • http://centerforinquiry.net/dc Simon

    Maher’s rant is utterly nationalistic and oversimplified. With the exception of separation of church and state, this is a speech that George W. Bush would happily have given.

    My biggest issue is this “us vs them” mentality. Who are “we” and who are “they”?

    He just does a terrible job of explaining who the target of his rant is. “Radical islam” means different things to different people. He should name names if he doesn’t want to lead to misunderstandings.

    It’s the same danger that people run when they start talking about “banksters” or “international bankers” without specifying. There are some pretty nutty anti-semitic right-wingers who associate “jewish” with these terms and these are not people you want to galvanize.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Even if the worst of the xtians took over, I doubt they would spray women with acid for showing an inch of skin, or gas attack girls schools, like the Taliban.

    Maybe not acid in particular, but they’re hardly any less barbaric.

    Epitomizing the Reconstructionist idea of Biblical “warfare” is the centrality of capital punishment under Biblical Law. Doctrinal leaders (notably Rushdoony, North, and Bahnsen) call for the death penalty for a wide range of crimes in addition to such contemporary capital crimes as rape, kidnapping, and murder. Death is also the punishment for apostasy (abandonment of the faith), heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, “sodomy or homosexuality,” incest, striking a parent, incorrigible juvenile delinquency, and, in the case of women, “unchastity before marriage.”

    According to Gary North, women who have abortions should be publicly executed, “along with those who advised them to abort their children.” Rushdoony concludes: “God’s government prevails, and His alternatives are clear-cut: either men and nations obey His laws, or God invokes the death penalty against them.” Reconstructionists insist that “the death penalty is the maximum, not necessarily the mandatory penalty.” However, such judgments may depend less on Biblical Principles than on which faction gains power in the theocratic republic. The potential for bloodthirsty episodes on the order of the Salem witchcraft trials or the Spanish Inquisition is inadvertently revealed by Reconstructionist theologian Rev. Ray Sutton, who claims that the Reconstructed Biblical theocracies would be “happy” places, to which people would flock because “capital punishment is one of the best evangelistic tools of a society.”

    The Biblically approved methods of execution include burning (at the stake for example), stoning, hanging, and “the sword.” Gary North, the self-described economist of Reconstructionism, prefers stoning because, among other things, stones are cheap, plentiful, and convenient. Punishments for non-capital crimes generally involve whipping, restitution in the form of indentured servitude, or slavery. Prisons would likely be only temporary holding tanks, prior to imposition of the actual sentence.


    These Christian extremists are no better than the Taliban. They just don’t have the power (yet) to do what they want.

  • muggle

    I think he’s wrong too.

    The main difference here is the fundamental Christians (fundamental, not moderate) are not in power, plain and simple. If they were, they’d be just as bad. Read “The Family” and these guys are affecting our laws and our lives.

    Google Dominists if you don’t believe they’re not just as bad. Then spare a thought for Mathew Shepherd and Dr. Tiller and Oklahoma City.

    Bill Mahar is making that classic mistake of worrying about snakes in the garden when we’ve got spiders in our bed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amandajeantetz Amanda Tetz

    I haven’t had the time to read through all the comments, but to anyone who says our religious crazies are just as bad as Muslim crazies: you can’t be serious… The fundies that kill abortion doctors PALE in comparison to Islamic extremists!
    At least the Christian extremists killing abortion doctors aren’t going after large numbers of innocent people and children. and Christian extremists aren’t going around killing abortion doctors simply because they aren’t Christian. But an Islamic extremist absolutely would kill a non-believer for being an infidel.
    I’m not trying to justify killing doctors, but you have to recognize the difference between the fundamentalists here and the fundamentalists there…

  • cathy

    @OneSTDV “Any condemnation of Islam isn’t a result of real-world events or rational discourse,” Not any condemnation, however, this one is not based on real world events or rational reasoning. First of all, it creates a false ‘us vs them’ when the group that made these threats was a domestic group comprised on American citizens. He also mentions the Taliban, a group halfway around the world, and makes the presumption that all Muslim nations are the same as the Taliban and that Muslims are the sole woman haters (‘most muslims want to be left alone to opress their women in peace). It is definitely relevant that Maher stereotypes a group of people, who are mostly viewed as brown foreigners (to the point of turning a group of americans into the ‘them’ or not US terrorism). It is also relevant that Maher casually dismisses the same behaviors coming from the people coded as white americans, and even engages in some of them himself. There is a difference between criticizing Islam and being a racist imperialist and Maher is the latter. There is also a difference between criticizing Judaism and joining a neo-nazi group. A person behaving rationally and decently criticizes power structures, they do not stereotype the group they attack as being uniquely violent, brown, foreigners in need of educating by one’s superior culture.

  • cathy

    Sorry to post again so soon, but I just found out that Siviku has a great post that shows how criticims of Islam can be non-racist, non-imperialist, non-sexist, and can invoke solidarity rather than ‘us vs them’ mentality http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/international-women%E2%80%99s-day-iran-and-global-struggle-women%E2%80%99s-liberation

    This is what doing it right looks like.

  • Pseudonym

    Are there really roving bands of Christian extremists who kill abortion doctors? I always thought that it was lone nutters.

    The deaths of doctors who perform abortions, while tragic, is almost statistical noise when taken as a proportion of all firearm-related deaths in the United States.

    If you had a decent public health system which took mental illness seriously and tighter gun laws (unrealistic as that may be), I wager that killings of abortion doctors would disappear almost completely.

  • 3D

    There’s a big mistake being made here by Maher and by the people agreeing with him in the comments. There is a difference between Christian extremists and Islamic extremists, but it is not that Christian extremists are “less wacko”. They’re equally wacko, and just as violent as Islamic extremists are.

    The difference between the two is that we have managed to forge better laws in the Western world that do a good job of separating the church and the state, and deterring violence and terrorism. So our wackos, of all sects, are marginalized and largely ineffective. Whereas the Islamic extremists actually run many of the governments in the Islamic world, and have more of a megaphone to mobilize and manipulate people into doing their will.

    Don’t downplay the wacko-ness of the Christian faith. Just because we’ve successfully deterred their efforts at mayhem, doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous or crazy.

    Imagine a US with a religious Constitution based on the Old Testament, in which the President was Fred Phelps, and then try to tell me that we wouldn’t have Christians running around doing the same things Muslim extremists do. The only reason they don’t is because they can’t.

  • trixr4kids

    3D, nobody is saying that Xtian extremists aren’t wacko, too. Maher was clearly talking about culture and society based on radical Islam, and saying our culture, our society, is better.

    @Muggle said: “The main difference here is the fundamental Christians (fundamental, not moderate) are not in power, plain and simple”

    You’re right; but the point is that they’re not in power, and THEY CAN’T EVER COME TO POWER HERE WITHOUT OVERTURNING THE CONSTITUTION.

    I strongly suggest all of you read the moving responses Jen McCreight got to Boobquake from women and men in the Islamic world:


  • Lost Left Coaster

    Bill Maher is so brave for courageously taking the stand that “our culture…is better!” Good for him! What a unique American!

    While nearly 3,000 Americans were brutally murdered on 9/11 at the hands of religious extremists, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died at the hands of the American invasion of their country. But surely the Iraqi people must be convinced of the superiority of the American people to the Islamic religious extremists? Because, after all, we killed all of them for the right reasons!

    Sarcasm aside, it is stupid to play this ranking game. Religious extremism is a horrific problem in our world today. It played a huge role in the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks of the last decade, and I would assert that it played a role in the invasion of Iraq too, because President Bush was able to rally the Christian supremacists to make that war happen.

    The reason this kind of conversation rankles me is that it is always disturbing when Americans can suddenly just forget about our invasion of Iraq, one of the greatest international crimes in recent history, when discussing who is truly evil in this world. I mean, people try to point to widespread Palestinian support of terrorist attacks against Israel as evidence that there is something fundamentally messed up about their culture, but what about the widespread support in the United States for the invasion of Iraq?

    American exceptionalism makes me sick. As soon as you start crowing “we’re so much better than them!” you put on a blindfold that checks critical thinking about your own country. Can’t we take a stand against all religious extremism and all violence, whether it comes from Muslims, Christians, fanatics from Saudi Arabia or fanatics from the USA?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    @lost left coaster,

    To take it to the next level, what about the morality of the God (that is worshiped by so many) that supposedly sends the vast majority of those who die to an ever-lasting torture chamber. Kind of makes unwarranted invasions and a couple of plane crashes seem insignificant in comparison.

    Assume (to one significant figure) that there have been 100 billion people existing in the world and God supposedly has sent 80% of them to hell for not believing the right supernatural stories. That is 80 billion suffering in eternal agony. And then the worshipers call this god the ultimate definition of good…

  • CS Shelton

    This thread shows a schism in the atheist community, but the atheists really are only united by courage to face reality, so we’re a pretty diverse bunch.

    I just finished watching all Pat Condell’s videos on youtube ( http://www.youtube.com/user/patcondell#p/u ) and the back and forth between my liberal conscience and his anti-Islam rampage was pretty much the same experience as reading these comments.

    I really am dead in the middle on this issue. I honestly and unrepentantly do think the Enlightenment ideals enshrined in the Bill of Rights are ethically superior to any religion in the world – that they are universal values derived from Reason that transcend culture and are more important than this or any country.

    But the anti-Islam lobby – especially the anti-mosque contingent in Europe – trouble me. If those European countries had establishment clauses like our constitution, this would be a non-issue, because there would be no legal room for radical Islamist lobbies to threaten the law of the land. If we could get the American godhumpers the hell off our establishment clause, we could rally united behind it as the shining beacon to the rest of the world it should be. But the USA has squandered any right to moral high ground in so many ways…

    I just don’t like rubbing elbows with racists. As much as the Pat Condells of the world cry that they aren’t, the kind of thinking where you pin a whole community with the failings of its worst members is honey to those scumbags.

  • 3D

    “3D, nobody is saying that Xtian extremists aren’t wacko, too. Maher was clearly talking about culture and society based on radical Islam, and saying our culture, our society, is better.”

    I don’t think he was “clearly” saying that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1357724115 Dennis Lurvey

    well let’s see: an organization of christians with hundreds of members picketing clinics daily because they don’t share their beliefs, making life horrible for women in trouble to make the most horrible choice (but its their choice) and completely legal by the way, christians boldly bringing their religious icons, crosses, statues and installing them in public parks like they owned them, whole states making religious laws about creation in schools knowing it is illegal and has been for years, teachers sneaking bibles into schools to teach honesty. This is much better than 150 yrs ago when christians were still hanging catholics in Kentucky. This isnt murder, although it happens, but the impact on kids and communities will take years to sort out. Christianity is a religion that has been enjoying a privilege in this country for 400 years and that is changing. Part of the muslim belief is dont listen to outsiders, so they’ll be doing honor killings in Detroit until the earth explodes.

  • pro-family

    Dennis: God COMES BEFORE the laws of the land and I will disobey any and all anti-Christian laws. If the government don’t like that they can send me to jail, but they cannot punish me for eternity like God, so I don’t care.
    For me, what’s “legal” is irrelevant because if a law does not obey GOD’s natural law it may as well not exist. Is that a right-wing bigot’s view? No, haha. It’s the words of MLK in his Letter from Birmingham Jail!

    So trying to persuade women not to murder the unborn (and it IS murder and always will be because GOD says so) is doing right, and it’s not about “our” beliefs and whether you “share” them- which is totally irrelevant- but about God’s Truth, which applies to EVERYONE whether they even believe in Him or not because He is the Supreme Being, and unborn children.

    And I don’t have to change my beliefs just because “society” changes. I have the absolute right to reject mainstream social-norm views and hold full on Christian conservative views instead, WITHOUT breaking any laws, because government only criminalise actions. They do not ban beliefs or speech. At least not in democratic nations.

  • pro-family

    In Europe, the law of the land already DOES totally ban (and rightly so) wife-beating, female circumcision, marrying children, bombing, stoning people, conspiring with jihad groups, anti-semitic vandalism and harassment, polygamy etc. So radical Islamists are banned from pursuing their radical activities without any need for a different Constitution. And btw, many EU nations do indeed have separation of church and state in some form in their constitutions.

    It is not a matter of “Establishment Clause”. It is a matter of criminal law. Those activities would remain totally illegal in the US if the Establishment Clause was wiped out this minute. They are not banned because they establish a state religion but because they harm other people.

    As for those who are worried about extreme Muslims becoming a majority, laws passed now based on Western democratic values could easily be disregarded once such a thing happened, so it would be unlikely to quell their fears. If Islamists became the majority in the Armed Forces they could just overthrow the government by coup d’etat and reject all Supreme Court rulings anyway- a piece of paper wouldn’t be enough to stop them. Same principle in Europe.

  • pro-family

    You moral equivalentists are enemies of God AND your country. You haven’t “successfully” “deterred” anything because the idea that Christians are crazed blood-hungry monsters and it takes the law of the land, rather than God’s law and His Spirit, to “deter” them from going on a Clockwork Orange style ultraviolence rampage is absolute BS.

    Take your average fundie Christian. Works in a mining town in the smoky mountains of Appalachia. 10 children, two married at 20 and 18 and the other eight in a private ACE school learning creationism; they get spanked for misbehaving, but not to the point of bruising, and a submissive modestly dressed wife at home (who he loves dearly and doesn’t beat for “rebellion” or consider his property.) Goes Wednesday night, Sunday morning and Sunday night to a small independent Baptist church which preaches against booze, Hollywood, “Papist” Catholics and pants on women, helps out one night a week at a local nursing home, tithes 10%, goes hunting and fishing- utterly pro-gun, yet a responsible gun owner. He doesn’t personally fancy being around blacks or “illegals” much but is happy to keep to himself in his little Wonderbread-white village and harbours no hatred in his heart for minorities. He believes strongly in executing murderers, but that the Old Testament stoning laws passed away with the Cross, and Christ’s blood shed for him and other sinners gives them the Blessed Hope. He takes turns with other church members to picket a clinic sidewalk in town one day of every month, handing out Chick tracts and antiabortion materials- but wouldn’t dream of hurting the people in there.

    Now what’s stopping our fully fundified father from becoming a monstrous mangled massacre Manson? “Successful” anti-terrorism laws? The Establishment Clause? NO! NO! His conscience and faith in the Bible.

    The idea that Christians “can’t” kill people is preposterous. They choose not to. A few Christians do choose to kill people, like Eric Rudolph. But even fundamentalist Christianity teaches “thou shalt not kill” (unless one is acting in self-defense, a just war or legally authorised capital punishment, or performing an abortion to save the mother’s life) while fundamentalist Islam teaches violence against unbelievers.

    There are millions of armed Christians in America- if they wanted to, they could set up much more effective terror cells than most anything in the ME, as they are far less closely scrutinised and would be able to count on support from many hardline Christian cops who would go corrupt. The only reason that every gay bar in the US, for example, hasn’t been shot or bombed out of existence is that Christian fundamentalists believe it is WRONG to do such things.

    And Fred Phelps is not representative of extremist Christianity. There are many millions of extreme Christians in the US. His church is entirely on its own and composed mainly of his extended family. Phelps would be assassinated very quickly if he became POTUS.