Why Don’t More Atheists Speak Out Against Islamophobia?

Chris Stedman raises some excellent points about how atheists with large forums (via books and blogs) have done relatively little to speak up on behalf of Muslims in our country.

He’s not saying we should stop criticizing their false beliefs — Stedman has no big problem with that.

But when a shooting occurs at a Sikh temple or Muslims aren’t allowed to build mosques in the same way Christians build churches, why does it seems like we’re nowhere to be found?

… As the Sikh community reeled from the tragedy in Oak Creek and prominent figures from a plethora of religious communities reached out to express their solidarity and sympathy, I was surprised that I didn’t see more notable atheists speak up. Browsing some of the most trafficked atheist blogs I saw that they posted little or nothing about the shooting — until Pat Robertson blamed atheists for the tragedy, an accusation that a sizable majority of atheist websites then addressed.

We can disagree about the veracity of religious claims, but I worry that these disagreements lead some atheists away from defending religious individuals against injustice (and, to be sure, many religious individuals and communities likewise neglect to extend their support to atheists in need). But if the atheist community doesn’t speak loudly against Islamophobia now, when will it?

If too many are only willing to stand up against hate directed at ourselves and other members of our community, then we are not truly against hate or for social justice — we are merely for ourselves and for our community. Social justice cannot mean in-group tribalism, or it’s not justice at all.

Muslims and Sikhs, like atheists, are minorities in this country. We face many of the same struggles regarding getting treated with respect and fighting for equal rights in schools and in the law. When they’re in trouble, we need to do a better job of coming to their aid.

Stedman calls out a lot of Freethought Bloggers, Sam Harris, American Atheists, and others for fueling the fire against Muslims. He doesn’t mention me, but he might as well have, since (looking through my history) very few of my posts have supported them in their times of need. But that’s something I can improve on.

We ask all the time why religious groups don’t openly support us when we fight church/state separation battles, but that’s no excuse not to do the same for them when their rights (or lives) are threatened by others.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

    I would imagine that a lot of people would respond that fighting against anti-Muslim discrimination is not part of the definition of atheism and therefore not something that atheists in particular should be expected to do.

    • Coyotenose

      Oooh, Sexist Apologist Burn!  Nicely done.

    • Noel Ang

      Indeed, an event with a dramatic religious context does not elevate its importance to me. It is curious that, apparently, some atheists think it should. But murder is murder, hate crime is hate crime. We have objective laws and law enforcement agencies to handle that.

      There are far more important, long-range liberty issues that deserve my personal focus. Perhaps we should ask the Sikh community to speak out against Muslim discrimination.

      • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

         It’s not at all curious when you consider that atheists in the U.S. have a vested interest in promoting the idea that people should not be persecuted for not following the majority religion. And that’s not even getting into the question of whether we should be interested in social justice generally (lack-of-God forbid).

  • 00001000_bit

    Wait, is this one of the articles that says we don’t stand up for Muslims, or one of the ones that accuse us of being soft on Islam? I lose count.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=35702181 Christopher Check

      I suppose in some way that’s why atheists think they don’t need to stick up for Muslims as much; they don’t receive the majority of our criticism.

      But, like the article points out, we can (and should) be equally critical of the stupidity in Islam while still acknowledging that Muslims have the same rights as other groups when it comes to things like zoning laws and protection from hate crimes.

  • dearestlouise

    I don’t have a blog nor a following of any sort, but I do talk about it on Twitter and FB because my state, Tennessee, is growing very hostile towards Muslims. I get tired of the Christians here screaming about religious freedom and the Republicans going on about the constitution while they rally to try to stop a Mosque from being built in Middle Tennessee on baseless accusations of it being tied to terrorism. 

    Now people are all upset over the fact Governor Haslam hired a highly-qualified Muslim woman, who grew up in Tennessee and attended Vanderbilt, for a government position. It took all of 2 seconds for his used-to-be supports to turn on him and start making claims of pushing an Islamic agenda.

    Haslam is a conservative and an Evangelical Presbyterian who has catered to the conservatives, but that isn’t enough for the far-right in Tennessee anymore. 

    • nakedanthropologist

      I live in Tennessee too!  And there’s definitely a whole big heeping pile of Christian priveledge with a nice large dollop of hostility to other religions – especially Islam.  Its very pervasive in the culture here.

  • http://twitter.com/Crommunist Crommunist

    It’s a bit frustrating to see FTB called out for NOT talking about it, whilst simultaneously completely ignoring those of us who DID talk about it. And considering the fact that Ophelia Benson and Maryam Namazie, prominent FTBers both, regularly discuss the phenomenon of Islamophobia, it moves from frustrating to baffling.

    • Pseudonym

      I feel for you, I really do. Religious liberals have to put up with this crap all the fracking time.

      Just you wait until some random moron accuses you of “providing cover for” Islamophobia.

  • cathouseumbrella

    In my experience a lot of atheists DO speak out against Islamophobia and other attacks against minority religions groups. That’s why we’re forever being accused of “only attacking Christians”.

    • Alex

      I’m afraid that we are “only attacking Christians” because we attack Christians — or Christianity. Muslims, after all, deserve it, and, in the eyes of the accusers, we don’t attack them enough, no matter how much we do denounce Islam.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      I agree. It’s always been my impression that atheists are quick to jump to the defense of religious minorities, including Muslims, when they face persecution from the majority.

  • Justin Miyundees

    A phobia is an irrational fear.  9/11 was a very real event as have been so many suicide bombings since.  

    As long as martyrdom is promoted as a way to eternal bliss, I don’t see the religion gaining any moral ground.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s grounds for declaring moral bankruptcy straight out of the chute.  It’s just dangerous and deserves criticism of the most deliberate kind – it’s right up there with child rape but, as part & parcel of the twisted doctrine that spawned the insane notion, has it’s own unique perverted dynamic.  Any poor desperate soul can supposedly gain an instant pass for himself AND HIS FAMILY to heaven if they perpetrate a vicious fatal attack upon a group of “infidels”.  That’s some twisted shit.

    • Justin Miyundees

      grammar correction:  “….if he or she perpetrates….”

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      OK, but that’s not ALL Islam (I have a Muslim brother-in-law from Turkey, one of the most liberal Muslim countries you’ve ever seen), nor does it excuse attempts to block mosques from being built, anti-Muslim violence (which ends up being anti-brown-person violence at times), and punishing all Muslims for the transgressions of a few.

      • Justin Miyundees

        It is predominant philosophy that is not refuted even by moderates.

        • Pseudonym

          That is nonsense, and it defies both evidence and reason.

          First off, it is predominant Islamic philosophy that civilians (at least, those not convicted of an appropriately serious crime) are not to be killed under any circumstances. It’s laid out as explicitly as it can be in the Quran.

          The minority position is repeatedly refuted by moderates, in much the same way that violence against minority groups is repeatedly condemned by atheists. Unfortunately, people saying sensible and rational things don’t make the headlines.

          Secondly, you are far more likely to be killed by an Islamist terrorist if you’re a Muslim than if you’re a non-Muslim.
          Islamist terrorists kill Muslims more than non-Muslims. One study put the ratio for Al Qaeda alone at about eight to one.

          You might not have known that, but believe me, the Muslims of the world know it. Just like Christian fundamentalists, Islamic fundamentalists don’t think that most Muslims are really Muslim.

          If you really want to know about the history of fundamentalist Islamist thinking, you might like to start with the documentary The Power of Nightmares. It’s a bit polemic, but very well-researched, and especially notes the remarkable similarities between Islamist fundamentalism and neoconservativism.

          • Justin Miyundees

            Okay – thanks for the reference, I’ll look into it.  I will argue, however, against the “No True Scotsman” defense.  

            The texts are there and receive interpretations by “the faithful” that lead to the violence and mayhem.  If fear of Islam is so misplaced and ill-deserved, where is the Hinduphobia?  Where is the Jainophobia?  It doesn’t exist because the written code of these religions make no promise of eternal bliss for martyrs who kill infidels  - as open to misinterpretation as this may be, some are taking it to mean “kill the infidels, go to heaven”.  

            So, it is there – jihad is there and, it’s at least as morally corrupt, and as irretrievably so, as the Christian doctrine of vicarious redemption or stoning of blasphemers, but more present.  

            These bad ideas are based on magical stone-aged thinking and fear of death, but Islam is unique and far more worthy of precaution than Jainism will ever be.Also, because more Muslims die in suicide bombings hardly makes it more palatable.  

            • Pseudonym

              FWIW, to argue that there is plenty of evidence that most Scotsmen don’t put sugar on their porridge is not a “No True Scotsman” argument.

              • Justin Miyundees

                Scotsman do not have a book that says they will go to heaven if they sweeten their porridge.  You’re saying that “no true Muslim endorses THAT sort of martyrdom.”

                Jihad aside, the penalty for apostasy, if you want to talk about the danger to Muslims themselves, is death.  It’s danced around and seldom applied, but it, like Christian implausibles regarding slavery and blasphemy and promiscuity, is there and though it may sit unattended or and unapplied, it sits like a dormant virus.  However farfetched recrudescence may seem (not so far fetched that one couldn’t probably find a headline within any given fortnight of 2012), it’s an insane idea spawned from delusions of the flying horse calibre and it’s just frigging crazy.  Even if it’s less likely than a shark attack in an oak tree and it’s manifestations (being more likely – if recent history is any guide – than shark attacks in oak trees) are felt in the form of shrapnel and I’d just as soon not endure that.  When Bhuddists start lopping off the heads of journalists, I’ll adjust my position on Bhuddists.

                • Pseudonym

                  You’re saying that “no true Muslim endorses THAT sort of martyrdom.”

                  That is not what I said. What I said was “most Muslims do not endorse THAT sort of martyrdom”, because that is what the evidence says.

                  I have no opinion on what constitutes a “true Muslim”. The argument over who is “in” and who is “out”… I leave that to fundamentalists.

          • Justin Miyundees

            Oh – and I’m also afraid of neocons.

          • Justin Miyundees

            Enjoying the documentary you suggested – don’t have time for the whole thing, but thanks – I’ll get to it all eventually.  I would caution, however, that the “don’t fall for the black and white depiction of good and evil” applies here too.  Just because they’re not all out to get us doesn’t mean the doctrine deserves deference.  

            Islam, like all mythology, is lacking in foundation and seeks to capitalize on man’s innate fear of death.  That alone is enough to dismiss it, but the bombings are real and dangerous and awful.  

            And capitalizing on fear is the main indictment of the documentary – or do I misunderstand?  So politicians are dipping into that well again – while the subtleties may be enlightening and provoking, overall this is not a new idea just ask any pope ever.Thanks again.

    • RobMcCune

      And because a handful of people believe that, millions of Americans should not have the right to build places of worship, should be singled out for increased scrutiny at the airport, and endure bigotry?

      • Justin Miyundees

        It is not a handful.  It is the majority.  This is any muslim’s trump card into heaven like any Christian’s is “accepting Jesus”.

        • Pseudonym

          The majority do not believe that suicide-by-proxy is martyrdom.

          • Justin Miyundees

            Perhaps not overtly, but apologists do not disown it outright.  Jihad is a part of the faith and, as most faiths are custom fit to the user, can lead to mayhem.  It has led to mayhem and in the not so distant past, as you may observe.  

            The Spanish Inquisition and Salem Witch Trials are not favored by Christians either, but given the go ahead, this hogwash can spur people, make no mistake, to ugliness that we’ve yet to imagine.  It all needs to go.

    • Coyotenose

       It’s a phobia because those who express it use it as a basis to irrationally attack anyone or anything remotely perceived as being Muslimy.

      It’s a phobia because it is irrational to spend so much effort fearing nebulous Muslim terrorists that are almost nonexistent in the U.S. when almost all terrorist attacks and planned attacks in the country are orchestrated by White Christian fundamentalists… who, incidentally, also believe they are dying for God and will be rewarded.

      • Justin Miyundees

        Two examples of moral corruptness does not excuse a third.  The belief that martyrdom is a clear path to eternal bliss is predominant  even among “moderates”.  I’m sorry, but I will cross the street if I have a choice – this makes me wary, not bigoted.

        • amycas

           No, it really does make you bigoted. A racist person would say the same thing about black people or hispanics. And, exactly how do you know who is Muslim and who is not? I’ve met white Muslims as well as Arab Muslims. I’ve also met plenty of Muslim women who don’t wear any head coverings. Of all the Muslims I’ve met, none of them have ever supported any acts of terrorism from Muslim extremists.

  • Blacksheep

    “We ask all the time why religious groups don’t openly support us when we fight church/state separation battles…”
    I think sometimes it may be that the nature of the battles feels less like a desire for separation of church and state and more like trying to tear down traditions that are a part of the lives of a community, such as the recent story about suing to tear down a 100 year old military memorial because it’s a cross. To Christians, a monument like that does not feel like the government is “making a law respecting an establishment of religion”, so when atheists sue to have things like that removed it comes across as vengeful. 

    Also, when does a public religious structure cross over from being illegal to being art / antiquity / etc? When the Taliban destryed centuries-old Buddhas in Afghanistan, everyone was outraged, not just Buddhists. But what they did is exactly what Atheist groups sometimes try to do with Christian symbols.

    If a teacher were teaching kids about Christianity with the goal to convert them, most Christians would agree that that goes against the spirit of the law. But when you mix in battles that really do feel mean-spirited,  it sets the tone for mutual intolerance.

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      Wow. Destroying historical artifacts in a violent attack is NOT the same as removing an illegal Christian image from the symbol of a government entity. Not at all.

      • Blacksheep

        Of course, those guys are a bit crazy and violent. But the anger was not about the violent nature, the anger was because of the destruction of ancient artifacts. I was asking at what point does something shift from being disposable to a national treasure – is it 100 years? 300? 1000?

        In the end though, I think the sentiment and goal is the same: to rid the state of things that the state considers illegal. 

        • Alex

          Don’t destroy it. Sell it, auction it off, find ways to deal with this stuff without having government promoting a religion. Soviet Union did blow up a lot of churches, but even they found ways to preserve some of them: turned them into museums. The point here is that when another monstrosity like that comes up on public land, there are a lot of rebuttals to the tune of “have you looked at our money and the Pledge of allegiance lately?” But when we do go after the precedent, then “oh, it’s been here forever, why bother now?” Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  • ganner918

    I may not have a platform like a blog or podcast to publish my opinions, but I am always vocally supportive of Muslims and other religious minorities when their rights are infringed. Living in Kentucky, there’s plenty of anti-Muslim sentiment here and in nearby Tennessee. I can’t do anything but talk to my friends, put it on FB/Twitter, and make my views known to my representatives, but while I criticize Islam, especially when it is manifests in harmful ways, I’m always supportive of people’s rights to worship how they please and be free from fear of harm.

  • http://www.facebook.com/seth.strong Seth Strong

    I’ve been upgrading the status of being a pro-mosque atheist in the U.S. because I ran into Muslim friends.  It sounds silly, but once you see how continuous anti-Muslim sentiment is, you realize as an atheist that Muslim Americans and non believer Americans have tons in common.  On top of that, we both realize that the most extreme Muslim you can find is comparable with an equally extreme Christian.  And I mean that argument to specifically drive home that radical Muslims aren’t bringing something new to the U.S. that isn’t already discussing the use of sniper rifles to prevent abortions.  Also, I’m clear on the reality that most of the Muslim Americans and Christian nutjob Americans are actually decent people with a few weird views.  I tell ‘em “join the club.”  Welcome to America.  We’re all about diverse nuts.

    • iabanon

      I’ve never seen a christian protest through city streets calling for beheadings of those who insult them. or do i just live in an idyllic country? (no not america)

  • Octoberfurst

     While I think that much of Islam is silly and oppressive–like I do all other religions– I stand by the right of people to worship as they please. If Muslims want to build a mosque or a religious center that is fine with me.
       I do find it a bit disconcerting that there are atheists out who are jumping on the anti-Muslim bandwagon and aligning themselves with right-wing Christians when it comes to religious freedom for Muslims. I am talking about people like atheist YouTuber Pat Cordell who rants against  Muslims and says that we should stop Muslim immigration and that we should forbid any mosques from being built. He seems to believe that ALL Muslims are terrorists. I was also very disappointed with the late Christopher Hitchens in his support for wars in Muslim lands.
      We can and should criticize the tenets of Islam. But at the same time we must respect the rights of Muslims to worship as they please and not to demonize them.  

  • noyourgod

    christianists seem to think we atheists are in cahoots with them muslims…

    Anyways, I was just as adamant about the brouhaha of the “Ground Zero Mosque” being wrong as I was about any other shot against believers over the past few years.

    My guess?  The writers are reading about atheists fighting against christianists trying to force their beliefs onto EVERYBODY, while atheists have tended to fight more for muslims *against* christianists over such things as  the “Ground Zero Mosque”.

    I highly doubt you will find more than a handful of atheists who will make a comment complimentary of islamists, or who do not condemn islamists for the damage they do.  And for that handful, I can only hope that the local psychiatric ward has openings.

  • ortcutt

    Because most of us live in civilized places where religious morons don’t try to keep people from worshiping as they like.   I live in Boston and our politicians here seem to have some basic familiarity with the First Amendment.  I’m sorry that can’t be said about other parts of the country.

    • RebeccaSparks

      At the same time, where I live I don’t really live in an area where crosses are put on public property and people don’t pray at government and school functions.  However, both of these are relevant to the interests of this blog, and I imagine that persecution that people get because they practice the wrong religion is also relevant.

  • Marco

    While I am personally against bigotry directed at muslims, I am not so sure that atheist bloggers should feel compelled to fight the muslim’s battles. 
    When is the last time any muslim has taken the side of an atheist or an atheist cause?

    I am not against pointing out hypocrisy in the christian fundamentalists when they go on a crusade against muslims building a mosque but that we should feel like they are brother in arms and go to bat for them seems to me excessive.

    After all, your average muslim wouldn’t piss on any of us if we were on fire. The majority of non US muslims have a mandate to kill us (or at least kill those of us born in their faith).

    I sympathize with their minority status and my heart bleeds when I read of injustices committed against them just for who they are, but it’s not like they lack resources. 
    Factor also the fact that in my opinion their religion is a cancer on society and world politics and I really don’t see why I or any atheist should really invest too much time lending a hand.

    Should we find ourself with a common goal, I am all for it, but unless the perpetrator of the injustice is an atheist, after I commiserate I am going to leave them be to tend their own.

    • Vision_From_Afar

       And that kind of mentality is why the Christians were able to take over the Roman empire. All the different pagan sects had that same, “Not really my problem” attitude, and by the time the Christians had enough power to outlaw any temples/worship not their own (~380 CE), there wasn’t enough non-Christians left to push back.
      Regardless of their views of you, and regardless of your views on their religion, if law-abiding Muslims are being oppressed under unfair/unConstitutional laws and/or practices, as a fellow American and human being, why should you feel compelled to leave them to their fate?
      We (non-Christians) are all in this together until a true pluralistic society can emerge from this unbalanced Land of Christian Privilege we all live in.

      • newavocation

        Maybe you need to define law-abiding, does it include justice for women? Can a true pluralistic society work without justice and personnel freedoms and the responsibilities that go with it?

        • amycas

           Using your rationale, pentecostal christians are also not law-abiding.

          • Fematheunicorn

            And I’m sure he wouldn’t support going out of your way to help a Pentecostal Church… congratulations for missing the point in your effort to break down his argument in a one-liner.

        • Vision_From_Afar

           If by “justice for women”, you mean forcibly revoking their right to cover themselves as much as they wish due to religious upbringing, than no, because oddly enough, that’s unConstitutional.
          If they are being coerced or abused, we already have laws covering that, so then they are not “law-abiding”. I have zero need to define this situation, and the fact that you appear to be splitting hairs here proves you’re not out to meet them in agreement but rather dictate terms on what they can and cannot do. Funny how much that sounds like a group we’re all intimately familiar with…

  • vexorian

    On one hand, yes really call out islamophobia.

    On the other hand. I think these days are the time in which what we need to do is organize world wide burning of qu’ran pages in protest. Am I saying something that sounds wrong? Well, consider this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/30/pakistan-blasphemy-case-muslims-law?INTCMP=SRCH
     
    So, yeah let those muslims build mosques like the Christians build churches, but please let’s begin blaspheming and burning books more. The world needs us.

    • Pseudonym

      I agree that blasphemy laws are an abomination which must be done away with. But I can’t condone burning books.

      “Goose-stepping morons like yourself should try reading books instead of burning them.” — Prof. Henry Jones

      • vexorian

        We are not talking about burning books per se. (Duh). It is a book with zillions of prints and we would obviously not be getting rid of them all as that is hardly the intention.

        Instead, since it is about blasphemy laws, I was about to propose, simply printing qu’ram passages and burning them.

        • Walker Bristol

          There were zero Qurans in my hometown library. If you went and started burning passages from it to make a statement to all the Muslims (there might have been two) in Wilmington, NC you’d have been limited the ability for low income people who can’t afford computers or books to educate themselves about world cultures.

          Your idea is bad and you should feel bad

          • vexorian

            You are basically supporting a bunch of idiots who want to jail a little girl for *thinking* that she was burning the qu’ram. Maybe you are the one who should feel bad.

            And the message is not to all the Muslims, just to the idiots at that place (duh.)

            I stand by my claim. Feel free to defend Islamophobia, but we  also need more blasphemy against these idiots. A lot more.

    • Walker Bristol

      How on earth did your fingers type “let’s be burning books more” without your brain going “whoa how did I let that happen time for the delete button sorry guys”?

      • vexorian

        Burning book(s) more? No, we need to burn the qu’ram more. Simply to teach these bullies that jailing a little girl with possible learning deficiencies is not going to stop other people from doing stuff that offends them.

  • Joe Geiger

    My Dad and my brothers are 100% convinced that I am an Islamic Sympathizer.  The “Persecution Complex” is strong with them; they are able to ignore, actually, agree with me every time I criticize Islam; one minor criticism of Christianity and I am evil incarnate.  Morton’s Demon is working triple-time with them — as I am sure he is with virtually all theists.   

  • LesterBallard

    Could someone direct me to some links to stories of the good Muslims criticizing the incident in Afghanistan where the seventeen people were decapitated for singing and dancing in mixed company? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1680065139 Casey Rochefort

    As president of the Science and Skepticism club at Tacoma Community College I hosted a Q&A panel that featured a Muslim speaker along with a Protestant Lutheran, a Messianic Jew, and an atheist to promote tolerance.  It does happen.

  • Pluto Animus

    A phobia is an irrational fear, not a rational one.
    What is the rational response to 9/11?

    • Pseudonym

      The rational response is informing yourself the context in which Sayyid Qutb and his followers rose to prominence in the mid-20th century, the meddling of superpowers in the Middle East during the Cold War, and the marginalisation of Muslim communities in the West. We then use this information to develop sound, evidence-based public policy which provides real security instead of theatre, and bring the mainstream Muslim community onside to help ensure that vulnerable, disaffected young people not enter a life of crime.

      Why, what did you think the answer was?

      • amycas

         more irrational fear, of course…

        • Pluto Animus

          I see: If members of a group kill 3,000 people in one day, the rational response is trust in members of that group, not fear.

          Riiiiiiiiight.

      • Pluto Animus

        Fear is the irrational response, I see.

        Let’s apply that domestically!

        One could argue that most Ku Klux Klan members merely paid their dues and attended barbecues, never participating in violence.

        That means that black people in the South who fear the KKK are being bigots.

        Is racism the cause of  their irrational KKKphobia?

  • Amakudari

    Wait just a minute. Atheists get called out all the time for not protesting Islam as vigorously as we do Christianity, and now we don’t stand up for Islam enough? Whatever.

    But seriously, who does he figure is actually fighting back against the overwhelmingly Christian bigotry against Muslims? It’s everybody else, and that includes secularists, other Christians and minority faiths, but the important difference is that they’re not acting in their “official capacity” as religionists. That’s what the Christian so-cons do. I’m opposed to surveillance of mosques and Muslim student groups, the war in Iraq and the nation-building experiment in Afghanistan, restrictions on building mosques, etc. because I believe freedom of conscience and non-initiation of violence are necessary for a prosperous society. Atheism doesn’t align neatly with these positions (or many others) in the way that a literal Christianity aligns with their opposites.

    Stedman turns a few fringe wackos, which exist in every community, into representatives for atheism. (And then backs off. Nice. I’m onto this game.) But if you look at the places or institutions where anti-Muslim bigotry is a problem, you’ll tend to find a muscular Christianity. There’s a reason for that.

    Additionally, I don’t like the idea that religion is especially entitled to freedom from criticism. Although I’m far too nice to talk in such plain terms about Aisha, it’s still true, and it’s especially worth saying when apostasy and criticism are punishable by death in so many countries. Freedom of speech and religion (or, better put, conscience) must include not only the right to worship but to criticize without restraint.

    Also, shame on him for trotting out stuff like this:

    “The data shows that people who self-identify as Christians are considerably more likely to think there is a moral obligation to help somebody in severe need (in India) than people who self-identify as atheists.”

    The data also shows that 40% of Americans self-report attending church last Sunday and, when it’s been put to the test (c.f. Hadaway, Marler and Chaves) around half that number were lying. Fraud in self-reporting is so well-known in the social sciences that it’s disingenuous not to mention it, especially when it can explain the entirety of a given difference. All I can say is that in my own experience working with the rafts of selfless and not-particularly-religious volunteers in Tohoku (I live in Japan), reality demonstrates no deficiency among disbelievers. This kind of “fact,” when carefully sculpted like this (“self-identify,” “morally obligated,” “possible”), implies an extreme willingness to distort the truth in service of a point; he uses tiny differences self-reported moral obligations as professed to a survey to assert real differences in generosity. Going back to my church life, I can tell you that everyone in my church would say it’s a moral duty to serve the poor, yet I rarely saw them doing so. Actions speak louder than trying to impress a pollster.

    Also, he seems to be advocating that atheists organize along denominational lines, and I disagree heavily. I think we should work on atheist issues as atheists, but for most social issues we can be far more inclusive and effective not by building bridges between tribes denominated by religion but by working as a single community in the first place. That’s what I do.

    • Pseudonym

      Wait just a minute. Atheists get called out all the time for not
      protesting Islam as vigorously as we do Christianity, and now we don’t
      stand up for Islam enough?

      It’s generally US-style evangelicals who accuse you of not protesting Islam as vigorously as Christianity. In this case, it’s socially-minded atheists who are accusing you of not supporting persecuted minorities.

      You may find that to be useful information when deciding what to do.

      • Amakudari

        Hence the “but seriously.”

        It was snark immaterial to the rest of the post, and I’m aware of the distinction.

        • Pseudonym

          Sure, I got that. I wasn’t necessarily referring to you personally when I addressed “you”. :-)

  • Rclarkdaniel

    What about Jews in America? They’re the most persecuted group of people on the face of the earth. Will you give them the same co
    urtesy you afford Muslims in your new uest for equality? Yeah, didn’t think so… Bigot.

    • iabanon

      some of you really like to throw the word ‘bigot’ around very easily. it’s like an end to an argument. you’re a bigot and that’s that. no need to try to understand what other people are saying. so some people are fed up with religious hypocrisy and violence. that’s not bigotry. it’s being against it.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Wait. Explain to me again why we should support people who want to see us wiped off the face of the planet?

  • http://twitter.com/moother moother

    We face many of the same struggles regarding getting treated with respect and fighting for equal rights in schools and in the law.  

    I think it was Hitchens that said something like: If muslims (in muslim countries I would assume) were given a democratic vote they would use that vote to remove democracy and institute sharia law.

    Looking at Egypt today, he wasn’t far wrong.

    So, I would gladly stand up for ex-muslims but why should I support a religion (culture?) that would behead this infidel as soon as it had the power to do so?

  • iabanon

    This is HILARIOUS! You want people who are not religious to stand up for religion especially one that has NO tolerance for others religious or not. You are taking the p1ss right?

  • Fematheunicorn

    Maybe because the book they worship condemns us to being stoned? 

    I don’t feel bad about my lack of action because their religion (along with Christianity) seeks to limit the rights of individuals, allows barbaric punishment for not adhering to it and is a destructive force in many people’s lives.

    So, if the question comes up about whether or not a Mosque should be allowed in a certain area, I’ll agree they have that right. But I’ve yet to hear a reason why I should be assisting them with it at all.

    Would you expect me (a mixed race individual) to go out of my way to help the KKK? 

    “Skin heads are a minority, we should help them when their lives are threatened even though they seek to humiliate, harm and subjugate other people.”

  • http://twitter.com/ReasJack Jack Jesberger

    There are two things that are in some tension in my view of Islam.
    First, I AM afraid of the Abrahamic faiths.  I think they have inherent qualities rooted in their scriptures and traditional worldviews that foster anti-human behavior.   I am currently a little more afraid of Islam for several reasons.   It is more explicitly rooted in the culture of tribal warlords.  It is a LARGE if varied confession, so that while Old Testament Judaism has just as much scriptural sanction of tribal warring in league with the faith as Islam, it does not cover near as much of the world’s territory or population.  Nor does Judaism involve the same warrant on finds in  Christianity, Islam, or the LDS to incorporate or subjugate everyone in the world into the faith.  So while the nature of their threats may be similar, the magnitude is greater for Islam at this point in history; just as there was a lot more to be objectively afraid of in historical pre-enlightenment Christianity than in Christianity today.    So I am islamophobic in that narrow sense. I don’t think that the connotations of irrationality apply, but I am distinctly anxious.

    However, because there are still highly aggressive strains in modern Christianity– strains fully consistent with its history–I am also afraid of any move that is based on defending Christian privilege against the “heresy” of Islam.  We simply can’t let (mostly right-wing evangelical) Christians recruit the power of the state or the mob in its inevitable turf fight with the similarly hegemonic competition from Islam.   Like all evangelical Abrahamic faith, Christianity strains constantly against the leash.  Letting it act as the attack dog it wishes to be is not a good idea, no matter how concerned about Islam we are.


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