Zach Anner Learns About Islam

No criticism here. I think this is a genuinely good idea.

Internet celebrity Zach Anner, who calls himself a “religious idiot,” is learning about various religions for a webseries called “Have a Little Faith.”

His first one to explore: Islam:

The purpose of this series is for Zach to educate himself about religions he knows nothing about, not to offer any opinions one way or the other. There’s a lot of value to that and Zach’s the perfect host.

There are a lot of atheists who come from Christian backgrounds who know plenty about that faith but very little about all the other ones. Some campus groups, in response, have even made it their mission to explore the different places of worship in their community — because you get more credibility when criticizing religious beliefs if you’ve actually gone out of your way to learn firsthand what those beliefs really are.

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.

  • Cory Marion

    Hemant thank you for posting this.

  • Smiles

    Being on a channel associated with Oprah…i hope he has the freedom to dig a bit, and not just be a feel good show.

  • Criamon

    The video is all about culture and nothing about tenets or dogmas. It makes everything enjoyable, but I wonder if skipping what the religion itself would consider the main points means that this is a missed opportunity in terms of education.

    • Doug

      What makes you think that learning about “tenets or dogmas” would make you understand Islam better than a film that exposes you to the practice of Islam and gives you a sense of the spirit of fellowship and worship in a mosque? I have encountered too many atheists who feel qualified to say really mean-spirited things about Islam because they have “read about it.”

      • Criamon

        If Islam is tied meaningfully to tenets and dogmas, then I stand to learn a great deal about Islam when I learn about the tenets and dogmas. Moreover, if Islam is tied meaningfully to tenets and dogmas, then I could potentially miss a great deal of understanding if I ignore the tenets and dogmas.

        If there is more to Islam than the ‘spirit of fellowship and worship’ and that’s all I got from the video, then necessarily I have an incomplete picture.

        I would think this is uncontroversial.

  • idahogie

    For a group that is as maligned as much as Muslims, this adorable, feel-good approach has its value. I think it would be too saccharine when approaching mainstream Christianity. I wonder what it would be like for him to do an episode on WBC.

  • momtarkle

    Good idea, nice guy, but I didn’t learn much that I feel is significant about Islam. Guess I’ll look elsewhere.

  • Doug

    That’s a charming video. It may not go deeply into doctrinal aspects of Islam, but I think it gives a great feel for the spirit of Islam. Too many critics of Islam don’t really know Muslims. They have a superficial understanding of their beliefs, but they have no feel for the human reality. Programs like this help to correct that.

    You mention that some campus atheist groups are exploring places of worship “because you get more credibility when criticizing religious beliefs if you’ve actually gone out of your way to learn firsthand what those beliefs really are.” I hope gathering ammunition for anti-religious polemics is not their only or even their main reason for getting to know people of faith. Why not just get to know other people and other cultures for the sake of human fellowship? Why not celebrate diversity the way Zach does?
    I think lots of people in the secular community could learn some lessons from Zach about being a humanist, not just in name but in practice.

  • ragarth

    My first response upon seeing this was “That’s some really awesome atheist outreach!” I think he makes for a good face to put forward to the faiths he’s documenting.


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