Evolution and Islam

The Daily Mail has brought to its readers’ attention a timely twist to the conflict between faith and science. The article: “Muslim medical students boycotting lectures on evolution… because it ‘clashes with the Koran’,” reports the tensions felt by Muslim medical students who are divided between adherence to their faith and the pursuit of their profession.

However, readers expecting an updated version of “Inherit the Wind”, substituting Islam for Christianity and London for the American South, will be disappointed. There is a great idea for a story here, but no story as far as I can tell.

The article opens with a bang, and telegraphs the Daily Mail‘s editorial view (the students are villains, the professor the hero):

Muslim students, including trainee doctors on one of Britain’s leading medical courses, are walking out of lectures on evolution claiming it conflicts with creationist ideas established in the Koran.

Professors at University College London have expressed concern over the increasing number of biology students boycotting lectures on Darwinist theory, which form an important part of the syllabus, citing their religion. 

Similar to the beliefs expressed by fundamentalist Christians, Muslim opponents to Darwinism maintain that Allah created the world, mankind and all known species in a single act.

Steve Jones emeritus professor of human genetics at university college London has questioned why such students would want to study biology at all when it obviously conflicts with their beliefs.

Everything is here for a screenplay. It includes great characters: Muslim medical students, a lefty professor, and a mysterious Muslim scholar Harun Yahya. The photo of Yahya provided by the Daily Mail could have come from central casting. Forget Claude Akins as Rev. Jeremiah Brown (the preacher in the 1960 Stanley Kramer version of the film) Harun Yahya could be played by a mature Jack Nicholson.

We have a clash of ideals — the tenets of Islam versus evolution, and a change of scene to London.  And in the background we have England’s unease in dealing with the demands of its growing population of immigrant Muslims. Throw in a clash of generations with the clash of cultures and an attractive female lead and we have a modern morality play. But that movie is not this story.

The Daily Mail article is unbalanced, un-sourced, and heavy handed. Neither good entertainment nor good journalism. Following its strong opening Prof. Jones speaks.

“I had one or two slightly frisky discussions years ago with kids who belonged to fundamentalist Christian churches, now it is Islamic overwhelmingly.

“They don’t come [to lectures] or they complain about it or they send notes or emails saying they shouldn’t have to learn this stuff.

“What they object to – and I don’t really understand it, I am not religious – they object to the idea that there is a random process out there which is not directed by God.”

So far so good — pithy, hard hitting comments from the professor. I was initially surprised, however, by placement of the professor’s comments first. When a reporter presents two sides to an argument he sometimes gives the less favored side the first chance to speak. That allows the reporter’s favorite the opportunity to speak in rebuttal. (“God tells me the earth ends tomorrow” claims Fred Loonie. “Not so,” replies Prof. John Serious. “The Science is against it,” said the Nobel laureate ….)

But surprise turned to astonishment when I read on and found no student or Muslim voice in rebuttal or explanation. After  the professor’s comments comes a statement that an imam received “death threats for suggesting that Darwinism and Islam might be compatible.” This is followed by:

Sources within the group Muslims4UK partly blame the growing popularity of creationist beliefs within Islam on Turkish author Harun Yahya who, influenced by the success of Christian creationists in America, has written several books denouncing Darwinist theory. Yahya associates Darwinism with Nazism and his books are and videos are available at many Islamic bookshops in the UK and regularly feature on Islamic television channels.

And the article closes with a word from Richard Dawkins.

Evolutionary Biologist and former Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins has expressed his concern at the number of students, consisting almost entirely of Muslims, who do not attend or walk out of lectures.

That’s it. Somebody (known as Sources) in a group called Muslims4UK (who are they?) says the fault lies with a Turkish author who draws his insights from the work of American creationists. How does Muslims4UK know this? What does Mr. Yahya say about all of this? How does Prof. Dawkins know that students are walking out of classes at University College London because of their religious beliefs?

What we have here is the statement of one professor that some Muslim students are cutting his classes — and the professor believes this is because their faith is in conflict with the school’s syllabus. The absence of any contrary voice in explanation might just as well mean the professor was boycotted because he is a boring lecturer.

The Daily Mail commits the further sin of assuming Muslims speak with a single voice and that Islam rejects the teaching of evolution. While Hamas may believe that Darwinism is a nefarious plot by Jews to destroy religion, other Muslims believe Islam and evolution are compatible. A 2004 Guardian article that discussed the teaching of creationism in British schools quoted Dr Khalid Anees, president of the Islamic Society of Britain, as saying:

There is no contradiction between what is revealed in the Koran and natural selection and survival of the fittest. However, Muslims do not agree that one species can develop from another.

The journal Science reported that while belief in Darwinian evolution was not common in the Muslim world,  the scientific communities of many Muslim nations backed the teaching of evolution in state schools. The 21 June 2006 InterAcademy Panel “Statement on the Teaching of Evolution” was endorsed by the national science academies of Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Senegal, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.

Saying there is a single Muslim voice on evolution is as false as saying there is a single Christian view. Some conservatives Christians reject evolution, but the Catholic Church does not. While some Anglicans believe in creationism, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, does not. He told the Guardian he opposed teaching creationism in state schools.

“I think creationism is … a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories … if creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there’s just been a jarring of categories … My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it.”

The shame of it all is that there is a real story in here — but not the one the Daily Mail is reporting. If the premise of the story is true, that Muslim medical students are boycotting classes on human evolution for religious purposes, then it is important to learn why and how such a radicalization took place. What has happened in British higher education that has converted Muslim students to an extremist view of their faith? A view rejected by the scientists from across the Muslim world.

All in all, this is a mess.

Photo of Charles Darwin courtesy of Shutterstock - Jose AS Reyes

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About geoconger
  • sari

    “What has happened in British higher education that has converted Muslim students to an extremist view of their faith? A view rejected by the scientists from across the Muslim world.”

    Wouldn’t the question be “What has happened in the Muslim world that caused many Muslim students to adopt a more extremist view of their faith?” Higher education has remained pretty constant; the basic tenets of evolution are provable by the scientific method and have been repeatedly replicated, the scientific gold standard. It is religious beliefs that have changed.

  • MT

    I agree that the Daily Mail article is poor journalism and a missed opportunity for what could be a fascinating story. I’ve also noticed the growing (or at least more visible) popularity of creationism in the Muslim community. But among the Muslim creationists that I’ve met, I wouldn’t describe any of them as “extremist” or “fundamentalist” or anything of the sort. They’re well-educated, decent folk who seem perfectly rational most of the time. They just have unorthodox views on this particular issue.

    Having said that, a college campus is exactly the sort of place where unorthodox beliefs should be welcomed. No argument should go unchallenged, not even one as plainly obvious as evolution. We don’t want our professors to become complacent, do we?

  • CRW

    Questioning evolution is only valid when done from a scientific perspective. A conflict with Muslim religious beliefs is not a legitimate source of scientific debate. The same would apply to a fundamentalist christian or any religious person who could not accept evolution because of religious dogma. If these students had issues or questions that could be presented as scientific issues, rooted in evolutionary biology and not philosophy, then I would say it would be their responsibility to question their lecturers. However, they are objecting purely on religious grounds.

    Any student who refuses to complete require coursework should simply receive a failing grade without any chance for appeal or exception. If these students find a course of study disagreeable, they should either change fields or change schools. A standard curriculum is not open to debate unless there are factual issues with the material.

  • Jerry

    One thing I noticed after some searching is how often other outlets just pick up a story from one and repeat it without doing any independent reporting or analysis. I found several sites that did just that with this story.

  • Daniel

    What happened to the old “two truths” theory of epistomology, which this article does not mention? Credit for it oughtn’t to be given to Christian fundamentalists, since Muslims developed it!
    At geoconger, “What has happened in British higher education that has converted Muslim students to an extremist view of their faith?” As multiculturalism has become increasingly strident, certain belief systems and ethnic groups reserve to themselves the right to think as they see fit and not to be told what to do by anybody. These students may or may not fit this description. Do they?

  • Daniel

    Oh, one more thing – Mess indeed! No historical context, no journalism.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    geoconger –

    other Muslims believe Islam and evolution are compatible

    That may be the case. But if that’s what you were trying to illustrate, you chose a really poor example:

    There is no contradiction between what is revealed in the Koran and natural selection and survival of the fittest. However, Muslims do not agree that one species can develop from another.

    Denying common descent isn’t compatible with any recognizable sense of the scientific term ‘evolution’.

  • Bob Stevens

    I am in the UK and the British version of the Daily Mail is a right wing newspaper written for the middle classes. And they don’t hide their political and “other” leanings either. I am sure a lot of others are fed up with what I call “incendiary journalism”. Really, if there is to be no regulation of these gutter press people, there has to be some pressure put on them to stop the sensationalism of events like these with inflammatory, badly written and biased articles. We are a free thinking society living in a democratic environment here in the West, and the so called “experts” should stop denigrating their polar opposites. Don’t they know that everyone thinks it is their own theories that are correct? And as been seen over centuries, that theories are just theories – until we are brainwashed in to believing they have become proven facts?

  • sari

    “I am in the UK and the British version of the Daily Mail is a right wing newspaper written for the middle classes. And they don’t hide their political and “other” leanings either. I am sure a lot of others are fed up with what I call “incendiary journalism”.

    Even so, is it of concern to the public that a certain subset of medical students could graduate without a firm grounding in their discipline? Denying basic scientific principles -and- failing to distinguish between science and faith would concern me.

  • http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk Iftikhar Ahmad

    As a Muslim, I don’t understand what the problem is in listening to the information provided in Evolution theory as one doesn’t have to believe in it to hear it. I have always been keen on finding out about others beliefs and faiths as I like to enhance my knowledge and understanding of others which results in respect and acceptance of others opinions- this is what Islam is about.

    If you are worrying that people are different, believe different things, want different things you may be seduced to think that you could create world peace by making them all the same. Trying to do this usually leads to war, as history shows abundantly. There will be more peace and happiness if we allow each other to figure out for ourselves what we should do.

    One could study Evolution Theory, without believing in it.
    IA
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

  • Anna Clarke

    Interesting article! Talking about evolution, I recently came across a website with the best popular science books on biology that have been released in 2011: http://popsciencebooks.com/best-biology-books/

    It includes some interesting books.

  • http://www.lakepleasantchurch.org Arizona Christian church

    There can still be faith in science, there just needs to be a better way to conduct science. Not all science is UN-moral….

  • Sharon Homer-Drummond

    Just one objection to an otherwise excellent discussion; how do we know the professor is a ‘lefty.’ Very, very few biologists disagree with the major parts of evolutionary theory, but teaching it doesn’t make one a ‘lefty.’

  • Jettboy

    “but teaching it doesn’t make one a ‘lefty.”

    No, but teaching at a University gives 99 percent assurance that you are a lefty.

  • sari

    “No, but teaching at a University gives 99 percent assurance that you are a lefty.”

    What is the point of journalists consulting outside sources if the sources are considered untrustworthy by virtue of being educated? Sharon made an excellent point. Should we assume the professor is a lefty because he refused to allow students to dictate his curriculum based on their particular interpretation of their religion? Are the studies of science and the practice of religion that incompatible, so much so that one can assume that they are always at odds with each other?

    If this became a trend, I (and many others) would avoid using doctors of certain religions rather than risk poor care. Basic coursework cannot be optional; it forms the foundation of the discipline. To teach biology without evolution would be like teaching calculus without first taking algebra and geometry.

    • geoconger

      A point of clarification … Prof Jones is a well known commentator on British television who speaks on all sorts of issues apart from genetics — almost invariably from a progressive standpoint.

      For example he was one of 54 public figures who signed a public letter printed in the Guardian calling upon the UK not to give Pope Benedict XVI the honour of a state visit. Jones, along with Stephen Fry, Richard Dawkings, AC Grayling among others said Benedict should not be welcomed due to the Catholic church’s opposition to the “distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids. Promoting segregated education. Denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women. Opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Failing to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organisation.”

      Though a geneticist, Jones has also called for the BBC to give less air time to critics of global warming. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/globalwarming/8656765/Steve-Jones-tells-the-BBC-dont-give-denialists-so-much-air-time.html

      Not all of these issues are leftist causes … but Jones’ reputation is that a man of the left.

      See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/15/harsh-judgments-on-pope-religion

  • northcoast

    I have finally been moved to investigate why evolution theory should be an important part of the biology course syllabus at the university attended by the offended students. Although I expect my doctor to know a lot more about biology, anatomy, and related sciences than I do, I don’t really care what he understands about Darwin’s writings and the science related to the origins of human life.

    From this posting, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100126091731.htm, it appears that what is pertainment is not the past; it is understanding current health care problems such as the mutation of a virus strain in response to treatment by antibiotics.

  • MJBubba

    northcoast, all students in a curriculum that requires biology as a prerequisite for upper division classes should be knowledgeable about the Theory of Evolution, since it is the basis for the taxonomy that all the sciences have adopted for the organization of living things. It is when a professor goes beyond the discussion of the mechanisms of mutation, randomness, natural selection, selective breeding, etc that he should get into trouble. A professor that claims that evolution has been proven scientifically is going beyond the actual situation with respect to the actual science, and a professor who uses this to assert that it proves that God does not exist should expect that students of faith will boycott his classes.
    I made sure that my homeschool sons understood evolutionary theory and the biologic taxonomy. I also let them know that I dis-believe evolution, consider it to be a large exercise in group-think and anti-religious conspiracy that leads well-meaning scientists into faulty experiment design and faulty logic. No nurse or pharmacist or doctor or even biology researcher should be required to believe anything more of evolution than natural selection, mutation, and the taxonomy.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    MJBubba –

    A professor that claims that evolution has been proven scientifically is going beyond the actual situation with respect to the actual science,

    This site is only for talking about journalism. They set up a separate Google group for talking about other things, and we’ve had a pretty long discussion about the scientific basis for evolution: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/getreligion-coffeehouse/CRbLz5tzvAc

    a professor who uses this to assert that it proves that God does not exist should expect that students of faith will boycott his classes.

    Do you know of an actual example of an instructor doing so in class?

  • sari

    “” a professor who uses this to assert that it proves that God does not exist should expect that students of faith will boycott his classes.”"

    “Do you know of an actual example of an instructor doing so in class?”

    Yes, Ray. My daughter’s freshman Bio instructor, who was a militant atheist. Who delighted in preemptively baiting religious students. Who asked during a beginning of year SpEd staffing whether our child could handle evolution theory, as if we were yahoos from the sticks (my husband attended an Ivy and works in high tech, and neither of us is from Texas).

    My child came home with daily stories of how he targeted and belittled students for refusing to accept his beliefs. One can believe in evolution and believe in G-d. Were he a Christian seeking to shove his “religion” down public students’ throats, he’d have been reprimanded and possibly fired. He was eventually fired for flouting other rules, but not for that.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    sari –

    was a militant atheist

    You mean he actually took up arms and carried out violence to promote atheism? (Sorry, pet peeve.)

    Were he a Christian seeking to shove his “religion” down public students’ throats, he’d have been reprimanded and possibly fired. He was eventually fired for flouting other rules, but not for that.

    What school was this? I’ve seriously never run into anything like that. Even P.Z. Myers, who’s, er, not noted for moderate rhetoric, hasn’t been accused of doing that. Were there any news stories about it?

  • sari

    We can have a peeve fight, Ray :>)

    Dictionary.com first defines militant as “vigorously active and aggressive, especially in support of a cause: militant reformers”. Yours was the second definition.

    I used the word correctly.

    What school? One of the highest achieving high schools in Central Texas (sorry, personal info stays personal). Many, many parents complained. We, actually, did not, since he had already put his foot way down his mouth at the staffing. If you have children in public school, you know that teachers cannot be arbitrarily fired without a mountain of documentation.

    There were no news articles. What would they have said? Parents think teacher is inappropriate with words? Teacher complains of being fired? I will tell you that in seventeen years of advocating for my children, he was the only one to pose such a question. We deal with a lot of behavioral issues, like how to deal with unexpected schedule changes,classroom noise or understanding the subtext of teacher directions, but never had anyone suggested that our child would be resistant to learning due to our religion.

    This post and yours do not pertain directly to journalism except to say that every group–mine, yours and everyone else’s–has adherents who engage in obnoxious, inappropriate behavior.

  • MJBubba

    Ray, I will only add the observations that my older son heard that God must not exist from a professor of an upper division biology class at a large state university. Though not in the sciences, younger son heard this same thing pronounced even more vigorously by a professor in a lower-division philosophy class in a different, smaller state university.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    sari –

    Dictionary.com first defines militant as “vigorously active and aggressive, especially in support of a cause: militant reformers”. Yours was the second definition.

    Search Google News for “militant islamist” and “militant christian”. You will be searching for a long time until you find any instances of the second definition. Then do a Google News search for “militant atheist”; suddenly the proportions are reversed. There is an undeniable and obvious double standard in how the word is applied. You have to pick up a gun and shoot someone to be called a militant theist, you just have to give a speech or write a book to be called a militant atheist.

    There were no news articles. What would they have said? Parents think teacher is inappropriate with words?

    They might have looked something like this.

    Many, many parents complained.

    Good. That’s what should happen.

    …every group—mine, yours and everyone else’s—has adherents who engage in obnoxious, inappropriate behavior.

    As Larry Niven put it, “There is no cause so noble it will not attract some kooks.”

  • sari

    Ray, using Google:

    “Militant Jew”-a number of entries, many of which refer to Meir Kahane, founder of the JDL, but some which are self-referential and one, at least, which compares militant Jews and militant atheists. Clearly, the title has been and continues to be applied to Jews, at least.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordechai_Levy

    http://www.jeffpearlman.com/the-ex-militant-jew/

    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/01/25/2006751/militant-jewish-group-condemnsgathering.html

    Militant Christian brings up some articles pertaining to Christians bearing (or wanting to bear) arms, but others like this one, written by a self-labeled atheist:

    http://www.advicenators.com/qview.php?q=363157

    Several Christian groups define what is required of the non-violent “Militant Christian.” Here is one:

    executableoutlines.com/1pe/1pe_20.htm

    Militant Muslim? Lots and lots of hits.

    I think that the problem you address is one of expecting the mainstream to apply the same rules to itself as it applies to minority groups, already defined as other. This is not an even playing field. Like it or not, non-theists are slowly coalescing into a defined movement. Since many grew up within the mainstream and were raised as at least nominal Christians, the shift from innie to outie must be hard. They are not used to being persecuted or ridiculed for their beliefs, and lack a cultural apparatus to provide support. That, to me, is a lot of what the current campaign is about.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    sari –

    “Militant Jew”-a number of entries

    I didn’t say you couldn’t find any instances of the ‘vehement’ definition of militant being used to refer to theists… I just said it was vastly less common than the same usage applied to atheists.

    Since many grew up within the mainstream and were raised as at least nominal Christians, the shift from innie to outie must be hard. They are not used to being persecuted or ridiculed for their beliefs, and lack a cultural apparatus to provide support.

    I’m having difficulty parsing this. The problem is that atheists should be more laid-back about being “persecuted or ridiculed”? I don’t think that’s what you meant, but I’m having trouble coming up with an alternate reading…

  • sari

    Ray,

    Every culture has its norms. The cultural default in this society was and continues to be white, Christian, and (usually) male. A white person who is quiet about his or her faith is presumed to be a Christian of some sort and will enjoy the privileges that being a member of the majority brings. Deviate from the norm and your status changes. What most atheists lack are the coping mechanisms necessary for dealing with a majority that does not share the same worldview, because they’ve never had to suffer the consequences of being really different.

    Traditional minorities know they are minorities and assume that few or no provisions will be made to accommodate their different beliefs and practices. They are also taught that their behavior reflects on their entire group, rather than only on themselves. Jews, for instance, have a long history as a minority and have developed coping mechanisms for dealing with, at best, ignorance, and, at worst, violence (pogroms, blatant discrimination, the Holocaust). To give you an idea, my children have been shut out of virtually all extracurriculars by virtue of a) being observant Jews and b) living in a part of Texas where provisions are not made for observance. In other parts of the country, provisions are made, because the Jewish population there has reached some critical mass. We do not make a big deal of our observance, but we also refuse to compromise our beliefs. And, to give you an idea of how clueless people are, I could tattoo a Jewish star on my forehead and *still* have customers ask me why we don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter.

    African-Americans and Hispanics, people who are defined as other by virtue of skin color or ancestry, deal with similar issues; one need only listen to mothers instruct their children not to make waves rather than risk backlash from authority to understand that these behaviors are taught as a means of self/ethnic-preservation. The dynamics are fascinating. I live in a state poised to be predominantly Hispanic, but where non-Hispanic whites, soon to be the minority, will continue, uncontested, to wield the reins of power for the foreseeable future. It is hard to assert yourself when your existence has been predicated on being invisible.

    I’m not saying this to justify abuse; persecution and intolerance are wrong. But the social dynamics are no different for you than they are for me. The difference is that I expect members of the majority to be disrespectful of my beliefs, because of my -and- my ancestor’s experience, whereas many atheists seem surprised that the world doesn’t conform to their expectations.

    This is, btw, basic sociology/anthropology.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    sari –

    What most atheists lack are the coping mechanisms necessary for dealing with a majority that does not share the same worldview, because they’ve never had to suffer the consequences of being really different.

    Er… you mean ‘consequences’ like double-standards? I mean, in practice it really seems like ‘militant’ is the adjective of choice for atheists, the way ‘uppity’ used to be a few decades ago for non-whites. You deny double-standards at some points and affirm them at other points. I have to admit, I’m really having trouble tracking your point.

    (Oh, and how much progress on racial issues was made by ‘non-uppity’ people who didn’t “make waves”, anyway? Is it possible that, at the very least, both types are necessary? Whatever you may feel about acceptance or tolerance of homosexuality, how much was accomplished by ‘being in the closet’ and “enjoy[ing] the privileges that being a member of the majority brings”?)

    What specific actions do you see “most atheists” taking that those with ‘coping mechanisms’ wouldn’t? I never was religious, and when it comes up in day-to-day life (and BTW, no, I don’t go out of my way to bring it up; I mostly discuss it in forums devoted to such topics) I’m used to getting similar questions that you do. (To the point where I just point them here anymore.)

    The difference is that I expect members of the majority to be disrespectful of my beliefs, because of my -and- my ancestor’s experience, whereas many atheists seem surprised that the world doesn’t conform to their expectations.

    Expecting disrespect and accepting it are two different things, though, aren’t they? Let’s assume that atheists did have the ‘coping mechanisms’ you’re talking about. What different actions would they take, what different responses would they make? What would an ‘unsurprised atheist’ look like?

  • sari

    “Expecting disrespect and accepting it are two different things, though, aren’t they? Let’s assume that atheists did have the ‘coping mechanisms’ you’re talking about. What different actions would they take, what different responses would they make? What would an ‘unsurprised atheist’ look like?”

    Ray, it all boils down to picking your battles. Expectation is not acceptance, but it removes the surprise factor. Many of my non-theist acquaintances prefer to fly under the radar rather than stir things up. Others are forward with their belief but tolerant of those whose beliefs differ. But one big, big difference I see, at least online, is hate-speech directed towards religion, statements like “religion is the root of all evil”, “without religion, there’d be no war,” “people who believe in G-d/Jesus/whatever are idiots and incapable of rational thought”, along with stock comments like “the mythical Jesus” and “Bible fairy tales”. Incendiary comments get you what, exactly?

    I don’t try to convert people to my way of thinking. I don’t call people whose beliefs differ from mine misguided or idiots. I don’t get into proving G-d’s existence or the divinity of Jesus or anything else. People will believe what they believe. I pick my friends on the basis of their behavior, common interests and decency, not their religious (or non-religious) affiliation. And I don’t file lawsuits or get insulted, as several atheists have stated on other forums, over coinage or the Pledge,though I feel mention of G-d is inappropriate and should be removed from both. Iow, I don’t try to dictate how people live or how they think. I save my ire, energy and time for those things that impinge on my or my family’s right to live freely as Jews, like the classmates who bullied my children at school, sought to indoctrinate them away from their faith, or the people who phoned in threats to the local JCC. And I prepare my children for the fact that they are a minority and give them the tools they need to cope with the inevitable situations they will encounter.

    The most liberating day of my life was exiting the plane at Ben Gurion airport and entering Israel. For two weeks, the culture was my culture, the holidays were my holidays, and I could eat almost anywhere. Many of the Christian tourists I encountered had the opposite reaction; they became acutely aware of the change in status, even as they were eager to visit landmarks important to their religion. They became unimportant and that made them uncomfortable.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    sari –

    But one big, big difference I see, at least online, is hate-speech directed towards religion

    So… the ‘incendiary’ ones online are the majority of atheists? (You said “most atheists lack… coping mechanisms” [emphasis added].) How do you know this?

    And I don’t file lawsuits or get insulted, as several atheists have stated on other forums, over coinage or the Pledge,though I feel mention of G-d is inappropriate and should be removed from both. Iow, I don’t try to dictate how people live or how they think.

    I hesitate to ask what you’d think of this.

    You might also find this interesting. “The first major problem with this theory is that widespread hostility to atheism long predates these types of lawsuits. Indeed, surveys show that the public has actually gotten somewhat less hostile to atheists in recent years, even as these types of lawsuits have become more common (see,e.g., here).

    A second shortcoming of the argument is that the lawsuits in question are mostly generated not by atheists but by organizations such as the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, both of which are predominantly run by liberal religious believers…”


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