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Religion, Politics and the End of the World

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Posted on Jun 17, 2007
Harris Hedges and Scheer
Truthdig / Todd Wilkinson

Onstage: from left to right, Sam Harris, Robert Scheer and Chris Hedges debate religion and politics at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

For readers who weren’t able to attend the Truthdig debate between Sam Harris and Chris Hedges, we now have full coverage. So sit back, relax and enjoy the fireworks.


Read Chris Hedges’ opening statement and Sam Harris’ response.


Note: The audio recording has not been edited. For a slightly condensed version of the debate, check out the video below.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Sound by Mansoor Sabbagh / Global Voices for Justice


Videography by Sherwin Maglanoc / LA36
Note: The video has been edited for time.


Square, Site wide
Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:


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By Josh, July 2, 2007 at 10:36 am Link to this comment

Do you realize that if your ‘reasonable’ expectation that 1% of the 1.3 billion muslim’s you’re claiming are nutty violent people—that’s 1.3 million nutty violent muslims?
That’s a lotta suicide bombers!
Anywho, I chose not to respond to any other part of your rants because they seem not to be founded in logic nor reason.
Oh! I did want to mention regarding an earlier post you sated that: “Things like “bitter, abusive,” don’t have context in an intellectual debate,”—I wonder how you arrived at this argument.
It makes no sense…

So…either, you’re indicating that you’re incapable of engaging in intellectual debate as evidenced by your bitter, abusive post, or you’re wrong about an intellectual debate’s immunity from such. 
Your choice.

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By BFskinnerPunk, July 2, 2007 at 10:24 am Link to this comment

I wrote: “Not quite sure why this concept upsets you… perhaps the Iraqi’s would vote in ways that don’t support your views? perhaps?”

Cyrena responded:  “(this is the kind of thing you’d never say in person you little jerk)...Here’s the scoop on that, wise ass. ...So, you are incredibly ignorant to suggest such a thing, and overwhelmingly disrespectful and arrogant to boot”

I respond:
Why wouldn’t I say that in person?  Are you trying to make a threat?  Well, just don’t blow yourself up.

You are having a tantrum. and…
Next time someone asks me to define “Straw Man”, I will be certain to copy and paste your posts as an example!  It’s the most extreme example of that argumentative style that I have ever seen.

Your emotional freakiness, I suspect, is coloring your opinion and your inability to drop the straw man technique.  Your points have been address in previous posts… but that doesn’t matter to one who constructs straw men as their meat and potatoes.

Again, I am not opposed to a complete exit from the middle east.  Perhaps you can take comfort in that.

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By Timmy, July 1, 2007 at 11:26 pm Link to this comment

Is Cyrena even aware that almost all of those 100 dead Iraqis every day are being killed by Iraqis and other muslim Arabs?  She really makes it sound like she thinks that it’s the Americans who are doing all of the killing.

Are you aware of that Cyrena?

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By Timmy, July 1, 2007 at 11:17 pm Link to this comment


First of all, you said”
“There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, and I think it’s reasonable to say that less than 1% of that entire population maintains these extremist views”

Really? Where did you get this stat from? Did you do your own poll?
Or did you just make up this stat out of thin air to back-up your naive point of view. Based on the dancing in the streets on September 12th I’d have to say it would be reasonable to assume a much higher percentage than 1.

That being said, BF and I are well aware that the majority of muslims are peaceful people. We never even hinted otherwise. But let me give you a 1%. How about the percentage of non muslim suicide bombers. The rest are Christian or Sikh or some other waco religion.

And I love how you and Scott Atran try to separate the socio-economics of the middle east from religion. What to do think caused the socio-economic situation in the first place! God God God God God God. It’s all about the claim to the holy land sister.

I just don’t know how you can claim to agree with “Religion Poisons Everything”
And yet somehow dismiss religion as the main culprit in the middle east violence.

You do a lot of straw man arguing Cyrena. Maybe you think it’s appropriate here because Chris Hedges did so much of it in the debate that started all of this.
You tell us that we are saying all muslims are bad, and then you argue against that point. Neither BF or I ever even hinted at blaming all muslims. We blame religion. It’s a thing. Not a people.

Can you not stick to the subject?

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By cyrena, July 1, 2007 at 10:46 pm Link to this comment

So, if you want to know whether or not they are “secularists” (and you still haven’t figured out that word), I would say it doesn’t matter a damn bit, because that is not why they are blowing us away. OK? At the end of the day, the “mission” for the insurgents and the rest of the IRAQIS, (not al-Qaeda, the terrorists that have arrived since we invited them to Iraq for a shoot-out) I’m talking about the Iraqis that have always been there, the Sunni, as well as the Shia, are all UNITED, if on one thing only, and that is to repel the American military occupation of their once sovereign state. And, they will do that, until we have either killed them all, or we finally leave.

And, they will continue to target the supply convoys first. They WILL bust up the operation to install those miles of thick walls and razor wire that are being constructed around their neighborhoods. I would be willing to guarantee it.

That’s what makes your last comment just as immature and juvenile as it was the first time you proposed it.
•  I know you are upset with the invasion, but let’s deal with the *current* situation.  Voting is the best way to truly know the values of the citizens.  Not quite sure why this concept upsets you… perhaps the Iraqi’s would vote in ways that don’t support your views? perhaps? (this is the kind of thing you’d never say in person you little jerk)

Here’s the scoop on that, wise ass. The **current** situation is that Iraq is now #2 on the world’s list of FAILED STATES. What that means to a smart aleck that has never seen a war zone, or a destroyed society, is that there is no way to do a “vote”. So, you are incredibly ignorant to suggest such a thing, and overwhelmingly disrespectful and arrogant to boot.  If Iraqis cannot even leave their homes, and if they are dying by the 100’s everyday, and fleeing for their lives at an even faster rate, just how the hell do YOU propose to CONDUCT this “vote”?  Please tell me, because I really would like to know, how you’re going to walk though a war zone, without even knowing how to ask for a glass of water in Arabic, and have a nice little poll with people who have been traumatized by war for ages. THAT, is the **current** situation, and if you want to take it on, I’ll fly you over there. (The petrol is on you, and you WILL have to parachute out, because I’m not ready to die.)

Now, after you’ve conducted your poll, and you have all of these “cards on the table”, we can then compare it with ALL of the other data/polls, that have been on-going since the time we arrived. We HAVE had journalists on the ground there, who CAN speak Arabic, and they HAVE had extended conversations with the Iraqis, and they’ve kept track.
. And, as I said before, I don’t need to speak for the Iraqis, because they have been speaking loudly and clearly enough for themselves. The problem is that YOU haven’t gotten ANY of those memos, either because you are glued to the American “version” for your info, (faux fox, CNN, etc, etc) or because you really would just not like to know, (even though you claim that you do). There are also those “non-verbal” and “non-written” signals that they use to convey this message….ie, BULLETS, IED’S,

Lets try another “visual” example for you…here’s the scenario: you show up at my house. I don’t know you from a hole in the wall. You are in military gear, you have tanks in my street, and you’ve got the guns pointed at me, my kids, and my neighbors. You have come across oceans and deserts to get to me, and you are strange. Now, if you hang around for long enough, and I finally get pissed, and start shooting your ass, would THAT be a clue that I don’t want you in my house any longer? Especially since I never wanted you here to begin with? Does that make ANY sense to you?

Never mind…you don’t have to answer.
The end….

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By cyrena, July 1, 2007 at 10:44 pm Link to this comment

Same for Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. So, most of the suicide bombings in the past say 30 years, have been perpetrated from the territories or states that immediately border Israel’s constantly changing borders. And, when you connect the dots, you will discover that suicide bombings that are perpetrated by the Palestinians against the Irsraelis, are in fact not about religion either. They are perpetrated by desperate people who have tried every single other thing possible, to obtain some independence, and nothing has worked, including of course the suicide bombings. (since we see that they are still locked up, and remain at the mercy of Israel, even for food) But in their case, they really feel that they have nothing else to lose. They have no future. And, when you connect the dots even further, you will find that the Israel/Palestinian conflict is at the root of ALL the terror, perpetrated against Israel, as well as the US.

To be continued, and I probably won’t get to you Timmy. Because, you don’t understand the definition of “secular” either, and none of it matters in this anyway. If we were talking about al-Qaeda and their Wahhabi cult, it might make a difference. But, we’re not. You guys are primarily hung-up on the Islamophia, thereby missing the real threat, which is not the religious crazies.
To be continued once more…

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By cyrena, July 1, 2007 at 9:43 pm Link to this comment

1#82950 by BFskinnerPunk on 7/01 at 12:18 pm

I appreciate your essay, and the debate and all, and at some point in time, I might be able to respond to more of it, more specifically. In all sincerity though, I’m pretty much sure that this issue has run its course, or at least hit an obstacle for now.

It would appear that you are more interested in arguing just for the sake of arguing, (like to score a “win” of some sort) when in fact discussions like this are not “competitions”. Rather, they are an opportunity to learn things that one might not otherwise learn, when you are surrounded by only those who share your same ideological persuasions, and can agree with you. In the short term, that may provide some sort of testosterone “lift” for you, but in the long run, you only cut yourself short.

Meantime, I should give a less “politically correct” version of my own opinion on this whole thing about the dangers of religious extremism. If you have read Christopher Hitchens, who says point blank, that “religion poisons everything”, I can admit that I’m pretty much in agreement on that. I haven’t always been, because it took a long time for me to really experience and comprehend the dangers of zealotry, fanaticism, and extreme ideology, disguised as “religion”. Because, this sort of ideology is not religion.

Here is where we run into a problem with my thinking about the dangers of this religious extremism, as opposed to yours, (and Timmy’s). You have focused ALL of your attention on only one exceedingly tiny percentage of the population that represents this extreme, and you have specifically focused on ISLAMIC extremism. There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, and I think it’s reasonable to say that less than 1% of that entire population maintains these extremist views. I should also mention that these less than 1% of the people who claim to be acting in the name of Allah, when they direct action at innocent civilians, are generally despised by the rest of the Islamic community.

So, you are not willing, at this point, to recognize those very major distinctions, possibly because you find it easier to simply blame all of the Muslims, worldwide. I don’t think that is fair, nor will it solve any problems, because in doing that, you simply fail to find the real cause of the problem. You have already “diagnosed” it as being crazy Islamic fundamentalists, so you don’t even consider any other possibilities. As a matter of fact, your argument goes out of its way to suggest that there could NOT BE any other “reason” for anyone to commit such heinous crimes. Nor do you acknowledge that not all suicide terror operations are committed by Muslims. They are not.

I have addressed this a number of times on this thread…as did Mr. Scheer in the debate, and that is the fact that the Tamil Tigers, (in Indonesia) were actually the first group to utilize this suicide weapon tactic in their nearly 3-decades old struggle for independence in Indonesia. This group is, (by its ethic identity), South Asian, and Muslim. Most of Indonesia’s population is Muslim. However, this is a secular group of Muslims, so they have never accomplished or attempted any of their suicide operations under the banner of Islam, Allah, or any prophet. It’s been strictly “war tactics” for them, and in the many decades since it’s been used there, (and still is) the practice has obviously spread to other groups of disenfranchised people. And, because of the socio-political conditions that developed as a result of the massive expulsion of so many Palestinians, (without actually killing them off entirely, which is what happened to 90% of the Native American population) the Palestinian territories became like an ideal “festering spot” for this sort of desperate activity, here again, for the same reasons that I’ve mentioned before.

To be continued.

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By Timmy, July 1, 2007 at 3:54 pm Link to this comment

Too True BF,

Strange bed fellows indeed. Perplexing. They seem so confused to me.
It seems simple to them. If brown men are dying, it must be whitey’s fault.

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By BFskinnerPunk, July 1, 2007 at 1:18 pm Link to this comment

Timmy (and others),

Aren’t you fascinated with this version of political correctness.  There are a couple aspects to the current scenario that keeps me mesmerized.

1.  Left-ish people have always considered the likes of Jerry Falwell to be the height of evil due to his literal biblical interpretations.  He was the poster boy of all that is evil and oppressive.  He represented the dark ages of *religion*.
  And yet, here we sit in full view of a large segment of religious folks who make Jerry Falwell look like Michael Moore!  So this leaves the left leaning activist in an almost comical predicament!
  There can be *no* more suppressive view than that coming from the fundamentalist Muslum, and yet the lefty must support them at all costs while trying not to notice the religion.  It’s like watching a magic trick: very entertaining!  They are trying to flex their “let’s respect diversity” muscle, and at the same time, the extremists are showing them that not all “diverse views” are equally groovey…and not even trying to hide it!
2.  The group that MOST wants the Truthdig ilk to succeed happens to be the most fanatically suppressive religious people since the dark ages.  These two groups have got to be the strangest bedfellows in all history!

Christopher Hitchens (Atheist: “God is Not Great”) has been on two popular hour long TV shows twice in the past week.  He often says that there is an up swell in atheism.

I sometimes wonder if the wild behaviors of Islamic extremists are forcing moderate religious people to think twice.  The behaviors of these fundamentalists are probably *very* much the kinds of people that authored our Abrahamic religious books.

I think I’ll turn on the news… perhaps today I will see that an agnostic has stoned his daughter or blown up a subway.

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By Timmy, July 1, 2007 at 12:33 pm Link to this comment


Where are the Christian Palestinian suicide bombers?
Where are the agnostic Palestinian suicide bombers?
Where are the Tibetan suicide Bombers?
Where are the secularist honor killings and fatwas.

Where is your common sense?
Tucked neatly behind your political correctness I suspect.

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By BFskinnerPunk, July 1, 2007 at 7:55 am Link to this comment


Here’s the problem.  Many societies have endured long lasting and brutal oppression.  This alone does not quite seem to produce, for example, explosive violence designed to kill civilians.

So oppression alone seems to be insufficient as an explanation.  I’m not sure I can be any more succinct than that.  The variables that lead to chants of Allah while committing violence are surely complex… but the notion that you are doing God a personal favor is no help!

The extremists who launched yesterday’s car bomb, yet again, shout their motivation as the police apprehend them.  A few days earlier, these “socio-politically-economically oppressed” fellows were probably playing Halo II on their Xbox.

The honor killings (among other things), seem to be due to something other than socio-political repression as well.  I wonder what?

Cyrena writes: “I’m also not sure that you even understand the meaning of “secularist…”

I respond: So are you saying that those that are killing troops (ex: escorting construction workers to do sewer repairs), are secularists?  Do you actually think that’s their interest? 

There have been examples of very bad behavior from those who subscribe to non-religious motivations.  This might be some sort of dogmatic vision.  No one doubts this.  Those with dogmatic visions tell us of their dogma.  The extremists in Iraq are, also, telling us about their reasons…with scripture and shouts to Allah.

Cyrena writes: “As for me allowing the Iraqis to speak for themselves, that THEY ALREADY HAVE.”

I respond:
How safe do you think a young Iraqi man would be if he ran into the streets shouting and blaming the Islamic religion for the mayhem?  Do you think someone who openly dissents against the extremists would feel free to express that sort of view?  OK…forget my extreme example…I doubt that a person would feel safe if they openly expressed *any* view that doesn’t sit nicely with the views of the extremists.

So you can’t possibly get a valid sampling without offering the people the right to vote… in the protected privacy of a voting booth.  I would be interested in how they answer the question: “Do you want the U.S. to completely leave right now?”

Would it be an overwhelming “yes!” as you suggest?  I wonder.

If the U.S. exits Iraq now, do you think the engineers, doctors, dentists and such are going to immediately pour back into Iraq?  Why not?  The oppressors are gone, right?

Will the citizens feel safer?  Why not?  The oppressors are gone, right?

Cyrena writes: “So, it’s not about religion.”

I respond:  This doesn’t explain why other societies don’t bomb their own market places when they are occupied.  Of course, it doesn’t explain the other forms of domestic Islamic violence either.

Cyrena writes: “...contrary to your assertion that those crazy Islamists with Korans in hand, are the ones that are preventing any reconstruction ..., I would point you to the Green Zone in Baghdad”

I respond:  Yes.  It is sealed off and bristling with protective devices.  Construction moves along much more nicely under those conditions. Do you think that the protection is to prevent rationalist attacks?

So why would these extremists continue to disrupt the building of civilian power plants, water systems, and such?  Is it because they are too reasonable?  You’d think they would formally make a concession to allow this sort of work in spite of the presence of infidels. Given your “repression” theory, that’s one heck of a difficult problem to answer.

Cyrena, you attempt to speak for the Iraqi’s (and others), but I would prefer a legit U.N. protected vote because I do not pretend to speak for them.

With all of the ivory tower speeches of “get out!”... it would be VERY interesting to actually lay the cards on the table and really put that question to the actual citizens so that we can get an **honest** answer:  “Do you want us to just pick up and leave?”

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By cyrena, July 1, 2007 at 5:38 am Link to this comment

Well Wavelength, I suspect that like much of what you write, this is pretty much just your opinion, which unfortunately has no connection to the content of my post.

.....“What a bitter and abusive post.  And shockingly arrogant, especially since you appear to be writing and comprehending at about the 10th grade level”....

Things like “bitter, abusive,” don’t have context in an intellectual debate, and nothing that I’ve written could or would be described as such, by a mature and reasonably balanced mind.

A little arrogance might be read in my text, but in reality, it’s more like personal frustration with an uncomprehending pupil, who “wants” to play like an adult, but still has to slip into their emotional sling, because maybe the realities of the truth are indeed too painful for many minds to deal with. So, some take escape in simply denying the unvarished truth. It makes me sad, but not bitter.

On the other hand, I do understand that pain and denial. So, I’ll let you have that escape. It won’t make things any BETTER for you or the world, but it won’t make anything worse either.

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By wavelength, July 1, 2007 at 3:33 am Link to this comment


What a bitter and abusive post.  And shockingly arrogant, especially since you appear to be writing and comprehending at about the 10th grade level.  Don’t fret about your skills at this stage in the game.  Everything will get ironed out when you move on to junior college.

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By cyrena, June 30, 2007 at 10:42 pm Link to this comment

BF Punk
You’ve totally missed the entire parameters of the debate, and you’ve taken it off into a whole different straw channel, to justify the destruction, and to argue with either me, or Nahida, or whomever else. You can’t even tell the difference between my own position, (which is strictly academic and based on the social behavior of all global groups of people *IN CONFLICT* at any given period in time…in the HISTORY and trajectory of these conflicts.) and the position of those who have been living the nightmare of it most of their lives.

Bf the punk has proven this, with this comment:

•  Again Nahida, not the topic of the video.
The discussion of Iraq and all of the various histories related to the middle east are not appropriate… the topic we have before us is big enough. 
It’s pretty amazing that anyone would say something as totally ignorant as “THE DISCUSSION OF IRAQ AND ALL OF THE “VARIOUS HISTORIES” RELATED TO THE MIDDLE EAST ARE “NOT APPROPRIATE”. The topic we have before us is big enough.”

Well, moron, you cannot HAVE a discussion about the MIDDLE EAST, WITHOUT discussing the VARIOUS HISTORIES. Get some education and learn how to connect the dots.
Now, here is the prompt AGAIN:

Is religion the reason for the violence in the Middle East, or is it a compilation of socio-politcal-economic repression.

Yes, this is in fact a very broad “topic” considering the fact that neither you or the accusers of the religion, have even specified what the “Middle East” is, nor have you considered the fact that Islam is not the only religion practiced in the region, so you have just broadly narrowed it down to “Qur’an totin’ religious extremists who carry it with them into battle and into the ballot boxes, which they never had before 3 years ago in Iraq, and before 18 months ago in the Palestinian “terrortories.”

I’m also not sure that you even understand the meaning of “secularist” who you claim are NOT the ones setting off IED’s that kill our troops, (that wouldn’t kill our troops, if our troops were not THERE). So let me give you a fairly clear idea of what secularists are. Secularists may or may not have religious beliefs as part of their tradition or culture, or personal belief system, but they are clear in that those religious beliefs don’t have anything to do with the price of tea in China or oil in the Middle East. The Tamil Tigers in Indonesia are about as “secular” as any Muslim, Christian, or Jew could be, and they have heavily engaged in asymmetrical warfare for decades. (asymmetrical warfare again being the tool of the weak against the strong, in any struggle for self-determination).

So for now, we’re gonna take the holy books (all of them) and religion in general –off the table-. When we do, we will find the REAL reasons for “the violence in the Middle East”. So, get to reading.

As for me allowing the Iraqis to speak for themselves, I think I mentioned before, that THEY ALREADY HAVE. They’ve been asking us to LEAVE, but nobody wants to hear that.

So, it’s not about religion. It’s about we are there as an occupying force, in a country that is not ours, where we have no legitimate business. Period.

And, contrary to your assertion that those crazy Islamists with Korans in hand, are the ones that are preventing any reconstruction of the areas that we have demolished, I would point you to the Green Zone in Baghdad, which includes the newly constructed American Embassy, (the largest in the world, and to the tune of nearly a billion dollars of your parents’ taxpaying dollars). Let me add that the entire compound includes apartment complexes, a movie theater, a golf course, independent transportation system, and it is completely sealed off from the rest of the city, with it’s own independent sources for electricity and water, and trash collection, etc, etc.

How is it, that these crazy bomb wielding religious fanatics weren’t able to interrupt THAT construction?

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 30, 2007 at 5:03 pm Link to this comment

Again Nahida, not the topic of the video.

The discussion of Iraq and all of the various histories related to the middle east are not appropriate… the topic we have before us is big enough. 

Much of the “counter-culture” propaganda that you have seems to be produced by Americans for Americans.  Hmmm, didn’t you say that Americans are arrogant and don’t allow for other points of view?  Or are these claims just random missiles that you launch in hopes of doing damage regardless of the truth?

How many anti-muslim extremist documentaries have been produced in Palestine?  Or anywhere else in the middle east? 

I can watch pro-Palestine stuff at will here in America.

Car bombs in the UK… with the perpetrators shouting “Allah!  Allah!”.  A fully intentional civilian target (once again).  Was there a religious reason for the violence?  Gosh, it’s hard to tell.

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By Timmy, June 30, 2007 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment


We’re not going anywhere.

You won’t thank us later.

But your children’s children will.

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By Timmy, June 30, 2007 at 1:26 pm Link to this comment

PS Nahida,

Stop yelling.
It makes your argument look weak.

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By Timmy, June 30, 2007 at 1:15 pm Link to this comment


We don’t attack you.
At all.
And we don’t attack your people.
We attack your despotic and dangerous leaders, and their armies.
As BF pointed out, there have been many just and necessary wars.
Innocents die in the crossfire. It is very sad and unavoidable. 

Here is the question though.
Why do your people allow despotic mad-men to run your countries?
Did your people want Sadam Hussein as a leader?
Did they want the Taliban?
Then why do you have them as your leaders?
Is it because your people are helpless to do anything about it?
Well we are not helpless.

As for Palestine, “your people” finally get a free vote to elect a leader and you elect Hamas? Talk about deserving what you get.

I swear I feel like I was walking down the street and saw a man beating his wife in the driveway of his house. I decide to be a hero.
I run over and jump on the man tackling him to the ground. I get him in a choke hold, and I am about to call to his wife and tell her to run inside and call the police when suddenly BAM!
His wife has picked up a baseball bat and is now beating me with it.
“Get off my husband you bastard!”
“Get off our property! This is none of your business!”

What goes on in your homeland Nahida is every bit as much my business as the bruises on my next door neighbors face.

If you can’t do anything about the despotic leaders running your countries then we will. You can thank us later when you recover from your brainwashing.

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 30, 2007 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment


This isn’t a wartime strategy forum, but quickly…
“We” didn’t expect terrorist to create mayhem as we attempt to rebuild infrastructure.  If it weren’t for the extreme religious folks, we would have accomplished years of rebuilding by now.

I didn’t blanket Iraqi’s as religious nuts doing the violence…nice try… but there are certainly enough in Iraq that it is seemingly impossible to help the good citizens.

The construction workers need Army escorts for crying out loud… this is amazing.  People who translate for the Americans fear for their lives!  This makes it outrageously difficult to get things fixed up…to say the least.

How much is it helping (the rebuilding effort) for people to hold such a strong belief in the Koran? 

So keeping to the point of the video:
It’s the religious influences that are setting the Iraqi’s and Americans into this quagmire.  **Notice that these aren’t secularists setting the bombs off on roadsides and markets.**

Cyrena, like Nahida, perhaps you should let the Iraqi citizens speak for themselves.  I know you are upset with the invasion, but let’s deal with the *current* situation.  Voting is the best way to truly know the values of the citizens.  Not quite sure why this concept upsets you… perhaps the Iraqi’s would vote in ways that don’t support your views? perhaps?

90% of your post, Cyrena, was wishful thinking as you make silly and extreme inferences regarding my statements… fake straw man stuff to set yourself up for your favorite rant I suppose.

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nahida's avatar

By nahida, June 30, 2007 at 11:59 am Link to this comment


You can criticise our faith as much as you like


DO NOT attack us in our own lands

STOP killing us in our homes because of our faith

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By lindadugan, June 30, 2007 at 9:59 am Link to this comment

3legcat and ender:
I have read rapidly through your latest posts directed at me and will spend more time later this weekend actually digesting them.  I have a few responses to each of you but it is time for a bit of a respite.

After all, it is nearing the 4th of July and this blogger does have a satisfying life outside this sphere.  I would like to spend a bit more of my time with those I hold close to my heart over this long and anticipated weekend.  Therefore,  I will return in a few days, refreshed and ready to dive head first into more debate, dialogue and discourse on this commanding but alluring blog.

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By Robertogee, June 30, 2007 at 6:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, this is all jolly fun, Nahida and colleagues.

Meanwhile, London police just defused two Mercedes loaded with petrol / nail bombs, parked outside bars and set to explode just as revellers were leaving to go home.

Let’s see: planted by Catholics? Jews? Hindus? Scientologists? Methodists?

Nope. Muslims.

Whilst this debate over religious fairy tales threads on, Muslims are trying their best to kill infidels worldwide. Wherever Islam exists, there’s death and destruction and oppression of all other cultures and religions. Throughout Islam’s 1400 year old history.

The rest of the world waits for “moderate” Muslim voices to denounce the ongoing escalating religious violence against the rest of the world.

There are none, except for Nahida, here.

Tell ya what: when Islam starts respecting the rest of the world, we’ll start respecting Islam. Meanwhile, were it not for oil profits, the Middle East, Indonesia and other Islamic countries are not on the bottom of the evolutionary totem pole of human civilization for nothing.

For all our faults, name an Islamic country where you’d rather live than the United States of America.

Happy Independence Day, Nahida.

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 30, 2007 at 5:24 am Link to this comment


I’ve seen various news shows here in the U.S. documenting similar tragic events suffered my Muslim people in Palestine and elsewhere.  With freedom of the press, Americans are subjected to all sorts of information that points to the human costs even when it isn’t in our best light.  Can you say that for your region?

Nothing good is coming from the fearful reactions on both sides.  It appears to be a chronic problem.

Of course, you know that skirmishes and full blown wars in all of man’s history have produced these stories 1000 fold.  In the U.S. battle against Hitler, there are untold stories of nightmarish actions, unintended deaths, and children who suffered.

Do you have any videos of Palestinians dragging Muslim snipers out into the street and beating them…. you know, the one’s that run back into those civilian neighborhoods to hide? 

It’s one hell of a tricky issue to manage without harming others from a police perspective.  Where I’m from, hiding among civilians is considered the lowest possible tactic.

Many of the photographs on your web site show Israeli soldiers that appear to want to be anywhere else but Palestine.  Palestinian seem to be cheerfully shouting in the face of Israeli soldiers… some appear to be offering angry verbal attacks while others are grinning and enjoying the attacks on the soldier.

Somehow, these kids fail to give me the impression that the soldier is considered (by the kids) to be a threat….. I doubt those kids would dare do such a thing to a cleric (god forbid).  I only looked at a few photos, but the one soldier I remember was holding his weapon to keep the kids/adults at bay and yet his finger was completely away from the trigger and just holding the grip part of the rifle.  The soldier looked like, “oh please!  beam me up scottie!”

I know your intention was to show “Jew with gun points gun at Muslim babies”.  Granted, those are always the most effective emotional buttons (and occur as a tragic outcome of every battle) but perhaps you should edit your photos a bit better.  Those kids, for instance, don’t depict your “oppressed and fearful citizens” theme.

I am sure there are photos in there that better depict the frightened expressions of innocent victims of military action… I think I saw a few. 

Given the fear and despair on both sides, I am sure that the Israeli’s and Palestinians can produce many more horrible tales than you or I could ever know.

But no, the west does an excellent job of letting American’s know about the tragedy of war.  Sorry to disappoint.  I’ve seen many terrible and graphic news stories, and don’t see an end to it.

Although your bias is perfectly in line with the views of Truthdig and Sheers/Hedges, it isn’t in keeping with the dialog in the video. 

Religion is part of what keeps the Israels in defense of Israel, and it’s part of the reason Muslims think they deserve Israel for themselves and want to slaughter Jews.

Hence, whether you want to admit it or not, Religion is playing the biggest role in *YOUR* (Nahida) life as well.  (that’s the point of the video)

You can thank the beloved religion for the photos you like to share.

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By cyrena, June 30, 2007 at 5:19 am Link to this comment

BFSkinner, I can’t believe you wrote this:
#82469 by BFskinnerPunk on 6/29 at 9:43 pm

•  Nahida and her sort, will manage to find a way to continue blaming the U.S. for the unspeakable violence that would ensue, but that appears to be the only way religious people can divert blame from themselves and their magic book.
•  I am continually amazed that we haven’t held such an election seeing as to how we seem to want out as badly as Nahida wants us out.
Here’s the thing BF….you’re living in a dream world, if you think that “we” should just have another election, and ask the Iraqis if they want us to leave. You don’t quite get the picture on the ground. Did “we” set up a free election for the Iraqis, to see how they felt about us invading them and occupying them? No. I would remember. And, since “we” have NOT, in over 4 years time, been able to provide even the most BASIC of services to the Iraqi population, having virtually DESTROYED the infrastructure that they HAD, and since that is only ONE of the many violations of the law that WE are responsible for, (the UN Conventions require that an occupying force provide for the civilization population, as in SECURITY, and basic services, food, shelter, water, schools, roads, hospitals…I could go on.)

So, now that we’re into the 5th year of this assault and occupation, and over a million of these citizens have been murdered, another 35-40 thousand are held in American prisons, (in Iraq), another 2 million have fled to neighboring countries, and another 2 have been internally displaced, and people are afraid to come out of their houses, (if they happen to even still be in them).

So tell me….can YOU set up a nice free election for the nation? Probably not, and you are showing a less than neutral position yourself, because you’ve already said that such an “election” would be “violent”, because of all the people having their “magic book”, the Qur’an. So, you’ve just tagged all Iraqis, as being religious fanatics, when in fact that isn’t even close to the truth. If I remember correctly, they supposedly pulled this off a few years ago, under the direction of the infamous Paul Bremer, and I didn’t see anybody being “violent”. Matter-of-fact, it was a major media event for the bush propaganda machine, to make sure that we all saw these dancing Iraqis with purple fingers.

And, we ALSO know, from so many journalists and other researchers who have spent extended time in the area in the past few years…people who are able to blend in with the local population at many levels, to actually KNOW what the people, as well as their local leaders, are thinking, and saying, and doing. So, we KNOW they want us out. And, I’m not talking from a Palestinian position, or a religious position, (because the new Christian “movement” in the US has turned me into an avid agnostic).

So, my primary position is –The LAW- and our being in Iraq is illegal, and is in violation of international law on multiple counts. And, NO, our leaving there cannot possibly make things any worse than we already have, because it is OUR PRESENCE that has created the disaster there. The Iraqis know that, and so do our troops. Matter of fact, anybody in the real world of it, will relay the same. The Iraqis also know, (ALL of them) that we are there to steal their oil, and a look at the permanent bases and the Green Zone, make that all very clear to them.

The Iraqis overwhelmingly supported the conception of a democracy when they first had an opportunity to create one, but now they clearly see that they have simply been colonized. Yes, they want us gone, and they can handle the small number of al-Qaeda terrorists that WE “invited” to their sovereign nation. The ones they didn’t have before we invaded them, and set the stage.

Now here’s an interesting link to something on the same topic as the debate, but much closer to home.

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By Timmy, June 30, 2007 at 4:51 am Link to this comment


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By nahida, June 30, 2007 at 4:01 am Link to this comment

Presented here are six videos that will not be screened on American or British

televisions. Nor will they be shown in the Cinema Houses there. Six videos that documentthe horrors of the Israeli Occupation.

They were produced and published by B’tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) This thread was originally posted on Sabbah’s Blog…‘borrowed’ with thanks.

“Daddy will come at night, like a butter fly”
Author : Haitham

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 29, 2007 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment


Your position as a Palestinian is confusing the topic.  When you say, for example, leave “us” alone I can only assume you are taking Palestinians as “us”... not the entire Islamic world!

OK.. but I have your answer.

I believe that you will witness a reign of terror that would make Stalin blush should be pull out.  Nevertheless, we should respect the views of the Iraqi’s on this matter (not palestinians, iranians, etc. etc.).

Instead of letting you speak for Iraqi’s, why not hold another free election in Iraq and let the Iraqi’s speak for themselves?
On the ballot is a simple question:
“Would you like the U.S. to leave Iraq completely as soon as possible?”

Of course, the election would be violent due to the actions of those who keep the Koran close at hand… but we could have our clear answer.

In this way, if we are voted out of Iraq we could leave because the citizens want us out.. not the bombers. 

The subsequent terror would be the responsibility of the citizens (and Islam) and the U.S. could sheepishly bow out of it’s vacation in the dark ages of the world.

Nahida and her sort, will manage to find a way to continue blaming the U.S. for the unspeakable violence that would ensue, but that appears to be the only way religious people can divert blame from themselves and their magic book.

I am continually amazed that we haven’t held such an election seeing as to how we seem to want out as badly as Nahida wants us out.

In the mean time, we could have a Manhattan Project directed at developing an alternative fuel (with all of the money saved from exiting Iraq).

With an alternative fuel, we can cease sending money to this bastion of religious hell…and allow them to stew in their own religious mayhem without getting rich for simply pumping grease out of the ground.

It would be nice to have no worries about oil from the middle east.  To have the luxury of viewing their frightening religious behavior from far, far away… allowing them to truly… for the first time in 80 years or so to “handle their own affairs”.

Again, I would like to offer the entirety of Israel to Muslims as well.  (remember? I gave Georgia to the Jews many posts ago!)

Nahida, on that matter we don’t differ at all. right?  Does my solution work for you?  So you would move back to Palestine or where ever you want to in the middle east feeling completely safe, right?

We could finally answer the question: Is religion causing violence in the region?  Are young girls who go astray safe from torture/death?  Will men be able to openly question an Ayatollah without fear?

My solution is cheap and fast.  What could be better?

The U.S. should, with hat in hand, bow out with all humility and the apology, “sorry, we just didn’t know.”

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By ender, June 29, 2007 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment

Wow Again! nahida!

I couldn’t agree with you more. We should pull out of the Iraq, and cut off all aid to Palestine.  We should deny immigration to anyone from a terrorist producing state, with Saudi Arabia at the top of the list, and evict all non US citizens from those countries immediately.  Unfortunately, al queada did kill 3000 americans on american soil while based out of Afghanistan, by their own admission, so we need to reengage the war on terror that we abondoned to attack Iraq, and wipe out every vestige of al queada from there and the Pakistani border.

BTW, if we do that, al queada or a nutbag ruler of an Islamic nation will step up attacks against Israel, and they won’t be as nice as us.

Say goodbye to Mecca, and so long Tehran.

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By Josh, June 29, 2007 at 2:19 pm Link to this comment

So you’re saying that you think that if the US pulled out of Iraq this very day, you would be happy at the bloodbath which ensued? 
You’d be happy with all the muslims killing each other?
Just want to be clear that you’re answering the question we’re asking.

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By nahida, June 29, 2007 at 2:08 pm Link to this comment

Josh & BFskinnerPunk

you keep asking:

{You have yet to answer whether you want America to pull out of Iraq right now (its been posed to you at least 3 times)} #82432 by Josh

{I still ask (3rd or 4th time), do you think it best that we simply pack our bags and leave?....letting devout worshipers of your one true religion take the reigns
Somehow, I believe that you are secretly thinking, “please no!”.  Why?  Could it be that you fear an increase in the sick Koran-based violence that we are seeing daily on the news? } #82431 by BFskinnerPunk

And somehow I started doubting that you even read and comprehend what I write!!

In plain English I wrote many times answering your questions, saying that YES,I want you to leave our countries, weather, Iraq, Afghanistan or Palestine

I/We want to see an end of your occupation NOW

Here what I said before:

{In simple words and in plain English:

GET OFF OUR BACKS, for God’s sake, leave us alone and get out of our lands; get out, for humanity’s sake!

•  End your criminal occupation of Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and leave us to sort our own problems out.

•  Instead of wasting your time, wealth, and energy on us, you aught to start worrying about the millions of your people who live in the streets, who cannot get proper health care or decent education…

Why don’t you spend your money at making your lives better than at destroying our lives? } #80718 by nahida

•  {What about if we tell you nicely, to leave us alone NOW? } #82394 by nahida

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By Timmy, June 29, 2007 at 1:57 pm Link to this comment


You said:
Atheists criticize religious fanatics for precisely what they themselves do (Refusal to accept that the other have the right to hold a different view about the world); yet they can’t even see the similarities.

You have it wrong Nahida
I accept the right of others to believe whatever they want.
You can believe that God created the universe and dictated your good book.
You have that right. I will never try to take that right away from you. It’s yours.

I have the right though, to criticize your wacky belief. And that’s all we are doing here is criticizing. Not trying to take away your right to believe. That is your straw man argument.

We criticize your beliefs in hope that some of you might come to your senses, but we are not threatening you with jail, or death for your beliefs. That sounds more like something you would find in a muslim country, but not here in this free forum.

Your RIGHT to believe is not being attacked here.
Your BELIEF is being criticized.

Feel free to criticize my non-belief all you like.
I promise you that I won’t act like a wounded animal who’s right to “not believe” is being attacked.
I will just laugh at being criticized for not believing in a primitive fairy tale.

Once again it is your belief that is being criticized Nahida.
Your right to believe is still very much in tact, and safe.
That is, so long as you live in a western secular society.

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By Josh, June 29, 2007 at 1:23 pm Link to this comment

part 1 of 2
Its nice to see you respond, perhaps my declaration of death was a little premature.  But you are still cherry picking your responses…I’m about to respond to each and every point you make.  Please try to do the same.  I know it will be a daunting task as they continue to mount to even larger numbers.
In my response, it is not apparent that I support the war, it is only apparent that you need me to support the war to make the subsequent statements. 

Note, I didn’t try and state that the war was justified, or that killing people was good, I was simply rebutting your accusation that we’re trying to keep you from being free in your homelands.  I’m making the point that we’re not trying to take your land as ours.  In addition, you said you want to choose your own representatives and government, and for some reason (or lack thereof) you think having a dictator is a ‘governmental choice’?

You have yet to answer whether you want America to pull out of Iraq right now (its been posed to you at least 3 times)

You continue to post all these statistics.  Let me be completely clear - nobody is saying that innocent folks are not dying.  War sucks, that stuff happens.  We all agree.

Please stop wasting our time with links to these statistics on crime (they have nothing to do with our debate).  Furthermore, the disgusting photos that you keep sending us to will not change our minds.  An almost decided factor of logical people is that they decide with their mind over their heart.  Therefore, seeing sad pictures may move us to tears, but it will not change our mind—logical arguments do that.  These pictures aren’t happy htings, but neither do they support your cause.  They have no context.  I see pictures of children mutilated and bombed—you seem to think we’ll believe they got this way from our assault.  I imagine the children that were in market places that were bombed by their own countrymen (suicide bombers) would look much the same.  Again—its a ploy that will not work on a well-reasoning person.

If you want to change our minds, you can only do so logical defenses here (which I’m finding very few and far between from your end).

Now, back to your post and my responses (to each and every point you make—please try to do the same)

end of part 1

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 29, 2007 at 1:21 pm Link to this comment

So Nahida is working the Iraq war bit.  No one is a big fan of what occurred in Iraq….so it’s difficult to find who you are opposing on that.  This is not the subject of the video debate.

Let me re-phrase the actual topic:
“Is religion playing a critical part in the violent acts we see in the middle east?”
(or is it “socio-political” oppression?)

I still ask (3rd or 4th time), do you think it best that we simply pack our bags and leave?....letting devout worshipers of your one true religion take the reigns?

Somehow, I believe that you are secretly thinking, “please no!”.  Why?  Could it be that you fear an increase in the sick Koran-based violence that we are seeing daily on the news?

The final hope is that something good *will* come of this fiasco.  Perhaps the worldwide focus on the extremes of behavior in the region will help. A recognition that all cultures *aren’t* created equal and they aren’t all equally good….they aren’t equally safe either!

I think some muslims must, surely, notice that there is something that seems very distasteful about the strongly *religious influenced* behavior of their fellow muslims.  God, I hope so!  Anyway, perhaps they can have a positive, revolution from within allowing the west to merely sit back encourage it.

Your sarcasm (which is “rude”) toward Josh is sad.  He is reminding you that no one wants you to change your personal belief or your wardrobe.  It is *you* who is suggesting that people want to suppress your ability to believe things or your ability dress in accord with those beliefs.  (Which, again, begs the question as to why so many Muslims flock to the secular west?...this clearly indicates that you are purely disingenuous in your “concern” about secular oppression. The moves of your Muslim cohorts are are bringing your fake “concerns” to light! You are merely trying to create an argument where none exists!)

If a true muslim wanted to live in perfect peace, I would think they would want to live under a system ruled by those who never release their clutch on the Koran.  So why do so many spend their last dollar on a one-way trip to Holland!!! (land of atheist, by the way)

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By ender, June 29, 2007 at 12:23 pm Link to this comment

Hello Linda.  I think we are, uh, actually saying pretty much the same thing.  As I was thinking about this though, it occured to me that Iran actually practices a form of democracy still.  Unfortunately, their religious leaders can’t be voted out of office as their secular leaders can.  If we stopped brandishing our crusaders swords at them, backed off the rhetoric, and made as much of a concession to opening economic ties and trade with them as we have with China, there is decent chance that they demote the role of their ayatollahs and form a more secular gov’t.  They seem the most receptive to modernization.  But if we do as we did to their last secular gov’t, and confuse democracy and secularism with capitalism, and find in favor of capitalism, then we almost force them into the position of relying on whackjob fundamentalist supported by the state religion.  That kind of moral imperitive is the only thing that gives most gov’ts the nads to stand up to our economic power and war machine.
This may sound viscious, but it probably would have been better for the people of Iraq if we had left Saddam in power.  There was a much better chance of them throwing out a secular despot such as he was, than if he had religion on his side.  Don’t forget, that until this most recent war against Iraq, they were the home to more Jews and Christians than any other mideastern country than Israel.  He was an evil b@st@rd, but he was secular, and he was their evil B@st@rd.  And all of the evidence has shown that he was effectively contained, at least as far as being any threat to anyone but Iraqis.

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By 3legcat, June 29, 2007 at 12:16 pm Link to this comment


I wanted to praise your participation on this thread, more often than not, you have eloquently stated my position and done so more elegantly than I likely would have.  I hope you chose to post more.  I do have a few thoughts about the hedges vs. harris debate.


for chris hedges religion can not be to blame, for when a person acts destructively he/she is no longer following religion but is acting for other reasons.  he is confident that his definition of religious acts is on solid ground.  he sites as evidence that when the religious are not oppressed they do not gravitate to violence or if they do they are merely claiming religious dogma to prop up an authoritarian personality complex and if they didn’t have a religious cause they would find some other dogma to suit their needs.  chris believes that if you remove political oppression religion, including islam, will flourish in a benign and emotionally satisfying life enriching force of goodness.  he notes that most muslims are not fighting anyone, only the politically oppressed arab muslims. chris is quick to discard religious statements of motivation in acts of violence as mere after the fact justification for acts done solely for other reasons, that beliefs don’t really matter much, odd for a believer.  the contradiction in hedges position is that he can only acknowledge religion as tribalism when it serves a purpose he (and most of us) agree with (charity, civil rights, individual freedom), but not those he doesn’t. and some how he knows.


sam acknowledges that there are many kinds of dogmatism and tribalism of which religion is just one, but for sam religion is the one that is the most disturbing, because it is ungrounded in evidence and it encourages wishful thinking.  disturbing because it is clearly man made and therefore can/should be man unmade.  furthermore it can easily be discarded, through open conversational pressure and by it butting up against modernity.  we can embarris people out of weird beleifs. 

sam has said many many times “what people believe matters”,  beliefs are operative to (all?) actions.  in my opinion this is sam’s weakest point, that he can and should do the neuro-cognitive experimental work on this, rather than simply rely upon what people say as to why they do things.  ironically sam’s very funny “cracker eating behavior” commentary does highlight my point.  if you ask xtians why they stand in line for communion, they may expound glowingly about transubstantiation, however I suspect that for nearly all believers it is actually a symbolic ritual, that they do not taste and chew flesh, they eat a cracker and know it.  in The End of Faith, sam mentions the inquisition and highlights the pope’s hypocrisy in later granting financial rewards to snitches, but then sam fails to notice that this actual undermines his point, it took greed and envy to really get the inquisition going even then, in a pre modern society, it took greed to get neighbors to turn on each other, belief wasn’t enough on its own. 


yikes, nixon is dead, let it go man.

I look forward to hearing and reading more from sam, it is unlikely that I will buy chris’s book, he left me unimpressed

someone mentioned scott atran, and the beyond belief exchange with sam harris, I have watched that exchange many times and if you can get past scott’s dickishness he does present a strong challenge to harris.

on the iraq war I hold a position no one likes, I strongly and loudly opposed it before it began but now that my government (elected and reelected) did this, I feel we have a strong obligation to leave things better than we found them, including organizing a very large immigration (millions?) to the USA of Iraqi’s.

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By nahida, June 29, 2007 at 11:53 am Link to this comment

you asked about the ayatollah, and I thought I made the point clear, any educated Muslim can read and interpret and give his/ her opinion, no opinion is obligatory, no opinion is enforced, people can follow whatever opinion that coincides with their own thinking if they wanted, and if they haven’t got enough knowledge to make their own conclusions, but no one forces any opinion on anyone else.

That is generally the case… in the Shiite school of thought, there is more weight given to scholars, but my knowledge regarding how influential and how significant is limited, as most of the Shiite live mainly in Iran and I wasn’t directly exposed to the structure of society to measure or judge the level of influence by the ayatollahs.

I can only share my experience after living in at least 3 other Muslim countries, and I can confirm what I said earlier about fatwa. Educated people in Islamic studies can give their opinion but it’s up to the individual how to view or hold these opinions. The more educated individuals and societies are the more likely they are able to form their own opinions.

Now, from your posts responding to mine, it is apparent that you support the war on Iraq, and you view it as necessary.
You said:
“we’re not trying to conquer your land and take it as ours………………I believe that’s what we’re trying to get Iraq to do—set up a democracy rather than a dictator”

Is this war done by the name of secular atheists then? Did you kill all those people to bring us democracy and secularism?

So, you as a secular atheist not only enthusiastic about killing of 665,000 Iraqis ( , but you also justify it. You give your country the right and liberty to murder us in the name of bringing democracy.

If that makes sense to you Josh, sorry, but to my limited mind it makes NO SENSE.

Your stance leaves me at loss…

Btw, did you know, (according to the narrative of the American establishment) that those who supposedly attacked the trade centres, none of them were Iraqi?

You also said:
“I believe that’s what we talk about when we state we’re trying to end the opression of women (note, if the ‘oppressive laws’ were removed, and all the women still chose to cover themselves, I don’t believe you’d see us over there demanding that you take it off—we just want you to have the ability to choose”

Now Josh, don’t give me propaganda blather please, show me the laws in Iraq that oppresses women and force them to cover up, produce your evidence or keep silent please.

While contemplating and reflecting trying to find these phantom laws; endeavour to count the number of women that your government have murdered while trying to liberate them from their veil.

Again you say: “if the ‘oppressive laws’ were removed, and all the women still chose to cover themselves, I don’t believe you’d see us over there demanding that you take it off—we just want you to have the ability to choose”

How very thoughtful!

So you would leave us alone (if we are still alive) after changing these laws, and after you realise that we still choose to cover, you will compassionately leave us alone then?

I am obliged! How very kind!

{You can see how thankful Iraqi women are, here: }

What about if we tell you nicely, to leave us alone NOW?

What about if we tell you that we still want to cover?

What about stepping down from this high moral grounds where you standing, and listen to a Muslim woman’s request, to be left alone to chose how she wants to dress?

What about if I tell you as a Muslim woman that the way I dress is none of your business?

If going to another country, killing hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants (sorry liberating them) is considered in your eyes a civilised and enlightened act

I have nothing else to add!

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By lindadugan, June 29, 2007 at 10:31 am Link to this comment


Alas!  I believe we are beginning to make headway and find common ground.  When you say that “true and necessary dialogue is not rude” you are saying exactly what I have said in regards to Sam.

When one adds yelling, screaming, finger-pointing, emotional diatribes, verbal abuse and ridiculing to the equation—-as one often sees with Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly on Fox (to name just a few)—- you will then see the true epitome of rudeness.

Sam is the antithesis of rude.  But you are right to say that those who do not agree with him will believe he as rude.  Instead of saying (in a respectful manner) they do not agree with him (which is a fact), they resort to criticisms towards him and call him a plethora of names including rude (which is their sorrowful opinion).  It is easier to attack him personally than to simply state why they disagree with him—because as we know they cannot logically support such disagreement.

Those who came before us thought talking about topics like sex, politics, women’s suffrage and other social issues were also rude (especially in mixed-company of gender.) And traditional convention,  at the time, maintained these topics ought to be discussed only behind closed doors and not in the public foray.  It seems apparent some of this lingering midevil thinking still exists today in regards to religion.

Those of us who support Sam on this website and elsewhere, would do well to keep in mind the struggles he must incur from such wrath. If it is true (as he stated in the debate) that matters of religion give him bouts of insomnia, it might be fair to suppose such hostile rhetoric may do likewise.

I trust Sam will continue to shine the light on all this taboo and nonesense in the same manner he always has: with wit, charm, reason and diligence.  There is certainly nothing rude about that,  one might claim.

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 29, 2007 at 9:46 am Link to this comment


I believe that part of the reason for my ignorance (and the public ignorance) is that it would have been considered impolite to really “tell it like it is” to the public about the feverish religious views held by even the moderate muslims.

Anyone who cared to describe the true depth of religion would have been declared a racist or one who does not respect diversity.

My father lived in Saudi for over a year in the 70’s and spent a good deal of time with Oxford educated Saudi’s.  He had all sorts of tales of rather frightening viewpoints and practices.  Frankly, I thought he was merely telling tall tales. 

At the time, I thought the entire world was recognizing the beauty of a secular view and religion was becoming nothing more than a form of nostalgic nod to our primitive past. 

It wasn’t until the news directed our attention toward the middle east in the early 90’s that I began getting the hint!  Even then, I assumed it was only a few “Branch Davidians” that were so brutally religious.  I was wrong again.

I assumed that when someone said that they were a christian/muslim/jew, that their was an implied “wink wink…no one really believes it” sort of aspect to the conversation.

As Homer Simpson would say, “doh!”

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By lindadugan, June 29, 2007 at 9:33 am Link to this comment


Allow me to jump into your circle of thoughts and comment on your recent remark that all this “discussion about our spread of democracy is premature.”  (I brought up the topic of democracy yesterday in my statements about the Iraq War.)

If we could be so fortunate to simply be discussing the spread of democracy innocently and theorectically at a table in Star Bucks over a steaming cup of latte, or even here on this blog, then perhaps your remark could be taken with ingenuity and some serious consideration. 

But as you are aware,  our not-so-good-intentioned-democracy-promoting government is beyond the prudent acts of discussing democracy’s role in foreign policy as they attempt to quell the spiraling   damages of a civil war they incited under the auspices of “democracy” and being “greeted as liberators.” 

To say discussion is premature belies the fact that those who didn’t give such consideration one moment of thought are now making the case indeed for why democracy in the Middle East is unmistakably premature or quite likely, ever possible at all. Talking about it in this context is not the unpardonable sin.  Taking action on it, as our government has done,  in my opinion, is.

I stand by my words and quotes yesterday from Sam who basically says that expecting successful democracy in the Middle East today is like expecting 14th Centruy Christians to implement the right to vote successfully.  It is premature (in that sense), suicidal and illogical to boot.

Perhaps I have mistaken your intention, easy to do when one is not in a face to face conversation. You are an intelligent person and I agree with most of what you are saying.

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By Josh, June 29, 2007 at 9:32 am Link to this comment

This thread has become rather redundant, and is not moving forward.
Nahida appears unable to respond, so resorts to posting unrelated stats, poems, links, etc…
I believe this is the point Sam makes—none of the religious people can truly
debate their beliefs…because they keep circling and avoiding.
Therefore, until Nahida can actually answer the exact question that’s being asked (and they’ve been enumerated, bulleted, italicized, etc.), then all the rest of what she posts should be considered jibberish, specifically her ‘motivation to communicate’—preaching at someone is not communicating.  Communication requires talking and listening and then responding. 

(Note that when Scheer said something about Sam, and Sam replied that it was incorrect, Scheer quickly backpedalled saying that he wouldn’t pull his book out and put him on the spot.  This gave me the impression that Scheer really didn’t want to prove his foolishness, so gave himself the ‘noble’ out).

I do believe this thread to be dead.

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 29, 2007 at 9:27 am Link to this comment

Unfortunately, Nahida is the only active magic-believer who has bothered to participate in the forum discussion.  This says something about the willingness of her like-minded people to expose themselves to something other than their local witch doctor.

People who don’t subscribe to the supernatural childishness of religion (non-theists) would certainly like to see the rest of the world walk away from the dark ages of curses, satans, unicorns, prophets, fatwas, and angels. 

However, so long as your religion doesn’t affect the daily lives of your neighbors and community, then by all means, throw on your burka and bow to Santa Claus thirteen times a day! 

Diversity is an outcome of the freedom offered by a secular government…not fundamentalists. 

Not all sorts of “diverse” views are equal of course and no one knows this better than a magic-believer.  Nahida is utterly certain that Islam is the one true world view and all others are, sadly, misled.  Unfortunately she shares this single minded confidence with: Wiccans, Christians, Jews, Astrologers, Umbandas, Pagans, etc.

Interestingly, non-believers are not a part of that group.  This makes sense.  Not believing in any particular magic is not related in any way to a religious world view.  For example:  I don’t believe there is a Mule in my closet, but there is no particular actions, belief systems, dogmas, fanatical leaders,or rules associated with my non-mule belief.

I share a non-theist view with other non-theists, but that’s about all.  I also share a non-mule-in-my-closet belief with non-theists (which is exactly the same as our non-religious belief).  There simply is no evidence, and it’s HIGHLY improbable to say the least (mules *and* religions)

Beyond this non-believer stance, we atheists don’t share much in common in terms of life patterns, rituals, scriptures for life etc.  Religion *defines* the life and views of a believer.  Being a non-believer does no such thing.

To extend the example:
I also don’t play the game of Monopoly…but I don’t define myself as a non-Monopolyist.  I just don’t play the game!  (Just as non-believers don’t play the religious game)

So enjoy a belief in whatever you wish.  But there are limits to your “diverse” actions.
Regardless of how confident you are in your cleric or your prophet, you may not beat your daughter to death for childish rules about relationships with others (or any other reason).
You may not kill commuters on subway trains.
You get the point.

As long as you believe your receive instructions from the one true Zeus, I do not believe you should be entrusted with big weapons.  period.  atomic bombs, large explosives, whatever… you can’t have the capacity to mass kill if you are motivated by some sort of “divine intervention”.  Of course, many religionist leaders openly state that they want to squash infidels… so, that’s no good.  And it doesn’t say much for the “we respect diversity” view of some religionists.

Weapons are bad enough in the hands of the usual power-hungry, dogmatic leaders of the world… we do NOT need to add a belief that a leader’s hand is guided by a literal view of scripture!!! (pardon my lack of respect for diversity on this matter)

Like the irrational sports fan, Muslims may hate “the secular enemy” and at the same time stand in line to move to the land of the “the enemy”.  Ironically, this same secular enemy will protect their diversity, allow them to build mosques, and provide a land where they don’t have to fear the reprisal of some oppositional Muslim sect.  Religion is so powerful, that you can, at once, hate the secularist and yet trust the secularist at the same time!!!

It isn’t a fundamentalist view of Christianity or Judaism that is providing the open arms of the west.  nope.

Whatever warmth you may feel is brought to you buy the good atheist and otherwise secularist citizens!

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By lindadugan, June 29, 2007 at 8:46 am Link to this comment


You were not alone when you thought the moderate Muslims in Iraq have taken you “by surprise with the severity of their religion” as the over 70% of Americans supporting the war at its inception bares out.  This is an example of how the American public was not given adequate information about the nature of the Iraq War and there was not enough debate and honest discussion leading up to it (much of that fault lies with the media ad Congress.) 

But it indicates that Sam’s arguments pertaining to Islam reverberates this truth about many moderate religous believers. His views continue to demand serious consideraton in this world to shed light on such nuances.

Amicable minds have an uncanny tendency to seek out comman ground.  I believe we have done so at this time and for the moment.

Good luck with Nahida.  She needs an extreme form of guidance and you have displayed an incredible amount of patience in (hopefully) helping her come to grips with reality.

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By ender, June 29, 2007 at 5:57 am Link to this comment

WoW nahida!

You make the same rediculous arguments fundamentalist xtians make in the US.  Foremost, Xtians are the MAJORITY. You stand zero chance of getting elected to public office if you ‘come out’ as an atheist.  I believe there is a muslim congressman now, but no professed atheist.  Next, atheist for the most part do not give a hoot what religion you practise, or what you teach your children.  That’s what your mosque, churches, temples and synaguoges are for.

Our Constitution, however, forbids any gov’t profession of any religion.  So our schools should be allowed to teach only generally accepted scientific method and theory.  Some states have broken this law and are facing the court challenges to have that breach of the constitution struck down, but by and large we are constitutionally a secular state. 

Since any state that recognizes any one religion as the only ‘true’ and acceptable religion, all religious states are predjudised against all other religions or lack thereof.  The same goes for any fundamentally religious person.  Your conviction of the correctness of you beliefs means that you consider my beliefs erroneous, and in the case of fundamentalist ztianity and islam, SATANIC.  Your very belief system is an affront to everyone not of the same faith.  The knowlege that you or anyone else considers me incapable of correct thought and action because regardless of what I do it comes from an evil source, offends me greatly.

So get over it.  Anything said to you here is nothing compared to the institutionalized demonization of other humans perpetuated by the Abrahamic religions.  The posters here have only called you an ignorant, misinformed and misled human.  Your religion has called us demons, and because of our intellectually sound belief systems, doomed to hell.

By the same token, the western, secularist nations will always find it impossible to deal rationally and peacefully with Islamic states. You’ve made up your mind that we cannot be correct because whatever we do, it isn’t in the name of your god or his pimp muhammed.

Like I said in an earlier post, the Islamic world must develope and accept secular forms of gov’t, or the only recourse for the rest of us will eventually be to bomb you back into the stone age…which might be an improvement for some Islamic nations.  So consider the ‘insults and affronts’ to your religion posted here as generous attempts to help you and all of Islam to realize the alternative is much, much worse.

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By nahida, June 29, 2007 at 5:07 am Link to this comment

Having a dialogue is never rude
Honest, well researched, and informed criticism is never rude.

Rudeness is:
Insults, name calling, belittling, hollering, verbal abuse… this is rude
This has been demonstrated evidently and eloquently by many fanatical atheists in this forum.
Choosing to be an atheist is not a problem.

The problem is:
Not accepting that others have the same right as you do in having a faith… that is a problem
Forcing atheists’ beliefs upon others under the disguise of science and rationality is unethical and oppressive.
Defending your beliefs and trying to convince people with them is not a problem

But fervent desire to destroy all other ideologies and to see an “end of faith” is a big problem
Absence of tolerance to all who disagree with you is a severe problem
Refusal and denial of plurality and diversity is a catastrophic nightmare for the future of our world

Atheists criticise religious fanatics for precisely what they themselves do (Refusal to accept that the other have the right to hold a different view about the world); yet they can’t even see the similarities.

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By Timmy, June 29, 2007 at 4:29 am Link to this comment


Of course I think it’s a great analogy. And a fun one.
But of course believers like Nahida will see it as an insult and an ill-informed attack.

I like how your analogy points out the important role that the taboo, on criticism of religion, plays in the whole equation.  It is a critical pillar in the structure of the problem.

And that is why I have hope when I see the outrage and indignation of people like Nahida on these Sam Harris blogs. For these are the noises of the taboo being lifted. These are the noises that we can expect. To hear them means that it’s happening. Blessed are the noises.

People got all semantical on me about the “rude” thing earlier.
All I was trying to point out, is that this discussion that we are having, used to be considered very rude. We are among the first people to be having these kind of conversations in such a public forum. Even atheists used to consider this kind of conversation to be rude when the faithful are listening. And now we are doing what we used to consider rude, and saying no, it’s not rude. It’s just true and necessary dialogue.

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 28, 2007 at 9:47 pm Link to this comment


I don’t know about your “50 year” estimate, but the current behavior of the middle east appears to bear out your appraisal of the current readiness of the middle east to absorb democracy and a respect for individuality.

In an attempt to sympathize with what it must be like to be raised in the conditions of a hard core religion, I can only imagine that the fanatic fans of a particular sports team must suffer the same handicap as a religious fanatic.

With the sports fan, a referree can make *no* calls against the fan’s favorite team.  In each case, the ref is accused of favoring the opposing team.  At best, the ref is accused of being just plain dumb.

In all other aspects of life, this sports fan is reasonable and seemingly normal, but get him in front of his favorite sports event when things don’t go his way, and it’s a real behavioral freak show.

And while the sports fan often does a brilliant job of producing a rationalization for his outrage against the refs and opposing team, it is clear to those who don’t suffer the same fanaticism that we are dealing with a truly deluded individual. (at least when discussing his game)

Of course, with a sports fan, we can question the value of having so much fanatical enthusiasm for such a silly and childish subject.  We do it all the time. -Not with a religious fanatic-

With a religious fanatic, it is considered very impolite to question a person’s religious fanaticism… and so we, in a sense, are witnessing the unbridled and drunken dance of delusions.  These delusions are politely protected by society. 

Of course, the content of a religious fervor consists of rules and meanings that have far greater and far more dangerous behavioral implications.

Ever watched a soccer hoodlum?  bad behavior, eh?  Now imagine giving that same hoodlum the notion that god wants him to protect and defend “the team”.  Now, even further, develop a taboo against questioning his world view!  (I would suggest that this is the final step in letting the venom flow.)

It’s an analogy that I’m kicking around.. maybe not perfect… but maybe it is.

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By ender, June 28, 2007 at 6:32 pm Link to this comment

This discussion about ‘spreading democracy’ in reference to the Middle East is premature. At least 50 years premature, and that only under extraordinary circumstances, such as a series of devistating revolutions where the people themselves overthrow their rulers and suffer through the birth pains of democracy on their own. Excepting Turkey, they’ve been living in tightly controlled and represive monarchies throughout their history.  There was no Greece or Rome, no tradition of the Citizen of the State, only of the subjects of the rulers. The only reason it has worked in Turkey is a heavy European influence over many decades, and a Constitutionally proclaimed Secular State.  Islam(much like pre-enlightenment Christianity) supports Monarchies and carries no concept of human equality in politics.  Of course their was a democratically elected Secular gov’t in Iran, but they nationalized Oil so we put an end to that.  Any wonder that Iranians generally like Americans and American values but hate our government and its policies wholeheartedly?

And Timmy - we don’t need suicide bombers.  We have Cowboys with cruise missiles, B52s, Momma Bush and apple pie.

Get real America.  I don’t necessarily believe in God, but I do believe in Karma, or cause and effect.  We are 15% of the worlds population, and until China’s very recent expansion, consumed 50% of the worlds energy resources and commercial output.  If you think we can be this ‘rich’ without their being a corresponding population made ‘poor’ by exploitation, then you need to learn a little economics and a lot of history.

The actions of our gov’t have often been reprehensible, and many of us protest, but still reap the bounty of our economic hegemony.  Much of the world looks at us as spoiled, immature brats, and they are right. 

We have the freedom to think, talk, vote and act in ways that can lead the way for the third world to move forward into an era of democracy, progress and economic improvement.  But as long as we can be duped into believing empiralist like this administration, we are not living up to our promise, any more than those suffering under the yoke of despotic regimes and ancient tribal religions.  And we our only excuse is our blindness to the privilege of our existance.

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By lindadugan, June 28, 2007 at 3:48 pm Link to this comment


With all due respect, I did not miss your point.  Even in cyperspace one can read between the lines and not take words literally. I know that you do not actually believe Sam is a rude person.  But I still do not agree with you when you say he is being rude to people of faith.

Sam is not being rude to people of faith.  He is simply stating facts and asking them for evidence.  This inevitably challenges them to think in ways that causes them much cognitive dissonance. For some I imagine it can be quite painful.  And for those who struggle so greatly over these beliefs I feel empathy.

The situation is similar to a young child hearing for the first time there is no Santa Claus. People of faith do have a child-like trust in mythology. Some children do not want to give up their immaginary friends.

But Sam’s discourse does not constitute rudeness. He is simply the parent explaining the real world to a child.

Parents are not rude to their children in this manner.  They are trying to help their children mature and face the difficult task of living an authentic life.

We are simply disagreeing over semantics.  Perhaps a better word to use to describe Sam is inflamatory or controversial.  Because of the nature of his topic: religion, one cannot discuss it without inciting people’s emotions and knee-jerk reactions.

This is not about being disrespectful. It is about speaking and seeking truth based on evidence and living one’s life with integrity.  If people could manage to do this by abandoning their faith, the world as we know it would be greatly improved.

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 28, 2007 at 3:14 pm Link to this comment

Nahida has still failed to answer my comments or questions, but OK.

Those crime stats.  Forgetting the mideast for a moment, it’s hard to explain why U.S. crimes are so much higher than other western/industrialized nations.  It’s embarrassing that we are almost #1 with regard to any sort of crime you can name when compared to Sweden, Norway, etc. etc.  We are also the most devoutly Christian (so clearly religion isn’t helping us!)...and we seem to have the fewest atheist of other western nations.

Nahida, are you hoping that we don’t know about how rape is handled in manye middle eastern communities?  If I were a female in almost ANY Muslim nation, I - would - keep - my -  mouth -  shut!  Are you kidding?  The consequences of admitting that you were raped are almost as bad as the rape itself! 

I ask again:  Is admitting that you were raped to a fundamentalist cleric a bad thing because he is too open minded?  Is it bad because he just hasn’t read the Koran with enough literalism? Are the reactions of the woman’s own family/community due to a lack of contact with the Koran?

Even with that, I doubt rapes are as common as they are in the U.S… but this is not due to the presence or absence of religion.  Criminal behavior in the U.S. does not occur as the criminal chants verses from a religious text.

Further, the draconian and immediate penalties for even minor crimes in many middle east nations are so severe that such crimes are far less likely to occur.

So yes, Islamic law, if nothing else, keeps shop lifting to a minimum! In some cases, it would minimize your ability to speak as you are in this forum as well!!

Go to any U.S. prison, and I’d bet you’d find just about a 100% number of folks who are either Christian or Muslim….and I’ll further bet that religion didn’t play a role in their crime.  It would be silly for the media to say, “Jeff Doe stole a stereo today, and let’s see, .... oh! he was a christian.” 
See? silly.

When it appears that an person does an act of violence due to religious belief… regardless of the religion… they report it. 

Still, “media bias” wasn’t the point of the video debate.

So again, this is beside the point.

The *current* destabilizing forces in Iraq… for example… the extremists that are trying to gain control of fellow Muslims.  Quoting religious texts as they justify their violent mayhem.  Video taping themselves cloaked in religious garb, chanting Islamic justifications, and then engaging in unspeakable acts of violence.  It’s hard not to notice their apparent fondness for the Koran!

I think we agree on more than you think.  I am merely suggesting that it MIGHT be time that the free world make a no-fooling stand against suppressive governments. 
Democracy in the mideast may indeed result in a hard core theocracy.  Frankly, even the moderate muslims have taken me by surprise with the severity of their religious views…I would say that they have taken everyone by surprise.
I was totally ignorant of the level of religiosity.  There I said it: ignorant. 

I thought moderates would certainly suffer from the U.S. invasion (Saddam was dug in pretty good), but then *use* the U.S. to assist them into a position such that they could finally escape thug like dictatorships.  Once he was on the run, I was partly expecting surrounding nations to quickly assist once they saw that Saddam-the-bully was gone.  It didn’t go down like that.

Instead, the moderates make excuses for the extremists and move to Europe!  It’s hard to blame them for not taking a stand, I guess. Who wants to be cut up while the thug chants slogans from your favorite religion anyway? 

Actually, it’s never made entirely clear that the “good” Muslims are truly upset by the actions of extremists.  Clearly, it’s safer to complain about non-muslims!  That says something.

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By wavelength, June 28, 2007 at 3:01 pm Link to this comment


Ah yes… I knew it was just a matter of time before a liberal blogger inserted himself into the conversation with charges of racism.  So predictable, so pointless, so pathetic.

I am truly amazed by how casually you play the race card.  I think you do this because you get a lot of personal mileage out of it.  It serves the dual purpose of establishing your moral superiority and silencing the opposition.  According to your silly script, the rest of us should either drop our arguments altogether or spend the rest of our time scurrying away or backpedaling to defend ourselves against the charge of being “insensitive bigots”.  I completely reject your political correctness and the bullying stance it entails.

I recommend that other bloggers do not respond to the charge of racism in a tit-for-tat manner.  It only gives legitimacy to the claims made by this bottom-feeder.  And Themis, you are quite a bottom-feeder.

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By Timmy, June 28, 2007 at 2:02 pm Link to this comment

Linda, you missed my point.
I don’t think that Sam is rude either.
But people of faith do. He is rude to them because he completely disrespects their religious beliefs to their face. One can not tell someone politely that the god they worship is a fantasy. It’s the conversation that is rude. Tone is moot.

Can you be specific about how the western media portrays muslims as, all of those nasty things that you said? You made an inflammatory statement and provided no examples. You need to provide at least one don’t you? Since, as you say, it is rampant, it should be easy to come up with one example I would think. Can you?

As for the crime statistics, does the murder tally on your list count the state sponsored executions of dissidents in muslim kingdoms and theocracies? I doubt it, but these are still murders. Does it count all of the domestic violence that goes unreported because it is an accepted practice?

Perhaps we could decrease the crime rate in this country if we increase the penalty for shoplifting to limb amputation. I’m not sure what point you are trying to make with your list of statistics. How about a comparison list of religious based suicide bombing deaths in muslim countries vs western countries.

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By Logician, June 28, 2007 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment

Re#82020 by wavelength on 6/27:

I don’t know who the hell you are, but I have three things to say to you:

I am not worthy!

I am not worthy!

I am not worthy!

Your most excellent post was to the point and so it was ignored, for EXACTLY the reasons you stated it would be.  How appropriate its last four digits were 2020, as in the full, direct vision one has in reason, and not in the scummy filth of religion… 

Nahida is one of two things:

1) A mentally crippled victim of religious child abuse utterly incapable of understanding anything being said to her about that abuse
2) A lying troll trying so hypocritically to keep telling US to have an open mind while people kill babies in the name of her schizophrenic prophet and she discounts anyone who doesn’t say her “faith” is worth a penny more than a pile of camel poo.

I’ve read this ‘nahida’s’ posts, which are excellent examples of the liar’s art as she slithers around EVERY point and she is no better than the apologists for the scum in white hoods.

Nahida!  Why aren’t you flying to IRAQ?  Why will you not actively engage that ‘oh-so-smart-brain’ of yours that you blither about and openly speak to the Imams of your faith in IRAQ and tell them to STOP KILLING BABIES?

WE don’t need to hear your smarmy self-righteous lying crap, the IMAMS who are ordering babies’ deaths need to hear the mind your schizophrenic prophet guides. 

Until you do, you’re not proving anything except you want to WIN a pointless debate.  I know you are not smart enough to leave your god-crutch behind, YOU know you’re not smart enough to leave your god-crutch behind, you’re only yapping at us because you orgasmically delight in being a victim of your pathetically backward faith. 

I note how quickly your ire came up when I challenged you… as it should.  I am not here to listen to more of your vile apologies, I am here to challenge you to do EXACTLY what you are doing here in a mosque in IRAQ. 

Either you believe your god will protect you, or you don’t.  Are you truly faithful?  Then be the prophet you were meant to be!  Guide the IMAMS to the glorious peace of the prophet!  Or do you know, in your deepest self, that you would be dead in seconds if you DARED to speak there as you do here?

I think you do.  And so it goes…

And once more, wavelength: bee-yoo-tee-full!

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By lindadugan, June 28, 2007 at 12:48 pm Link to this comment


I emphatically agree with Josh.

Sam Harris is not rude.

He is candid, controversial, relentless, robust and stands up for what he believes in.  He is not rude and when you use that term you imply that he is arrogant, mean-spirited, self-aggrandizing, egotistical, callous, stubborn, vulgar and vile.  Many of his opponents may believe he is any or all of these descriptions, but that is because they want to reduce him to a splotch of spilled milk on the floor.  They want to attack and annihilate him (figuratively speaking) because he questions everything they hold dear to their hearts and when he shows indignity towards their false gods and myths and exposes their deep-seated taboos into the light of day, they are reduced to a simple “flight-or-fight” reptilian response. 

They will use all conceivable language to discount, discredit, dismiss and annihilate his words.

Sam is an intelligent, honest, reasonable, prolific and prophetic individual who speaks volumes of truth.  If more people comprehended him the world would no doubt be vastly improved.

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By nahida, June 28, 2007 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment

Dear Josh, part-1

Sorry for not responding to you earlier, I just kept being distracted with the loud noises in this forum.
I had offered some suggestions in order to move this dialogue a bit forward, as from now on, I would only respond to people who genuinely believe in dialogue as means of solving problems, and who want to live in a pluralistic multi-cultural, diverse and harmonious world.
Those who look for commonalities and connections rather than discrepancy and separatism, those who believe in integration, yet respect diversity and individualism.

To start with and in response to your question; I have lived in many different countries (being an exiled Palestinian) and my life is still on the move, some major changes had happened in my life recently, and I don’t know where I will be next.
The only place I would love to live in is my little village near Jerusalem, where I grew up; yet it’s the only place that I am denied the right –as a refugee- to live in; for lack of Jewishness in me.

Next, and before answering any of further questions I must set some records straight, so please be patient with me.

Before we start, I would like to clarify some points about my personal stance:
I know –and it put me to shame- that many atrocities have been committed by people of faith, and I acknowledge that religion has been used in various places and times as a vehicle for tyrants, and as means of controlling the masses, and that I abhor and detest, and I -under no circumstances- that I am an apologists for any evil act, done by the name of religion. What ever hurt, crime, oppression, or injustice perpetrated against human being is abominable and detestable, but when done in the name of religion it doubly so.

However, I also acknowledge that there are systematic attempts in the Western media to dehumanise one quarter of the world population, namely the Muslims.
That is done overtly as well as subliminally, and it’s enough to read some newspapers and watch some movies that mention Muslims to see what I mean.
When a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or an atheist comments a crime, he/she is “so and so” committed a crime…. Their religious affiliation is never mentioned.

When a Muslim commits a crime however, he is a “Muslim” terrorist, and a “Muslim” murderer.
From what you read in the news you are led to believe that all Muslims are none but a cult of psychopaths. And I don’t really blame any of you for that, for this is the impression that one gets when exposed to Western media alone.

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By nahida, June 28, 2007 at 12:41 pm Link to this comment

To Josh, part-2

It’s enough though for any honest researcher to go and check the figures of crime, domestic violence, rape, child abuse, and assault… etc, compare the rates of occurrences between Western and Muslim countries.

Crime Statistics : Assaults (per capita) by country

United States: 7.56923 per 1,000 people
United Kingdom: 7.45959 per 1,000 people
Canada: 7.11834 per 1,000 people
Australia: 7.02459 per 1,000 people
Finland: 5.32644 per 1,000 people
Turkey: 0.76779 per 1,000 people
Qatar: 0.378888 per 1,000 people
Saudi Arabia: 0.178098 per 1,000 people
Indonesia: 0.0767107 per 1,000 people
Yemen: 0.0489699 per 1,000 people
Azerbaijan: 0.0252781 per 1,000 people
View source and more countries here:

Crime Statistics : Burglaries (per capita) by country

Australia: 21.7454 per 1,000 people
Dominica: 18.7892 per 1,000 people
Finland: 16.7697 per 1,000 people
United Kingdom: 13.8321 per 1,000 people
Canada: 8.94425 per 1,000 people
Iceland: 8.11156 per 1,000 people
Switzerland: 8.06303 per 1,000 people
United States: 7.09996 per 1,000 people
France: 6.11634 per 1,000 people
Ireland: 5.73755 per 1,000 people
Malaysia: 1.37407 per 1,000 people
Tunisia: 0.762283 per 1,000 people
Qatar: 0.347604 per 1,000 people
Yemen: 0.00530709 per 1,000 people
Saudi Arabia: 0.000416383 per 1,000 people

View source and more countries here:

Crime Statistics : Murders by country

France: 1,051
United States: 12,658
Germany: 960
United Kingdom: 850
Italy: 746
Yemen: 697
Malaysia: 551
Australia: 302
Tunisia: 113
Saudi Arabia: 105
Qatar: 1

View source and more countries here:

Crime Statistics : R.apes by country

United States 30%
South Africa 17.9%
Canada 8.1%
Australia 5.3%
India 5.2%
United Kingdom2.9%
France 2.9%
Germany 2.5%
Korea, South 2.1%
Spain 1.9%
Thailand 1.4%
Venezuela 1%
Poland 0.8%
Italy 0.8%
Colombia 0.6%
Netherlands 0.6%

View source and more countries here: 
(because of the last link I couldn’t post, so I inserted the letter q in the last ward of the link, delete it to view link)

It is also worth visiting Muslim countries, and getting your fact from the grounds.

Any honest observer would realize that it is blatant racism to view 1.6 billion human beings either as blood thirsty terrorist, dim brainless psychos, or mad psychopaths.

Can you see that there is a missing link here? Something is simply not quite right, things just don’t fit neatly.

So, before we carry on our discussion, we need to strip our prejudices away, and start afresh, without the baggage that we’ve been fed by the media.
There still much more that I would like to address before attempting to answer your questions, dear Josh, so please bear with me.

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By lindadugan, June 28, 2007 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment


I have digested your words from yesterday‘s post and I agree with all of your statements except those in paragraph number 1, 5 and 6. 

1.  When you say that you were convinced Saddam and WMD were “reason enough” for us to attack Iraq all of your “reasoning” flies in the face of deception, lies and distortions. The problem with finding reasons to go to war is how does one know if the reasons are the “truth”?  If they are not based on evidence, real evidence then they are nothing more than straw man and distortions.  We can agree that time has already indicated this to be the case in Iraq.  As citizens we cannot make realistic and reasonable decisions without knowing the truth and we were not armed or aligned with the truth when we went to Iraq.  The facts, reasons and truths for going to war were, misrepresented, misconstrued and manipulated by an Administration who wanted to throw out Saddam and they performed every conceivable and inconceivable act to succeed in doing so.  Even while the masses (70-80% of the public) were accomplices to a “mob mentality”—- like a posse of vigilantes in a b-rated western movie—-  approximately 20% of the US public were speaking against the war along with many of our European allies (surely you remember all the debacle over “Freedom Fries”  and how embarrassing it all was and is even today.)  Sadly, these Americans were accused of being defectors,  treasonous, terrorist,  unpatriotic and members of fringe activist group.  But in reality,  this small minority of voices   were authentic, tax-paying, red blooded citizens raising opposition to a Machiavellian, insane, belligerent and poisonous policy.  When the media then turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the powerful spin,  mayhem and rhetoric seeping, spilling and hurling from the mighty,  all hope for reasonableness and prudence was annihilated.  Going to war in the Mideast is an even more tenuous endeavor than most likely any other place on the planet and Sam Harris gives some rather eloquent words to describe why.  When he says, that democracy coming to a Mideast country is little more than a “gangplank to theocracy” and “..we cannot merely force Muslim dictators from power and open the polls. It would be like opening the polls to the Christians of the 14th century,”  I am willing to state that Sam “got it” correctly.  Unfortunately, too many did not and now we are in a magnitude of messes beyond our own comprehension and capabilities.
5.  Your talk of “going after the bad guys” probably does not need much comment.  I think I have exhausted most of the reasons why doing so just does not work, especially in the Mideast.
6.  Your statement that the US “should not act alone” likewise leaves little to comment on except to to say that the 20% against the Iraq War often used that exact argument for reasons not to invade.  Bush’s “coalition of plenty” was little more than feathers falling from a nest. His refusal to respect the multitudes of countries unwilling to fight this ugly war indicates how narrow and fragile the man’s reasoning abilities really are. Combine that with his belief in a God who is giving him divine direction and no one should be surprised by our current fate and affairs.  With hindsight, (and forsight from the 20%)  we can clearly see that acting alone is a form of suicide in the world today.  And it is a valid and worthy consideration for future leaders to weigh. 

And finally, it seems that you and others supporting the war were rather blindsided by propaganda and wishful thinking about how Iraq would be played out.  I cannot fault anyone but our government and the media for such gross inadequacies. But it seems we humans continously repeat the mistakes of our forefathers and too eagerly support our government when more questions and investigations are required of us. And as citizens we have a personal responsibility to do just that.

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By barry seidman, June 28, 2007 at 11:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wavelength is so dogmatically committed to his messianic atheism that he thinks a brilliant scholar like Atran (has he read his book?) is wrong and nonscientists (who is schooling in neuroscience, but I wonder just how he will stack up with current, actual neuroscientists) like polemicist Harris is right about the evolutionary landscape of religion. Real critical thinking there wink

Atran did not embarrass himself because he showed more actual emotion than Harris anymore than Howard Dean was a “nut” because he showed emotion re his so-called “scream.”  What has become of intellectual analysis in this country?  Atran’s points were correct, and that - not his emotions - were what counted… Harris’s understanding of Atran’s points were pathetic.

And Wavelength has the nerve to call Atran “rude” when he champions the likes of the “new atheists’ such as Dawkins and Hitchens?

And Skinner, to call social science philosophy betrays your bias and ignorance.  Oddly enough, Harris’s critique of religion as well as Hitchen’s IS philosophy and not any sort of science (social or physical)!

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 28, 2007 at 10:58 am Link to this comment

The point of this topic is *not* “why are there suicide bombers?”.  Using the word “scientist” in the social “sciences” practiced by Atran is to stretch the meaning of science.  It’s more like philosophy.

You are painting yourself as some sort of incredibly polite person unfamiliar with the rants that occur on the internet.  Yet, here are some examples of your remarks (to me):
“ can any person with the least amount of commonsensical ability, and minimum emotional capacity imagine that (Nahida)
“Which planet do you live on? What kind of morality influences you? Do you really belong to the human race??” (Nahida)
“deceiving yourself with ... this abhorrent repulsive feeling…” (Nahida)
“Is there an end to this arrogance??” (Nahida)

I ask you, have I launched any similar diatribe against you to deserve such an unprovoked attack against my personal views?

Even further, how much time did I spend addressing your insults.  Very little.  I merely responded by indicating that your pretense of knowing the one truth about the meaning of life could easily be deemed more arrogant than any other possible view one can hold.  Then, I continued by repeating the same questions that you (conveniently) refuse to answer.

No, you seem to be using the impolite comments of others as your escape hatch as Josh predicted.  You have effectively dodged all substantive comments and questions and capitalized on the opportunity to disingenuously color yourself as an innocent victim.  I understand that you are trying to represent Islam in the most positive light possible, but it gets us too far astray.  It also makes me second guess the Muslim “innocent victim” argument launched about the worldwide issue in general.
Instead of the off-topic points about rudeness, rules of conversational etiquette, and condescending remarks about accepting diversity… I think it would be best to stick to the topic. 

Well, here’s a rule of my own:  either ignore insults completely and/or respond only to the actual points being made… this is the best tactic and it keeps us on the topic.

***Is religion playing a role in the violence seen in the middle east?***

and so I have asked:
Why aren’t the “many” moderate Muslims taking to the streets in protest of…
..female mutilations?
...honor killings?
...suicide bombers (and those that cover for them) that blow themselves up in market places full of muslims and other non-combatants???
...fatwa’s to execute chubby little harmless writers (and their publishers and interpreters- which have been killed and/or stabbed by Muslims)
...executions of “apostates”
...schools which teach hate of westerners and infidels

Past U.S. mistakes aside: 
I also asked-
Do you truly wish for the U.S. infidels to walk away from Iraq as it stands right now? 
Do you have any doubt about what would happen if we “allowed muslims to handle their own affairs”? (your words)
Would the violence on Muslims be perpetrated by people who are too-secular or too open minded? 
Would the violence be done because the militants haven’t had enough Islamic influence?
Would your fellow “moderate” Muslims rise up in outrage against the militants? (If there truly are “many more” moderates than militants, this should be easy work!)
Does it help at all that we have whole segments of the world that are certain that they hold the one true magic book and are compelled to protect it and (even worse) spread it’s influence???

You spent a lot of time making accusations (such as “intellectual dishonesty”), but offered literally NO examples of what the heck you were referring to!  Frankly, filing complaints without any details is a very clear form of dishonesty.  Make some specific points, and we are in business!

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By ender, June 28, 2007 at 6:28 am Link to this comment

Sorry nahida,
but politeness, civilization and graciousness are trite and meaningless concepts, when the world is on the brink of the ‘next great War’.  The Atomic Clock was moved ahead 2 minutes recently reflecting the conviction that an Islamic group will attain a nuclear device and attack a western nation within a few years, unless something changes.  I wouldn’t be polite to the US administration, but they don’t really care what America or the world thinks or says.  I’d like to see Dick Cheney impeached, then his toady puppet G. Bush, collapse like the empty bag he is.  They should both be tried for war crimes, and hung alongside Chemical Ali.

Still, if some freakshow muslim sets off a nuke in Israel, that nation will turn Mecca, Riyadh and Tehran into glass parking lots that will glow in the dark for 10,000 years.

And it will be what they deserve.  I don’t try to hide America’s imperialistic behavior behind the guise of a Christian Crusade.  It is for the religion of POWER.  The capitalist Western Hegemony thinks it stays in power only as long as they maintain control of the oil based economy.  Let’s not hide the internal wars of Islam behind dogma.  That may be what the masses believe, just as Americans still think we have some higher moral ground, but the intertribal interfaith conflicts are really blinds for the power struggle between Arab and Persian cultures, and who will rule the region.

The Islamic nations must embrace the 21st Century, and move toward political structures that give them at least as much of a chance as American’s have of removing their despots from power.  Secularism, modernization and the advancement of technology and science must become the answer to poverty and oppression, not imagining that it can be taken from the Jews, Shias or Sunnis.

And the Western world needs to move away from an oil based economy, and help the Mideast understand that without oil money, the desert can’t support millions of humans in anything other than poverty because that money will never be divided evenly, and there is a limit to the oil.

And finally, the next time Western culture invades an Islamic state, it better do it for a plausible reason, with a real goal, and a commitment to win.  By losing two wars, Mamma’s Little Cocaine Cowboy has given too many nations the belief that they can prevail over our technological superiority. 

So the Nuclear Clock moves forward, and humankind can no longer afford to be POLITE.

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By Josh, June 28, 2007 at 6:12 am Link to this comment

Your rules are un-enforcable.  Nobody is able to block, flag, or do anything with posts.
Thus, you are going to have to determine whether you truly want to dialogue with people who are being open-minded and willing to listen, or whether you will allow yourself to be distracted by those who choose to be rude/disrespectful.

I’ve stopped responding to the posts that are obviously just a confrontational ploy, and would hope that as a ‘mature woman’ you, too, could do this.

There are still many legitimate questions to you that are on the table, unanswered.

Because of your inability to ignore ‘flaming’ posts, and the enjoyment derived by those that are posting them, this forum is quickly devolving.

If you are being truthful about your desire to communicate openly - I say again - prove it.

One thing I am curious is regarding in which country you currently live. 

After answering this, please respond to the legitimate questions posted by myself and other many posts back.

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By nahida, June 28, 2007 at 5:14 am Link to this comment


I noticed you’ve changed your tune in your latest post, and that is encouraging, does that mean you are willing to engage in a civilized, polite, and gracious dialogue?

If that is the case I welcome this move by you (and any others), but we must highlight some rules of engagement that would enable all of us to present our thoughts without humiliating or alienating each other with insults and hatred.

Maybe to you that is not an important thing, but to me it is vitally important… because dear, we all yearn for a better future, a future of more tolerance, more compassion, and more respect… and if all of you are not willing to exercise and manifest these basic human values, in this modest forum, with a little old harmless woman then I think its highly unlikely that this benevolence and kindness could be demonstrated and these principles lived by with the outside world.

It’s from here that we could start -if we so wish- to show that another world is possible… a world where no one is persecuted or harassed because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs.

Now if you and others are willing to engage in such a dialogue, I whole-heartedly welcome that, but we must agree upon some rules:

- the aim of the dialogue is NOT to impose or enforce our beliefs upon each other, but to SHARE our diverse views -courteously- even if we vigorously disagree with them, and even if we think we are right. We must leave it to the individual to decide where his/ her standing point is.

- presenting of our views rationally, sensibly and without resorting to dehumanization or personal attacks.

- No persecution, rudeness, harassment, rudeness, or abuse

And I will use the definition of persecution as put kindly by Josh:

v) To oppress or harass with ill-treatment, especially because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs}

-we all have brains, some perhaps are more intelligent than others, but that does not give any of us the right to feel intellectually superior (even if they are more intelligent), and hence accuses others of being stupid or lacking the ability to think.

- As a consequence of coming from such a diverse backgrounds, cultures and histories we inevitably might have a completely different perspective on the world, and on the world’s events; hence extra sensitivity is required to accommodate that fact. Accusing the other of being brainwashed or indoctrinated is not an empathetic standpoint.

- To start with open minds and open hearts, leaving all preconceived ideas,  prejudices, and hatred outside this forum.

- To present our views gently, sensibly, and empathetically with sincere attempts to reach out and genuinely to try to find a way out to this mess that we find our world in.

We all share the same dream of a more peaceful world, so instead of wasting our energy on quarrelling about disagreements that we have, why not try to search for common ground… things that we can build upon rather than things that separate us and make our world fragmented, disjointed, and shattered.

- It is not an “either you or us” mentality that we should approach the dialogue with, but rather, “there is room for all”.

- Faith and atheism have existed since man existed, and they will continue to exist as man continues to; so we need to find ways of living harmoniously together rather than with the obsession of destroying each other.

Now, these are some modest thoughts and reflections about what has been happening here in this forum, if anyone is willing to take things further with me with this in mind, then with open heart I meet you.

If people still want to carry on with the mentality of “ending the other’s freedom of thought and choice” even by means of abuse, hollering, insults, and rudeness… I hereby leave you in peace, depart and say salam… goodbye…

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By Themis, June 28, 2007 at 4:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“intellectual honesty”
is repeatedly claimed in a previous post, and yet, there is not much of it around here.

instead, we have a bunch of cowardly narcissistic jerks animated by rabid and primitive anti-arab racism, who gang up under the disguise of atheism,  to relentlessly attack one person. How convenient.

in lieu of intellectual honesty we have an exposure of often infantile self inflation, a flagrant set of psychological and intellectual frailties and failures.

what does that person has, that makes you froth at the mouth like this: she is muslim, apparently highly educated and ...she is a woman. As good americans,of course these are just the wrong features, aren’t they, in your narrow point of view.

i must say your alleged atheism of your gang is rather transparently as dishonest and fanatical as was the spanish inquisition.

may be a few trips abroad, to Europe, learning a few foreign languages, would teach you for example that double exclamation marks are grammatically correct in spanish, and that civilization is a concept older than “6000 years”, and that arabs were pioneers in some of the sciences one of you pompously suggest to get acquainted with, wherein himself has obviously some quite wide gaps, and probably just plain vacuum. 

after reading the comments, it seems obvious that the woman you attack relentlessly, has obviously more intellectual honesty than you 5 jerks combined.

Why don’t you just come out with your real fantasies: Hanging her? Burning her? Impaling her? Stoning her? Shooting her? after all one of you was loudly drooling of having her bombed to pieces in a mosque… he said “we all know here…” meaning possibly his uniformed collegues in his Qatar US base.

and then they talk big super-sized mouthfuls about muslim women suffering under Islam! This looks more like muslim women suffering under fanatical judeo-christianism and atheism. 

if you ganged up 5 pseudonyms had the slightest hint of the “intellectual honesty” you claim to have, you would search for what you have in common with the honestly religious and pacific people, of which you could find many in academia, had you ever reached any achievement in the field of sciences. But instead, you prefer banging ridiculously your fists on your chests like some primitive idiots mimicking airs of superiority and participating in the divide and conquer strategy of those who indeed have instrumentalised judaism and christianism for their abhorrent crimes and wars.

in essence, whether you like it or not, your divisive, sanguinary attacks make you direct and active allies of the judeo-christian right wing wackos who, “because God told…to do so”  are committing massacres of genocidal amplitude against arabs and muslims, eradicating civilizations older than 8000 years, promoting wars and pauperization of the world’s population, causing ruthless and irreparable harm to our planet.

as someone whithout religious background, it is impossible not to see in these Harris-Hedges threads, how brainwashed and fanaticised, often dishonest likes of BFskinnerPunks, Timmys, Logicians, Wavelengths, Lindadugans etc, are abusing legitimate atheism, making it an instrument of the fanatical judeo-christians on one hand, and on the other hand of the corrupt criminal nutcases who used religion to manipulate the USA mob into bleeding themselves for the profit of a few.

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By Timmy, June 28, 2007 at 3:54 am Link to this comment


Too true. Atran was a joke at the Beyond Belief conference.
I was disgusted to hear him take great care to give the correct Arabic pronunciation every time he use the word Al Quaeda. Like he wanted to impress Bin Laden if he was listening.
Like Hedges, Atran stayed with some very nice muslim families when he lived in the middle east and so we are insulting friends of his when we point out that most of the worlds problems are caused by religion, and that Islam is the most problematic right now.

Atran’s picture should appear beside the term “suicide bomber apologist” in the dictionary.

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By Anna Candlin, June 28, 2007 at 3:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’ve read a lot of the material on the website though not listened yet to the discussion. It seems to me that you are speaking a different language than most of the others taking part - though I do think they raise serious questions which cannot be lightly dismissed. When I was managing a Refugee project a few years ago there were refugees from many countries who had suffered appalling atrocities at the hands of people who claimed to be acting in the name of Islam:
Iranian women who had served long prison sentences for wanting some freedom of expression in their education, in dress, in social relations etc
A Nigerian woman Olympic athlete who saw one of her fellow women athletes beheaded for wearing running shorts by representatives of the (Islamic) govt. in northern Nigeria.
The Pakistani Govt. Minister, a Christian, who received death-threats to himself and his family if he didn’t leave the country. (I saw these letters myself, written on government letterheaded paper).
A Bangladeshi Catholic couple whose home had been burned and their tiny daughters threatened with rape.
Sudanese Christians from Darfur who have been made refugees in their thousands by the Arab-controlled government.
In every case, these refugees were terrified of being returned to their own countries and were desperate to live in the UK, where they felt they were safe and free to exercise there own choices and lifestyles.
If you simply say that all these atrocities are done mistakenly and wrongly in the name of religion, then you seem to be claiming that religion is only those things which are good, pure, true, humane. My own long experience of (Christian)religious communities taught me that there is every shade of opinion and bahaviour within religious communities - bigots, warmongers, misogynists, racists etc as well as the inspiring people who are universalists, humanitarians, etc. Certainly the Christian Old Testament (Almost the same books as the Jewish Torahs) are full of vicious, racist, militaristic stories which are attributed to God and should have no place in the modern world.
For me, secularism has made a great contribution to human freedom, by freeing society from religious control, which was crippling to human development. I say this as a believer, as a deeply spiritual and prayerful person. Religions have distorted genuine spirituality and we need to find new ways to relate to each other spiritually, to evaluate and retain what is good in all religious traditions and practises, but to safeguard the freedoms won by and for our secular societies.
The website debate needs a more nuanced appoach - such polarisation as has been expressed locks people into embattled positions which are not helpful. Anne

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By wavelength, June 28, 2007 at 2:47 am Link to this comment


Your never cease to amaze. 

For anyone who finds Atran’s arguments compelling, I recommend watching the Beyond Belief 2006 conference in which Sam Harris engages Atran directly.  There are at least 2-3 segments, all of which are available separately on You-Tube or as downloads from the conference website.

Atran is rude, arrogant, dismissive, and in serious error on all important points in the various discussions.  More importantly, Sam eviscerates him on every substantive point in the debate.  Atran embarrasses himself pretty badly. 

Watch this video and judge for yourself whether Atran’s points stand up to direct criticism.

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By Timmy, June 28, 2007 at 2:06 am Link to this comment

The most troubling thing of all here, or perhaps the most hopeful thing of all, is that Nahida wants the very same thing that we all want. A world where all of the people live in peace and happiness.
Is such a thing possible?
It must be, because we all dream of such a world. I know that Nahida does, and I know that I do.

It is startling to me how different our brains must work when we both want the same thing and have such conflicting ideas of how to get there. Sam Harris pleads for “intellectual honesty”. What he basically means by that is; in our attempt to work together for that world peace and happiness that we all long for, let’s start by admitting one thing:

The origin of the universe is unknown.

How and why we got here is the great mystery that we all must deal with.
It is a wondrous mystery. And for me, as an atheist, it is a joyous mystery to be spiritual about.
And how on earth, will we ever be able to live in peace and happiness, if there are these opposing religions who think, no not think, insist, that the mystery is solved. Their prophet in ancient times had a vision in the desert and god spoke to him and here’s a book of how we all should live. And you should fight to defend the words in these books because these are the only words that will bring paradise.

I mean, I just start laughing right away when I think about people who not only buy that, but who think that there is any hope in hell that such a thing as religion could ever bring peace to the world.

But what will then, Atheism?
No. Atheism isn’t a thing. It’s a reaction to a thing.
So what then.
Intellectual honesty.

What are the answers to the great mysteries of life?
We don’t know. We’re working on it.
Why do we love? Why do we hate?
We don’t know. We’re working on it.

In the meantime we use our collective morality to survive as a society.
And it works quite well. It might even work perfectly. But we don’t know for sure because religion gets in the way. Religion is not a collective morality, it is a hierarchy morality. That is why it screws up the collective morality.

Religion is the invention long ago of those who wanted to control morality, along with everything else. It comes from a time when the general populous was completely ignorant and had no choice to believe what their leaders would tell them. Human civilization is now 6000 years old and it is only in the last 200 years that questioning religion was something that one could do out loud without fear of being subjected to some sort of spanish inquisition.

How could people like Nahida believe that one of these hierarchy moralities could possibly bring peace and happiness to the world. It can’t, and never will.
What will?
Intellectual honesty.

This is so plain to me. And yet something completely opposite to that is plain to Nahida. And for the life of me, I can’t understand it.

If science saves us it won’t be by discovering the answer to the meaning of life. It will be by discovering what it is in some peoples brains that makes them believe in a religion started by bronze age nomadic sheep herders.

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By barry f seidman, June 28, 2007 at 12:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Here is a scientist’s take on terrorism:

(excerpt from) DISCOVER Vol. 24 No. 10 | October 2003

Josie Glausiusz interviews Scott Atran

G: So what’s the root cause of suicide terrorism?

A: As a tactical weapon, it emerges when an ideologically devoted people find that they cannot possibly obtain their ends in a sort of fair fight, and when they know they’re in a very weak position, and they have to use these kinds of extreme methods.

G: How on earth does anyone sane work up the gumption to blow himself up, together with what is often hundreds of bystanders?

A: Exactly the same way that you get soldiers on the front line of an army to sacrifice themselves for their buddies. What these cells do is very similar to what our military, or any modern military, does. They form small groups of intimately involved “brothers” who literally sacrifice
themselves for one another, the way a mother would do for her child. They do it by manipulating universal heartfelt human sentiments that I think are
probably innate and part of biological evolution. In fact, I think most culture is a manipulation of innate desires.

G: You seem to be suggesting that natural selection may be playing a role in generating the feelings that enable people to become suicide terrorists, but blowing yourself up is hardly a good strategy for
propelling your genes into the next generation.

A: Natural selection gives us all sorts of dispositions and desires that were adaptive in ancestral environments. Now, our cultural milieu picks certain of these adaptations or their by-products and is able to trigger them to produce behaviors that have nothing to do with what they
originally evolved for. Kin altruism (the theory that individuals are willing to sacrifice their lives to save closely related kin) evolved
through natural selection. If you listen to most political and religious discourse in societies, it’s always done for a brotherhood—brothers and
sisters. So you create a fictive family. How else are you going to get people to die for one another when they’re non-kin-related? You’ve got to trick them into believing they are kin-related somehow.

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By wavelength, June 27, 2007 at 11:48 pm Link to this comment


You appear to have been indoctrinated into a victim’s role that has permeated your entire cognitive life.  Consequently, you are locked into a paralyzing mentality that cripples your ability to think clearly.  This mentality provides a perfect barrier to reasonable conversation, as evidenced by your interactions with various bloggers on this board.

A similar mentality is conspicuous in other confrontations with Muslims in this country.  For example, there was a case in fall of 2006 in which six imams were taken off a US Airways flight bound for Phoenix due to “alarming conduct” that was witnessed by other passengers.  The decision was made to remove the imams from the airplane.  In response the imams continually played the role of wounded victim.  In the interim, the imams attempted to get the names of everyone who complained and to file lawsuits against them.  This was clearly to intimidate anyone who might question the public expression of their religion.  They have been unapologetic for their actions and merely assert their righteousness with endless quotes from the Koran and demands for respect.

As an outside observer, I’d like to call attention to this galling and unsettling pattern.  Like the six imams, you do not engage in open, conciliatory discussions with those who hold a grievance against you. You assume the role of victim reflexively without acknowledging personal responsibility for your own problems, how your behavior toward others influences how they treat you. You silence criticism by drowning it out, rather than through an exchange of ideas.  Any misstep by your opponent is seized upon as an opportunity to sink deeper into the victim role and to elicit guilt in others.

You illustrate to me that religious indoctrination is a form of child abuse.  It is like malicious software on the brain.  It prevents you from asking the right questions.  It prevents you from engaging in objective, dispassionate examination of evidence.  It forces you into a comfortable, but highly distorted view of reality. 

Solving this problem is beyond my skills.  All I can suggest is introspection and study.  I can suggest some courses—Cell and Molecular Biology, Introduction to Neuroscience, Evolutionary Biology, Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy, Animal Physiology, Geology, Introductory Physics and Chemistry, and Comparative Religion.  This is a great start.  Through these courses you’ll see that the world is beautiful and complex.  All ancient texts are anemic by comparison.

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 27, 2007 at 8:55 pm Link to this comment

OK… so people have been rude.  Done.  right?
Finished.  This isn’t a “who’s rude?” forum.

Nahida, respond to specific questions and comments.

If you can.

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By nahida, June 27, 2007 at 8:21 pm Link to this comment

Some quotes:

{Nahida: I have been reading your disgustingly vile apologies for the worst religion EVER for too long. If you think you can deny that FACT, you are as deluded as your great schizophrenic prophet, Mohammed, was………….You should be ASHAMED of the FILTH you have typed on this site!  How DARE you support the MOST REPRESSIVE treatment of women in this day and age! …………………………………………. Now is the time to put up or shut up.  Your toadying to the filth of Islam is STINKING THIS SITE UP!} #81560 by Logician

{You are as disingenuous as that hypocrite Rush Limgaugh: calling addicts names while feverishly popping pills himself. …………….No one gets ahead when one proclaims purity with blood on their hands.  And sweetheart, yours are dripping gore.} #81761 by Logician


{Unfortunately I think Logician has it right…………………………..We can’t force it to go, by law or by force, nor should we. But rude? We can do that. And we should……….So be rude. Be very rude. Embarrass them out of the mainstream and into the deep deep fringes of society where they belong, and are destined to be.” } #81832 by Timmy

{I have hope though.
Much of my hope lies in my new found rudeness towards the pious……..Rude will work. And rude will become an exponentially more and more powerful tool the more of us who use it……Flippant, dismissive, condescending, Rude. Silly silly little religion. Not yelling. Yelling is weak……Rude is powerful..}#81897 by Timmy


{So if you think hollering is a good method.  Go for it… I’m lost on these folks}#81882 by BFskinnerPunk


{We are not hollering. We are not even rude.} #81932 by Timmy

Enough said

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By Robertogee, June 27, 2007 at 7:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In the interest of information, please view, “Zeitgeist Part I.”

Yes, it’s free, in three Parts, or the whole film.

Download it. Put it on your iPod.

Make new friends!

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 27, 2007 at 7:17 pm Link to this comment

I wasn’t claiming that YOU are necessarily rude… but logician was being over-the-top provocative.

He sounded like one religious person shouting at another religious person… like a jew and muslim shouting at each other over a fence.

Your last post seemed sensible, but I don’t think anyone is claiming points 1,2,3 are rude.

Although, in polite company, I am certain that those points would indeed be considered rude.

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By Timmy, June 27, 2007 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment


You sure use a lot of caps and exclamation points for someone lecturing other people about hollering.
We are not hollering. We are not even rude.
We only sound rude to you when we are speaking the truth frankly because of your religious sensitivities, and that’s not our problem.

This is the plain and simple truth that sounds rude to you.

#1 How our universe came to be is an ongoing mystery. An unsolved puzzle.

But this sounds rude to you because you and yours believe that the puzzle is in fact solved and you have the answer.

#2 As a result of the unsolved mystery of the origin of the universe, God was crerated by primitive man, and not the other way around. A simple reading of human history makes this fact plain to the unbrainwashed eye.

Again, this truth sounds rude to you because it insinuates that you are a dupe. Sorry, but if the shoe fits.

#3 The primitive Belief that two thirds of the worlds population holds that thie preacher knows who god is and what god wants from us is a dangerous poison that has caused the great majority of human suffering all over the world.

This is a fact that sounds rude to you because you believe that you and or your preacher, or imam, knows who god is and what god wants from us.

You speak of peace? The following phrase sums up your prophets idea of peace.
“If it need lie beneath the shadow of swords, there will be peace.”

Good luck with that.
And stop yelling.

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 27, 2007 at 6:12 pm Link to this comment

Josh was correct. 

The yelling has given Nahida an excellent means by which she can avoid the substantive remarks and questions posted for her.

She wants an excuse to vilify infidels.

Again, there have been two or three harsh remarks by the “infidels” and yet many more insulting posts by Nahida as she accuses all others of arrogance while she professes to know the one true meaning of life….

...all while ignoring the centuries of ongoing terror committed in the name of Islam against women.

I yell ya, religion is powerful stuff!  You’ve got to hand it to those clerics!

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By Timmy, June 27, 2007 at 6:10 pm Link to this comment


Obviously you are not a believer, because you called Sam Harris polite.
To a believer, he’s nothing of the sort. And that is what I am talking about.
Not low brow, rude for rude sake. But intellectually rude.
Sam is dismissive, condescending and arrogant to any believer no matter how soft spoken he is. His words are daggers. We must all brandish such daggers.

Let me ask you Josh. Have you made any progress nicing people out of their cult delusions? Or mutually understanding them into coming to their senses? There is no question that the rude rude books by the authors I mentioned are having a dramatic effect on the public dialogue where religion is concerned. Rude is working. A wave of sanity. It is all very rude to a believer. And good.

Don’t get hung up on my usage of the word rude. It is only a word I use to describe a believers reaction to sane people speaking the truth frankly.

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By nahida, June 27, 2007 at 5:53 pm Link to this comment

BFskinnerPunk, Timmy, and all “rude” atheists

English not being my first language, I didn’t know the meaning of “Hollering” so I checked the dictionary:

and this is what I found:


{a very loud utterance (like the sound of an animal); “his bellow filled the hallway”}

If this is how you talk with people, , and if this is how you conduct debates; then:

!VIVA LA CIVILISATION! … you are trying to achieve

!VIVA LA EVOLUCION! … exemplified by you

!VIVA EL FUTURO! …. that you working to “create”

Go ahead… holler… yell… shout and be as rude as you want…
See if that gets you somewhere!!!!

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 27, 2007 at 5:41 pm Link to this comment

I do enjoy the “moxie” that Christopher Hitchens demonstrates. 

His intellectual rigor and ability to work on his feet is very entertaining because it is all combined with a frank bluster that is rare.  He is clearly the bulldog of atheism, and I love it.

Sometimes people need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the new age of reason…this appears to be his tactic. 

I saw a video of Christopher Hitchens drunk…and he still managed to lay down one hell of an excellent argument! 

He’s the opposite of Sam in terms of diplomatic tactics.

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By Josh, June 27, 2007 at 4:47 pm Link to this comment

You state that the only way we’re going to get religious folks to realize their error and become non-religious is to be rude to them?
Now, I’ve never seen Sam be rude…he’s generally very well mannered.  Perhaps you’re confusing rude with frank or straight-forward?
He did/does say that we must not continue to make criticism of religion a taboo subject.
You then state that we can’t force things, nor should we, but you then follow up that we should be rude, embarrass them. 
Let me bring up a definition:

v) To oppress or harass with ill-treatment, especially because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs.

I think that you’re idea of being rude and embarassing would qualify for ‘persecution’.
The problem with that is that often times, peopl ethat are religious are raised that being persecuted is glorifying.  They’re told, you will be persecuted by those who don’t believe, and if you continue to hold strong in your belief during persecution, you’ll get lots of rewards
So by being rude, you’re simply setting them firmer in their belief.
Therefore, if you’re goal is to eliminate religion, rudeness is counterproductive.

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 27, 2007 at 4:44 pm Link to this comment


I made the mistake of underestimating the extent of extremism that exists in the middle east.  I thought it was just a few bullies doing those misdeeds. I was also of the understanding that the middle east was aching for a removal of torturing mad men. Of course, being convinced that Saddam was arming extremists to attack us was reason enough.

I feel that the world needs to make unanimous moves against dictators.  Life needs to be made VERY hard on these dictators.  Unfortunately, these dictators (like Islamic extremists) hide behind innocent citizens and, in effect, hold them hostage.  If we attack the dictator, we kill the very people we are trying to save.

These are what I would call “tragic circumstances”.  Alternatives to war should come first.  So far, we can’t seem to build a worldwide intolerance to dictators.  Apparently, even France, Germany, and Russia had lucrative dealings with Saddam…not good.

At the very least, people everywhere should be able to be free (not necessarily rich, not living in luxury, but certainly free) and without fear of their government.  They should be free to worship and NOT free to impose their religion or their religious “rules” on others.

The democratic world needs to go after the bad guys and provide incentives to those willing to run a democratic country that respects human rights.

The U.S. should not act alone, although some might suggest that *someone* needs to do *something* because, apparently, all others want to have committee meetings.

Maybe the pen *is* mightier than the sword.  Perhaps there are many who are seeking permission to step away from their embarrassing voo-doo view of the world, and Sam’s elegant writing will provide that permission…that would be great.

There is an off chance that all of this turmoil in the mideast… with all of the attention that is now directed toward Islam… that we will witness a reformation/renaissance in the mideast.

Perhaps people like Nahida will revolt against her terrifying fellow Muslims (rather than ignoring them), and the reformation will begin.

So things are ugly now… *as they were in the dark ages of christianity*...and they look hopeless, but this may be a necessary catalyst for a true change. That’s the most optimistic statement I can make on it.

Thirty years from now, we may look back on today’s crisis and have an entirely different opinion on it. I hope!

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By Timmy, June 27, 2007 at 4:44 pm Link to this comment


Not yelling.
Flippant and dismissive. Unapologetically flagrantly purposely and arrogantly dismissive of anyone who dares to claim that they know who the creator of the universe is, and more abhorrently, what he or it wants from us.

That’s just on the existence question.
As for the debate about whether or not religion is the root cause of most human suffering?
Again. Unapologetically flagrantly purposely and arrogantly dismissive of anyone so naive and brainwashed as to deny the obvious. So bravo to Christopher Hitchens for being so rude as to put the answer to that question in the title of his book.

I really don’t think “we’re screwed”
Moderates can be gotten to. They can be made to feel stupid and not intellectual for their half-hearted culture instilled beliefs. We can push religion out of the mainstream and into the realm of the fringe cults. But we have to push. They won’t go away because we ask them too nicely. They can not be reasoned with. Their can be no mutual understanding. We can’t have a mutual understanding with christians or muslims any more than we can have a mutual understanding with David Karesh or the Branch Dividians.

I have hope though.
Much of my hope lies in my new found rudeness towards the pious.
And in the popularity of authors like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet, Stephen Weinberg etc etc etc.
Rude will work. And rude will become an exponentially more and more powerful tool the more of us who use it.
Flippant, dismissive, condescending, Rude. Silly silly little religion.

Not yelling. Yelling is weak.
Rude is powerful. It’s working with smokers.
And for moderates, religion is a much easier vile habit to quit than smoking.

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 27, 2007 at 3:47 pm Link to this comment

Well Timmy, I think we’re screwed.

It’s a miracle that there are any atheists at all.  To be able to take our first primate steps out of the dark ages goes against a very, very, strong religious current.

In the mean time, the rest of the planet is chanting, covering themselves in religious trinkets, slinging holy water, memorizing scriptures, and looking at the world like they are the children of some sort of Zeus character.  And that’s the GOOD part!!!

For the life of me, I can’t imagine a strategy that would reduce the numbers of people subscribing to this child-like and (obviously) damaging and violent view of the world.  Dogma’s and/or religion are nasty things…and people eat that stuff up (and act on it!).

Yell at them?  not so sure about that.
Talk sweetly and run the risk of protecting their delusions?  doesn’t sound good either.

Atheist have no power at all.  In some states, you can’t even run for office if you don’t hold a god belief!  If you admit to being an atheist in any realm of life you are guaranteed to immediately alienate yourself from the mainstream in ways that would surprise even gays, minorities, or any other sub-group.  Being an atheist is just about the worst thing you can be!

Atheism doesn’t have a cool set of beliefs, or a magical story with which to fall in love,... no slogans, cute jingles, or even a long tradition.  Most people need a clean set of “commandments” with a magical back story.

So if you think hollering is a good method.  Go for it… I’m lost on these folks!

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By Phil Phol, June 27, 2007 at 3:44 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How unprofessional is the “moderator” Yes you helped found this news source, but this is not your place to tell one “guest” he is “wrong, wrong, wrong!”  Do you call that journalism.  These men spend their lives formulating these ideas.  And need I say that folks don’t tune in here to see an editor’s opinions?  Thanks for putting this dialogue, but yeah you were a lousy moderator. 

Thanks to Chris and Sam for sharing their views.  Sam’s view seems more accurate on the whole.  Chris’s is based on personal history whole living abroad.  Which is more accurate?  I would take the objective view anyday of the week.

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By lindadugan, June 27, 2007 at 3:39 pm Link to this comment

part 3 of 3

Now, I have arrived at the matter where our foursome may digress.  I read one of your blogs—-bfskinner to be exact—indicating we ought to get rid of all the dictators, using North Korea as an example, because people are starving.  It all seems a bit “hawkish” to me and not very well thought out.  There is no doubt that innocent people in our sorrowful world are starving. And if it is not starvation, then it is curable diseases—-that cost pennies a day to treat—- it is the violence of war, and it is natural disasters that will lay the innocents under the ground.  These are the most wretching,  harrowing and challenging dilemmas we face on our planet today.  But I cannot fathom how one would rid the world of the abundant and menacing perpetrators by warring with them and without starting a full scale nuclear war with them and/or their allies.

In addition to North Korea, there are people dying en masse in Darfur, Congo and Chad—- to name a few in Africa—because of a myriad history of belligerent governments, unrest and corruption. A decade ago it was Rwanda, Uganda and Sierra Lione Ought we not send US troops into Africa to overthrow the atrocities perpetrated on these innocent souls? 

There are people in Mexico suffering, and in their unsuccessful attempts to cross our borders they die on our own lands.  Am I not led to believe we ought to oust the Mexican leader as well?—-(while he is technically not a dictator,  he is just as ineffective one could argue.) Ditto with Chavez in Venezuela—-also not a dictator but brutally power hungry, the Chinese government, Cuba, the miscreant leaders in Tibet, Burma, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and on and on I could go, (with a special emphasis on the Mid East since they irritate us to the core).  And I purposely did not mention Iraq since we already have fallen into a black hole of blunders and I shall exercise restraint by not opening a whole can of worms concerning preemptive war and its inherent lapse in morality.

Sam spends a considerable about of time discussing the problems with war and its soul sisters, collateral damage and torture in his first book.  Sam does not present himself as a warmonger.  In fact I read him to be very cautious, conscientious and adept at making an argument against war unless the conditions at hand will allow no other options.  In the debate, it was relieving to hear him announce he had not and did not support the war in Iraq.  Interestingly, Robert, our infamous moderator, apparently did not want to consider such an idea about Sam and made some convoluting attempts to discredit Sam’s stand once again.

So my trinity of friends, I cannot and will not travel that road with you but do enjoy and appreciate your thoughts pertaining to religion and the debate.  (Perhaps it is in our best interest to stick with the matters at hand—-the problems of religion—and learn what we can from each other).

So I am lead once again back to Sam because he is a person of reason and words.  And lest we forget the pen is mightier than the sword, it is clear—-after reading Sam’s books—that humankind has one of two choices.  We can have conversations or we can blow each other to smithereens. I for one, prefer the former.  And it abysmally clear to me, with a lot of evidence on my side, that Sam does as well.

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By lindadugan, June 27, 2007 at 3:33 pm Link to this comment

part two of 3

Chris becomes the poster child for the religious left by his back pedaling,  when, for example, he claims to find common ground with Sam by stating they mutually agree that “intolerance cannot be tolerated.”  While, no doubt this sounds reasonable and virtuous when speaking to an audience of hundreds at a podium as he did, it quickly becomes evident that Chris does such a dismal job of not tolerating the intolerant that his phrase, in hindsight,  becomes completely meaningless.

The following is a well documented example:  Sam gives a brief description of the plight of Muslim woman in various parts of the world and states that nothing is more “galling” than the fact that no one suffers more under Islam than Muslims and in particular Muslim women.  He cites a perfect example in the case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  In the case of Ms. Ali, Sam lays out a “smoking gun”  in evidence of the atrocities Islamists perpetrate on their own kind.  If female genital mutilation, death threats, arranged marriages, child beatings and being ostracized by one’s family at the behest of Islam, is not an example of intolerance—-all experiences Ms. Ali writes of in her book, Infidel—- than I am mystified to explain what indeed falls under the definition of intolerance!

Regardless of Ms. Ali’s political views—-some “accuse” her of being ultra conservative and critical of liberals—her autobiography is explicit and the reader quickly realizes these acts of barbarism are standard operating procedures in many Muslim countries.  Yet, Chris looses all enthusiasm for not tolerating the intolerant by missing his opportunity to step up to the plate with Sam and condemning such atrocities.  He and Robert take the low road and remain curiously silent, then quickly deflect to another subject.  They, indeed, as you would say, don’t “get it.”

Sam also makes relevant points about religion that Chris never seems to hear or acknowledge. When Sam says, “ Beliefs have consequences” and all beliefs need to be scrutinized, there is more silence and more changing of the subject. It is irritating to this loyal reader—to the point of nausea—when a flagrant statement is so garbled and rejected as this one was,  and Sam is attended to by them, as if he were an inebriated patron at their local watering hole. 

One more point to contend with before moving on. Sam is absolutely correct when he says “All we have are conversations.”  (And I will return to that idea at the end of my blog.)  He has written about this at length in his books and he is correct that if “we”—-  meaning the vast majority of humanity—- do not talk seriously and respectfully about these matters and if we continue to believe that the fantasy and myth of religious beliefs are a relevant and necessary part of our political and social discourse, then we only fooling ourselves and at a very high cost.  Because if we unquestioningly stand to believe that the Pied Piper is actually going to be of benefit to us, that he is here for our own manifestations and is present to help us solve our worldly malaise, the most vulnerable will continue to suffer—-(as Ms. Ali’s childhood testifies and the famous children’s story bares out.)

Sam also stood up to Chris’ personal diatribe towards him when he stated, “he [Chris] is arguing against positions I do not hold.”  This is indicative of my constant harping on these “knights” who cannot or will not understand what Sam is saying. (I cannot help but ask, do they actually read his books?)

end of part 2 of three

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By lindadugan, June 27, 2007 at 3:23 pm Link to this comment

Note:  This entry is in 3 parts because it is over the 4000 character limit.  This is part one. Part 2 and 3 will be posted as soon as allowed.

Part one

Thank you for your kind words in regards to my post on June 24.  I have read through bfskinner, wavelength and your blogs since your last email.  I would agree the 3 of you do indeed “get it”  as you claim I have, and if this creates for us a certain alliance with each other that corresponds with Sam’s views, then I willingly include myself as a part of this foursome, albeit with a modicum of trepidation.  As free-thinkers we can all concur that any such alliance may at times be rocky and unstable, since it is inherent that as individualists we occasionally may have bouts of disagreement.  After reading recent comments posted by the three of you, I must declare there is a bone of contention I feel compelled to address—which I will expound on a bit later in this blog.

But first,  before I dive into any contentious matters, good news abounds:  I had the opportunity to hear the audio debate yesterday in its entirety—-no pauses or technical problems—and I found it fascinating!  With these additional insights, from Chris and Sam, I believe I am ever more prepared to hold an honest and intelligent discussion of what transpired between them on that fateful night.

Allow me to begin by making a few remarks about Chris Hedges.  I have read his books—-and all of Sam’s literature as well—and agree wholeheartedly with Chris’ view of the religious right whom he terms “Dominionists.”  I do not believe his views are much different than Sam’s in this respect.  In fact, I would venture to say that Chris’ view of the “orthodox religious” are similar to a specific group of right-winged Christians Sam addresses in his books.  And clearly, Chris’ view of “authentic” religious people—those he describes as experiencing “god” as a verb—- is similar to what Sam terms as mysticism, transience and spirituality.  However, while there is some hair-splitting on these matters I am perfectly clear of their vast differences between them as well.

I would also like to add that while others on this thread shared their negative reactions to Chris, and I find myself agreeing with many of them, I do believe Chris is a very intelligent, compassionate and decent human being. I appreciate many of his views about the US government, the religious right and his rendition of their arrogance, misguided beliefs and dangerous political views. Like Sam, he has some essential words to say that are worth hearing.

Be that as it may, the road begins to diverge quickly beyond this point.  As I explained in my first blog, Chris and his religious bed fellows are “knights in shining armor” who defend the chastity of religion by ignoring and dismissing the gamut of Sam’s most basic and brilliant principles.  They also verbally assault him, call him a plethora of undignified names and misconstrue many of his most salient points. Unfortunately, this is an all too common occurrence pertaining to Sam and one that personally, I find despairing.

end of part one

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By Timmy, June 27, 2007 at 1:48 pm Link to this comment

Unfortunately I think Logician has it right. I understand his tone. He is just as sick of listening to this naive, ill-informed, “boo hoo, woe is me and my muslim faith” babble as I am. Sometimes a rude tone is required when people are in need of a rude awakening. Rude is what Sam Harris started, and rightly so. No more being sensitive and polite to peoples religious fantasies. Time to tell it like it is. Cruel to be kind.

Best of luck to those of you who think that rational atheists will come to some sort of understanding or compromise with those who suffer from the God delusion. Tried it. Doesn’t work. Talk nice all you want. Your world views are entirely incompatible. Religion must go. We can’t force it to go, by law or by force, nor should we. But rude? We can do that. And we should. They won’t ever listen to our reason because God God God God God God God. So be rude. Be very rude. Embarrass them out of the mainstream and into the deep deep fringes of society where they belong, and are destined to be.

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By Logician, June 27, 2007 at 9:09 am Link to this comment

Re#81574 by nahida on 6/26:

You are as disingenuous as that hypocrite Rush Limgaugh: calling addicts names while feverishly popping pills himself.

You are NOT trying to “reach out to people,” you are attempting to justify the abuses of a religion so disgusting it’s shameful it’s been allowed on this earth as long as it has been.

You continue to ignore the death and destruction, misery and mayhem perpetrated on innocents in the name of your “chosen” “faith.”  I do NOT dismiss the death and destruction, misery and mayhem perpetrated upon Muslims by the Jews either, (or by my own countrymen ALL over the world for 200 years) but your sanguinely ignorant stance over your own religion’s abuses is disgusting to read.

You KNOW you CANNOT speak what you type here on this post in a mosque.  Do not try to deny it with childish emoticons or further protestations of innocence.  You enjoy the privilege of speaking your “mind” because secular laws protect you from men who would eviscerate you in an instant for your interpretation of the great schizophrenic’s ravings.

No one gets ahead when one proclaims purity with blood on their hands.  And sweetheart, yours are dripping gore.  If that offends your tender, protected sensibilities, then get your candy ass to Iraq and start ACTIVELY STOPPING the fanatics that are killing innocents in the name of YOUR faith.

Until you do, you’re just another codependent justifying the abuser (be it Zionist criminal, Communist Czar, or American Bushite).

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By Josh, June 27, 2007 at 7:53 am Link to this comment

I’d rather you ignore Logician’s post—its obviously of an inflammatory nature, made to cause a reaction out of you.  I’d rather you focus on the posts that actually are looking for discussion. 
I was hoping to get your viewpoint on my last post, specifically about how each can interpret Islam to be however they specifically want it to be.
I’m also curious what your reply to BFSkinnerPunk’s posts are as well.
In short - hopefully Logician’s ill-timed, tactless post will not distract you from those who are listening and with an open mind to hear you.
This is something you repeatedly state is valuable to you—now you have an opportunity to prove it.

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 26, 2007 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment


Your comments were rude… of course, you know that… but unfortunately, you gave Nahida (and any other religious believer) a perfect excuse to *not* respond to the other points that have been raised. 

Nahida is clearly primed to freak out with accusations if she is given even the slightest reason.

There is nothing that separates christianity, voodoo, islam, witchcraft, astrology, judaism etc. etc. in terms of the facts and rationality… they are all exactly equal in terms of their validity… each are supported by the same sorts of weak and suspect facts.

However, there must be something that is fully seductive about these magic beliefs.  Each religious adherent can be intelligent and reasonable in every other aspect of his life, but there is something about the conditioning of the religious person that immunizes their magic faith from self questioning and critique.

The first glaring problem that I noticed (regarding religion) was that VERY smart people seemed to be represented in ANY religion that you cared to inspect.  But if they all claim to be the follower of the “one true” religion, then something is amiss.  Each of them presents (seemingly) reasonable explanations for the fantastic views, but only one of the hundreds of religions is true? 

Sam Harris often mentions the taboo against questioning religion publicly, but it is also well conditioned that one must not even criticize or question religion *privately* (thinking heretical thoughts).  Religious people simply refuse to even “go there” publicly or mentally.  This is a problem, and a very clever strategy by religionists.

I will remind Nahida that although Logician went too far in his uncalled for remarks, his reactions are child’s play when compared to what would happen to Nahida if she were to restate her remarks publicly in a number of Islamic nations.  She would, at the least, have to be *very* careful where she decides to make those remarks. 

I can assure you of this: you can’t blame the subsequent ostracism or beatings on too little Koran based teachings in the area.

If she prefers a nation that is predominantly Muslim, she will be forced to select a nation that is tolerant…but do you think she’d go to a nation that is ruled by a literal interpretation of the Koran?  No (heck no!!!)... In fact, if she cared for her own safety and freedom, she would have to go to a nation that has been influenced by secular philosophy.

Further, this is an open internet forum.  People can get crazy in these places.  If Nahida is looking for outrageous remarks that she can use to justify her world view of non-muslims, the internet will only serve to add fuel to her fire.

Like all religious folks, you ignore the reasoned/polite remarks and point out only those posts that (seemingly) validate your opinions.

Nahida feels free to insult others with remarks like “endless arrogance” among other things.  The vast majority of the posts have responded with a much softer and far more polite tone.  Thankfully, the evidence is contained in the posts below this one!

I can virtually guarantee, though, that the only post that Nahida (or a like-minded magic believer) will register into her mental data base is logicians!

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By nahida, June 26, 2007 at 4:18 pm Link to this comment

WOW Logician

I really thought you cared about women and their rights, and when I – a woman- dare to speak my mind up, to articulate my thoughts, and to choose to believe in a Creator, and to have faith, you “treat” me with such an amazing post!!

I am approaching almost half a century in age; and no Muslim man had ever spoken to me in such a manner…

I think that says it all

All I was trying to do through my posts is to reach out to people, and to try to build bridges of understanding, yet all I get from those who care so much about my rights as a woman, and specifically as a Muslim woman, all I get is attacks and attempts to silence me and to kick me out!!!

Bemusing! Astounding!

How ironic!

And how very sad :-(

Salam- peace

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By Logician, June 26, 2007 at 2:55 pm Link to this comment

Re#81488 by BFskinnerPunk on 6/26:

Oh no, BFsP, no attempt at any logic, now, that’s just not fair!  Although, it gives me a capital idea:

Nahida: I have been reading your disgustingly vile apologies for the worst religion EVER for too long.  I hereby proclaim: I will PAY your fare to go straight to the greastest mosque in Irag and film you saying OUT LOUD EXACTLY what you type in these posts.

I will have the recorder on fast film because all of us here know and you would admit if you were not the most pernicious of liars to slither around this post, you would be RIPPED LIMB FROM LIMB within SECONDS.  If you think you can deny that FACT, you are as deluded as your great schizophrenic prophet, Mohammed, was.

You should be ASHAMED of the FILTH you have typed on this site!  How DARE you support the MOST REPRESSIVE treatment of women in this day and age!

The offer stands, Nahida: Go to the mosque and speak your views!  Now is the time to put up or shut up.  Your toadying to the filth of Islam is STINKING THIS SITE UP!

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By BFskinnerPunk, June 26, 2007 at 10:00 am Link to this comment


I would estimate that there are many, many areas of the middle east where you would not be allowed to (safely) say the very things that you are saying in this thread. At best, it would be dangerous to say some of your comments.

This danger would not come from *any* western nation regardless of how arrogant or oppressive you may think we are.

No, the danger would come from fellow muslims.  Granted, they may not be interpreting the Koran to your liking, but it is these dangerously religious people who are truly revolting.

You are concerned about western arrogance.

I submit that a belief that you holds the one TRUE magic book while the rest of us are lost is perhaps the highest form of arrogance.

This arrogance can be seen most clearly in the speeches of clerics, and the actions of extremists against both westerners and fellow muslims.

If you think that the west is arrogant in spite of the way it protects your freedom to speak out in whatever way you choose, and in spite of the flood of muslims who are flocking to live in the west then I suggest that you may be a bit biased by your religious world view… don’t you think?

I ask again, do you truly want the U.S. to simply pick up it’s soldiers and leave Iraq?  Do you have any doubt about the religious based violence that would ensue?  Do you really want “Muslims to handle their own affairs”????

Again, if you made comments against certain cleric opinions in many areas of the middle east *you* would be “handled” in ways that you would not like.  It’s interesting that you aren’t as enthusiastically repulsed by the actions of fellow Muslims (who do not share your rather lovely interpretation of the Koran).

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By Josh, June 26, 2007 at 7:45 am Link to this comment

Part 2 of 2:

Now, if we are to go on the assumption that the ayatollah is just another person, with no better ability to speak for the religion than any other person, you would now have to contend with the problem of large numbers of similiar experts.
The Pakistan Ulema Council (claiming to consist of 2000 scholars) honored Osama Bin Laden with the title of Saifullah. Can you state that your single opinion of Islam outweighs their mulitple opinions? If so—on what basis?

This also illustrates a larger problem…take a look:
Rushdie simply wrote a book that was not favorable towards the Islam religion.
Osama Bin Laden murdered thousands of innocent people.

Do you see these as equal acts?

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By Josh, June 26, 2007 at 7:44 am Link to this comment

Part 1 of 2.
“I am not here to argue, nor to try to win an argument, I am here because I believe in civilised dialogues, where people can express themselves freely, without being patronized or ridiculed for their beliefs.”

but in the very same post, you blame ‘us’ for all of your problems.

You state(my response in italics):

We want to be free in our homelands—we’re not trying to conquer your land and take it as ours.

We want to be able to exercise our rights to choose our representatives and our governments I believe that’s what we’re trying to get Iraq to do—set up a democracy rather than a dictator

We want our human rights that enable live peacefully with no threat of bombing or ethnic cleansing Ditto, funny thing is—much of this began/is surrounding the fact that individuals claiming to do so in the name of Islam bombed our innocent people

We want our right to go home and not to live forever as refugees Again—we would like to see you do this as well, if we simply pull out of Iraq now, do you suppose that will happen?

We want our right to believe in God or not to believe it we wish to Note—this is a BIG part of the American foundation—freedom of religion. We’re not trying to impose our relgion (note, we don’t HAVE a religion)—unlike much of the Muslims that are coming into the USA and demanding accomodations for their rituals across college campuses

We want our right to be equal human beings with equal value to our lives I believe that’s what we talk about when we state we’re trying to end the opression of women (note, if the ‘oppressive laws’ were removed, and all the women still chose to cover themselves, I don’t believe you’d see us over there demanding that you take it off—we just want you to have the ability to choose

We want to be free to solve the ills of our societies in our own ways not by copy-pasting your experiences Unfortunately, in your ‘freedom’ to solve your ills, innocent civilians in the USA were attacked in the name of your religion/beliefs. I think that shortens the time we can allow you to resolve your problems. Especially with some new technology being developed

You hide behind the fact that you have no hierarchy system. Thus, you can easily say—‘oh, that’s not Islam, that Ayatollah simply gave his opinion’

However, there are some serious flaws…

First, an ayatollah, from my limited knowledge, is a high ranking title given to one who is an expert in Islamic studies.
It’s generally granted to the top Shia mujtahid (a person who makes legal decisions by interpretation of the Qur’an and the Sunnah).
I understand that the person generally (or maybe is required to) complete studies at Hawza(a Shi’a Islamic seminary)
The difference between another religion’s saint and an Ayatollah is that the saints are regarded as enlightened by God, and an ayatollah is enlightened by the Word of God.

Thus, making an ayatollah a person who can represent your faith (even if he’s not in a hierarchy).

Secondly, it renders your ‘knowledge’ of Islam rather meaningless…you can either state that this person educated in the studies of the religion is indeed capable of speaking for the religion, or you can say that he is no more enlightened about Islam as you.

Either way, your argument is sunk.

If this is an incorrect definition of ayatollah, please clarify.

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By ender, June 26, 2007 at 5:52 am Link to this comment

I don’t need to interpret the Quran.  The actions of Muslims tell me all I need to know.  Until the supposedly ‘moderate muslim’ stands up in mass and puts an end to the Islamic genocide in Africa in the name of OIL, until they can end their own internal barbarities between shiite and sunni because of ancient tribalism, until they can take responsibility for ending poverty themselves by empowering their citizens to enter the modern technological world instead of worrying about the existance of Israel, all I need to know I see in their actions.  The religion of Islam is the perfect platform to perpetuate inhumane and bargaric behavior.  Stop blaming the rest of the world when you are perfectly capable of keeping your own murderous regimes in power, and killing your own people in the name of allah.

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By nahida, June 26, 2007 at 3:59 am Link to this comment

Quoter; part-1

You said: “It appears that you were jumping for joy to attack another ‘media brainwashed American’ that is pretending to understand Islam.”

Dear quoter I was not jumping of joy to attack another brainwashed American, my reason for witting on these forum is very simple:


And the way I see things are moving now, I foresee great danger, and terrible threat to the whole world.
All this misrepresentation, and misunderstanding of Islam (deliberate or not) if not addressed and sorted logically and with compassion, then our world is doomed!


I am not here to argue, nor to try to win an argument, I am here because I believe in civilised dialogues, where people can express themselves freely, without being patronized or ridiculed for their beliefs.

I am here for the purpose of advancing more humanistic understanding and for trying together to achieve a more tolerant world.

Without talking to one another, and without TRYING sincerely to put some effort to understand the other, we will all be losers, and we’ll be pushing our beautiful world towards catastrophe… and that breaks my heart, as a mother, and as a human being.

Now, is it that hard to try to open our hearts and our minds and listen to what the other has to say?
Can’t we learn something from little children? Where prejudice and bigotry are non-existence?


I was criticised for quoting from the Quran, here I would like to explain why I did that:
Islam is accused over and over again of being an intolerant, oppressive (especially to women) and violent religion.

Being a Muslim woman and knowing exactly what Islam teaches, I am left with no choice but to highlight the Islamic teachings regarding these misunderstood issues.

Now, if I come to you and say: “well, no in fact Islam does not teach this or that” would you take my word for it?
Of course not, so, I “quote” the precise teachings , quoter, in order to show exactly the position of Islam, from the most authentic source to Muslims: the Quran.

I don’t quote just for the fun of it.

Besides, when quoting, I can also claim that I have good background knowledge of Islam and the Quran
Arabic is my mother tongue, so when quoting I try use the most accurate word
furthermore, I try not to quote out of context, the reason that I used so many quotes from the Quran is simply because of the dreadful misconceptions about what does that book actually teaches.

People have been fed false information about our faith and our book, and I have been left with no option but to give you a precise picture of what the Quran teaches regarding these fallacies.

I am only a mother, and I am also a person who detests violence, war, weapons, killings…etc
I am sick to death with war and violence
And I wish what I have seen and what my people had seen on nobody.

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By nahida, June 26, 2007 at 3:54 am Link to this comment

Now, coming to address your questions:

About S Rushdie:

There is something that the people here MUST understand, and it’s rarely ever mentioned; there is no hierarchy system, no priesthood, no church institution, and no clergy in Islam.

Any Muslim is entitled to make his/ her opinion from their understanding of the Quranic text.
Now, if those opinions are expressed by some knowledgeable person, they are called “fatwa”.
So, fatwa, is nothing but an expression of an opinion by an informed person, being what it is, it is not for any one to enforce their “fatwa”/ opinion upon anyone.

There is however some variation in this understanding of fatwa, as within the Shi’at school of thought, some takes it more seriously, but that is not the view of the vast majority of Muslims.

Hence when ayatollah presented his “fatwa”, it merely represented his own opinion.

I personally disagree very much with that opinion, as I think it contradicts the heart of the message of tolerance and freedom of faith in the Quran.

With some people their judgement is influenced by emotions, and that applies some times to people interpreting the Quran.

Exposed to so much injustice and oppression can seriously affect your psychological state of mind and your level-headedness, which is precisely the case in many Muslim countries nowadays.

Centuries of imperialism, and illiteracy followed by the brutal uprooting of a whole nation from their homeland in order to give it to people from other parts of the world just because of their Jewishness, and to free the European’s mind of the guilt of the holocaust (which we –Muslims and Palestinians- had nothing to do with, but ended up having to pay the price for Europe’s crimes)

Year after year of injustice towards the Palestinians, accompanied by unequivocal support from USA and Europe to the Zionist entity, led the Muslims to resent the hypocritical policies of the Western world.

This blind support of the Zionists was/ is perceived by Muslims as grave injustice.
Yet those fundamental basic facts are not represented to you, what you see is that Muslims hate your freedom, your democracy, they are jealous of your way of life, and they hate peace… what a load of nonsense!!!

Muslims feel oppressed and persecuted by YOU.

And instead of trying to right the wrongs you’ve done over decades of oppression, what do you do?

You go yet again and attack more Muslim countries; you bomb Afghanistan and Iraq to rubble!
You kill over a million more!

And what is more ridiculous is that you are doing so whilst claiming that you’re doing it for the sake of liberating us from our ignorance, and our fanatics…

Do you think we are idiots?

We are sick to death with your interference in our lands, and our countries
We are sick to death with your feelings of supremacy and your attitude of superiority towards us and the rest of the world.

We are sick to death of you trying to impose on us your ways.

Imperialism has no room in the future of our world, and most certainly, that must include thought imperialism.

We want to be free in our homelands
We want to be able to exercise our rights to choose our representatives and our governments
We want our human rights that enable live peacefully with no threat of bombing or ethnic cleansing
We want our right to go home and not to live forever as refugees
We want our right to believe in God or not to believe it we wish to
We want our right to be equal human beings with equal value to our lives
We want to be free to solve the ills of our societies in our own ways not by copy-pasting your experiences

And it’s not good enough to try to justify the horrors that you inflected upon us, by dehumanizing us and belittling our faith.

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By nahida, June 26, 2007 at 3:49 am Link to this comment

quoter, part-3:

Where to go from there?

Yes indeed, where to go from there?
Is there a way out?
As an optimist, yes of course there is always a way out:
To begin with, you must start with opening your hearts and minds to see us as equal human beings, worthy of life, love, and freedom.

Remove your prejudice against us, and with sincere efforts open dialogues with us, not to tell us what we should do, or how should we think, or whom to elect as our leaders, but to listen to us as your equals in humanity. A dialogue is a two way system.
It’s also good to start educating yourselves a bit more about us, not by taking your information from Hollywood but from us and our authentic sources.

We have so much to tell you, so much to share, so much good we can offer you and the world.
And that is not exaggeration; that is simply the truth. Because we are humans just like you. We all have so much to offer the world.

Why not stop supporting those dictators of our leaders, and respect our representatives whom we choose through democracy?

Why not end your occupation of our lands?
Why not visit and even come and live in Muslim countries without your army uniform, and without offering your bombs and missiles as gifts?
Why not come to us walking with open arms rather than coming carrying machine guns and riding offensive tanks?

Instead of pushing like crazy towards Armageddon; why not gently, lovingly, tenderly and with compassion, why not embrace a world of justice and tolerance?
Why not attentively listen to each other? Why not dream and work for a more peaceful world built upon diversity and richness of multiplicity, a world where humanity is celebrated and variety is rejoiced, a world where all are respected, where all are free to think, to believe, and to live their own way without infringing on each other, or imposing their ways upon each other?

Who is there?

Oh human
Can’t you see!
I am precisely like you
I don’t like being humiliated
I am no one’s doormat
I’m person in my own right

When I was born
I was born innocent
Happy and free
And I want to live
A normal life
With dignity
Wouldn’t you?

I realise there is a dawn
Waiting to be born
And that… after hardship… passes away
Ease will come to life… very soon

But… they’ve inflected so much
Pain and cruelty
Upon this little girl
And upon her homeland

The world is watching
Eyes open wide
In bewilderment
And disbelief
“What we are watching
Is a fiction movie
It’s not really true”

While in exile
Puzzled… I agonize
Wiping tears off my saddened face
Searching around
Any one there?

Looking up… into sky
Did You hear my cries?
Did You witness the crime?

Knock… knock
A gentle tap

Yes, coming
Who is there?

Hope is here
Smiling at my heart
Standing by my door

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By barry seidman, June 25, 2007 at 9:22 pm Link to this comment
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All of you are talking at each other and not to each other.  The atheists here are attackign religion as narrowly as Sam Harris, and the religionists are defending what we can not verify or know which interpretation (of the Koran or bible) is the right one.

The problem with Harris’ argument is not about his atheism, it’s about the entire “messianic” atheist approach to ‘saving the world’ from religion. Harris, Hitchens, et al’s “final solution(s)” to the “religion problem” coupled with their UN-nuanced understanding of religion and humanity itself IS the problem, not their unbelief. 

If they can separate out their atheism from all this other baggage, and offer a real way toward a humanistic future, perhaps their arguements would be positive and useful toward creating a humanistic future; but their misunderstanding of the sociopolitical and economic realms of culture, and their misanthropic take on human nature, serve to keep them from offering anything humanistic to the debate besides their all too broad critique of religion. 

Perhaps if they stuck to objective, nonjudgemental discussions of supernaturalism vrs. naturalism (which R. Dawkins certainly is qualified to do if he so chose), and stopped pretending to have solutions to our sociopolitical problems of which religion is just a part, they would be more effective at starting the dialogue we indeed need to have about religion and politics. 

Yes, they may have begun that dialogue already, of course, by being sensationalist and narrow-minded… And perhaps the conversation will evolve into something useful among other atheists (other than those on this board thus far, or other angry atheists), and among humanists (religious and secular); but it’s really the latter (humanism) which needs to be taking over from here so that positive and progressive change can occur. 

Yes, it is good to see atheism in general get some airtime ... finally ... But in the end, unless Harris et al. change their ideological approach into a real philosophical and sociopolitical approach - and do it by talking with people about their common concerns rather than deviding people via religion - I don’t thing any real humanist would want to be represented by them. 

So what will we all do? Break down human bonds more and more, now along religious or atheist lines as well as all the lines we have already drawn between us, or find common ground and work toward a healthy world society? 

Yes, in the end I think supernaturalism will give way to naturalism - for many reasons both political and personal. It has to. But how we get there from here is the tricky part. I do not think the answer is inherent in religion, but it’s clearly not inherent in messianic atheism either. We need to build, in the end, a humanistic society.  And for those who want to know what I mean by humanism, my working definition is:

“Humanism is a sociopolitical world view, informed by scientific naturalism, which holds that human societies are healthiest if founded on non-hierarchal democratic principles.  Accordingly, a humanistic society - in recognizing universal interconnectedness - promotes cooperation in all areas of life, the peaceful and fair allocation of natural and human-made resources, and a commitment that individuals be encouraged and aided in achieving their fullest potential while in turn nurturing the larger society.”

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