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Sam Harris on the Reality of Islam

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Posted on Feb 7, 2006
From Wikipedia.org

This fragment of the Koran (Sura 33, Verse 73-74) translates in part as “...That God may chastise the hypocrites, men and women alike, and the idolaters, men and women alike…” (A.J. Arberry translation). Idolatry is at the center of the Muslim outrage over the satirical Muhammad cartoons.

By Sam Harris

Update #1 (2/08/2006 1:35 p.m. EST): Sam Harris responds to the comments and criticism of this piece. Jump to read.

Update #2: Cilck here for a Truthdig primer on who has, and who hasn’t re-published the controversial cartoons

Verses from the Koran
Pop Up: Quotations instructing observant Muslims to despise nonbelievers.

In recent days, crowds of thousands have gathered throughout the Muslim world—burning European embassies, issuing threats, and even taking hostages—in protest over 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that were first published in a Danish newspaper last September.  The problem is not merely that the cartoons were mildly derogatory.  The furor primarily erupted over the fact that the Prophet had been depicted at all. Many Muslims consider any physical rendering of Muhammad to be an act of idolatry.  And idolatry is punishable by death. Criticism of Muhammad or his teaching—which was also implicit in the cartoons—is considered blasphemy.  As it turns out, blasphemy is also punishable by death.  So pious Muslims have two reasons to “not accept less than a severing of the heads of those responsible,” as was recently elucidated by a preacher at the Al Omari mosque in Gaza.

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The religious hysteria has not been confined to the “extremists” of the Muslim world. Seventeen Arab governments issued a joint statement of protest, calling for the punishment of those responsible. Pakistan’s parliament unanimously condemned the drawings as a “vicious, outrageous and provocative campaign” that has “hurt the faith and feelings of Muslims all over the world.” Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while still seeking his nation’s entry into the European Union, nevertheless declared that the cartoons were an attack upon the “spiritual values” of Muslims everywhere. The leader of Lebanon’s governing Hezbollah faction observed that the whole episode could have been avoided if only the novelist Salman Rushdie had been properly slaughtered for writing “The Satanic Verses.”

Let us take stock of the moral intuitions now on display in the House of Islam: On Aug. 17, 2005, an Iraqi insurgent helped collect the injured survivors of a car bombing, rushed them to a hospital and then detonated his own bomb, murdering those who were already mortally wounded as well as the doctors and nurses struggling to save their lives.  Where were the cries of outrage from the Muslim world? Religious sociopaths kill innocents by the hundreds in the capitols of Europe, blow up the offices of the U.N. and the Red Cross, purposefully annihilate crowds of children gathered to collect candy from U.S. soldiers on the streets of Baghdad, kidnap journalists, behead them, and the videos of their butchery become the most popular form of pornography in the Muslim world, and no one utters a word of protest because these atrocities have been perpetrated “in defense of Islam.” But draw a picture of the Prophet, and pious mobs convulse with pious rage. One could hardly ask for a better example of religious dogmatism and its pseudo-morality eclipsing basic, human goodness.

It is time we recognized—and obliged the Muslim world to recognize—that “Muslim extremism” is not extreme among Muslims.  Mainstream Islam itself represents an extremist rejection of intellectual honesty, gender equality, secular politics and genuine pluralism. The truth about Islam is as politically incorrect as it is terrifying: Islam is all fringe and no center. In Islam, we confront a civilization with an arrested history. It is as though a portal in time has opened, and the Christians of the 14th century are pouring into our world.

Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe.  The demographic trends are ominous: Given current birthrates, France could be a majority Muslim country in 25 years, and that is if immigration were to stop tomorrow. Throughout Western Europe, Muslim immigrants show little inclination to acquire the secular and civil values of their host countries, and yet exploit these values to the utmost—demanding tolerance for their backwardness, their misogyny, their anti-Semitism, and the genocidal hatred that is regularly preached in their mosques. Political correctness and fears of racism have rendered many secular Europeans incapable of opposing the terrifying religious commitments of the extremists in their midst. In an effort to appease the lunatic furor arising in the Muslim world in response to the publication of the Danish cartoons, many Western leaders have offered apologies for exercising the very freedoms that are constitutive of civil society in the 21st century.  The U.S. and British governments have chastised Denmark and the other countries that published the cartoons for privileging freedom of speech over religious sensitivity. It is not often that one sees the most powerful countries on Earth achieve new depths of weakness, moral exhaustion and geopolitical stupidity with a single gesture. This was appeasement at its most abject.

The idea that Islam is a “peaceful religion hijacked by extremists” is a dangerous fantasy—and it is now a particularly dangerous fantasy for Muslims to indulge. It is not at all clear how we should proceed in our dialogue with the Muslim world, but deluding ourselves with euphemisms is not the answer.  It now appears to be a truism in foreign policy circles that real reform in the Muslim world cannot be imposed from the outside.  But it is important to recognize why this is so—it is so because the Muslim world is utterly deranged by its religious tribalism. In confronting the religious literalism and ignorance of the Muslim world, we must appreciate how terrifyingly isolated Muslims have become in intellectual terms.  The problem is especially acute in the Arab world.  Consider: According to the United Nations’ Arab Human Development Reports, less than 2% of Arabs have access to the Internet. Arabs represent 5% of the world’s population and yet produce only 1% of the world’s books, most of them religious.  In fact, Spain translates more books into Spanish each year than the entire Arab world has translated into Arabic since the ninth century.

Our press should report on the terrifying state of discourse in the Arab press, exposing the degree to which it is a tissue of lies, conspiracy theories and exhortations to recapture the glories of the seventh century.  All civilized nations must unite in condemnation of a theology that now threatens to destabilize much of the Earth.  Muslim moderates, wherever they are, must be given every tool necessary to win a war of ideas with their coreligionists.  Otherwise, we will have to win some very terrible wars in the future. It is time we realized that the endgame for civilization is not political correctness.  It is not respect for the abject religious certainties of the mob.  It is reason.

Sam Harris is the author of “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason” (W.W. Norton).  He can be reached through his website at www.samharris.org.

Sam Harris responds to comments and criticism

Anyone familiar with my work knows that I am extremely critical of all religious faiths.  I have argued elsewhere that the ascendancy of Christian conservatism in American politics should terrify and embarrass us.  I have argued that the religious dogmatism of the Jewish settlers could well be the cause of World War III. And yet, there are gradations to the evil that is done in name of God, and these gradations must be honestly observed. So let us now acknowledge the obvious: there is a direct link between the doctrine of Islam and Muslim violence. Acknowledging this link remains especially taboo among political liberals. While liberals are leery of religious fundamentalism in general, they consistently imagine that all religions at their core teach the same thing and teach it equally well.  This is one of the many delusions borne of political correctness. Rather than continue to squander precious time, energy, and good will by denying the role that Islam now plays in perpetuating Muslim violence, we should urge Muslim communities, East and West, to reform the ideology of their religion.  This will not be easy, as the Koran and hadith offer precious little basis for a Muslim Enlightenment, but it is necessary. The truth that we must finally confront is that Islam contains specific notions of martyrdom and jihad that fully explain the character of Muslim violence. Unless the world’s Muslims can find some way of expunging the metaphysics that is fast turning their religion into a cult of death, we will ultimately face the same perversely destructive behavior throughout much of the world. It should be clear that I am not speaking about a race or an ethnicity here; I am speaking about the logical consequences of specific ideas.

Anyone who imagines that terrestrial concerns account for Muslim terrorism must answer questions of the following sort: Where are the Tibetan Buddhist suicide bombers? The Tibetans have suffered an occupation far more brutal, and far more cynical, than any that Britain, the United States, or Israel have ever imposed upon the Muslim world. Where are the throngs of Tibetans ready to perpetrate suicidal atrocities against Chinese noncombatants? They do not exist. What is the difference that makes the difference? The difference lies in the specific tenets of Islam. This is not to say that Buddhism could not help inspire suicidal violence. It can, and it has (Japan, World War II). But this concedes absolutely nothing to the apologists for Islam. As a Buddhist, one has to work extremely hard to justify such barbarism. One need not work nearly so hard as a Muslim.  If you doubt whether the comparison is valid, ask yourself where the Palestinian Christian suicide bombers are. Palestinian Christians also suffer the indignity of the Israeli occupation. This is practically a science experiment: take the same people, speaking the same language, put them in the same horrendous circumstance, but give them slightly different religious beliefs—and then watch what happens.  What happens is, they behave differently.

While the other major world religions have been fertile sources of intolerance, it is clear that the doctrine of Islam poses unique problems for the emergence of a global civilization. The world, from the point of view of Islam, is divided into the “House of Islam” and the “House of War,” and this latter designation should indicate how Muslims believe their differences with those who do not share their faith will be ultimately resolved. While there are undoubtedly some moderate Muslims who have decided to overlook the irrescindable militancy of their religion, Islam is undeniably a religion of conquest. The only future devout Muslims can envisage—as Muslims—is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed. The tenets of Islam simply do not admit of anything but a temporary sharing of power with the “enemies of God.” Devout Muslims can have no doubt about the reality of Paradise or about the efficacy of martyrdom as a means of getting there. Nor can they question the wisdom and reasonableness of killing people for what amount to theological grievances. In Islam, it is the moderate who is left to split hairs, because the basic thrust of the doctrine is undeniable: convert, subjugate, or kill unbelievers; kill apostates; and conquer the world.

It should be of particular concern to us that the beliefs of devout Muslims pose a special problem for nuclear deterrence. There is, after all, little possibility of our having a cold war with an Islamist regime armed with long-range nuclear weapons. A cold war requires that the parties be mutually deterred by the threat of death. Notions of martyrdom and jihad run roughshod over the logic that allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to pass half a century perched, more or less stably, on the brink of Armageddon. We must come to terms with the possibility that men who are every bit as zealous to die as the September 11th hijackers may one day get their hands on nuclear weaponry. As Martin Rees, Britain’s Royal astronomer, has pointed out, there is no reason to expect that we will be any more successful at stopping nuclear proliferation, in small quantities, than we have been with respect to illegal drugs. If this is true, weapons of mass destruction will eventually be available to anyone who wants them.  It seems a truism to say that there is no possible future in which aspiring martyrs will make good neighbors for us.


New and Improved Comments

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By jackyme, November 11, 2011 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment

US and European meddling in the middle east is not
defensible in my view, but it doesn’t remotely compare
to what China has done to Tibet, neither in terms of
the sheer numbers of people tortured and killed, nor in
the incomprehensibility of the crime of deliberately,
systematically attempting to wipe out an entire nation
and culture (and nearly succeeding).  In the context of
these widely known facts, your dramatized list of
greivances and various hyperbolic bombast makes you
look ridiculous.
http://myfundoo-blog.blogspot.com

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By JF WILLIAM, July 27, 2011 at 11:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When Hitchens called for Irak’s invasion he became a
willing cog then a full blown accomplice in a crime
against humanity, unless a cool million death doesn’t
register because they are Muslims.

That an intelligent & articulated man as Harris still
buys the 19 bearded ones narrative without a hitch should
be enough to make us wonder about anything he then
proceeds to say unless all those professinals are a pack
of fuckin’ howling baboons (check their CVs before you
light the match wink http://www.patriotsquestion911.com/)

To pretend that no vilification of Islam is not a motus
operandi since 9-11 is also a lie. Didn’t they check the
news or Colbert about Olso debacle ?

When Hitchens admits that he had the same frame of mind
than his darling Kissinger or when he happily let the
blood flow for some political rhetoric, I’ll reconsider !

When Harris says up front that the chosen people is
conducting a genocide in Palestine as barbaric than any Muslim fundamentalist & wanabe nazi… I’ll reconsider !

For the moment, I, as a self thinking man, agnostic &
atheist of any man made religion will gladly join Hedges
analysis simply on humanist term.
 
“Remember there’s a big difference between kneeling down
and bending over.” -Frank Zappa

Evidence of christian fundamentalist’s melding in the
actual train wreck…
BLACKWATER : THE CRUSADE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DpRz4CvMqo

BTW

First & foremost wink

“The three monotheisms, animated by the same genealogical
death instinct, share a series of identical contempt:
hatred of reason and intelligence; hatred of freedom;
hatred of all books in the name the one & only; hatred of
life; hatred of sexuality, of women and pleasure; hatred
of feminity; hatred of the body, of desires & impulses.
Instead of all that, Judaism, Christianity and Islam
defend: faith and belief, obedience and submission, a
taste for death and a passion for the beyond, asexual
angel and chastity, virginity and monogamic fidelity, the
wife and the mother, the soul and spirit. In other words,
life crucified and celebrated nothingness” – Michel
Onfray

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By Nevermind, June 2, 2011 at 3:23 pm Link to this comment

Sam always gets it right. Religion has always stifled progress in the world. Check out “Religious fanatic debates Atheist” on my? channel.
http://www.thequotesaboutlife.com/

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By wulf franks, May 1, 2010 at 11:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Muhammad the Middle Eastern Version of Genghis Kahn
One apologist for Islam is the ex-nun Karen Armstrong who has done her fair share of sanitising Islamic history so that it fits neatly into Western acceptability.  She makes the ridiculous claim that without Muhammad the Middle East would have continued to suffer endless internal conflicts.  And that somehow his invention of Islam as a religion brought together the Arab tribes, thus bringing an ordered civilisation to that part of the world.  How many people were put to the sword to bring his form of civilisation?  his leadership? his peace? She has the audacity to claim that at the time of Muhammad Christian Europe was a place where people lived in a civilised manner!  She forgets, or chooses to forget, that in the time of Muhammad, Western Christian leaders were constantly trying to slit the throat of other Christian Leaders in the form of wars and espionage.  And when they were not trying to conquer and destroy their fellow Europeans they were trying to kill off the enemy that they regarded as Islam.  Justice and fair play in the Middle Ages only existed when the rich and powerful wanted it to. So her claim that the Middle East was the darkness and Europe was the light before Muhammad intervened is ludicrous. When Muhammad gained power he used it in more or less the same way as any military dictator would have.  He was, it can be argued, the Genghis Kahn of the Middle East!  For he advocated and practised expansion through war and terror!

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RAE's avatar

By RAE, September 24, 2009 at 4:12 am Link to this comment

What continues to astound me is that SO MANY are willing to invest SO MUCH TIME researching, ruminating, rewriting and regurgitating the “literature” pertaining to religious stuff and nonsense.

It seems obvious to me that the primary purpose of all religions that I know anything about is to assuage the fundamental fear of death that seems to infect most humans. The mixture of truth, half-truth, and outright fabrication that underwrite these religious philosophies is highly intoxicating. Note the root “toxic.”

Of course, it was soon discovered that when “religion” is sold by often well-meaning but woefully misled, talented actors to a hungry, thus gullible, audience a secondary spinoff materializes - MIND CONTROL. What a bonus! It’s just a short leap from “control” to MEGABUCKS (just ask anyone on Wall Street why the streets of heaven are paved with gold).

But what amazes me even more is that hundreds of millions of otherwise seemingly normal, intelligent people are so brain damaged by early “washing” that they never recover their ability to think independently. Every time I watch a STAR TREK episode I applaud the author, Gene Roddenberry, for creating the BORG. In my view, that is exactly what religion does to people - turn them in to drones. It kills that part of the brain that enables them to even realize they’re being “had.” So sad.

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By jeffery martin, September 22, 2009 at 8:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Harris your book is amazing.  Religion has clouded my mind so long it’s embarrassing to reflect on it.

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By Luckydog, December 28, 2008 at 2:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Referring to “the obvious”: The vast expanse of space holds far more than what is in front of our face.(or yours Mr. Harris) So for you to claim “the obvious” is what we see is like a child believing his world is the inside of his house. This doesn’t “prove” existence of one reality or another but for YOU, Sam Harris, to assert the obvious is simply what you can see in YOUR playground as the only reality would also discount several sciences,such as Quantum physics, etc.
The example of the abduction and belief that a God watched over a parents child seems to imply that you think that God is supposed to step in and counteract the reality of man living, dying and killing in this world. It is the very fact that he would leave these actions to us that we (believers) understand as adding true value and love to our relationship. In other words. If he set us to exist in a world that he could simply step in and make painless for everyone at every turn, he would remove the gift of experienceing HIS world. He is, as we understand it, counter to any other God or diety described throughout time. His relationship with us is like that of a father (A biological father) What does a Biological father wish for his child? To be omnipresent and protect his child from experienceing true life? Or to have the healthiest understanding of existance he/she can?
Having argued this, I will admit the vast majority of Christians miss on this understanding. That is a seperate issue from wether God exists or not.
Christians seeking to PROVE with this relationship is like a son trying to prove the existance of his father. It was never the point. This does nothing for those of you who will need physical proof to believe and to that I say…..fine. But feelings are as important in our perception of reality and beyond in everyday life and for Christians to use them in their decision making is no less valid than you sitting in a clinical, sterile room coming up with cold hard facts.

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By Frank Goodman, Sr., October 17, 2008 at 2:38 pm Link to this comment

RE: Sura 33, Verse 73-74, translates in part as “...That God may chastise the hypocrites, men and women alike, and the idolaters, men and women alike…”

Note that this verse states that “...God may chastise…”, not that ‘man may chastise.’ ‘May chatise…’ leaves open the possibility of forgiveness by God. If God has a will, God could chastise for a wide variety of faults, including blindness. More moderate Muslims can believe that God has punished the ‘ignorant’ more than any man could. Thus no man should take on himself that task best left to God. Fanatic Muslims may have more liberty to misinterpret the Qu’ran than honest Muslims who follow the word of God, rather than the interpretations by fanatics.

Christians are mostly past the stage when they burned heretics at the stake, or drowned witches. Yet, there some fanatic Christians who actively support the stealing of the Palestinian homeland by Zionists in the Nakba. There are gentle and thinking Muslims just as there are gentle and thinking Christians and Jews. I dare say that extends to Buddhists, Hindus, and Taoists. Fanaticism is the crime, not Islam. The tribal system still existing, though modified, supports fanaticism by fiat. Civilization is still in progress among most human beings. The fanatic who is the president of USA is a greater threat than any Muslim, Christian, or Jewish fanatic.

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By Douglas Ray, December 2, 2007 at 11:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It saddens me to to read the above comments, but it does not suprise me. The world is full of ignorant people, perhaps it always will be. The only thing sane & intelligent people can do is to go on telling the truth, as Sam Harris has so competently done, risking the wrath of the political correctness police.
Islam is a violent religion, one with, “bloody borders”, as history (and the present day) clearly reveal. And the recent demands by many Muslims to kill the teacher who named a teddy bear Mohammed is sickening beyond belief! Where was the outcry against the murderous muslim mob from so-called Muslims who believe in this; “religion of peace?”? The sooner Islam and all other Theistic religions are discarded on the graveyard of history the better!

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By ikarjikar, July 1, 2007 at 12:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

ian, the writer who ends his comments with ‘peace’

Having read all your posts I find that your views reflect mine. I too cannot help seeing the wonderful equivalence of all religious expressions at their essential core. It would be nice to share our views in a less public setting if you could e-mail me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

peace be upon you

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By osama bin laden, May 26, 2007 at 10:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

i declare Jihad on you Mr. Harris! death to americans halalalalalala!!!

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By ahmed houry, May 4, 2007 at 1:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

i am a muslim by birth and i find your statement to be 0 accurate ,most people in the muslim world don’t dare questions the absurdities of their religion because the consequences are often jail or even death ,countries like saudi arabia force their subjects to pray during prayer time or be beaten publicly .Islam is in shambles now and more muslim are finding out that their religion is evil

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By J, March 30, 2007 at 7:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Their is alot of fruit examining the dangers of various religious beliefs.  However, not all religions pose the same dangers as Islam.  None of the major religions, accept Islam,  contain the commandment to convert or kill unbelievers in their docterines. 

As for dogma, we all live in a dogma.  All of our beliefs pertaining to origins are based on faith.  That faith can be based on the best science really has to offer, or based on fairy tales made up in our heads.  Faith though, is necessary.

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By jboy, February 21, 2007 at 9:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Islam is the fastest growing enforced religion in the world…. and you said it Sam, the logical outworking of the religion of Islam is what we see manifested through terrorist regimes day to day. In order to claim Islam you must either somehow negate the claims made intellectually posed by Islam, or realize that it does not withstand the tests of logical consistancy, imperical adequacy, and expirential relevance; and for the layman primarily the latter. It is not in keeping with the world of reality as we know it, in multiple ways.
In regard to my first statement that Islam was the fastest growing enforced religion in the world, you must see the willingness of so many people in the Middle Eastern countries to speak about Christianity or another way hush hush like, because they are afraid. They know that Islam is inforced, and with that comes a great amount of opression which silences many questions and concerns that they have pertaining to their own religion. But if one would ever travel to a place where Islam is the dominant religion, I say this with many as my witness, there are many that openly recieve the freedom of Christianity because they know that Islam has not answered their questions satisfactorily, and they also know that it should be a choice of freedom, one that the individual must make for himself! The Koran says there is no compulsion in religion. When a father who claims Islam threatens and even finds it morally necissary according to Islam, to murder his daughter or son if they convert, then my question to him would be that if there is no compulsion in religion, then isn’t it right to say that you must be free to disbelieve as well as to believe? The oppression of the fear and the threat of death in relation to conversion has held many people captive to a religion that is notwithstanding in reality, and has held it’s “believers” captive, primarily through fear.

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By Frank Goodman, Sr., February 19, 2007 at 8:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: Comment #34101 by Mirza A. Beg on 10/27

I found your comments to be wise and measured, though set in a strident mode. Moderates need no stridency. Only in a moderate sense can Truth be found. We can embrace freedom of expression, but we cannot embrace error as such. Sam Harris is strident in his antipathy to organized religion. But, Sam is somewhat lenient in his opposition in that he can lambaste the extremists while almost legitimizing error of the moderates and adjusted. So long as the extremists use gun powder, nitrates and picric acid to kill people, it is better than to incinerate a million at a time in a cheaper nuclear holocaust. Actually, killing is not unjust. We blithely kill malicious murderers by humane means of lethal injections. If deterrence were the issue, torture to death could be more effective as a deterrent. An easy death by lethal injection would not hold up against suicide bombers, or the gallows, to say nothing of the rack, temperature manipulation, or sleep deprivations.

The correction of error is to recognize error and to eliminate the cause of it, which is ignorance. In that, Sam is in bed with the humane and moderate Muslims, Christians, Jews, and all others. An error is corrected as soon as it is recognized as an error. The role of reason is to lead the sinner to the knowledge of his own errors. To ignore error is the ultimate of ignorance. All religious dogma, but also atheistic rejection of dogma, are forms of ignorance.

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By Michael Lee Reider, February 13, 2007 at 5:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mirza A. Beg:

1) You really ought to read the entire aticle before you respond with an emotional diatribe such as this. Many of your concerns are addressed in Sam’s piece.

2) There is absolutely nothing “bigoted” about examining religious beliefs by the light of reason. It is imperative that we apply conversational pressure to those who organize their lives around irrational dogmas, and that is precisely what Sam is doing here.

3) It is easier to dismiss someone’s arguments as “propaganda” than it is to refute them. You haven’t made your case as to how it is that we should not take Sam’s concerns seriously. If it’s true that his quotes from the Koran are taken out of context, and that he does not know what he is talking about, then how about enlightening us with an interpretation which refutes his main thesis? Refusing to respond to legitimate criticism with a well-reasoned counter argument is a cop-out.

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By Thom, January 22, 2007 at 4:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mirza A. Beg -

I think you missed the point of this entire article.  Or maybe you are not familiar with the authors work.  It follows the theme that the irrationalities of faith needs to step up in responsibility for a large portion of the world’s ills.

I can assure you, given the same opportunity to criticize America, Sam Harris would gladly step up to the plate.  And this time, Christianity would be to blame.

Religious tolerance is something Harris does not preach.  And in taking a stance against it, he is infact embodying some of the same traits as the people he criticizes.  Tolerance of others has been so embeded in our culture that speaking out against something like religion is fairly taboo.  Even though it it perfectly all right for people to use religion to hide behind when they choose to be intolerant of others, such as Gays, Science, and, well, other religions.

No one is perfect, least of all the people of America.  To be honest, the fact that 80%+ of the United States population believe in some form of irrational religion, and it permiates the government to and from all levels, and that America is amongst the most powerful countries in the world, scares the living hell out of me.  It’s one of the few things that keeps me awake at night.

Sam Harris isn’t bashing Islam, or defending Christians.  He is damning all religions, in all currently known forms.

And I am sorry that if Mr Harris actually wrote you, you would not respond to him.  If I had your point of view, I would certainly be interested in what a rational mind had to say about something I disagreed with.  You can call his work hateful, but you can hardly call it irrational.

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By Anchorite, November 24, 2006 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

THE NEED FOR IDEOLOGY

The human spirit DEMANDS an ideology, a sense of certainty.  It will never be disciplined by a secularism.

What remains of the Enlightenment is TV screens:  Druggy bikers and a few nerds.

Do you think THAT can stop Allah? 

We have to do much better.  Science has to co-opt the spirit.  IMHO Robert M. Pirsig succeeded in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

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By Gregory Wonderwheel, October 30, 2006 at 6:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks Mirza A. Beg, You are not alone in seeing the foolishness of Harris diatribe. All your comments are well taken.

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By Mirza A. Beg, October 27, 2006 at 9:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dear Friends:
I do not resent one bit any criticism that is leveled against the behavior of many Muslims, particularly in the middle-east. I am one of the strongest critics. I have written many articles of wonton killings in Iraq and other parts of the Muslim world. I have written about Darfur. Most of these articles are published on some on-line journals, some India and some Muslim Magazines, and occasionally in the US papers. For some reason they never publish my articles criticizing Muslims, perhaps then those who want to say that they can not find Muslims taking a stand can justify them selves.

I don not contest some of the accusations in this article and the knowledge of the person who has posted it, because I have written some thing similar. How ever no one can educate a person who refuses to be educated. The prevalent attitude of “I know the truth and do not confuse me with facts.” is pervasive not only among the rightwing Armageddon seeking Christians, which is the dominant political force in the US these days but also among the masquerading liberals.
I do take exception with some of the statements.

1. While castigating the parliaments of the Muslim Countries, and they should be castigated, did the author remember that the US congress passed a sense of the congress resolution, that it did not need to because Bush was given all the signals to Israel to destroy Lebanon. Congress passed the resolution supporting the destruction of Lebanon only three months ago – 99 to 1 in the Senate and 4018 to 8 in the House. The bigots on the Muslim world side only see this and not their own behavior just as the bigots on this side do not see there own murderous impulses.

2. The criticism of the sectarian killing and the cartoon controversy is quite justified, and I have written about it. But the mirror image of the bigots on the other side also only see the American invasion based on lies supported by more than 70 percent of the US population at the time, liberals included. The surge in the opposition to the war is because we are not winning and are mired in a quagmire, not because it was brought about by a Christian President who takes order from the Biblical version of God and not because it was immoral.

3. He asks for Tibetan Buddhists suicide bomber or Christian Palestinian Suicide bombers. This is a typical method of bigotry to express it self, build a straw man. Modern suicide bombing wave stared in Sri Lanka of the idyllic Sirandeep fame and is still going on; I guess this ignorance will not permit him to know that. The 30 year old war there is between Hindu Tamils (about 25% in the north and the majority Buddhists. More suicide bombing took place there than all others combined with the exception of last year in Iraq. Among the Palestinians, the original attacks on the international passengers were carried out by PLFP organized by a Christian physician George Habash. Palestinian Christians are constantly ignored and the Palestinian struggle is painted as if there are no Christians opposed to Israelis except when this point has to be made. Suicide bombing where the perpetrator kills himself), where innocent people are victims are reprehensible, but by selective condemnation he seems to condone the Homicide bombing (where the perpetrator makes sure only others are killed), that is by 1000 pound smart bombs on densely populated centers. If he gathers the statistics he world find ten times more innocent people have been killed by Israeli and American homicide bombings.

4. Talking of nuclear weapons, I have always been against it and hope that conditions will be created that countries do not go for it. But there is only one country while violating test ban treaty and developing more sophisticated bunker busting small nuclear devices losses the any moral grounds for preaching to others. That country also happens to be the only country that has used nuclear bomb on human beings not once but twice, within three days, and still can not accept the guilt and keeps coming up with inane excuses, (to the rest of the world), particularly for the bombing of Nagaski.

5. He quotes Quran that he does not know any thing about, the sad part is either he knows even less about the Old Testament, or being what he is he can not see the passages in Deuteronomy and Numbers.

This does not elevate Islam to a better level. But it does show what the intent of the author is, while he claims to condemn all religious bigotry. This bigot of what ever variety he is, he claims to be looking for Muslims moderates.  I only hope first he finds the bigot in himself to curb, then he will have easy time finding Muslim moderate.

Had he written to me privately I probably would not have answered, but since it is written for an obvious propaganda purposes, on a forum of decent and educated friends, I felt the need to answer. There are many terrible things going on this world that need to be, not only criticized but actively resisted. Criticism of Islamic countries or Muslim behavior is absolutely legitimate, and I can post for those who may be really interested many articles (at least a dozen), but such masquerading liberals make Pat Robertson look distinctly ultra liberal.
I am sad that this network is becoming propaganda organ for the bigots masquerading as liberals. Sad regards,

Mirza

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By James Joiner, September 19, 2006 at 12:01 pm Link to this comment
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Just a note first! I do not trust the so called Islamists who in reality will turn out to be the majority of Islam. any more than I trust Bush.
  Bush has done to Christianity and America what he is accusing the so called Islamists of doing to Islam. We have perverted unbridled religiosity on both sides of this so called war on terror. Read the following if you please and you will understand why Bush is going after them, The format of excuses, and the way this is going to turn out.
  Religious wars are the longest and the dirtiest and this will be the worst. Please read on!
  In your face world! with the entire world against him, with obvious failure, we must stop him!   
      Bush is facing growing international skepticism over his policies for Iran and Iraq. He addresses world leaders at a time when his administration is confronted by an array of foreign policy woes and at home by a Democratic challenge to wrest control of Congress from his fellow Republicans.

      His speech today to the 192-nation General Assembly will focus on his vision for Middle East democracy, a source of doubt in many world capitals given unrelenting violence in Iraq three years after a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.    Bush’s speech to the UN today is expected to highlight his democracy push in the Middle East, a strategy some of Washington’s foes in the region see as a pretext for bullying countries it opposes.

      “He will have very concrete suggestions about the path forward for realizing his vision of freedom,” an administration official said.

      But Bush’s comments will also be a reminder of the foreign policy challenges he faces. U.S. forces remained bogged down in Iraq, a war increasingly unpopular with the American public, and Baghdad’s nascent government is struggling for control.

      Lebanon’s fragile ruling coalition, once hailed by Bush as a democratic success story, was severely weakened by the month-long Israel-Hizbollah war.

      Critics say Bush’s democracy campaign backfired in the Palestinian territories, where the Islamist group Hamas won elections and is now under U.S.-led diplomatic isolation. President George W. Bush faced growing international skepticism over his policies for Iran and Iraq as he arrived in New York on Monday for a U.N. General Assembly session. http://in.today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=worldNews&storyID=2006-09-19T004511Z_01_NOOTR_RTRJONC_0_India-268198-1.xml  He doesn’t care & for a reason!

      N. K. Afghanistan, China, Russia, it’s building thanks to Bush’s ignorance and new world order!
      I ignoring the reality of the ever growing (thanks to Bush, summit of the Non-Aligned Movement amongst everything else, must stop or we are in trouble! The meeting was held in Havana and ended with delegates agreeing a final statement. The BBC reported that the meeting now consists of 118 countries, mostly from the developing world.
    The delegates representing almost two-thirds of all the countries in the world gave their approval to a document which spells out the points they agree on.
    There is strong condemnation of Israel’s recent intervention in Lebanon, a call for the United Nations to be more representative of smaller nations, support for Iran’s nuclear energy plans and implicit criticism of much of US foreign policy. 
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/9/17/11531/3390 He just does not care about the horror he is creating in the middle east and following is why! 

      From 9/11 he has been following a plan. Fighting terrorism was not it. It was just the reason he needed to attack Iraq and start to implement his new middle east and world order. Please read the following and you will understand everything.
      9/11 was Bush’s pearl harbor. Problem is, Bush is no FDR and has squirreled away any sympathy the world had for us.
      Now let me say something I have repeated many times over the years. In after sight you may agree, let me know!
      As you may remember, Bush was looking for something to happen that would put the country and the world behind what he already had plans to do. 9/11 gave him that something.
      He then used the excuse of 9/11 to attack Iraq and unsettle the middle east guaranteeing the loss of Afghanistan, Iraq, and the entire middle east. He did all this so he could further his idea of a new middle east and world order. Of course lying all the while and whipping up as much support and frenzy as he could in the media and minds he controls.
      At this point it behooves him to continue to ignore reality and continue to whip up a frenzy so he can continue staying the course in order to further prosecute his new middle east and world order.
      We are all shamelessly being used so Bush can follow his plan for new order.  I wrote this 3 years ago but it is more obvious today. Let me know what you think? I won’t get any deeper but it gets worse from here. http://www.anaveragepatriot.com/downloads/Manuscript2.pdf

      It is up to us to stop this madness! We must stop this! We have got to put an end to this starting in November! We must take away his absolute power because by his original plan this can only end one way and it’s getting closer and it has to according to Bush’s plan to implement new world order he must first take on the world and we are getting there.
      In closing , if you have already looked at the preceding manuscript I want you to remember the already fragile state of the planet. I ask you to keep Al Gore’s Inconvenient truth in mind and following is the dire choice being ignored right now and the consequences of making the wrong one as we are letting Bush lead us to. We must stop it! http://anaverageamericanpatriot.blogspot.com/2006/08/growing-world-situation-has-larger.html

James Joiner
Gardner, Ma
http://www.anaveragepatriot.com

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By rob, September 19, 2006 at 5:18 am Link to this comment
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I dare you to blatantly and easily and with your upfront style to discuss FACTS about the jewish mindset and ideology(i.e we are all goyims)as you do when it comes to Islam and Muslims. I KNOW you can not!

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By Ian, August 7, 2006 at 7:23 pm Link to this comment
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Blueboy (and, in a moment, Kiriakos):

Boy - and atheists accuse believers of being “literalists!”  LOL.  Okay, so maybe there aren’t “800 exhortations in the Old Testament to kill non-believers.”  The point was simply that there are more such passages in the Old Testament than in the Qur’an: whether it is two times as many or three times as many or more was never my point.

You then talk about a “qualitative difference,” in that “The Qur’an is being interpreted to justify murderous acts globally, whereas the Old Testament is not.”

I certainly cannot disagree with you here.  I do note two things, however.  First, if you want to change the “focus” of your comment - i.e., that it is not the quantitative number of passages in either text that is relevant, but rather the intent and/or “applicability” of those passages - that is fine with me; but that is not what you seemed to mean when you offered your original quote.

Second, the operative phrase in your new approach is “being interpreted to justify.”  Again, I cannot disagree.  But this would seem to suggest - correctly, I might add - that the intent and/or applicability of the “offending” passages (or at least most of them) is not necessarily what is currently being “interpreted” by narrow-minded mullahs and imams.

Despite my nitpicks (LOL), on the whole I agree with your comment.

Re “two wrongs do not make a right,” it was not my intention to offer a tit-for-tat.  I was simply pointing out that it is, unfortunately, in the nature of “religion” (and, if we are to be intellectually honest, political systems as well…) to be “hijackable” by strong-willed extremists.

Re not addressing certain of your points, if I do not do so I give you leave to take that as my tacit agreement with those points.  LOL.


Re the cite from Tim Rutten, although I dislike and somewhat disagree with the phrase “permeates the Islamic world,” I completely agree with the rest of his statement, which I thank you for as I can now cite it to others.

Kiriakos:

Setting aside your blatant insensitivity (if not outright hostility) against people of faith, you say that “Christianity has a history with pretty much the same defects that Islam is showing us today.”

You are either being deliberately provocative or willfully ignorant.  I think blueboy’s comment that the murderous actions of Judaism are qualitatively different from those of Islam would have to apply to Christianity as well: the evils perpetrated during the Crusades and Inqusition were specifically targeted at Jews (and, to a lesser extent, Muslims), while the fundamentalist extremists of Islam target ANYONE AND EVERYONE who is not Muslim - not just Jews, but Christians, Hindus, even atheists.

As well, the last Crusade occurred almost 700 year ago.  Can you point to any action by Christians since then that shows the “same defects” as radical Islam?  Have you ever heard of a Christian suicide bomber?  The question is rhetorical.

You also say, “...some of Christianity’s worst ideas have sort of waned…”  As noted above, the last Crusade was almost 700 years ago.  “Sort of waned?!”  I would say they have all but disappeared.  As well, it is intellecutally dishonest to speak of Christianity’s “worst ideas” without considering some of its best - Christianity is responsible for the creation and building of more orphanages, hospitals, schools, universities and community centers (among other things) than any other faith - and those socio-political movements in which it either took the lead or was in the forefront, including the abolitionist movement, the suffrage movement, the child labor movement, the civil rights movement, and the anti-Vietnam War movement, among many others.

Finally, you say, “It just doesn’t matter much - any religion, if it becomes popular enough, will be able to morph into a sysem of ignorance, violence, slavery and oppression, just like any top-down, don’t-ask-questions system.”

As noted above, I agree that religion - like any “top-down” belief system, including a socio-political one - is inherently hijackable by strong-willed extremists.  And whether it is Islam or the government of the United States, this is obviously a bad thing.  But I disagree with your tacit assumption that we should simply “throw out the baby with the bathwater.”  Even were I an atheist (and I was for my first 20 years), I would no more want to do away with faith and religion than I would want to do away with representative democracy - even when it doesn’t work properly.

Peace.

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By kiriakos, August 7, 2006 at 2:24 pm Link to this comment
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I do not expect the ignorance and intolerance engendered by all of the world’s religions to end in my lifetime. But at least there is a better than average chance among the western democracies to choose to overcome religious jingoism and nationalism without fear of being stoned to death.  So it’s up to us in Europe and the US and a handful of other modern countries to lead the way, to begin by getting real about ALL religions - they are systems of ignorance that are all more or less equally at fault for the kind of hatreds that are making life miserable across the globe right now. 

One of the first steps is to stop voting for idots who believe fairy tales from the Bible are infallible truth.  It should be a litmus test:  SAMPLE CAMPAIGN QUESTION: ARE YOU THAT STUPID, CANDIDATE BUSH?  OK, YOU ARE TOO STUPID TO BE PRESIDENT.

Another useful idea is to admit that Christainity has a history with pretty much the same defects that Islam is showing us today.  We are a little out of sync, and some of Christianity’s worst ideas have sort of waned while Islam’s idiotic spasms of violence and ignorance are reallly on parade right now, but it just doesn’t matter much - any religion, if it becomes popular enough, will be able to morph into a system of ignorance, violence, slavery, and oppression, just like any top-down, don’t-ask-questions sytem.

Which sugggests another good idea:  learn to lead at least yourself.  Do not follow.  Question authority, question it even more if they tell you to have faith in something that cannot be proved.

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By Blueboy1938, August 7, 2006 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment
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Ian:

It seems a little unlikely to me that there are as many as 800 exhortations in the Old testament to kill non-believers, but I defer to your scholarship.  However, what we are really talking about is a qualitative difference:  The Qur’ran is being interpreted to justify murderous acts globally; whereas the Old Testament is not.  To say that there are Christian fundamentalists taking political positions antithetical to some groups and that Christianity was hijacked during the Crusades and Inquisition, and you might as well add the pogroms in czarist Russia and the conquest of the Americas, is beside the point.  Two wrongs do not make a right.  Whole populations were at least passively supportive of these atrocities at the time and made up a very large percentage of the actual numbers of Christians existing at that time.  Every Christian who came to Central and South America either actively participated in the genocide of native populations or benefited therefrom.

I noticed that you did not address the indictment of the Muslim physician regarding the pretty universal effort to subjugate and even kill women.  That doesn’t seem to me to be a minority excercise, as whole countries, such as Saudi Arabia, do so today.

Tim Rutten eloquently addressed the intellectual divide between mainstream Western thought and conduct and that of contemporary Islam in this exerpt from his LA Times piece of Febrary 4, 2006, which echos your thoughts regarding the responsibility of moderate Muslim clerics:

“The West’s current struggle with a murderous global Sunni Muslim insurgency and the threat of a nuclear-armed theocracy in Iran makes it clear that it’s no longer possible to overlook the culture of intolerance, hatred and xenophobia that permeates the Islamic world. The hard work of rooting those things out will have to be done by honest Muslim leaders and intellectuals willing to retrace their tradition’s steps and do the intellectual heavy lifting that participation in the modern world requires. They won’t be helped, however, if Western governments continue to pander to Islamic sensitivity while looking away from violent Islamic intolerance. They won’t be helped by European diplomats and officials who continue to ignore the officially sanctioned hate regularly directed at Jews by the Mideast’s government-controlled media, while commiserating with Muslims offended by a few cartoons in the West’s free news media.”

Here are a few other sources, better qualified than I, which reinforce Mr. Harris’ thesis that, if not you, then others might benefit from:

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=38614
http://www.snopes.com/photos/politics/muslimprotest.asp
http://www.muslimhope.com/IslamWarlikeOrPeaceful.htm
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20060805015119AAINUD6
http://www.ethicalatheist.com/docs/islam_infidels.html
http://www.nmhschool.org/tthornton/mehistorydatabase/muhammad_and_early_islamic_perio.htm
http://www.nmhschool.org/tthornton/mehistorydatabase/islamic_conquests_632.htm

And in answer to an early post declaring that Hitler was not a Christian:
http://www.nobeliefs.com/hitler-myths.htm#myth1
http://www.nobeliefs.com/speeches.htm

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By Ian, August 6, 2006 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment
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Blueboy:

You said, “If you mean that there are ‘five times more’ murderous passages in the Bible than the four I quoted from the Qur’an, that’s 20.  I only gave four for sake of space and reader patience, there are at least 200 ‘kill the infidel’ passages remaining that I didn’t quote.”

No, you missed my point.  If there are “200” more such passages in the Qur’an, then there are STILL five times more than that in the Old Testament (okay, maybe four times more…).  The point being that, as a percentage of the total text of the book, the Old Testament has far more passages of this nature than the Qur’an.

You then say, “Furthermore, whatever the Qur’an actually says, even you must admit there are many Muslim clerics inciting their ‘peaceful flocks’ to kill Jews wherever they find them, along with Americans and any other stray non-Muslims they happen to come across.”

Yes, and there are many Christian clerics inciting their ‘peaceful flocks’ (though perhaps not as “directly” as Muslim clerics) to bash gays, shoot abortion providers, and condemn anyone who is not pro-Bush, pro-war, etc. as “unpatriotic” and “aiding the terrorists” – which, believe me, will eventually lead to violence and murder among our own.

What I am getting at is that ANY faith, religion or belief system can be “hijacked” by a comparatively small but vocal group of “fundamentalists” with specific, narrow agendas.  We saw Christianity so hijacked during the Crusades and the Inquisition, and we are now seeing the hijacking of Islam.  However, see my next response.

You said, “Of course there may be many Muslims who do not actually want to personally kill Jews, etc..”

And this is where your stereotyping fails.  Because just as the number of Christians who actually engaged in or supported the Crusades, Inquisition, etc. was miniscule in comparison to the total number of Christians worldwide, so too the number of Muslim clerics and their followers who are engaged in radical fundamentalism – and the violence, murder and terror that it brings – is miniscule compared to the number of Muslims worldwide, the vast majority of whom simply want to be left alone to express their faith privately and quietly.  The only reason it SEEMS otherwise is because it is the smaller group of fundamentalists who hold the “public eye” (i.e., dominate the media), just as the reason most people immediately assume that everyone who self-proclaims as “Christian” must be a member of the “Christian Right” – despite the fact that the majority of Christians in the U.S. (to say nothing of worldwide) do NOT subscribe to the views of the “Christian Right” – is because the “Christian Right” dominates the media.

In this regard, the REALITY is that the VAST MAJORITY of those of every faith – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, et al – are NOT involved in the “extreme wing” of their faith, do not support that extreme wing, and are happy to quietly and privately hold and express their faith.

You then add, “But thousands rallied in Baghdad just the other day screaming to do so [kill Jews and bomb Israel into oblivion].”

Yes, but MILLIONS of others did NOT.  If you cannot keep things in perspective, you only add to the problem.

Finally, you say, “While you are quite correct that taking things [in sacred texts] out of context is dangerous, try telling that to the mullahs who preach hate and jihad.”

I agree with you, but that is a job for moderate Muslims.  I am too busy trying to get the so-called “Christian Right” to see that many of its positions are unloving, unforgiving, limited to “hot button issues” (abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc.), and ultimately not in keeping with the ministry of the person they claim as their leader (Jesus), who preached love, peace, humility, forgiveness, compassion, patience, charity, selflessness, service, justice and truth – none of which the “Christian Right” seem to have very much of, less an abundance of.

As for “denigrating my admittedly feeble understanding of Islam,” it was not my intention to be denigrating, and I apologize if that is how I came off.  Rather, I am simply sick and tired of people who talk about Islam and cite the Qur’an, and yet have never actually read it – ALL of it – so that they have a legitimate foundation from which to opine.  This is true of far too many pundits, talking heads and others who dominate the airwaves and editorial and op-ed pages with uninformed and insupportable tripe, regurgitating what they read and hear from everyone else, despite the fact that few, if any of them, have ever bothered to read the Qur’an so they can truly claim to know what they are talking about.

Peace.

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By Blueboy1938, August 5, 2006 at 11:35 pm Link to this comment
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Well, thanks for the sharp rap on the knuckles, Schoolmaster Ian.  However, perhaps you should just re-read Mr. Harris’ piece.  If you mean that there are “five times more” murderous passages in the Bible than the four I quoted from the Qur’ran, that’s 20.  I only gave four for sake of space and reader patience, there are at least 200 “kill the infidel” passages remaining that I didn’t quote.  Furthermore, whatever the Qur’ran actually says, even you must admit there are many muslim clerics inciting their “peaceful flocks” to kill Jews whereever they find them, along with Americans, and any other stray non-Muslims they happen to come accross.  The Danes, as I recall, were the ones to die du jour after those rather amusing and pretty tame cartoons came out that they were ranting about.

Of course there may be many Muslims who do not actually want to personally kill Jews, etc., and bomb Israel into oblivion, but thousands rallied in Bhagdad just the other day screaming to do so.  Yes, Ian, all signs of a very “peaceful Islam.”  Yeah, right!  While you are quite correct that taking things out of context is dangerous, try telling that to the mullahs who preach hate and jihad (not the self-inspired, quest kind, either)?  A female Muslim physician has eloquently stated that the Islamic fundamentalists only incidently want to wage war of cultural annihilation against (mainly) the west, they want to drag Islam and anyone living in a predominately Muslim country back to what she said was the “Dark Ages.”  My guess is, Brother Ian, that she has read the entire Qur’ran at least once and is actually living with the hell Islamic fundamentalists are creating for women: subjugating, stifling, deaccessing from education, and, yes, even killing them.  How in any god’s name can anyone be so benighted as to call such murder “honor killings”?

Now, if you want to fill in the missing parts that neutralize even the few passages of hate and murderous exhortation that I quoted, feel free to do so.  Aside from denigrating my admittedly feeble understanding of Islam, you have failed completely to do so, so far.

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By Ian, August 5, 2006 at 7:23 am Link to this comment
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To Blueboy1938:

You cite a handful of passages from the Qur’an which speak to killing, etc., and conclude: “Well, I think that pretty much lays to rest the contention that Islam is a religion of peace.”  You are incorrect on two counts.

First, just as the so-called “Christian Right” (which, like the Moral Majority before it, is neither…) takes Scripture out of context to support narrow, unloving, unforgiving and ultimately un-Christian positions, you are taking these passages out of the contexts in which they appear.  This is not to say that they could ever by construed as “nice.”  But you cannot simply lift a passage out of context and say, “Hey - look what THIS says!”

Second, and far more importantly, there are at least FIVE TIMES as many passages like the ones you cite from the Qur’an in the Old Testament - passages where God tells the Israelites to kill and murder everyone (including women and children), and usurp or burn cities.  Are you prepared to call Judaism a “violent” religion?

I have read the Qur’an - the entire Qur’an - twice, and am currently on my third reading.  So I can tell you of a certainty that, overall, Islam IS a religion of peace, community, brotherhood, charity and “internal (spiritual) struggle” - which is the PRIMARY meaning of “jihad,” as it appears in about 75% of cases.

Rather than simply using a search engine to seek out particular words or phrases, you might want to read the book to see what it actually says.  This way, you will not be taking passages out of context in order to fit your predetermined ideas of what Islam is about.

For the record, I am an evangelical minister who has studied comparative religion for over two decades.

Peace.

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By Nick, August 4, 2006 at 9:39 pm Link to this comment
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Regards by Very well job here with that website! Congratulations, I love it very much. I really appreciate your work here. 
<a href=“http://phentermineaad.blogspot.com/”>    http://phentermineaad.blogspot.com/     
http://phentermineaad.blogspot.com/          Warm regards Nick!

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By Guitarsandmore, July 24, 2006 at 1:34 am Link to this comment
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Humans are social animals and need each other.  We suffer and atrophy when alone (too much) just as we grow and thrive when we can interact with others. This becomes plainly obvious when you have children.  You can just see it happen.

Church can provide a real sense of community where there is none in your life.  It is still your own responsibility to decide what you are going to do with your life.  Just as it is your responsibility to keep the church on track.  If your church is preaching hate and extreme prejudice then interrupt the behavior.  The Church (any church) needs at least as much monitoring and control from the membership as does our country and it’s leaders.

Remember, we’re not here for them.  They’re here for us.

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By Blueboy1938, July 23, 2006 at 12:48 pm Link to this comment
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Fido, I went to the site you mentioned.  Searches for “virgins,” “houris,” “infidels,” “beheading,” “retribution,” were fruitless.

However, a concordance of the Quran came up with the following:

“And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers.” 002:191

“So, when you meet (in fight Jihad in Allah’s Cause), those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, i.e. take them as captives).” 047:004

“Remember your Lord inspired the angels with the message: “I am with you: Give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: Smite you above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.” 008:012

“When at length they provoked Us, We exacted retribution from them, and We drowned them all.” 043:055

“But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war; but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: For God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. ” 009:005

Well, I think that pretty much lays to rest the contention that Islam is a religion of peace and the idea that Islam has not indulged in forced conversion.  Nice to know that, once everyone has converted, Allah will be merciful.  There were, admittedly, a number of references from Fido’s linked site to explanations that 9/11 was not Islamic terrorism.  However, all the hijackers were Muslims and the ones on United Flight 93 were heard praising Allah on the way down.  Granted, selective citations and distorted interpretations may not completely explain what gave rise to the motivation of suicide bombers and pilots, but we just don’t see Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto, Christian, Zoroastrian, or Jewish suicide bombers, now, do we?

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By Anonymous, July 22, 2006 at 2:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Update #2: Cilck here for a Truthdig primer on who has, and who hasn’t re-published the controversial cartoons

“Click” is misspelled.

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By Gregory Wonderwheel, July 19, 2006 at 8:26 pm Link to this comment
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Haris says, “It is as though a portal in time has opened, and the Christians of the 14th century are pouring into our world.”

I look at it as a growth curve. Islam is 500 years younger than Christianity. What was Christianity like 500 years ago? Burning people at the stake and other forms of brutal state-church control of the population for the benefit of the church.  I expect that Islam as a religion will mature and in 500 years will look back at this time as something shameful as Christians should look back at the Inquistion.

The “problem with Islam” is the same problem that every religion, even Buddhism, has when it becomes identified with state (i.e. worldly) power.  Only recognizing the humanity of pluralist society and the enlightenment inherent in the doctrine of separation of church and state can lead to societies that do not commit the kinds of hypocritical political responses that now occur in every state heavily influenced by a single religious view whatever that religious view is.

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By Inbal, July 7, 2006 at 10:39 am Link to this comment
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Mr. Harris,
You state that “It is not often that one sees the most powerful countries on Earth achieve new depths of weakness, moral exhaustion and geopolitical stupidity with a single gesture. This was appeasement at its most abject”.

Perhaps it is not often, but it happened not long ago; pls. see: Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War, vol. 1 The Gathering Storm, and you’ll see how the most powerful countries of that time fell victim to Nazi treachery and intimidations. Lamentably appeasement did not save Europe. Quite to the contrary, a war with terrible consequences and immense human tragedy was a direct result of that shameful appeasement.

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By anonymous, June 28, 2006 at 11:44 am Link to this comment
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Pick up the Hebrew Bible or the Torah, or whatever the Politically Correct term is.  If you simply look at the horror that is on the pages in front of you, you can see that the Israelites are the inventors of terrorism and imperialist genocide against “idolators” (aka infidels).  Islam and fundamentalist Christianity are merely immitators of that trickled down curse on humanity and cultural development.

And for some reason it is just unconsciously accepted that Israel, unlike any other nation in the post colonial world has some indisputable claim to do the same now.

If you dispute this, and say that Israel is simply to protect the Jews from another holocaust, consider this: “The” holocaust was only one of many and half the victims of this one holocaust were non jews. Further Stalin killed 4x as many people in concentration camps, and gee then there’s Pol Pot. . . .Then there’s the Armenian genocide which was hysterically barred by Jewish groups from inclusion in the Holocaust Museum.  The list goes on, but the point is this: WHY doesn’t the suffering of non jews matter just as much as that of the “chosen” people?

Maybe we should get to the source when we are rightly frightened of religion being used as a weopen of terrorism and murder.

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By uchiha, June 25, 2006 at 2:42 pm Link to this comment
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Re: Will, Comment #4155

Hey Will; Sam quotes countless violent passages from the Koran in “The End of Faith” - I thought the list would never end when I read it…

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By mark t, April 28, 2006 at 8:35 pm Link to this comment
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To all of you going on about the inherently violent nature of Islam, please read the work of Nawal El Saadawi. She could use more support from us, and less anti-Muslim rants.
To Guitars, try learning about unitarian universalism—much less weird stuff will be taught to your daughter (and why don’t you teach in the sunday school you’re taking her to, if you’re worried about what they’re teaching your child?).
Also UUs and UCC have great sex ed programs.
And to R.A. Earl—I advise you to get over your dangerous dependency on food, water, and the internet. If you ‘need’ something, it’s clearly a crutch.

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By greeseyparrot, March 7, 2006 at 12:23 pm Link to this comment
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Re: #4081, nice post Chantz, however one quibble, the etymology of the term you chose to describe what it is to “kill over a cartoon”, has as its root the supposed effect of Earth’s satellite (Luna=Moon) on one’s sanity, rather than any relation to the bird (the loon) known for its lovely haunting call.

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By R. A. Earl, February 28, 2006 at 1:32 pm Link to this comment
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Sorry to hear, Guitars, in your #4361 posting, that you “need” your church people.

I don’t disagree that observing what others do and say might, on occasion, be helpful in confirming or ordering your own thoughts and notions. But I guess where you and I part company is over the “need” issue.

As soon as you “need” someone or something, I believe you’re in trouble. To “want” them or it in your life is fine but to “need” them implies a dependency which is another word for crutch. And who needs crutches? Lame people, of course. Whether it be a broken leg or a broken sense of self - what’s right and wrong… it’s still busted.

As soon as you see yourself in the “need” mode, you are wide open to manipulation. You “need” them so you do whatever is required to maintain that relationship. Automatically YOU are no longer the real YOU… you become what THEY require you to be.

When a whole nation is “needy” you get an entire society that’s playing games… pretending this or that… politically correct so as to not offend… and no one BEING HONEST. It isn’t long after that that NO ONE knows what TRUTH IS!

But as Jack Nicholson said in that movie… YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH. I find most people simply can’t or won’t rely on their own view of life… they “need” to be spoonfed some already prepared “way” (religion is a way). It’s very sad.

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By GuitarsandMore, February 28, 2006 at 2:30 am Link to this comment
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Yes, it is important to learn to think for yourself.  We need our alone time.

Humans are also social animals and we learn and grow in groups.  If you have ever tried to raise a child you will see this right away.  Read Hillary Clinton’s book “ It takes a Village”. 

You really do need the teachers and the other students, the aunts and uncles, grandma and grandpa, the people at the store, your neighbors, and the people at church.  The people at church can be a good resource for information that you might use to help raise a child, cook a meal, live healthier.  You might be surprised at how many things you can learn from the people at church that have nothing to do with religion at all.

That’s what I mean when I say love each other.  HELP each other get through this thing called life in the best way possible.

My kid bloomed like a flower when I took her to preschool and kindergarten.  She just loves church too.

I am always prepared to give the people at church a hard time about their crazy beliefs and their weird ways, but I know I need those people.

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By R. A. Earl, February 24, 2006 at 3:00 pm Link to this comment
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In #4155 Will asks: “Can you produce more evidence as to the inherantly violent nature of Islam by reference to the scriptures etc?”

I’m not Will, but may I suggest “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)” by Robert Spencer, Regenery Publishing, Aug 2005. Some accuse the author of cherry picking passages to support his biases but at least he documents his choices with chapter and verse quotations from both the Koran and the Bible.


In #4197, GuitarsandMore wrote: “Join a religious organization and try to love one another.  If we don’t learn how to love one another we are all going to die.”

I have a better suggestion: How about NOT joining ANY group and learn to THINK FOR YOURSELF? This “fetish” we humans have to clump together in mind-numbing groups like piss in cat litter boggles my mind. Almost from birth we’re trained and conditioned to be groupies… join the crowd… be a team player… participate and volunteer and whatever you do, don’t get a reputation as being a LONER! That’s what our society teaches… and I think it’s a load of crap!

How about connecting YOURSELF in YOUR OWN WAY to the Cosmos… think about it for a moment… everything you’ve read and heard has been produced by other humans WHO HAVE NO MORE RELIABLE NOTION OF WHAT LIFE’S ALL ABOUT THAN YOU DO, no matter what they claim… so why follow self-styled leaders like a bunch of sheep when they don’t know where they’re going either?

Trust yourself… not some bogus religious claptrap. If you can’t, then you get what you deserve.

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By GuitarsandMore, February 23, 2006 at 12:14 am Link to this comment
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If you want to learn more here are some free web sites you can jump into and read.

http://www.afsc.org/

http://www.mennoniteusa.org/


There are some 300 million people in the United States and out of that group there are some 800 hate groups that commit hate crimes.  The Ku Klux Klan for example hates black people and used to kill them.  The skinheads hate Jewish people and who knows what they do to them.  Throughout the world there are hate groups of all kinds and different races and cultures.

There are also religious groups who are dedicated to love; at least that’s what they are trying to do.  Some of them may be misguided and perhaps a little off the track.  You stand a better chance of going into one of these groups and helping them remember how to love than joining a hate group.

Please don’t join a hate group.  Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Join a religious organization and try to love one another.  If we don’t learn how to love one another we are all going to die.

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By Will, February 22, 2006 at 11:01 am Link to this comment
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Sam,

Very interesting read. Only objection to raise right now is your appeal to ‘basic human goodness’ as I am not sure this isn’t borderline ethnocentricity. Perhaps you can work around it as it’s only a fringe point you make by using it.

Can you produce more evidence as to the inherantly violent nature of Islam by reference to the scriptures etc? It would be appreciated by those of us who fundamentally agree with you and your argumentation.

Regards,
Will.

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By Clifford Weinstein, February 22, 2006 at 10:28 am Link to this comment
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Take a pill = get well
Religion = always correct
I can take an asperin and dispell a headache; and if I too believe in supernatural,omnipotent ruler ; I need no asperin,because I don’t need to think or take responsibility for my actions as long as I preface those actions as religious .  The masses choose to believe in magic and superstition,accept the ancient ramblings authored by persons bent on controlling the world and all that inhabit it; leave choice and free thought out of their reality. I will not take much notice of them. I understand them. I am just as prepared to strike them down if they attempt to attract me. Religion = darkness

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By R. A. Earl, February 22, 2006 at 9:41 am Link to this comment
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I guess what I find most disturbing is the lack of CREDIBLE information about Islam & Muslims (and Christianity and Christians, for that matter).

I suppose I should bite the bullet, so to speak, buy an authorized copy of the Koran and the Bible and read each, cover to cover, and come to my own conclusions. Sorry… I don’t have that much life left in me.

I know a little more about Christianity than about Islam but both so far seem to be DELIBERATELY impenetrably dense and contradictory compilations of codswallop… almost as if either “God/Allah” hasn’t a clue how to communicate with “His children,” or his prophets/messengers/writers/clerics/publicists and other assorted lobbyists and spokespeople have just badly mangled their part. Whatever, the end result, in my view, is an obfuscation of the highest order.

You’d think that given the incredible amount of material that’s been accumulated on both these “philosophies of life” someone would have by now compiled an UNBIASED and ACCURATE “executive summary” of the fundamental tenets of each.

In any case, if anyone knows of such documents, please post titles and authors here. I’m not really expecting an answer because I strongly suspect that BOTH religions have been carefully crafted BY “MEN” so that any inherent meaning is left to individual INTERPRETATION, thus assuring forevermore ongoing confusion and conflict and providing justification for MILLIONS of “clerics” to live in grand style shooting off their mouths to control the ignorant masses as they see fit.

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By GuitarsandMore, February 21, 2006 at 10:40 pm Link to this comment
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Based on information found in the Wikipedia – The Free on line Encyclopedia I can only conclude that the Middle East made significant contributions to the field of Mathematics as long ago as 2000 BC.  Don’t be too quick to judge an entire civilization by the acts of a few.  To say that these people are worthless is a gross exaggeration.  Angry yes but worthless no.  They must have been calm enough to think at one time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_math

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By Ayatollah Khomeini, February 21, 2006 at 7:20 pm Link to this comment
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Brother Fadel,

Why do you only read the Quranic verses of mercy and do not read the verses of killing? Quran says kill, imprison! Why are you only clinging to the part that talks about mercy? Mercy is against God. The Prophet used the sword to kill people. Our Imams were quite military men. All of them were warriors. They used to wield swords; they used to kill people. We need a Khalifa who would chop hands, cut throat, stone people. In the same way that the Messenger of God used to chop hands, cut throats, and stone people. In the same way that he massacred the Jews of Bani Qurayza because they were a bunch of discontent people. If the Prophet used to order to burn a house or exterminate a tribe that was justice.

http://www.faithfreedom.org/Iran/KhomeiniSpeech.htm

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By Mr. Shreds, February 21, 2006 at 11:18 am Link to this comment
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I believe that a picture is worth a thousand words. Go here for some pretty pictures of the “Religion of Peace” hard at work;

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrshreds

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By Chantz, February 21, 2006 at 10:45 am Link to this comment
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It is perplexing to see so many willing to devote their existence to violence in the name of religion.  Most certainly, an editorial cartoon does not warrant such outrageous behavior.  After all, it is a cartoon.  Offensive to some, obviously yes.  But to kill over a cartoon is loonacy!  Isn’t is much more productive to speak about your concerns instead of acting with fire bombings, violent riots and threats of murder?  Let’s all take a collective deep breathe and begin the dialogue, just as you have done here.  Thank you for allowing me to share my opinion.

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By fido, February 21, 2006 at 2:02 am Link to this comment
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well,if you like to discover Islam go to
http://www.islam-guide.com/

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By Kate, February 20, 2006 at 6:14 pm Link to this comment
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To: Robert Bolt post on 2/13

Just found this site but enjoyed your philosophical argument (with self?) enormously. To focus on one small point: “The Caliphate was known for the spread of knowledge culture and art. Through the academic customs of Islam, many of the books and knowledge of the ancients were preserved and advanced.”  However, the Caliphate, as you acknowledge was 14th century Islam.

Today, Islam is notorious for violence, ignorance, hysteria, book-burning and jihad against artists. All major cultures and religions have contributed ‘something’ towards the progress of civilization in the intervening period but Islam has not. There has been no Reformation or Enlightenment because those with power in Muslim countries consciously control and suppress their own people. This does not apply only to rulers lolling in ostentatious wealth while the illiterate majority live in poverty and ignorance. It applies too, to the ‘spiritual’ leaders, ignorant men who have read nothing apart from the rantings of a 5th century, morally questionable, human.

It is, I think, a fundamental error of Western liberal thinking to assume that ‘rational’ or logical explanation can mollify mindsets embedded in 14th century ‘absolutes’ e.g. Mohammed may not be ‘seen’ or pictured because he is not to be worshipped as an idol. Idolatory means the worship of other than GOD. Muslims should therefore riot if God is portrayed. They do not. Muslims worship Mohammed. Mohammed is not God. I fear worship and veneration of Mohammed amounts to idolatory in any logical mindset.

The few Muslims of my acquaintance are professionals - people with third level British educations. However, they are distinguished by their social ‘separateness’ which, prior to 9/11, was attributed to ‘shyness’. Today, I have come to suspect that ‘shyness’ is, in reality, a dangerous racial/religious superiority.

Muslims come from different ‘tribes’ and different regions of the world; the Islamic insistence on an all-encompassing religious, as opposed to national identity, presents as inately sinister. 

Muslim dogma and indoctrination appears to remain unshaken by formal education. Again, I have listened carefully to the ‘moderates’ who disown violence; all, without exception have claimed “offence” at the cartoons; all have required ‘apology’; one in particular, a professor in a British University said: “the West cannot expect Muslims to conform to the cultural norms of Western society”. Pardon me? This is either arrogance of the most extreme form or it is total stupidity. I would question the woman’s suitablity for her present post. We, of western origin, would have no choice but conform to the ‘norms’ of Muslim society were we to visit Saudi et al.

A ‘Sunday Telegraph’ (19/02/06)poll revealed that 40% of British Muslims thought Sharia law - surely the most inhumane and archaic of all legal systems - should run in those areas of Britain where Muslims are in a majority. This aspiration is profoundly disturbing: a minority religious grouping proposes religious mini-states within the British State.

This is not a matter of Westerners believing their way of life superior. It actually is, despite all the drawbacks, superior to any society where women are stoned on suspicion of adultry; where gays are executed; where people are taught to love Mohammed so much that they willingly turn their children in firebombs. Appeasement will not stem the tide of demands heaped upon demands nor will it stop the murder and chaos Muslims claim as their right.

Western governments must take legal steps to protect their own populations. Immigrants have a duty of respect to the laws and traditions of those nations which give them shelter. However, unlike Jews who are distinguished by an ability to integrate and contribute to Western society, Muslims respect only Muslims and Muslim law. We, in our very being, are anathema to the 14th century world they inhabit.

P.S. MAHEEN - suggest you read ‘Brick Lane’ by Monica Ali (pub. Black Swan). In particular look at the character of Chanu: a puffed-up, Muslim, pseudo-intellectual who spouts volumes of words without context or meaning.

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By James M Joiner, February 20, 2006 at 7:22 am Link to this comment
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Wake up america! Islam, not terrorists is knocking at the door! They’re wearing suicide belts, bearing hatred and a weapon,demanding to be heard and ready for war! It is now obvious To a Dead Man: Iran Is Preparing For War!
As we all know, Iran has been going tit for tat with us in insisting on their nuclear ambitions being peaceful. the fact that they want a nuclear weapon can no longer be a realistic question!

As you probably know, a FATWA has been declared by the clerics saying it is okay to use the nuclear weapons they supposedly are not developing on their enemies. We cannot discount this!

There is also a seminar being taught in Iran euphemistically being called suicide 101. Vollunteers are both male and female and their is no shortage of vollunteers willing to die for Allah. Iran is preparing for war and is far deadlier than Iraq was.

I was listening to supposed experts saying that most Iranians are against the hardline clerics. Forget it! It doesn’t matter! If and when the shit hits the fan they will unite and they will all be after us one by one as suicide bombers if they can and they will. They will start in iraq and they will spread out from there.

As I have been saying, this is now getting ready to explode! The explosion as you know has been building for years. Bush has since set the fuse and the muslim cartoons have lit it!

The so called war on terrorism that Bush stupidly thought we were winning and still does is just getting started. We are winning nothing people, this is just beginning! This will soon be going full bore and we will have another draft.

We will also see what we are really made of, and just how much we love our country and our freedom even with asshole at the helm. This is going to be a longer haul than our so called leaders realize. We better start seeing what we are about to encounter and we have to be and are in it to win and we will. Good Luck America! The shit is getting ready to hit the fan!

James Joiner
Gardner, ma
http://www.anaveragepatriot.com

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By GuitarsandMore, February 20, 2006 at 12:01 am Link to this comment
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Sam,

I saw you on C-Span book TV tonight and I understand where you are coming from with your arguments and you have some valid points.

First, I would agree with you in spirit at least that we should not have such a narrow world view that our beliefs lead us down a path of global thermal nuclear destruction.  What good is a belief if by holding such a belief you are forced to kill and be killed when other options are available?

Second I would like to assert that faith and reason are not mutually exclusive but can be used to compliment each other. 

Take the word Peace, for example.

If you asked the Quakers, “what is peace?” they would reply something to the effect that the use of military force is never ever an option no matter what the circumstance.  Peace is the absence of conflict.  Non violent protest is always the better choice.

But, if you asked the same question of George W. Bush and his colleagues they would most likely reply that peace is a process of identifying potential threats to the free world and then neutralizing those threats through preemptive military strikes.

Clearly these are two completely different definitions of peace, one using faith and the other reason.

George Bush and his cohorts see their definition of peace as both logical and rational and have used reason to arrive at their conclusions.  In a similar manner Hitler and his cohorts rationalized the death of many innocent people because they were convinced it was their duty and obligation to purge the world in order for the pure race to flourish.  They were not a religious bunch and their use of astrology is well documented.

Logic and reason are empty machine like promises when used in the absence of empathy, compassion, love, and forgiveness.  All of these qualities are taught by religion and not by the law of the gun.  But if reason and faith are used to compliment each other we have the best of both worlds. And so I would advocate a very constrained defensive posture that would have a military yet choose not to use the military for anything other than defending the continental United States.  Preemptive military strikes obviously do not fall into that category.

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By Rick, February 19, 2006 at 10:33 pm Link to this comment
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There is a building nausea that comes on from reading the off-the-scale level of sanctimony that wreaks from some of the posts of these RWNJs (Right-Wing-Nut-Jobs..pronounced ORANGE, as in the color of the jumpsuits of those obliged to pick up roadside litter). I seriously doubt their saved hearts are experiencing the slightest bit of anguish over our mortal souls. More likely, the more intently they vehemently and piously protest, the more the Shakespeare quote “He doth protest too much” comes to mind. Boys and girls, it’s been done.

Same grandstanding approach is used to bash gays, feminists, people of color, you name it. Matter of fact, how frequently they return to their “good book” to justify all manner of bias over the centuries, from heretics to protestant reformists to American slaves and indigenous peoples branded as “savages”, to women who wanted the vote, then control over their bodies to the newest piñata to bash, gays and lesbians.

If I weren’t so concerned about the genuine impeding threat myth-mongers represent to the progress and viability of humanity, I might be able to muster up some sympathy for them. But, by and large, they are either too afraid or too ignorant to let go of their religious security blanket. Besides, there’s no possible dialogue anyway because, well, hell, y’can’t argue with “faith” can you?

I agree with Sam, the moderates are buffering apologists, merely running interference for the more authentic fundamentalists that pray right beside them. Their zealotry approaches psychotic and their reason (I’m being generous here) defies the simplest logic.

I disagree that one day “we’ll know the truth”. I don’t believe “the truth will set you free”. I believe it is the ongoing pursuit of the wonderful experience of life that carries us along. Myth-mongering religionists stand in bold defiance of that natural state of being, branding everything as sinful and thwarting our natural inclinations with the threat of eternal damnation. They hold that the secularists are certainly doomed to burning supernaturally *forever* (nice!) but, if you cut out the ridiculous concoction of that, it’s just kicking dust up in frustration over the frequency jamming their own blind faith is causing to their own mixed-up psyches.

“...and if you theenk you had a nasty taunting dees time, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”—French Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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By Wolfchen, February 19, 2006 at 2:51 pm Link to this comment
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Re: Comment #3631 by Robert Boldt on 2/13 at 7:02 pm…The Danish Prophet – To Be Or Not To Be Rebuked…

My compliments to Robert Boldt for his superb overview so magnificently presented with great clarity of analysis and insight.  He renews my faith in a humanity hell bent on destroying itself. 
  Wolfchen

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By kiriakos, February 19, 2006 at 12:22 am Link to this comment
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Harris’ response to all the comments comes close articulating to the main problem:  religious fervor of every sect engenders very ignorant behavior.

It does appear obvious that islam is a particularly contemptible and defective little cult with an evident bias toward violence, but it is also clear that we would not have stirred up these muslim idiots if we did not have such a stupid right wing christian religious nut in the White House who does not even know what it means to the rest of the world when he uttered the word “crusade” in describing his little religious war.  We would be in a much better situation if we did not have that dumbass Bush trying to match every despicable, infantile spasm of some insane cult follower from that vast region of ignorance with an equally stupid reaction.

In the world subjugated by islamic zealotry, they have this excuse:  their sheiks and califs and ayatollahs and mulllahs rule with subhuman brutality and their ignorant masses follow like beaten dogs - cowering before their masters but dangerous to innocent bystanders.

What’s our excuse?  We in the USA are supposed to be this bastion of enlightened representative governement.  So when Bush acts this stupid, far more dangerous to the world than a few cowardly book burners in turbans, it is our fault because we knew he was a religious nut before he (almost) got elected and (almost) got reelected.

There will be a day when these insane people whose religion is anti-human will all have the weapons they salivate for.  And our government’s actions, influenced by simpleminded christian dogma, have only brought this day closer.

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By Gary, February 18, 2006 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment
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You know, I don’t think anti-bible people have taken anything out of context.  I feel that believers have taken a few lines as their centerpiece of belief, and ignored the rest of the bible. 
The Christians are not without blame regarding the Nazis.  How about a quote from Joseph Ratzinger before he became pope:  “Even if the most recent, loathsome experience of the Shoah (Holocaust) was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian ideology, which tried to strike the Christian faith at is Abrahamaic roots in the people of Israel, it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to this atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inhereted anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians”.

Upon further examination:  The Catholic church heirarchy-especially Eugenio Pacelli, before and after he became Pope Pius XII, aided the Nazis.  He further played a role in making Hitler the dictator of Germany.
The Catholic church was active in Nazi movements outside Germany especially in the Baltic and Balkans where is helped run the Nazi puppet state of Croatia.  After the war, the Vatican helped shelter Nazi war criminals.
The Nazis worked closely with Christian churches and based the attacks on Jews in part on Christian texts.
It seems to me that any reasonable individual, who strives to read the bible with an unbiased eye, can only reach the same conclusions, many of which Sam Harris and other authors have stated.  There isn’t enough room on the planet for religious zealots of any belief, who believe in this unseen unheard from, absentee parent of a God, who are now armed with high tech weapons.

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By Ron Samuels, February 18, 2006 at 1:25 pm Link to this comment
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Spoke with a Pakistani Muslim at a dinner I attended last night, who isn’t exercised enough to carry out the fatwah and kill all 12 cartoonists, but suggested that printing pornographic pictures (assuming they existed) of the president’s daughters would also be stepping over the line delineating what should and should not be published; the standard being will you offend or hurt someone.  Fair enough, but that’s a judgement call, not a metaphysical absolute with homicidal consequences.

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By Buy Danish, February 18, 2006 at 11:44 am Link to this comment
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Adnan

This typical of that dreamy - Guardian.

To pigeon hole the debate of the threat of Islam into the racist category - is also a kind of supremacy. To assume that those who see Islam as a threat are only those white members of European societies - perhaps demonstrates that you believe that you are fighting in a kind of ‘uber’ argument - which is the exclusive domain of whites only.

Sorry - to disappoint.

Can you also accept the fact that other racial groups in Europe feel threatened by Islam in the same light as the white Europeans do?

All of your repressed feelings about racial difference have to be put aside now. This is a finer argument, with a new focus.

Islamic peoples have expressed a desire to rule Europe.
What would this mean for our freedoms if this were to take place?

I hope you can come down off your high ‘save the whole world’ horse.

I would prefer not to have to wear a burka – and I want to continue to speak freely.

You got it?

Could the Guardian newspaper stop those politicians, filmmakers, artist and writers from being shot – by Islamic radicals?
Is the Guardian offering suggestions on the degree to which we should ‘submit’ to the violent threats being made against us.
Is the paper telling us - that if we are very, very good than they wont have reason to cut our throats.

We seriously have to question the intentions of this group – so maybe the Guardian should leave the conversation to the grown ups.

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By IT'S NOT UR BUSINESS, February 18, 2006 at 4:11 am Link to this comment
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U KNOW WHAT U DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT U TALKING ABOUT SO FUCK YOU ALL.ONE DAY U WILL LEARN AND KNOW WHAT U TALKING ABOUT IF IT’S NOT TODAY!
IT’S VERY SOON DON’T WORRY,NOT AS FAR AS U THINK, U WILL NOT SURVIVE WHEN YOUR DAY COMES.

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By Adnan, February 17, 2006 at 8:02 am Link to this comment
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Sam,

I am sick and tired of hearing how Western values are the real ones, and should be imposed on the rest of the World. You should try to free yourself from racism and supremacism, which are so present in your article, before you could step on a high ground and start preaching to others. This article by Martin Jacques in Guardian might help you learn something:

Europe’s contempt for other cultures can’t be sustained
“... This kind of mentality - combining Eurocentrism, old colonial attitudes of supremacism, racism, provincialism and sheer ignorance - will serve our continent ill in the future. Europe must learn to live in and with the world, not to dominate it, nor to assume it is superior or more virtuous. Any continent that has inflicted such brutality on the world over a period of 200 years has not too much to be proud of, and much to be modest and humble about - though this is rarely the way our history is presented in Britain, let alone elsewhere. It is worth remembering that while parts of Europe have had free speech (and democracy) for many decades, its colonies were granted neither. But when it comes to our “noble values”, our colonial record is always written out of the script.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/cartoonprotests/story/0,,1711879,00.html

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By ian, February 17, 2006 at 12:05 am Link to this comment
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Response to #3640 (Hugh Higgins), #3761 (Don), #3627 (Bob Bolt).

Hugh: You are quite welcome.  For more on the truth about Hitler vis-a-vis Christianity, I recommend “Christianity on Trial” by Carroll and Shiflett, specifically the chapter entitled “Christianity and the Third Reich.”

Don: Your basic premise that a person of faith who feels the need to “defend” God only demeans Him because “God can defend Himself” is right on target.  As a Christian, I have never understood why some of my co-believers “get their backs up” so quickly and and strongly when someone questions their faith, or the existence of God.  If one’s faith is truly solid, then one’s response should be calm and peaceable, and one will simply “agree to disagree.”  As for the use of violence (of any type) to “defend” God, this I cannot fathom at all.

Bob: As a minister, my understanding re “being a Christian” does not comport with yours.  Most specifically, there is no absolute requirement to believe in the “Apostle’s Creed.”

Christianity is primarily about salvation; i.e., the eternal life of the soul (or spirit) once the physical body has ceased to function.  In that regard, salvation is guaranteed by a single line in Romans (10:9): “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”  Period.  The rest is details.  ([N.B.  This does not mean that the rest of the New Testament is not important, particularly Jesus’ ministry.]

As for your comments on the Danish cartoons, you make one statement that bears expansion: that you found the cartoon of Mohammed as an incendiary “in bad taste,” comparing it to depicting “Jesus with a Thompson submachine gun.”

Consider.  Among the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cartoons published in the West that poke fun at Jews and Christians, few if any DEMONIZE the leaders of those faiths.  (I am setting aside the outrageously anti-Semitic cartoons in some Arabic publications.}  For example, I have never seen a cartoon depicting Moses with a sword, killing innocent women - despite the fact that this is how the Israelites conquered many lands.  Nor have I seen a cartoon of Jesus depicted with a spear, impaling an innocent child - despite the fact of the Crusades.

When, then, does the West have no compunction about depicting Mohammed with horns, or with a bomb in his turban?  Setting aside the fact that many Muslims believe depicting Mohammed at all is offensive, surely depicting him as a terrorist or killer is.  After all, even most non-believers know that Jesus would never have condoned the violence done in His name during the Crusades, Inquisition, etc.  Likewise, Mohammed would never have condoned the violence being done in his name.

One of the first things one learns in any law class is that even Constitutionally-protected freedoms are not “absolute.”  The most common example is that one’s right to free speech does not include the right to shout “fire” in a crowded theater; doing so is an actionable crime.  Our freedom of speech is also limited by laws against some “hate speech,” which can also be an actionable offense.

What even some moderate Muslims are suggesting is that freedom of the press should be limited by prohibiting the conscious and deliberate profaning of a person’s faith - especially when such profanity maligns an entire people and/or their religious leader.

Freedoms are not absolute.  And although I am all for freedom of the press, if such freedom includes the right to consciously and deliberately profane another person’s faith - or, indeed, lack thereof (e.g., demonizing atheists) - then it is not providing room for sensitivity and respect.  And that is not a good thing.

Peace.

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By Marco Taco, February 16, 2006 at 5:08 pm Link to this comment
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response to comment #3869 by ahed

Who ‘figured out’ the core of relativity, Muhammad or Einstein?
I guess it depends on your definition of ‘figure out’.

“Moslems ask how could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have figured out Time Dilation and the core of Relativity? ...
Moslems ask how could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have figured out Length Contraction and Wormholes? etc ...”

Yes, how indeed?  How does any human being gain insight into the nature of the universe? 
By visiting the link in ahed’s comment we come to a site that seems to prove that certain verses in the Koran presage Einstein’s theory of Relativity and other findings in modern physics.  The verses in question are far more cryptic than scientific, and thus open to endless interpretation, but still, there does seem to be some kind of basic, intuitive grasp of the mysterious workings of the universe at work in them.
Of course, educated Muslims hail these verses as proof that the Koran is truly the word of Allah - because ... because there’s no way that an illiterate man living in the seventh century and spending most of his time meditating in a cave could ever have a mystical presentiment about, say, the relativity of time or the expansion and contraction of the universe.  Such a denial is symtomatic of Islam’s tendancy to downplay the creative and intellectual potential of the individual .... but that’s another story.
After perusing ahed’s link i felt compelled to discover more about religion and science, and so i moved on to a hinduism website and found a page on hinduism and physics.  Lo and behold, it turns out there are uncanny similarities between hindu cosmology as spelled out in the ancient texts and quantum physics, bells theory, the hologram theory of the universe etc…
Hmmm ... what, if any, light does this shed on the nature of sacred texts and ‘divine inspiration’?
I found the following passage enlightening:

“What are the implications of a holographic universe? As part of the universe, do we have holographic features ourselves that allow us to comprehend a holographic universe? This question has been answered affirmatively by Stanford neurophysiologist Karl Pribram. In an attempt to account for key observations about brain function which for decades have puzzled brain physiologists, Pribram arrived at a radical proposal: the hologram is a model brain function. In essence, the brain is the ‘photographic plate’ on which information in the universe is encoded.
When the proposals of Bohm and Pribram are conceptually joined, a new model of man emerges: we use a brain that encodes information holographically; and it is a hologram that is a part of an even larger hologram - the universe itself.”

see: http://www.hinduism.co.za  ‘hinduism and physics’

So - perhaps Muhammad had an ‘encoded’ vision, not exactly a rare occurence in the annals of religion, mysticism and general psychedelia.

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By faouzi, February 16, 2006 at 3:53 pm Link to this comment
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why why why let me said one word
islam is protected by allah no one have to destroy the islam the sun of islam will be rise soon in chaa allah

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By Keone, February 16, 2006 at 10:33 am Link to this comment
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At last someone says it plain and simple, the elephant in the room.  Thank you.

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By saul2006, February 15, 2006 at 4:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I wasn’t there , so I don’t know what Hitler’s
religious beliefs were but am posting below that cklaim he was religious.
Now maybe he used religion to get votes. Sounds like what many think about Bush.
However, Germans were religious both Catholic( whose SS troops were helped by the Church to escape)and Protestansts.
Hitler’s rant against Jews would not have been
successful except for the anti semitism of both churches. There is a town in Ploland which claimed the Nazi killed all there Jews until it was revealed that it actually Catholic Poles that had dom=ne the deed.
As for Stalin he was evil as well as a lot of Communist leaders but the Russian Orthodox Church was the reason that many Jews left Russia.
By the way None of these horrible human beings that caused the death of others did so in the name of GOD as Christians and Muslims are today.
When I questioned a black Jehovah’s Witness about OT authorizing slavery , he replied that aothers did it also, when I said the others were rotten human beings not His God in His Bible he had a hissy fit.

For sites about Hittler’s religious beliefs
http://www.nobeliefs.com/hitler.htm
http://www.nobeliefs.com/speeches.htm
http://www.nobeliefs.com/ChurchesWWII.htm

For what your clergy will not tell you

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By saul2006, February 15, 2006 at 4:16 pm Link to this comment
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While there are no doubts that anti Bible people have taken things out of context it is no more true then the clergy and Jesus himself.
As for the clergy

Many people believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, but that is a fallacy. How can I say that. Well, no other authority then Jesus said so. When Jesus talked about divorce he said “ Moses gave that to you, that is not how it was from the beginning (Mark 10:2-9 & Matthew 19:7-8).
The fact that Jesus disagrees with Moses blows the conception of many that while the Bible may have been written by men , they only wrote what God wanted. But with Jesus saying that Moses’s decree was not God’s, that argument goes out the window.

Second example
Hebrews 1:13 But to which of the angels said he at anytime, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemiesthy footstool? Jesus is also quoted saying this in Matthew22 41-45; Luke 21:41-44, Acts 2:30-36

The above 13 appears in Psalm 110: 1Psalm 110 Of David.
1 The LORD says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.

So, NO He may not have said it to any angel; but he sure as Hell said it to DAVID according to the believers own Bible .

As for {the Lord said to My Lord} Jesus also queried about that and Christians have interpreted that to be Jesus and that it was about Jesus. However, it is a Psalm of David about David. In that time Kings and even minor dignitaries were addressed MY Lord
In fact the Talmudists in one of their attempts to justify the killing of Uriah said he disrespected David by Not addressing him as My
Lord.

But don’t take my word for it let us see what it
actually says in Psalm 110:1

The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

2 The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.

3 Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from thewomb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your
youth.

4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
5. The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
6 He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the
rulers of the whole earth.

You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
not God or Son of God but a priest in the order of
Melchizedek. Not Lord or Greatest should be proof for
Christians that the psalm was not about Jesus regardless of the Claim of Jesus.

For what your clergy will not tell you
http://www.religionquestioned.com where there is an offer to shut site under certain circumstances

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By ahed, February 15, 2006 at 2:52 pm Link to this comment
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Relativity in Quran (Koran)

Einstein’s theory of special relativity states that the speed of light in vacuum (outside matter and gravitational fields) is always the same (at 299792.458 km/s). It is the time and space that vary according to the speed of objects; that is, faster objects experience slower time (Time Dilation). Also, general relativity states that time passes slower near bigger mass (in stronger gravitational fields). The whole theory of relativity revolves around this concept.

Moslems ask how could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have figured out the velocity of the moon relative to the speed of light?

Moslems ask how could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have figured out Time Dilation and the core of Relativity?

Moslems ask how could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have figured out the age of Earth relative to the age of the universe?

Moslems ask how could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have figured out that time passes slower near bigger mass?

Moslems ask how could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have figured out Pulsars and Black Holes?

Moslems ask how could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have figured out Length Contraction and Wormholes?

Moslems ask how could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have figured out Length Contraction and Wormholes?

Moslems ask how could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have known about Dark Matter and Gravitational Lensing? How could he have figured out Length Contraction and Wormholes? How could he have known about Pulsars and Black Holes? How could he have known that time passes slower near bigger mass? How could he have figured out that faster objects experience slower time? How could he have figured out the speed of light?

“I believe in what Allah revealed of the Book (The Quran) and I was ordered to be just among you (both Christians and Jews); Allah is our Lord and your Lord, we have our actions and you have your actions, no argument between us and you, Allah brings us together and to Him we are (all) destined.”

for more informatiom visit this link:
http://www.speed-light.info/islam/relativity_quran.htm

See also: Origin of man in Quran: God made Evolution, not instant Creation

Downloadable English version of Quran: http://islam.us/downloads.php

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By Jeff Allen, February 15, 2006 at 12:09 am Link to this comment
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Greetings all;

Reading/skimming the posts I note several common threads.  Three primary for focus:

1) Broad comparisons of events with very different sources or driving forces.
2) Confusion over the Historical record.

3) A general failure to separate *religion* from *culture*.

1) Many great slaughters have occurred in history.  To try to ascribe some correlation between the leaders of those slaughters and various religious belief systems is highly flawed.  To lump Atheists into the same category as Stalin or Mao is as innacurate as lumping Christians into the same category as the popes who launched the crusades or fought the wars of reformation and counter reformation.  Making comparisons like that does nothing to support your arguments except perhaps to generate more bluster.

2) Selectively citing history has the same flavor to it as pulling specific quotes out of the Bible (or Koran, for that matter…).  Individual events do not occur in a vacuum, and *must* be considered in context with what went on before, after and simultaneously elsewhere in the world.  I know for certain you would find a very large number of good comrades Stalin sent off to the Gulag were devoted party members and atheists.  Crusaders quite happily sacked and burned christian cities and towns.  I believe one must remember the driving force behind most of those acts was not religion, but rather the lust for power and wealth (which perhaps, in some contexts, could be religious…).

3) Taking off further from my previous comment, most of the discussion I have seen has completely passed over culture and tribalism as a source for much of the conflict we see currently.  We are fond of thinking tribalism and it’s bloody history   (Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Congo, elsewhere) as an African problem.  I beg to differ.  It has been sugar coated in the west under the guise of national or economic competition, but tribes exist very close to the surface under the veneer of western culture we carry around with us.  Where that veneer is stripped away (as in Iraq and Afghanistan), the conflicts are quite plain. If anything, Religion simply provides a justification for the expression of much less sophisticated desires.  While I do not absolve *any* religion of responsibility in the havoc being caused across the world, I submit underlying culture must be considered as well before deriving judgements.

Rgds,
Jeff Allen

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By Don, February 14, 2006 at 8:44 pm Link to this comment
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Those who become incensed at words or depictions which belittle or demean god, those who seek revenge in their god’s name, must feel that god in all his power is in need of their defense.  If god is indeed powerful and all-knowing, then he is quite capable of defending himself, of exacting whatever retribution HE feels is needed without the help of his people.  Those who defend their god demean their god by declairing to the world that he is in need of their help, that he is weak, that he can’t take care of himself.

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By Mike, February 14, 2006 at 2:24 pm Link to this comment
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The core issue is, as the author points out, not really Islam, but fundamentalism in the flavor of Islam.  Fundamentalism, whether Islamic, Christian, etc., is an extremist view that “our” side owns the truth and is therefore righteous.  To quote Bertrand Russel (Has Religion made useful contributions to society) 

“The essence of the conception of righteousness, therefore, is to afford an outlet for sadism by cloaking cruelty as justice.”

Such extreme fundamentalism is a dangerous trend, very reminicent of Christianity 100s of years ago (e.g., Crusades, Inquisition, etc.).  As the author correctly points out, this is something to fear, not because it is Islam but because it is sadism and cruelty sanctioned as correct behavior by Islamic leaders of today. Religion at its worst - completey devoid of spirituality.

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By Maezeppa, February 14, 2006 at 10:38 am Link to this comment
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In re “Let us take stock of the moral intuitions now on display in the House of Islam: On Aug. 17, 2005, an Iraqi insurgent helped collect the injured survivors of a car bombing, rushed them to a hospital and then detonated his own bomb, murdering those who were already mortally wounded as well as the doctors and nurses struggling to save their lives.”

How is this terrible act a reflection on Islam? I’m not saying it isn’t, only that I don’t see the evidence it is.

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By roger, February 14, 2006 at 3:04 am Link to this comment
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From comment #3351 by anwar on 2/08 at 3:02 pm:

“Some atheists are quite psychotic about their beliefs too.”
Atheists don’t riot, burn down buildings, commit suicide just to murder as many innocent people as they can.

“I think it’s psychos that are the problem, not islam.”
I noticed that all the psychos are muslims.

“This post and much of the recent talk similar to it just breaks my heart.  How could you be so mean to so many people?”
anwar, when will islam run out of suicide bombers? Or do you prefer to call them martyr bombers?

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By Hugh Higgins, February 13, 2006 at 11:09 pm Link to this comment
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Ian, I am deeply grateful to you for your exposing the lie that Hitler was a Christian, or had any relation to that religion other than exploiting it through lies in order to get votes from Christians.

Thank you for the particulars and the quotations. I needed to see those and I have copied them to use in defense of Christianity when anti-religious fanatics attack it.

And I agree with those who have pointed out that Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, responsible for perhaps more horrid suffering than any other three individuals in the history of the world, were anti-religious and anti-theistic. This effectively puts the lie to those who claim religion as the source of intolerance and bloodshed.

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By roger, February 13, 2006 at 10:44 pm Link to this comment
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America’s consumption of oil is making dangerous muslim countries like Iran wealthy. We need to stop importing oil as soon as possible. I suggest cars that can run on fuel that is 85% made from corn which can be grown in the usa.

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By Lefty, February 13, 2006 at 10:08 pm Link to this comment
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Re: Comment 3567, Lisa said: “. . . The perpetrators of these travesties might be a minority within the Muslim religion, but without a vehement outcry by the majority, it appears that they condone the behavior. . . . “

Ding, ding, ding ding, ding . . .

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By Robert Boldt, February 13, 2006 at 8:40 pm Link to this comment
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The Danish Prophet – To Be Or Not To Be Rebuked
.

Moderate Muslims, I believe, interpret the Koran as advocating only a defensive employment of violence. Unlike Christ’s instruction to “turn the other cheek,” Islam does consider it valid to use violence to ward of an attack on Muslims or their religion itself. Therein lies a division between the moderate and the fundamentalist Islamasists. The latter have a very broad interpretation as to what constitutes an attack. Certainly any portrayal of the Prophet is prohibited idolatry. A satiric or critical portrayal of the Prophet is also blasphemy. In either case a fundamentalist’s (and perhaps even some moderate’s) interpretation of Islamic doctrine would regard the creation and distribution of these Danish cartoons as an attack on Islam as well as a capitol offense.

Let’s play one of those ethical paradox games our professors used to love to torment us with in Philosophy 101. Your captors have armed you with an AK47 automatic rifle and, in order to save your life, you must destroy with this weapon, one of two objects that will presently appear behind two curtained doorways before you. The respective curtains are raised and reveal 1) a newborn infant in a crib and 2) Jan Van Eyck’s priceless 15th Century masterpiece, The Annunciation. Hopefully this will not be much of a conflict for folks outside the Art History department or a demented, fundamentalist Christian idolater.

Of course, nothing is equal in value to the life of a new-born child. One human life is priceless. How can the existence or the destruction of even a priceless “work of art” be worth more than life itself? It is interesting that there are people in this world who hunger so for martyrdom that they hold their theology more precious than their own physical existence. There are people who are so offended, that take themselves and their belief systems so seriously, that they would murder and destroy others’ lives to prove how vulnerable their ideas and their icons are. Rarely do you have a person who possesses a truly authentic belief system becoming disturbed to the point of riot at something as insubstantial as marks on a piece of paper. I also understand that people can be so driven to violence by severe injustice, discrimination and victimization that the smallest offense can incite them to insane destruction and bedlam.

Can I then say that the furor in the Muslim communities around the world is justified? Are these the kind of people who would rather take an Uzi to a newborn child rather than have the image of their founder defamed? Today lives are being lost and blood is being shed over the existence of cartoons depicting and demeaning the Prophet Mohammed. This conflict is so fraught with contradictory incendiary issues that one must approach it with blacksmith’s tongs.

There are apparently two issues here. One is the freedom of expression that is respected in most modern democracies. This freedom of expression does not extend to Holocaust deniers in some democracies however. The other issue is the respect for the sensibilities of certain subgroups within these cultures. Can a subculture hold a whole society hostage to their particular sensibilities and beliefs? It’s true there should not be a dictatorship of either the majority over a minority or the other way around. The unfortunate thing about this situation is there is unlikely to be a resolution that will be the result of anything other than an appeal to mass hysteria, political accommodation or other irrationalities. The possibility that the Danish cartoons will result in a learning experience for anyone is not likely.

Before I attempt my flying leap at this, I must acquaint the reader with my own bias in this matter. I would characterize my position on religion especially with regards to the big three, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, as reservedly hostile. I have less of an issue with those members of these religions who would regard their beliefs as reformed, liberal, ecumenical and secular. These practitioners are more likely as not to be inclined to soft-pedal the irrational, supernatural aspects of their respective creeds as well as shunning claims of their religion to holding a copyright on truth or an exclusive path to salvation. These moderates probably would agree on some sort of a Universal, single, Deistic-style God who may or may not wish to form a personal relationship with them. I am sorry to offend my many liberal friends who nominally regard themselves as Christian, Jew or Moslem, but I think their identification with the particular creed they advocate is presumptuous if not inauthentic. In spite of those liberal believers who hold to certain ethical teachings or “social gospel” dictates, I believe the real Christians, Jews and Muslims today are the radical fundamentalists who are causing such chaos in this so-called modern world.

What an outrageous thing to say! Let me explain. These fanatics that have been set loose on us are the true descendants of the unadulterated doctrines and the undeniable mandates given by their prophets, priests, rabbis and saviors of their respective faiths. These fundamentalists do not believe their respective religions are collections of metaphors or myths not to be taken literally. They believe literally in the words written in their holy books. Unlike their secular brethren, they are, in fact, willing to kill and be killed over obscure interpretations of their divinely inspired scriptures or liturgy. I confess to a lack of depth in my understanding of the Koran, but I think I am correct in this analysis of the Old and New Testament. In order to be a Christian it is necessary for one to swear by the Apostles’ Creed. Right? Have you ever read a more ridiculous pair of assertions than the virgin birth and the physical resurrection of a dead body? “Well it’s not expected that we believe it in any literal sense.” a liberal Christian may reply. No, I’m sorry, you are standing against ten to fifteen centuries of unified Christian faith asserting that, unless you believe in these blasphemies against a rational universe, you are not a real Christian. I’m sure the orthodoxy from the other two faiths would be sticklers on equally absurd beliefs within their religions as well.

So what is it that these three religions hold in common that makes them so violent, intolerant and frankly so wrong? I think it grows out of their common belief in the concept of monotheism. As we were all taught is Sunday school or in preparation for our Bar Mitzvah or in the local Madrassa, monotheism is the highest form of religion that has ever been revealed to man. Prior to the dawn of these three great religions, this dark world was ruled by paganism, superstition, ignorance and fear. Pre-monotheistic man worshiped and propitiated thousands of contending gods, demons, spirits and ancestors. Finally the prophetic leaders of the Israelites pointed the way to YHWH (don’t say it out loud - that’s a blasphemy!), the most powerful tribal god who ruled, first as a superior over other gods, and finally evolved into a universal God over all mankind. This dramatic story may be suitable for children and people who have no respect for or understanding of other religions, but it hardly bears any relationship to the facts. It is well beyond the scope and the length of this essay to elaborate in detail how many other non-monotheistic religions (including those of such technologically primitive cultures as the Tibetans and the American Indian shamanic tradition) had a spiritual depth, a conversance with mystical experience, a cosmology and a theological sophistication that was well beyond the understanding of even the most learned minister, priest, rabbi or mullah. It is not my inclination here to play the monotheist’s game of, my god’s bigger than your gods, but simply to state a little appreciated fact.

So what is it about monotheism that makes its devotees so inherently violent and intolerant? There are exceptions to every rule, I know, but the pagans, the polytheists and the atheist (Buddhism?) religions are, most often, characterized as possessing a much more tolerant position with regards to people who hold beliefs other than their own. I would assert that this tolerance grows out of a far more sophisticated understanding of the nature of the spiritual universe and human psychology than is found in most monotheistic religions.

Once again I must defer to anyone with a more informed knowledge of the history of the Islamic religion than I possess. My understanding of the conquest of the west by Saladin bore some difference from the bloody massacres characterized by the Christians and the Hebrews. First of all, the Islamic campaigns were notable for respecting the other “people of the Book”- the conquered Christians and Jews under their domain. Unlike the other monotheists, they were not interested in forced conversion and massacre, but often allowed these “infidels” to live in peace and trade. Saladin scandalously violated the sacred Christian code of killing, raping (even cannibalism!) and otherwise destroying the enemy by allowing those he defeated to retreat with their lives - and their horses! The Caliphate was known for the spread of knowledge culture and art. Through the academic customs of Islam, many of the books and knowledge of the ancients were preserved and advanced. Modern science and mathematics certainly owes its existence much more to Islam than to the Christianity of that time. Who’s to say that Spain might not have been better off under continued Islamic rule rather than under leaders beholden to the Holy (sic) Roman Church? Ask the Jews.

So how is it that this seeming most enlightened religion of the big three is presently the most irrational, fundamentalist, violent and intolerant? I think that a century of western imperialism might have had something to do with it. It may be romantic of me to feel that when the Brits hung T.E. Lawrence out to dry, the Middle East’s fate was cast for the poorer. Obviously this event had equally disastrous precedents. The west’s colonial exploitation of the Middle East has planted the seeds of our own destruction in the hearts of the benighted inhabitants of this region and in the consciousness of worldwide Islam. Obviously as bin Laden would hasten to remind us, the brutal over throw and expulsion of the Caliphate from Spain in the 15th Century is a never ending sticking point in the Muslim soul. It is interesting that not only did the Catholics expel the Moslems from the Iberian Peninsula, but also the Jews. The geopolitical decline of Islam and the ascendancy of the Christian west have obviously played an important part in the formation of an anti-modern, irrational, retarded shadow of a once glorious Islam. Oil-lust and the West’s support of corrupt regimes like Saudi Arabia, The Shah of Iran and Saddam’s Iraq have metastasized traditional Islamisists into the radical, fundamentalists we are threatened by in every country around the globe today. What might have been a tolerant, rational, modern monotheism has, thanks to these events and influences, now become as brutish and reactionary as its other two brothers of the Book.

Monotheism. What is it about this mindset that predisposes its followers to such bizarre behavior? It stems from the belief that your god, who also happens to be the creator of the entire universe, who revealed Himself to you through his Prophet, Savior, etc. and who presides over a precise and absolute code of behavior which He enforces (with some exceptions) mercilessly, is not content to occupy a sphere of influence any smaller than the whole world. This automatically establishes an us vs. them situation in which everyone who does not subscribe in absolute reverence to your particular religion or (cult variant) should not suffer to live if they don’t convert. All three religions are replete with interpretations concerning the treatment of the infidel. I have heard Muslims state that nothing in their religion advocates violence toward unbelievers (in this life) and only advocates violence against attackers. This does open them up to an interpretation that regards even the most innocuous acts by the unbelievers such as a novel by Salman Rushdie or a Danish cartoon as an attack on Islam that must be met with deadly retaliation.

All cultures and religions contain tendencies towards narrow, provincial prejudices. It’s just that the monotheistic religions elevate this ugly tendency to a sacred, universal absolute. The reason that this belief in the universal supremacy of ones religion is so pernicious is because it inevitably engenders in the mind of the monotheist a profound blindness to the logical fallacy of misplaced concreteness.

“The fallacy of misplaced concreteness …involves thinking something is a ‘concrete’ reality when in fact it is merely a belief opinion or concept about the way things are.”
–Wickopedia

This logical fallacy far from being scorned, usually occupies the highest throne in the hierarchy of the belief systems of the big three. The greatest sin is that of doubt. You cannot be a true believer and entertain any doubts as to the existence of your personal connection to the deity, His hatred of all the unbelievers and His promise of eternal reward for your ego in some (virgin infested?) afterlife.

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments,” Exodus 20:3-6

The relationship between art and religion is, like a tempestuous marriage, rarely a harmonious one. This is especially true of Islam. All three religions take their cue from this second commandment of the Decalogue cited above. It might be said to be the commandment with the history of the most controversy and the broadest range of interpretations. While I believe graven images or realistic portrayals of men and beasts have not been universally prohibited by Islam, the modern militant variant is pretty universally prone to iconoclasm. They are especially sensitive to art produced in service of other creeds (remember the Taliban’s destruction of the colossal Buddhist sculptures?) and especially graphic or literary portrayals that might show the Prophet in anything other than an attitude of complete devotion.

I must confess to a certain admixture of conflicting attitudes and emotions concerning this latest flap over the rendering of the image of Mohamed in the Danish press. Of the twelve cartoons initially published, I have seen only two in a resolution and a translation that allowed me to frame an opinion. Let’s start with my first impression upon seeing these two most popular (infamous?) pictures. I admit to immediately disliking the first cartoon I saw. I felt that the portrayal of the Prophet with a burning fused bomb under his turban was insulting to moderate Muslims – the very people who suffer the most from the reaction to the excesses of their fundamentalist brethren. I felt that the cartoon of the prophet as an incendiary was in bad taste, rather like showing Jesus with a Thompson submachine gun clearing liberals out of the temple of Congress. In spite of my feelings that the fundamentalist Jihadist Muslims may represent a more authentic expression of the religion, I still feel we should do all things possible to cultivate the liberal, mainstream, tolerant members of Islam. Like their counterparts in the other monotheistic creeds, we need to try to disenthrall them form the more militant, irrational and megalomaniacal attributes of their respective faiths. This is, after all, the only way to a peaceful world. Would that I could just wave a magic wand and free humanity of the plague of organized, monotheistic religion forever. John Lennon was so right!

The second cartoon made me laugh. It showed the prophet in paradise coming forth to confront charred, newly arriving suicide bombers with the exclamation, “You’ve got to stop coming. We’re running out of virgins!” I admit that the second cartoon appealed to my own bias about the absurdities of many of the ego-driven rewards gullible Christians and Moslems are promised in the afterlife. I’m sorry, but if your religion proclaims to the world a belief that the afterlife is composed largely of an eternity of sexual pleasure, then I think you deserve to have it satirized. In a similar vein, the Christian image of the rapture is equally deserving of ridicule. I’m surprised that more humorists and cartoonists have not taken up this theme. I guess the fact that nearly a third of all Americans are clinically insane enough to actually believe in this absurdity may be the source of their inhibition. I do not know how many peace-loving, moderate Moslems believe in the concept of a heavenly, everlasting, orgasmic reward for martyrdom. I hope not many.

If you’ve ever accidentally happened upon a Christian stand-up comic on a religious cable network, you probably already know that fundamentalists have no sense of humor. I also doubt that there is any equivalent of the Borscht-belt comic network within al-Qaeda. I have no idea if these guys get their yucks over anything less hilarious than watching large capitalist buildings come crashing to the ground. The reason that I think the concept of genuine humor is inimical to many fundamentalists goes back again to the fallacy of misplace concreteness. In order to find something funny, you have to be able to understand and tolerate a basic level of ambiguity and incongruity. You have to be open to contradiction and a knowledge that an exaggeration is often a willful way of testing and laughing at our own credulity. Much humor deals precisely with this all too human quality of mistaking our idea of the world with actual reality. This quality is pretty much nonexistent among religious zealots.

Now lets step over and see what would be considered the other side of this debate concerning these cartoons. What would you call it - the argument for the rioters? - the argument for intolerance? Europe is considerably more secular than America. Unlike our virtual political theocracy, a candidate in many EU countries who made their belief in God a big campaign issue would probably be defeated at the polls and shortly thereafter be placed under psychiatric examination. Compare this unpopularity of religion with the existence of growing numbers of orthodox Muslims in their midst. Add to that fact, the reality that many of these Muslims are also economically and culturally disadvantaged and feel oppressed by the secular culture, and you have a recipe for conflict and resentment. Such a tinderbox does not take much to set it off. That is why the riots and destruction are so widespread and violent. In the Muslim’s minds, these cartoons represent not just a defilement of their religion but also the confirmation of their oppression and the indignities that they are being subjected to daily. Even though intolerance of free speech and an over reaction to a stupid provocation may be wrong, it is also wrong (although not illegal) to deliberately inflame the sensibilities of the oppressed, the literal-minded and the intolerant. Certainly there is freedom of the press over there as well as here (unless as before mentioned you are a Holocaust denier.), yet let me ask you if any newspaper in this country would feel free to publish a similar cartoon critical of Christianity? And the Christians are not even a particularly oppressed group in spite of what Pat Robertson might say.

On top of all this, there is ample evidence that militant influences and some governments within the Muslim world community are taking advantage of this situation to fan the flames. This, of course, can only help with the agendas that many reprobate Muslims desire: propping up corrupt regimes and terrorist recruitment …and so the viscous cycle rolls on.

In summary, all these words are my attempt to analyze and resolve what may be an insoluble situation. How does one balance the requirements of a free, secular, diverse society with the needs and sensibilities of the minorities in their midst? In our own history, oppressed ethnic groups that were not slaves or the object of outright genocide had at least a generation or two to move from ghetto to a trade to politics. The modern world moves too fast for such outmoded means of societal reformation. Of course social and economic justice is always a good start. In my final analysis, I must reluctantly come down on the side of freedom of expression even if it includes the right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. We must not give in to the blood lust of this hysterical, manipulated mob. Like all fundamentalist monotheists, the true Muslim will not be satisfied until the whole world is oppressed by his stunted, narrow-minded and undemocratic belief system. And don’t you dare quote me out of the context of my preceding qualifications of this characterization!

Peace,
Bob Boldt

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By Bob Boldt, February 13, 2006 at 7:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Danish Prophet – To Be Or Not To Be Rebuked
.
Moderate Muslims, I believe, interpret the Koran as advocating only a defensive employment of violence. Unlike Christ’s instruction to “turn the other cheek,” Islam does consider it valid to use violence to ward of an attack on Muslims or their religion itself. Therein lies a division between the moderate and the fundamentalist Islamasists. The latter have a very broad interpretation as to what constitutes an attack. Certainly any portrayal of the Prophet is prohibited idolatry. A satiric or critical portrayal of the Prophet is also blasphemy. In either case a fundamentalist’s (and perhaps even some moderate’s) interpretation of Islamic doctrine would regard the creation and distribution of these Danish cartoons as an attack on Islam as well as a capitol offence.
Let’s play one of those ethical paradox games our professors used to love to torment us with in Philosophy 101. Your captors have armed you with an AK47 automatic rifle and, in order to save your life, you must destroy with this weapon, one of two objects that will presently appear behind two curtained doorways before you. The respective curtains are raised and reveal 1) a newborn infant in a crib and 2) Jan Van Eyck’s priceless 15th Century masterpiece, The Annunciation. Hopefully this will not be much of a conflict for folks outside the Art History department or a demented, fundamentalist Christian idolater.
Of course, nothing is equal in value to the life of a new-born child. One human life is priceless. How can the existence or the destruction of even a priceless “work of art” be worth more than life itself? It is interesting that there are people in this world who hunger so for martyrdom that they hold their theology more precious than their own physical existence. There are people who are so offended, that take themselves and their belief systems so seriously, that they would murder and destroy others’ lives to prove how vulnerable their ideas and their icons are. Rarely do you have a person who possesses a truly authentic belief system becoming disturbed to the point of riot at something as insubstantial as marks on a piece of paper. I also understand that people can be so driven to violence by severe injustice, discrimination and victimization that the smallest offense can incite them to insane destruction and bedlam.
Can I then say that the furor in the Muslim communities around the world is justified? Are these the kind of people who would rather take an Uzi to a newborn child rather than have the image of their founder defamed? Today lives are being lost and blood is being shed over the existence of cartoons depicting and demeaning the Prophet Mohammed. This conflict is so fraught with contradictory incendiary issues that one must approach it with blacksmith’s tongs.
There are apparently two issues here. One is the freedom of expression that is respected in most modern democracies. This freedom of expression does not extend to Holocaust deniers in some democracies however. The other issue is the respect for the sensibilities of certain subgroups within these cultures. Can a subculture hold a whole society hostage to their particular sensibilities and beliefs? It’s true there should not be a dictatorship of either the majority over a minority or the other way around. The unfortunate thing about this situation is there is unlikely to be a resolution that will be the result of anything other than an appeal to mass hysteria, political accommodation or other irrationalities. The possibility that the Danish cartoons will result in a learning experience for anyone is not likely.
Before I attempt my flying leap at this, I must acquaint the reader with my own bias in this matter. I would characterize my position on religion especially with regards to the big three, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, as reservedly hostile. I have less of an issue with those members of these religions who would regard their beliefs as reformed, liberal, ecumenical and secular. These practitioners are more likely as not to be inclined to soft-pedal the irrational, supernatural aspects of their respective creeds as well as shunning claims of their religion to holding a copyright on truth or an exclusive path to salvation. These moderates probably would agree on some sort of a Universal, single, Deistic-style God who may or may not wish to form a personal relationship with them. I am sorry to offend my many liberal friends who nominally regard themselves as Christian, Jew or Moslem, but I think their identification with the particular creed they advocate is presumptuous if not inauthentic. In spite of those liberal believers who hold to certain ethical teachings or “social gospel” dictates, I believe the real Christians, Jews and Muslims today are the radical fundamentalists who are causing such chaos in this so-called modern world.
What an outrageous thing to say! Let me explain. These fanatics that have been set loose on us are the true descendants of the unadulterated doctrines and the undeniable mandates given by their prophets, priests, rabbis and saviors of their respective faiths. These fundamentalists do not believe their respective religions are collections of metaphors or myths not to be taken literally. They believe literally in the words written in their holy books. Unlike their secular brethren, they are, in fact, willing to kill and be killed over obscure interpretations of their divinely inspired scriptures or liturgy. I confess to a lack of depth in my understanding of the Koran, but I think I am correct in this analysis of the Old and New Testament. In order to be a Christian it is necessary for one to swear by the Apostles’ Creed. Right? Have you ever read a more ridiculous pair of assertions than the virgin birth and the physical resurrection of a dead body? “Well it’s not expected that we believe it in any literal sense.” a liberal Christian may reply. No, I’m sorry, you are standing against ten to fifteen centuries of unified Christian faith asserting that, unless you believe in these blasphemies against a rational universe, you are not a real Christian. I’m sure the orthodoxy from the other two faiths would be sticklers on equally absurd beliefs within their religions as well.
So what is it that these three religions hold in common that makes them so violent, intolerant and frankly so wrong? I think it grows out of their common belief in the concept of monotheism. As we were all taught is Sunday school or in preparation for our Bar Mitzvah or in the local Madrassa, monotheism is the highest form of religion that has ever been revealed to man. Prior to the dawn of these three great religions, this dark world was ruled by paganism, superstition, ignorance and fear. Pre-monotheistic man worshiped and propitiated thousands of contending gods, demons, spirits and ancestors. Finally the prophetic leaders of the Israelites pointed the way to YHWH (don’t say it out loud - that’s a blasphemy!), the most powerful tribal god who ruled, first as a superior over other gods, and finally evolved into a universal God over all mankind. This dramatic story may be suitable for children and people who have no respect for or understanding of other religions, but it hardly bears any relationship to the facts. It is well beyond the scope and the length of this essay to elaborate in detail how many other non-monotheistic religions (including those of such technologically primitive cultures as the Tibetans and the American Indian shamanic tradition) had a spiritual depth, a conversance with mystical experience, a cosmology and a theological sophistication that was well beyond the understanding of even the most learned minister, priest, rabbi or mullah. It is not my inclination here to play the monotheist’s game of, my god’s bigger than your gods, but simply to state a little appreciated fact.
So what is it about monotheism that makes its devotees so inherently violent and intolerant? There are exceptions to every rule, I know, but the pagans, the polytheists and the atheist (Buddhism?) religions are, most often, characterized as possessing a much more tolerant position with regards to people who hold beliefs other than their own. I would assert that this tolerance grows out of a far more sophisticated understanding of the nature of the spiritual universe and human psychology than is found in most monotheistic religions.
Once again I must defer to anyone with a more informed knowledge of the history of the Islamic religion than I possess. My understanding of the conquest of the west by Saladin bore some difference from the bloody massacres characterized by the Christians and the Hebrews. First of all, the Islamic campaigns were notable for respecting the other “people of the Book”- the conquered Christians and Jews under their domain. Unlike the other monotheists, they were not interested in forced conversion and massacre, but often allowed these “infidels” to live in peace and trade. Saladin scandalously violated the sacred Christian code of killing, raping (even cannibalism!) and otherwise destroying the enemy by allowing those he defeated to retreat with their lives - and their horses! The Caliphate was known for the spread of knowledge culture and art. Through the academic customs of Islam, many of the books and knowledge of the ancients were preserved and advanced. Modern science and mathematics certainly owes its existence much more to Islam than to the Christianity of that time. Who’s to say that Spain might not have been better off under continued Islamic rule rather than under leaders beholden to the Holy (sic) Roman Church? Ask the Jews.
So how is it that this seeming most enlightened religion of the big three is presently the most irrational, fundamentalist, violent and intolerant? I think that a century of western imperialism might have had something to do with it. It may be romantic of me to feel that when the Brits hung T.E. Lawrence out to dry, the Middle East’s fate was cast for the poorer. Obviously this event had equally disastrous precedents. The west’s colonial exploitation of the Middle East has planted the seeds of our own destruction in the hearts of the benighted inhabitants of this region and in the consciousness of worldwide Islam. Obviously as bin Laden would hasten to remind us, the brutal over throw and expulsion of the Caliphate from Spain in the 15th Century is a never ending sticking point in the Muslim soul. It is interesting that not only did the Catholics expel the Moslems from the Iberian Peninsula, but also the Jews. The geopolitical decline of Islam and the ascendancy of the Christian west have obviously played an important part in the formation of an anti-modern, irrational, retarded shadow of a once glorious Islam. Oil-lust and the West’s support of corrupt regimes like Saudi Arabia, The Shah of Iran and Saddam’s Iraq have metastasized traditional Islamisists into the radical, fundamentalists we are threatened by in every country around the globe today. What might have been a tolerant, rational, modern monotheism has, thanks to these events and influences, now become as brutish and reactionary as its other two brothers of the Book.
Monotheism. What is it about this mindset that predisposes its followers to such bizarre behavior? It stems from the belief that your god, who also happens to be the creator of the entire universe, who revealed Himself to you through his Prophet, Savior, etc. and who presides over a precise and absolute code of behavior which He enforces (with some exceptions) mercilessly, is not content to occupy a sphere of influence any smaller than the whole world. This automatically establishes an us vs. them situation in which everyone who does not subscribe in absolute reverence to your particular religion or (cult variant) should not suffer to live if they don’t convert. All three religions are replete with interpretations concerning the treatment of the infidel. I have heard Muslims state that nothing in their religion advocates violence toward unbelievers (in this life) and only advocates violence against attackers. This does open them up to an interpretation that regards even the most innocuous acts by the unbelievers such as a novel by Salman Rushdie or a Danish cartoon as an attack on Islam that must be met with deadly retaliation.
All cultures and religions contain tendencies towards narrow, provincial prejudices. It’s just that the monotheistic religions elevate this ugly tendency to a sacred, universal absolute. The reason that this belief in the universal supremacy of ones religion is so pernicious is because it inevitably engenders in the mind of the monotheist a profound blindness to the logical fallacy of misplaced concreteness.
“The fallacy of misplaced concreteness …involves thinking something is a ‘concrete’ reality when in fact it is merely a belief opinion or concept about the way things are.”
–Wickopedia
This logical fallacy far from being scorned, usually occupies the highest throne in the hierarchy of the belief systems of the big three. The greatest sin is that of doubt. You cannot be a true believer and entertain any doubts as to the existence of your personal connection to the deity, His hatred of all the unbelievers and His promise of eternal reward for your ego in some (virgin infested?) afterlife.
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments,” Exodus 20:3-6
The relationship between art and religion is, like a tempestuous marriage, rarely a harmonious one. This is especially true of Islam. All three religions take their cue from this second commandment of the Decalogue cited above. It might be said to be the commandment with the history of the most controversy and the broadest range of interpretations. While I believe graven images or realistic portrayals of men and beasts have not been universally prohibited by Islam, the modern militant variant is pretty universally prone to iconoclasm. They are especially sensitive to art produced in service of other creeds (remember the Taliban’s destruction of the colossal Buddhist sculptures?) and especially graphic or literary portrayals that might show the Prophet in anything other than an attitude of complete devotion.
I must confess to a certain admixture of conflicting attitudes and emotions concerning this latest flap over the rendering of the image of Mohamed in the Danish press. Of the twelve cartoons initially published, I have seen only two in a resolution and a translation that allowed me to frame an opinion. Let’s start with my first impression upon seeing these two most popular (infamous?) pictures. I admit to immediately disliking the first cartoon I saw. I felt that the portrayal of the Prophet with a burning fused bomb under his turban was insulting to moderate Muslims – the very people who suffer the most from the reaction to the excesses of their fundamentalist brethren. I felt that the cartoon of the prophet as an incendiary was in bad taste, rather like showing Jesus with a Thompson submachine gun clearing liberals out of the temple of Congress. In spite of my feelings that the fundamentalist Jihadist Muslims may represent a more authentic expression of the religion, I still feel we should do all things possible to cultivate the liberal, mainstream, tolerant members of Islam. Like their counterparts in the other monotheistic creeds, we need to try to disenthrall them form the more militant, irrational and megalomaniacal attributes of their respective faiths. This is, after all, the only way to a peaceful world. Would that I could just wave a magic wand and free humanity of the plague of organized, monotheistic religion forever. John Lennon was so right!
The second cartoon made me laugh. It showed the prophet in paradise coming forth to confront charred, newly arriving suicide bombers with the exclamation, “You’ve got to stop coming. We’re running out of virgins!” I admit that the second cartoon appealed to my own bias about the absurdities of many of the ego-driven rewards gullible Christians and Moslems are promised in the afterlife. I’m sorry, but if your religion proclaims to the world a belief that the afterlife is composed largely of an eternity of sexual pleasure, then I think you deserve to have it satirized. In a similar vein, the Christian image of the rapture is equally deserving of ridicule. I’m surprised that more humorists and cartoonists have not taken up this theme. I guess the fact that nearly a third of all Americans are clinically insane enough to actually believe in this absurdity may be the source of their inhibition. I do not know how many peace-loving, moderate Moslems believe in the concept of a heavenly, everlasting, orgasmic reward for martyrdom. I hope not many.
If you’ve ever accidentally happened upon a Christian stand-up comic on a religious cable network, you probably already know that fundamentalists have no sense of humor. I also doubt that there is any equivalent of the Borsht-belt comic network within al-Qaeda. I have no idea if these guys get their yucks over anything less hilarious than watching large capitalist buildings come crashing to the ground. The reason that I think the concept of genuine humor is inimical to many fundamentalists goes back again to the fallacy of misplace concreteness. In order to find something funny, you have to be able to understand and tolerate a basic level of ambiguity and incongruity. You have to be open to contradiction and a knowledge that an exaggeration is often a willful way of testing and laughing at our own credulity. Much humor deals precisely with this all too human quality of mistaking our idea of the world with actual reality. This quality is pretty much nonexistent among religious zealots.
Now lets step over and see what would be considered the other side of this debate concerning these cartoons. What would you call it - the argument for the rioters? - the argument for intolerance? Europe is considerably more secular than America. Unlike our virtual political theocracy, a candidate in many EU countries who made their belief in God a big campaign issue would probably be defeated at the polls and shortly thereafter be placed under psychiatric examination. Compare this unpopularity of religion with the existence of growing numbers of orthodox Muslims in their midst. Add to that fact, the reality that many of these Muslims are also economically and culturally disadvantaged and feel oppressed by the secular culture, and you have a recipe for conflict and resentment. Such a tinderbox does not take much to set it off. That is why the riots and destruction are so widespread and violent. In the Muslim’s minds, these cartoons represent not just a defilement of their religion but also the confirmation of their oppression and the indignities that they are being subjected to daily. Even though intolerance of free speech and an over reaction to a stupid provocation may be wrong, it is also wrong (although not illegal) to deliberately inflame the sensibilities of the oppressed, the literal-minded and the intolerant. Certainly there is freedom of the press over there as well as here (unless as before mentioned you are a Holocaust denier.), yet let me ask you if any newspaper in this country would feel free to publish a similar cartoon critical of Christianity? And the Christians are not even a particularly oppressed group in spite of what Pat Robertson might say.
On top of all this, there is ample evidence that militant influences and some governments within the Muslim world community are taking advantage of this situation to fan the flames. This, of course, can only help with the agendas that many reprobate Muslims desire: propping up corrupt regimes and terrorist recruitment …and so the viscous cycle rolls on.
In summary, all these words are my attempt to analyze and resolve what may be an insoluble situation. How does one balance the requirements of a free, secular, diverse society with the needs and sensibilities of the minorities in their midst? In our own history, oppressed ethnic groups that were not slaves or the object of outright genocide had at least a generation or two to move from ghetto to a trade to politics. The modern world moves too fast for such outmoded means of societal reformation. Of course social and economic justice is always a good start. In my final analysis, I must reluctantly come down on the side of freedom of expression even if it includes the right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. We must not give in to the blood lust of this hysterical, manipulated mob. Like all fundamentalist monotheists, the true Muslim will not be satisfied until the whole world is oppressed by his stunted, narrow-minded and undemocratic belief system. And don’t you dare quote me out of the context of my preceding qualifications of this characterization!
Peace,
Bob Boldt

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By Pat, February 13, 2006 at 5:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Three questions for Sam Harris:

1) Do you support, or do you not support President Bush’s invasion of Iraq?
2) If you do not support President Bush’s invasion of Iraq, please document in Truthdig what you are doing to voice your opposition.
3) What are you doing with the profits from your book sales?

I ask these questions because I am concerned by your apparent interest in divisiveness.  Your platform seems to be without any constructive recommendations for building bridges of understanding between differences. 

By your narrow focus purely on political agendas and religious fundamentalism, you impress me as merely exploiting the Truthdig forum to get material for another book. 

You ignore the concept of “God” absent religion.  Is this concept alient to you?  This is a simple premise you appear to intentionally ignore because it would defuse the tension you’re exploiting. 

Instead of exploiting what you denounce try to be constructive instead. 

Publicly promote recommendations to do some real fence mending.  Use the attention you’ve gotten to reduce resentment between religions, fundamentalists and their victime.  That would be a noteworthy accomplishment I would respect.  I expect you to publicly answer the three questions posed to you.  You owe it to the readers of Truthdig.  Thanks.  Pat

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By pankaj Seth, February 13, 2006 at 2:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Here is Buddha’s advice on how to decide what to believe. Specifically, he was being asked by a people known as “The Kalamas” who were extant 2500 years ago, about rebirth and karma.

Text below is from Wikipedia… direct links to the Kalama Sutta itself and some commentaries will also be found on this Wikipedia page. Reading the Kalama Sutta for oneself provides valuable context for understanding the conversation between Budda and the Kalamas. See for yourself…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalama_Sutra

From Wikipedia: The Kalama Sutta (Sanskrit: Kalama Sutra) is a Buddhist sutta in the Anguttara Nikaya of the Tipitaka. In this sutta, Gautama Buddha instructs the people of Kesaputta — the Kalamas — on which basis one should decide which religious teaching to accept as true. The Buddha tells the Kalamas to not just believe religious teachings because they are claimed to be true by various sources or through the application of various methods and techniques. Even his own teachings are not to be accepted at face value.

The Buddha provides ten specific sources which should not be used to accept a certain teaching as true, without further verification:

1.Oral history
2.Traditional practices
3.News sources
4.Scriptures or other official texts
5.Logical reasoning
6.Philosophical reasoning
7.Common sense
8.One’s own opinions
9.Authorities or experts
10.One’s own teacher


Instead, he says, only when one has personally verified that a certain teaching is skillful, blameless, praiseworthy, and conducive to happiness, then one should accept it as true and practise it.

However, it should be stressed that the Buddha instructed the Kalamas to pay attention to the teachings of the wise; he did not simply leave it up to the individual to decide for him or herself what is or is not the truth. Nevertheless, the emphasis remains on one’s personal verification of any teaching. More specifically, the verification pertaining to whether a particular teaching does indeed lead to the diminishment and non-arising of the mental defilements of greed, hate and ignorance, or vice versa (in which case it should be rejected).

The Kalama Sutra is also notable for presaging an approach to Pascal’s Wager for assessing beliefs in specific doctrines. In the sutra, the Buddha explicitly argues that there are direct and immediate benefits to be gained from acting as if the difficult concepts of rebirth and karma are valid, regardless of whether they are valid. A decision-theoretic analysis shows that this argument renders belief in these concepts rational for all non-zero levels of belief.

[Hopefully, the above shows that applying the term “religion” to Pan-Indian systems of thought and belief, as it is generally applied to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition is an error.]

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By Marco Taco, February 13, 2006 at 1:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

response to: #3590 by

This Tibet issue and the quantification of suffering is getting tiring.

lew Firpin writes:
“What happened in Tibet over 50 years ago, while reprehensible, does not compare to the invasion of Iraq. For openers, Tibet was part of China for CENTURIES, etc, etc.”
“While it isn’t a pretty picture under the best of circumstances, it isn’t comparable to the war crimes being committed by the US in Iraq.”

Firstly, are you suggesting that Mao’s People’s Liberation Army was somehow more humane than the American military in Iraq? A cursory reading through any book on modern chinese history will reveal how ludicrous such a stance is. Mao was one of the greatest monsters of the 20th century and the chaos and destruction he purposely and systematically imposed on China is beyond comparison with anything the Americans are purposely doing in Iraq. Do we see, for instance, the methodical and systematic destruction of Iraq’s mosques? Indiscriminate killing of peaceful religious leaders?

‘Tibet was part of China’ - wow, that’s identical to the Chinese Communist Party’s line.  In fact, it sounds like something someone educated in Mainland China would boldly assert, along the lines of ‘no one was killed at Tiananmen’, or Mao was only 30% wrong.  Are you, by any chance, a Mainland Chinese? 
From a long term historical perspective, Tibet, at most, could be considered an off and on vassal state of the Chinese Empire - a de facto autonomous country with its own distinctive people, culture, language and socio-political structure, which on occasion paid tribute to the Chinese Emperor, depending on how stable and centralized China happened to be at the time.  Note: There was even a period in history when the Tibetan army invaded China and conquered large swaths of territory.
We must differentiate between China the country, and China the empire - what you see on the map today is the latter ... Tibet and Xinjiang, which make up around half of modern China, have effectively been colonized by the Chinese.

When the aptly named ‘People’s Liberation Army’ entered Tibet, they embarked on a campaign of cultural genocide and indiscriminate terror.  This is the point of Harris’ analogy.  The American government and military are not led by megalomaniac psychopaths of Stalin or Mao’s calibre.

Lets look past recent stats on the state of economic development in the ‘autonomous’ region and remember that it’s Chinese settlers that are benefiting most from such developments.  We should also keep in mind that the whole point of the ‘western development plan’is increasing integration and assimilation of what is indisputably conquered territory (a visit to any Tibetan area will attest to this). The Tibetans aren’t generally happy about the takeover, but ... China is a big country and she needs resources and geopolitically strategic land.

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By Gary, February 13, 2006 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In response to #3554 by Ian.  A quick google of some information in your post proved slightly untrue.
Hitler was never an atheist, and remained a theist throughout his life.
Although Mao, Pol Pot and Stalin were atheists, the primary influences that let to their atrocities were not atheism per se, but their “dogmatic beliefs in Marxist and Communist ideas”.
Pol Pot was a monster and an atheist, I am an atheist and not a monster.  For every atheist mass murderer there is a religious mass murderer.
I believe that people are born with an inherent sense of right a wrong, and learn from societal norms.  Following the words of a fictitious, unsubstianted book are not necessary to the growth, or betterment of the human being or society.

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By Mason Dixon, February 13, 2006 at 11:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Islam is all fringe and no center”

I’m no expert, and while I agree with Mr. Harris’ indictment of Muslim fundamentalist violence, I’ve read enough to know that his broad brushstrokes obscure the complexity of Muslim culture and history.  It’s intoxicating, on all sides, to be on the moral side of a black and white world.

He might add to his thought experiment – why was there not this level of violence and extremism 50 years ago?  100 years ago?  What’s going on today is the result of historical conditions as much as religious belief – religions are extremely pliable and evolve and they do so for reasons - saying it’s all because of Islam strikes me as a retreat into crude historical idealism.  Marx is still relevant in this regard.

Here’s another thought experiment – if I were to walk into a west Texas kicker bar and begin to proclaim loudly that Brokeback Mountain was finally telling the truth about cowboys – well, you know what would happen.  Would this be an example of Texans’ intractable hostility to freedom of speech, or an incredibly stupid act on my part?  Or both?

We can’t change Muslim behavior or thought – we can only control our own thought and action.  Unfortunately, the ideal time to do that was in the past.

But despite the oversimplification, I think Harris is dead-on that what we’re facing an ideological movement that is very dangerous and fundamentally incompatible with our own.  We have to be realistic and be prepared to defend ourselves.  I’m not a pacifist when it comes to really defending freedom and democracy.

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By And No Religion Too, February 13, 2006 at 10:19 am Link to this comment
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Ian Pepper:

You obviously have not read Sam Harris’ book. In it he decries all forms of fanatasicm, faith-based or not. In the book, Mr. Harris rightly claims that Nazism was an irrational ideology.

Mr. Pepper you really ought to really, really, really read his book before you mischaracterize Mr. Harris.

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By Lisa, February 13, 2006 at 10:07 am Link to this comment
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R.A. Earl - I agree that all species have their span in evolution, I just find it disheartening that humans will be very premature.

Fadel - I was making some points that Islam isn’t all just ‘beautiful and peaceful’.  I fully understand there are beautiful and peaceful people who happen to be Muslim, just as there are beautiful and peaceful people who are Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, etc.

I was also bringing back the topic of the subject that Islam is practicing similar violent activities that Christianity has done. 

“the Qur’an gives you the total freedom to be an atheist, idol-worshipper” - if that’s the case, then why the rioting regarding the cartoons?  How can one worship Allah and be an atheist?  If that’s the case, then Muslims also dictate their religious practice like Christians do:  follow some of the ideologies in the Bible/Qur’an and not others to suit what’s needed at the time.  This also implies that both texts have a multitude of contradictions between their book covers.

If I am a fanatic, it would have to be secular.  I don’t believe in a supernatural “God” who will ultimately dictate what happens to my ‘soul’ when I’m dead in accordance to my actions and beliefs now.  This belief has no scientific, logical, or practical basis.  I’m a strong proponent for the scientific method, because it is constructed to test ideas and theories and provides a logical understanding of reality.

Sam Harris doesn’t sugar coat the destructive practices of monotheism, nor should anyone.  Belief is a powerful, and many times very misguided practice especially when beliefs aren’t questioned/analyzed for their logical content.  In the 21st Century, one would think that the human animal would have understood that questioning is a very good thing.  Our technological advances are a product of this.  However, it is our subjectivity to the unknown that we continue to cling to supernatural ideology, and promote this dogma in the constructs of morality.  And then, when our actions break that moral code (killing/murder), there’s that ol’ religious ideology that it’s ok because “God told me to do it”.

Be that as it may, it will be religious fanaticism that destroys our species and potentially the Earth.  When there is a segment of the world population that believes it should demand conformity to it’s ideology and promotes the myth that rewards are received after one dies (or one will be “raptured”) from human destruction (all be it prophecied as a supernatureal one!), then they do not accept responsibility for their actions here because they do not attach themselves to the only world that we have, and that has ever existed (as we KNOW it)!

That is what the monotheistic trilogy has promoted throughout their history.  I find comfort in knowing that I’m not going to be struck dead by some fickle, egotistical, man-made supernatural entity because I have chosen not to embrace the ideology that a few men created to control others (and their cultures associated commodoties).  When I die, it’s because that’s the natural course of life.

The list of travesties at the hands of Muslims within the last 50 years are not unique, in the holistic sense, than what has been perpetrated in the past by other religious zeolots.  However, each religious ‘institution’ should practice responsibility as to the fact these crimes against human nature were/are being conducted by virtue of said theology.  I haven’t seen any violent religion do that yet.  Which only reconfirms that religion is hypocritical to its core.

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By Ian Pepper, February 13, 2006 at 4:21 am Link to this comment
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As a lifelong atheist and believer in science and human reason, I am appalled, and even flabbergasted, by Sam Harris’ fanatically - yes fanatically - steadfast refusal to address my central objection to his position on religion.


To repeat: there are rational believers, and irrational atheists, and vice versa.  The operative criteria are a willingness for reflection and self critique, versus rigidity and fanaticism.

The enemy is fundamentalism of all stripes, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or even the insane fanaticism of a market fundamentalism that despoils the earth for the sake of profit and consumerist excess.

Is it really necessary to repeat these fundamental truths?

In a recent letter signed by 10,000 US clergy in support of Darwin’s theory of evolution, we find the following sentence:

“We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator.”

With slight modifications, this is a sentence any atheist could subscribe to, for we hold that the powers of the human mind are the marvels of nature, and not the handiwork of God.

In attacking religion as such instead of fundamentalism, Sam Harris has perverted his own capacities for critical thought.

He has sown unnecessary discord between religious and nonreligious individuals.

And most repugnant of all, he has given a free ride to all forms of irrational belief that do not happen to be religious.

Sam Harris, I challenge you, yet again, to address these objections, at long last, openly and in a public forum.

Otherwise, I will have no alternative but to conclude that you are both a fanatic and a fool.

Ian Pepper
Doctoral Candidate
Columbia University in New York City

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By Matt, February 13, 2006 at 1:37 am Link to this comment
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words, words words all I hear from both sides of the pro and anti religion debate/war.

Actions are how we should judge our fellow humans.

Ghandi’s quote is one of the few that for me sums it all up “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.”

That and The song “the universal soldier”.

its you and me my friend, education is our only hope.

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By jayed, February 12, 2006 at 11:13 pm Link to this comment
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I’m not convinced that an equal-opportunity critic of all religions can help us understand the furor amongst some Muslims about the cartoons. Not all Muslims are Arabs. Not all Muslims are alike, except insofar as they are Them as opposed to Us. 
        I believe it’s important to look at the ways in which Muslims went to European countries as refugees or as labourers, how they were received by the nationals of these countries, how they integrated (or didn’t) into the countries. Many Muslims are regular folk, taking their places as citizens of their new countries.  Others arrived illiterate, took work that nationals wouldn’t do, didn’t have encouragement or opportunities to integrate—and years after arrival, continued to feel, and be seen as, outsiders.  Skilled manipulators can, and I believe did, fan the flames of the aggrieved and the alienated.
        Meanwhile, moderate Muslims held their own peaceful demonstrations this past weekend, to demonstrate that there are peaceful Muslims and there are secular Muslims (sortof like secular Jews) and to say to their Muslim brethren that the firebombing and the violence are not behaviours acceptable to Islam.
      The real issue for me is:  how do we overcome the chasm between Us and Them, white Europeans and non-White Muslims, Christians and Jews, Israelis and Palestinians, Jinjaweed and Sudanese.  Deciding that Islam is inherently violent may let us off the hook, but it doesn’t help us figure out how to live peaceably in the same world.

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By lew Firpin, February 12, 2006 at 10:35 pm Link to this comment
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Response to #3561


“Most estimates of the number of people killed - often after being tortured for no reason or subjected to bizzare ‘experiments’ by the Chinese government - generally ranges between 1,000,000 and 1,500,000 people!  Look it up.”

I did look it up.  Your data and analysis are delusional.  What happened in Tibet over 50 years ago, while reprehensible, does not compare to the invasion of Iraq. For openers, Tibet was part of China for CENTURIES, etc, etc.  Read your history.  Next, what happened in Tibet was happening all over China as part of the disasterous “cultural revolution”.  Further, the available data on contemporary Tibet does not support the conclusion “brutal repression.”  In any event, the comparison is a false analogy for these and other reasons, and totally unreliable as comment on Islam.  You need to look a few things up.

From Wikipedia:

The government of the PRC also rejects claims that the lives of Tibetans have deteriorated, pointing to rights enjoyed by the Tibetan language in education and in courts and says that the lives of Tibetans have been improved immensely compared to the Dalai Lama’s rule before 1950. Benefits that are commonly quoted include: the GDP of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) today is 30 times that before 1950; TAR has 22,500 km of highways, as opposed to 0 in 1950; all secular education in TAR was created after the revolution; TAR now has 25 scientific research institutes as opposed to 0 in 1950; infant mortality has dropped from 43% in 1950 to 0.661% in 2000; life expectancy has risen from 35.5 years in 1950 to 67 in 2000; the collection and publishing of the traditional Epic of King Gesar, which is the longest epic poem in the world and had only been handed down orally before; allocation of 300 million Renminbi since the 1980s to the maintenance and protection of Tibetan monasteries [6]. The Cultural Revolution and the cultural damage it wrought upon the entire PRC is generally condemned as a nationwide catastrophe, whose main instigators (in the PRC’s view, the Gang of Four) have been brought to justice and whose reoccurrence is unthinkable in an increasingly modernized China. The China Western Development plan is viewed by the PRC as a massive, benevolent, and patriotic undertaking by the eastern coast to help the western parts of China, including Tibet, catch up in prosperity and living standards.

There are no reliable estimates of how many people were killed in Tibet in the early 50’s.  While you are googling you might want to go to Human Rights Watch and compare the data on China’s “brutal repression” of Tibet with the US invasion of Iraq.

Also from Wikipedia and other sources:

Evaluation of PRC rule

Tibetan exiles generally say that the number that have died in the Great Leap Forward, of violence, or other unnatural causes since 1950 is approximately 1.2 million, which the Chinese Communist Party denies. According to Patrick French, a supporter of the Tibetan cause who was able to view the data and calculations, the estimate is not reliable because the Tibetans were not able to process the data well enough to produce a credible total. There were, however, many casualties, perhaps as many as 400,000. This figure is extrapolated from a calculation Warren W. Smith made from census reports of Tibet which show 200,000 “missing” from Tibet. Even The Black Book of Communism expresses doubt at the 1.2 million figure, but does note that according to Chinese census the total population of ethnic Tibetans in the PRC was 2.8 million in 1953, but only 2.5 million in 1964. It puts forward a figure of 800,000 deaths and alleges that as many as 10% of Tibetans were interned, with few survivors. Chinese demographers have estimated that 90,000 of the 300,000 “missing” Tibetans fled the region. [4] (P.24)

These estimates are mostly from biased and unreliable western sources.  While it isn’t a pretty picture under the best of circumstances, it isn’t comparable to the war crimes being committed by the US in Iraq.

Also waiting for the data on translations into Arabic and its relevance.  Along with the explanation of how this relates to the 1.5 billion muslims who don’t speak Arabic.

By the way, the number of Christian Palestinians appears to be somewhere between 2-4% of the population.  A quick google search turns up the following: 

“The intense political relationships between Israelis and Palestinians came to a head-on clash with the outburst of the Intifada in December 1987.Christians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip actively participated in it; some became martyrs, others were imprisoned and still others had to hide from Israeli pursuit “

What do you suppose ” became martyrs” means?

Along with an article with the headline: “Palestinian Archbishop tells Christians to take part in Suicide attacks against Israel” with full details following.

So much for that “scientific” analysis.

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By Zaine Ridling, February 12, 2006 at 10:27 pm Link to this comment
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Sam, I think the larger problem is one of monotheism, not merely Islam. Rereading the Hebrew Bible books of Kings and Chronicles, the Jews did some pretty terrible things to those in possession of the land. Christians justified slavery and genocide for centuries, and while christian wars have been transformed into capitalistic ones, all god-believers are guilty of murder and other atrocities.

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By Ed Wardak, February 12, 2006 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment
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good men do good things.
bad men do bad things.
only religion makes good men do bad things.

 


if anyone here finds these topics interesting, you should all check out Sam’s reader’s forum:

http://www.samharris.org/forum

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By Fadel Abdallah, February 12, 2006 at 3:43 pm Link to this comment
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A Respond to Message # 3567 by Lisa, who said:
“God” doesn’t control what we do, WE DO!

It’s an irony that, as a Muslim, I have to agree with your statement quoted above. In Fact, this is a concept repeated very often in the Qur’an. God establishes for us a criterion of what is right and wrong, then we are on our own as to what we do. Up to this point we agree, but Islamic theology tells us that we will be accountable and responsible for any good or bad we do before God on a final Day of Judgment.

Now, for all that verbal rage against Islam, just because David Morton said some positive thing about it, I conclude that you are also religiously fanatic in your own way, not unlike those you attack. The word for religion in the Qur’an means “a way of life.” And believe it or not, the Qur’an gives you the total freedom to be an atheist, idol-worshipper, a secular and even a communist; but this is also “a way of life”; hence a “religion.” You might be entertained to know that there is hardly an Islamic country that does not have an active and known communist party. In this regard the Muslim environment is more tolerant than the great United States, where you know well what happened to communists. In light of this I hope that you don’t take offense when I say that you are religiously fanatic in your own way, because you believe your way is the right way, and thus you attacked a person who said something positive about the religion of 1/5 of humanity. If you tell me that 1/5 of humanity are wrong or misguided and you are right, then I would respond by telling you that you are arrogant, self conceited and overrating yourself and your importance in the plan of creation according to Islam, or the plan of chaos and accident as atheists might think! Just think about it in a moment of clarity and open-mindedness, then you will come to the conclusion that you do have a self-made religion and that religion is either “atheism” or “secularism.” Therefore, you also live in a glass house, like Muslims, Christians and Jews, and if you are wise and responsible, then you don’t throw stones at other people’s houses.
One more point! I know and admit that throughout human history there were few wars you can call religious, like the Crusades, the Inquistion, etc. and these two by the way were Wetern gifts to humanity! But the two greatest wars in human history were WWI & WWII, where over 50 million people persished, and these two are also, in big part, another legacy of the West to humanity. Unless you are misinformed, these two big evil wars were not religious; they were secular, based on conflicting secular ideologies. Compared to these great evil wars, the atrocities perpetrated by extreme Muslims you religiously enumerated in you piece, look like irresponsible kids playing, and commiting some serious mistakes! And compared to the evil war in Iraq and all the killing and desrtuction that was brought on its heal, the majority of Muslims are indeed angels, compared to the evil of all the governments that participated in this war!
I wish you prosperity and long healthy life in your atheism or whatever, and I hope that there are no hard feelings!

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By R. A. Earl, February 12, 2006 at 2:32 pm Link to this comment
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Further to Lisa’s #3567 comment:

...“We as a species, who has explicit control over the environment we live in WILL ANNIHILATE OURSELVES DUE TO OUR IRRATIONAL IDEOLOGY!”

And that’s a BAD THING?

Seems to me every living (and most inanimate) thing has a beginning, middle and END. Why should mankind not disappear? I think it would be very odd indeed if we DIDN’T disappear… very unnatural. Let’s get on with it!

No… wait. I want to max out my credit cards first.

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By M. Mischak, February 12, 2006 at 1:15 pm Link to this comment
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For all the talk about religions, who’s right, who’s wrong, bla, bla, bla, what I want to see and hear are the eye witness reports of those who have gone and come back.  Photos would be nice also.

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By Scott Morris, February 12, 2006 at 10:37 am Link to this comment
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Sam,
You are a light and an inspiration in a world growing ever darker with theistic lunacy.

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By Helen Michelson, February 12, 2006 at 10:25 am Link to this comment
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See what happens when we all get bent out of shape because of religion?  I’ve been sitting here reading the replies to Sam’s article (and book), and I’m neither surprized nor amazed.  But I am saddened and a bit frightened about the world my grandkids face. I’m 80 and can look back on “very interesting times, indeed”!  How different it used to be, or as I remember it, when religion wasn’t the beginning and end of all things, in public at least.  We thought as we pleased, discussed it sometimes, and then got on with our lives.  We didn’t worry about Christmas vs. holiday trees, etc etc.  But once Religion gets that capital R and one cannot get elected to anything, I suspect, in the US unless he/she declares a Faith, friends we’ve lost it.  And worse than that, if we don’t “delare” we don’t get elected!  That’s dreadful!  Religion is strictly a private affair and should never be on the lips of the politician.
  Now why do we believe in the first place?  It’s an interesting concept.  I think humans need the soft, fuzzy feel of the father/mother image, and they need it all their lives.  So we invented God.  We’re afraid to step out into the world on our own and need the helping hand of the Other to guide us, help us, tell us how great we are (when we are) and that we’re bad little kids when we do the wrong thing.  Apparently we need that in this stage of our evolution.  I would be interested in the comments of a neuroscientist on
what part of the brain the need for faith exists.  I’m sure it’s somewhere and if we don’t know now, we will eventually——if we don’t kill one another off the face of the earth first!
Now the normal thing to say would be, “Please, God, save us!”

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By Lisa, February 12, 2006 at 9:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Islam (according to Dave Morton) is one of the most beautiful and peaceful religions?  Here are some examples of Muslim beauty and peace:

Muslims fly commercial airliners into buildings in New York City. 
Muslim officials block the exit where school girls are trying to escape a burning building because their faces were exposed. 
Muslims cut off the heads of three teenaged girls on their way to school in Indonesia.  A Christian school. 
Muslims murder teachers trying to teach Muslim children in Iraq. 
Muslims murder over 80 tourists with car bombs outside cafes and hotels in Egypt. 
A Muslim attacks a missionary children’s school in India.  Kills six. 
Muslims slaughter hundreds of children and teachers in Beslan, Russia. 
Muslims shoot children in the back. 
Let’s go way back.  Muslims kidnap and kill athletes at the Munich Summer Olympics. 
Muslims fire rocket-propelled grenades into schools full of children in
Israel. 
Muslims murder more than 50 commuters in attacks on London subways and busses.  Over 700 are injured. 
Muslims massacre dozens of innocents at a Passover Seder. 
Muslims murder innocent vacationers in Bali. 
Muslim newspapers publish anti-Semitic cartoons. 
Muslims are involved, on one side or the other, in almost every one of the 125+ shooting wars around the world. 
Muslims beat the charred bodies of Western civilians with their shoes, then hang them from a bridge. 

The perpetrators of these travesties might be a minority within the Muslim religion, but without a vehement outcry by the majority, it appears that they condone the behavior.

Is it not a fact that there are statements in the Koran that promotes the killing of ‘infidels’?  Is it that Islam is only peaceful toward it’s own (men)?  How is it that the truth is so offensive?  Is it because it reveals an ideology that is inherently biased and violent?

Most secular thinkers understand that Judaism and Christianity fair no better in the violence, bias, and racist categories.  Monotheism has shown to be a violent, close-minded, and destructive theology.  When human beings kill others to promote their ideology of “My God’s better than your god”, these humans have chosen to foresake reason and common sense.  THAT’S THE POINT!  We as a species, who has explicit control over the environment we live in WILL ANNIHILATE OURSELVES DUE TO OUR IRRATIONAL IDEOLOGY!  It doesn’t matter what name you ascribe to it!

Just because Islam is repeating the history of the dark ages Christianity doesn’t make it any more ‘right’ than when it happened before!

“God” doesn’t control what we do, WE DO!

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By James M Joiner, February 12, 2006 at 7:33 am Link to this comment
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Mr. Harris
  It is nice to hear from someone who sees the reality before us even if it is somewhat. I have written 7 books on this subject and the subject of what in reality Bush is doing to us today. I am well into my 8th and still can’t get published or recognized. tough business to break into! I have also written a few Doctrines. 2 of which are free downloads. You are pretty knowledgeable. I challenge you to read my PDF, Life Today/The Real Story and get a real wake up.we will in fact be facing the entire Muslim nation even though we do not admitit yet! As my books progress so to has my knowledge of life and reality especially with Islam. WW3 because of Islam is a reality. This is just beginning and it will make the hundred Year War appear short. Thank You for your time.
Regards,
James m Joiner
http://www.anaveragepatriot.com

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By Charlie, February 12, 2006 at 6:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Responding to Fadel Abdallah on 2/11 at 5:02 pm:

“All what Muslims want is to left alone and not to see their land occupied, exploited and their most sacred symbols trampled on. This is the source of their rage…” Is that it?
I guess one would have to define what “their land” means. Native Indonesians would beg to differ as their archipelago is slowly eaten away by Muslim imperialism. And migration of Islam to the West, where their demands for the very freedoms that don’t exist in their native lands, are used against the adoptive country. The French would see the burning of 3000 vehicles last year as an invasion. Left alone?!  A religion of beauty and peace? Please! Anger and violence, that is all.

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