Friday, August 04, 2006

Sam Harris on Islam

We spend a lot of time bashing xian fundamentalists who are annoying with their drive-by proseltyzing, their creationist museums, Battle Cry youth cults, and Rapture Ready.com end-of-the-world prophecies. However, these xian fundies seem very tame in comparison to Muslim fundies. Here is a great website that John W. Loftus from Debunking Christianity pointed out awhile ago called Apostates of Islam by ex-Muslims who have all left Islam behind. When reading through the discussion boards we can see how the arguments are so similar to what we have here with xian fundies…only the Muslim fundies are far more frightening with their belief in stoning, child and adult suicide bombers, hanging teen-aged girls for sexual promiscuity, wishing to bring about the end of times so they can go to as Harris describes as their “great bordello” in the sky, etc., etc. We can also find yet another perspective on Islam and what is happening in the Middle East from an ex-Muslim point of view. You will find mixed opinions there, as we have here.

I am torn about all this Middle East chaos because I hate war and it does seem that the use of military force by Israel is excessive, but on the other hand I am having a hard time sympathizing with any of these crazy Muslim factions who teach their children to strap bombs to themselves and blow themselves and innocent people to smithereens for Allah. The children we feel sorry for one minute may just blow themselves and 100 people away the next.

In Sam Harris’ book, “The End of Faith”, Harris has a chart that has me really thinking lately (and it’s influenced me to do some extensive research into the people in this region…both Jews and Muslims alike).

Harris writes: Over 38,000 people recently participated in a global survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The results constitute the first publication of its Global Attitudes Project entitled “What the World thinks in 2002.” The survey included the following questions posed only to Muslims:

Some people think that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are justified in order to defend Islam from enemies. other people believe that, no matter what the reason, this kind of violence is never justified. Do you personally feel that this kind of violence is often justified to defend Islam, sometimes justified, rarely justified, or never justified?

Before we look at the results of this study, we should appreciate the significance of the juxtaposed phrases “suicide bombing” and “civilian targets.” We now live in a world in which Muslims have been scientifically polled (with margins of error ranging from 2 to 4 percent) as to whether they support (”often,” “sometimes,” “rarely,” or “never”) the deliberate murder and maiming of noncombatant men, women, and children in defense of Islam. Here are some of the results of the Pew study (not all percentages sum to 100).

SUICIDE BOMBINGS IN DEFENSE OF ISLAM
Justifiable?

Lebanon 83 Yes — 12 no — 12 DK/Refused
Ivory Coast 73 Yes — 27 No — 0 DK/Refused
Nigeria 66 Yes — 26 No — 8 DK/Refused
Jordan 65 Yes — 26 No — 8 DK/Refused
Bangladesh 58 Yes — 23 No — 19 DK/Refused
Mali 54 Yes — 35 No — 11 DK/Refused
Senegal 47 Yes — 50 No — 3 DK/Refused
Ghana 44 Yes — 43 No — 12 DK/Refused
Indonesia 43 Yes — 54 No — 3 DK/Refused
Uganda 40 Yes — 52 No — 8 DK/Refused
Pakistan 38 Yes — 38 No — 23 DK/Refused
Turkey 20 Yes — 64 No — 14 DK/Refused

These are hideous numbers. If all Muslims had responded as Turkey did (where a mere 4 percent think suicide bombings are “often” justified, 9 percent “sometimes,” and 7 percent “rarely”), we would still have a problem worth worrying about; we would, after all, be talking about more than 200 million avowed supporters of terrorism. But Turkey is an island of ambassadorial goodwill compared with the rest of the Muslim world.

Harris goes on to ask:

Let us imagine that peace one day comes to the Middle East. What will Muslims say of the suicide bombings that they so widely endorsed? Will they say, “We were driven mad by the Israeli occupation”? Will they say, “We were a generation of sociopaths”? How will they account for the celebrations that followed these “sacred explosions”? A young man, born into relative privilege, packs his clothing with explosives and ball bearings and unmakes himself along with a score of children in a discotheque, and his mother is promptly congratulated by hundreds of her neighbors. What will the Palestinians think about such behavior once peace has been established? If they are still devout Muslims here is what they must think: “Our boys are in paradise, and they have prepared the way for us to follow. Hell has been prepared for the infidels.” It seems to me to be an almost axiomatic truth of human nature that no peace, should it ever be established, will survive beliefs of this sort for very long.

19 comments:

Danica said...

My husband is reading this book right now and he loves it. I can't wait for my turn.

stardust1954 said...

Hi Danica - if you have a chance, try to watch one of his lectures. He is an excellent (soft-spoken) speaker and makes a whole lot of sense.

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

Great find Stardust. Danica, here is a youtube lecture by Sam Harris.

Stardust said...

Bacon - Yes, this is a good book. Thanks for the link. I was looking for one and couldn't find it. I have about worn this book out and may have to buy a new copy!

Fundamentalism xianity is frustrating with having to always be fighting to keep freedoms that we have intact, but with fundamentalist Islam we are up against something far more dangerous and it isn't just what is happening in the Middle East. I am trying to understand how people living in a free society can choose to justify the behavior of barbarians.

I have a friend who is a secular Jew living near Tel Aviv with her family. All they want is to live in peace without worrying that they will be blown up on a bus, or in a shopping mall, or disco etc. If Palestinians would get with the modern world and put religion in a proper perspective they might be able to make their lives better and have peace and prosperity. They are hanging onto the past instead of working to move forward. Once we get all these people to give up the superstitious beliefs maybe we can all one day live in peace. Nice fantasy, huh?

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

I don't know if giving up the fantasy is required. But you raise a good point about the Palestinians living in the past and pointing to the past.

Again, I go back to the line: if the Arabs dropped their weapons, there would be peace. If Israel dropped their weapons, there would be no Israel.

Jews were not attacked because of their religion. They were attacked because of the Arab mindset.

Stardust said...

Again, I go back to the line: if the Arabs dropped their weapons, there would be peace. If Israel dropped their weapons, there would be no Israel.

And they would not be content to stop there. The leader of Iran has made that perfectly clear and there are too many who aren't taking him seriously and even sympathize with the bastard. When our president says he invaded Iraq because gawd told him to, we are up in arms. Few here took Hitler seriously either until after millions of Jews and "misfits" were "exterminated."

Jason H. Bowden said...

Good post.

You're not going to get through to the socialists, though.

Marx once wrote that life determines consciousness and not the other way around-- economics determines everything. In the cosmology of the left, corporations use religion to brainwash rednecks into not supporting big government. So Christianity and Judaism are bad , not because of any intrinsic characteristic, but how they fit in the scheme of Cosmic Justice. But Islam is believed by the designated oppressed groups, so it must be an authentic tradition held by innocent people who only want to have deep thoughts about the sand. So the left maintains.

This view point is hammered home in Hollywood (see George Clooney and Matt Damon in Syriana), the academy (there are hundreds of Ward Churchills and Noam Chomsky wannabes) and the media that believes it must be evenhanded, even when it is dealing with fascists.

Tommykey said...

Thanks for the link Bacon. In case you did not notice, there was also a segment on the same web page about a Muslim addressing how he would speak to an atheist.

Anyway, he starts spouting shit about passages in the Quran that say that the earth is egg shaped, that the moon is not a source of light but gives off reflected light and a few other things, saying that such scientific insight shows that the Quran really is the word of God.


All I could think the whole time was "Hey buddy, the pagan Greeks knew that the Earth was round centuries before Mohammed. One of them even came very close to calculating the circumference of the Earth. I guess Greek paganism was the real true religion. Maybe Mohammed and the Arabs of Mecca and Medina had scholars familiar with Greek learning."

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

Tommy, I saw that video as well. It is funny that many Muslims use his words to prove the Koran is a science text, but he goes on about evolution being crap, and uses the Koran to referance that as well.

So even if the other stuff about the universe and the earth can be attributed as a Koran moment, the fact it calls evolution crap completely wipes out the argument.

CyberKitten said...

stardust1954 said: Few here took Hitler seriously either until after millions of Jews and "misfits" were "exterminated."

That's an interesting 'link' between Hitler and the Iranian leader. Are you proposing that we (being the West) should 'do something' whenever a fly-by-night politician says something offensive? That seems a little... excessive don't you think....?

Stardust said...

That's an interesting 'link' between Hitler and the Iranian leader. Are you proposing that we (being the West) should 'do something' whenever a fly-by-night politician says something offensive? That seems a little... excessive don't you think....?

cyberkitten, I don't know what the answer is, but we can't deny that the leader of Iran is a looney bird and has made some really disturbing threats. He is one of those muslims who believes that he is bringing about the "End Times" and is serious about it." Reluctant Atheist has a good post about this. I don't understand why Americans are defending these lunatics.

I am so sick of these religious extremist assholes...xian, muslims and all of them.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Tommykey:
All I could think the whole time was "Hey buddy, the pagan Greeks knew that the Earth was round centuries before Mohammed. One of them even came very close to calculating the circumference of the Earth. I guess Greek paganism was the real true religion. Maybe Mohammed and the Arabs of Mecca and Medina had scholars familiar with Greek learning."
From Pythagoras to Eratosthenes.
There's no doubt that the Muslims borrowed extensively from the Hellenistic viewpoint.
That fellow also borrowed from Paley's watchmaker theorem (Darwin's hero, no less!).

Cyberkitten:
Are you proposing that we (being the West) should 'do something' whenever a fly-by-night politician says something offensive?
I see your point: you can't simply carpet-bomb a country over a politician's opinion.
However, this fellow's not exactly a 'fly-by-night'. He was mayor of Teheran in 2003, until elected president. He also has a very marked past. Ultra-conservative & VERY pro-Sharia.
So he bears closer scrutiny than say, Marion Barry.
Not to mention his religious letter to the Shrub.
Scary individual.
But he was elected.
It's a tough line to tread. On 1 hand, we have a hairy-eyed fanatic. On the other, we have to live by principles that are darned inconvenient at times.

CyberKitten said...

ra said said: It's a tough line to tread. On 1 hand, we have a hairy-eyed fanatic. On the other, we have to live by principles that are darned inconvenient at times.

Ain't democracy a bitch? Everytime we give these people a chance to vote... they keep voting for the wrong people... A bit like when Hammas won the elections in Palestine... Doubles stands? Sure... but they're OUR double standards!

As to 'fly-by-night' politicians.. Sooner or later he's going to piss off people in his own country and the guy will be history. Bombing his country just because of his very questionable comments is so disproportianate as to be borderline insane - as is the very idea of attacking Iran for what it might be thinking about possibly doing at some point in the future.

Does anyone really think that an attack on Iran will actually improve the situation in the Middle East - well, anyone except the 'End of Days' bozzo's..?

Stardust said...

Does anyone really think that an attack on Iran will actually improve the situation in the Middle East - well, anyone except the 'End of Days' bozzo's..?

I think that a military attack in Iran will stir up even more hatred and anger in the middle east, however...sitting passively by isn't going to do anything either. I don't know what the answer is. No one has any solutions except to use "diplomacy" and "compassion and understanding" but obviously from what we have seen, these people have no desire to use diplomacy and certainly do not want our pity. They agree to something, and then do another. Like xians, they can't even come to some agreement between the various muslim sects, often violently attacking and killing other muslims who don't have the "correct" political or religious views. What do you do with people that seem sincere one minute then go back and talk about slitting Israeli, American and British throats the next? Unlike xians, these people really believe their religion and practice the most violent and hideous aspects of it. It scares the hell out of me.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Stardust:
No one has any solutions except to use "diplomacy" and "compassion and understanding" but obviously from what we have seen, these people have no desire to use diplomacy and certainly do not want our pity.
Well, not all of them, but far too large a % for my liking.
1 problem is (& I think this is just part of the human condition), is that when a family member is killed, or a friend, those closest don't see the political affiliation, they see the corpse. Then, of course, nobody wants to die in vain, or have someone they care about die needlessly.
We all do the emotional 1st, the rational 2nd.
The other part, is the culture. If India hadn't been steeped in so much Hindi tradition (as a rule, most Hindis are horrified by violence: not all, of course), Gandhi wouldn't have been so successful w/pacifism.
Pacifism is a powerful tool for change. Sadly, so is terrorism.
Pacifism probably won't work in the ME. I wish it could, but the reality is, chances are slim.
It's a sad thing that people only listen when someone dies.

Tommykey said...

When the guy speaking in the Muslim video said that his battle was half won with an atheist, I was like "no asshole, your battle is 100% lost before you ever open your mouth to me!"

Stardust said...

TommyKey - Ramen!

Krystalline Apostate said...

tommykey:
Yeah, that video was...interesting, wasn't it?
I'm finding so many parallels w/the religious over there & those that walk among us.
I like how he slid in the old Paley's watchmaker - pretty slick, that is, if you're a theist.

nadia shireen siddiqi said...

According to the Quran those who commit suicide are damned.