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I’ve Finally Found A Use For Trigger Warnings!

As I said in my post yesterday about The Donald’s response to the tragedy in Orlando, such events bring out the best and worst in people. Here are some of the most revolting responses by average US citizens. There is a good one at the end to finish up as a balm for shredded nerves.

Some people we already know are The Worst and they responded accordingly. It took me several tries to get through this video posted by the Westboro Baptist Church on 12 June 2016 called ‘God Sent The Shooter To The Orlando Gay Nightclub’. At the time I watched it, thirty people had clicked the “Like” button. How do people get so screwed up and filled with hate?

Next is Alex Jones at Infowars.com. Unlike the Westboro Baptist Church, he’s actually got a following – almost 1.5 million are subscribed to his YouTube channel. His new video is entitled, ‘Obama’s Controlled Demolition Of America Leaves Door Wide Open To A Jihad Army’.

He opens, “I have confirmed from high level sources that there are six cells in six cities preparing to attack homosexual targets.” This is supposedly a big story, but if these are real and known about, they will presumably be stopped. Then he adds that “obviously Los Angeles and Orlando are two.” He says he got this information from the Pentagon, which would mean if this was real that they knew about the Orlando shooting beforehand and did nothing. As for the Los Angeles incident, the suspect, James Wesley Howell of Indiana was a young bi-sexual with a gun collection on his way to attend the gay pride parade there. He is not Muslim and never said, as initially reported, that he wanted to harm anyone there. His political beliefs appear to be more in line with those of Alex Jones than anyone else – for example, he made Facebook posts comparing Hillary Clinton to Adolf Hitler.

Jones went on to say this about people who don’t agree with him:

People aren’t sophisticated enough to know that two plus three equals four if they don’t get this.

Hmmm.

As his rant continues, watch the screens that flash in the back. At 3:23 one says, “SECRET VIRUS HIDDEN IN GMO CROPS.” Where does he get this stuff? From 3:30 Jones says:

Our military said “no” to Obama because he’s not the president. He is a globalist, Wahhabist, and (unintelligible) not believe it, it’s true. I knew they were manipulating Islam, and he was acting like he was for it, I know he went to mosques when he was a kid in Indonesia, and I knew he could speak perfect, you know, Pashtun and all the rest of it.

But people like Alex Jones have hundreds of thousands of followers who hang onto their every word. They don’t seem to put what they hear from someone who appears as an authority figure in their community through any filter, they just believe everything they say. Even when it’s pointed out to them that what he says is wrong, they either make excuses or go into denial mode.

Then there are the Twitter and Facebook posts. I got these examples from the Thought Catalog blog.

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This is what religion does to people – teaches them to hate, takes away their normal compassion for their fellow human beings and makes them cruel, selfish and nasty.

There are reports that the shooter may have been gay himself. His first wife thought so – she said so to a Brazilian newspaper but was apparently told by somebody in law enforcement not to mention it to the US media. There have been multiple reports that he frequented Pulse himself and was comfortable there, and that he was a member of a gay dating site. Statements by his father show that he was vehemently anti-gay and that combined with conservative Islam is likely to have had a strong negative effect on Omar Mateen growing up and may be why there are so many people noting how angry he was.

Even if it’s not the case with Mateen, there are many LGBT people who grew up in conservative religious environments who can testify to how hard that was. There is considerable statistical evidence that the suicide rate for LGBT youth is significantly higher than for other young people. We know that Mateen’s father praised the Taliban and therefore the idea that killing for his god is a path to heaven is one he would have had significant exposure to. He may have felt that his homosexual feelings meant he needed to do something significant to enable his acceptance by Allah.

This is what an atheist had to say:

Religion was the root cause of the murders at the Pulse night club, and we’re better off without it. Because of it 49 people lost their lives, 53 were injured, and hundreds are suffering the loss of people they love.

116 Responses to “I’ve Finally Found A Use For Trigger Warnings!”

  1. j.a.m. says:

    I won’t dignify this post, except to note a factual correction: Colbert, of course, is well-known as a practicing Catholic, not an atheist.

    Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine,
    et lux perpétua lúceat eis.
    Requiéscant in pace. Amen.

  2. rose says:

    People know the off the wall ideas will come out.Now they come out online so won’t even read any.

  3. I’ll take you at your word about Colbert’s Catholicism. I assumed he wasn’t because of the multiple anti-religious quotes he’s made especially: “Christianity is the best way to cure gayness—just get on your knees, take a swig of wine, and accept the body of a man into your mouth.”

  4. GravelInspector-Aidan says:

    I’m so surprised to see the Westboro’s soiling themselves in public again. Not.

    • Yeah. Anyone who makes toddlers wear t-shirts reading “God hates fags” shouldn’t even be allowed to bring up children imo.

      It’s about three hours since I wrote this post now and in many ways I want to pull it but I know if I do I’ll regret that as well. All these people who have used this awful thing to spread their hate is just so depressing and writing about it helps, but it’s not the sort of post I want to be known for either. I haven’t researched it very well and I’m sure there’s stuff I’ve got wrong besides Stephen Colbert’s religion. Quite apart from anything else it’s really too soon to be writing about the killer because new things will emerge and things we think we know now will change.

      • GravelInspector-Aidan says:

        The personal history of the shooter seems to be getting more complex by the hour – allegedly. And since some of the information coming out may potentially point to criminal charges against living person or persons, I think it’s probably best to not give them grounds for claiming a mistrial.

        • Yeah, you’re right. I think the assessment of the killer’s father has also evolved from what I wrote as well, which again proves it’s too soon to be making judgments on things like motive.

      • Plingar says:

        Don’t loose heart you do a great job and in UK speak don’t forget that fags are cigarettes so the g has some things right (sarcasm)

        • Yeah, fags are cigarettes here too and I often write that and have to change it remembering American readers!

          I haven’t been watching TV yet today, so I’m feeling a bit better, but the thought of all those people thinking this is a good thing still makes me angry and upset. So much for, “do unto others,” and, “vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord,” and all the rest of it. In the clip I posted in another reply about the Sacramento Baptist preacher there’s even someone saying the obligatory, “these aren’t real Christians or Muslims.” Well, yes, they are, and if you tell them that abortion doctors deserve to be murdered, don’t act all surprised when someone goes out and does it.

          • j.a.m. says:

            Atheists have set fire to 2,378 US churches in the past 20 years. Some may say these aren’t real atheists. Well, if you tell them that religion poisons everything and must be got rid of, don’t act all surprised when someone goes out and does it.

          • I can find no evidence of atheists burning churches in the US. Please provide some evidence for this. Obviously if it’s occurring it’s unacceptable, but I find it difficult to believe.

          • Ken says:

            Yea, it’s all those atheists named Bubba burning black churches in the South. Maybe those Christians in the white hoods could come to the aid of their black Christian brethren.

          • j.a.m. says:

            Witty riposte, I guess, albeit completely inconvenient with the facts.

          • j.a.m. says:

            Incongruent with the facts. Damn spellchecker.

          • Ken says:

            Only slightly more outlandish than your comment. If you actually have some evidence for it, why don’t you post some links here so we can all see? You certainly didn’t get that conclusion from the Pew survey.

          • j.a.m. says:

            And that’s precisely the point (which I gather is too subtle). I just followed the logic of Heather’s comment to which I replied.

          • Ken says:

            Yes, I can see your attempt at subtlety now. It fails, because Heather’s comment is not outlandish at all (and because, really, subtlety isn’t what you’re known for, is it).

  5. Diane G. says:

    No worries, these things need to be brought to light.

    I take a bit of offense at your use of the term “average Americans” to describe these scumbags, though. I’m not denying that we have way too many knuckle-draggers spouting juvenile hate-group canards; but surely those who got Obama elected and gay marriage approved represent a much larger part of the population just going by those accomplishments alone.

    • Those things are a lot to do with why I thought Trump would never get anywhere. I’d always been a bit worried about the US because in many liberal values they seemed to be a bit behind the rest of the Western world, but when Obama was elected it gave me hope for the country. I even wrote that down somewhere because I felt so strongly about it. Same-sex marriage is obviously a good move too, but in the states where there have been votes, many are still voting against it and feel the situation was imposed on them, which is worrying. We’ve got our knuckle-draggers too, but they’re a smaller proportion of the population I think.

      • j.a.m. says:

        Only three states redefined marriage by popular vote, and only eight by the legislature. So it’s accurate to say it was imposed by judicial fiat in the other 39 states.

        In California, the same electorate that voted down marriage redefinition gave 61% of the vote to Obama. Nor are these disjoint sets anywhere. Are they knuckle-draggers, or not? Labeling people, not opinions, is a tricky business.

      • Diane G. says:

        “We’ve got our knuckle-draggers too, but they’re a smaller proportion of the population I think.”

        Oh, indubitably! I just don’t think our proportion of yahoos is quite as large as it’s made out to be. As Michael Moore likes to point out, national surveys continually show that, issue by issue, the majority of us favor access to abortion, contraception, more gun control, more government oversight of corporations, spending more on infrastructure, etc. Ironically, many of those favoring those issues when questioned about each individually, still identify with the GOP.

        While the pendulum has swung quit a bit within just the last 5 or 6 years in the Republicans’ favor in the number of registered voters, historically the Democrats have outnumbered them significantly, and I look forward to a course correction sooner rather than later. (Oh, please!)

        The right makes more noise for quite a few reasons…many of them are the sort prone to fall for demagogues (I hardly need point out the current example), they tend to be authoritarian-oriented as opposed to Dems who are all over the place regarding their issues of importance, and of course there have traditionally been many more deep-pockets donors amongst the R’s than the D’s. And as good little authoritarian subjects, when they’re told to vote by their donors’ mouthpieces and their preachers, they do! I’d love to know how our politics would go if voting were mandatory!

  6. Larry Sullivan says:

    The felony charges against James Wesley Howell “were possession of explosives on a highway, possession of an assault weapon and possession of high-capacity magazines. The misdemeanor charge was possession of a firearm in a car.” this is LA one of the most heavily gun controlled cities in Calif. it is a crime to have any piece of a pocket knife exposed.
    this is a LA paper and could be prejudiced against the possession of weapons but it is a source of info: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-santa-monica-howell-charges-20160614-snap-story.html

    • Thanks Larry. The “young and dumb and had a mouth on him” comment probably sums all this up. I suspect he was in trouble in Indiana and was just fleeing with his guns etc., which he couldn’t bear to leave behind.

  7. paxton marshall says:

    Good post Heather. This incident shows that for some homophobia is stronger than Islamophobia.

    I can’t agree with your last paragraph though. I see no evidence that religion is the root cause of the homophobia of either Mateen, the vile tweeters and facebookers you quote (I liked how you were able to insert the scrolling quotes though), or for that matter of Kim Davis. The ubiquity of homophobia in most all societies suggests it is something many people see as threatening regardless of religion. Rather than being a root cause, I suggest that religion is more like cultural compact in which people of a society record their deepest hopes and fears. You could say that Christianity and Islam both inherited homophobia from the Torah, Leviticus in particular. But there are other things in the Torah they didn’t adopt. I think it’s more true to say that the creators of Christianity and Islam were homophobic and found authority in the Torah for what they wanted to do anyway. And isn’t that true in general? Religion like politics reflects the cultural positions of its adherents. The teachings of Jesus as recorded in the gospels is almost unrecognizable in the religion of the most fervent Christians today.

    • Ken says:

      True enough in general, Paxton, but not the end of the story. While the values came before the religion, the religion reinforces the values and does so in a way that prevents adherents from openly questioning them. That is the insidiousness of religion. It makes it more difficult for the cultures it is embedded in to change over time.

      And while this macro level stuff if crucially important, it doesn’t much matter which came first at the level of the individual. There is usually no way of knowing whether the hatred of gays a guy like this had would have existed if his religion hadn’t promoted it so strongly.

      I maintain that it is appropriate to focus in part on religion in the matter of terrorism, though of course not in the way people generally do. I think Cockburn puts it well enough in this article: avoid collective punishment of religious adherents, but go after the funders and promoters of radical doctrine.

      http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/15/playing-into-the-hands-of-the-jihadis-orlando-and-the-dangers-of-over-reaction-and-collective-punishment/

    • The societies must have been homophobic before the advent of those religions in order for it to become part of them, but it is religion that has made it a sin deserving of hatred on earth and eternal damnation. They have made it evil, and continue to preach against it even after it became well known it wasn’t a choice. In that way it’s no different from continuing to insist on YEC after evolutionary theory was established as fact.

      It’s not necessary that humans be homophobic because of evolution either. For example, there are several Pacific Island cultures where gay men had a strong place in society doing things like chaperoning women. It was only after the missionaries came along that they became hated.

      • j.a.m. says:

        Number of predominantly atheist countries that have legally redefined marriage: Same as the number of predominantly Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Shinto or Muslim countries that have done so, namely zero.

        Proportion of countries that have legally redefined marriage in which Christians comprise the largest religious group: 100%.

        • The latest census has atheism at 42% in NZ, and I have reason to believe that number will have increased by the next one. Sweden is predominantly atheist (81%), only 27% of the French believe in a god and 37% in the UK, 28% in Denmark, 37% in Belgium, 33% in Finland, Iceland 31%, Luxembourg 46%, and Netherlands 28%. While all countries that have adopted same-sex marriage are formerly majority Christian or still Christian I think the key is that they’ve all been influenced by the Enlightenment and are secular. (A very small number of Asian and Pacific nations recognize same-sex marriage though they don’t allow them themselves.)

          I think it’s great that so many Christians have adopted Enlightenment values and made them their own, but before the Enlightenment Christian values depended very much on who was in charge. They were not, and are still not, universally kind and loving, especially towards those they have deemed “other.”

          • j.a.m. says:

            According to Wikipedia (good enough for blog commenting), the only countries in which the proportion of the population with no religious affiliation exceeds half are (in order): Czech Republic, North Korea, Estonia, Japan, Hong Kong, and China. The number given for New Zealand is 36.6%, but none of the other numbers you cite jibe with this article (“Religions by country”). It cites the CIA-State Dept. World Fact Book, a source you surely will approve as it was compiled under Commander in Chief Barack Obama, a highly intelligent man, and the Hon. Hillary Clinton.

            If you’re going to comment on the influence of culture, including religion, on attitudes toward sexual orientation, you have to note a stark dichotomy between the West and everybody else. The meaning of and explanation for such a dichotomy is another matter. But Western cultural history over the last two millenia is thoroughly imbued with and inseparable from the Judeo-Christian religion. To suggest otherwise is ludicrous.

            As for “othering”, there’s a lot of that going around. Thank Zeus I’m not like THOSE people, those othering knuckle-draggers.

          • The figures I used for Europe came from here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism

            The NZ figures you have are from the previous census, not the latest (2013).

            I don’t consider North Korea atheist – they worship their Leader as a god. Japan, China and Hong Kong have religions too, just not ones that the West considers religions in their eyes.

            I’m not suggesting that the West isn’t strongly influence by Judeo-Christianity, just that the influence is not such a good one as you think. We get our ideas about democracy from the pre-Judeo-Christian Greeks and a lot of Christian attitudes have been and often still are a problem in our society.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Until recently I don’t see that the western attitudes toward sexual orientation were that different from those of the rest of the world. How so?

          • j.a.m. says:

            The World Fact Book stats do count folk and other religions, it’s just that their adherents are outnumbered by the unaffiliated. The point is that the non-Christian world, across a wide swath of cultures, doesn’t necessarily buy into Western social innovations. Make of it what you will, but “knuckle-draggers,” as you put it, comprise most of the human family.

            Western notions of human dignity come from Western religion, in which the human person embodies a divine image. Not all nominal Christians live up to their professed values. But it would be a better world if more people, not fewer, lived out the values of the Gospel. On the other hand, denying God can’t make the world better; to the contrary, it makes the world into a prison.

          • I only used “knuckle-draggers” because you had – it’s not actually a term I ever use, and never have before, so please don’t put it on me.

            Religious countries like the US still haven’t even managed to abolish the death penalty and are ever ready to pronounce it on their fellow human beings. It’s not atheists who believe that gay people are sinners who are going to burn in hell for eternity, and even tell others they should rejoice in the fact. What kind of sick mentality is that?

            I do not understand how not believing in a god makes the world a prison; it is clear to me that believing in God makes the mind a prison.

          • GravelInspector-Aidan says:

            On the other hand, denying God can’t make the world better; to the contrary, it makes the world into a prison.

            The world was a prison with one way out – death – before the non-existent Gospel inventors created stories out of their imaginations to try to fool their fellow people into supporting their nascent church – and in the process, rescuing the Gospel inventors from having to work for a living. After they invented their … what’s that word, oh yes … bullshit, the world remained a prison with one way out – death. But significant numbers of people had been fooled into believing differently.
            I take it that you are a believer in this millennia-old bullshit.

            Western notions of human dignity come from Western religion,

            No, they come from Enlightenment irreligion.

          • j.a.m. says:

            (1) It is Judeo-Christian civilization uniquely that gave rise to the Enlightenment. (2) The Enlightenment is not synonymous with irreligion or atheism. In America it meant, and means, the full and unfettered exercise of religion. (3) The emblem of the French Enlightenment is the guillotine, hardly a symbol of human dignity. (4) Atheism sees the human person as a chemical automaton imprisoned by deterministic materialism, as opposed to a free, rational, and spiritual entity having a transcendent reality, worth and destiny. Which view entails greater inherent dignity?

            God made us free, rational persons in His own image. What destroys freedom is not trust in God, but rather a false ideology that claims we are nothing but machines.

          • It would take a book to answer all that is wrong with your points here. You need to read up on the history of both your own country’s origins and that of modern France.

            Atheism is not an ideology.

            We evolved, and when our brains reached a point where they were capable of doing so, eventually made gods in our own image. They have been used to control people ever since, including stopping us from learning more. Don’t search for the answer, don’t even ask the question, just accept that God did it – that sounds pretty limiting to me.

            If something good happens, you thank God. If something bad happens, you either blame yourself, blame someone else, or “God works in mysterious ways.”

            Stephen Fry’s response to God is worth posting again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-d4otHE-YI

          • Ken says:

            As for dignity, you don’t gain it by telling yourself lies, but by facing up to reality, however unappealing you may find it, and making your own meaning out of life. It isn’t even that hard to do.

          • j.a.m. says:

            I don’t share your theology, and you’re not responding to anything I actually said, but only straw men (or rather, straw boys).

            I’d welcome any specific factual corrections, but meanwhile I stand by my points. I’m sure that reading more history would benefit everybody, so I heartily recommend it to everybody. In that vein, one would have to go beyond comedians yammering on YouTube in order to engage in a grownup discussion on the subject of God.

          • GravelInspector-Aidan says:

            don’t share your theology, and you’re not responding to anything I actually said

            That is because your theology is one that involves a non-existent xenophobic sky-fairy with a strong element of sadomasochistic homoerotic paranoia in his reported behaviour. It isn’t worth responding to.

            a grownup discussion on the subject of God.

            Oh, a comedian are we now?

          • j.a.m. says:

            @Ken: Well, that’s just it, isn’t it? A machine doesn’t make its own meaning. You implicitly deny your own premise. The only reality that matters — that is knowable — is that we all, faithful and unfaithful, do make our own meaning, because we are not machines, but free, rational persons.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Jam, regarding your facts: 1. It’s a cruel hoax to say the enlightenment arose from “Judeo-Christian civilization, when Christian “civilization had oppressed, excluded, and slaughtered Jews for 1700 years prior to the enlightenment. Jews were excluded from many Christian countries prior to that time. Many were burned for refusing to convert.

            Most of the enlightenment thinkers, including the founding fathers of the US were moving away from theism. It was still dangerous to express atheism in Chrustian countries in the 18th century so many had to express themselves carefully.

            3. The guillotine was invented as humane method of execution, much more so than burning people to death as was favored by the Christians.

            4. Atheism in itself doesn’t imply a view on human origins or nature, but those who accept the fact of evolution, as most of us do, regard humans as a product of biological evolution, part of a magnificent process that binds us to all living creatures. Not entirely free and rational because we are constrained by our genetic heritage and our environmental influences, but nevertheless an almost unimaginably complex and wondrous product of natural processes. If that’s not enough dignity for you, at least it has the virtue of being true and not a product of our remarkably fertile imaginations.

          • Ken says:

            jam, who says a machine can’t make it’s own meaning? That’s just another one of your baseless assertions. But I won’t hold it against you since you couldn’t have done otherwise.

          • j.a.m. says:

            @Ken: That’s right, I can’t help helping you out. And you can’t help knowing I’m right, just as you can’t help pretending you don’t. And so it goes.

          • Ken says:

            I guess you can’t help avoiding the question either, nor bullshitting to try to hide the fact.

          • j.a.m. says:

            @Paxton:

            (1) So in so many words, if a minority group is persecuted, we must never speak of that group’s cultural contributions?

            (2) You concede my point that outright atheism as such was in no way prevalent or dominant, and therefore does not accurately characterize the diverse breadth of Enlightenment thought.

            (3) Your reading is too literal. The point is that the French Enlightenment culminated in mass political executions, which can hardly be taken as affirming of human dignity. Most executions were not the “humane” kind anyway.

            (4) Sure, that’s fine and well. But one true thing is by no means the whole truth. Indeed, it’s not even a drop in the sea. Your perspective is like that of a fish swimming in the sea. Mr. Fish has no word for water, and no word for land.

            Don’t diss imagination. Imagination precedes knowledge. As Eistein was right to say, imagination is more important than knowledge.

      • Diane G. says:

        “The societies must have been homophobic before the advent of those religions in order for it to become part of them, but it is religion that has made it a sin deserving of hatred on earth and eternal damnation.”

        That’s definitely a big part of it, but there’s a second part as well, at least in the US. We’ve all been brainwashed about how important it is to respect everyone’s religion and our freedom of religion. The religious take full advantage of that hands-off attitude and are thus encouraged to declare that whatever they want to do or believe is an inseparable part of their religion, therefore off the table when it comes to negotiation. Homophobia may have pre-existed religion, but it took the ‘sanctity’ of religion to make it a non-negotiable variable. When people are telling us that we can’t blame anything on religion, religion prevails. And playing the religious card effectively squelches any debate.

        • Yeah, that’s definitely an important part of it too. No one complains if you want to criticize fascism or communism or socialism or Unitarianism or astrology or any other belief system. As soon as that belief system is a religion it’s somehow off limits.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Heather, I complained about war profiteers and militarists blaming all the evils of the world on Communism, during the Cold War, and especially during the Vietnam “dominoes” hysteria. The fearmongering that was going on about Communism then was not much different from the fearmongering about Islam now.

          • From NZ as a kid I remember being quite surprised at how vicious the attitude of USians towards communists was. I was opposed to communism as soon as I was old enough to understand it, but the extreme animus got me. And in NZ at that time we’d only ever had one terrorist attack and that was by the Soviets. We’ve had one more since (1985), and that was the French: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinking_of_the_Rainbow_Warrior

            I saw an article recently in the Washington Post, which I’m reluctant to look up for you because I’m already close to my ten free articles for the month, but it was about Newt Gingrich (who’s high on the list of potential Trump VPs) and others advocating setting up McCarthyite type commissions to investigate Muslims. Unfortunately I didn’t put it on the Facebook page as being of interest or even save the link but you might be able to find it if you’re interested. It’s horrible the way some people are going.

          • j.a.m. says:

            “100 million men, women and children have been murdered by socialism so far, and the killing continues today, notably in North Korea. In terms of body count, socialism is by far the most evil religion, the most evil ideology of any sort, of all time.”

            http://markhumphrys.com/communism.html

          • Communism and socialism are not the same thing. Many socialists are also theists. Many communists are atheists but that is because they want people to worship the state – they want to replace God/gods with the state which is technically atheism but certainly not a belief I espouse. You can’t group all atheists together like you can Catholics or Buddhists because we have no shared creed. Atheism in not a religion any more than bald is a hair colour. It shouldn’t even be a word. We don’t have agolfists to describe people who don’t play golf, or aunicornists for people who don’t believe in unicorns. It would be ridiculous. It’s just another part of theists wanting to demonize a particular group and to do that they have to name them, then they can associate them with something else bad. I’ve already mentioned the religious tendency for “othering.”

          • j.a.m. says:

            With respect, I would suggest you are oblivious to your own and your readers’ tendency for demonizing and “othering.” It was Diane G who introduced the hateful slur ‘knuckle-dragger’ and you happily joined right in.

            Atheism is like not playing golf only if you believe that golf poisons everything and must be got rid of. Atheism would be like not playing golf if golf were the meaning of life, and the means to liberation and peace.

            You questioned the ‘extreme animus’ toward communism. Extreme animus is a perfectly reasonable attitude toward an ideology that slaughtered 100 million people.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            But jam, Christianity has killed millions also. Isn’t extreme animus justified for Christianity as well?

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            I think jam makes a valid point about atheism and golf. While technically atheism is just a lack of belief in supernatural beings, more aggressive atheists, such as Stalin and Mao have combined this with active animosity to existing social structures. This is also true of the “New Atheists” today, who regard religion as a source of much of the evil in the world and are committed to ending its influence. In that sense atheism is like a religion in that it identifies a meta-end, the abolition of belief in gods, that it thinks will solve many of the ills of the world. In some cases such “religious atheists” eg Hitchens, Harris will justify violence, prejudice and discrimination in pursuit of that end.

          • I was agreeing with you for the first two sentences. I self-identify as a New Atheist. As far as I’m concerned all that means is that I stand up and speak out rather than hide my disbelief in the bushes. https://twitter.com/HeatherHastie/status/744715251896061952?lang=en

            I don’t know enough about him but afaik Hitchens has never advocated violence. Harris has certainly never advocated violence and it really pisses me off when people say he has. There are people out there who have made up false quotes about both. I personally exposed CJ Werleman trying to do it to Hitchens on Twitter about a year ago.

            Atheism does not have a meta end. All it means is that you don’t believe in a god or gods. Check any dictionary. It is anti-theists who want to abolish gods. Even Hitchens has said he doesn’t want to get rid of theists. Thinking the world would be a better place without religion is not the same as actively trying to ban it, and that’s not something I would ever do. I have always said that people need to make that decision (whether or not to believe) on their own.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Hitchens actively supported the Iraq invasion. If that’s not violence, what is? Harris might not explicitly support violence but his repeated apocalyptic fearmongering about the dangers of Islam can easily be used to justify violence.

          • j.a.m. says:

            The question remains as to the validity of the analogy. Would the world be a better place without golf? Do you stand up and speak out against golf? Is the Internet filled with bizarre fulminations denouncing golf and golfers? Do narrowly-educated pseudo-intellectuals pen best-sellers that demonstrate their abject ignorance about golf — and do they insist they are proud of their ignorance? If so, then atheism is exactly like not playing golf.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Golf is the biggest waste of time and land that has ever been invented. If it’s not the direct work of the devil it must be a punishment for Adam’s eating the apple. Lord: “Because you have disobeyed me and let yourself be henpecked by that conniving woman I gave you for company, I condemn you to wander endlessly over absurdly manicured landscapes trying to put balls in holes.”

          • Have you ever played golf? It’s actually good fun, and I wish I still could.

            In Scotland in the 16th century golf was banned for a while because men were spending so much time playing that they weren’t going to the state-required archery practice to keep their skills up in case of war.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            And wars or the threat of war were almost continuous. I’m up to Eliz I in Hume’s history. Brutal times. Probably hundreds of people were killed, many by burning, over the question of the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. The rulers of the day, Henry 8, empowers Charles V and Philip 2, Esward 4, though he died at 16, Bloody Mary, we’re all passionate about religion. It was a disease that extended through most of the 17th century.

          • Yeah – that was a ghastly time. Elizabeth had a fairly enlightened policy for her day though. Basically as long as you did everything right outwardly, you could believe what you wanted. What she meant by that was you could keep being Catholic as long as you turned up to the Church of England on Sundays. (Check your Edward chapter – he was VI not IV 🙂 )

          • Paxton marshall says:

            But yes, I played golf a number of times in my youth. I enjoyed it because I was out with friends and golf courses are typically beautiful places. But as I have gotten older and more crotchety I have become suspicious of golfers. It’s good exercise if you walk, but I think most people don’t these days?

          • Most people still walk on golf course in NZ. Only people who can’t use golf carts. Golf carts are a symptom of the USian degenerativism. 🙂

          • j.a.m. says:

            Isn’t the distinction between atheists and anti-theists somewhat like the distinction between Christians and, say, Pentecostals — the latter being a distinction atheists would rarely make?

          • There are some who don’t make the distinction, but I think it’s an important one. Anti-theists do have an agenda and are a group, albeit one that has no leadership or structure or any of the other traditional things that make a group. Different religions are also identifiable as having something that binds them together, usually a set of beliefs. Atheists don’t, which is why I used the agolfist analogy. Among atheists there are identifiable groups, and anti-theist is one, but “atheists” is just a word for people who aren’t theists. It includes people of religions that don’t have a god, for example, who I, as a New Atheist, have little in common with. It includes the people of North Korea, as you pointed out, because they worship their Dear Leader, but he isn’t a god, and their beliefs are complete anathema to me.

          • paxton marshall says:

            I don’t think the proper distinction is between atheists and anti-theists (aren’t atheists anti-theist by definition?) but between atheists and anti-religionists. Not all atheists think religion is necessarily evil, even if mistaken in it’s theistic beliefs.

          • No, atheists aren’t anti-theists by definition, they’re just NOT theists by definition. Of course not all atheists think religion is bad, and that’s the point. Some atheists are religious. See my reply to j.a.m.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            What is anti theism? For an atheist there are no gods. How can you be anti nothing? Now if you want to say anti theism is being opposed to the IDEA that there are gods, then how can you be an atheist without believing there are no gods?

            To me, anti-religion is completely different. “God” is an abstract concept. “Religion” is a social institution acting within a culture. To be anti-religion is to believe that social institution is detrimental to society. That is a totally different question from whether gods exist.

          • Ken says:

            “Anti-theist” is a broad term. It can mean being against the concept of a theistic god (as opposed to a deistic god), or against thestic religions. Hitchens would say he was an anti-theist because he not only didn’t believe in a god, but wouldn’t want there to be a one, as that would make reality a “celestial North Korea” of forced worship. “Atheist”, as many have pointed out, simply means non-believer and technically shouldn’t even be needed. That we have such a word leads people to want to shoehorn many other concepts into it.

            Re Hitchens, his appalling support for the Iraq war wasn’t due to his anti-theism, but to a hatred of Saddam Hussein.

          • Yes, to all Ken said.

          • Ken says:

            Surely Robin Williams had the final word on golf!

          • Ha ha! That was great! 😀

          • j.a.m. says:

            And what did the numerous Amerindian societies from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego — that primeval wonderland free of church and dogma — do to amuse themselves before the Europeans started nosing around? Nearly constant and universal, “vicious, unrelenting, desperate warfare” over status, trade, territory, ethnic hatred, revenge, women, or what have you. Political violence that was potent “precisely because it was horrific, extraordinary, and entailed terrible suffering…” And of course, to the victors belonged the trophies: body parts “processed, curated, and used in rituals”.

            http://www.pitt.edu/~arkush/Elizabeth_Arkush/Publications_files/warfare_review_fd.pdf

          • I really don’t see the relevance.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            Jam, there are no known societies that didn’t have some kind of religion, and no known societies that didn’t engage in warfare over “status, trade, territory, ethnic hatred, revenge, women or what have you”. That doesn’t make religion responsible for our miserable moral history, but all have blood on their hands, including Christianity. Read a history of the “Reformation” in Europe.

          • j.a.m. says:

            It’s not helpful to conflate God and religion. It can be the case that all religion is false and yet God is true.

            The role of religion within Christianity is an enduring controversy, in light of the Gospels’ strong anti-religious message. Ironically, some of the most anti-religious are called fundamentalists.

            Logically, atheism can only exist in opposition to a particular conception of God. The proposition “I deny X”, or “I decline to affirm X” is meaningless without a meaning for X. Nor is it within anyone’s cognitive ability to truthfully say, “I deny X in all its conceivable meanings”. Similarly, one cannot say, “I deny or affirm X on the basis of evidence” without being able to state definitively what would count as evidence. In a sense, all atheists are right: They hold to conceptions of God that are unworthy of belief.

          • Yes, it’s possible that God can be real and all religions false, and the atheists I know don’t deny that. My stance, which is a pretty standard one, is that there is no evidence that God (or gods) exist but that if there was proof, I would accept He did exist. It’s also possible that fairies are real, and if their existence is proven I will also accept that. In the meantime My stance is that neither God, gods, nor fairies exist.

          • Ken says:

            Pure sophistry. The only thing true is that I have never had described to me a conception of God that is worthy of belief, just those of believers.

          • j.a.m. says:

            Dear me, Ken, I do enjoy your clever rejoinders!

            If the thing you wanted most in life lay behind a door with a combination lock, how many combinations would you try before giving up?

          • Ken says:

            Possibly quite a few combinations, but it depends. First, its existence would need to be a reasonable proposition and not just wishful thinking, no matter how attractive it seemed. Second, I would have to actually want it that badly. Until these two things are established, your question is not relevant.

          • j.a.m. says:

            @Ken: Excellent answer! Now, in any case would you be justified in concluding that no working combination exists?

          • Paxton marshall says:

            Jam, why would you be justified in assuming a working combination does exist? You could work on it your whole life or move on to other things that make life worthwhile. Even golf. But if it’s like any combination lock I’m familiar with, the chance of your ever getting it by trial and error is slim. And what is worth sacrificing your whole life for?

          • j.a.m. says:

            I cannot make the statement, “Neither God, gods, nor fairies exist,” unless I can define those terms. Otherwise, the statement has no meaning and cannot be evaluated. I cannot make the statement, “There is no evidence that God (or gods) exist,” unless I can say pretty definitively what would count as evidence, and why.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            That’s a fair question, jam. What’s your answer? To me a God is an advanced intelligence, far beyond any human, with superhuman powers to determine events on earth. No test has ever been devised to demonstrate the existence of a being with such superhuman knowledge and power, but yeah, maybe we haven’t found the right combination yet. But I wouldn’t hold your breath. There is no secret formula for life. Life is about doing the best you can and respecting others trying to do the same.

          • j.a.m. says:

            @Paxton: Let’s not torture the analogy. It’s certainly not meant to suggest that there is a secret formula to life, nor to criticize anyone’s beliefs beyond the limits of mutually respectful dialog. The point simply was that the existence or even prevalence of bad theologies do not necessarily justify a belief that good theologies must not exist. I quite agree that the “God” you posit does not exist. I don’t much care who or what God is, as long as I know where to find Him.

            What is worth sacrificing your whole life for? According to the Gospels, it is love of God and neighbor, because sacrificing your whole life in that way is the only way to save it.

          • Ken says:

            I will try to catch up.

            “Now, in any case would you be justified in concluding that no working combination exists?”

            Of course not, but I have never said otherwise. I agree entirely with Heather above at 11:33am, whether we’re discussing gods or fairies. As she says, it is the standard stance for most atheists.

            “I cannot make the statement, “Neither God, gods, nor fairies exist,” unless I can define those terms. Otherwise, the statement has no meaning and cannot be evaluated. I cannot make the statement, “There is no evidence that God (or gods) exist,” unless I can say pretty definitively what would count as evidence, and why.”

            No, I don’t have to define terms, the people making the claims do. And of course most are more than happy to. Surely most Christians would refer us to the Bible for a definition of their god. As I was raised in the West and as a Christian, I think I can claim some knowledge of what that god is meant to be. If you have another definition, let’s hear it.

            As for evidence, I mean something I don’t have to take on faith alone. Theists generally believe their god intervenes in the physical world. If so, I expect physical evidence. If not, then they are actually Deists (and it’s surprising how many use deistic arguments for a theistic god), and the conversation becomes rather academic.

            Now, are you telling me you’re attitude towards Thor, Zeus, Wotan and the Flying Spagetti Monster is other than atheistic? Do you intend to seek more specific definitions of these claimed gods before denying them, and try their combination locks (how many times is enough?) just to be sure? What evidence do YOU require to come to a positive conclusion that you should be worshiping Zeus?

            “I don’t much care who or what God is, as long as I know where to find Him.”

            And where would that be? How do you know you’re not as deluded as you seem to us?

            “What is worth sacrificing your whole life for? According to the Gospels, it is love of God and neighbor, because sacrificing your whole life in that way is the only way to save it.”

            And this is critically important to us all, but only if it is true. Yet no one has produced a scrap of physical evidence that it is.

          • j.a.m. says:

            @Ken: Do tell me more about this Thor, Zeus, Wotan, and Flying Spaghetti Monster. New to me, but I’m always scouting out a better idea. Do they change lives? Do they lead to enlightenment, liberation and peace? Do tell.

            I find the logic of the “standard atheist stance” compelling. I am happy to agree that the standard atheist idea of God is not very likely to be true, given that “standard atheists” are notorious for sophomoric theology.

            You say you expect “physical” evidence. (Wait, isn’t everything physical?) Can you be a little more vague? What specifically, will it take to do the trick — and why that? And don’t be coy — either you have rules of evidence or you don’t.

            How can one know one is not deluded? The nice lady at the desk will help you. And never forget to take the meds.

          • The burden of proof lies with the one making the claim. See: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/burden+of+proof

          • j.a.m. says:

            Indeed. And the claim in question is, “Neither God, gods, nor fairies exist.”

          • No, the claim is that God exists, which you must know as an intelligent person, which makes your comment trolling.

            You can choose to believe there is a God. That’s what faith is – believing without evidence.

            As there is no evidence that there is a God, we believe He isn’t real. If reliable proof turns up, we’ll accept it.

            Perhaps God could arrange all the stars in the sky to read, “Hi there, I’m real! Signed, God/Allah/Yahweh.” I’d accept that as proof.

          • Ken says:

            “Do they change lives? Do they lead to enlightenment, liberation and peace? Do tell.”

            Great claims have been made for each of these gods, as is typical. You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that they all failed to deliver. Of course, there was no evidence at all that they ever existed in the first place. Didn’t keep many poor saps from having faith in them though. But I’m just an atheist dealing with the sophomoric theological claims of believers, and once again you’re avoiding the questions you find inconvenient. As physical evidence isn’t important to you, what evidence DO you require to come to a positive conclusion that you should be worshiping Zeus? We’d love to hear a theology that goes beyond the sophomoric for once, but you seem to only want to play word games.

            “What specifically, will it take to do the trick — and why that? And don’t be coy — either you have rules of evidence or you don’t.”

            The rules of science, of course, for they are our only tools for understanding the physical world. I’m surprised you have to ask as we’ve never been coy about that at all.

            “How can one know one is not deluded?”

            Good you admit that, at least. Remember, we don’t claim certainty, you’re the one doing that.

            ‘Indeed. And the claim in question is, “Neither God, gods, nor fairies exist.”’

            This is not a claim, but a reaction to a claim. It does not uttered on it’s own, but only follows after an actual claim is made and the request for evidence is refused, remaining provisional until such evidence is produced (unlike the original claim itself).

            Again, you play word games. It is disingenuous to twist Heather’s words in this way. You’re so certain that you’re right, yet resort to bullshit in a lame attempt to score cheap points. Why do you need to do that?

          • j.a.m. says:

            A claim is “an assertion of the truth of something”. The claim, “No fairies exist,” is a claim. It is a statement of belief or opinion, the same as any other belief or opinion. It is not a self-evident truth. It contains no inherent self-justification.

            It is completely meaningless to say, “If reliable proof turns up, we’ll accept it,” absent an a-priori standard by which such is to be judged. In a scientific experiment, there is a predicted outcome based on an hypothesis. In a court of law, there are strict rules of evidence, applied by an impartial third party. In a sports contest, the goal posts remain stationary.

            As I’ve already said, we are in total agreement that your particular narrow conception of “God” isn’t real. There is no daylight between us on that point. That of course says nothing about other, wiser ideas about God, nor the futility of expressing them in finite language.

            Whether or not materialism is true is a pure guess, so take your pick. Empiricism produces explanations, but it can’t produce wisdom.

            In my experience, faith has nothing to do with belief. It is about becoming fully alive. It is about a hopeful trust in the still, small voice that leads to one’s truest self.

            Ultimately, this exchange comes down to whether or not we are sincerely interested in understanding another person.

          • Unbelievable. The default position is that there are no fairies. If you want to assert that they are real, you need to present evidence. You can’t come from a position that assumes fairies are real with absolutely no evidence, then expect someone to disprove that.

            The onus is on the person making the positive claim, as in, “you committed that crime.” You don’t go to court with the assumption of guilt, then have to prove your innocence. The court has to prove you’re guilty.

          • Ken says:

            The same applies to you, but instead of attempting clarity, you offer more sophistry and word salad. We’re open to hear your case, but you haven’t one to make. Heather is right, you’re just trolling. That’s not wise and certainly not godly, just rude.

          • j.a.m. says:

            Yes, a criminal defendant has the right to be presumed innocent — because his liberty is in jeopardy. It does not follow that one side or the other ought to be privileged in ordinary discourse. If we lack information to decide a question, the default position ought to be neutral, i.e., we don’t know.

            Now, you may object that in the absence of reliable data on fairy sightings, common sense should prevail, and we ought to take absence of evidence as evidence of absence. Fair enough, because nobody cares about fairies. Questions about God are of a different character, and of infinitely greater import. And here we find that the “standard atheist stance” is meaningless *unless* it adequately describes and explains what it is trying to say by “God”. As previously stated, it further would have to explain the criteria by which “evidence” is to be weighed.

            Of course, for anyone who will look, there is no little evidence of God’s love at work in the world, as manifested by untold millions of lives transformed over many centuries (including, in the Christian tradition, the lives of the saints).

            Not surprisingly, the standard atheist stance gets faith all wrong, too. Faith means leaving behind the four walls of the prison cell I know only too well, and setting out trustfully into the unknown. Faith is “unevidenced” only in the sense that no one has “evidence” from the future.

          • As you say, the default position should be that be don’t know.

            Doing something because you believe you are influenced by God is not the same as being influenced by God. Belief is not evidence.

          • j.a.m. says:

            If something influences the thoughts and actions of millions of people over centuries, then that something is a real phenomenon. And if everyone gives that phenomenon the same name, then that’s its name.

          • Ken says:

            This is completely bonkers and I think Heather should reconsider what she’s agreed to, because “neutral” is exactly not the appropriate stance, as it implies an equal probability that we know is not the case. Russell’s teapot analogy applies here and everywhere else this ruse is used. Mayhem would ensue if we took this approach to everything and the it’s because the existence or not of a god is too important an issue that we must not abandon our intellect and be so sloppy. Further more, I think you are simply lying to say you are neutral about Zeus and the hundreds of other gods that you know you waste no time even thinking about. It is completely bullshit to pretend that you give any of them the same status as the one you happen to like.

            You can believe all you want, but at least be adult enough to admit it is in spite of the lack of evidence, not because you’ve managed to twist logic to suit your ends and lie to us that it is ok to do so because it’s about god. When I hear such crap from a believer, I have to ask why their faith is so weak that they have to lie to make it seem more palatable? Creationists are a case in point. Their faith is so thin that they must pretend an entirely false reality just so they can maintain it. The church I was brought up in taught us faith was a virtue above all others, cheapened by asking for evidence, and made stronger by believing the more unlikely it seemed. They said don’t be a doubting Thomas! Now I knew by the age of 15 that I could not accept this, but that is the choice we all must make. I have always respected that my church at least didn’t try to delude me with ridiculous lies, nor insult my intelligence as you seek to do.

          • You’re right to call me out on the neutral thing Ken. I shouldn’t have agreed to it, but I thought that if j.a.m. at least did that it was progress.

            But it’s false that there should always be two equal sides. It’s like having to give the anti-vaxxers equal time when talking about vaccinations, or the creationists equal time in a debate about human evolution.

          • j.a.m. says:

            @Ken: Our intelligence comes from God, and leads us to God, and is the glory of God. Accordingly, it should not be insulted, and I hope I would not be guilty of that. That being said, the fact is you and I are smarter than a tenth grader — so let’s not settle for a 15-year-old’s understanding of God.

            The kind of false faith that disdains doubting Thomases sounds suspiciously close to fideism (which by the way Catholic teaching rejects). In the Gospel story it is Thomas’s questioning, of course, that leads him to a deeper encounter with God.

            The point about the flying teapot is that failure to show that an assertion is false is not the same thing as showing that it is true. I would not suggest otherwise. My point, again, is simply that an assertion that no teapots exist is meaningless unless you propose, or can propose, a definite description of a teapot. To be coherent you have to able to explain what you mean. I’ve already conceded that I actually agree with most atheists, in that any description of God that an atheist may have in mind is almost certainly unreal.

            But in the end, philosophical speculation matters less than seeking a deeper encounter, like Thomas.

          • Ken says:

            “Our intelligence comes from God” unless it comes from somewhere else, “and leads us to God” unless there’s no god to lead to, “and is the glory of God”, unless this is a meaningless statement. And you give us absolutely zero reason to believe any of it.

            Further, you seem to realise mere baseless assertions aren’t enough to avoid ridicule, because you’ve spent so much effort trying to convince us, but unfortunately via obfuscation, avoidance of difficult questions and by employing completely shoddy logic.

            You talk of precise definitions, professing not to have enough information to know even what a common teapot is, demanding from us a ridiculous level of detail, yet in return provide a totally fuzzy definition of your god without at all seeing the irony, and one that sounds no different than all the others too boot.

            I doubt that a god worth believing in would insult our intelligence the way you continue to, nor purposely hide itself so thoroughly that it was so difficult for an increasing number of us to do other than disbelieve.

          • j.a.m. says:

            @Ken: Why so grumpy, friend? I keep telling you, it’s not about believing, it’s about becoming. Daring to leave behind the prison cell and set out joyfully for the unknown. Daring to leave behind a callow and perplexed 15-year-old. Daring to encounter the divine in your truest self. Daring to embrace true happiness and peace. This is my hope and prayer for you, friend.

          • Ken says:

            You must have no self-awareness at all. I’m afraid you are no friend, but rather have been the least friendly of any of the regular commenters here and have engaged the most insincerely across a number of topics to the point of being called out on several occasions. You have little credibility with earthly matters, let alone heavenly. Those who want to be friends just don’t engage in such bad faith. Perhaps you should pray for yourself.

          • And I have to say I endorse Ken’s comment. You are not the only Christian who comments on this site – there are at least two others (I know them personally), and no one else is even aware which commenters they are because they engage on the issues and know better than to tell an atheist that that they’ll pray for them.

        • The Paxton marshall says:

          Imp, the religion card carries less and less weight in the US, although it remains powerful in certain segments of society, notably the military. In the US, religion and nationalism are practically indistinguishable.

          I agree that Communism is/was a religion for true believers. But the crimes of Stalin and Mao can hardly be attributed to Marx. The danger of religion or any ideology is the fanatical belief that the ends justify the means. Never mind that the end, whether it be salvation or the dictatorship of the proletariat are unachievable. The Russian and Chinese revolutions were more about responding to what were regarded as intolerable conditions in those societies than about Marxist doctrine, just as the civil wars and Jihads within Islam today are more in response to the current conditions they face than anything in the Quran or Hadiths. People pick and choose from available ideologies to fit their needs.

  8. paxton marshall says:

    I would add that Donald Trump, the most inflammatory politician on the stage today, appears to have no religion.

    Also thought it worth posting part of Obama’s magnificent speech yesterday addressing criticism of his rhetoric on terrorism, specifically his failure to use the terms “Islamic terrorist”:

    “And let me make a final point. For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize this administration and me for not using the phrase “radical Islam.” That’s the key, they tell us. We can’t beat ISIL unless we call them radical Islamists.

    What exactly would using this label would accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this?

    The answer, is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.

    Since before I was president, I’ve been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As president, I have called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions.

    There has not been a moment in my seven and a half years as president where we have not able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label “radical Islam.” Not once has an adviser of mine said, “Man, if we really use that phrase, we’re going to turn this whole thing around.” Not once.

    So if someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we’re fighting, if there is anyone out there who thinks we’re confused about who our enemies are — that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we’ve taken off the battlefield.

    If the implication is that those of us up here and the thousands of people around the country and around world who are working to defeat ISIL aren’t taking the fight seriously? That would come as a surprise to those who spent these last seven and a half years dismantling al-Qaeda in the FATA, for example — including the men and women in uniform who put their lives at risk, and the special forces that I ordered to get bin Laden and are now on the ground in Iraq and in Syria.

    They know full well who the enemy is. So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spend countless hours disrupting plots and protecting all Americans — including politicians who tweet and appear on cable news shows.

    They know who the nature of the enemy is. So, there is no magic to the phrase “radical Islam.” It’s a political talking point. It’s not a strategy.

    OBAMA: And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism.

    Groups like ISIL and al-Qaeda want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion of Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions.

    They want us to validate them by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people, that they speak for Islam. That’s their propaganda, that’s how they recruit. And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush, and imply that we are at war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists’ work for them.”

    • Ken says:

      Paxton, I hadn’t read this when I responded above. That’s possibly the best comment from Obama on the matter I’ve seen, far better than in the past when he’s said terrorism had nothing to do with religion. The difference is that the latter statement is not true, while his more recent statement is. Also, denying religion is playing an important part also impedes action against the Saudis and others, while the statement above does not, though I’ve not seen where Obama has taken the action needed in this regard.

    • Yakaru says:

      Having previously thought Obama should be clearer about calling Islamic extremism by its proper name, having just seen Trump red faced and screaming about Muslims, I think Obama and you are probably right.

      And Trumpist extremism is affecting people in Germany too. Those who want to ban Muslims from entering the country is suddenly close to 40%. As Obama said a few days ago, “When we panic, we make bad decisions.”

      • Yakaru says:

        And while I’m agreeing with you, I’ll add this:
        “I would add that Donald Trump, the most inflammatory politician on the stage today, appears to have no religion.”

        I said to someone yesterday that I think I’m more of a Christian than Trump is. (I’m an atheist/pseudo-Buddhist.)

    • I agree with Ken – this is Obama’s best response by far to this issue, and it’s a speech he should have made years ago. Because he hasn’t said this he has given the right a space to criticize him and the authoritarian left the space to conflate criticism of Islam with bigotry against Muslims. This was a fantastic speech and the sort of thing he needs to say more often.

  9. Ken says:

    Colbert’s follow up was good too!

    https://youtu.be/Eh_GFkdxwbQ

  10. j.a.m. says:

    “Religion was the root cause of the murders at the Pulse night club, and we’re better off without it.”

    Oh, wait. Never mind… As another red herring bites the dust.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/no-evidence-so-far-to-suggest-orlando-shooter-targeted-club-because-it-was-gay/2016/07/14/a7528674-4907-11e6-acbc-4d4870a079da_story.html

  11. nicky says:

    It is a bit difficult here to reply because there are no reply buttons at each post.
    Jam has a point, what evidence actually would do? Darwin said horses growing saddles and JBS Haldane famously quipped about rabbits in the Cambrian. Now, although both would pose serious problems for evolutionary biology and our view of the world, of reality, it would not *prove* the existence of God(s).
    Michael Shermer pointed out (based on Arthur C. Clarcke’s third law) that we are not possibly able to distinguish between an advanced enough alien and a God.
    So it really is a moot point.

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