Many of you will have read and enjoyed Jerry Coyne’s post this morning on the Why Evolution is True website: ‘Five things that atheists don’t want you to know.’
I made a comment about atheists eating babies. As you probably know, there are lots of memes relating to this myth that occasionally make the rounds of Twitter (and probably Facebook too, though I’ve never seen any there. I thought I’d do a quick post to display some for your enjoyment.
Richard Dawkins gets a special mention of course (with a bonus Dr Who reference):
And the official pet of atheists get in on the act too:
And we have an hilarious contribution from reader Diana McPherson (see comments below):
Don’t forget Atheist Barbie!
I’m adding that to the post now!
I have to admit, I never really knew about the atheists-eat-babies meme, but these are hilarious. I wonder if it’s connected to A Modest Proposal, since Swift was also an atheist.
I never thought of that. Sounds like a good explanation to me.
Out-groups have been called baby killers at other times in history – Jews were portrayed that way sometimes in Medieval England and Europe, as you probably know.
Wasn’t Swift a cleric! Dean of cathedral or something?
Swift became an ordained priest in the Established Church of Ireland, and in 1694 he was appointed to the prebend of Kilroot in the Diocese of Connor, with his parish located at Kilroot, near Carrickfergus in County Antrim. Later he became Dean of St. Patricks Cathedral, Dublin. He was certainly irreverent, but I see no evidence that he was an atheist.
Your spelling eror is forever enshrined in the URL!
You’re not supposed to notice that! (I didn’t until after I posted it, it’s been updated twice more since, and I’ve noticed something else I have to fix too.)
Re Dawkins, have you seen this?
Hi Paxton. No, I hadn’t seen it yet – I subscribe to them, but I haven’t had time to read it yet. I’ve gotta say I agree with Michael Stone. There should have been some communication with Dawkins at least before their public statement. They have the right to dis-invite him, but I think they’re being hypocrites. And the You Tube video is funny (despite some incredibly offensive lines) until you know it’s a parody of a real person. As Dawkins said in his tweet, most feminists aren’t like that, but there are some that are, like the ones I’ve mentioned before at Goldsmith U who sided with an Islamist group against Maryam Namazie. As a feminist, I accept Dawkins at the feminist table. Like every other group, we’re all different, and wear multiple hats. Some of us even have a sense of humour and like men.
Yet another cringe-worthy Dawkins moment we could all do without. It bothers me that he never seems to learn, always just rushes in again where a pause to reflect would be so profitable. I do agree that the NECSS over-reacted, particularly given Dawkins took down the tweet when he realised his mistake (actually, he had to have his nose rubbed in it like a puppy, oh well). As the article says, they must have known who they were inviting?
Dawkins is speaking in Wellington soon as part of the arts festival. When he did the same six years ago, I took my whole family. This time I’ll sorry to say I have no desire to go.
I’d love to go, but for reasons I won’t divulge until another time, I can’t.
Thanks for the heads up about Harris/Namazie. Should be interesting.
Yeah, he gets it wrong on Twitter over and over again and, as you say, he never seems to learn. However, as someone who has been caught out on Twitter a couple of times, I understand how easy it is to screw up.
Heather and Paxton, Sam Harris is interviewing Maryam Namazie soon. I guess it will be his next podcast. Sure to be interesting!
More on the Dawkins disinvitation. Is this censorship? I’m looking forward to the WEIT take.
This isn’t censorship. Surely the difference between this and the other cases we’ve discussed is clear.
“… In my opinion, someone in his position, with his eloquence, knowledge, and intellect, with his academic background should be doing everything he can to elevate the level of discussion. He has the ability to address legitimate criticisms of feminism, or atheism or skepticism, if he thinks he has them. He could be a force that is helping unite our very small and critically important rationalist movement.
Instead, I fear, he is helping to divide us, 140 characters at a time, and helping to lower the level of the discussion.”
Very well put. I totally disagree with Mehta’s comment:
“He doesn’t understand where his detractors are coming from. Now he still won’t understand.”
How silly to think the only place he could learn about his mistakes is at that conference. I think that there was a real world consequence for a change, from a crowd Dawkins respects, can only help him to stop and think about how badly he’s discrediting himself.
So much for my having any hope at all of him getting a clue.
And notice that Dawkins didn’t say “some” feminists.
True. I can see the point he’s trying make, but he’s surely got to see that from someone in his position it’s a completely inappropriate RT, and most people won’t appreciate the subtlety. It’s like when he talked of the “mild” child abuse he suffered. It was, of course, interpreted (deliberately or otherwise) by many as him approving child abuse. For someone who’s so good with words, he should be able to do better, and also be able to do a better job of judging what it’s appropriate to tweet.
His books are very good and it seems apparent he relies on his editor a bit. In this case he needs a twitter minder to have his second thoughts for him since he can’t manage to do that himself.
I still like dead baby jokes.
Q: Why did the baby cross the road?
A: It was stapled to the chicken.
Q: Why did the Koala fall out of the tree?
A: Because it was dead.
Q: Why did the baby fall out of the tree?
A: Because it was stapled to the koala.
Q: Why did the tree fall over?
A: The koala never let go.
Q: Why did the kangaroo die?
A: Because the koala landed on it.
Q: How do you make a dead baby float?
A: Root beer and 2 scoops of dead baby
Q: What is easier to unload, a truck full of
dead babies or a truck full of bowling balls?
A: dead babies, you can use a pitchfork
Ha ha! Very good. You’ve passed the “real atheist” test. 🙂
Whether this video was a parody of one woman or a segment of women, the standard of evil to which feminists are compared are Islamists. If it’s feminists he’s got a grudge against, why bring in Islam? Why not compare them to Amish or fundamentalist Christians?
I think you’re determined to find fault with Dawkins. It wasn’t Dawkins who compared the two – he re-tweeted something someone else created. Ill-advised as that was, he can’t be blamed for the comparison itself. If you want to know why those two were compared, ask the person who compared them originally.
Just pointing out the pattern of new atheists’ obsession with Islam.
Paxton, you can’t expect me, as a New Atheist, to accept your contention that NAs are obsessed with Islam. Effectively, you’re calling me (and all other New Atheists) a bigot on my own blog. As always, you’re free to disagree with me – not to insult me or call me names.
If you’d at least said, “some” NAs, I could accept what you say – there are some NAs who are anti-Muslim bigots. I haven’t noticed though that they have any tendency in this direction – quite the opposite in fact. I can also name plenty of demographic groups that I would argue do show a marked anti-Muslim bias. Further, most NAs speak out against these groups and their practices. I myself have spoken again and again of the bigotry of many Republicans in regard to Muslims, and have also mentioned at least twice the appalling treatment of Muslims in Buddhist-majority Burma.
The video in question here refers to “Islamists” in particular, not Islam or Muslims in general. This is something we’ve argued about frequently on my blog – the difference between an Islamist and a Muslim and getting people to understand the difference. The video was made in the UK, where that difference is far better understood than in the US. Also, there is no indication that it was made by a New Atheist. It was made by a men’s rights group, which in the UK demographics means that while a proportion of members will be atheists, they are less likely to be of the “New” variety.
Unless you can come up with a reliable study or some other evidence that shows New Atheists do indeed, in general, harbour a prejudice against Muslims, I would ask you to stop using that stereotype on my website. (You’re obviously free to mention if a particular NA displays bigotry in your opinion, and we can discuss that.) I have seen no evidence that New Atheists as a group are obsessed with Islam. I do wonder if your own strong support for the cause of the Palestinians has made you more likely to notice when Islam is mentioned.
Excellent reply, Heather!
Dear Heather, friend. Your taking offense at my comment about new atheists is an excellent example of why the distinction you make, that NAs target Islam and Islamists, not Muslims in general, doesn’t work.
My original comments were about Dawkins alone. When you objected that Dawkins didn’t produce the video (though he did choose it as appropriate to send to his feminist foes), I made the comment: “Just pointing out the pattern of new atheists’ obsession with Islam.” You’re right that I should have said “some” NAS, just as I should not say the “west” has terrorized Islam, but specify which countries, and we should not say “Muslims” but specify sunni, shia, salafi, sufi, wahabbi or any of the hundreds of different variations. But I thought saying there was a “pattern” was sufficient to indicate that I was not talking about all NAs, all the time. And yet you interpreted it as insulting you and calling you names. I assure you I was not. I was referring to Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Coyne, and was not calling them names but observing a common trend in their writings and speeches. Consider the parallel case of Muslims reading westerners talk of the evils of Islam and Islamists. Are they really supposed to make the distinction that it is not they who are being insulted, but the speaker is actually trying to distinguish them from the bad Muslims.
So is your blog open for discussion of every topic except new atheism? We can generalize about Republicans, Kiwis, Islamists, Presbyterians, but not new atheists? I am an atheist. Can’t I criticize other atheists for going off track, without your interpreting it as an attack on you? The only new atheists I know of are you, the four horsemen and Coyne. Why give them a name unless there is a commonality in their thought? Why do you consider yourself an NA, while I don’t? You see a pattern in their thought that you agree with. I do too. But I also see a pattern in their thought that I think is dangerous. Isn’t that what intellectual inquiry is about–discovering the pattern in different thoughts and ideas. I regularly criticize my own country, as do you. Why should NA be sacrosanct? If I knew of studies I would cite them. Lacking that I try to point out my own observations of patterns.
And yes, I think the Palestinians have been treated horribly. But I also thing that the US, France, Britain, Russia, and China have all invaded, oppressed, and mistreated Muslims, and continue to do so. So no, it’s not just about the Palestinians.
Again, Heather, let me assure you of my highest regard for you, and my appreciation for your stimulating posts and the scintillating conversation that ensues.
New Atheists are not sacrosanct – I made it clear they are not in my comment. Stereotyping them is. No matter which group I’m criticizing, I always try to make a point that it’s not everybody in that group by saying things like “in general” or “on average” or “a majority” or “some” etc. That’s all I’m asking for. There’s no need to extend the insult beyond whoever you’re referring to at a particular time.
Dawkins did the same in his Re-tweet, by saying most feminists weren’t like the one portrayed in the video. However, there is an anti-Dawkins lobby out there, always ready and waiting when he makes his next Twitter cock-up, as he inevitably does. I’m sure you’re aware of it.
You name three other NAs. They are all leaders in the NA community, and all have also had their views misrepresented at times. You can find anti IslamIST posts on Jerry’s site. You can also find posts in support of Muslims in general and anti the anti-Muslim bigots. You must be aware of the outright lies told about Harris’s views, quotes made up, quotes made out of context etc. Do a search of Stephen Knight’s Godless Spellchecker blog using the names CJ Werleman or PZ Myers for a start. As for Hitchens, it’s a bit difficult for him to defend himself (not that that means you can’t make genuine criticisms). However, a lot of the attacks are built on lies. I exposed CJ Werleman myself on Twitter when he made up a quote by Hitchens that portrayed him as wanted to bomb all Muslims. The book Unhitched is another example.
If you’d just stick to saying something like “some” NAs, or something similar, I wouldn’t be having a go. Obviously, if I thought you were a nasty person I would have kicked you off, and I certainly wouldn’t be giving you the opportunity to write a post. (I did that because I respect your opinion, even though we often disagree.) However, you know I identify as a NA, as do many of the others who read my blog, and also that Coyne is a friend, so every time you say things like “all NAs are obsessed” I’m gonna take it personally, and I have to push back for the sake of the others at least.
Thanks for your kind words. I do appreciate the extent to which you participate in the comments, even if it doesn’t always sound that way. 🙂
“Take your agnosticism and shove it up your d*g’s butt.”
Now that was inspired, Heather 🙂
Thank you Heather, for your gracious reply. Pushing back is what discussion is all about. I’ll try to qualify my generalizations more carefully in future. But where did I say “all NAs are obsessed”?
I got it from the comment: “Just pointing out the pattern of new atheists’ obsession with Islam.”
But I didn’t say “all”.
Nor did you say “some.” 😉
(The way it’s written, it seems to imply “all” to me.)
It implied “all” to me as well.
I know I should leave well enough alone, but if I said there is a pattern of Palestinian youths stabbing IDF guards at checkpoints, would you think I meant all Palestinian youths? :).
@Paxton… It would be nice if you could bring yourself to simply own your phrasing. Quibbling about the word “all” strikes me as just a tad weasely.
You’ve asserted an “obsession” about Islam among NA’s. Your evidence for an “obsession” is one person retweeting something.
If you are not asserting an “obsession”, then let it drop. If you are, then you really should support it with more than a Richard Dawkins re-tweet.
GBJames, I assume you are new to Heather’s Homilies and have not seen my rants on Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne’s Islamophobia? Complete with many quotes and examples from their works. If you are really interested, I’m sure a search will turn up some of my comments, and even a guest post on Harris, which Heather generously invited me to submit. Ken offered a second example from Dawkins today. I’ll drop the quibble about “all”, but as new evidence of “obsession” appears, I will bring it to the attention of Heather’s readers as long as she allows.Let me just add that the issue is not merely academic. Repeated assertions of the evil of Islam as an apocalyptic threat (Sleepwalking toward Armageddon, in Harris’ words), further supports and inflames the efforts of the warmongers in the US and elsewhere to launch yet more military assaults, and imperialistic interventions on Muslims.
My comments are based on what I see on the page in front of me, not on comments you might have made on other pages in the past.
In any case, people pointing out that Islam is a source of great strife in the world today is no more an “obsession” than is your comment about inflaming “warmongers”.
Do NA critiques of Christianity also qualify as an “obsession”? Can you differentiate obsessions with things you simply would rather not see?
GBJ wrote: “people pointing out that Islam is a source of great strife in the world today is no more an “obsession” than is your comment about inflaming “warmongers”.”
I plead guilty as charged. I am obsessed with opposing western imperialism and the war profiteers and religious and racial bigots who drive it. As I’ve said ad nauseum, but will say again for you, western terrorism against Muslims, in the Iraq and Gaza invasions alone, dwarfs anything they have done to us. Western imperialism has been a source of great strife in the world for centuries, and for the last century, from Sykes-Picot, to the appropriation of land to create Israel, to overthrowing elected governments, and supporting and arming tyrants, has targeted Muslim countries, and especially their resources, ie oil. It is well established that ISIS is an outgrowth of the US/UK invasion of Iraq. Anyone who points to Islam as the standard of evil in the world, as Dawkins does in these two tweets, and Harris and Coyne have done repeatedly, without referencing the provocations from the west is being profoundly dishonest.
Yes “some” NAs target Christianity for making claims without evidence and for intruding in the public space, But not as a primary source of violence and terrorism. Bush and Blair are fervent Christians. Please show me a NA who has even suggested B&B’s Christianity and that of many of their militarist enablers, is a source of western violence against Muslims. It’s like the asymmetric warfare US/UK/Israel have launched against Muslims–the most advanced planes, missiles, drones, bombs in the world against people fighting with knives and home made explosives. Yes, some NAS criticize Christianity as well as Islam, but it is very asymmetrical criticism. Oh, and they criticize some Jews who won’t sit next to women on planes, but not for the 50 year captivity and oppression of Palestinians.
I’ll stand by my claim of obsession, recognizing that it is a subjective judgment and is clearly perceived differently by others. Harris thinks he is trying to save the world from Armageddon. If true that would be justification for an obsession. But IMO the claim is ludicrous.
If there is a difference in “obsession” between Islam and Christianity it is solely down to comparisons of the current levels of violence justified by religious claims. Those differences are real.
Perhaps you haven’t been paying attention. Religious motives for right wing extremism (attacks on women’s health clinics, murder of abortion doctors, defamation of gays, forced occupation of government property, etc., bigotry against Muslims) have been discussed rather often by atheist commentators.
I’m guessing those comments aren’t noticed because they violate a cardboard caricature of mean “new” atheists you seem to hold dear.
GBJ, Did Dawkins use Christian gay marriage opponents, or abortion clinic bombers as the standard of evil to which he compared his feminist foes. Did Harris say Christianity is the mother of bad ideas? Did he say we are sleepwalking towards Armageddon because we let the Bundyites occupy a game refuge? Did Hitchens advocate an invasion of China because of their oppression of Tibetans and Muslims? Have any of the NAs condemned the 2014 Israeli slaughter of Gazans (2000 killed, over 1000 civilians including many women and children) as many times as Jerry Coyne has gone on and on about the Charlie Hebdo massacre of a dozen people? Yes, I’ve been paying attention.
FYI, I’ve been an atheist for 50 years and was very excited by the advent of “new” atheism. I also have a scientific background and have much appreciated Dawkins’ and Coyne’s explanations of biological evolution. But some NAs have gone off the rails in their animosity towards Islam. If it were say Hinduism they were targeting it would not make so much difference as there is not at present a large contingency in the west wanting to go to war with India. But the repeated condemnation of Islam by some NAs, whether they intend it or not, reinforces the call of militarists (such as virtually all of the Republican candidates) for war against Iraq, ISIS, Iran, Syria or whoever the perceived Muslim enemy of the moment is. Harris has been forthright in saying that the only people who understand the danger of Islam are right wing fascist Christians. He says he doesn’t support war, but it’s hard to believe that he is not aware of the war fever in the US. I’ve been paying attention, have you?
“Did Dawkins use…”
Ultimately that line of argument is unsatisfying. Quote-mining is just a way to ignore whatever you like and pretend that the selected item represents the whole. It doesn’t. Perhaps you’ll jump to the defense of Christians and Jews because he said that their deity was arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction.
I think you might benefit by paying closer attention to the appeals of secularist Muslims and Ex-Muslims. They are not worried about the comments of Harris and Dawkins. They are worried about the cover being granted to extremely unpleasant characters by those like you (I think) who don’t seem to be able to distinguish attacks against ideology from attacks against people. The greatest number of victims of Islamist ideology by far are Muslims. The existence of xenophobes, racists, and Christian religious extremists in the west is not a reason to pretend that Islam isn’t a very dangerous ideology in today’s world.
If I thought anyone’s writings contributed to the persecution of Christians or Jews, I would defend them, yes.
I’ve read some of the anti-Muslim Muslims like Nawaz and Ali. I respect their views, but they don’t share my concern about western militarism. Ali in fact has encouraged war on Muslims. Of course they are not concerned about the anti-islamic comments of Harris and Dawkins, because they share them, with good reason in the case of Ali. But her treatment is no justification for the US/UK killing a hundred thousand or so Iraqis. Were those attacks against ideology or people?
Our interference has not only killed many directly, but as in Iraq, has stirred up Muslim against Muslim (Sunni-Shia and other splits) to multiply the death toll by ten fold. This blood is on our hands as well as those of Muslims. We (US/UK and allies) have helped to create the flood of refugees. And in the last 100 years, Christians have killed far more Christians than Muslims have killed Muslims, and Christians have killed far more Jews than have ever been killed by Muslims. But who in the west takes responsibility for this carnage and looks at Islamic violence in the larger perspective of world violence. Was the starvation of Ukrainians in the thirties committed by Muslims or inspired by Islamic ideology? Was the holocaust, the fire bombing of Dresden, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the dropping of atomic bombs, the great leap forward, the Khmer Rouge slaughters committed by Muslims. Try to put your western biases aside and look at what’s really going on in the world Muslims kill dozens and we kill thousands and yet some say the biggest danger in the world is Muslim ideology. And its not just about the past. Listen to the Republican candidates, one of which may soon be President of the US. He/she will be bolstered by the intellectual support they get from SOME NAs, who can’t seem to see western imperialism, or call western terrorism by its name, but are acutely sensitive to the dangers of Islamic ideology, and irate that our more sensible leaders don’t repeat the magic mantra “Islamist terrorism”.
Nawaz is not anti-Muslim, he’s pro-secularism. His focus is on empowering the secular voices within Islam and disempowering the extremist ones.
In his condemnation of Islamism, Harris’s focus has been to try and get more involvement of the left in the conversation. He recognizes, as you say, that there’s a strong anti-Muslim feeling on the right, and he wants that to be moderated so that the focus is on Islamism, not all Muslims.
There’s no point going on about all the awful things that happened in the 20th century and before. They’re not really relevant. What we need to focus on is what’s happening now. At the moment, you can create an anti-Christian or anti-Jewish cartoon and millions of Christians or Jews don’t rise up calling for the death of, or trying to kill, the cartoonist. The same cannot be said of Islam. There are dangerous elements within all religions, but it is Islam that is currently the most dangerous.
Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran “celebrated” Holocaust remembrance day by publishing a denial video (http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/8976.htm). How many people have even heard about that? Imagine if it was the other way ’round – the uproar there would have been in parts of the Muslim world.
That Gazans were killed was appalling. While I am in no way excusing the deaths, it must be remembered that the Israelis were responding to rockets being directed at them. The killers in Paris were responding to cartoons.
I heard just a few days ago from Dana Perino, former GWB press secretary, that Situation Room meetings were started with a prayer. That horrified me. In the Bush administration the superiority of Christianity and the idea that the US in particular had been especially blessed by God was a dangerous one. It’s one of the reasons I fear the idea of a conservative Christian in the White House. I do think though that if DAESH had access to the weapons that the US has access to, Israel would have been wiped off the face of the map, as would Iran (as a majority Shi’a nation), and any bits of Russia, and Europe they could reach, and the US too. They name their on-line magazine Dabiq for a reason.
Heather, I’m very surprised to hear an historian say the past is not relevant. I’m not talking about the crusades or conquest and reconquest of Spain, which I agree are irrelevant, except maybe as symbols. But the Brit/France land grab after WWI and they way they chose to divide the territory have direct consequences for the situation today. The creation of Israel against the wishes of the majority population has consequences today. The overthrow of Mossedegh and imposition of the Shah in Iran, led directly to the Khomeini revolution and the situation today. Surely you are not saying that the US/UK invasion of 2003, which spread instability throughout the region and led directly to the formation of DAESH/ISIS is irrelevant to today’s situation? And the 50 year occupation and slow appropriation of the west bank by Israel is not relevant? Or the total blockade of Gaza?
This is part of my criticism of SOME NAs, and I never thought it included you: the denial of the relevance of history. Lacking an historical perspective, SOME NAs look at Islamic terr0rist attacks in isolation and then claim the primary explanation for them is to be found in Islamic scriptures.
I’m pleased, however, by your recognition of the religious motivations behind the US/UK invasion of Iraq. I think it’s clear that there were both Christian and Jewish influences involved, but you are the first NA I have seen recognizing this.
I’m sure Daesh would do bad things if they had the weaponry that the US has. But that’s a fantasy. DAESH has virtually no weapons manufacturing ability. They can make improvised bombs but can they produce airplanes, drones, missiles, tanks, helicopters? Not even close. They rely on weapons that the industrialized countries, with the US in the lead, have spread throughout the region and the world. That’s why Harris’ apocalyptic pronouncements are so ridiculous.
Speaking of Harris, I have to question your claim that his aim is to get more liberals in the conversation. They are in the conversation but he doesn’t like what they say. You say he wants the focus on Islamism and not all Muslims, but he believes Muslims worship an evil and dangerous religion. Or as you said “There are dangerous elements within all religions, but it is Islam that is the most dangerous.” I’m not sure how you can say that while admitting the religious influences behind the Iraq invasion, but even assuming it is true, what solution does Harris offer to improve the situation and lessen the violence? He and Nawaz are going to lead a reform of Islam to make it less violent? Really? Harris is a mysterious man and it’s not clear to me just what his motives are. Isn’t he too smart to actually believe his apocalyptic fearmongering? He says he is not advocating more western war on Muslim countries, but what other solution does he offer? I agree with Ken’s last comment. (Actually I agree with most everything Ken says on here, but that’s another story.
I deny that I have ever claimed that ALL NAs are Islamophobic. I have talked about specific people and tried to make it clear that when I generalize further I am referring to the Leading NA spokespersons, whose names we well know. My criticism of Harris, Dawkins and Coyne’s continuous harping on the evils of Islam, really has nothing to do with their being atheists, and I lump them as NAs merely for convenience in discussion, and because they identify themselves as such.
Finally, please explain what you mean by my “shifting the goalposts”. I think my position has been pretty consistent, to the extent that one of your correspondents thinks he could deliver my whole spiel even before I write it. I try to stay focused on how we can stop the killing, and like Ken I think the key is stopping western imperialism and militarism. I oppose views that support continued or even increased western (US/UK/France/Israel) military assaults on Muslims, no matter who they come from. I don’t care if they call themselves atheists, new atheists, Christians or Republicans, if their words further inflame the hysteria over Islam and Islamism that permitted Bush to get away with the Iraq invasion and which continues to burn virtually out of control as the republicans build their campaigns around it, I am going to continue to point out the evil they are courting.
This is what I mean by changing the goalposts. You put out a list of all the times when Muslims were not killing people as an example that they’re not doing that, then when I say it’s not relevant to what’s happening now, you say I’m an historian denying the value of history.
This particular post was just supposed to be a fun post about the myth that atheists eat babies, and because of the comments you’ve made, we’re once again arguing about Sam Harris, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and the Iraq War. None of us are in any doubt about your position on these topics. It was you that brought these subjects up, and we wouldn’t otherwise be discussing them in this thread.
This is not the first time I’ve mentioned Christian influences on the US side of the Iraq conflict. You commented on it then too.
If your criticism of Harris/Dawkins/Coyne has nothing to do with their identification as New Atheists, why mention it?
I did not say that Islam is the most dangerous, I said it is “currently the most dangerous”. That’s selective quote mining, which I thought you were better than.
I am sorry and embarrassed, Heather, for getting your quote wrong. I usually try to cut and paste quotes to make sure I get them right. Thank you for reminding me again that i have to be more precise and careful in my characterizations.
To atone for highjacking your post, I add the following bits of Biblical scripture. Not exactly eating but…
“Give them, O LORD–what will You give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.” (Hosea 9:14)
The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open. (Hosea 13:16)
At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women. (2 Kings 15:16)
Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. (1 Samuel 15:3)
8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. 9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. (Psalms 137:8-9)
20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse[d] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.” (Numbers 5:20-22)
15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man. (Numbers 31:15-18)
Interestingly I could find no such baby killing commands in the Quran. Perhaps you or some of your readers know of some?
Thank goodness for those of us in majority-Christian nations, the Enlightenment came along and ameliorated the behaviour of a majority of Christians so they now have a tendency to cherry-pick the good bits of the Bible (and think that’s what Christianity is all about). Of course, they’re still convinced that being Christian makes them better. But it’s a start. These days, we even have a majority of Christians thinking LGBT people, adulterers, blasphemers, and apostates shouldn’t be put to death.
There are at least seven Muslim countries where it’s illegal to be an atheist. Saudi Arabia hangs people who are gay – DAESH just throws them off buildings. It’s not hard to find videos on YouTube of women being stoned to death for adultery. The stats show that in most Muslim-majority countries, a majority of women believe it is their Qur’anic duty to do what their husband tells them. You can find stats on the UN website that show a majority of women in those same countries believe a man has the right to beat his wife for burning the dinner. (And don’t you dare give some cultural relativity excuse about being poor and not having much food available, such as I have heard from others who still have the cheek to call themselves feminists.)
When it comes to human rights, currently most of the worst countries in the world are Muslim theocracies. That is fact.
Heather wrote: “There are at least seven Muslim countries where it’s illegal to be an atheist. Saudi Arabia hangs people who are gay – DAESH just throws them off buildings. It’s not hard to find videos on YouTube of women being stoned to death for adultery. The stats show that in most Muslim-majority countries, a majority of women believe it is their Qur’anic duty to do what their husband tells them. You can find stats on the UN website that show a majority of women in those same countries believe a man has the right to beat his wife for burning the dinner.
Heather I acknowledge all that, although it seems that China executed more people in 2014 than all Muslim countries combined. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_by_country
But the point is that you nor I nor Harris nor Nawaz can do anything to change that, and western aggression just causes Muslims to cling to their faith all the more stridently. As Ken points out the best thing we westerners can do is oppose western militarism. NZ, Canada and others are to be commended for refusing to join the Bush/Blair invasion, and the best thing we can do now is keep a Republican out of the White house (although Hillary and even Bernie are sounding too militaristic for my taste). But we must continually keep in ind that there are powerful economic, political, and religious forces in the west (primarily US but also elsewhere) that are looking for every opportunity to escalate war.
Yes, I’m happy that most (certainly not all) Christians and Jews are able to cherry pick their scriptures to emphasize the justice, mercy and love portions. That’s why I, though an atheist, don’t like across the board religion bashing. Some of the teachings of the Hebrew prophets, Jesus and even Muhammad represent important moral advances, especially insisting on justice for the peasants, who had heretofore been regarded as little better than animals. My Muslim friends, and I think most Muslims, are able to cherry pick their scriptures also and regard such things as honor killings with horror.
I agree that a majority of Muslims, especially in secular countries, cherry pick their holy books just as much as other religions. That’s why we have to make a point about the difference between Islam and Islamism. At the moment, especially in the US, all Muslims are tarred with the terrorist brush. There needs to be more discussion from the left pointing out that not all Muslims are the same.
Paxton, I’m curious–would you be OK with the West backing out and leaving Israel to whatever fate then befalls it? Also, do you support the BDS movement?
Hi Diane, I don’t recommend doing anything abruptly, but I do think we should gradually cease military operations in the Middle East, as we push hard to resolve the conflicts by diplomacy. I would not abandon our military commitments to Israel, but I would make additional American aid contingent on progress toward full citizenship rights for the Palestinians, either in their own country or in an expanded Israel. I don’t presently support BDS, but I do support boycott and labeling requirements for products made in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. How about you?
Hi Diane. I answered your questions, will you answer mine? What do you propose for the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum? Maintenance of the status quo? A two state solution (is that really possible now that there are a half million settlers in the west bank?), a one state solution? What kind of state? Should Israel incorporate the WB and Gaza into a greater Israel, and give all the residents citizenship, or as some Israelis want to do, take most of the land, but “give” the people to Jordan and Egypt.
“In his condemnation of Islamism, Harris’s focus has been to try and get more involvement of the left in the conversation. He recognizes, as you say, that there’s a strong anti-Muslim feeling on the right, and he wants that to be moderated so that the focus is on Islamism, not all Muslims.”
Heather, I think that’s a rather over sympathetic view of what he’s doing. He’ll never succeed with clash of civilisations rhetoric, because that is exactly what most on the left are fighting. Harris’s prescription, if followed, is more likely to be a self-fulfilling prophesy than a solution. As I’ve said many times, even where he is correct, he has the priorities so backwards as to be dangerous. If he wants to stop violence, he should first focus on his own country’s violence. Otherwise, the left is correct to oppose him.
It may be sympathetic, but it is what he says himself. Whether there is value in his approach is arguable. I think the more we talk about the issue the better, and the conversations Harris both has and provokes move things forward. I don’t have a problem with most of what I’ve heard or read direct from Harris himself. I frequently have a problem with what I hear he’s said or done. However, because of the extent to which he is lied about, I never know how much of that is true.
He does talk about issues in his own country, and perhaps he should do so more. But given the amount of time I spend opining on what goes on in other countries, especially his, I’m not about to criticize him for doing what I do myself.
Heather, I have a big problem with what Harris says, because of his apologetics for US foreign policy and for Israel and that he minimises the link “mistakes” (his euphemism for violent foreign interventions) have to terrorism directed against the West. His views on the many problems with Islamism and Islam itself, while often correct, can’t be isolated from the rest of his rhetoric about what the West should do about terrorism. I can’t see how this moves things forward, unless in some perverse way that fact that he’s made himself such a large target helps, but on balance I think not.
Of course, I don’t support those who lie about what he says to discredit him either. Harris’ logic is easy to poke holes in. There’s just no need for personal attacks that also confuse the debate.
I agree mostly. Often it’s what Harris says about what should be done about terrorism that is most lied about and misrepresented, often very skillfully, so it’s difficult to know if we’re talking about the same things.
He is too generous about the “mistakes” of the West. He talks about their motives being good, but getting it wrong in practice. The motive does make a difference, but because of the way the US carries out its “mistakes”, they can’t expect the victims to just be OK with what happened. I think it would make a big difference if they just owned their mistakes – said they were wrong and shouldn’t have done what they did. Then tried to prove it by helping put societies back together again. Instead, there’s a tendency to make excuses, or blame predecessors to make it not the problem of current leaders.
You’re completely right about the personal attacks confusing the debate. I think they also make things worse instead of better. As atheists we want a focus on things like truth and rationality, but most of the attacks on Harris simply can’t be characterized as anything other than lies and irrationality. I’ve no problem with anyone debating what he says, but I wish they would stick to what he actually said, instead of what proven liars say he said.
Heather, I can’t say I’ve heard many lies about what Harris thinks should be done about terrorism. What I most often hear are accusations of racism, and the ones I’ve checked out just don’t seem true to me. I’ve read and listened to a lot of Harris’ original material and have corresponded with him, so you can be sure I’m not repeating what someone else has said when I discuss him.
Yes, motives matter, but I don’t think the motives of the US are good to start with, which is why they almost never own their “mistakes”. US support for democracy abroad is mainly rhetorical, and real mainly when it either doesn’t clash with perceived self interest or can be used as a propaganda tool to develop public support for otherwise unpopular actions. Examples are everywhere. Saddam was installed by the CIA and was free to be a brutal dictator so long as he was on our side. Once he wasn’t, democracy became a must, even if it took an illegal war to deliver. The Taliban could suppress women’s human rights as much as they wanted when an oil pipeline deal was being negotiated. But once that faded and they harboured bin Laden, we suddenly had to liberate those same women. And of course, there’s the 48 year long “mistake” of allowing the Israeli persecution of Palestinians. In no way are these things actually mistakes, they are deliberate policies that have obvious and expected outcomes. I know how right-wing radicals justify such actions (they deny the terrible outcomes or just don’t care), but can’t figure out what leads a liberal atheist who supposedly wants “truth and rationality” to conclude not only that the US has good intentions, but that the unlucky targets of those intentions would agree and therefore not be motivated in the least to violence in response.
Hence I talk of the blue pill. I think a person must first really want to shut their eyes to these things to be able to do so.
I completely agree with what you say about US motives – they say they want to promote democracy, but it’s a justification for being in places they would be anyway, not the reason. However, almost all countries do exactly the same – their foreign policy is about their own national interests. The difference with the US is their size and power. So while I condemn their hypocrisy, I understand it. I’m not saying it’s okay, because it’s not, just that rhetorically they’re no different from anyone else. The difference is in their ability to do something about what they say.
I agree about the majority too, who are now saying that Iraq etc was a bad idea, but would still be supporting it if it had worked out the way Bush et al seemed to think it would. Of course, there was no chance it would work out how Bush thought, and they can’t seem to see that. With Iraq, for example, they’re hooked up on the idea of there being no WsMD. The fact that the evidence for them was always dubious is not why the invasion was wrong, and they haven’t worked that basic principle out.
When it comes to good intentions, I wasn’t talking about some of the things you’ve outlined. I don’t believe things like installing Saddam as a dictator was ever a matter of good intentions, or a mistake. It was deliberate, and they knew it was wrong. I think in many cases the US thinks it should be able to control the world because they think they’re better than everyone else. It’s why I worry about the idea of American Exceptionalism so much – it’s created a spoiled child on a mother lode of steroids.
I think there are others though that are genuinely trying to do the right thing. More often than not they get it wrong, but the US does do things that are good too. Some leaders have been principled and tried to stick by those principles. Obama is one. He hasn’t always got it right either, but I think he does his best. The ongoing complaints I hear on Fox, for example, about “Obama’s rules of engagement stifling the military” please me no end. His commitment to not attacking civilians is something about him I admire. He’s also stood up to Israel in a way that no previous US president has done. He hasn’t always been successful of course, but he’s certainly been better than his predecessors.
Meeting of the minds!! Heather agrees with Ken and I agree with both. Only Heather, I think most Americans were bamboozled into thinking our intentions were good. We were going to (get rid of a butcher who gassed his own people. Our intervention would save the lives of thousands of Iraqis, as well as save Israel and the world from the threat of a nuclear armed Iraq. That’s what people were told, and no one made a persuasive enough counter argument.
I agree that a lot of people believe that their government’s intentions are good – they buy into the “spreading democracy” thing for example.
Obama is better, but not beyond doing some very wrong things and may be about to do so in Syria. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/02/united-states-war-isis-syria-iraq-libya
This is so depressing and sickening, but unfortunately not that surprising. I was wondering what the US response would be to what Russia has been doing the last couple of weeks, and I guess this is it. I suspect Obama has determined that he needs to take control back from the Russians, who have just fu*ked up the peace talks by failing to observe the cease fire despite their promises. He’s probably thinking he won’t murder as many civilians as the Russians are – making a Hobson’s choice.
Heather, Ken, what would you do if you were Obama? Much as I regret both the Iraq and Libyan invasions, I don’t think it would be wise to just pull out now. But I think we have to be realistic and pursue limited goals. Even Bernie is saying we have to crush ISIS. Reminds me of how we were going to eliminate al Qaeda by invading Afghanistan. We are still there and al Qaeda is not eliminated. I suggest that the best we can do is contain ISIS. Getting them out of Mosul and keeping them from becoming dominant in Libya seem like good goals. Hard and continuous negotiations with all the players in the region, including Russia is essential. But patience is necessary. The big danger is overreacting and embracing the old fantasy that more military attacks can fix everything.
On the whole, I approve of Obama’s response. He hasn’t talked about what he’s doing, but it seems to me he’s trying to contain DAESH while making air strikes when he has intelligence that they’re in a particular location and it won’t put civilians at risk. In the meantime, he’s building up the capacity of the Iraqi army, which takes time, so they can own the solution. They’ve taken back Ramadi, which is a significant win, and now they’re working on Mosul. The first thing really has to be to get them back into Syria, which also reduces the size of their caliphate and proves to those who believe that stuff that this isn’t the caliphate of myth that will lead to Dabiq etc.
He’s playing a long game, and that’s good. Look what overrunning a country with overwhelming firepower in a few days did in Bush’s Iraq war. All these people that are now insisting the Iraq war was a mistake want the US to make exactly the same mistake again.
I agree with you again Paxton – three times in two days! Maybe Armageddon is coming after all! 🙂
I think we agree on most things, Heather. But agreement is boring. Where do we go from there? It’s on things we disagree about that things get interesting, and the conversation becomes open to new ideas.
Seems like Obama isn’t just acting in Syria.
Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m not so very concerned about this arms buildup in Eastern Europe, although I wish NATO were doing it rather than the US. It’s a reasonable reaction to the Russian grab of Ukraine, which itself is understandable given the western agitation in Ukraine. I don’t think anyone wants war, and this is just posturing, but didn’t there have to be some response. Poland, the Baltic, states, Rumania, Hungary, etc have good reason to be wary of Russian expansionism. But for the time, as long as we don’t try to put arms in Ukraine, I think the Russian response will be limited. But what do I know?
Since I posted about the build-up in Europe on Facebook, I’ve listened to the podcast. I assumed from the article that Cohen was talking about something new. Once I listened, I realized he was just talking about the Ready Reaction Force, which is old news, and is a NATO initiative, not a US one. It is also, as Paxton says, a perfectly reasonable response to Russia.
Cohen said in the podcast something like, “How can anyone call Russia the aggressors in this?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He’s completely ignoring Russia’s takeover of territory in Georgia and of the Crimean peninsula. He’s ignoring that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are currently shit-scared of Russia doing the same to them and they know the only thing that’s protecting them is their NATO membership. Russia is making forays into their territory, kidnapping armed forced personnel, and is already camped on both their borders and Poland’s. They’re in Ukraine. Cohen saying Russia’s response will be to move to the border is bullshit – he’s already there. NATO is responding to the military build-up of Russia.
The new Ready Reaction Force has been training in Ukraine for some months, though it is some way from the border. Russia has reduced its military involvement in eastern Ukraine since they’ve been there. No-one wants war, and Russia also can’t afford it financially. However, Putin’s responses aren’t always rational – his personality is the Russian equivalent of Trump imo. He’s also over-extended himself in Syria.
With Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey all members of Nato, there aren’t many places for Russia to expand except the Ukraine and Belarus, unless they’re going to have a go at Finland again. So I agree this probably won’t come to much. My concern is the predictability of it all as you say and which we’ve debate before. Putin is a bad character (though not uniquely bad) but we’ve missed opportunities to change the way the game is played, so round we go once again.
Re Syria, yes patience and containment, but we have to decide to change the game here too if we want to stop the next Syria from happening. The US needs to become seen as being on the side of Arab peoples rather than their persecutors, which entails the things we’ve discussed for the last year. Obama has made a small start compared with Bush, but I’m not at all sure the US will stay headed in that direction even if a Democrat is the next president.
I expect you’re right. Hillary is more militaristic than Obama, and Bernie isn’t interested. As for Republicans, now that Rand Paul is gone, they think the USA has a right to do anything it wants to anybody they want.
The problem was the reach you made – you’re free to believe that Dawkins is an Islamophobe, and we can argue whether that’s true. You then suggest that because he is (in your judgement) Islamophobic, all New Atheists are Islamophobic. That is where the problem is. Even if it’s true that all the NAs you name are Islamophobic (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Coyne, Hirsi Ali), you seem to accept that I am not, and that other commenters here who identify as NA are not, and there are more of us than in your list of five. Yet, still you tar all NAs with the bigot brush.
Imo, you have a bit of a habit of shifting the goalposts in the debates we have. From my pov, because we’re all debating in writing, the way we express ourselves in writing is important, and we need to be precise about what we mean.
Heather wrote: “I think it would make a big difference if they just owned their mistakes – said they were wrong and shouldn’t have done what they did. Then tried to prove it by helping put societies back together again. Instead, there’s a tendency to make excuses, or blame predecessors to make it not the problem of current leaders.”
Yes, Heather, but we have to do more. We have to admit it was more than a mistake, that our motives were not good, that the Iraq invasion was motivated not by the desire to spread democracy (that was an after thought dug up when it was clear there were no WMDs) but by greed, lust for power, personal pique, religion, and a pervasive self righteousness. Many in the US now say Iraq was a mistake, but they still have this sense of moral superiority that justifies more killing.
And most who now say the Iraq war was a mistake supported it at the time. They only think it is a mistake now because it was so obviously a disaster. If it was less a disaster (wouldn’t even need to be a success), most would be happy, despite that it was an illegal war that killed many thousand innocents and added to the violent animosity towards the US.
Chomsky points out the same is true for the Vietnam war. When the liberal establishment finally turned against the war, it was because it had failed, not because they felt wars of aggression were inherently a bad thing.
I agree with what you say are the real motives, but I don’t think you can realistically expect anyone to admit it. Hoping it will is just setting yourself up for anger and disappointment.
They do have a sense of moral superiority. The truth is that it is Enlightenment ideals and secular democracy that are better than theocracy. From my point of view the problem is that they associate those things with Judeo-Christianity and claim them as theirs, and for them it becomes a moral question rather than rather than a debating point.
Heather wrote: “The truth is that it is Enlightenment ideals and secular democracy that are better than theocracy. ”
What Muslim nation is a theocracy? Iran, yes, but even there the Iran nuclear deal showed the theocracy has its limits. Many Muslim countries are ruled by dictators, a family or a clique. Mostly with the support of the west. Some, the most populous, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangla Desh have the trappings of democracy, but if they stray too far from the wishes of the elite, it’s military coup. Egypt being the latest example. The choice in the end was not between secular democracy and theism, it was a choice between religious democracy and military dictatorship. It’s war that brings out religious zealotry, and sometimes (always?) religious zealotry is invoked to support the elites and the war profiteers.
Nationalism is a bigger danger than religion in today’s world. Nationalism is a religion with its own myths of heroism and goodness. If we are to fight the bad influences of religion, it is not just heavenly gods but earthly gods we must combat. It may be a hopeless task, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,. Or what’s a heaven for?”
Saudi Arabia is a theocracy – the law is Sharia. Pakistan is effectively a theocracy – laws have to have the approval of the clerics, who recently stymied an attempt to make child brides illegal because it was un-Qur’anic.
Basically, I consider any country with Sharia a theocracy as legality is decided by reference to the Qur’an and hadiths.
The OED defines a theocracy as “A system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god” This is not the case in most Muslim countries, including those under sharia law. Saudi Arabia in particular is a totalitarian monarchy, with power concentrated in a family, many of which are western educated and more businessmen than theocrats. Islam and Sharia re methods used by a very unrepresentative elite to control the populace and maintain themselves in control.
Here’s poll results showing the widespread anti-Muslim sentiment in the US. Note that anti-Muslim feeling is much higher among people like Jerry Coyne who have never known a Muslim.
And here is a long biographical article on Majiid Nawaz. Maybe this is all lies, but he sure seems like a slippery character. Maybe he can be useful to British and American intelligence in identifying potential jihadists, but he seems a very unlikely candidate for reforming Islam from within.
I’ve posted an article on a previous survey from Pew that shows the similar results. The results don’t surprise me in the slightest, and I’m also not surprised things are getting worse given the disgusting things being said amongst most of the candidates for the GOP nomination for president.
Your second link is exactly the same as your first.
I don’t expect the establishment to admit it, but we were originally talking about Harris and he isn’t the establishment.
The OP, though humorous, raises two important moral issues. One is abortion, which opponents see as baby killing. I am strongly pro-choice, but late term abortions do make me squeamish. And if you are allowed to abort a fetus immediatelt before birth, why not allow infanticide for the first month or so, especially in the case of severely impaired infants. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to limit abortions to the first 12 or 16 weeks, except in cases where the mothers health or the fetus is severely impaired?
The second issue is contraception and population control. We can argue interminably whether the Charlie Hebdo or 9/11 attacks were motivated by religion, the desire for revenge, etc. but one thing is clear: Most acts of violence are committed by young men from 15-30, and countries with high birthrates (such as most Muslim counties) have a high number of young men. In spite of the US reputation for violence, the violent crime rate has declined substantially over the past 40 years, and it tracks directly to the proportion of young men in the US. When the “baby boomers” were young, violent crime peaked. Many women don’t want to have so many children, but the two largest religions in the world, Roman Catholicism and Islam are adamantly opposed to contraception. Making all kinds of contraception, especially long term reversible contraception, such as patches and IUDs is perhaps the most important thing we could do both to reduce violence and reduce the ravages of over-consumption on planet earth.
There is a correlation between abortion becoming legal in the 70’s and crime dropping in the 90’s. The hypothesis is that crime dropped because there were many fewer unwanted children on the streets. The article I read said the link couldn’t yet be said to be causal, I think because the analyses were not rigorous enough yet, but pointed out that the law changed in different states in different years and crime in those states started dropping the same number of years later after the change (I think 16) in each state.
I’ve seen the same link between making abortion on demand legal and a drop in the crime rate 18 years later and onwards. I think it makes complete sense, and I hope more work is done investigating whether the link is causal.
“Making all kinds of contraception, especially long term reversible contraception, such as patches and IUDs is perhaps the most important thing we could do both to reduce violence and reduce the ravages of over-consumption on planet earth.”
But…that would cut down severely on the food supply!
Good point! No more babies to eat! Perhaps we could get evangelicals to become pro-choice if they knew it was a way to get rid of atheists! 🙂
On a more serious note, it’s been speculated that another reason for the drop in the crime rate is the elimination of the pollution from leaded gasoline. Of course, both of those are simplistic answers and it’s more likely that a number of factors have contributed and it’s very possible that several factors are involved.
One thing I notice from my own background is that the most troubled kids in the neighborhood – and the worst of the bullies – were either from large families or were only children. That’s anectodal, so make of that what you will.
I agree that there must be multiple factors. I think another one is probably that family violence is not so easy to get away with now, and more likely to be reported and prosecuted. It’s also being stopped on the sports field by referees and other sporting administrators. There’s more of an environment that violence is not OK.
Whatever the reason, I hope it’s a trend that continues.
Sorry, the link to the Nawaz piece is:
Thanks and wow, that’s some expose. Even if not all true (and it’s just sloppy for any author to repeat the myth that Harris is pro-torture), the overall thrust does seem credible given the number of close sources that say Nawaz hasn’t been truthful. I didn’t know he had such direct links to neoliberal groups either. Very worrying.
I can’t say I feel that different about the views of his I’ve expressed support for though. Distinguishing between Islam and Islamism still seems a good idea to me, and pretending there’s no link between ISIS and Islam a bad one. But this does again reinforce the need to get our priorities right, and like Harris, his aren’t likely to lead to an actual decrease in violence, but are more likely to increase it. And that this may be due to selfish motivations on Nawaz’s part is deeply troubling and harmful to his credibility as a participant in the debate.
I haven’t read all of it yet – I don’t have time. There is a lot in it so far I could argue with.
A slightly tangential but relevant and sure to be controversial contribution from Rubin. Haven’t listened yet!
The promised interview with the notorious Islamophobe, Tommy Robinson was not included, but Rubin’s introductory rant was very enlightening. He professed to fear doing an interview with Robinson because the “regressive left” might label him a bigot. Rubin claims that this labeling by the regressives is causing a rot in our society because it has a chilling effect on discussion and amounts to censorship.
I have encountered before the claim that disinviting a public speaker or disrupting a speech is a violation of free speech and amounts to censorship. My claim is that as long as a speaker is not permanently silenced, the protestors are exercising their free speech as well and there is no censorship. Now comes the claim that the mere criticism, or “labeling” of a person as a bigot amounts to censorship and violates their right to free speech.
Mirriam-Webster defines bigot as “a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)” I acknowledge that calling someone a bigot is a serious charge, and should not be done lightly. But it’s not an empty insult or expression of contempt like idiot or f**ktard, or a racial slur, like porch-monkey. It is a descriptive term and should be acceptable for use if the evidence warrants. Otherwise the conclusion is that no one is a bigot. In the case of Tommy Robinson, it would appear there is ample evidence to justify the term, although I’m sure some would disagree. In the case of Rubin, methinks he protests too much, but I don’t know him well enough to say. But whether he agrees with the characterization or not, Rubin is hardly censored or denied his free speech because he is called something he thinks is unfair. And this is not an isolated incident. What is it with those who are so intimidated by the criticism of “regressive liberals” that they think they are being censored and cry out that their rights of free speech are being violated?
I find I’m disagreeing more and more with Rubin, so don’t like having to defend him, but that’s not what he said. He’s not claiming censorship, but the stifling of debate. I don’t think they’re the same thing, do you? Open debate is fundamental to a free society. If it’s ok for a crowd to stop someone from speaking, or a twitter hoard to do similar by slinging names around instead of debating substance, then you also can’t object when the right astroturfs an issue on line either. You’re effectively saying that whoever can shout the loudest wins, which is a pretty sad state of affairs.
I’m not saying we can never use the term bigot, but even you say it’s a serious charge and should not be used lightly. Why is that? The reason is that it is a term that allows the deflection of the debate away from substance and onto the character of the person. This has certainly happened unfairly and that it happens to people we don’t agree with is not a good reason to excuse it.
The point is that Rubin in all likelihood is correct that many will label him a bigot simply for interviewing Robinson. That is simply wrong.
Meant to include a link to the full interview:
Have just watched the Robinson interview. It is very disturbing. Taking him at face value, he isn’t racist, but is definitely an Islamophobe. He talks about growing up comfortably in a multi-cultural town and being surprised that the early anti-Islamist groups he joined wouldn’t let his black friends in, and that he left the EDL because he was spending all his time kicking out neo-Nazis. He has now formed Pergida UK and though I’ve heard that Pergida in Germany is racist, he stresses that his group is non-violent and open to all. He also differentiated between those in mosques and prisons pushing sharia, etc and Muslims he’s met who are just privately religions, whom he says are very good people. He says he severed links with Nawaz’s Quilliam org because they were ineffective in converting Muslims to their view. He also believes that Nawaz and others aren’t being honest and are actually apostates, not liberal practising Muslims.
He makes a huge number of claims about growing Islamist influence in Britain. He could be lying or deluded, but he comes across as pretty sane and cited a lot of evidence that would need to be checked out to be sure. If 10% of what he said was true, it would be a reason for concern. I’m out of my depth here as I just don’t have the knowledge to say he is wrong, though I have heard of specific claims by others of what’s supposedly happening in Britain that have been shown to be wrong. His solutions like shutting out all immigrants are certainly bad, but regardless of this, what I’m interested in first is the extent to which there is actually a problem like what he describes. The interview is an hour long and I’d like to hear the views of others (and particularly Paxton) who have time to listen to the whole thing.
Ken, is Rubin so vulnerable and thin skinned that he really fears being called a bigot by the regressive right just because he interviews someone? I don’t think so. He seems like a pretty tough guy who can return a punch. You may or may not be right that he’ll be called a bigot for interviewing Robinson, but this was a preemptive attack, accusing his opponents of trying to shut the debate down. Without evidence. He can call his opponent regressive, but if they call him a bigot and that will stifle the debate. then he decides he has to be brave and take the hit to save society from the rot and chilling effect of these nasty regressives calling people names. Don’t you think he has already deflected the debate away from substance and onto the characters of his unnamed opponents? He can’t have it both ways, attacking people and then crying foul if he is attacked back. This whole rhetoric of personal grievance is tiresome. If they can’t take the heat, they should stay out of the kitchen.
Ok, never mind. I just don’t have time to rehash another discussion we’ve already had at length in other threads.
Ok Ken. I was going to comment on the Rubin-Robinson interview, but I’ll spare you.
Up to you, Pax. I’m keen to cover new topics, just don’t like going around in circles on those we’ve already had. Still very interested in your thoughts about the truth or otherwise of the claims Robinson makes about Islamist influence in Britain.
Most of the claims I see of “labelling” shutting down the conversation, or disinvitations denying free speech, or protests being censorship, are just playing the victim card. People like Dawkins, Harris, and Rubin have plenty of opportunity to express their opinions. It is an affront to those suffering from real censorship, like Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia, or many intellectuals in China, to claim that their free speech has been violated. Here is an ongoing example from Israel: (yes, I know it is alternet, and I’m not saying Israel is worse than a lot of other countries, but if this is not true, I’d like to see a rebuttal)
Tommy Robinson. I had trouble with the Rubin interview video. It kept resetting and I only saw about ten minutes of the actual interview.
But let me confess, I rather liked Tommy Robinson. He grew up in Luton, a rough working class town that has been transformed by Muslim immigrants. I can understand his concern, although it should be noted that Muslims make up only about 25% of Luton’s population, and non-white’s about 40%. And it was clear that Tommy knows real Muslims and likes at least some of them, unlike armchair critics of Islam that have never met a Muslim.
Tommy is genuine and seems honest (unlike Rubin) but his perspective is limited. Muslims make up only about 5% of England’s population. Compare that with the US where blacks compose 13% of the population and Hispanics 17%. Luton may be Islamified, but certainly England is nowhere close. Yes, it is easy to find plenty of anecdotes of immigrants committing crimes, Trump has flourished by doing that in the US. Trump appeals to the Tommy Robinsons of the US, for whom personal experience and salacious anecdotes count for more than data. But Rubin certainly knows better. Let me quote Wikipedia:
“On 30 June 2013 there were 10,786 prisoners from 160 different countries in the jails of England and Wales. Poland, Jamaica and the Irish Republic formed the highest percentage of foreign nationals in UK prisons. In total, foreigners represented 13% of the prison population, whereas foreign nationals are 13% of the total population in England and Wales. During the 2000s, there was an 111% increase of foreign nationals in UK prisons. According to one study, “there is little evidence to support the theory that the foreign national prison population continues to grow because foreign nationals are more likely to commit crime than are British citizens or more likely to commit crime of a serious nature”.”
As in the interview Docatheist posted with an ex-Muslim girl, Rubin kept trying to get Tommy to say that he was being silenced by his enemies, when their was no evidence than that. Criticism, and even labeling are not censorship.
Well I think we either champion open, honest debate, or we don’t. Doing so requires a standard that applies to all and it’s not good enough to me to say that it’s ok to shut down certain people, regardless of how, because they are perceived as strong, or have other avenues, or whatever. But like I said, I’m not keen to go through all the arguments again, so we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
Victimization seems to be contagious:
“it’s telling that the Discovery Institute, but no real scientific organization, whines continuously about being suppressed and censored. That’s also a hallmark of pseudoscientists like Deepak Chopra and Rupert Sheldrake. ” WEIT
I found Robinson likeable too, and felt he deserved some answers, as his concerns weren’t racist (if true) even if his solutions are. You need to hear the rest of the interview though. He wasn’t talking just about Luton, but made a much wider array of claims, including police corruption. I don’t remember him focussing on foreign nationals either, so your quote doesn’t seem to address the issue. I’m also not sure on what basis you can say his perspective in narrow, at least until you’ve heard the whole thing. Again, much relies on how much of what he says is true (and he’s had several run ins with the law, for instance, so could be lying about what happened), but if his arguments were put to me by him or someone else, I wouldn’t know how to counter them effectively.
Here’s a campaign we can all support. IMO it is counter productive to get bogged down in arguments about the origins of this practice in order to blame someone (usually Islam). Better to just convince people it is dangerous and harmful to girls.
While we’re at it we should get rid of male genital mutilation (aka circumcision) as well. There is no justification for subjecting babies to unnecessary surgical procedures.
This is a really important campaign, and yes, we should all get behind it.
No-one who knows anything about it blames Islam for originating the practice – it was around for at least centuries and probably millennia before Mohammed came on the scene.
In areas where this is practiced that aren’t Muslim, health workers do just what you suggest – they focus on the fact that it is dangerous, harmful etc. They are getting support from elders when they explain this, and are having success in stopping it. It is different in Muslim areas because in some schools of Islam is has become part of the religion. People do it to honour Muhammad. In some parts of Indonesia for example, it’s done annually on Muhammad’s birthday to all the baby girls born in the previous year.
As for male circumcision, that is part of religious practice in Judaism and Islam, and that is why it’s going to be a lot more difficult to get rid of. It used to be the norm in NZ, but in the last fifty years has almost gone. However, I understand that in some parts of the world where access to clean water is a problem, male circumcision is recommended.
A good, short article on how western greed, lies, and arrogance have spread chaos in the middle east. The absurdity of anyone blaming the Muslim reaction to this western aggression on their 1400 year old religion should be obvious.
“The fundamental reason the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya failed is not because of noble errors, but because in all three cases, short-sighted Western interests trumped the needs of long-oppressed local populations.”
The author could have written this for Sam Harris.
I got as far as Obama reneging on his promise to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, and I couldn’t be bothered reading any more. This is clearly going to be a very one-sided article. The reason the US troops are staying in Afghanistan beyond the promised withdrawal date is because THE AFGHAN GOVERNMENT ASKED THEM TO STAY!!! They consider their own troops are not yet fully up to the task of handling the Taliban and DAESH, and want the US troops to provide more training. The US troops are NOT IN COMBAT ROLES any more. I’m sick of this biased crap from certain writers on Alternet.
“I’m sick of this biased crap from certain writers on Alternet.”
I had to stop reading AlterNet long ago. The way they harp on small things that support their agenda and gloss over/mischaracterize those that don’t frankly insults one’s intelligence. I feel like I’m reading some check-out counter tabloid.
I’d be interested in your reaction to the article I posted, Diane. Do you not think that the US along with the UK is responsible for much of the chaos in the middle east? Do you think more military initiatives are what is needed? Do you think a Muslim life is worth less than a western or Israeli life?
“Do you think a Muslim life is worth less than a western or Israeli life?”
How dare you?!
Join the conversation Diane. You recently asked me if I was ok “with the west backing out and leaving Israel to whatever fate then befalls it”? What fate did you have in mind? It sounds like it involves death and destruction? I answered civilly and asked for your opinion. No response.
Now I post an article detailing the death and destruction the west has visited upon Muslim lands. Your response was not to address the issue but to denigrate the source. Not even the author but the publisher. I ask you for your response to the article, with a question possibly more direct than yours to me about leaving Israel to its fate, but along the same lines. Am I (or you) indifferent to the death and destruction on others that result from the policies we advocate.
I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. But if we would all respond to hard questions with evidence and reason rather than taking personal offense, we’d have a more productive discussion. So much of what I read from Nawaz, Harris, Rubin and others has degenerated to personal animosities that the real issues become secondary. I’m more interested in your opinion than your outrage.
Heather wrote: “The reason the US troops are staying in Afghanistan beyond the promised withdrawal date is because THE AFGHAN GOVERNMENT ASKED THEM TO STAY!!! ”
C’mon Heather. Things are always more complicated than that. There is always a quid pro quo. How many years will it take for the Afghan government to stand on its own? As you know, I am a strong supporter of Obama, and I’ll support him on this also. But it is not unfair for someone to point out that he is not doing what he said he would do. I don’t detect that the writer has any special animus against Obama.
It’s true that much of the article is Monday morning quarterbacking. But it provides some documentation for how neocons like Boot and Igantius continually paint unrealistic pictures of what can be accomplished by military force, and ignore or whitewash the terrible devastation that force inflicts on other people. Please read the rest. I think it’s important and touches on many of the points Ken and I have been making. I cannot understand why reasonable, intelligent people are unable to see the terror that the west has inflicted on the middle east. That’s the bias I see, besides which the “biased crap” of this writer smells like roses.
Heather and Diane, this article says that our military interventions haven’t worked, and argues we shouldn’t be thinking of doing more. This is what we’ve all been agreeing is the case for a while now. Many more points could be made, but I don’t see much to disagree with here, so don’t understand what you think is so fundamentally wrong.
Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda. The U.S. Military Bombs in the Twenty-First Century
Excellent article! We should turn our military bases in the middle east into camps for the refugees. Fat chance, with even Bernie saying we must “crush ISIS”. Yeah, like we did the Taliban.
An article illustrating the biased and selective reporting in US media of Israeli-Palestinian interactions.
I don’t attribute too much influence to 1400 to 2500 year old texts on behavior today. People in all religions are selective what texts the follow and which ones they ignore. But for those who do emphasize the influence of religious texts in promoting violent behavior, a comparative examination of the texts is essential. I have read the Bible and the Quran, and my impression is that there is more violence in the Bible. Here is a data mining textal analysis study that not only confirms that there is more violence killing and destruction in the Bible than the Quran, but that there are more expressions of joy, trust, and forgiveness in the Quran. The article is rather sketchy and I would be interested if anyone knows of other studies on this question. Surely scientists who claim that Islam is the greatest danger in the world, have done some quantitative textual analysis of the holy scriptures of each faith?
Harris has and concludes that the the god of the old testament is the the worst figure in fiction (or is it Dawkins who said that?). Regardless, it’s not Harris’ argument. He would agree that both books have terrible things in them. His point is that the vast majority of Christians now mostly cherry pick around the bad stuff, while the percentage of Muslims who don’t is much higher and this is what makes Islam a more problematic religion right now than Christianity. This is of course debatable, but the argument about which book is worse seems irrelevant.
I think Harris is largely correct, because there does seem to be a greater percentage of Muslims that take their book literally. But I also think it matters little to what we should do in response, as it’s causal impact on the level of terrorism is minor compared to the other factors we’ve discussed ad nauseam.
Sadly, Paxton, your blatant goading has exposed you and your passive-aggressive MO, not me. I’m not sure why you have camped out on Heather’s blog with your one-note mission to convert her and her readers to your pro-Palestinian agenda, but it gets enormously tiring to find every post hijacked (Babies Galore? Really?) and every comment section reading like Groundhog Day. I’m sure you could find a more single-issue-oriented site where they’d be glad to have you.
How on earth could you have “hurt my feelings?” Is that a characterization you’d use for men who reacted the same way I did to the defamatory, evidence-lacking, insinuating accusations you’ve leveled at me? I’m sorry, but if I had ever wanted to engage with your brow-beating I’d hastily change my mind after such classic trollism. “Outrage” far more characterizes my initial response to your calumny, but I hate to give you that much satisfaction. You’ve displayed your true colors and blown any pretense to reasoned argument you might have had.
Advice to those tired of the same old same old from Paxton: don’t feed the troll.
Heather, I apologize if I’ve broken your posting roolz.
Aack! To all who’ve read my comment above, I’d like to confess that I misread Paxton’s post to me about the fate of Israel. I had understood it to mean that I somehow favored warfare; when in fact he correctly construed that I feared for Israel’s very existence.
Ironically, including that second quote of his was a last-minute, now very much regretted decision. I wrote the first version of my “outrage” post with only the statement that contains the incredible smear he dared to ask me, to wit, do I consider some human lives more valuable than others. At the last minute I misread the other post and added the second quote to my draft post, changing singulars to plurals, etc., wherever necessary.
I apologize for misreading the second sentence of Paxton’s that I quoted. I stand by everything else.
That was very gracious of you Diane. I fear for Israel’s existence also. That’s why I think a change of course is so essential.
My question was not intended to smear you, but to goad you into addressing the issue, as I had to your questions. I was no more accusing you of valuing some lives over others than you were accusing me of wanting to abandon Israel to its fate.
And finally, I acknowledge my “sorry I hurt your feelings” was snarky and I apologize. But it was in no way sexist and I would have said the same to a man. In fact, I’m now suffering from some hurt feelings myself.
OK, now I’ll leave you alone. Best wishes.
Thank you. Peace, Pax.
Wow Diane! I can understand if you find me irritating, but what have I said to you to justify this? What “defamatory, evidence-lacking, insinuating accusations” have I leveled at you?
I hope anyone who reads Diane’s last comment will also read the rest of our exchange on this post, before you come to any conclusions. It’s distributed and you may have to search some. Her quotes from me are only meaningful if viewed from the whole conversation.
Diane, I will not reference you again on Heather’s Homilies, and I suggest that if you want to enjoy the conversation here without the outrage I have aroused, please just skip over my comments.
Hi Heather. Hope you’re ok. Miss you. Sounds of silence. pax
I love that song! Thanks!
I was away for a couple of days, then it took me a couple of days to recover, then my site got migrated to another server, and now I can’t get into the Admin for my site, and my e-mails to the people who look after the server are being ignored, and I don’t know what to do, and I’m seriously unhappy and rather grumpy about it. Still, it meant you got spared a post about Michelle Bachmann.
I’ve no idea when I’ll be back.
I can’t wait to hear what you have to say about Trump’s latest. Never seen anything like him before.