Islam and the Misuses of Ecstasy

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I have long struggled to understand how smart, well-educated liberals can fail to perceive the unique dangers of Islam. In The End of Faith, I argued that such people don’t know what it’s like to really believe in God or Paradise—and hence imagine that no one else actually does. The symptoms of this blindness can be quite shocking. For instance, I once ran into the anthropologist Scott Atran after he had delivered one of his preening and delusional lectures on the origins of jihadist terrorism. According to Atran, people who decapitate journalists, filmmakers, and aid workers to cries of “Alahu akbar!” or blow themselves up in crowds of innocents are led to misbehave this way not because of their deeply held beliefs about jihad and martyrdom but because of their experience of male bonding in soccer clubs and barbershops. (Really.) So I asked Atran directly:

“Are you saying that no Muslim suicide bomber has ever blown himself up with the expectation of getting into Paradise?”

“Yes,” he said, “that’s what I’m saying. No one believes in Paradise.”



At a moment like this, it is impossible to know whether one is in the presence of mental illness or a terminal case of intellectual dishonesty. Atran’s belief—apparently shared by many people—is so at odds with what can be reasonably understood from the statements and actions of jihadists that it admits of no response. The notion that no one believes in Paradise is far crazier than a belief in Paradise.

But there are deeper ironies to be found here. Whenever I criticize Islam, I am attacked for my purported failure to empathize with Muslims throughout the world—both the peaceful billion, who are blameless, and the radicals, whose legitimate political grievances and social ties cause them to act out in regrettable ways. Consider this standard calumny from Glenn Greenwald:

How anyone can read any of these passages and object to claims that Harris’ worldview is grounded in deep anti-Muslim animus is staggering. He is at least as tribal, jingoistic, and provincial as those he condemns for those human failings, as he constantly hails the nobility of his side while demeaning those Others.

The irony is that it is the secular liberals like Greenwald who are lacking in empathy. As I have pointed out many times before, they fail to empathize with the primary victims of Islam—the millions of Muslim women, freethinkers, homosexuals, and apostates who suffer most under the taboos and delusions of this faith. But secular liberals also fail to understand and empathize with the devout. 

Let us see where the path of empathy actually leads…

(several videos on the link to source)

Written By: Sam Harris
continue to source article at samharris.org

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  1. Great post. I can’t wait to read Sam’s next book. He tweeted this June 1st: “Just delivered the manuscript for my next book, Waking Up: Science, Skepticism, Spirituality… publication in 2014.”

  2. Nice article. As Mr. Harris says people do or can be made to do all sorts of things in ecstatic states of mind. Just like hypnosis. And we have all seen people behaving like idiots in such states. Opium of the masses etc.

  3. Well presented and argued, as ever, by Sam Harris, but I can’t say I enjoyed hearing the beautiful devotional chanting for the fear of sheer numbers of the faithful who appear so deeply devoted to Allah, his Prophet and the Koran, all three of them totally imaginary. It sends a shiver down my spine to see the faithful so engrossed in the message from an imaginary Being while all around them that message is a cause of the greatest suffering for many of their fellow believers and non-believers alike.

  4. Consider behaviour of Christians in WWI, WWII, Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Quite often they took risks which were all but suicidal. I think it highly unlikely lunch with Jesus was the prime motive.

    America attacked and pounded two countries for over a decade. It was shooting fish in a barrel. It seems only logical to me that their victims would for the motive of protecting their families would use suicide missions if they gave them an edge, more Americans killed per person lost. It is rational behaviour. Even bees do it. Terrorist attacks on Americans and American civilians are a rational response to Americans killing Afghan and Iraqi civilians. You don’t need religion to explain the behaviour. What part religion plays, I don’t know.

    I think most Americans deliberately blind themselves to the provocation they authored. They feign stupidity about the obvious motives of their victims. They like to pretend no one could disprove of their behaviour enough to kill them, unless they were insane. It is an absurd vanity.

    • In reply to #4 by Roedy:

      Consider behaviour of Christians in WWI, WWII, Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

      Quite often they took risks which were all but suicidal. I think it highly unlikely lunch with Jesus was the prime motive.

      America attacked and pounded two countries for over a decade. It was shooting fish in a barrel….

      ” America attacked and pounded two countries for over a decade “

      We attacked and pounded the Vietnamese for over a decade and it should be rather obvious what part religion plays in suicide bombing. One example of the dichotomy here, the one between pounding Islam and other faith types. The difference is not even subtle.

      • In reply to #5 by Neodarwinian:

        We attacked and pounded the Vietnamese for over a decade and it should be rather obvious what part religion plays in suicide bombing. One example of the dichotomy here, the one between pounding Islam and other faith types. The difference is not even subtle.

        Believe me if there had been a significant vietnamese population in the US and if they had the means to organize things would have looked quitte different. Even though they were Atheist-Marxists…

        • In reply to #52 by wegoweg:

          In reply to #5 by Neodarwinian:

          We attacked and pounded the Vietnamese for over a decade and it should be rather obvious what part religion plays in suicide bombing. One example of the dichotomy here, the one between pounding Islam and other faith types. The difference is not even subtle.

          Believe…

          No, I don’t believe you.

          I was talking about there, not here and the worst incidents here have come from there. The population of islamists is a drop in the bucket here. We sure pounded the Native Americans and they are here. Were are their suicide bombers?

          Your apologies for these nut bags smacks of learned, not experienced.

    • In reply to #4 by Roedy:

      Consider behaviour of Christians in WWI, WWII, Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

      Quite often they took risks which were all but suicidal. I think it highly unlikely lunch with Jesus was the prime motive.

      America attacked and pounded two countries for over a decade. It was shooting fish in a barrel… Terrorist attacks on Americans and American civilians are a rational response to Americans killing Afghan and Iraqi civilians. You don’t need religion to explain the behaviour. ….

      Nor did Christians in any of those wars invoke the “lunch with Jesus” objective. Unlike Muslim combatants who miss no opportunity to announce lunch with Allahu Akbar not to mention with the 72 virgins also in Allah’s catalogue of rewards. But you will need religion at least to explain the attacks by Muslims on other (considered the wrong kind of) Muslims.

    • I strongly agree with the view that it is rational behavior to suicide-bomb those who make your and your family’s (or countrymen’s) lives not worth living.

      In reply to #4 by Roedy:

      Consider behaviour of Christians in WWI, WWII, Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

      Quite often they took risks which were all but suicidal. I think it highly unlikely lunch with Jesus was the prime motive.

      America attacked and pounded two countries for over a decade. It was shooting fish in a barrel….

    • In reply to #4 by Roedy:

      Consider behaviour of Christians in WWI, WWII, Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

      Quite often they took risks which were all but suicidal. I think it highly unlikely lunch with Jesus was the prime motive.

      America attacked and pounded two countries for over a decade. It was shooting fish in a barrel….

      Before I start I have some sympathy for your views here, however, Two things

      ‘All but suicidal’ and actually strapping a bomb to yourself are very different things. In WW1 for example it was made very clear that if you didn’t charge out of the trenches you would be shot and a coward. While ever there is a slim hope of survival people can often endure and risk much.

      What I suspect religion does in this case is two things 1. It gives that shy hope where none otherwise exists – you will be rewarded in heaven. 2. It provides the shame if you refuse. I suspect that very few atheists would be so easily motivated to blow themselves and often many innocent civilians otherwise. And here we see religions part again in encouraging a view that it is okay if a toddler get her head blown off because they will go straight to paradise as will any innocent civilians or a view I have heard fundamentalist Muslims expose “they all share the guilt – none are innocent” (in this case referring to Jews).

      Many countries have been oppressed by imperial powers and don’t resort to suicide bombing. Buddhist monks have been know to set fire to themselves, killing themselves not others. Why is this a characteristic Tibetan monks, rather than setting off explosives? It seems clear to me that both parties are suffering from imperialist powers taking over their country, the flavor of their self destruction seems to me to say something about their religion.

      • In reply to #16 by Reckless Monkey:

        In reply to #4 by Roedy:

        Consider behaviour of Christians in WWI, WWII, Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

        Quite often they took risks which were all but suicidal. I think it highly unlikely lunch with Jesus was the prime motive.

        America attacked and pounded two countries for over a decade. It was…

        The Tibetans have fought wars against China. So you don’t think that Buddhists could ever do things like suicide attacks?

        • In reply to #19 by The Grapes of Roth:

          In reply to #16 by Reckless Monkey:

          In reply to #4 by Roedy:

          Consider behaviour of Christians in WWI, WWII, Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

          Quite often they took risks which were all but suicidal. I think it highly unlikely lunch with Jesus was the prime motive.

          America attacked and pounded two…

          So then why, if not joining for virgins and lunch with Allah what WAS the reason they gave- he (S.Atran) never answered in his rebuff.

        • In reply to #19 by The Grapes of Roth:

          In reply to #16 by Reckless Monkey:

          In reply to #4 by Roedy:

          Consider behaviour of Christians in WWI, WWII, Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

          Quite often they took risks which were all but suicidal. I think it highly unlikely lunch with Jesus was the prime motive.

          America attacked and pounded two…

          Didn’t say that, for all I know they have in the past. I suggested in the case a monk immolating themselves, rather than strapping bombs to themselves and blowing up Innocents they have chosen a different form of suicide which seems at least in part religiously motivated (ie. it seems to be monks doing it and not your average Tibetan). It seems worth noting that these methods of dealing with imperialist powers are very different. The Japanese of course had suicide bombers however they were targeted at military targets.

    • In reply to #4 by Roedy:

      Consider behaviour of Christians in WWI, WWII, Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

      Quite often they took risks which were all but suicidal. I think it highly unlikely lunch with Jesus was the prime motive.

      America attacked and pounded two countries for over a decade. It was shooting fish in a barrel….

      America attacked and pounded two countries for over a decade. It was shooting fish in a barrel. It seems only logical to me that their victims would for the motive of protecting their families would use suicide missions if they gave them an edge, more Americans killed per person lost. It is rational behaviour. Even bees do it. Terrorist attacks on Americans and American civilians are a rational response to Americans killing Afghan and Iraqi civilians. You don’t need religion to explain the behaviour. What part religion plays, I don’t know.

      I think most Americans deliberately blind themselves to the provocation they authored. They feign stupidity about the obvious motives of their victims. They like to pretend no one could disprove of their behaviour enough to kill them, unless they were insane. It is an absurd vanity.

      If this were true, one has to wonder, considering their involvement in Afghanistan, how Russia is not a larger target than the USA or the West in general.

      BTW, Have you read, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’?

    • I think you are letting your anti-Americanism get the best of you. By far the vast majority of the victims of suicide bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan are Shiites or other Muslims. How does that fit into your “rational response to American atrocities” theory?

  5. Sam Harris is a far better person than I am. If Scott Atran had given such a credulity straining answer to me, I would have slapped him really hard to make sure if he is for real. People all over the world suffer from poverty and oppression, yet only one group has people blowing themselves up in crowded public spaces.

    • In reply to #7 by Negasta:

      Sam Harris is a far better person than I am. If Scott Atran had given such a credulity straining answer to me, I would have slapped him really hard to make sure if he is for real. People all over the world suffer from poverty and oppression, yet only one group has people blowing themselves up in cr…

      Unfortunately, it seems Harris is being very dishonest about this conversation with Atran. Moreover, he evidentially has not read Atran’s work, did not understand it or has read it and is misrepresenting it. Considering how Harris complains so much about how he is misrepresented, it would be very disappointing if it is a case of Harris misrepresenting another’s work.

      Atran responded to Harris’ distortions:

      “Sam Harris posted a recent blog about my views on Jihadis that is typically dishonest. What I told him was exactly what every leader of a jihadi group I interviewed told me, namely, that anyone seeking to become a martyr in order to obtain virgins in paradise would be rejected outright. I also said that (and have written several articles and a book) saying that although ideology is important, the best predictor (in the sense of a regression analysis) of willingness to commit an act of jiahdi violence is if one belongs to an action-oriented social network).”

      https://www.facebook.com/scott.atran

      • In reply to #9 by The Grapes of Roth:

        In reply to #7 by Negasta:

        Sam Harris is a far better person than I am. If Scott Atran had given such a credulity straining answer to me, I would have slapped him really hard to make sure if he is for real. People all over the world suffer from poverty and oppression, yet only one group has people…

        Nah, that doesn’t work for me.
        If Scott Atran was really interested in the “real reason” people join jihadi groups, he would have said ” if they don’t join for that, than why do they join?”.

        The most probable reason would be for the glory of Allah. lunch with Allah (and a mess-o-virgins) – for the glory of Allah, just about semantic.

        • In reply to #17 by KRKBAB:

          In reply to #9 by The Grapes of Roth:

          In reply to #7 by Negasta:

          Sam Harris is a far better person than I am. If Scott Atran had given such a credulity straining answer to me, I would have slapped him really hard to make sure if he is for real. People all over the world suffer from poverty and opp…

          Indeed, there is no greater evidence of Atran’s disinterest in understanding suicide bombing than the fact that he a has spent years studying the phenomenon, interviewing failed and would-be jihadis and writing numerous books and peer reviewed articles on the subject.

          • In reply to #18 by The Grapes of Roth:

            Indeed, there is no greater evidence of Atran’s disinterest in understanding suicide bombing than the fact that he a has spent years studying the phenomenon, interviewing failed and would-be jihadis and writing numerous books and peer reviewed articles on the subject.

            Yes but; how many successful suicide bombers has he interviewed?

            Flippant, maybe, but they were the devout believers who evidently took Allah’s promise to the bank. (Or so they thought)

          • In reply to #21 by inquisador:

            In reply to #18 by The Grapes of Roth:

            Indeed, there is no greater evidence of Atran’s disinterest in understanding suicide bombing than the fact that he a has spent years studying the phenomenon, interviewing failed and would-be jihadis and writing numerous books and peer reviewed articles on the…

            Well, he probably hasn’t interviewed your star witness, Hassan Butt.

          • In reply to #24 by The Grapes of Roth:

            In reply to #21 by inquisador:

            In reply to #18 by The Grapes of Roth:

            Indeed, there is no greater evidence of Atran’s disinterest in understanding suicide bombing than the fact that he a has spent years studying the phenomenon, interviewing failed and would-be jihadis and writing numerous books an

            Well, he probably hasn’t interviewed your star witness, Hassan Butt.

            Indeed. If you could think of just one name that would cast doubt on the research methods of Atran, who would it be?
            I submit that Butthead, with his lies and spin is a good example of the many who set out to make fools of researchers, however smart and sincere, by leading them to the wrong conclusions about the origins of jihadist terrorism.

            What is wrong with interviewing people and studying their testimonies? Are people who get into suicide bombing generally truthful and honest in giving reasons for their activities? Surely it’s generally difficult or impossible to know whether such people are sincere or trying to deceive for the sake of their own agenda. Is there anyone we know of who typifies this deceitful m.o.?? Yes, there is Hassan, but only because he has admitted as much.

            Now I admit that we can’t be too dogmatic but I do believe there is enough evidence to suggest that many or most SBs are in it for the religious gratification or ‘ecstasy’ as described powerfully by Sam; that they are the results of Islamic brainwashing, and that they often try to disguise the fact by means of grievance mongering.

      • First of all, Atran’s reply does not directly contradict Harris’ question and his reported answer:
        “Are you saying that no Muslim suicide bomber has ever blown himself up with the expectation of getting into Paradise?”
        “Yes,” he said, “that’s what I’m saying. No one believes in Paradise.” The promise of Paradise is the sine qua non of Islamic teachings.
        Second, Atran is taking the word of jihadi leaders at face value. He is assuming that they are men of integrity who do not lie. This is questionable.
        In reply to #9 by The Grapes of Roth:

        In reply to #7 by Negasta:

        Sam Harris is a far better person than I am. If Scott Atran had given such a credulity straining answer to me, I would have slapped him really hard to make sure if he is for real. People all over the world suffer from poverty and oppression, yet only one group has people…

  6. The point Harris makes about many liberals being seemingly totally unconcerned about atrocities inflicted by Muslims on other Muslims is a very important one that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, and I think needs airing more often.

    I’m not talking about Sunni v Shia, which could be regarded as separate religions anyway. I’m referring to the way they indoctrinate each generation, the penalties for apostasy, the treatment of women, the “honour” killings, etc. Whatever anyone may think about 9/11, drones, or the Prism revelations, none of that comes close to the horror inflicted upon Muslims by Islam, day after day, year after year.

    • In reply to #8 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:
      The Shia vs Sunni thing is not really a religious dispute. They are not angry about differences in doctrine. They are furious that the other group slit their kids’ throats for no reason. It is a ping pong revenge that goes on forever. Americans have inserted themselves into this endless revenge without realising just what they were getting themselves in for. It is a religious dispute in the same sense the violence in Northern Ireland was about religion.

      There was a foiled terrorist attack a few km from where I live here in Victoria, BC, Canada. Oddly, person after person interviewed on the radio could not think of a motive, even after it was announced the suspects were furious over Canada’s role in the Afghan war. One woman, a neighbour of the terrorists, was convinced Canada had only only done peacekeeping in Afghanistan, purely for the benefit of the Afghans to protect them from themselves, so Afghans love Canadians.

      I met an Egyptian man who tried to explain to me the culture of revenge in the middle east. He told me a story about some people he knew. A man killed another man’s 21 year old son. The aggrieved father waited until the first man’s infant son was 21, then he killed him. He wanted the other man to feel as deeply hurt as he was.

  7. Belief is the problem. Admittedly Islamic belief seems to be the current problem, and it is probably worse than most, but think of the past.

    The nearly two hundred years of war in Europe associated with the Reformation, not to mention burning at the stake, torture etc. The blood-letting in Russia as a result of the clash between those who believed in atheistic Marxism and those who believed in Monarchical Christianity, the belief in King and Empire that informed the British in the Great War, the occult beliefs about the racial superiority and historical destiny of the Teutonic race, the destruction of the Native American cultures and people, justified by (mostly) Catholic missionary zeal, the massive death toll in the Tai Ping rebellion in China, the result of Hong Xiuquan’s millenarian religious fantasies.

    Obviously, and indisputably, there were historical and material conditions which pointed to,
    and supported, these events, but belief gave them the extremely violent fanaticism which they exhibited. I do not believe that the West could have generated and sustained its excessive reaction to Communism, had religious belief not been co opted into the equation. Of course the cruelty of Soviet treatment of religious people fuelled that particular fire.

    Religion is not necessary to belief, but it certainly helps it. That is why we must be extremely careful about atheism. It is non-belief, but it can so easily take on the psychological characteristics of belief, with the attendant fanaticism, amorality and violence.

    • In reply to #11 by Kevin Murrell:

      Belief is the problem. Admittedly Islamic belief seems to be the current problem, and it is probably worse than most, but think of the past.

      The nearly two hundred years of war in Europe associated with the Reformation, not to mention burning at the stake, torture etc. The blood-letting in Russia…

      The problem with saying “belief is the problem” is that non-belief is not an option. To get through the day requires us to believe all kinds of things that we can’t prove scientifically. Nor does some kind of nihilistic-atheistic worldview seem particular viable, in view of the ongoing demographic extinction of secular peoples. Until atheists come up with a belief system that makes life worth living, as reflected in the willingness of secular people to reproduce themselves, their criticisms will be somewhat dubious. Humans CRAVE belief and passion, and while the price of passionate belief is often conflict, without it life may not be worth living at all.

      • Non-belief in gods/religion certainly is an option, and the best option.

        Is there anything that we can prove scientifically? There are certainly scientific theories that are
        supported by so much evidence that you would be foolish to deny them.
        What are these things you need to believe to get you through the day?

        Nihilistic-atheist world view – this is a common assertion of religious apologists, that for atheists, life has no meaning or value.
        Although perhaps for the average religious apologist, life would have no meaning or value if they lost their faith.
        Perhaps you need to broaden your horizons a little.

        “Until atheists come up with a belief system that makes life worth living, as reflected in the willingness of secular people
        to reproduce themselves, their criticisms will be somewhat dubious”
        I guess we just have to keep repeating ATHEISM IS NOT A BELIEF SYSTEM.

        I think you could remove all those faith-based beliefs and there would still be plenty of things to get passionate about and
        there would probably still be plenty of conflict – but at least you would have removed some frequent excuses.

        In reply to #27 by Imperius:

        In reply to #11 by Kevin Murrell:

        Belief is the problem. Admittedly Islamic belief seems to be the current problem, and it is probably worse than most, but think of the past.

        The nearly two hundred years of war in Europe associated with the Reformation, not to mention burning at the stake, tortur…

      • In reply to #27 by Imperius:

        In reply to #11 by Kevin Murrell:

        Belief is the problem. Admittedly Islamic belief seems to be the current problem, and it is probably worse than most, but think of the past.

        The nearly two hundred years of war in Europe associated with the Reformation, not to mention burning at the stake, tortur…

        I have written about this before. A bit of the dreaded linguistic philosophy. The word belief is used very loosely; you can believe in god, the fairies in your garden, or the literal truth of the bible. You can also believe in love, kindness, freedom or, most importantly, the sublime game of cricket.

        The two groups are very different. In the first group you are asserting something to be the case; you could in theory test the existence of these things. You could run into god in a pub, or more likely a madhouse, you could meet a fairy in your garden, as I often have after a heavy night, or slowly ancient texts and archaeological evidence could be uncovered which establish the reality of the bible’s stories. All these things are very unlikely to happen.

        On the other hand, with the second group, you are not asserting anything about the existence or otherwise, of the things in which you believe. What you are saying is that you like and support kindness, freedom and the sublime game. Probably you are also saying that you think that these things help society and people, and make life more pleasant, fulfilling and interesting.

        When Imperius asks for a belief system which makes life worth living, I suspect that the beliefs which he has in mind belong mostly to the second group, things which make life more pleasant, fulfilling and interesting. Many theists argue that that is not achievable without at least one belief of the first kind, some form of divine existence. I think that they are wrong in this.

        In one of my many roles, I was once a trades union official. I often encountered employers who claimed not to believe in unions, in spite of me sitting opposite them, with a maniacal grin on my face. What they were really saying is that they wished that I would f*!# off!

  8. “What I told him was exactly what every leader of a jihadi group I interviewed told me, namely, that anyone seeking to become a martyr in order to obtain virgins in paradise would be rejected outright.”

    Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they.

    • In reply to #12 by papa lazaru:

      “What I told him was exactly what every leader of a jihadi group I interviewed told me, namely, that anyone seeking to become a martyr in order to obtain virgins in paradise would be rejected outright.”

      Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they.

      Yes, I was thinking the same thing.

      Of course, battles were won by killing the enemy. The object of those Quranic inducements was to render the Muslim soldiers fearless of death while killing the others. Not to waste their lives in hopeless onslaughts that give their lives away.

      Verily, Allâh has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties; for the price that theirs shall be the Paradise. They fight in Allâh’s Cause, so they kill (others) and are killed. It is a promise in truth which is binding on Him in the Taurât (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel) and the Qur’ân. And who is truer to his covenant than Allâh? Then rejoice in the bargain which you have concluded. That is the supreme success[].

      Q. 9:111 (Noble Quran)

    • In reply to #13 by progressive:

      Very weak argument in my view. Muslims really believe non believers will burn in the fires of hell? Is that it? Am I meant to be scared by that?

      That and all irrational beliefs. There is a distribution of such belief and muslim belief reaches into the tail of that distribution. Scared, no? Prepared to know that these people DO believe this nonsense is the wiser choice I think.

  9. Both sides are interpreting the motivations of the suicide bombers based on their own personal views about religion. Harris takes the words from the bombers themselves while Atran does from those who instruct and persuade them to do it. Harris could be wrong, although I don’t think he is, but to call him racist and Islamaphobic for taking the bombers at their word is typical of what liberals do these days. If you don’t agree with them you are either homophobic, racist, misogynistic, etc. It’s intellectual bullying.

    • In reply to #20 by —
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      U2tlcHRpYw==:

      Both sides are interpreting the motivations of the suicide bombers based on their own personal views about religion. Harris takes the words from the bombers themselves while Atran does from those who instruct and persuade them to do it. Harris could be wrong, although I don’t think he is, but to c…

      And another example of a person who has not read any of Atran’s work. The glaring difference between Atran’s work with Harris’ work is that Harris is merely supposing that there is a causal link between the religious views and teachings of jihadists and deliberately ignoring evidence to the contrary, whilst smearing the work of those who are arriving at separate conclusions and offering nothing to very little in the way of research of his own. Actually, Harris does not even take bombers at their word as he completely ignores all references that suicide bombers make to US/western foreign policy, which he feels plays no role whatsoever.

  10. Amazing article by SAM. What a great work to understand the ecstatic state. It seems to me that brainwashing through religion from child hood creates this delusional GOD in human brain. When in the form of masses humans try to connect to that part of brain which in reality does not exist. The person reciting or singing make a connection between himself and everyone’s delusional GOD. Everyone in this ecstatic state could be given orders that they may think coming to them from this delusional GOD.

  11. “I’m not talking about Sunni v Shia, which could be regarded as separate religions anyway. I’m referring to the way they indoctrinate each generation, the penalties for apostasy…”

    Q 2:256 states “there is no compulsion” in religion – yeah, Islam is tolerant! Not. Of course given what it states in 2:257; i.e., to put 2:256 into it’s “proper context”, 2:256 is not directed at Muslims, but non-Muslims.

    But anyway, if a Muslim does claim it is aimed at Muslims too, suggest that therefore it is effectively a licence to leave Islam – see how far you get with that one!

  12. Brilliantly perceptive piece! This is the sort of thing Sam really excels at, he knows how it feels for those who believe absolutely and understands the danger.

    Islam is the most absolutist of absolutist ideologies. It describes itself at the the last and final revelation of God’s word, immaculate and unimprovable.

      • In reply to #42 by Katy Cordeth:

        In reply to #31 by Peter Grant:

        Islam is the most absolutist of absolutist ideologies. It describes itself at the the last and final revelation of God’s word, immaculate and unimprovable.

        Yeah, because no other religion describes itself in such terms.

        Undoubtedly religious texts “improved”, became more efficient at their chosen tasks as time passed. The ragbag of just so stories, tribal identity myths and tribal law in the Torah, became much more focused in the New Testament, the aim being to deliver happy sheeple to their shepherds. The New Testament, though, was somewhat compromised by its ambition and the varieties of its stakeholders.The Koran, however, is beautifully honed and efficient in delivering the soldiers that were needed for the conquering of the Arab peninsula. I think it not helpful to deny this sleek efficiency.

        What is equally unhelpful, though, is not noticing how intellectually non-rigorous the religiously inclined often are, failing to be bound by words that create problems for them. Many modest Muslims and Muslim communities blithely avoid the detail that doesn’t mesh with their innate values. For them and those who might want to be them (less dogmatic…kinder) it is hugely discouraging to assert a quasi-supernatural power to mere words.

        The sleek efficient words do matter, though, in the very ready license they grant to clerics and other political exploiters. Until we target these people first, and clearly, with our ire, we may be incurring way too much collateral damage with marketplace condemnations.

        Sam is trying for political finesse here. He can do better still. Far, far more often we need to see what individuals say and condemn (or praise) what individuals say. General complaints have little political traction, no point of leverage.

        Edited for big error in the meaning of the second para.

      • In reply to #42 by Katy Cordeth:

        That’s why I rate the Catholic church the second most evil religious institution, but at least the church can and does evolve, slowly. Islam is much more firmly fastened to its ancient and unchanging ideology.

        • In reply to #60 by Peter Grant:

          That’s why I rate the Catholic church the second most evil religious institution, but at least the church can and does evolve, slowly. >Islam is much more firmly fastened to its ancient and unchanging ideology.

          Only the 2nd? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Islam is the biggest threat to the world, but Christianity is the biggest threat to the classroom. Christianity tops my list because the world will generally look after itself, but children have no choice in how they’re educated.

          • In reply to #63 by Virgin Mary:

            Islam is the biggest threat to the world, but Christianity is the biggest threat to the classroom.

            Only evangelical protestant fundies don’t want evolution taught in schools, in that way they’re a lot like the Islamists.

  13. I don’t believe that suicide bombers blow themselves up purely to gain entry into their paradise, I believe their main motivation is hate for their intended victims. Paradise is the reward, but the reward is not the motivation.

    • In reply to #32 by Virgin Mary:

      I don’t believe that suicide bombers blow themselves up purely to gain entry into their paradise, I believe their main motivation is hate for their intended victims. Paradise is the reward, but the reward is not the motivation.

      Huh!!

      When is a reward not a motivator?!?

      • In reply to #34 by Neodarwinian:

        Huh!!

        When is a reward not a motivator?!?

        What are the 5 pillars of Islam? Is one of them, “blow shit up and thy shall pass through the pearly gates”? No, it’s not.

        To gain entry to paradise a Muslim must follow/believe the 5 pillars and if they don’t then the gates remain firmly shut. A suicide bomber who blows himself up in the name of Allah must be by definition a good Muslim. He could smoke as many infidels as he wants but if he’s not done a Haj he ain’t getting in. Therefore, getting into paradise isn’t going to be a motivation because as far as he’s concerned he’s going anyway.

        • In reply to #36 by Virgin Mary:

          In reply to #34 by Neodarwinian:

          Huh!!

          When is a reward not a motivator?!?

          What are the 5 pillars of Islam? Is one of them, “blow shit up and thy shall pass through the pearly gates”? No, it’s not.

          To gain entry to paradise a Muslim must follow/believe the 5 pillars and if they don’t then the ga…

          ” When is a reward not a motivator?!? “

          This was the question and I am truly not interested in 5 pillars bafflegab.

          • In reply to #38 by Neodarwinian:

            ” When is a reward not a motivator?!? “

            This was the question and I am truly not interested in 5 pillars bafflegab.

            Oh my god, your ignorance is actually quite disconcerting.

            Islam is built around the 5 pillars:

            1) Belief in Allah and Mohammed as his messenger.
            2) Adherence to the salah.
            3) Giving zakat.
            4) Observing Ramadan.
            5) Going on a Hajj.

            Do you see any mention of blowing people up? The above is Islam, if you live your life in accordance to those 5 tenets then you go to paradise, miss out one and you don’t.

            You have to be a good Muslim to get into paradise not blow people up therefore paradise cannot be a motivation for blowing people up because you don’t go there simply for doing so.

          • In reply to #44 by Virgin Mary:

            In reply to #38 by Neodarwinian:

            ” When is a reward not a motivator?!? “

            This was the question and I am truly not interested in 5 pillars bafflegab.

            Oh my god, your ignorance is actually quite disconcerting.

            Islam is built around the 5 pillars:

            1) Belief in Allah and Mohammed as his messenger….

            ” Oh my god, your ignorance is actually quite disconcerting. “

            No, my indifference might be disconcerting to you. Read much?

            ” When is a reward not a motivator?!? “

            Is still the question and your dancing around it by parsing delusion is not satisfactory.

          • In reply to #54 by Neodarwinian:

            ” When is a reward not a motivator?!? “

            This was the question and I am truly not interested in 5 pillars bafflegab.

            Simply put, you cannot understand the subject if you’re asking that question. Islam means “submission” (not literally, that’s just the closest translation). Muslims submit to the will of Allah and the wafflings of Mohammed. They do so without question. They believe that Allah is in their heads and can tell the difference between pure intentions and those intended to score brownie points.

            That point aside…… When is a reward not a motivator for martyrdom? When the reward is for completely different actions to that of martyrdom. Blowing themselves up is not rewarded by entry to paradise, being a good Muslim is. They cannot be motivated to martyr themselves by entry to paradise because that reward is forthcoming anyway. In my opinion they’re motivated by hate of the infidels. There are separate rewards for martyrdom but the details are sketchy. Some people say that a martyr’s family are guaranteed entry to paradise as well, but I’m not 100% on that.

          • In reply to #61 by Virgin Mary:

            In reply to #54 by Neodarwinian:

            ” When is a reward not a motivator?!? “

            This was the question and I am truly not interested in 5 pillars bafflegab.

            Simply put, you cannot understand the subject if you’re asking that question. Islam means “submission” (not literally, that’s just the closest trans…

            Obviously you have problems with plain English.

            I asked, When is a reward not a motivator? Nothing else and not involving any pillars of islam or martyrdom and certainly nothing else in the realm of delusion.

            We are quite through with this as you do not understand what I am talking about, or you are practicing obfuscation.

          • In reply to #88 by Neodarwinian:

            Obviously you have problems with plain English.

            I asked, When is a reward not a motivator? Nothing else.

            I have problems with pain English? Did I or did I not answer that question back in comment 61?

            “When is a reward not a motivator for martyrdom? When the reward is for completely different actions to that of martyrdom.”

        • In reply to #36 by Virgin Mary:

          In reply to #34 by Neodarwinian:

          Huh!!

          When is a reward not a motivator?!?

          What are the 5 pillars of Islam? Is one of them, “blow shit up and thy shall pass through the pearly gates”? No, it’s not.

          To gain entry to paradise a Muslim must follow/believe the 5 pillars and if they don’t then the ga…

          From the quoran.

          Q4:74 ” Let those fight in the way of allah who sell the life of this world for the other.Whoso fights in the way of allah be the slain or be victorious on his we shall bestow a vast reward” no mention of the 5 pillars there.

          Q3 :157 ” And if ye are slain or die in the way of allah forgiveness and mercy from allah are far better than all they could amass.” I’m sure you know what forgiveness means.

          Q9:111 “Allah hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because the garden will be theirs they shall fight in the way of allah and shall slay and be slain rejoice them in your bargain that ye have for that is the supreme triumph”. Virgins are on the menu I was informed.Lol.

          Q9:29 FIGHT THOSE WHO BELIEVE NOT IN ALLAH NOR ACKNOWLEDGE THE RELIGION OF TRUTH.

          • Could you find no mention of the five pillars? Was there perhaps a five commandments section?
            Virgin Mary seemed very sure on the issue. There is a danger that when she meets Big Al he will
            send her to the room marked Hell for daring to presume – I’ve heard these monotheistic Gods
            can be really nasty.

            In reply to #39 by kamel:

            In reply to #36 by Virgin Mary:

            In reply to #34 by Neodarwinian:

            Huh!!

            When is a reward not a motivator?!?

            What are the 5 pillars of Islam? Is one of them, “blow shit up and thy shall pass through the pearly gates”? No, it’s not.

            To gain entry to paradise a Muslim must follow/believe the 5 pill…

          • In reply to #41 by Marktony:

            Could you find no mention of the five pillars? Was there perhaps a five commandments section?
            Virgin Mary seemed very sure on the issue. There is a danger that when she meets Big Al he will
            send her to the room marked Hell for daring to presume – I’ve heard these monotheistic Gods
            can be really nasty.

            A quote from the bible:

            “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD”

            I have found an alternative to Pascal’s Wager. I don’t need to believe in God and there’s no consequence for me not believing in God, I don’t even have to live a good life, in fact my belief that Jesus was a son of a whore matters not. All that matters is that I keep my dick and bollocks in good condition and I shall pass into heaven.

            Because it says “look after your meat and two veg” in the bible does that mean that’s all you’ve got to do and you shall be rewarded for doing it? No, it doesn’t.

            So do you think that living a life according to one cherry picked sentence from the Quran means you’re a good Muslim who will get into paradise? Nope. You’ve got to be a good Muslim in order to get into paradise and you can only be a good Muslim if you adhere to the 5 pillars of Islam.

          • ” Because it says “look after your meat and two veg” in the bible does that mean that’s all you’ve got to do and you shall be rewarded for doing it? No, it doesn’t. “

            How do you know? Looking after your bollocks may have been the most important advice that Yahweh was trying to give
            to his people. Did he not create us in his own image – perhaps he is rather proud of how he intelligently designed those
            bollocks. Indeed, he might say they are the dogs bollocks!

            In reply to #46 by Virgin Mary:

            In reply to #41 by Marktony:

            Could you find no mention of the five pillars? Was there perhaps a five commandments section?
            Virgin Mary seemed very sure on the issue. There is a danger that when she meets Big Al he will
            send her to the room marked Hell for daring to presume – I’ve heard these monot…

          • In reply to #70 by Marktony:

            ” Because it says “look after your meat and two veg” in the bible does that mean that’s all you’ve got to do and you shall be rewarded for doing it? No, it doesn’t. “

            How do you know? Looking after your bollocks may have been the most important advice that Yahweh was trying to give
            to his people….

            Quote by Marktony: “Indeed, he might say they are the dogs bollocks!”

            Wait!……Men are descended from dogs now? This all moves so fast.

          • In reply to #39 by kamel:

            From the quoran.

            Well done you can quote the Quran, have a cookie. I’m well aware of what the damned thing says because I’ve read it cover to cover. It took me two years to do so but I have done it.

            Let me put this as simply as I possibly can:

            Only good Muslims go to paradise and good Muslims are those who follow the 5 tenets of Islam. Suicide bombers who blow themselves up in the name of Allah MUST have adhered to the 5 tenets of Islam throughout their lives in order to get in; martyrdom does not circumvent the belief system.

          • In reply to #45 by Virgin Mary:

            In reply to #39 by kamel:

            From the quoran.

            Well done you can quote the Quran, have a cookie. I’m well aware of what the damned thing says because I’ve read it cover to cover. It took me two years to do so but I have done it.

            Well done for reading that damned thing,you deserve a jar full of cookies although it took tow years to accomplish.

            with no desire to test you knowledge and make you look foolish,my question to you is:

            How many times the 5 pillars were mentioned in the quoran and how many times jihad was mentioned in the same book?

          • In reply to #51 by kamel:
            >
            >

            Well done for reading that damned thing,you deserve a jar full of cookies although it took tow years to accomplish.

            with no desire to test you knowledge and make you look foolish,my question to you is:

            How many times the 5 pillars were mentioned in the quoran and how many times jihad was mentioned in the same book?

            It took me 2 years because it is the single most boring text on the face of the planet, and every time I put it down I was left with a deep seated hate of everything Islam. That’s not good when you live in Saudi Arabia.

            Easy. They aren’t mentioned once in the Quran as it’s the Hadith of Gabriel which deals with this. Mohammed, most likely after spending a day on the Gat, was given these instructions by the arch angel Gabriel.

            Jihad, on the other hand, is probably mentioned many times because it means “struggle” or is used to describe reaching a goal. We use it in the context of a jihaddist waging war upon the West because that’s the meaning being given to the word by the media over here. It doesn’t actually mean “kill all infidels” or anything like that. I can’t put a number on how many times it’s mentioned but I’d imagine it’s quite a few.

          • In reply to #59 by Virgin Mary:

            In reply to #51 by kamel:

            Well done for reading that damned thing,you deserve a jar full of cookies although it took tow years to accomplish.

            with no desire to test you knowledge and make you look foolish,my question to you is:

            How many times the 5 pillars were mentioned in the quoran and how man…

            In my Trotskyite youth, my parents used to talk about the evils of the Soviet Union, and Trotsky’s part in them. “Handsome is as handsome does,” was the catchphrase. Then I used to think that they were being very unfair and missing the point. Now I believe that they were right.

            It’s not a question of a few errant individuals, it’s a question of a whole section of the earth’s people, living in intolerant, dysfunctional states, with a moral code which is repressive, where science and liberal education are shunned, justice is based on revenge and violence, and where generally speaking women have no rights or worse. Some of these countries have immense wealth, yet people live in want and poverty, which is thought to be good for their souls, and gives the patriarchal warlords the chance to earn salvation by giving them a few crumbs from their over-laden, exploitative tables.

            It’s not the true message of Islam? Well, handsome is as handsome does.

          • batshit

            In reply to #39 by kamel:

            In reply to #36 by Virgin Mary:

            In reply to #34 by Neodarwinian:

            Huh!!

            When is a reward not a motivator?!?

            What are the 5 pillars of Islam? Is one of them, “blow shit up and thy shall pass through the pearly gates”? No, it’s not.

            To gain entry to paradise a Muslim must follow/believe the 5 pill…

  14. Sam Harris’s sophisticated and rigorous examination of religious violence beside his vast knowledge about the islamic faith is light years ahead of Mr Atran’s fuzzy understanding of jihadism.

  15. Mr. Harris’ tin ear to Mr. Atran’s observations and vice versa is what’s been fueling this bitch fight that’s been going on for going on seven years now. Those who have resisted the temptation to jump on either side’s fan boy/girl bandwagon are perhaps better positioned to recognize Harris and Atran both are approximately half right in their attributions of cause of what drives Jihadist terrorism.

  16. In reply to #6 by godsbuster:

    In reply to #4 by Roedy:

    Consider behaviour of Christians in WWI, WWII, Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Quite often they took risks which were all but suicidal. I think it highly unlikely lunch with Jesus was the prime motive.

    America attacked and pounded two countries for over a decade. It was shooting fish in a barrel… Terrorist attacks on Americans and American civilians are a rational response to Americans killing Afghan and Iraqi civilians. You don’t need religion to explain the behaviour. ….

    Nor did Christians in any of those wars invoke the “lunch with Jesus” objective. Unlike Muslim combatants who miss no opportunity to announce lunch with Allahu Akbar not to mention with the 72 virgins also in Allah’s catalogue of rewards…

    Christian combatants may be less vocal than their Muslim counterparts, but just because they don’t run into battle shouting “I really love Jesus; honestly, I think He’s just super!” is no reason to infer they’re not as motivated (or as unmotivated) by religion and don’t expect to receive their own reward in Heaven for blasting the enemy to bits.

    “Allahu Akbar” is a battle cry. Unless movies have lied to us, Native Americans used to whoop it up when they were engaging the cavalry, and in Vietnam they played Wagner’s Ritt der Walküren to scare Charlie out of his black pajamas and to rally the troops.

    War paint and war dances, battle cries, tattoos, those gourd things male members of ‘primitive’ tribes wear over their wangs; these are all things originally intended to intimidate the enemy and give a false sense of confidence, and a genuine sense of unity, to one’s own team.

    …But you will need religion at least to explain the attacks by Muslims on other (considered the wrong kind of) Muslims.

    Why? Sectarian violence can get along quite nicely thank you very much without the pernicious presence of religion. Why would you assume the animus that exists between denominations of Islam is caused by differences in interpretation of the Qur’an, rather than being a result of the sort of tribal behaviour which characterises not only every group of humans that has existed since our creation, but also the animal most closely related to us?

    Isn’t it more likely that the hostility came first and schisms within the religion arose from this existing antagonism, rather than the other way around? Or do we imagine everyone got along with each other just dandy in those parts of the world until copies of the Qur’an began appearing on the shelves of Sixth Century Barnes & Nobles?


    P.S. Allahu Akbar means “God is greater” or “God is [the] greatest”.

    It’s not Allah’s full name. :)

  17. A more detailed response from Atran to Harris distortions here:

    http://www.thisviewoflife.com/index.php/magazine/articles/here-he-goes-again-sam-harriss-falsehoods#.UbrEhPYqQcM.twitter

    I like this bit a lot

    “As a final note, I should also mention that I am a lead investigator on several multiyear, multidisciplinary field-based science projects sponsored by the Department of Defense, including “Motivation, Ideology, and the Social Process in Radicalization,” aspects of which are taught to military personnel from general officers down. And I am recurrently asked to give briefings on these subjects to the White House, Congress and allied governments. I know of no comparable demands or operational interest among the political, defense or intelligence agencies of the U.S. and its allies for Harris’s musings on religious ecstasy. In Harris’s strange worldview, which is admittedly popular among many who believe that reason’s mission is to end religion to save the species, failure to apply those musings to stop religiously-directed violence across the globe may well be a another sign of the “crazy” ideas that he regularly ascribes to those who refuse his truth.”

    Atran has brought to the attention of these audiences the successful methods of the Indonesians and others in tracking down terrorists before they act — hopefully the same methods will soon be embraced by powers that have historically preferred to use bombs to “solve” problems.

  18. Any religious belief can be bent into justifiying almost any action… Believers of any faith can be manipulated/convince themselves into believing that what they do is the will of God and that they will go to heaven for it. Moreover with enogh effort, it is easy to convince believers/non-belivers that any faith/non-faith they don’t belive in is crazy/evil/dangerous. Once you suceed in this it becomes much easier to justify any action however inhumane towards that group. This is what Harris shares with religious extremists.

    • In reply to #53 by wegoweg:

      Any religious belief can be bent into justifiying almost any action… Believers of any faith can be manipulated/convince themselves into believing that what they do is the will of God and that they will go to heaven for it. Moreover with enogh effort, it is easy to convince believers/non-belivers t…

      ” Once you suceed in this it becomes much easier to justify any action however inhumane towards that group. This is what Harris shares with religious extremists.”

      Would be risible if not so pitiful. Perhaps you need to proof read more often as this statement is quite disconnected from the reality of Harris sharing something with religious extremists. Inhumane?!?!

  19. One thing that really irks me is when people insist that a situation or argument is black and white, a false dichotomy. And that is something being demostrated here by the likes of Katy Cordeth’s “sectarian violence exists outside of Islam” and Virgin Mary’s “Five pillars of Islam doesn’t include blowing people up.

    To address these two points specifically, of course sectarian violence exists outside of Islam, and it most likely did exist in those regions before the seperation of Sunni and Shia, and people hated each other long before Islam divided from the old Abrahamic faith. But none of this exhonerates Islam. It is demonstratable that Islam fuels this conflict by the tactics exposed in Harris’s peice above. And regardless of whether or not blowing people up is included in the five tenets of Islam, the concept of Jihad exists in Islam, Islam is MORE than just the five tenets, just like Christianity is more than the ten commandments, otherwise that’s all they would need. You cannot claim that those blowing themselves up in the name of Allah are not muslims, that’s the no true Scotsman fallacy.

    I’m fed up with apologists trying to exhonerate Islam with these weak arguments. Just like Harris, we’re not syaing Muslims are evil, or that the good parts of Islam are evil, they’re good by definition. The world isn’t black and white, Islam, like other main religions is full of hatred and no matter how much you say it’s a religion of peace, it’s never going to be true as long as muslims are killing people and oppressing women in the name of Allah.

    Evil exists in the world, and evil would exist regardless of Islam, but Islam is part of the problem whether you like it or not. That said, the answer isn’t to abolish Islam, it’s the reformation of Islam, in the same way Judaism was reformed. It needs the right leadership, it needs people to point of that the concept of Jihad can be interpretted as an internal struggle, not a violent one. But until that happens, Islam will continue to produce violent Jihadists.

    • In reply to #57 by Seraphor:

      One thing that really irks me is when people insist that a situation or argument is black and white, a false dichotomy. And that is something being demostrated here by the likes of Katy Cordeth’s “sectarian violence exists outside of Islam” and Virgin Mary’s “Five pillars of Islam doesn’t include bl..

      .The world isn’t black and white, Islam, like other main religions is full of hatred and no matter how much you say it’s a religion of peace, it’s never going to be true as long as muslims are killing people and oppressing women in the name of Allah.

      It still won’t be true even after muslims stop killing people and oppressing women in the name of Allah just like Christianity is no more ethical because its modern day followers have (largely) stopped practicing:

      “Whosoever … giveth … his seed unto Molech … the people … shall stone him with stones.”
      “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.”
      “Both parties in adultery shall be executed.”
      If a man has sex with his father’s wife, kill them both.
      If a man “lies” with his daughter-in-law, then both must be killed.
      If a man has sex with another man, kill them both.
      If you “lie” with your wife and your mother-in-law, then all three of you must be burned to death.
      If a man or woman “lie with a beast” both the person and animal are to be killed. People with “familiar spirits” (witches, fortune tellers, etc.) are to be stoned to death. A priest’s daughter who “plays the whore” is to be burned to death. Anyone who blasphemes or curses shall be stoned to death by the entire community etc.

    • In reply to #57 by Seraphor:

      And regardless of whether or not blowing people up is included in the five tenets of Islam, the concept of Jihad exists in Islam, Islam is >MORE than just the five tenets, just like Christianity is more than the ten commandments, otherwise that’s all they would need. You >cannot claim that those blowing themselves up in the name of Allah are not muslims, that’s the no true Scotsman fallacy.

      I can’t decide if you just haven’t understood what I said or if you’re being deliberately obtuse.

      What I’ve actually said, about a thousand times, is that there is no reward for simply blowing yourself up. Paradise comes to good Muslims and good Muslims follow the 5 tenets of Islam. The people who blow themselves up are so committed to their religion that they’re willing to end their own lives. Now, do you think people who call themselves Muslims but don’t got to mosque, or pray, or engage in any other activities of the pious would blow themselves up over their religion? I don’t. Or do you think it’s more likely that a hardline follower would do so?

  20. Harris has spelled out the uniquely evil character of Islam. No wonder that this is too much for some of us to digest at once. It is the one thing that few have yet addressed here, and it is the single most significant trait of Islam; – But it is a bit more than we care to know.

    I mean, of course, the corruption of the empathetic human spirit by the wallowing in rapturous devotion over the endless repetition of sadistic verses from the koran. This is the nuts and bolts of how to change normal humans into potentially heartless hate-filled savages; primed for action and pointed straight at the ‘kufr’.

    Brainwashing in its most effective guise; for the last 1400 years.

      • In reply to #62 by phil rimmer:

        In reply to #58 by inquisador:

        Harris has spelled out the unique utility of Islam to evil people for evil purposes.

        Fixed.

        Get this right and you don’t paint good people into an evil corner.

        Not quite.

        My point is that, although I do agree with your version, I think that all people start out in life as potentially good, (or evil or anywhere in between). Usually good, given mostly benign influences, but if subjected to evil influences such as in this case, then that potential for good may be displaced by hatred and all sorts of malignancy.

        So, I’m lamenting the waste of good human potential here, not painting the good people into anything. The mullahs and imams are doing that.

        • In reply to #65 by inquisador:

          In reply to #62 by phil rimmer:

          Get this right and you don’t paint good people into an evil corner.

          Not quite.
          I think that all people start out in life as…

          Noooo. You can’t posit your dismissal of hundreds of millions of people on the strength of folk psychology. When blaming millions a little due diligence is surely called for? What you say counts for a lot. This site has lots of traffic. You have a duty to speak carefully.

          • In reply to #80 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #65 by inquisador:

            In reply to #62 by phil rimmer:

            Get this right and you don’t paint good people into an evil corner.

            Not quite.
            I think that all people start out in life as…

            Noooo. You can’t posit your dismissal of hundreds of millions of people on the strength of folk psychology…

            ok then. I’ll try again.

            I am not dismissing anyone. Au contraire, I hold faith in human nature.

            Provided that nature is not bent out of shape during its formative years by the undue influence of Islam or any other hateful intolerant ideology. Especially in the powerfully insidious way that Sam has correctly described above.

            Is that better? If not will you please explain why not?

            Thanks, Phil.

          • In reply to #82 by inquisador:

            ok then. I’ll try again.

            I am not dismissing anyone. Au contraire, I hold faith in human nature.

            Provided that nature is not bent out of shape during its formative years by the undue influence of Islam or any other hateful intolerant ideology. Especially in the powerfully insidious way that Sam has correctly described above.

            Your avowed faith in human nature is touching, Steven, if it’s genuine. I wonder though if you think a personality which has been bent out of shape by such a hateful, intolerant ideology is redeemable.

            Faith in human nature usually comes with the belief that people are able to overcome obstacles such as the religion they were born into or the ideology in which they were raised.

            You seem to be damning a substantial proportion of our species before they’ve exited the birth canal.

            I’m familiar with your support, on this site, for what are frequently categorised as hate groups. You may be the exception that proves the rule, but when I see images like these…

            rdf richard rdf richard rdf richard rdf richard rdf richard rdf richard rdf richard rdf richard rdf richard rdf richard

            … I don’t get the warm fuzzies; not even from the touching one of the daddy taking his little girl on her first hate march. Ahhh.

            You can lament ‘the waste of good human potential’ as much as you like, and insist it’s the imams and mullahs’ fault for turning people evil; but as long as you ally yourself with the sort of folks in the above pictures, you and those like you here at the Oasis don’t have a moral leg to stand on.


            I was pleasantly surprised to see that, against my expectations, you didn’t hit the like button on this comment, which advocated the ethnic cleansing of the British Isles; even if the same can’t be said about my buddy godsbuster.

            Ya see! That’s the difference between the left and the right: I genuinely and honestly think you can change, Steven. That, my friend, is what having faith in human nature is all about.

          • In reply to #85 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #82 by inquisador:

            Well, I have little or no faith in human nature. Mainly because it is so easily corruptible by absolutist ideologies. Your pictures actually illustrate this quite nicely.

            But people can change, which is why I lean so far left. Thank you for helping me to clarify this in my mind.

          • In reply to #85 by Katy Cordeth:

            Appreciate the love in the like, but please note that you also sometimes display the same sort susceptibility to idealism.

          • In reply to #85 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #82 by inquisador:

            I am not dismissing anyone. Au contraire, I hold faith in human nature.

            Provided that nature is not bent out of shape during its formative years by the undue influence of Islam or any other hateful intolerant ideology. Especially in the powerfully insidious way that Sam has correctly described above.

            Your avowed faith in human nature is touching, Steven, if it’s genuine. I wonder though if you think a personality which has been bent out of shape by such a hateful, intolerant >ideology is redeemable.

            Yes I do. A lot of people, not just Muslims but Catholics, Mormons, witchfinders and evangelicals etc., have all been known to recover from an overdose of bad ideology. To focus again on Islam, there are probably hundreds of millions who count themselves as Muslim without taking to heart those foundational precepts that cause some to take up jihad in some form or other. Either because they reject it or because they are never actually taught it in any literal sense. Or because the Arabic language is unknown to about 80% of Muslims.

            Nevertheless those precepts from the Koran/Sunna are circulating widely and freely in the Muslim world:- jew-hatred, apostacide (is that a word?), misogyny, hatred and contempt for infidels, prohibition of most representational art, music and anything ‘unislamic’. these are memes circulating through communities like organisms; propagating, mutating; sometimes challenged but never eradicated.

            Why? because the ‘holy koran’ and other texts insist on and corroborate them all.

            Trace them back to their original source in our present day and you find them in the kind of examples that Sam has given of Imams moved to tears. In the process reconfirming, sacralizing the teachings,

            And while Mein Kampf is still a best-seller in the M.E.,hundreds are being murdered by the jiadists every day; still those working for reform of Islam and democratization are being outweighed by the push to more and more radical islam.

            And while a man is beheaded in a Woolwich street, followed by a video account of the very chapters and verses of the koran that directed the murder; somehow all the news reports manage to omit that part of the record of events. So Cameron stands outside No 10 that same day to tell us that this had nothing to do with Islam.

            Incredible.

            The EDL protest against this Islam. But they are far-right racist bigots whom we must despise.

            Funny that they never kill anyone, yet they get more condemnation than the ideology that is the real killer.

            Funny old world!

          • In reply to #90 by inquisador:

            The EDL protest against this Islam. But they are far-right racist bigots whom we must despise.
            Funny that they never kill anyone, yet they get more condemnation than the ideology that is the real killer.

            But condemning them is an essential part of our strategy. Being bigger hearted than that. Being against such hatefulness and being non hypocritical is a strategy to engage with moderates Muslims. We need them to work from the inside and have them know they will get wide support if they will take the risks necessary. And we really must understand the asymmetry of risks for them (moderate Muslims) and for us.

            Unless we imagine a post conflict tolerant world and aim for it and imagine what the possible path to it could be, we really can’t take a first good step.

            In reply to #85 by Katy:

            Stop imputing motive and raising the stakes! Inquisador’s EDL response (they are racist bigots more condemned than other greater bigots) now moves us on.

            My complaint with the two of you is the same i.e. having crap strategy. Carefully directed complaints e.g. Clerics and leaders using the Islam tag rather than the entirely useless “Islam” and a having a clearly formulated next step are what we need.

            Thoughts?

          • In reply to #91 by phil rimmer:

            …In reply to #85 by Katy:

            Stop imputing motive and raising the stakes! Inquisador’s EDL response (they are racist bigots more condemned than other greater bigots) now moves us on.

            My complaint with the two of you is the same i.e. having crap strategy. Carefully directed complaints e.g. Clerics and leaders using the Islam tag rather than the entirely useless “Islam” and a having a clearly formulated next step are what we need.

            Thoughts?

            My first thought is that you seem to think Inquisador was admitting the English Defence League are racist bigots. He wasn’t. Our friend Steven is an avowed supporter of this organisation and others like it. I’m sure if you were to ask him, he would tell you they’re neither bigoted nor racist †.

            My second though is… actually, I don’t think I have a second thought; that first one must have been it. I was going to say something about those on the left being historically known for having crap strategy, going all the way back to Jesus days, but I’ve lost my train of thought.

            Sorry for the lateness of my reply.


            † Is it possible to be a non-bigoted racist? I guess you can be a non-racist bigot but not a non-bigoted racist.

          • In reply to #99 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #91 by phil rimmer:

            …In reply to #85 by Katy:

            Stop imputing motive and raising the stakes! Inquisador’s EDL response (they are racist bigots more condemned than other greater bigots) now moves us on.

            In reply to #99 by Katy Cordeth:

            My first thought is that you seem to think Inquisador was admitting the English Defence League are racist bigots. He wasn’t. Our friend Steven is an avowed >supporter of this organisation and others like it. I’m sure if you were to ask him, he would tell you they’re neither bigoted nor racist †.

            My second though is… actually, I don’t think I have a second thought; that first one must have been it. I was going to say something about those on the left >being historically known for having crap strategy, going all the way back to Jesus days, but I’ve lost my train of thought.

            Would you mind pointing out where I vowed to support the EDL?

            What I know I have done is to argue for equal treatment for the EDL as for any other equivalent kind of organization. For example, critics of Islam are commonly accused of condemning all Muslims as terrorists. At the same time, many Muslims unabashedly accuse all EDL members of being racist fascist bigots.

            Do you see the double standard here? I could cite a discussion I had with Tanweer on this; our friendly Ahmadi RDF commenter, now gone sadly silent.

            I simply argue against condemning either all the EDL or all the Muslims in some unfair way. They are individuals after all.

            The EDL have a mission to defend England/Britain from the horribly flawed Islamic ideology by means of peaceful demonstrations. To defend their rights to do this is to defend all our rights to express free speech and dissent from other beliefs, or even the promulgation of crackpot, if harmless, ideas.

            Individual law-breakers should be dealt with individually.

            PS, KC – Thanks for that wonderful old Python clip!

          • In reply to #110 by inquisador:

            In reply to #99 by Katy Cordeth:

            Would you mind pointing out where I vowed to support the EDL?

            If I have your permission to include comments you’ve posted on sites other than RDnet, I don’t mind having a root around for some.

            PS, KC – Thanks for that wonderful old Python clip!

            You’re welcome. I have another brilliant one lined up. I’m just waiting for a dyslexic user who displays an over-reliance on the preposition in to turn up and ask why Richard hasn’t been summoned to the Palace by a grateful sovereign to be ennobled before I can link to it.

          • In reply to #90 by inquisador:

            And while a man is beheaded in a Woolwich street, followed by a video account of the very chapters and verses of the koran that directed the murder; somehow all the news reports manage to omit that part of the record of events. So Cameron stands outside No 10 that same day to tell us that this had nothing to do with Islam.

            Incredible.

            Actually, David Cameron made his statement the day after Lee Rigby’s murder.

            Here is the full text.

            The closest he came to saying what you claim was when he spoke this line:

            There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act,

            which is a big fib, but an allowable one in the circumstances, I think; and it isn’t the same as saying the act had nothing to do with Islam.


            The EDL protest against this Islam. But they are far-right racist bigots whom we must despise.

            Funny that they never kill anyone, yet they get more condemnation than the ideology that is the real killer.

            They never kill anyone. Are you sure about that?

            Or how about the recent arson attack on an Islamic boarding school. No fatalities in this instance, but it wasn’t for want of trying.

            I’m not sure that not being as bad as Al-Qaeda is a particularly noble philosophical position for a human being to adopt.

            You might want to think about trying to set the bar a little higher, Steven.

      • In reply to #62 by phil rimmer:

        In reply to #65 by inquisador:

        This reminds me of a quote by Steven Weinberg:

        “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

    • In reply to #67 by —
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      WTF is up with your user name? Is it some sort of code, or were you trying, unsuccessfully it seems, to do something clever?

      • It did that automatically.

        In reply to #68 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #67 by —
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        WTF is up with your user name? Is it some sort of code, or were you trying, unsuccessfully it seems, to do something clever?

        • I guess you tend to stay logged in with a user name like that.

          In reply to #69 by —
          :email: !binary |-
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          It did that automatically.

          In reply to #68 by Peter Grant:

          In reply to #67 by —
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          cm9iZXJ0LmthZGFyMQ==:

          WTF is up with your user name? Is it some sort of code, or were you trying, unsuccessfully it seems, to do somethin…

        • In reply to #69 by —
          :email: !binary |-
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          It did that automatically.

          In response to what input? What did you intend your user name to be?

          Please don’t take this as malicious, I am genuinely curious.

          • You just want to change yours. He’s keeping that to himself.

            In reply to #72 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #69 by —
            :email: !binary |-
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            :username: !binary |-
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            It did that automatically.

            In response to what input? What did you intend your user name to be?

            Please don’t take this as malicious, I am genuinely curious.

          • In reply to #75 by Marktony:

            You just want to change yours. He’s keeping that to himself.

            Am quite satisfied with my user name, have not tried to change it. Why do you think I would?

        • Sorry, there is a glitch with the user names of a few newly created accounts. The technical team are on the case.
          The mods

          In reply to #69 by —
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          It did that automatically.

          In reply to #68 by Peter Grant:

          In reply to #67 by —
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  21. Believing in Paradise is as silly as believing that your God will cure and heal your loved ones, yet these are those, as we have seen, who are willing (because of a strongly held belief) to forgo modern medicine and (in our eyes) let their loved ones die a slow and agonising death that could be avoided.

    Come on, people don’t really believe that their god will cure them or their loved ones now do they? You bet your life they do.

    To say that people do not really believe in paradise is being as silly as those who actually do.

  22. I guess I’m failing to understand, sorry Sam. I find the Islamic call to prayer to be nothing more than annoying whining. Rituals where grown men chant are downright embarrassing. Perhaps I take myself too seriously, but give me virtually any music over that stuff anyday. :-)

    “Unless you have tasted religious ecstasy, you cannot understand the danger of its being pointed in the wrong direction.”

    I really wish Harris wouldn’t say stuff like this, because I think it’s just flat out wrong. Few secular people, as Harris seems to acknowledge, are ever going to “feel” the ecstasy over the Quran that devout Muslims do. I don’t think that means that one can’t appreciate the danger of it. If it does, then we’re totally screwed and few are ever going appreciate the danger of it.

  23. Harris says:

    ”As I have pointed out many times before, they fail to empathize with the primary victims of Islam—the millions of Muslim women, freethinkers, homosexuals, and apostates who suffer most under the taboos and delusions of this faith. But secular liberals also fail to understand and empathize with the devout.”

    This is close to being a complete fabrication. And not just a fabrication, but a vicious and unbecoming LIE. Secular liberals don’t ‘lack empathy’ for the victims of Islam. This is simply something that Harris pulls ot of thin air so that he can equivocate those who instead pay rudimentary attention to our actions abroad with ‘Islam-apologists’. Harris instead wants us to focus with laser-like intensity at the crimes and shortcomings of others to absolve himself and his audience of any true moral responsibility for what goes on in the world. Incidentally, his views dove tail beautifully with the strategic and imperialist designs of the United States in the Middle East and elsewhere. I tend to think that this isn’t a coincidence, but represents instead an apologetic for this particular individual’s favoured state. Lest anyone accuse me of being an apologist for Islam, let me just point out a few things:

    1) I think that Islam, like all religion, should be vanquished.

    2) It would do more to serve the cause of ridding the world of at least fundamentalist Islam by not killing Muslims in industrial quantities in their own countries and going on rampaging wars of domination in predominantly Muslim lands for their natural resources or their proximity to China.

    3) The petro-addiction of the West is a greater boon to Islamist fundamentalism than any other factor, both for the wars and occupations that this resource invites, and because of the lavish funds made available to Saudi Arabia, a close US ally and the most religious fundamentalist and anti-woman dictatorship on Earth, as well as a key source of funding among Sunni terrorists (a view shared by the US diplomatic establishment, as shown by WikiLeaks). If you want to end Islamism, start focusing on eliminating the petro-economy.

    4) It would help things if Harris’s favoured state stopped arming and training Islamists (as they did in Libya and are now doing in Syria, and possibly in Iran).

    Until Harris addresses all of that, no one need take him seriously as a moral voice, however accurate his description of Islam’s negative effects.

    In reply to #50 by veggiemanuk:

    If this were true, one has to wonder, considering their involvement in Afghanistan, how Russia is not a larger target than the USA or the West in general.

    Because Russia isn’t as large a participant in Afghanistan these days as the US or the West in general. But it was a larger target once: precisely when it was a larger participant, namely during its occupation of the place.

  24. I once ran into the anthropologist Scott Atran after he had delivered one of his preening and delusional lectures on the origins of jihadist terrorism.

    How is this an example of supporting the ideals of reason and critical thinking? Atran isn’t some Creationist nut, he’s a well respected anthropologist. I think Harris totally misrepresents what Atran is saying about the actual causes of terrorism but even if Harris was completely correct and Atran wrong do you really encourage rational debate by saying your opponent gives “preening and delusional” lectures?

    • In reply to #97 by Red Dog:

      I once ran into the anthropologist Scott Atran after he had delivered one of his preening and delusional lectures on the origins of jihadist terrorism.

      How is this an example of supporting the ideals of reason and critical thinking? Atran isn’t some Creationist nut, he’s a well respected anthropolo…

      I have the feeling that has become the standart response of Harris to any criticism…

  25. It all comes down to a simple question: Does Islam, in doctrine, practice, and numbers, represent a more significant danger than all other religions in terms of inciting or justifying violence today and in the foreseeable future, or does it not?

    Sam says it does, and I agree with him. I will not attempt to characterize those who disagree, other than to suggest that the impulse to avoid being offensive, while laudable and kind and humane, can be an impediment to carrying evidence to its logical conclusion–particularly when that conclusion is uncomfortable to contemplate (and downright terrifying to proclaim).

    • In reply to #101 by functional atheist:

      It all comes down to a simple question: Does Islam, in doctrine, practice, and numbers, represent a more significant danger than all other religions in terms of inciting or justifying violence today and in the foreseeable future, or does it not?

      Sam says it does, and I agree with him.

      That’s an empirical claim. You and Harris are claiming that Islam is responsible for more violence then other religions or ideologies. And I admit it seems like a reasonable claim. But if you want to be scientific you don’t just accept things that look reasonable. You look at data. And that is what Atran does, also a guy from the University of Chicago named Robert Pape. They use databases of terrorist attacks, statistical analysis such as linear regression, interviews with actual members of terrorist organizations. And in case you think they are biased toward a left wing conclusion both Pape and Atran get a substantial amount of funding from the US Department of Defense and that funding goes back to the Bush/Rumsfeld years.

      Their conclusion is that the data does not support Harris. This is what really bothers me about Harris and even more so Dawkins who I have much more respect for. They simply ignore the data. Where as Atran and Pape’s arguments are modeled on hard data Harris and Dawkins just talk about what seems logical based on their intuitions.

      • In reply to #102 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #101 by functional atheist:

        And in case you think they are biased toward a left wing conclusion both Pape and Atran get a substantial amount of funding from the US Department of Defense and that funding goes back to the Bush/Rumsfeld years.

        Sam says it…

        That’s hardly a defense for non-bias. It’s hard to argue with Harris’ point when makes the simple request with the likes of Greewald to post pictures of Muhammad on Greewald’s blog while he posts pictures of Jesus( or any other religious figure besides Muhammad) on his. Their refusal to do so belies their argument.

        • In reply to #106 by Skeptic:

          That’s hardly a defense for non-bias.

          I’m not sure what that means. First of all non-bias (objectivity) is a goal that a good researcher strives for its not something we need to make a defense for.

          And my point was that Atran makes very solid arguments based on real data. Interviews with actual terrorist supporters and terrorists. Statistical analysis of terrorist attacks over history. Harris never does that. At best he uses anecdotal evidence “look at this horrible case of Islamic violence” Those aren’t rational arguments they are emotional appeals.

          It’s hard to argue with Harris’ point when makes the simple request with the likes of Greewald to post pictures of Muhammad on Greewald’s blog while he posts pictures of Jesus( or any other religious figure besides Muhammad) on his. Their refusal to do so belies their argument.

          I’m talking about Atran not Greenwald so what Greenwald does is irrelevant.

  26. Copied to this thread by moderators, from an unconnected thread where it had presumably been posted in error

    satran

    One of th cinditions of acceptance to post on Richard Dawkins.net is that postings not be libelous

    Tis site recently reported and linked a piece on “Islam and the Misuses of Ecstasy” written by Sam Harris (June 13) which purports to quote my views on the subject of Jihadi (non belief) in Paradise as “preening, delusional, dishonest” and indicative of “mental illness” on my part.

    The reported conversation never happened as Harris suggests, and I have never said jihadis don’t believe in Paradise. Indeed, I have writtten dozens of articles (in Science, Behavior and Brain Sciences, Proceedings of the Royal Society, etc.) and two books (In Gods We trust, Cambridge University, 2002; Talking to the Enemy, HarperCollins and Penguin, 2010), experimentally probing and outlining what those beliefs are. I also regularly brief the White House, Defense, Dept, Sate Dept, Congress and allied gov’ts on the implications of those beliefs. A number of people have twittered that they find Harris’s recounting dishonest, and some attribute it to my review of his book “the Moral Landscape” for The National Interest.

    My explicit rebuttal of Harris’s mendacious blog can be found on the website of the online evolution magazine, “This View of Life”:

    http://www.thisviewoflife.com/index.php/magazine/articles/here-he-goes-again-sam-harriss-falsehoods

    Yours,

    Scott Atran Directeur de Recherche, Anthropologie, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris Senior Fellow, Harris Manchester College, Oxford University Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Public Policy, University of Michigan Presidential Scholar, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

    • In reply to #103 by Moderator:

      Tis site recently reported and linked a piece on “Islam and the Misuses of Ecstasy” written by Sam Harris (June 13) which purports to quote my views on the subject of Jihadi (non belief) in Paradise as “preening, delusional, dishonest” and indicative of “mental illness” on my part.

      I haven’t taken Harris seriously since he thought that after the Newtown massacre in the US was a good time to start talking about how everyone should own a gun. His arguments on that issue were so pathetic it was down to the level where I felt it no longer is even worth a response. So I didn’t even bother reading this article for a long time but when I did I was appalled. Perhaps he’s just been a guest on American TV too often and he’s internalized the disgusting manner that so many American right wing pundits (which is what he’s essentially morphing into) just yell insults rather than make rational arguments. But whatever the reason calling someone like Atran “preening and delusional” is something everyone here should condemn.

      The ironic thing is that between the two of them the one who tends to be very calm and unemotional when he talks is Atran. Also, the one who talks about data and statistical analysis is Atran. The one who simply talks in emotional terms and uses nothing but anecdotal evidence is Harris.

      • In reply to #104 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #103 by Moderator:

        Tis site recently reported and linked a piece on “Islam and the Misuses of Ecstasy” written by Sam Harris (June 13) which purports to quote my views on the subject of Jihadi (non belief) in Paradise as “preening, delusional, dishonest” and indicative of “mental illness…”

        From Harris’ article:

        “According to Atran, people who decapitate journalists, filmmakers, and aid workers to cries of “Alahu akbar!” or blow themselves up in crowds of innocents are led to misbehave this way not because of their deeply held beliefs about jihad and martyrdom but because of their experience of male bonding in soccer clubs and barbershops. (Really.) So I asked Atran directly:

        “Are you saying that no Muslim suicide bomber has ever blown himself up with the expectation of getting into Paradise?”

        “Yes,” he said, “that’s what I’m saying. No one believes in Paradise.”

        If this exchange really happened, and Atran really believes this, then he is delusional. “No one believes in Paradise”….is he barking mad??? Whatever you dislike about Harris personally or however much you don’t like his positions on guns, martial arts, or whatever, he is right on this point and Atran is out to lunch.

        • In reply to #105 by blitz442:

          If this exchange really happened,

          Atran says it never happened. The following is from the beginning of his rebuttal which can be found here:

          http://www.thisviewoflife.com/index.php/magazine/articles/here-he-goes-again-sam-harriss-falsehoods

          Sam Harris posted a recent blog about my views on Jihadis that is unbecoming of serious intellectual debate, if not ugly. He claims that I told him following a “preening and delusional lecture” that “no one [connected with suicide bombing] believes in paradise.” What I actually said to him (as I have to many others) was exactly what every leader of a jihadi group I interviewed told me, namely, that anyone seeking to become a martyr in order to obtain virgins in paradise would be rejected outright. I also said (and have written several articles and a book laying out the evidence) that although ideology is important, the best predictor (in the sense of a regression analysis) of willingness to commit an act of jihadi violence is if one belongs to an action-oriented social network, such as a neighborhood help group or even a sports team (see Atran, TALKING TO THE ENEMY, Penguin, 2010).

          But there is a bigger problem here. Even if Atran did say that calling people “preening and delusional” is not the way serious intellectuals talk to each other. If Harris wants to dispute things Atran said — if Atran said something delusional then by all means give us the quote and show that its not true. The reason Harris can’t do that is because Atran’s work is backed up by actual data and actual research. For Harris its just emotional statements and anecdotes.

          • In reply to #107 by Red Dog:

            Harris is not basing his case on emotional statements and anecdotes alone.

            The empirical evidence is out there, but before it can be studied, collated, analysed, written up, peer-reviewed and all the rest of it, there is a need to draw these things to the attention of scholars in the field and persuade them to take a different approach to the study of contemporary Islam and Jihad than hitherto and taking seriously the observations of people like Harris.

            Evidence is in the news every day. You do have to dig for it though.

            Islam promotes terror, as in the 9th sura; many verses of it. So said the Woolwich jihadist. Why the hell would Cameron deny this:

            ‘There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act’

            and why would the media censor it from the news reports?

            What are we trying to achieve by lying in defense of Islam?

            Only the need to avoid offending Muslims? Are we frightened that moderate Muslims will be radicalised?

            If so then I call that a ‘crap strategy’. My faith in moderate Muslims is about as strong as my faith in moderate nazis. There is no way to distinguish between a moderate Muslim and a lying Muslim. And of course you are either a Muslim or you are not. And if you are, then you have a duty to know a bit about that belief system. If you are under the illusion that you are in a religion of peace, then some kind of official government warning about those texts could be just the right thing needed to those in need of a wake-up call. By their allegiance, all Muslims are helping to support terror-jihad, whether they realize it or not.

          • In reply to #108 by inquisador:

            The empirical evidence is out there, but before it can be studied, collated, analysed, written up, peer-reviewed and all the rest of it, there is a need to draw these things to the attention of scholars in the field and persuade them to take a different approach to the study of contemporary Islam and Jihad than hitherto and taking seriously the observations of people like Harris.

            So essentially you are saying before we start looking at empirical evidence we have to make sure that the people collecting the evidence think the right way and have the appropriate preconceptions? I thought the whole point of the scientific method was that you tried to be objective. You tried to put your preconceptions to the side, in fact if you see data that challenges your preconceptions you give it special attention because it might be evidence you are wrong and we know from research in psychology (e.g. Robert Trivers: The Folly of Fools) that all people (even scientists) tend to seek out information that fits with their preconceptions and avoid information that challenges it.

            Islam promotes terror, as in the 9th sura; many verses of it. So said the Woolwich jihadist. Why the hell would Cameron deny this:

            Talking about one event that happened in the 9th sura and one person who doesn’t acknowledge something is anecdotal. Talking about linear regression and other analysis done on a database of all terrorist attacks in the latter part of the 20th century is part of a scientific analysis. That is what Atran and Pape do. Have you bothered to read their books? Talking to the Enemy and Dying to Win? They are objective and dispassionate (and both used significant funding from the US Department of Defense to do their work) and they show very compelling evidence that the standard model of Islam and Terrorism are wrong. If you don’t like a conclusion its not a legitimate response to start calling your opponent “delusional” or to say they need to “take a different approach to the study of contemporary Islam”. Essentially you are saying you don’t like the conclusion and you won’t even look at the arguments or the data until the people doing the research start saying things you like.

          • In reply to #111 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #108 by inquisador:

            The empirical evidence is out there, but before it can be studied, collated, analysed, written up, peer-reviewed and all the rest of it, there is a need to draw these things to the attention of scholars in the field and persuade them to take a different approach to t…

            Actually there is a good little summary of some the stuff from Talking to the Enemy here:
            http://vridar.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/talking-with-a-jihadi-terrorist/

          • In reply to #108 by inquisador:

            My faith in moderate Muslims is about as strong as my faith in moderate nazis. There is no way to distinguish between a moderate Muslim and a lying Muslim.

            So Muslims are basically just Nazis and are automatically to be afforded distrust and perpetual suspicion. I hazard to guess that you don’t know any Muslims, hence the ease with which you unclothe them of basic humanity (say, isn’t this what the Nazis did?). I would also hazard that the energy you devote to denouncing Muslims utterly dwarfs the energy you devote to denouncing the crimes carried out in your name.

          • In reply to #116 by Promethean Entity:

            I would also hazard that the energy you devote to denouncing Muslims utterly dwarfs the energy you devote to denouncing the crimes carried out in your name.

            I think you hit on a really important point there that often gets overlooked. People like Sam Harris spend virtually all their time talking about the bad things Muslims do. And I agree with Harris the examples he gives are truly horrendous and I join him in condemning those Muslims. But Harris (and many of the people on this site) spend almost no time talking about the other side of the coin. The fact that the US and UK have over the last half century committed many war crimes against the middle east and Muslim people and that they have done other things like supporting tyrants that while not war crimes are policies that any fair minded rational person would object to (by Harris’s own values as expressed in his books).

            Now as an American or a Brit it seems to me we should spend at least as much time, in fact actually more time talking about what our government does. The terrorists are crazy and they are pretty much going to keep doing what they do. They might be dissuaded by public opinion in the middle east but they certainly aren’t going to be shamed by anything Harris or any of us say. On the other hand our governments are still democracies. They do listen and we can vote people out of office that we don’t like. So we can do a lot to stop future war crimes against Islam if we want to.

          • In reply to #117 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #116 by Promethean Entity:

            I would also hazard that the energy you devote to denouncing Muslims utterly dwarfs the energy you devote to denouncing the crimes carried out in your name.

            I think you hit on a really important point there that often gets overlooked. People like Sam Harris s…

            Just keep your liberal, leftist claptrap off this site if you don’t mind. Your comment made me vomit with rage.

            The very idea that Western political and business practices could in any way have contributed to Islamic terror attacks can be instantly refuted with a single reading of The _Un_holy Qur’an.

            It’s right there, in this fourteen-hundred-year-old manuscript: the brown devils are told, in that squiggly back-to-front writing, to hate non-Muslims. It’s frankly irresponsible and, if I may say so, un-American of you to look for factors beyond this.

            Everyone who has seen The Wizard of Oz hates Toto, Red Dog. Everyone. Leave that curtain alone.

            You’ll be saying next that Israeli expansionism and mistreatment of Palestinians, aided and abetted by successive US administrations, has something to do with anti-American animus. But as we learned from our reading of the Far from Joly (Jolly; work with me) Qur’an, these monsters just hate Jews. They’re instructed to by their book and as we saw from events following the woefully misguided Arab Spring, in spite of their protestations to the contrary, at heart they all want to be told what to do; be it by a despised tyrant or that Moo-hammed guy.

            And let us not forget the obvious: it must be exciting to see a drone appear in front of you. Hello, a plane that doesn’t have a pilot! I’ve been to airshows and had to pay money to get as close as some of these guys get for free. Yet still they complain… well, their families do… well, maybe not the immediate family, but the ones who couldn’t make it to the wedding.

            The West is a secondary victim, Israel being the first, of the monster that is Islam. Do the decent thing and remove your post, Red Dog. If Dick Cheney saw it, it would make him cry. Is that what you want? To make Dick Cheney cry? You sicken me.

          • In reply to #118 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #117 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #116 by Promethean Entity:

            I would also hazard that the energy you devote to denouncing Muslims utterly dwarfs the energy you devote to denouncing the crimes carried out in your name.

            I think you hit on a really important point there that often gets overlo…

            Indeed, and as Harris observes “Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies”

            http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/the-end-of-liberalism/

          • In reply to #118 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #117 by Red Dog:
            Just keep your liberal, leftist claptrap off this site if you don’t mind. Your comment made me vomit with rage.

            Sorry I made you vomit. I take it as a point of pride that people were calling me a corporate loving capitalist on a different thread recently. When both sides hate you its a sign you are doing something right.

            The very idea that Western political and business practices could in any way have contributed to Islamic terror attacks can be instantly refuted with a single reading of The Unholy Qur’an.

            I don’t see the logical connection. Human behavior is complex. I never denied that the Qur’an is a dreadful book, I think it is. But I don’t see how you can just present any book and claim it is the cause of a certain type of violence. Take another example, suppose we were talking about right wing terrorism in the US like bombing of abortion clinics and Oklahoma city. If I said that the failing US economy and things like NAFTA that have depleted the options for working class people was partly responsible for US right wing violence would you think a legitimate response to that would be “that idea can instantly be refuted by reading The Turner Diaries!”? (The Turner Diaries is a book that envisions a civil war in the US and encourages right wing terrorism and was found with Tim McVeigh). In both cases its possible to have more than one cause for violence.

            Everyone who has seen The Wizard of Oz hates Toto, Red Dog. Everyone. Leave that curtain alone.

            Not sure how that is relevant but I’ve seen the movie and I love Toto. I’ve never met a dog I didn’t like actually.

            You’ll be saying next that Israeli expansionism and mistreatment of Palestinians, aided and abetted by successive US administrations, has something to do with anti-American animus.

            It not a fair debating tactic to state something I haven’t said, claim I will say it, and then criticize me for saying it. I never said anything about Israel.

            And let us not forget the obvious: it must be exciting to see a drone appear in front of you. Hello, a plane that doesn’t have a pilot! I’ve been to airshows and had to pay money to get as close as some of these guys get for free. Yet still they complain… well, their families do… well, maybe not the immediate family, but the ones who couldn’t make it to the wedding.

            Again, I didn’t mention drones but since you brought it up, I do partly agree with you. The whole question of drones is a red herring IMO. The issue isn’t drones its due process. The US is essentially saying that our president can arbitrarily decide to kill anyone anyplace if they aren’t a US citizen. With the current president I’m reasonably confidant that the military is trying to just kill “bad guys”. How well they do is an open question, I’ve seen plenty of evidence that indicates they kill innocent bystanders quite often. Its hard to say anything concrete since the program is secret and that is the issue. No country should have the kind of power that the US is asserting. I realize that in a war against non-state diffuse organizations special measures are needed but there are ways to do this that are legal, within the court systems of the various countries or the UN or something, the idea that the US can arbitrarily murder any non US citizen with only justification made in secret seems unfair to me and I’m a US citizen.

            Do the decent thing and remove your post, Red Dog. If Dick Cheney saw it, it would make him cry. Is that what you want? To make Dick Cheney cry? You sicken me.

            Now I’m starting to wonder if you are putting me on. Poe’s law is in effect here. If I made Dick Cheney cry today then he has made my day just as Richard made my day yesterday by replying to one of my comments.

            I notice you ignored all that I said in previous comments about things like research on the causes of terrorism funded in part by the US Defense Department, evidence, interviews, linear regression, etc. Have you read The Folly of Fools by Robert Trivers? Richard recommended the book a while ago and its one of the best books I’ve ever read. Your behavior is totally consistent with what Trivers describes. When humans are challenged on strongly held beliefs and presented with evidence to the contrary they often respond not rationally but emotionally. They reject the evidence without even looking at it.

  27. In reply to #121 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #118 by Katy Cordeth:

    In reply to #117 by Red Dog:
    Just keep your liberal, leftist claptrap off this site if you don’t mind. Your comment made me vomit with rage.

    Sorry I made you vomit. I take it as a point of pride that people were calling me a corporate loving capitalist on a differ…

    Sorry man, I thought we were on the same wavelength on this issue so I I took the opportunity to indulge my on occasion infantile love of parody and wordplay.

    I sometimes forget that RDnet can be an irony-free zone. I called Brian Cox a moptop astrologer a few days ago and was rounded on: “Um, um, I think you’ll find Professor Cox’s field is astronomy and not astrology, mfarr mfarr.”

    Suffice it to say, I didn’t mean anything I said in my response to your comment #17. I’ve never gotten so angry that emesis has resulted; I don’t hate Toto or assume everyone else does; nor do I routinely refer to Muslims as monsters.

    heavy sigh

    • In reply to #122 by Katy Cordeth:

      Sorry man, I thought we were on the same wavelength on this issue so I I took the opportunity to indulge my on occasion infantile love of parody and wordplay.

      My bad, I should have known by the “did you make Dick Cheney cry” I feel dumb but in my defense I’ve had people say things that weren’t that far from what you were saying and be serious about it.

  28. That’s okay. I’ve been concerned lately that I only ever seem to comment on threads which involve Islam. I’m getting sick of hearing my own voice, truth be told, and imagine that if moderation on this site were less strict I would regularly be told to change the bleedin’ record, or words to that effect.

    To find out that probably the smartest person on this site would think I actually meant what I said in #17 reassures me that I don’t have that much to worry about and am still pretty much anonymous here at the Oasis.

    I have never had the honor of receiving a response from our beloved benefactor, you lucky dog.

    • In reply to Katy Cordeth:

      Your attempts at parody have not gone unnoticed. What you seem to miss is that idealists often make some genuinely good points, even if their absolutist ideologies force them to carry these points to logical extremes. The fault they share with relativists like Atran is not that they cannot reason, but that their beliefs are not rational.

      • In reply to #126 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to Katy Cordeth:

        Your attempts at parody have not gone unnoticed. What you seem to miss is that idealists often make some genuinely good points, even if their absolutist ideologies force them to carry these points to logical extremes. The fault they share with relativists like Atran is not…

        Ha, Atran is a relativist who is also irrational. That’s a good one. See, now that is how you do sarcasm.

        • In reply to #129 by The Grapes of Roth:

          Ha, Atran is a relativist who is also irrational. That’s a good one. See, now that is how you do sarcasm.

          He almost certainly is a moral relativist, this is an unscientific dogma which most anthropologists cling to. It has resulted in much of the field collapsing into solipsism. Can irrational people reason? Yes, and it looks almost as logical, but their reasoning is not nearly as effective because it is not rational and based on reality.

          • In reply to #130 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #129 by The Grapes of Roth:

            Ha, Atran is a relativist who is also irrational. That’s a good one. See, now that is how you do sarcasm.

            He almost certainly is a moral relativist, this is an unscientific dogma which most anthropologists cling to. It has resulted in much of the field colla…

            Do you feel that Harris is a relativist?

          • In reply to #131 by The Grapes of Roth:

            Do you feel that Harris is a relativist?

            Feelings do not factor into it, he makes it unambiguously clear through his writing that he is not.

          • In reply to #132 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #131 by The Grapes of Roth:

            Do you feel that Harris is a relativist?

            Feelings do not factor into it, he makes it unambiguously clear through his writing that he is not.

            Really, you think that Harris is a moral univeralist? You honestly think that Harris believes that the morality of an act is determined by its content not by the identity of those who commit it?

            This Orwell quote captures almost perfectly the relativism which animates Harris’ worldview:

            “All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts….. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.” (On Nationalism)

          • In reply to #136 by The Grapes of Roth:

            Really, you think that Harris is a moral univeralist? You honestly think that Harris believes that the morality of an act is determined by its content not by the identity of those who commit it?

            I’d say that he is a moral realist and a universal subjectivist. He is is also a consequentialist. So no, the morality of an act is not determined by “the identity of those who commit it” nor can it be absolutely linked to the content of the act, it must be judged in terms of the effect the act has on the experience of conscious creatures.

    • In reply to #124 by Katy Cordeth:

      That’s okay. I’ve been concerned lately that I only ever seem to comment on threads which involve Islam. I’m getting sick of hearing my own voice, truth be told, and imagine that if moderation on this site were less strict I would regularly be told to change the bleedin’ record, or words to that eff…

      OK, I know that was more sarcasm when it seemed like you called me “probably the smartest person on the site” but thanks anyway :) I was thinking about the comment a bit yesterday, I think I was just so expecting a comment that was an attack like that that when it seemed to come I turned off my normal satire meter (I mean come on “make Cheney cry” how could I miss that) and just concentrated on not getting angry but responding rationally. Its funny but I was so proud of my response to the comment. Sorry I didn’t remember your past comments, I’m sure we’ve argued on the same side. In my defense I’ve found my MS really plays havoc with that kind of memory. You have probably had the experience where you walk into a room and then forget why you did it, for me that kind of thing is almost the norm. I will forget that I talked to someone just a few minutes ago. I once introduced myself to someone that I had just had a long conversation with a few minutes earlier.

      I have never had the honor of receiving a response from our beloved benefactor, you lucky dog.

      I felt like a Justin Bieber fan who received a personal letter from their idol. It was on the thread:

      http://www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2013/6/20/-richard-dawkins-on-memes-cannes-lions-2013-video-media-guardian-co-uk

      Unfortunately, I replied back with what I thought was a pretty good argument (which I’m sure Richard could demolish) but haven’t gotten a reply back. Its ironic that thread also involve Scott Atran, well the thread doesn’t its about memes but my comment was based on Atran’s critique of meme theory.

  29. it seems like you are at once convicting this thing, and glorifying it…

    it is such a lovely machine, notice the smooth lines of it’s outer veneer, a jet black horizon
    betwixt’ the blade and the wood, but alas it is still a guillotine; and though smaller versions
    are sometimes used to cut garlic for pesto sauce; mostly it is used to kill.

    what makes a thing a thing is it’s action, and it’s production.

    what does this thing make?

    death or life?

    what message does it carry, though so very beautifully…

    it is at such times that we may wish that there existed a god
    to judge such creatures

    during the bludgeoned banters of World War I you would have been called
    all kinds of nasty things, if you called into question the industrial machinations
    of war—i don’t buy the hypnosis diagnosis—-it is the cold, ruthless machinating
    dysfunctions of the “maligned” child, crushed, twisted, lizard-like, crying a gods
    pithy tale, killing because it is the last home of this dead thing, once young, once
    a life

  30. One more thing I’d like to add. Scott Atran may not actually believe that “no one believes in Paradise”. He may only have been using the statement as a rhetorical device. If so, then what he actually believes is much scarier and far more nihilistic, namely that our beliefs have no real effect on our behaviour whatsoever and that no matter how educated and enlightened we become we will still remain just as violent and savage as our ancestors before us.

    • In reply to #133 by Peter Grant:

      Scott Atran may not actually believe that “no one believes in Paradise”. He may only have been using the statement as a rhetorical device.

      First of all Atran says that he never said those words:

      He claims that I told him following a “preening and delusional lecture” that “no one [connected with suicide bombing] believes in paradise.” What I actually said to him (as I have to many others) was exactly what every leader of a jihadi group I interviewed told me, namely, that anyone seeking to become a martyr in order to obtain virgins in paradise would be rejected outright. I also said (and have written several articles and a book laying out the evidence) that although ideology is important, the best predictor (in the sense of a regression analysis) of willingness to commit an act of jihadi violence is if one belongs to an action-oriented social network, such as a neighborhood help group or even a sports team (see Atran, TALKING TO THE ENEMY, Penguin, 2010).

      From: http://www.thisviewoflife.com/index.php/magazine/articles/here-he-goes-again-sam-harriss-falsehoods

      If so, then what he actually believes is much scarier and far more nihilistic, namely that our beliefs have no real effect on our behaviour whatsoever

      Can you quote something Atran says that implies he thinks that? Because I’ve read two of his books and I think he feels exactly the opposite. In fact in his book Talking to the Enemy he says exactly the opposite, he points out that people often will make choices based on emotions rather than rational calculations. One of his experiments was to give Israelis and Palestinians different scenarios to evaluate, he found that both sides often made choices based on things like honor and dignity over money and land.

      • In reply to #138 by Red Dog:

        Can you quote something Atran says that implies he thinks that? Because I’ve read two of his books and I think he feels exactly the opposite. In fact in his book Talking to the Enemy he says exactly the opposite, he points out that people often will make choices based on emotions rather than rational calculations. One of his experiments was to give Israelis and Palestinians different scenarios to evaluate, he found that both sides often made choices based on things like honor and dignity over money and land.

        There is no real need to find a quote now, you have just done so. Absolutist ideologies are not rational, there may be a certain sort of logic to them, but as Sam points out in the article they are inextricably linked with emotion.

        • In reply to #141 by Peter Grant:

          There is no real need to find a quote now, you have just done so. Absolutist ideologies are not rational, there may be a certain sort of logic to them, but as Sam points out in the article they are inextricably linked with emotion.

          I don’t understand how any of that is relevant to the question I asked you. You sad about Atran: “what he actually believes is much scarier and far more nihilistic, namely that our beliefs have no real effect on our behaviour whatsoever” I am telling you he does not think that and he has written books that make it very clear he doesn’t think that. So I would like you to either provide something Atran says that indicates he does think that (in which case I’ll admit I was wrong) or for you to admit you were wrong when you said what you said about Atran.

          I agree that “Absolutist ideologies are not rational” The sky is blue and grass is green too. Don’t see what it has to do with my point that you (just as Harris) are misrepresenting what Atran says.

      • In reply to #143 by Red Dog:

        Don’t see what it has to do with my point that you (just as Harris) are misrepresenting what Atran says.

        You said in #138:

        he points out that people often will make choices based on emotions rather than rational calculations.

        This is a rather banal point, we all know this, but decisions based on absolutist ideologies are emotional, they are not “rational calculations”. The real point is to get people to make decisions that are rational based on science, not on emotion and dogma.

        • In reply to #144 by Peter Grant:

          You said in #138: he points out that people often will make choices based on emotions rather than rational calculations.
          This is a rather banal point, we all know this,

          Its a banal point if you just state it without evidence. Its one thing to have intuitions about how people behave its another thing entirely to turn those intuitions into a testable scientific theory. That is what Atran is trying to do. He doesn’t just make pronouncements he does research.

          But you still haven’t answered my question. Third time now I think but like Dirty Harry in all the confusion I’ve kind of lost track myself, regardless of whether what Atran says is banal or not it contradicts what you said he believes. You said Atran thinks “our beliefs have no real effect on our behaviour whatsoever” If you now admit that he says “people often will make choices based on emotions rather than rational calculations.” that shows he quite clearly thinks otherwise (even though his thinking about it is banal in your assessment). Can you ever admit you were wrong?

          • In reply to #145 by Red Dog:

            If you now admit that he says “people often will make choices based on emotions rather than rational calculations.” that shows he quite clearly thinks otherwise (even though his thinking about it is banal in your assessment).

            He thinks nothing, saying that we make decisions based on emotions is like saying “love makes the world go round”, or in this case hate, it is a content free statement. It does not provide any suggestions for how we can go about remedying this sorry state of affairs.

            Can you ever admit you were wrong?

            I can and do, but not nearly as often as I’d like.

          • In reply to whoever flagged my comment:

            You have obviously never experienced the emotional pain associated with genuinely believing that someone you loved would burn in hell.

  31. In reply to #130 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #129 by The Grapes of Roth:

    Ha, Atran is a relativist who is also irrational. That’s a good one. See, now that is how you do sarcasm.

    He almost certainly is a moral relativist, this is an unscientific dogma which most anthropologists cling to. It has resulted in much of the field colla…

    By now a lot of it is bruised ego, butt-hurt and sunk costs.

    He spends a career building up this carefully crafted reputation, buttressed by and adorned with all the paraphernalia of scholarly legitimization: bilingual publication, bi-continental lectureships and tenures at prestigious institutes of higher learning topped up by his pedantically ostentatious displays of proper pronunciation of the Arabic to curry further favorable estimation for his expertise derived from “trekking with mujahedin™” only to see his elaborate castles made of (desert) sand kicked in, one fine day in 2006 at a conference, by an arriviste wisecracking whippersnapper who rose from nowhere riding this oh so annoying, distasteful, dégoûtant, improper and impermissible really, “New Atheist” wave to the top (of which Atran has never even seen the bottom) of the New York Times bestseller list not once but twice.

    A pity, really, because there is truth to a lot of what the good Professor says. Except for the part where he rejects everything Harris says. Just as there is a lot of truth to what Harris says. Except for the part where he rejects everything Atran says.

    But as long as these two enfants terribles of the academic squabble continue their bitch fight we’ll just have to keep the popcorn handy. You’ve have got to admit it’s been a great ride so far.

    • In reply to #134 by godsbuster:

      A pity, really, because there is truth to a lot of what the good Professor says. Except for the part where he rejects everything Harris says. Just as there is a lot of truth to what Harris says. Except for the part where he rejects everything Atran says.

      Relativists talk a lot, but when you break it all down in to symbolic logic everything cancels out and you are forced to conclude that they have actually said nothing.

    • In reply to #134 by godsbuster:

      In reply to #130 by Peter Grant:

      In reply to #129 by The Grapes of Roth:

      Ha, Atran is a relativist who is also irrational. That’s a good one. See, now that is how you do sarcasm.

      He almost certainly is a moral relativist, this is an unscientific dogma which most anthropologists cling to. It has r…

      And Harris has had how many pieces on terrorism published in peer-reviewed scientific journals? Also, how much interest from political, defence or intelligence agencies in the counter-terrorism field is there for Harris’ ideas on suicide bombing? I think that’s two big fat zeros, isn’t it?

      • In reply to #140 by The Grapes of Roth:

        And Harris has had how many pieces on terrorism published in peer-reviewed scientific journals?

        Even most anthropologists no longer pretend that their field is a science.

        This is not to say that it might not become one, one day.

  32. In reply to Red Dog,

    Just a quick post.

    I note your fleeting reference to MS. Is this to avoid being thought sympathy-seeking. I wouldn’t think that, and I’m glad that you mentioned it. I know what a right struggle that can be, and I can’t help feeling a little concerned on your behalf.

    My view on that comment about intelligence by KC is that she was being entirely sincere. It is interesting that you initially missed her satire, but thanks for explaining that.

    On the topic at hand, I will say that I have read through some of the work by Atran at the links given. Also the link given by Grapes of Roth to Vridar’s blog.

    Something perhaps worth mentioning: The facts given there about the beliefs and activities of these terrorists are recounted and are in accord with what Harris tells us. They also in a way accord with the interpretation of Atran. The difference lies only in the emphasis and importance placed upon specific parts of the story.

    The full extent of the religious indoctrination going on and the emotional commitment to the islamic doctrine of martyrdom is laid out there. But to the question of how the group stayed together over periods of time between jihad operations, it turns out to be by playing soccer together.

    Atran places great emphasis on this; something not communicated to him by the jihadists but seemingly out of Scott’s own mind. But by this account the determination to die for Allah and to be rewarded in the gardens of paradise for all time had already been planted and it seems to me that the group were just awaiting the right time and opportunity to make their strike for Islam.

    The soccer was a way to pass the time, keep their morale up and to also maintain physical fitness, but i suggest it was their jihad theological training that sent them on that road.

    • In reply to #148 by inquisador:

      Something perhaps worth mentioning: The facts given there about the beliefs and activities of these terrorists are recounted and are in accord with what Harris tells us. They also in a way accord with the interpretation of Atran. The difference lies only in the emphasis and importance placed upon specific parts of the story.

      I don’t agree. Harris and Atran have two different models for explaining Islamic terrorism. Harris says that its because of religious indoctrination. Atran says that its because of reaction to events and a misplaced feeling of community. The people that Atran talks to (btw interesting that Harris doesn’t even bother to collect data) overwhelmingly support his prediction. They don’t talk about virgins in heaven or going to heaven on a winged horse. They talk about outrage over friends and relatives who have been killed, tortured, and raped. They talk about outrage over foreign troops occupying their homes.

      • In reply to #149 by Red Dog:

        They don’t talk about virgins in heaven or going to heaven on a winged horse. They talk about outrage over friends and relatives who have been killed, tortured, and raped. They talk about outrage over foreign troops occupying their homes.

        Aren’t these the standard complaints used to crank up the enmity; to make the struggle personal rather than general? These are familiar AlQaeda style propaganda tools doing the online rounds. Part of the jihadi climate.

        Why would foreign troops even cause such bitter resentment in their attempts to liberate those ‘homes’?

        Because foreign means kuffr. All is seen in those harsh terms. The unclean ones are polluting the lands of the pure This all goes back to that jihad theology.

        • In reply to #150 by inquisador:

          In reply to #149 by Red Dog:
          Aren’t those the standard complaints…

          The fact that Al Queda is public about why they do the terrible things they do and that those public pronouncements support Atran’s theory and not Harris’s is jjust more evidence that Atran is right. Its why when I read Atran’s book Talking to the Enemy nnone of it was particularly surprising to me.. Because I had read other books about Al Queda by CIA analysts and people like Peter Lance.

          Why would foreign troops even cause such bitter resentment… all goes back to jihad theology

          Are you really so devoid of empathy that you can’t imagine how you would feel if foreign troops were occuppying your home and propping up governments that you didn’t like?

          And the evidence doesn’t support your hypothesis. You can look all through history and see examples of people who were not muslims who resorted to violence to resist a foreign occupation. It was one of the primary reasons the US declared fought our revolutionary war. Or if you look at the research of Robert Pape at the University of Chicago. He has done statistical analysis of alll known examples of suicide terrorism in the modern world. What he finds is an amazinglly strong correlation, the kind of statistical evidence you seldom see so clearly in the social sciences. That suicide terrorism is directly correlatd with foreign occupation. The statistical evidence is overwhelming where you have suicide terrorism you have an occupation. (Note religion is aa secondary cause for Pape and Atran — a religious difference between the occupiers and the occcupied make terrorism more likely — it has nothing to do with which religions though) On the other hand there is no correlation with Islam per se. There are examples of peaceful Islamice communities all over the world and all through history. The only time they resort to suicide terrorism is with a foreiign occupation. And there are many other examples of non-Islamic terrorism and they also have a foriegn occupation. In fact, a great deal of the terrorism over history was not caused by Muslims. The inventors of the suicide vest and one of the largest users of teerrorism have been the Tamil Tigers who are not Muslims.

          • In reply to #151 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #150 by inquisador:

            In reply to #149 by Red Dog:
            Aren’t those the standard complaints…

            Are you really so devoid of empathy that you can’t imagine how you would feel if foreign troops were occuppying your home

            Funnily enough, Tommy Robinson of the EDL stated, or maybe even threatened, that if things (immigration) continue in about 5 years ‘British lads will blow themselves up’ because they are oppressed by and angry about Islam.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWMZDcPuDT8

            The EDL to employ suicide bombing as a tactic against perceived foreign occupation of Britain by Muslims in 5 years? Who knows.

          • We have already had suicide bombing by British lads. Three of the four 7/7 bombers were British born and so had not experienced occupation by foreign troops. They were of Pakistani origin and the UK has not had occupying troops there for a long time.

            The fourth moved to the UK with his mother in his early years. They were Christian but he later married a British born convert to Islam and both he and his mother converted. Interesting that they did not attend the local mosque. Perhaps he was radicalised via the internet or perhaps by his wife or her contacts. If he had mixed more with the local Muslim community maybe the influence of the moderate majority would have stopped him.

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

            Of course you could argue that because they were Muslims (or convert) that they were reacting to the occupation of the countries of their fellow Muslims as they are taught by Islamists. I’m sure that if no countries were occupied by foreign troops there would be a big reduction in suicide bombings but probably not to zero.

            There have been suicide bombings in Iraq well after foreign troops left:

            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23017518

            These seem to be down to perceived political bias for/against certain religious factions. Hopefully these attacks will reduce as the democratic government of Iraq evolves but with the current situation in neighbouring Syria, it’s hard to see a calming of relations between Sunni and Shia.

            In reply to #152 by The Grapes of Roth:

            Funnily enough, Tommy Robinson of the EDL stated, or maybe even threatened, that if things (immigration) continue in about 5 years ‘British
            lads will blow themselves up’ because they are oppressed by and angry about Islam.

          • In reply to #151 by Red Dog:

            Are you really so devoid of empathy that you can’t imagine how you would feel if foreign troops were occuppying your home and propping up governments that >you didn’t like?

            I don’t even like our own government that much. But never mind that. Can you not see the gaping holes in your argument?

            The scenario you just gave is exactly what happened in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Foreign troops from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and North Africa, maybe just a few Afghans among them, waged war on the native tribal leaders and established a government that was hated by most people and was in occupation of the country. The Taliban were true foreign occupiers in the sense that they claimed sovereignty. They were also vile savages, as we all know. No space here to recount all their atrocities in the name of Allah and Sharia.

            Then, in comes the blundering coalition to the rescue.

            ‘Hey guys, we’ll help y’all out. Just as soon as we fuck up these Al Kayeeda bastards we’ll hammer those Tal-Eye-Ban for ya and help ya set up a nice new democratic government’.

            Well, something like that. Now, 12 years and a trillion or so dollars later, the coalition have built roads, all kinds of infrastructure, trained up a new army and police force, schools, mosques and helped to develop a model for a new democratic government system with a new (Islamic) constitution. The coalition are starting to pack up and go home and will be all gone in 18 months. Same kinda thing happened in Iraq. The coalition claimed no territory and was actually trying, in it’s naive way, to do the right thing. In no sense was it a foreign occupation; more like a vast donation of aid and security, wasted on a population that mostly considers westerners to be contemptible filthy infidels.

            So are you so devoid of empathy that you can’t see how Islam has warped the minds of Muslims against all reason to the point that AlQaeda and so many other jihad groups can use that kind of propaganda against non-Muslims regardless of all the rationale against it. Reason says that the Taliban were the foreign occupiers, but reason has left the building. Good Muslims will, it seems always tend to prevail. no matter how barbaric they be. As we are terrified of being ‘racist’, it seems they are terrified of being ‘unislamic’.

            So, no, I disagree. The primary cause of terrorism, by Muslims, not necessarily suicide bombing, is Islam.

            The interference in Islamic affairs by infidels, may well be the secondary cause.

          • In reply to #154 by inquisador:

            In reply to #151 by Red Dog:

            The scenario you just gave is exactly what happened in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Foreign troops from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and >North Africa, maybe just a few Afghans among them, waged war on the native tribal leaders and established a government that was >hated by most people and was in occupation of the country. The Taliban were true foreign occupiers in the sense that they claimed >sovereignty. They were also vile savages, as we all know.

            True, and none more so than the Northern Alliance thugs and rapists who were so vicious that many in Afghanistan were actually relieved when the Taliban took control. They at least restored some order to the place.

            No space here to recount all their atrocities in the name of Allah and Sharia.

            Same with the US-backed forces.

            Then, in comes the blundering coalition to the rescue.

            ‘Hey guys, we’ll help y’all out. Just as soon as we fuck up these Al Kayeeda bastards we’ll hammer those Tal-Eye-Ban for ya and help >ya set up a nice new democratic government’.

            How do you know that was the goal other than that the Dear Leader told you?

            Well, something like that. Now, 12 years and a trillion or so dollars later, the coalition have built roads, all kinds of infrastructure, trained up a new army and police force, schools, mosques and helped to develop a model for a new democratic government system with a new (Islamic) constitution.

            I love how you just assume that this trillion dollars was poured primarily into building roads and infrastructure, and that the invaders came in with nothing more sinister than the desire to hug kittens and puppies.

            The coalition are starting to pack up and go home and will be all gone in 18 months. Same kinda thing happened in Iraq. The coalition claimed no territory and was actually trying, in it’s naive way, to do the right thing.

            Not really. By falling for the ‘dumb but well-meaning’ narrative, you’re just falling for the narrative scripted for you by those who don’t have time to hug kittens and puppies and must get on with the grubby realities of statecraft, but would rather leave their constituencies with the former image.

            In no sense was it a foreign occupation;

            Eh? So the kidnapped people at Guantanamo Bay are presumably just an optical illusion, since ‘in now way’ was this a foreign occupation.

            more like a vast donation of aid and security, wasted on a population that mostly considers westerners to be contemptible filthy infidels.

            Right, so we should feel sorry for ourselves rather than the tens of thousands of Afghans who lost their lives, limbs or family members to Western bombs, death squads, torture camps, home invasions, mercenaries and US-backed warlords.

            So are you so devoid of empathy that you can’t see how Islam has warped the minds of Muslims against all reason to the point that AlQaeda and so many other jihad groups can use that kind of propaganda against non-Muslims regardless of all the rationale against it.

            Your blithe ignorance of warfare is truly staggering.

            Reason says that the Taliban were the foreign occupiers, but reason has left the building.

            So true.

            Good Muslims will, it seems always tend to prevail. no matter how barbaric they be. As we are terrified of being ‘racist’, it seems they are terrified of being ‘unislamic’.

            So, no, I disagree. The primary cause of terrorism, by Muslims, not necessarily suicide bombing, is Islam.

            This is a conclusion that one can easily come to if one airbrushes history and fills it in with slobbering appeals to Western virtue and naivete.

            The interference in Islamic affairs by infidels, may well be the secondary cause.

            I suggest you do some actual research on the history of the Middle East and Afghanistan rather than taking your ‘information’ from those who are busily congratulating themselves in your name.

  33. Spot on. It’s very true about those who regard themselves as ‘secular liberals’ lacking the empathy. I have this issue with many people when discussing religion. Sometimes when criticising the threats of religion people will say I’m generalising – (they don’t represent the majority etc), when really it’s the majority I’m concerned for.

  34. A basic contradiction in Sam Harris’s article is that he claims that Jihadis are motivated by religious texts and then that they are motivated by emotion. Which is it? If the motivation comes from reading and believing the truth of statements, this is rational. If the motivation is from the impact of slogans as delivered by a Jihadi trainer, this is akin to inculcating marines with the marines’ credo and does not depend on a rational understanding of a text. That is to say, the text is innocent.

    • In reply to #160 by aldous:

      A basic contradiction in Sam Harris’s article is that he claims that Jihadis are motivated by religious texts and then that they are motivated by emotion. Which is it? If the motivation comes from reading and believing the truth of statements, this is rational. If the motivation is from the impact o…

      You are assuming there is A rational understanding of the text. There are obvious contradictions in the text. Rationalizing those contradictions would be dependent upon a pre-existing worldview based on reason or emotion. It’s the authority of the text that makes the process so dangerous.

  35. It’s seems unlikely that two British Nigerian Jihadis, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, are now facing charges of murder because they were authorized by the ‘correct’ interpretation of some verses in the Koran to carry out an attack on a Brtish soldier in London. I doubt if Muslim Jihadi killers are compelled by the sheer force of the printed word (in classical Arabic) to act as they do.

    After all, do Christians ‘turn the other cheek’ because it says so in the Gospels? All of history contradicts that theory. Two world wars where two Christians nations, Britain and Germany, carried out atrocities on a colossal scale, contradict that.
    Sam Harris gives too much credit to the intellect and, therefore to the influence of religious texts and their interpretation.

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