On the Freedom to Offend an Imaginary God

104

This is posted in its entirety here as there were some temporary problems with Sam Harris’s site


The latest wave of Muslim hysteria and violence has now spread to over twenty countries. The walls of our embassies and consulates have been breached, their precincts abandoned to triumphant mobs, and many people have been murdered—all in response to an unwatchable Internet video titled “Innocence of Muslims.” Whether over a film, a cartoon, a novel, a beauty pageant, or an inauspiciously named teddy bear, the coming eruption of pious rage is now as predictable as the dawn. This is already an old and boring story about old, boring, and deadly ideas. And I fear it will be with us for the rest of our lives.

Our panic and moral confusion were at first sublimated in attacks upon the hapless Governor Romney. I am no fan of Romney’s, and I would find the prospect of his presidency risible if it were not so depressing, but he did accurately detect the first bleats of fear in the Obama administration’s reaction to this crisis. Romney got the timing of events wrong—confusing, as many did, a statement made by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo for an official government response to the murder of Americans in Libya. But the truth is that the White House struck the same note of apology, disavowing the offending speech while claiming to protect free speech in principle. It may seem a small detail, given the heat of the moment—but so is a quivering lip.

Our government followed the path of appeasement further by attempting to silence the irrepressible crackpot Pastor Terry Jones, who had left off burning copies of the Qur’an just long enough to promote the film. The administration also requested that Google remove “Innocence of Muslims” from its servers. These maneuvers attest to one of two psychological and diplomatic realities: Either our government is unwilling to address the problem at hand, or the problem is so vast and terrifying that we have decided to placate the barbarians at the gate.

The contagion of moral cowardice followed its usual course, wherein liberal journalists and pundits began to reconsider our most basic freedoms in light of the sadomasochistic fury known as “religious sensitivity” among Muslims. Contributors to The New York Times and NPR spoke of the need to find a balance between free speech and freedom of religion—as though the latter could possibly be infringed by a YouTube video. As predictable as Muslim bullying has become, the moral confusion of secular liberals appears to be part of the same clockwork.

Consider what is actually happening: Some percentage of the world’s Muslims—Five percent? Fifteen? Fifty? It’s not yet clear—is demanding that all non-Muslims conform to the strictures of Islamic law. And where they do not immediately resort to violence in their protests, they threaten it. Carrying a sign that reads “Behead Those Who Insult the Prophet” may still count as an example of peaceful protest, but it is also an assurance that infidel blood would be shed if the imbecile holding the placard only had more power. This grotesque promise is, of course, fulfilled in nearly every Muslim society. To make a film like “Innocence of Muslims” anywhere in the Middle East would be as sure a method of suicide as the laws of physics allow.

What exactly was in the film? Who made it? What were their motives? Was Muhammad really depicted? Was that a Qur’an burning, or some other book? Questions of this kind are obscene. Here is where the line must be drawn and defended without apology: We are free to burn the Qur’an or any other book, and to criticize Muhammad or any other human being. Let no one forget it.

At moments like this, we inevitably hear—from people who don’t know what it’s like to believe in paradise—that religion is just a way of channeling popular unrest. The true source of the problem can be found in the history of western aggression in the region. It is our policies, rather than our freedoms, that they hate. I believe that the future of liberalism—and much else—depends on our overcoming this ruinous self-deception.  Religion only works as a pretext for political violence because many millions of people actually believe what they say they believe: that imaginary crimes like blasphemy and apostasy are killing offenses.

Most secular liberals think that all religions are the same, and they consider any suggestion to the contrary a sign of bigotry. Somehow, this article of faith survives daily disconfirmation. Our language is largely to blame for this. As I have pointed out on many occasions, “religion” is a term like “sports”: Some sports are peaceful but spectacularly dangerous (“free solo” rock climbing, street luge); some are safer but synonymous with violence (boxing, mixed martial arts); and some entail little more exertion or risk of serious injury than standing in the shower (bowling, badminton). To speak of “sports” as a generic activity makes it impossible to discuss what athletes actually do, or the physical attributes required to do it. What do all sports have in common, apart from breathing? Not much. The term “religion” is scarcely more useful.

Consider Mormonism: Many of my fellow liberals would consider it morally indecent to count Romney’s faith against him. In their view, Mormonism must be just like every other religion. The truth, however, is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more than its fair share of quirks. For instance, its doctrine was explicitly racist until 1978, at which point God apparently changed his mind about black people (a few years after Archie Bunker did) and recommended that they be granted the full range of sacraments and religious responsibilities. By this time, Romney had been an adult and an exceptionally energetic member of his church for more than a decade.

Unlike the founders of most religions, about whom very little is known, Mormonism is the product of the plagiarisms and confabulations of an obvious con man, Joseph Smith, whose adventures among the credulous were consummated (in every sense) in the full, unsentimental glare of history. Given how much we know about Smith, it is harder to be a Mormon than it is to be a Christian. A firmer embrace of the preposterous is required—and the fact that Romney can manage it says something about him, just as it would if he were a Scientologist proposing to park his E-meter in the Oval Office. The spectrum between rational belief and self-serving delusion has some obvious increments: It is one thing to believe that Jesus existed and was probably a remarkable human being. It is another to accept, as most Christians do, that he was physically resurrected and will return to earth to judge the living and the dead. It is yet another leap of faith too far to imagine, as all good Mormons must, that he will work his cosmic magic from the hallowed ground of Jackson County, Missouri.

That final, provincial detail matters. It makes Mormonism objectively less plausible than run-of-the-mill Christianity—as does the related claim that Jesus visited the “Nephites” in America at some point after his resurrection. The moment one adds seer stones, sacred underpants, the planet Kolob, and a secret handshake required to win admittance into the highest heaven, Mormonism stands revealed for what it is: the religious equivalent of rhythmic gymnastics.

The point, however, is that I can say all these things about Mormonism, and disparage Joseph Smith to my heart’s content, without fearing that I will be murdered for it. Secular liberals ignore this distinction at every opportunity and to everyone’s peril. Take a moment to reflect upon the existence of the musical The Book of Mormon. Now imagine the security precautions that would be required to stage a similar production about Islam. The project is unimaginable—not only in Beirut, Baghdad, or Jerusalem, but in New York City.

The freedom to think out loud on certain topics, without fear of being hounded into hiding or killed, has already been lost. And the only forces on earth that can recover it are strong, secular governments that will face down charges of blasphemy with scorn. No apologies necessary. Muslims must learn that if they make belligerent and fanatical claims upon the tolerance of free societies, they will meet the limits of that tolerance. And Governor Romney, though he is wrong about almost everything under the sun (including, very likely, the sun), is surely right to believe that it is time our government delivered this message without blinking.

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

104 COMMENTS

  1. Both Dr. Dawkins and Sam Harris are passing up a golden opportunity to promote the values of secularism by instead choosing to focus on insulting Muslims.  It might appear to be a slight distinction at face value, but there is a much more important point that neither is willing to address: the influence of secular enlightenment progression that comes with improved standard of living is what makes American or “Western” Christians, Muslims, Mormons, Jews, etc. less prone to the allure of violence. 

    Let us not pretend members of any superstitious faction, in a society alienated from education and rule-of-law, would not be more prone to what is happening in Arab and predominantly Muslim nations.  Harris perfunctorily dismisses what is a vital and missing piece of this conversation.  Yes, it is our right to say, draw, and think what we want.  Yes, we must always protect that right against all encroachment.  But to dismiss complicated geopolitical factors that have been centuries in the making as secular liberal apologia?  Grievous intellectual dishonesty.  You can condemn religious violence and foolishness without pretending not to know that such things such as the “Great Game,” drone strikes and multiple occupations and decades-long wars are real things that affect real people by the millions.

    You can defend your right to free speech without making fatuous, surface level arguments.

  2. I agree with the jist of the article but Sam is making the mistake of using phrases like “most secular liberals.” I’m a secular liberal and I do not hold the views he’s painting – he comes close to making strawmen arguments. Perhaps he should be a little more accurate and refrain from using “most” when he has no data to support that claim.

  3.  By the way, where is the Islamic Minister for Faith & Communities when you need her?

    Oh, here she is…

    http://www.communities.gov.uk – 19 September 2012.

    Baroness Warsi yesterday met with the Archbishop of
    Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, for the first time since
    she became Minister for Faith and Communities.

    The Archbishop, who is President of the Bishops’ Conference
    of England and Wales discussed with Baroness Warsi the central role
    faith plays within communities and in building a cohesive society.

    Baroness Warsi is also Senior Minister of State at the
    Foreign and Commonwealth Office, where her responsibilities include
    human rights and religious freedom, and is holding a series of meetings
    with faith leaders during her first few weeks in post.

    What’s that smell?

    Can anyone smell something?

    Smells like Rome?

    Can anyone smell Rome?

    Anvil.

  4.  “As predictable as Muslim bullying has become, the moral confusion of secular liberals appears to be part of the same clockwork.”

    I’ve been saying this for years and  was absolutely disgusted with statement by Hillary Clinton made shortly after, it was not only cowardly but completely inaccurate. She even gave the impression that fucking a prepubescent girl is not pedophilia.

    And then Rachel Maddow joined in framing the whole thing as islamophobia and right-wing nuttery completely missing the substance of the story.

  5. To expound a bit, the strangest contradiction is that when taken as a whole, one of the most profound recurring arguments of prominent atheist speakers is that we do not, in the modern day, take our ethics and morals from religious texts.  Dawkins adeptly makes the point that this generation’s morals are different from the past centuries, and the trend goes on.  This is implicitly because of the increasing influence of enlightened secularism, which as a rule includes recognition of rights, protections, and access to education.

    How can you then publish a piece that chastises Muslims for being bad because of Islam and faintly praise Christians and Mormons for being better because their religions are better?  Do we or do we not get our morals from religious texts?  Do we or do we not credit secular values for creating a society in which Christians are no longer murdering and torturing for Jesus?  The conversation should be about secular solutions, which all end up coming back to improving standard of living.  But now we’re saying Christians and Mormons DO get their morals from their objectively less objectionable religious books because it’s an expeditious route to condemning  Muslims without having to wade into the complicated swamp of reality?  This is facile and lazy.

  6.  I’ve been following this pretty closely and I don’t recall either Ms. Clinton giving “the impression that fucking a prepubescent girl is not pedophilia.” or Rachel Maddow “framing the whole thing as islamophobia and right-wing nuttery”.

    What specifically did they say that makes you say this?

  7. It will be interesting to see how Warsi goes about her oxymoronic duties.  How she can serve human rights and the antihumanism of religious freedom is going to be all too predictable.

    The smell by the way is the gallimaufry of horseshit being stirred by these loathsome people.

    ‘The central role faith plays in building social cohesion’?  Were the participants sane it would’ve been the shortest fucking discussion in history.

  8. I loved the article, and will probably be sharing it with friends. I think it would be a mistake, however, to think Sam Harris’ powerful objections necessarily lead to his conclusion about the West’s best reaction. It’s a bit like the old “This is all that’s wrong with capitalism, therefore–communism” argument. 

    He may very well be right; emotionally, at least, I tend to lean that way. I also don’t think Harris’ purpose was to propose a clear course of action. But I haven’t seen a good, strategy-oriented discussion of what the best way is to meet this violence and abrogation of free speech. Supporting local resistance groups, actively setting an example, demonstrating the value of free speech, spreading informational pamphlets and videos: off the top of my head these are also strategies that could follow, and I’d love to examine them. 

    Can anyone think of similar conflicts, what worked and what didn’t?

  9. I have read the Qur’an. In several languages and editions. It contains over a hundred sections of insane fanaticism, wrapped in manipulative language designed to distract the reader from the fact that it is… well, insane fanaticism. It is beyond me how anyone can claim that this is a “religion of peace”, and the kind of aggressive bullying against the opponents of this cult we are currently seeing, comes as no surprise given the source material.

    The origins of this so-called “book”, by the way, are no less preposterous than the story of good old Peepstone Joe (gimme a break, aliens visiting a medieval warlord in a cave?!).

  10. I think we should all be more patient with Islamists. A couple of hundred years should see it all sorted. These are just the death throes. I do wish they would follow the Christian example of slowly passing away as if on a morphine drip.

  11. lboogie

    Dawkins and Harris are passing up a golden opportunity to promote the values of secularism by instead choosing to focus on insulting Muslims.

    Saying we have a right to say what we think of Islam, and condemning violence contrary to that right, and condemning moral cowardice in not defending said right while issuing such condemnation, is not an insult to Muslims.

    Let us not pretend members of any superstitious faction, in a society alienated from education and rule-of-law, would not be more prone to what is happening in Arab and predominantly Muslim nations.

    Would not be? Let’s look at whether they are. Right now, in the world’s majority-Muslim generations, all religious groups are alienated from education and rule-of-law, to extents which vary with the nation but not with the religion. But we don’t see these regions’ non-Muslim religions’ followers acting like this. Indeed, Innocence of Muslims is the work of an Egyptian Christian, and this is far as his ilk goes, and nowhere near as far as Egyptian Muslims go.

    to dismiss complicated geopolitical factors that have been centuries in the making
    as secular liberal apologia

    Harris never says the politics is a figment of apologetics; he merely denies that they fully explain the uniquely Muslim origin of atrocities like these. I’m fed up with people who think everything’s hunky dory in religion town, or at least equally hunky-dory in each religion, thinking all they need to refute arguments to the contrary is to name other causal factors. The whole point of multi-causal historical explanations is that you can’t say A doesn’t matter just because B does.

    Kalex

    Sam is making the mistake of using phrases like “most secular liberals.” I’m a secular liberal and I do not hold the views he’s painting – he comes close to making strawmen arguments.

    A straw man isn’t where you misrepresent how widespread is disagreement with yourself; it’s where you misrepresent the arguments those who do disagree with you make. Neither you nor Harris provide statistical evidence regarding what proportion of secular liberals lack the clearheadedness on these issues that at least two secular liberals – namely you and Harris – possess. However, the “most” claim isn’t refuted by that number of data points. But even if his claim is suspect, it’s not a straw man fallacy.

    Lboogie again

    The strangest contradiction is one of the most profound recurring arguments of prominent atheist speakers is we do not take our ethics and morals from religious texts.  Dawkins adeptly makes the point that this generation’s morals are different from the past centuries, and the trend goes on.  This is implicitly because of the increasing influence of enlightened secularism, which as a rule includes recognition of rights, protections, and access to education. How can you then publish a piece that chastises Muslims for being bad because of Islam and faintly praise Christians and Mormons for being better because their religions are better?  Do we or do we not get our morals from religious texts? Do we or do we not credit secular values for creating a society in which Christians are no longer murdering and torturing for Jesus?  Now we’re saying Christians and Mormons DO get their morals from their objectively less objectionable religious books

    Harris never once compared texts; he compared the religious groups themselves. A religion can be defined by its book or by what its followers actually think and do, and the latter is often the more relevant; this is why polytheism is no longer worth discussing if you’re trying to characterise Judaism. Do we or do we not yadda yadda yadda? The Muslim world’s views are far closer to those of their texts than the Christian world’s views are to theirs on the matter of when religious violence is called for, and you have noted how secular the historical reasons for that really are. When people like Richard Dawkins say “we” don’t get our ethics from the Bible, this is shorthand for, “given that I’m discussing whether morality requires religion in a nation in which Christians are demonstrated by their civility to be far removed from Biblical principles, and the same in practice applies to pretty much all the other religious people too, the moral case against atheism is in tatters”. Don’t take the points he’s making out of that defensive context; what he’s saying doesn’t amount to a denial that the world’s theists are not in this respect homogeneous. How can we conclude what certain Muslims are doing is Islam’s fault? Because Islam’s texts support it and, lo and behold, those who read it the most more frequently behave in these ways. Not only can a comparison of Muslims with non-Muslims reveal this; we even find greater attention still to the text among the Muslims who commit these acts.

    Misfire

    I think it would be a mistake to think Harris’ [sic] powerful objections lead to his conclusion about the West’s best reaction. It’s a bit like the old “This is all that’s wrong with capitalism, therefore–communism” argument. 

    Do we make clear religious sensitivities don’t nullify our freedom of speech, or don’t we? This is a binary issue. However, the right way to run an economy and the political system of a nation is not, and that’s why said argument for Communism is invalid; it provides a false dilemma.

    I haven’t seen a good, strategy-oriented discussion of the best way to meet this violence and abrogation of free speech.

    The binary issue I mention above is separate from the issue you now raise; we don’t need to know what such a strategy would look like to answer the binary question.

  12. “At moments like this, we inevitably hear—from people who don’t know what it’s like to believe in paradise—that religion is just a way of channeling popular unrest. The true source of the problem can be found in the history of western aggression in the region.”

    I don’t understand why this has to be an either/or. Isn’t it possible, in fact likely, that western aggression is at least partly also responsible in addition to Islam? What I find perplexing is that Harris simply assumes that Islam is not just the main cause but in fact the ONLY cause of this kind of violence without putting forth one piece of actual data or even much of a rational argument to support his position.

    In fact if we look at the related phenomenon of suicide terrorism there is significant evidence that Harris is wrong. Robert A. Pape from the University of Chicago developed a database of all suicide terrorist attacks from 1980 to 2003. With research money from Donald Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense (not exactly secular liberals) Pape analyzed this data and conducted interviews with captured terrorists which he documented in his book: Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism.

    Pape found strong evidence that armed occupation was the primary cause of suicide terrorism not religion let alone Islam. For example, the greatest terrorist criminals in the period he analyzed were the Tamil Tigers, a group that is neither Muslim nor especially religious. There ideology was communism and nationalism. Pape did find that religion was a secondary factor, it helped motivate suicide terrorists.

    I wonder has Harris read Pape?  Is he interested in an alternative view and in some actual statistics and data? Perhaps I’ve missed something but I can’t recall ever seeing Harris or Dawkins quote any political science research when they talk about the politics of Islam. Which in itself seems odd for people committed to reason, kind of like religious people giving their opinion on evolution without talking to biologists.
     

  13. I believe Sam is right in the sense that people keep backing down and showing fear.  Violence is getting results right now. Until the world stops cowering in fear of Islam I doubt anything will change.

  14. Mr. Harris wasn’t discussing the various reasons for suicide terrorism, he was discussing the issue of violence and threats of violence by practitioners of Islam over any real or perceived insult to Islam that has no analogous behavior in other religions.  He is also discussing the failure of the West to speak out against such behavior and in favor of our Western values unequivocally, without apologizing for the freedoms our citizens have to criticize any and all religions without being subject to violence.  When made his “Piss Christ” piece of “art,” Christendom did not riot and kill.  The artist didn’t have to be taken into protective custody for fear of being murdered (admittedly, the artist did receive death threats).  Media outlets in the West weren’t out discussing ways to limit freedom of expression so as not to offend religious Christians.  U.S. governmental officials weren’t apologizing to the Christian communities offended.  The fallout had more to do with whether such art should be in any way publicly funded.  The violence ended up being limited to defacing of the artwork when on display.  What do you think would happen if the artist came out with a new piece of artwork called “Piss Mohammed”?  Do you really think that the Islamic world’s reaction to such a piece of “art” would be similar to that of Christendom’s?  Do you really think that the United States government’s reaction and that of various media outlets would be the same?

  15. “So violence works very well. Perhaps hat will be our future.”

    Are you (and I would ask the same of Harris) seriously claiming that Islam is the only threat to peace in the world? Who invaded Iraq, a country that had no intention, in fact not even the ability, to attack the US? Who regularly uses unmanned drones to assassinate anyone in Pakistan that it decides (with no court, jury, or public evidence) is a terrorist? And who is it that regularly talks about bombing Iran because they claim (and we know what a great track record the US has on claims of WMD) that Iran might be some day maybe going to develop one nuclear weapon when the US and Israel have enough to demolish the world many times over?

    Now in reply you might say 9/11! And I agree 9/11 was terrible and I hate Islam and I hate terrorists and I’m not even completely sure if I’m against the unmanned drone attacks even though they are clearly illegal by International Law. It would be irrational for me to claim that the US is the only force driving us to a violent future and I’m not claiming that. I’m not one of those namby pamby secular liberals. I hate Islam big time, ooh it sucks. But it would also be ridiculous for anyone familiar with recent history to claim that Islam is the ONLY force driving the world to violence. A rational discussion requires consideration of all the facts not just the ones that people in power in the West find convenient.

  16. I agree with Sam Harris’ theses that:

    a) All religions are not equal (though, often, it is useful to talk about religion in general given the commonalities) e.g. consider a comparison of Buddhism with Christianity or Islam. As far as I am aware (someone may be able to correct me) Buddhist leaders have never instigated anything akin to “Inquisitions” or “Fatwas”?

    b) That Western governments should take care not to be apologists for violent actions that have no excuse.

    However, as others have made the point here… I do think that the comparison of the “danger” of different religions in the article is simplistic. While it may be true that in our current historical era, Islam has more association with violence… to indicate that this is mainly because the roots of Islam are more violent than other religions, I believe is overstating things. Simply read through the Old Testament (with terrible examples explicitly pointed out many times on this web site). It would seem to me that there is a strong mix of politics, social deprivation and religion. To focus on one aspect, especially if one was formulating government policy, would be a big mistake. While many of the worst behaviours of Christian based religions are from hundreds of years ago there are clearly recent examples of extreme violence associated with Christianity e.g. the troubles in Northern Ireland  (which, similarly, was due to a mix of political, social and religious pressures). Though Northern Ireland is a recent shining example of how reasonable people’s views can win out over extreme actions – perhaps there are lessons to be taken from this model that could be applied to aspects of the Islamic world? Europe as a whole is an example of how regions can lift themselves out of times of violence associated with religious, political and social injustices. So there is hope that Islamic regions can do the same.

    So while there is, as far as I can see, truth to claims that Islam has a greater current association with violent acts (except this should be tempered with data about terrorist acts – re: poster who points to Pape’s research) policy that attempts to bring about change to the level of violence need to be based on an approach that takes into account a range of complex factors – which will also involve the varying ability of various nations to actually have any influence in particular matters.

  17. RD: What other side could he be on?

    Kalex: You’ve crossed into the the territory of evidence from anecdote. Are you “most” liberals? How do you know you’re representative of them? Be it most or just 50%; leftist liberal atheists have a serious blind spot when it comes to the RoP. It’s not as evident on this site as the one of PZ Myers, for instance, but it’s saddening to see gobble-dee-gook like that of Iboogie’s get as many as 13 likes.

    Misfire: Hard to say what works just yet. Stopping immigration of Muslims to our countries is clearly needed, that’s for sure.

    Red Dog: No one claims Islam is the ONLY force driving the world to violence. There are many causes to an effect, but the RoP is the biggest one right now, and it’s been the biggest for 1400 years. 270 million dead is hard to beat.

    Here’s something a lot of leftist liberals need to hear. Douglas Murray sets the record straight. He’s gay so it’s ok for you to listen to him. Even though he’s also a white man:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f

  18.  “Red Dog: No one claims Islam is the ONLY force driving the world to violence.”

    Then why is it so bad to also consider Western aggression AS WELL AS Islam when things like this happen? Then why does Harris say things like this:

    “At moments like this, we inevitably hear—from people who don’t know what
    it’s like to believe in paradise—that religion is just a way of
    channeling popular unrest. The true source of the problem can be found
    in the history of western aggression in the region. It is our policies,
    rather than our freedoms, that they hate. I believe that the future of
    liberalism—and much else—depends on our overcoming this ruinous
    self-deception.  Religion only works as a pretext for political violence
    because many millions of people actually believe what they say they
    believe: that imaginary crimes like blasphemy and apostasy are killing
    offenses.”

    He says that its a “ruinous self-deception” to say “The true source of the problem can be found
    in the history of western aggression in the region” To me that doesn’t sound like someone open to a rational discussion about various causes, both religion and occupation. It sounds like someone who has made up his mind that religion is the only cause that matters and that Islam is the worst religion.

    All of which may be true, I would like to see some evidence and more of an argument than Harris just mocking people who disagree with him. I would like to see Harris or Dawkins respond to people like Pape and acknowledge that there may be more to Islamic violence than just the religion, military occupation and aggression may have a role as well.

  19.  I think we are lucky to have Jos Gibbons on our side also, professor Dawkins.I see the problems with some of the posts here, but Jos always had the reasoned arguments addressing these problems at hand that would take me days to frame.

  20. Harris invents an imaginary fault and an imaginary virtue in his single-minded attack on Islam. The imaginary fault is the illogical accusation that the White House made any kind of apology. He linked to the press statement where the closest thing to an apology would still be so far from it, that anyone who would accept it as apology has already lost self-respect. Either Harris really thinks anything less than an endorsement of the denigration of religion constitutes apology, or he is just saying it for effect. The imaginary virtue is the one he attributes to Romney for believing we should deliver the message that “Muslims must learn that if they make belligerent and fanatical claims upon the tolerance of free societies, they will meet the limits of that tolerance”. Romney did not go that far in actuality. He merely said we should not apologize – which the White House did not. If Sam wants to deliver that message he should deliver it himself without falsely putting it in the mouth of Romney. By suggesting that Romney had gone as far as threatening the limits of tolerance upon the Muslims, Harris committed the same level of confusion of chronology as Mitt Romney did, since Romney spoke before it was known the ambassador and three others were killed.

    Islam and the violent sensitivity of Muslims fully deserves to be scornfully criticised. Harris did not need to invent fake reasons to do so.

  21. I love Dr Harris and I think he is an amazing writer. However, I have one little issue with this essay. Mitt Romney is disagreeing with Obama because he disagrees with EVERYTHING Obama says and does. I don’t think Mitt is on the correct side here, he just happened to land there for his usual reasons. I don’t think he’d do anything different if he was in the oval office. And, if he’s elected he will pander to islam with the best of them.

  22. “or the problem is so vast and terrifying that we have decided to placate the barbarians at the gate” 

    May I suggest we forget the nit-picking and intellectualising and focus on the important bit! 

    For anyone in doubt about the threat- have a look at “Islam for Idiots”

  23. That is a hard line argument. Sam realises that people will be killed because of it, hopefully though in the long run putting an end to this nonsense.

    But he does not show the same firmness to sacrifice lives to stop the Catholics from trying to cram their batshit crazy ideas on everyone else, namely tormenting gays, blocking contraception, banning abortion, child rape, respect for creationism.

    He is not being consistent.  I am strongly tempted to swing a Harrisian hammer on the arrogant Muslims, but I think a middle ground similar the path Obama is treading might work better.

    My mother was very violent and irrational.  I learned at an early age that going at her with logic was not productive.  It is extremely difficult to get even a sliver of common sense into someone who is deeply deluded. You can’t be flat-footed about it.

  24. Red Dog

    I wonder has Harris read Pape?

    Wonder away, but I now have definitive proof you haven’t read Harris well enough; he discusses that same 2003 paper of Pape’s extensively in The End of Faith. The second note to Chapter 4, which is almost a page’s worth, replies to Pape’s paper. Go away and read it (or refuse to track it down and force me to type it here); find Harris’s reply convincing or unconvincing; but the reply does exist.

    Harris assumes Islam is not just the main cause but in fact the ONLY cause of this kind of violence
    Are you claiming Islam is the only threat to peace in the world? It would be ridiculous for anyone familiar with recent history to claim Islam is the ONLY force driving the world to violence.

    You repeatedly place Islam-only claims in others’ mouths. I have already explained why this is unwarranted; you can’t exonerate Islam with other causes, just as you cannot exonerate those other causes with Islam, and people like Harris say it’s a bit of both (forgive my choice of words lumping all factors besides Islam under one umbrella to emphasise the difference between thinking both matter or only one does, whichever one someone may contend it is). But Harris chooses to allow Islam its turn at a lengthy discussion; if you would only read said Chapter 4, you would see him explain in detail how Islam is pertinent, how it is pertinent in a way other religions currently are not, and why other factors don’t change this, even though they are worthy of discussion too. Again, you may find his way of dealing with this multi-causal phenomenon convincing or unconvincing, but don’t pretend he – or anyone else – is on record as saying factors besides Islam are not causes at all. Indeed, you have a very strange way of diagnosing whether someone makes such a mistake:

    “Red Dog: No one claims Islam is the ONLY force driving the world to violence.” Then why is it so bad to also consider Western aggression AS WELL AS Islam when things like this happen? Then why does Harris say things like this: “[It’s claimed] the true source of the problem can be found in the history of western aggression in the region. It is our policies, rather than our freedoms, that they hate. [But actually,] religion only works as a pretext for violence because millions believe blasphemy and apostasy are killing offenses.” He says that its a “ruinous self-deception” to say “The true source of the problem can be found in the history of western aggression in the region” To me that doesn’t sound like someone open to a rational discussion about various causes, both religion and occupation. It sounds like someone who has made up his mind that religion is the only cause that matters and that Islam is the worst religion.

    So the claim he opposes is that non-Islamic issues are “the true” sources of these problems, which sounds like as good a synonym for only as any I can think of, and himself claims religion “works” as a pretext, which to me doesn’t sound the least bit dismissive of pluralist causation. And the self-deception he identifies is, again, the one saying “the true”. Do people think the way he alleges they do? That’s a separate question; and, if its answer is no, it would be a flaw in his analysis. But the stuff you’ve quoted doesn’t prove Harris rejects a bit-of-both answer.

    Theo H

    While it may be true in our current historical era, Islam has more association with violence… to indicate this is because the roots of Islam are more violent than other religions is overstating things.

    A point I’ll repeat is that Harris never discussed texts in this article; religions can be defined both by texts and by practice, and current Islam is in that sense very different from current Christianity or past Islam.

    denguefe

    The imaginary fault is the accusation the White House made any kind of apology. The closest thing to an apology would be far from it

    The relevant part, for everyone here to semantically classify as apologetic or not, is: “the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others”. Well, that’s Free Speech undermined.

  25. It might be helpful to make a distinction between 
    1. a criticsm
    2. a lie about a religion or revered figure
    3. something designed to be inflammatory, just rude without content.

    I think we have to defend (1) very strongly, but I feel no great obligation to defend (2) or (3).
    You might defend them to make sure (1) is not censored by being taken for a (2) or (3) or so that you feel you don’t have to walk on eggs to write criticsm.

  26. It’s already a separate offence in the UK to attack or discriminate against someone else because of their race or religion. 
     
    Is there any reason not to extend this so that it is an offence to attack or discriminate against someone else because of your religion? (Apart from the fact that our leaders are chicken hearted).

    It would just be an extension of the existing discrimination laws.

    Or is this how it’s supposed to work anyway?

  27. This should really make no difference. 

    Although 1. may be more creditable than 2. and 3. the point is that people are perfectly entitled to be rude (3.) and lying about people  (2.) is covered very well by existing laws which take into account real harm caused, including reputational harm. UK  laws are heavily weighted towards the complainant in these cases.Muslim organisations are perfectly entitled to approach the courts if they have been maligned. They have the means to do it as well, and the courts will assess the material harm done. Lying about dead people is normally regarded as unactionable.
    What the religious nutters want is for us to take into account immaterial harm. Which, as far as I am concerned, is immaterial.

  28. Jos Gibbons–I’m afraid I couldn’t follow your response: “Do we make clear religious sensitivities don’t nullify our freedom of speech, or don’t we? This is a binary issue.” But I think I’m answering you when I say that “should we”- “shouldn’t we” is a different question than “how do we?”
    I’m assuming you’re British–in American English a name ending in “s” can be made possessive either by adding an apostrophe, or an apostrophe + s.

  29. Read some history.  Your ancestors in the USA had an age of consent of 7 in 1790.  The notion sex with children is unacceptable is relatively recent. It make sense to complain about girls being mistreated today, but if you go back even the tiniest bit in history, we were no better.  Mohammed’s child bride is not a reason to single out Islam any more that it is to single out Christianity for condoning slavery at its founding.

  30. Mohammed’s child bride would not be a reason to ‘single out’ Islam if the majority of the world’s Muslims did not consider the deeds of their prophet as exemplary and entirely beyond reproach; not just at some point in the past, but now and forevermore.

  31. I agree with most of what Sam Harris says in this article and most disagreements I have read seem nitpicking.

    Nothing wrong with picking a nit, mind:

    The freedom to think out loud on certain topics, without fear of being hounded into hiding or killed, has already been lost.
    And the only forces on earth that can recover it are strong, secular
    governments that will face down charges of blasphemy with scorn. No
    apologies necessary. Muslims must learn that if they make belligerent
    and fanatical claims upon the tolerance of free societies, they will
    meet the limits of that tolerance. And Governor Romney, though he is
    wrong about almost everything under the sun (including, very likely, the
    sun), is surely right to believe that it is time our government
    delivered this message without blinking.

    Let’s not lose sight of something here: given the opportunity, Romney and his ilk will curry favour with people who believe in magical thinking in order to gain power.

    Having gained power, Romney and his ilk will enact laws that are not based soley on reason and rationalism and logic – he will enact laws that are based on magical thinking.

    He will enact laws on abortion based on magical thinking. He will enact laws on the definition of marriage based on magical thinking.

    Governments that enact laws based on magical thinking are not ‘strong secular governments that will face down charges of blasphemy with scorn’ – they are governments that are likely to bring in laws prohibiting blasphemy.

    Give any version of magical thinking an inch – and I can see why commentators can interpret this article as doing this, though, equally, I do not think this was Sam’s intention – and they will very quickly make belligerent and fanatical claims on the tolerance of your society by showing you the greased stake or the rack or the fire.

    Anvil.

  32. Agreed.

    You cannot reasonably claim that your man was in possession of god like knowledge of good and evil whilst at the same time claiming he was just a child of his time.

    The very reason why secular morality must inevitably be better than religious morality is that secular understanding can grow unshackled by the past, whereas religious morality always have to accommodate previous god given views.

    It’s a bit like Windows having to provide backward compatibility with the 640Kb memory limit of MS-DOS.  It can be done, but it’s nasty.

  33. Sam Harris describes it all very well.  Too bad the US’s response to those riots has to be in the form of apology and without reminding the rioters that we have freedom of speech here–that the video was not the work of our government, any more than the Danish cartoons were the work of the Danish government.  The real reason for our wanting the video not to have been created in the first place is that, prudently, we knew damn well that violence would occur because of them.  Trouble is that this real reason can’t be stated.  Besides not wanting to appear cowardly, we have to contend with the politically correctoids in this country who say, “You have to respect someone else’s religion, blah blah blah.”
         I must add that I am disappointed to see Mr. Harris insert politics into his otherwise precise analysis with his comment “I am no fan of Romney’s, and I would find the prospect of his presidency risible if it were not so depressing….”

  34. All of which may be true, I would like to see some evidence and more of an argument than Harris just mocking people who disagree with him. I would like to see Harris or Dawkins respond to people like Pape and acknowledge that there may be more to Islamic violence than just the religion, military occupation and aggression may have a role as well.

    When one claims committing violence and attrocities in the name of religious principles, then what more do you want?It’s here, black and white, on islamist manifestos. It doesn’t take a scientific study to see what their motivations are. Blasphemy, Hijab, circumcision, fanatical ideology, all that stuff has nothing to do with western encroachment. Only a clash of values.  

    I don’t entirely agree with Harris on putting all your chips on Religion, but you have to admit Islam can be particularly bellligerent, unpleasant, and not about to be reformed. 

    On the other hand, what would have happened to the middle east and Islam if the oil rush and Israel never happened? Irrelevant footnote, a move towards secular western values, communist puppets, still a hotbed of jihadists?

    To put it simply, “You don’t have to be fanatical, ideological, endoctrinated or persecuted to be a mass murderer, but it helps”.

  35. Red Dog
    “Harris assumes Islam is not just the main cause but in fact the ONLY cause of this kind of violence
    Are you claiming Islam is the only threat to peace in the world? It would be ridiculous for anyone familiar with recent history to claim Islam is the ONLY force driving the world to violence.”
    They may have a role, but what about the huge numbers of deaths from Muslim on Muslim violence? Or Muslim violence against people of other (or no) faiths in their own countries? Shia on Sunni and vice versa? The FIS verus the GIA in Algeria? 
    Read chapter 4 of “The End of Faith”. There Harris used Pew surveys to show that in various Islamic countries the percentages of  people who say they believe all that horseshit in the Koran and Haddith is pretty scary.  He also addresses Pape’s paper at length.
    It seems to me that you are doing exactly what you accuse Harris of — no argument or data, just accusation. Harris argument is clear — some of these people actually believe what they say they believe and are willing to act on those beliefs. And those beliefs are something we should worry about. Care to address that point?

  36. Sam Harris is right about everything. And a brilliant writer.

    Note that the bold international plan of devout Muslim leaders is to bring sharia into ever greater positions of influence and precedence over man-made law, as widely as possible. As a precursor to the establishment of a new caliphate.  It is correct to see the riots as pressure to enforce the sharia blasphemy law on the kufr. 

    The UN based OIC group of Islamic nations has made many attempts to criminalize criticism already.

    It must be well understood that free speech could kill the prospects for Islamic proselytism in the west. The only way to prevent the cruelty and idiocy of Islam becoming more widely known is by enforcing the taboo against honest discussion, in the form of blasphemy laws.

    I agree with Sam that Romney rather than Obama has the better awareness of this.

    The Islamising process has to be faced down if we want to keep our human rights.

  37. Roedygreen, you’ve got it the wrong way around.
     Mohammed’s child bride is every bit a reason to single out Islam as it  is to single out Christianity for condoning slavery at its founding

  38. Sam Harris shows once again why he’s become a disgrace to atheists everywhere, as he continually doubles down on his attacks on Islam, liberals and whoever else doesn’t serve his agenda. Like Hitchens before him, he loves to slam liberals as idiotic namby-pambys who just don’t get how dangerous Islam is, in and of itself – and that no other religion is so vile and violent. And what happens when a Christian who loved the anti-Islam writings of people such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali murders almost 100 people in a single day? What does Sam Harris write about Anders Behring Breivik?

    “The final irony of Breivik’s despicable life is that he has made that truth even more difficult to speak about.”

    Translation: “Yeah, what Breivik did was wrong but Islam is EVIL and we must not allow this slaughter of almost 100 innocent people distract us from the REAL problem: Islam”. That’s what Harris wrote at the time, a despicable attempt to turn the attention back to the evil Islam.

    It’s interesting to note that a few people have died in this latest incident, and Harris simply COULD NOT WAIT to get a blog post out about it. He was so hungry to capitalize on this incident that he’s even posting here because his own site is having technical issues. You can almost see the sweat on his brow as he furiously types how Islam is evil, and bed-wetting liberals just don’t get it. A self-satisfied and smug smile as he his “Submit” to post this drivel. Breivik slaughters almost 100 and its “ho-hum, nothing to see here. Don’t get distracted”.

    Hitchens disgraced himself with his unapologetic support for the slaughter of hundreds-of-thousands of innocent Iraqis, and Harris is no different. If anyone is black-and-white about what motivates people (foreign policy vs. the Koran vs. any number of things) it’s Harris. For Sam Harris, it’s all Koran all the time. It’s tiresome, intellectually lazy and dishonest. I honestly can’t see why anyone listens to this clown anymore, other than the most die-hard fanboys. The pseudo-intellectual Hitchens had his little gaggle of infatuated fanboys, I guess Harris does too. Pity.

  39. In Argentina, if you tell a cab driver that Maradona is NOT the best fooball player in history, he will curse at you and throw you out of the car. It happened to me once. At least he didn’t kill me :-)

  40. Jos Gibbons:

    Would not be? Let’s look at whether they are. Right now, in the world’s majority-Muslim generations, all religious groups are alienated from education and rule-of-law, to extents which vary with the nation but not with the religion. But we don’t see these regions’ non-Muslim religions’ followers acting like this. Indeed, Innocence of Muslims is the work of an Egyptian Christian, and this is far as his ilk goes, and nowhere near as far as Egyptian Muslims go.

    You’re saying we don’t see any violence from non-Muslim residents of majority-Muslim nations?  Do you want me to post examples?  And you’re also saying that one Coptic Christian of Egyptian origin who lives a comfortable life in California does not behave the same as a small percentage of people in a nation with a substantially lower standard of living?  You are making my point for me really rather well.

    Harris never says the politics is a figment of apologetics; he merely denies that they fully explain the uniquely Muslim origin of atrocities like these. I’m fed up with people who think everything’s hunky dory in religion town, or at least equally hunky-dory in each religion, thinking all they need to refute arguments to the contrary is to name other causal factors. The whole point of multi-causal historical explanations is that you can’t say A doesn’t matter just because B does.

    The atrocity was in Libya.  And it has been evident from the start, but is now obvious, that the attack on the US Libyan embassy staff was a coordinated and planned attack that could not possibly have been conceived of after the film began making its rounds.  Nobody is saying A doesn’t matter because B does.  What I’m saying is A is not a legitimate cause in the case many people believe it to be.  

    Harris never once compared texts; he compared the religious groups themselves. A religion can be defined by its book or by what its followers actually think and do, and the latter is often the more relevant; this is why polytheism is no longer worth discussing if you’re trying to characterise Judaism. Do we or do we not yadda yadda yadda? The Muslim world’s views are far closer to those of their texts than the Christian world’s views are to theirs on the matter of when religious violence is called for, and you have noted how secular the historical reasons for that really are. When people like Richard Dawkins say “we” don’t get our ethics from the Bible, this is shorthand for, “given that I’m discussing whether morality requires religion in a nation in which Christians are demonstrated by their civility to be far removed from Biblical principles, and the same in practice applies to pretty much all the other religious people too, the moral case against atheism is in tatters”. Don’t take the points he’s making out of that defensive context; what he’s saying doesn’t amount to a denial that the world’s theists are not in this respect homogeneous. How can we conclude what certain Muslims are doing is Islam’s fault? Because Islam’s texts support it and, lo and behold, those who read it the most more frequently behave in these ways. Not only can a comparison of Muslims with non-Muslims reveal this; we even find greater attention still to the text among the Muslims who commit these acts.

    Exactly.  He’s comparing first world Mormons and Christians to a targeted percentage of people in a less developed nation.  I could concede every argument being made that Islam is an objectively worse religion and my central point could still be entirely relevant.  You do not effect positive change by condescendingly telling “them” how they’re not even up to par with our own, much more secularized religious communities. It’s banal tribalism and does nothing to help anyone.  When I say they miss their chance to extol the virtues of secular enlightenment values, what I mean to say is they actively undermine that case by claiming, in spite of historical evidence, that Christians would not be violent under equal circumstances.  If you want to make the argument that Muslims would kill thirty-eight people while a Christian mob might have only killed twenty-four, go right ahead.  But why bother when you could be much more effectively pointing out what has worked as a cure-all for the violent tendencies of superstitious group think entirely?

  41. In addition to my other comments, I’ll also add this. Notice that Harris doesn’t offer a single solution to dealing with these problems, just criticism. Not just criticism of Islam, but now of the Obama administration for appeasing the “enraged Muslims”. Just like the armchair warrior Hitchens, who gleefully cheered on every war he could, now we have the armchair warrior  ivory tower elitist Sam Harris blasting the Obama administration. It may be hard for Harris to understand this, but the federal government isn’t made up of the pajamas media, PhD bloggers who have the luxury of just saying whatever idiotic opinion pops into their heads. The statements the administration makes? They have these things called “consequences”. When violence is mounting, they often have what are called “serious consequences”. Although it’s likely lost on Harris, it’s probably not the best strategy for defusing acute violence by having the Obama administration make a statement telling over a billion Muslims worldwide they need to grow up, accept freedom of speech, and stop being violent every time someone wipes their butt with the Koran. But that’s lost on Harris who glibly admonishes people who have ACTUAL responsibilities. They have responsibilities that go beyond plying your atheist brand, selling your books, and booking high-prices speaking tours.

    It would be nice if, for once, Harris actually spoke of long-term vision to solve these problems. Solutions that are beyond the simple-minded and repetitive drivel he keeps pumping out: Islam is evil, we must bomb them to stop nuclear holocaust, and on and on. But that would take real effort and require ideas Harris is immune to. Much better to just keep on the profitable path of milking the built-in atheist audience that often seems as brain-dead as the average religious loony. One only need read some of the comments here to confirm it.

  42. The question is what can we do about it. The Western Enlightenment has take three centuries ,(and still some have not made it). How can we push Middle East Enlightenment along quicker, given its deep roots?    Education and the dissemination of  science and history from as many sources as possible must be necessary. I believe that continued , genuine media arguments to flood the sensitivities may be useful – surely daily riots have got to be  tiring and self limiting. 

  43.  “Notice that Harris doesn’t offer a single solution to dealing with these problems, just criticism”

    Actually he does.   A display of  moral courage is a solution – or at least part of one.  

    Most of us seem to agree that the Islamic world is in flux and that some kind of reformation is vital to the lives and freedom of the people who live there – as well as to our own interests in the West.  Harris offers the suggestion that  we’ll do a better job of exporting the values of the enlightenment and if we do more to defend those same values at home.   Seems a fair point to me.  

  44. Sam makes some excellent points, as usual.

    I just can’t agree that Islam is the driving force behind the violence.  Their religious beliefs are their justification, their excuse…but not the reason for the attacks.  Islam is a convenient cover for the various causes of their anger, and it is a convenient target for Western angst.  There are all kinds of things I abhor about Islam, and I would gladly love to see it die out as a religion, but considering the history of the region, it is impossible for me to believe that Islam itself is the primary cause of the violence.

    If Arabs and Westerners had a much more positive history in the last 100 years, we probably wouldn’t be seeing this, regardless of religious beliefs, and if, by some bit of wishful magic, we could remove their religion entirely from the world, they would still have plenty of reasons, real or imagined, to hate the West.

  45.  “Harris offers the suggestion that  we’ll do a better job of exporting
    the values of the enlightenment and if we do more to defend those same
    values at home.”

    If only that were true. I could post for days on why this is about as untrue as it gets. Perhaps you’ve been in a coma for the last ten years, but we have not “exported
    the values of the enlightenment” very well. Unless you think shredding the Constitution, indefinite detention, torture, drone strikes, mass bombing, and other relating killing are symbols of “exporting
    the values of the enlightenment”. I know Harris feels this way, perhaps you do too.

    I stand by my statement that Harris offers nothing of consequence for solutions, other than elitist nonsense. It’s a glib position to take when criticizing the administration in its attempts to diffuse the mounting violence. But being glib is something Harris excels at. He’s an expert.

  46. Most of us seem to agree that the Islamic world is in flux and that some kind of reformation is vital to the lives and freedom of the people who live there – as well as to our own interests in the West.  Harris offers the suggestion that  we’ll do a better job of exporting the values of the enlightenment and if we do more to defend those same values at home.   Seems a fair point to me.

    I like this point a lot.  Tell me, do you know where Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins stand on unending detention at Guantanamo Bay?  About rendition?  Drone strikes?  The right not to be killed by your own government without even so much as an indictment?  How about the fact that the person responsible for blowing the whistle on US torture is currently being tried under very serious charges, and yet the people who actually tortured other humans–Muslims, in each instance, to the best of my knowledge–have not seen, and never will never see, the inside of a court room?  Isn’t it an American value not to torture?  To protect against unwarranted searches and invasions into privacy?  Is the right to due process an exportable American value?  Aren’t those values shared by most of the developed world?

    Why does it seem as though the majority of moral atheists only want to export their right to offend?

  47. “Perhaps you’ve been in a coma for the last ten years, but we have not “exported the values of the enlightenment” very well”

    Perhaps you think that Libya and Egypt were better off 10 years ago.  Or perhaps you think that Western ideas about culture and freedom have had nothing to do with  those changes.   Suit yourself.   My point was simply in response to your criticism that Harris offers no solutions.   Taking a stand in defense of the values that we claim to hold dear is indeed part of a solution.  Evidently, it’s just not one that you like or maybe it’s one you think would prove  ineffective.  A rather different matter.  

  48.  “Wonder away, but I now have definitive proof you haven’t read Harris
    well enough; he discusses that same 2003 paper of Pape’s extensively in
    The End of Faith. The second note to Chapter 4, which is almost a page’s
    worth, replies to Pape’s paper. Go away and read it (or refuse to track
    it down and force me to type it here); find Harris’s reply convincing
    or unconvincing; but the reply does exist.”

    I apologize I was clearly negligent. Obviously before I claim anything about an author I should make sure to read every single footnote in every book they wrote first. I will try to do better in the future.

    But thanks very much for the reference, it will help me make my case. Lets look at what Harris says:

    “Pape claims that ‘the most important goal a people can have is independence of it homeland’ … But he overlooks the fact that these communities define themselves in religious terms”

    No he doesn’t. He very much deals with that fact. For example, if the primary cause of suicide terrorism is Islam then the vast majority of the suicide terrorist attacks should be from Muslims. In fact about half of them are. What is more even among those attacks secular not Islamic fundamentalist groups account for over a third of the attacks.  Many of the terrorists from Islamic populations for example The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Kurdish PKK, and the Lebanese Communist Party are actually Marxist-Lenninists not Islamic fundamentalists. Also, the single biggest user of suicide terrorism was neither Islamic nor religious. The Tamil Tigers were responsible for  the most suicide attacks between 1980 and 2003 with 76, more than Hamas and more than Al Queda. The Tigers are from Hindu families but their ideology is also not religious at all but also Marxist-Lenninist.

    So clearly its not just Islam and its not even just religion.

    Now lets compare how the data stack up to Pape’s claim. His claim is that the primary (not only) reason for suicide attacks is when a democracy occupies the land of some other people and when those people have no other military option to fight back except terrorism. (I.e., the democracy has an overwhelming superiority in conventional military capability).  In EVERY case in his database this is the case. Al Queda attacking American troops in Yemen and then 9/11 where one of their main justifications was US troops in Saudi Arabia. Tamil Tigers attacking Indonesian troops on what they see as their island, Hezbollah attacking US and Israeli troops in Lebanon.

    What is more there are never attacks based solely on religious grounds. For example, if Hezbollah hated the US for our Christianity or our freedom why haven’t they attacked us since the 1980’s?  Harris’s theory can’t explain that. Pape’s theory does: because in the 80’s the US sent troops to Lebanon (Hezbollah’s home) so as Pape predicts they were attacked. Once the US stopped sending troops to Lebanon Hezbollah stopped attacking us and focused on Israel (who still do send troops into Lebanon).

    Or consider one of Harris’s favorite questions: “Where are all the Tibetan terrorists?” If its just occupation that causes terrorism then surely Tibet should be sending terrorists over the border to China. Pape’s theory explains this: China isn’t a democracy. They don’t give a d*mn about public opinion so terrorism will have no effect on their decision process.

    Or one more example Chechan terrorists. Chechnya has been fighting the Russians all the way back to the Soviet Union. But they only started using terrorism when Russia became a democracy. A very flawed democracy but still there is now some minimal need for Russian government to pay attention.

  49. “Why does it seem as though the majority of moral atheists only want to export their right to offend?”

    Probably because by voicing their own beliefs – that God is a dangerous illusion – they are offending people every day and are quite aware of the pressures that come with that.  And because  freedom of conscience and freedom of speech  are at the heart of  the liberal secular society advocated by folks like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.  Without the “right to offend” none of their books could have been published.

    The fact that there many other rights and that government policies violate those rights is an important point – but it’s hardly a response to the defense of freedom being offered by Harris here.  As it happens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have very different views about U.S. policy and the war in Iraq and quite probably about detention at Guantanamo Bay.  But that’s simply changing the subject.

  50.  “When one claims committing violence and attrocities in the name of
    religious principles, then what more do you want?It’s here, black and
    white, on islamist manifestos. It doesn’t take a scientific study to see
    what their motivations are. Blasphemy, Hijab, circumcision, fanatical
    ideology, all that stuff has nothing to do with western encroachment.
    Only a clash of values.  “

    See my last reply. If you actually look at what suicide terrorists want, rather than just accept the talking points that people like Harris put out while ignoring the actual data, it is not religious issues that they are primarily fighting for but nationalistic ones. See my last comment.  Hezbollah doesn’t want to turn the US into Muslims they want the US and Israel out of Lebanon. And when the US left Lebanon in the 80’s Hezbollah stopped attacking us.

    Or look at the goals of  Al Queda. One published goal before 9/11 was to get the US troops out of Saudi Arabia. And the amazing thing is that 9/11 actually worked for them. Bush DID pull the troops out of Saudi Arabia and Al Queda claimed that as a victory.

    An example, that they aren’t just after religious goals, for example they weren’t asking for all the US troops to become Muslims, they wanted the troops out. Of course they use religious issues to further inflame people and to help them accept blowing themselves up, but the primary cause is occupation and the secondary one is religion. All the examples of suicide terrorism are fighting an occupation from a democratic government.   Again see previous comments, many of them aren’t religious at all (e.g. communists).

    Or another published goal of Al Queda: get European armies out of Iraq. Not make Europeans or European armies become Muslims. They attacked the Spanish train system and the Spanish removed their troops from Iraq.  Al Queda also claimed this as  a victory.

    “To put it simply, “You don’t have to be fanatical, ideological,
    endoctrinated or persecuted to be a mass murderer, but it helps”

    I never disagreed with that. It depends why you are interested in these stories. If you are just looking to support your current belief that religion is bad and Islam is especially bad (two things I completely agree with) then OK fine. But if you want to have a serious discussion about what we can do to stop things like suicide terrorism (and riots over movies) in the future then its totally irrational to just talk about religion and ignore occupation.

  51. It’s not at all a change of subject when the subject is the exportation of values.  The vast majority of what’s been exported to these people is disavowed by our own founding literature and philosophies.

  52. I have not read Pape, but I did type his name into Google to watch him discuss his study.  One interesting thing I note, right from the outset of his discussion, is that his study only included “completed” suicide terrorist attacks.  That seems pretty disingenuous to me.  By omitting attempted suicide terror attacks, naturally the numbers can be skewed to make it sound like the data support a conclusion that make Islam ancillary to the root causes of such attacks because of the great efforts (often successful) to prevent such attacks.  I will keep watching Mr. Pape’s discussion before commenting further, but this omission in Mr. Pape’s study (which I am getting from his own discussion of what he studied) seems pretty glaring to me.

    EDIT: A further search turned up an article from March at Sam Harris’s site that mentioned something about he and Robert Pape agreeing to have a debate. I haven’t been able to find anything indicating whether such a debate ever took place or, if it was canceled, why. Moreover, as I pointed out about, a more relevant figure in discussing the special problems with Islam are attempted or planned attacks, even if such attacks are not completed — and by “attacks” I mean more than just suicide attacks, but also more traditional terrorist attacks. I am not sure why it is important to try and limit the discussion of the special problems with Islam to only those terror attacks that are suicidal in nature.

  53. Brilliantly put by a remarkable intellect,thank you Sam.
    Bargaining with civil liberties and freedom of speech to appease a barbaric show of discomfort is a dangerous slippery slope, a defeatist attitude would solve no problems.

  54.  “I have not read Pape, but..  One interesting thing I note,… is that his study only included “completed” suicide
    terrorist attacks.  That seems pretty disingenuous to me.  By omitting
    attempted suicide terror attacks, naturally the numbers can be skewed to
    make it sound like the data support a conclusion that make Islam
    ancillary to the root causes of such attacks because of the great
    efforts (often successful) to prevent such attacks”

    If you have a link I would be interested to watch the specific video and see why he says that. In any scientific experiment you have to draw boundaries around what data you allow in or out. Its especially hard in the social sciences. Your claim would be valid if you have some evidence that Muslims are really bad suicide terrorists, that they try a lot more attempts that don’t succeed compared to others. I know of no such evidence. 

    My guess is that the reason he is limiting it to completed attacks is the problem of reliable data. Especially during the Bush administration it seems for a while the US was blocking a suicide attack every other week. Often when those planned “attacks” were looked at more carefully it was a bunch of guys like the Chicago group that wanted to blow up the Sears tower but didn’t even have an M80 (a US firecracker) much less dynamite or other real explosives or any knowledge of how to use them. As soon as you include attempted attacks you have to start evaluating the credibility of each reporting government, their ulterior motives for exaggerating (or in some cases perhaps downplaying) terrorism threats, etc. It makes collecting data a lot more difficult.

  55. No. I made no mention of Islam. I’m talking about violence. You are right about the USA. You support my statement. Also, it should read “.Perhaps that will be our future.” By this I mean to say atheists may become violent because it is the only effective method. I said perhaps because I don’t know. I hope not. There are zero claims in my post. Read how it has been written not how you want it to read.

  56. Let me divert from the seriousness of the issue to note 2 of the funniest lines I have read in recent memory:

    “its doctrine was explicitly racist until 1978, at which point God apparently changed his mind about black people (a few years after Archie Bunker did)” …

    HAHAHA!

    “And Governor Romney, though he is wrong about almost everything under the sun (including, very likely, the sun)”..

    !!!  Oh man Sam is so good..

  57. I am not sure if you saw my edit to the post to which you are responding before making your reply, but I wanted to alert you to the fact that I edited my post.  However, to your point:

    While I agree that inclusion of thwarted suicide attacks might make the collecting of data more difficult, but the absence of a inclusion of thwarted suicide attacks from the discussion and analysis makes the conclusions to be drawn from data that only completed suicide attacks far weaker.  Isn’t it interesting that since Israel built the wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories that terror attacks (suicide and non-suicide) have dropped markedly?

    I also note that from what little I have read and watched, Pape’s definition of “occupation” can be pretty amorphous.  It appears as though it can include real or even just perceived occupation.  Moreover, I am wondering why he limited his analysis of democratic occupation to 1980 onward.  The United States, Great Britain, France, and other democracies have long occupied other countries and people without encountering suicide terror bombings before.  Perhaps I am wrong, but when the United States occupied Japan and Germany following WW2, there weren’t suicide terror attacks.  I am unaware of French and British colonialist being subject to suicide terror attacks in Africa and Asia during the long periods they occupied those regions.  Heck, one critique I read of Pape’s conclusions points out that prior to 1987, suicide bombing attacks were only a Shia Hezbollah problem in Lebanon (and the suicide attacks against American Marines and embassy personnel in Lebanon, just as the stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War, point to the valid criticism of Pape’s amorphous concept of “occupation”).

    Again, I have not read Pape, so perhaps my skepticism about his claims might change when I do, but it seems there are several issues with his study:

    1.  Too narrow a time-frame of data being considered.
    2.  Too loose a definition of “occupation”
    3.  Failure to take into considerations thwarted suicide attacks
    4.  Failure to consider other forms of completed and thwarted terrorist attacks

    Maybe Pape or others address these issues and why they do not weaken his conclusions, but they stand out to me as serious issues with his work (again, from the disadvantage of not having read much of it).

  58. Violent theology is not the only source, but it is the primary source. It has to be, because Islam has been this way since Muhammad went into politics. 1400 years is a lot longer than the time the west has had to meddle with middle-eastern affairs. Even if “we” never behaved like we did, the core values of Islam would still be about conquest, jihad and subjugation of the infidel. Anyway, what’s done is done, and they’re hardly going to accept an apology, or view that apology as anything else than weakness and submission. We must try to see it from the other side to understand, not just assume that the reasons must be mostly reasonable in some way.

    An other side of this is that America has to have troops in Arabic countries to secure the flow of oil, which we’re all hopelessly addicted to. (And are also paying top dollars for by the way.) The 1973 oil embargo was a huge crisis, and showed how vulnerable the west is to Arab whim.

    Edit: A bit of self-correction. I might seem to be portraying the situation as Islam being Islam no matter what we do. That is not true, of course, because they would never have behaved like this if we hadn’t let them get a strong foothold in our own countries over the last decades. When Islam builds a Mosque in a non-Muslim country, that country becomes the property of Islam, according to Islamic law.

  59. I apologize. I was reading with the article in mind which at least IMO is very anti-Islam so I assumed you meant Islam is leading us to violence but you are quite right it was an unwarranted assumption, mea culpa. 

    I agree its something that worries me about atheists as well, as we become less of a silent minority there is a risk we turn into just another special interest group like gays, african americans, etc. Not that I object to those groups fighting for equal rights but I want something more than equal rights for atheists I want to change the way society works so that people use reason rather than violence, rhetoric, and propaganda to solve our differences. Its why when I see us just jumping on one side of an issue (focusing on the many evils of Islam but neglecting the crimes done to them) I think its an error. 

  60. Uh huh, and violence is freeing countries from U. S. occupation. Oh, hold on, it isn’t.
    The threat of Muslims being violent is enough to stop drone attacks. Nope.
    Well at least it stops the Western powers from threatening everything from sanctions to war with Muslim countries. Again, no.
    Torture, imprisonment without trial? Not that either.
    The thing people need to remember is that when you tell a lie, a good one has detail. So when the US pretends it is not on a crusade against Muslims, and it’s little things like decrying obvious hate speech that help to sell the fiction.

    To pretend after the last eleven years that violence, irrationality and murder is a specially Muslim thing takes some blinkers, or an amazing lack of awareness.

  61. People like to pull out the concept that they are atheists as that was a rational conclusion therefore atheists in general are rational. The only thing that atheists have in common that they are atheists, expecting a rational approach to all things because of atheism is foolish.

    However, I agree that going down the road of declaring some religions to be worse than others and ignoring the very real secular inputs into the causes of behaviour is ridiculous, careless, lazy and in error.

  62. exkiodexian

    And what happens when a Christian who loved the anti-Islam writings of people such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali murders almost 100 people in a single day? What does Sam Harris write about Anders Behring Breivik? “The final irony of Breivik’s despicable life is that he has made that truth even more difficult to speak about.” Translation: “Yeah, what Breivik did was wrong but Islam is EVIL and we must not allow this slaughter of almost 100 innocent people distract us from the REAL problem: Islam”. That’s what Harris wrote at the time, a despicable attempt to turn the attention back to the evil Islam.

    Don’t pretend your translation is warranted by what he said. He said Breivik has made certain truths harder to publicly state, not that those truths are more important than, for example, the truth of Breivik’s own evil; indeed, that he was evil is the reason why his life deeds cause this complication. What is it with people like you and Red Dog, these “oh Sam has a 1-track mind” people who insist on defending
    nouns of the form “the adjective noun”, such as “the true cause” and “the real problem”?

    Harris was so hungry to capitalize on this incident that he’s even posting here

    No he isn’t; a decision was made to repost him here. The only reason the comment you’re misunderstanding was even made is because usually, when long articles are reposted here, only the opening is shown, the rest being behind a hyperlink. Richarddawkins.net’s articles are almost all reposts for us to discuss; that’s how it works. It’s not because Harris himself even authorised the reposting,
    let alone personally engineered it; it’s because this is effectively an aggregate news site.

    Breivik slaughters almost 100 and its “ho-hum, nothing to see here. Don’t get distracted”.

    You love putting words in mouths as much as you love imagining Harris’s emotions and palpitations,
    but you aren’t honestly representing his stanch on Breivik, which is that his violence doesn’t invalidate his opinions; for your summary to have been fair, Harris would have had to contend that Breivik’s violence doesn’t warrant consideration in the Who’s who of violence tally. He said nothing like that.

    If anyone is black-and-white about what motivates people it’s Harris. For Sam Harris, it’s all Koran all the time.

    That’s a claim people like you and Red Dog have repeatedly made, and I’ve repeatedly pointed out you have never substantiated it. Harris has never denied the relevance of other issues, but the relevance of Islam – not just the Koran, incidentally; he also discusses, for example, fatwas and the Hadith – is so often denied (as far as he can tell) that he feels the need to elucidate how it is relevant. This is not to deny anything else; it is to shine a torch on one area while others are already giving the attention to other factors that they deserve.

    lboogie

    You’re saying we don’t see any violence from non-Muslim residents of majority-Muslim nations?

    Could one person I disagree with on this thread not insert words into the mouths of those they disagree with? It is precisely because other factors matter too that we wouldn’t expect the number of such incidents to be non-zero, but you have to look at it statistically. Islamist terrorist attacks since 9/11 number at almost 20,000.

    And you’re also saying that one Coptic Christian of Egyptian origin who lives a comfortable life in California does not behave the same as a small percentage of people in a nation with a substantially lower standard of living?  You are making my point for me really rather well.

    The orchestrators of 9/11, by far the largest Islamist attack yet, were also Westernised; it didn’t help mollify them. What point of yours does it make well anyway? That Islam alone isn’t the whole story? Again, every single critic of Harris on this thread acts as if “Stuff other than Islam, therefore not Islam” and/or “Harris says Islam, therefore Harris denies stuff other than Islam” are valid arguments, and they’re not. Abandon them.

    The attack could not possibly have been conceived of after the film began making its rounds.  

    That’s an interesting claim, especially if it’s true; could you please share some evidence for it? I sincerely want to see it.

    He’s comparing first world Mormons and Christians to a targeted percentage of people in a less developed nation.

    The problem cannot be poverty; research shows a positive correlation among Muslims between
    terrorism and affluence.

    They actively undermine that case by claiming, in spite of historical evidence, that Christians would not be violent under equal circumstances.

    Ours is not a world of equal circumstances; when Harris et al contend the current most dangerous faith is Islam, the definition of each religion is in terms of the circumstances in which it now finds and manifests itself. Yes, a time machine would give us access to equally horrid Christians; but that is not the point of Harris’s discussion of what currently endangers us.

    exkiodexian

    It would be nice if Harris spoke of long-term vision to solve these problems. Solutions that are beyond the drivel he keeps pumping out: we must bomb them to stop nuclear holocaust.

    Harris never said we should launch a nuclear attack on any Islamic nation and, by telling that popular lie, you have disqualified yourself as a serious analyst of him. He described a hypothetical scenario in which a nation with jihadist intent and no fear of annihilation is so close to preparing an ICBM a pre-emptive strike is the only preventative defence left; and, even in that situation, he calls making such a move “an unspeakable crime”. No, he isn’t playing Devil’s advocate in saying that, and he does not preface it with anything that couches it as an opinion he doesn’t necessarily heed; Harris literally feels that way. And if you read The End of Faith you would see he does try to suggest ways we can deal with the problems facing us.

    One only need read some of the comments here to confirm it.

    You ought to substantiate such a claim with examples rather than acting as if that’s unnecessary.

    JCarr, I have two questions for you: (a) do you have anything to offer against the causal influence or primacy of Islam besides an argument from incredulity, and (b) primacy aside, do you deny Islam has a violent influence here at all?

    Red Dog

    Obviously before I claim anything about an author I should make sure to read every single footnote in every book they wrote first.

    Not at all. I didn’t find that example from an encyclopaedic memory; I looked for Pape in the index of The End of Faith, found him discussed in a 2-page piece, and confirmed it was one of the notes to the Chapter titled “The Problem with Islam”. That minimal level of sleuthing quickly confirms the paper, which in your world if only Harris were to read it he’d either change his mind, fail to reply to it or embarrass himself with the paucity of his reply to it, has in fact been replied to. So we need no longer “wonder” or be otherwise hypothetical.

    For example, if the primary cause of suicide terrorism is Islam then the vast majority of the suicide terrorist attacks should be from Muslims. In fact about half of them are.

    Firstly, primacy isn’t his claim; secondly, different terrorist acts can have different primary causes, and the fact that many Hindus commit terrorism doesn’t mean the motivation they had is more primary to Islamic terrorists than is Islam itself; and thirdly, Islam has far less than a half of Earth’s population.

    So clearly its not just Islam and its not even just religion.

    No matter how many times you have been told to stop pretending Harris claims it’s just Islam, you still act as if you only need refute that hypothesis in order to dismiss him. I’m fed up with it.

    Harris’s theory can’t explain that.

    Given that his “theory” is “Islam is sometimes a causative agent”, his theory doesn’t explain or predict anything, nor should it; you can’t claim it is undermined by these examples. Harris is not advancing a theory at all, in the sense of a falsifiable set of ideas; he is critiquing the theory that Islam is always
    innocent of all charges. As he puts it in The End of Faith, religion is everywhere exonerated; that’s what he objects to.

    If its [sic] just occupation that causes terrorism then surely Tibet should be sending terrorists over the border to China. Pape’s theory explains this: China isn’t a democracy. They don’t give a d*mn about public opinion so terrorism will have no effect on their decision process.

    And Harris expects it too, because the Buddhists don’t have the same religious motivations as the
    Muslims do. So how is this a reason to prefer Pape’s ideas?

    They use religious issues to further inflame people and to help them accept blowing
    themselves up, but the primary cause is occupation and the secondary one is religion

    At last, a relevant concession from you. As Harris points out in The End of Faith, while religion
    may be so cynically used, it’s only because its beliefs are what they are that that trick works. Which cause is “primary” is a separate issue.

    Enkidu90046 – thanks for your discussions of where Pape’s analysis seems questionable; you at least know more about him than me, even though you note your own knowledge of him is rudimentary. The March post you located was one I almost discussed in my original response to Red Dog, before I had cracked open The End of Faith’s index; like you, I couldn’t find the promised Harris-Pape discussion, or
    understand why it was absent.

    Bipedal_Primate

    When Islam builds a Mosque in a non-Muslim country, that country becomes the
    property of Islam, according to Islamic law.

    Really; the whole country? I knew they permanently gain whatever land they gain, but I don’t
    know exactly how much land each mosque counts as gaining.

  63. I can agree with that. I should have been more clear. It only makes perfect sense you would assume I was talking only about Islam. I’m not a very clear person. Sorry about that. I was a bit smart ass at the end, there.

  64. Red Dog: that you would continue to shamelessly misrepresent Sam Harris’s views, in what poses as a response to Jos Gibbons careful dissectation of your previous misrepresentations, beggars belief.

    You addressed none of Jos’s points and instead proceeded on a rather merry little Gish Gallop. I don’t have the time or inclination to pick over all of it, so I’ll focus on just one little gem:

    For example, if the primary cause of suicide terrorism is Islam then the
    vast majority of the suicide terrorist attacks should be from Muslims.
    In fact about half of them are.

    This  is entirely false:

    As it happens, the vast majority of suicide attacks are, by a considerable margin, conducted by Muslims. You can confirm this at The Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism upon which Pape relies. (The number of attacks carried out by the Taliban alone are more than treble the number that have been carried out by the Tamil Tigers)

     
     

  65. I’m really sorry, but I can’t remember where I read it. All I remember is that it was a quote by a former Islamic terrorist. Ex-muslims are usually honest about Islam, but it could be an oversimplification or exaggeration, of course.

  66. Jos Gibbons:

    Could one person I disagree with on this thread not insert words into the mouths of those they disagree with? It is precisely because other factors matter too that we wouldn’t expect the number of such incidents to be non-zero, but you have to look at it statistically. Islamist terrorist attacks since 9/11 number at almost 20,000.

    Source?

    The orchestrators of 9/11, by far the largest Islamist attack yet, were also Westernised; it didn’t help mollify them. What point of yours does it make well anyway? That Islam alone isn’t the whole story? Again, every single critic of Harris on this thread acts as if “Stuff other than Islam, therefore not Islam” and/or “Harris says Islam, therefore Harris denies stuff other than Islam” are valid arguments, and they’re not. Abandon them.

    Between “misfire” and “abandon them” you’re displaying a very obnoxious internet alpha personality style.  Abandon it.  

    Harris has only emphasized religion as the source, both of Islam’s danger and of the relative non-threatening position of the LDS church members.  He is making a direct and clear point that it’s Islam and Islam alone.  That is exactly what he’s saying in his piece.  He even explicitly dismisses the conversation many of us are having as being irrelevant because it all comes back to Islam = bad.  If he wants to acknowledge other realities, he can write about them, but in the piece we’re discussing all other causes are dismissed. 
    Also, there’s a bit of a difference between a sleeper sent specifically to pursue training and execute a planned attack and being an integrated part of society with family, roots, etc.  Better examples would be Maj. Hasan or the Times Square bomber.  Interesting discussion could be had around those circumstances, as well.

    That’s an interesting claim, especially if it’s true; could you please share some evidence for it? I sincerely want to see it.

    I can’t back up that it couldn’t “possibly have been conceived of” entirely as a response to the video, but we now have the White House saying that it was a planned attack.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.co… 
    ____________________________

     The White House is now describing the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi as a “terrorist attack,” a shift in emphasis after days of describing the lethal assault as a spontaneous eruption of anger over an anti-Islamic film made in California.
    “It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Thursday as President Obama traveled to Florida for a campaign event. “Our embassy was attacked violently and the result was four deaths of American officials.”

    __________________________

    The problem cannot be poverty; research shows a positive correlation among Muslims between
    terrorism and affluence.

    It’s not one thing.  It’s a great many things which vary from region-to-region.  There’s a reason I’ve explicitly stated education, standard of living, access to rights and protections, etc, etc.  Nobody is saying poverty=terrorism.  Neat little vacuums like that don’t exist.

    Ours is not a world of equal circumstances; when Harris et al contend the current most dangerous faith is Islam, the definition of each religion is in terms of the circumstances in which it now finds and manifests itself. Yes, a time machine would give us access to equally horrid Christians; but that is not the point of Harris’s discussion of what currently endangers us.

    Not living in a world of equal circumstances does not mean we should not work to understand it.  Harris describes a great, looming threat gathered at the gates.  He wants “our” government to be the secular bulwark against “their” threat as the clash of civilizations begins in earnest.  I don’t believe such a thing has to happen at all.  We can have our bulwark, fine, but you can also work from behind it to build the groundwork so that others have the foundations needed to escape religious slavery.  If atheists are ever to be anything as an organized entity, it ought to be as humanist as it is secular.  Instead of eradicating religion, I’d much rather work to eradicate the conditions that make religion appealing.  Numbers don’t lie: increase the standard of living and the atheists will come.  None of that is accomplished with these “sound the alarms!” editorials.

  67.  Where in my post did I declare that Muslims are the only source of violence? Oh heck no, The US is just as much to blame for violence. As much as psychos are to blame for violence. It was not about who is more violent or who is to blame

    What I agreed with is not having to apologize every time someone offends Islam. Or any other religion for that matter, but let’s face it to that average person the only religion that is constantly in the news being violent is Islam.

    We don’t apologize for every video on youtube that pokes fun at any other religion. We don’t contact Google or youtube and demand they wipe the video from their servers. But for some reason we do for Islam, and why is that? They are the only ones who get violent and state it was because we offended their religion.

    Is it true that is the real reason they are getting violent. Maybe not, but using their religion as an excuse is letting them get away with it because no one stands their grounds for free speech. Why? Because they are afraid the muslims will attack.

    Maybe I’m not the most educated, or most informed about American Politics, religion, whatever. I am just an average person trying to live a good life. But as a run of the mill average person this is what it looks like to me. And I hate the idea that Free speech is only a right when it’s convenient.

  68. lboogie

    Source?

    Oh; you don’t know where to look up the “we’ve counted them, here’s how many there have been post-9/11” figure? A pity; it’s a cool thing to be able to do when discussing this issue. The counter is on the front page of http://www.thereligionofpeace…. Bear in mind it’s a “more than” counter; I assume “more than N” means N+1, like on counters of boastful restaurants. Anyway, the quoted N figure has increased from the time I posted that comment; it was then 19,627, but is now 19,634. Based on how many post-9/11 days have occurred, it may be that the counter is updated daily.

    Between “misfire” and “abandon them” you’re displaying a very obnoxious internet alpha personality style.  Abandon it.

     

    I want to know which quotation of me you object to, but I never said misfire, so I can’t tell. In any case, before I can abandon my personality style I’ll need a less vague description of what that entails. But do you have a reply to my point ?

    We now have the White House saying that it was a planned attack.

    Reading the article in question, it does not substantiate your confidence in your preferred explanation; we find Carney calling the attack “terrorist” (what’s the criterion for that, anyway?) but admitting no evidence suggests it was significantly pre-planned.

    It’s not one thing.  It’s a great many things which vary from region-to-region.  

    No-one in this discussion seriously denies that, even though some pretend others do. But surely for A to be part of the explanation of B it must positively correlate with B?

    Not living in a world of equal circumstances does not mean we should not work to understand it.

     

    No, but it does mean the world we need to understand is different from a hypothetical world we could find ourselves needing to understand, in which analysis is made easier by the universe conveniently providing all the ceteris paribus conditions we could possibly want.

    If atheists are ever to be anything as an organized entity, it ought to be as humanist as it is secular.  Instead of eradicating religion, I’d much rather work to eradicate the conditions that make religion appealing.  Numbers don’t lie: increase the standard of living and the atheists will come.

    Although the increase has to be widespread, of course; the US is rich but the wealth is very unfairly distributed. Jerry Coyne has even suggested the reason this matters is because of its healthcare implications. But in any case, I see no indication Harris aims to eradicate religion itself; but he contends that our taboo against criticising religion, and moderates’ insistence on preserving that taboo, enables extremism and fundamentalism. Whether or not removing that taboo and criticising religion to the extent it really deserves will eliminate religion in time, Harris’s aims are said removal and said critique.

  69. One hopes that we can stop this arguement and put aside our petty differences for at least for twenty four hours during this official ‘Special Day of Love’ for the prophet Mohammed.

    Anvil.

    ps: looking forward to the mass ‘Hug-in’ in Islamabad after prayers tonight. See you there xx

  70. Your source is 
    http://www.thereligionofpeace….  Case rested.

    As for the “Misfire” thing, looks like you were immediately addressing the user “Misfire” after you were addressing me in one of your responses.  I thought you were calling my point a “misfire.”  My fault there.

    I’m 100% on board when it comes to criticizing religions and the right to do so, but there is a difference between criticizing and attributing every single bad behavior solely to that one factor.

  71. To all our RDF teenagers and youngsters  who have just read Dr.Harris’s brilliant article and may feel some fear and apprehension. Do not be frightened – learn, now, what it is to be a thinking individual. This is one of those moments to be brave – to learn what it is to be a liberal and freethinker, to stand up and courageously defend the natural right to freedom of speech and defend the Western civilization. I quote Dr.Harris,  “I believe that the future of liberalism—and much else—depends on our overcoming this ruinous self-deception. Religion only works as a pretext for political violence because many millions of people actually believe what they say they believe: that imaginary crimes like blasphemy and apostasy are killing offenses.” May I recommend to all you wonderful RDF teenagers to read, “On Liberty”by J.S.Mill. :)

  72. Apparently some of my discussion with lboogie has been subject to moderator editing in both my posts and his/hers. I don’t doubt whatever editing occurred was justified, but I can’t remember the originals well enough to say what changes were made, and I certainly don’t know why it happened. Is there any chance an indication as to what this was all about can be provided?

    lboogie, our discussion appears to be winding down in the sense of there being less to be said about whatever disagreements between us might still survive. I do, however, wish to clarify the meaning of one of your latest comments, regarding Religion of Peace:

    Case rested.

    I’m not sure which case is rested; do you accept the validity of that source? If not, the case against it should be not so much rested as stated.

    there is a difference between criticizing and attributing every single bad behavior solely to that one factor.

    I had hoped the incorrect allegation that Harris is doing that would cease.

  73. I’m surprised that people I respect such as Professor Dawkins think this article is in any way deep or insightful. All it says essentially are Islam is really bad and liberals are pussies. I agree with both statements.  However, I have a different interpretation of the second. I like pussies, both literally and figuratively. I wold rather have a liberal pussy in the white house than an arrogant cowboy.

    One of the reasons (and something Harris totally ignores) it is so hard for the west to respond rationally to Islam when they do crazy things like this is because we had a cowboy in charge for so long. We should be able to say to the Islamic fundamentalists who were rioting: “look we know your faith is important to you but we have certain things that are important as well and one of those is the principle of freedom of speech. We value it so much that we grant it even to idiots like the guy that made this movie.”

    Of course we could still say that but the problem is,  a Muslim fundamentalist could respond something like this:

    “Oh please American give me a break! Principles! Isn’t one of your principles (right next to freedom of speech in your constitution) freedom from cruel and unusual punishment? Didn’t you prosecute Japanese after WWII because they water boarded some of their prisoners and you considered that torture? What happened to that principle when you wanted to get back at people for 9/11? You tortured people with water boarding. You kidnapped someone off the streets of Milan and sent him to Egypt to be tortured. And how about habeus corpus? That goes back even further than your constitution to the Magna Charta. You said that didn’t matter even for your own citizens. And has your new president prosecuted any of the torturers? Not one. So don’t tell me about your principles, you only care about them when its convenient.”

    Any truly rational discussion of these issues has to include the big picture. Not just focus on the many faults of Islam To do otherwise is just pandering not critical thinking.

     

  74. Red Dog:

    Perhaps I missed it, but I was hoping you would respond to me on the issues I raised about the relevance of Pape’s hypothesis about suicide terrorism in connection with the special threat posed by Islam.  Based on the way it appears you have been using his conclusions, I have 4 main critiques that I was hoping you might address:

    1.  Attempted suicide terror attacks that were prevented, no matter how difficult it is to gather data on, are just as relevant as those that are successful.  Suppose we could waive a magic wand of knowledge and discovery 99% of all suicide terrorist attacks were thwarted before completion and we could magically know when you look at the universe of suicide terror attacks, completed or not, that the vast majority came from Islamic terrorists.  Wouldn’t this necessarily undermine the strength of Mr. Pape’s conclusions about the degree to which Islam plays a factor in such a form of terrorism?

    2.  Pape’s analysis is limited to only one specific type of terrorism, that of suicide terror attacks (and only those that were successful).  Even if we assume that Pape’s conclusions are 100% accurate (which I do not), how does this speak to the broader issue of non-suicide terrorism?  What about other forms of violence like rioting?  Intimidation and death threats?  Sam Harris’s piece wasn’t addressing whatever the root causes might be suicide terrorism — he was tackling a much broader issue and the part of that Islam plays in that issue (and the weak-kneed response of the West).  Suicide terrorism is but a small part of this much much larger issue.

    3.  Why did Pape only begin his study in 1980?  It seems that his conclusions might not hold up to scrutiny if a boarder range of years were considered.  Why were suicide terror attacks almost non-existent in Israel and in the Palestinian territories when there was an actual occupying force located in Palestine from 1967 through Oslo?  But after Oslo, when suicide terror attacks massively escalated.  There are plenty of other occupations that have occurred by democracies (like Japan and Germany after WW2) that didn’t result in terrorism.

    4.  Pape’s definition of “occupation” is pretty loosey-goosey.  It doesn’t just mean real bona-fide occupation, but can also be considered perceived occupation, or for that matter the stationing of troops on a base in a country (like in Saudi Arabia).  Given the pretty loose parameters of what is considered “occupation” by Pape, it makes his conclusions pretty suspect.

  75. Sam Harris is talking about a direct causal link between suicide terrorism and Islam. He is putting forward a monocausal explanation and he is not interested in any other factors. That is about all there is to it.

  76. We must be reading very different articles by Sam Harris, because the one I am commenting on, you know, the one posted on this site, is not talking about the cause or causes of suicide terrorism, nor is he expressing a monocausal explanation.

  77. “Our side”? Which side is that? And who are the we/you that the “our” refers to?

    Sam Harris no doubt has superb mastery of the English language. The false prophet Muhammed (peas be upon him) (or those who wrote in his name) no doubt had superb mastery of the Arabic language.

    Is is so that if you are a good orator, demagogue or rhetorician, it should automatically give more credence to your position?

    Are you judging Sam Harris’s literary skills, or the contents of what he is saying?

    I find Islam ridiculous, false and abominable. But Sam Harris seems to me nothing but a demagogue. His preferred method seems to be to counter hatred with more hatred.

    He doesn’t speak Arabic (as fare as know), he hasn’t done fieldwork in any Muslim country, he isn’t an historian, political scientist, anthropologist, sociologist, scholar in religious studies, and he doesn’t base any of his claims on empirical studies (watching the news is not an empirical study (unless you are studying ‘the news’)).

    Nothing of what Harris writes comes close to any of the standards one should expect from a scientist or expert. He obviously has a holy conviction and a passionate drive, but to me, despite his claim that he has developed stronger empathic skill though the practice of mediation, he seems more like Dr. Strangelove than someone who really wants to promote peace.

  78.  The thing about those fatuous, surface level arguments is that they are well suited to our prerogatives or lack thereof. You think education and rule-of-law is one of those things Muslims would stand for if it came from outside their own sphere? It’d just be another case of western imperialism. Change has got to come from within, in their case.

  79. His preferred method seems to be to counter hatred with more hatred.

    I’d like to see you back up this claim. I have read most of what Sam Harris has written, and have watched him in many debates and discussions, and yet have seen nothing that could merit such a description of his ‘preferred method’. On the contrary, his approach has always been entirely reasonable, rational and level-headed.

    People are free to disagree with what Harris says, of course, but it’s peculiar how so many of his critics attack him over arguments he hasn’t actually made, for prejudices he hasn’t actually exhibited, or for behaviour he hasn’t actually indulged in.

  80. Harris says, “I can say all these things about Mormonism, and disparage Joseph Smith
    to my heart’s content, without fearing that I will be murdered for it.” Is he sure? All it takes is a “revelation” from the church’s Big Honcho to change that. Back in the 19th century, Brigham Young had such a revelation and ordered his minions to massacre group of gentiles crossing Utah. It is known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre where about 140 migrants were murdered. Young had told his followers to kill everyone even children so there would be no witnesses.

    As for free speech in New York, the award winning  play in Britain, “My Name is Rachel Corrie”, was canceled because of objections by Jewish groups. So the censors are not only the ones you expect. Those Jews showed themselves to be just as intolerant towards free speech as any others.

  81. mlebay

    When an irate mob is threatening to burn down your house, is that really the best time to pump you chest, point your finger, and declare your right to insult all that they hold most dear?

    Possibly not, but equally, sometimes, it’s the very moment to make a stand, to draw a line in the sand, to say ‘not one more step’, ‘no further’, ‘thou shalt not pass’, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed!’

    Besides, irate had weapons of mass destruction. We knew that. We never found them because they were moved to iran. That’s where we need to go and draw our next line in the sand – iran.

    Anvil.

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