The God Delusion

128

By Kacem El Ghazzali

It probably never crossed Richard Dawkins’s mind that his book, The God Delusion, would reach out to Arab audiences in their own language. When I met him in Switzerland at Denkfest, organized by the Swiss Freethinker’s Association, he was surprised when I said I had read The God Delusion in Arabic. He told me that he was not aware of the translation, and nor had he had any official request for it. I explained that it had been the work of an Iraqi friend called Bassam Al-Baghdadi, who lives in Sweden.

To say that Bassam’s work has been well received would be an understatement. The pdf was downloaded ten million times, with 30 percent going to Saudi Arabia. Bassam said that there were over 1,000 downloads on the very first day after he uploaded it, and the numbers only climbed as the translation was picked up and shared on the blogs, websites and forums of prominent Arab atheists.

The book has prompted unprecedented controversy and debate in the Arab and Islamic worlds. The translator received death threats and accusations of conspiring with the Zionists to corrupt the youth. He was forced to close his social media accounts and stop posting for a while. Futile attempts have been made to resist the waves of reason now reaching Arab shores, through toothless apologetic articles and books. There is even a book called The Atheism Delusion, published by Al-Azhar University in Cairo.

In the Arabic translation of The God Delusion, under the title, Bassam added the words: “This book is banned in Islamic countries.”. It is fortunate and wonderful that the banning of books in the Arab and Islamic worlds is no longer feasible in our new age of information. I was able to read the book while I was still in Morocco, where I was born. Some atheist friends even managed to get hold of the book in Saudi Arabia. The dark times of censorship, in which knowledge for the people was confined to carefully curated books and resources, are gone and will never return.

By chance, I had come across Richard Dawkins’s works years earlier, when I happened to stumble upon an official French translation of The Selfish Gene, in the library of my uncle, who was very interested in biology. I knew nothing of the author’s background at the time, nor did I understand very precisely the theme of the book. My uncle wasn’t there to explain it to me, so I took the book with me to my biology class and asked my teacher for clarification on certain aspects. He seized it from me, looking almost afraid, and shouted: “Don’t bring this filth here again! It is just bullshit!”

Did my teacher really believe the book was that bad? Or was there another reason for his reaction? Perhaps he was afraid. I know there are atheist professors in Morocco who are compelled to pretend to be Muslim in front of their students. But I doubt this was the case here, because I think his reaction would probably have been calmer and more poised.

In spite of this early chance encounter, my respect and admiration for Richard Dawkins really date from when I first read The God Delusion, in Arabic. I began to seek out his articles, and his documentaries on YouTube. Reading The God Delusion made me uneasy at the start.  Even though I was by then already a freethinker, free from religious dogma, the book touched me deeply and had a profound influence on the shaping of my thoughts and ideas. The more I read the more I felt that I had a deep agreement with the author, and even a personal connection, as though the book had been written by somebody I knew closely. I felt as if he was speaking my inner thoughts and doubts.

I also remember how strongly The God Delusion provokes you to think, shattering misconceptions and flawed but long-cherished arguments. It was an important milestone in my intellectual journey to freedom, and as big a milestone in my personal life.

I come from a conservative religious family. When I was a child my father took me out of school for a year so I could study Islamic jurisprudence and memorize the Qur’an, in accordance with the wishes of my grandfather who wanted me to be an Imam. Paradoxically, this intensive study of my faith was one of the biggest contributing factors to my abandonment of it.

I read The God Delusion when I was in high school. The name Richard Dawkins, along with those of other great thinkers, became synonymous to me with rationality and freedom of thought. I admired the concepts of free thought and expression, concepts that Western writers and their readers take for granted but which are taboos and even crimes in the world I came from.  Even today, long after leaving the Arab world behind, the name Richard Dawkins brings the same feeling of compulsive fear, almost like a post-traumatic stress disorder.

Those who have never lived under such circumstances may find it difficult to understand or appreciate that feeling. Try to imagine reading a forbidden book in secret and then going out into the street or sipping tea with your family with a lurking, lingering fear that the criminal things you’ve been reading will somehow bubble out on their own, exposing your viciousness and treachery to everybody. Imagine the guilt of having such thoughts among people who would think you evil or even dangerous if they knew.

Eventually I could not keep my “criminal” thoughts to myself any longer, and I paid the price for my honesty and my love for freedom. That’s why I’m writing these words not from Morocco, but from Switzerland. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Richard Dawkins, and to others who guided my journey from the hells of religious dogma to the oasis of free thought and enlightenment.

Translated from Arabic by: G.A.E.


To learn more about the author visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kacem_El_Ghazzali
Follow him on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/KacemOfficialPage


 

Download a PDF of the Arabic version of The God Delusion here.

128 COMMENTS

  1. . The pdf was downloaded ten million times, with 30 percent going to Saudi Arabia. Bassam said that there were over 1,000 downloads on the very first day after he uploaded it, and the numbers only climbed as the translation was picked up and shared on the blogs, websites and forums of prominent Arab atheists.

    God bless the Internet.

    • I’m not sure if you’re being facetious here, but if you’re serious, I believe this is one copyright infringement Richard would not object to. It’s an internet download, after all, and so no one is selling it and ‘stealing income’ from it anyhow. And I rather doubt that secret readers in Saudi Arabia and Yemen are going to gloat, “Well, now that I have it free in Arabic, I don’t have to bother buying it on Amazon!”

      • I don’t know if he’s concerned about the royalties ( but something tells me he would have reacted by now if he was ) .

        But there is a more serious concern though, regarding the difficulty of translating a text :
        It’s possible that important nuances get lost, or certain information gets slightly misinterpreted.

        So maybe Bassam Al-Baghdadi and Richard could get together and review the book, correcting any possible mistakes due to mistranslation/misinterpretation ?

    • I saw it in Turkey (in Turkish!) 3 years ago- being read by my neighbour who when asked “Do you believe it” replied, “Yes of course!”. Also met a schoolteacher who confided his atheism; so hope is spreading through the Islamic world despite the efforts of the religious authorities.

      Pakistan will be the hardest nut to crack but reading this news- ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE!

  2. This is happy reading. :)

    RDF should make a dedicated homepage to the Arabic (and other) translation(s) of his banned book with an easy-to-remember URL like “www.god-delusion.com” or “www.the-god-delusion.com”, even the title in Arabic might be cool. Then it would be really easy to spread awareness of the Arabic translation on university campuses or street corners.

    Of course such an endorsement of the free Arabic version might cause some problems with publishing rights or royalties if Richard Dawkins’ book were to be published in Arabic in the future. I don’t know how copyright and publishing rights work.

    JonG

  3. The best cure for ignorance is information. We’re always lamenting about how the faithful seem blind to the information but there are many who are curious and looking for answers religion can’t offer. This is one area I wasn’t quite expecting (quite the understatement, actually), but I’m overjoyed that people want to read it and are willing and able to share.

    The best hope in areas of theocracy is exactly this: to inform the populace and take away the power religion has to enforce itself on others with such impunity. I see a difficult road ahead for those that start the path, but I’m amazed it started this soon and can’t wait to see where it goes.

  4. Wonderful.

    It would be nice to have a counter here showing the number of downloads clocking up.

    Its fairly clear that Richard is happy with this state of affairs given the link on the page. But I wonder if other authors can be persuaded into encouraging this happy pirating?

    Perhaps, to formalise this and add a little propriety and translating encouragement we could set up a charitable contributions website that encouraged the distribution of free copies of banned books in Arabic. The charitable funds received could be used to pay for copies of the books. The fees set could pay a little to the translators and the original authors could take income per their agreements with publishers or more likely, if free, could set low levels of charge or direct such income to their own websites, for instance. Downloads would be available from Arabic webpages, with an Arabic speaking test and limited to one per address. Charitable givers could donate their “dollar” to the particular text they would like to give an arab speaker…. The surplus or defecit of copies available would be flagged and the commercial arangements (or lack of them) for each would be shown.

    I suspect most authors will take Richard’s view of not wanting a return, but the translators deserve recompense and the site deserves funding.

    I think this “gift” aspect has a useful quality to it, and I wonder if the anonymised comments of readers may be encouraged and translated?

    • For me, the low level approach will be best Phil. Indivuals of the faith will have better chance and no accusations of western conspiracies can be thrown about. Or at least they can be countered more easily. Bassams work was done from the heart and no amount of money can ever better that. I hope that’s the case anyway.

      • no accusations of western conspiracies can be thrown about

        This is a good point but I wanted to legitimise the process and encourage a broadening of the range of books offered. I would be delighted if the site worked in reverse also, with Arab speakers gifting English translations (say) of agreeable (only) Arab authors.

        The “gifting” aspect of individuals is the key to avoiding your concern in my view. I’m sure Bassam’s work was done from the heart, but that doesn’t prevent any from thinking he was put up to it. The CIA funded and published Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago on bible thin paper to smuggle it in in quantity into the Soviet Union. “Gifting” from an individual to an individual, if that idea can be got across with the necessary anonmimity in place, may paradoxically personalise the process more by being up front about how it is afforded.

        • There will always be accusations but my idea is to limit them and make it easier to counter. Any outside interference makes it easy for the accusers. IMHO. I think this more because of my recent theatre expieience. “The Infidel” is on at the Stratford theatre in the east end. Produced by David Baddiel. Highly recommended although a religious theme in all, muslims and Jews side by side laughing their heads off. That’s why I think it’s best left to each faith to mock itself.

          • “The Infidel” is on at the Stratford theatre in the east end. Produced by David Baddiel. Highly recommended although a religious theme in all, muslims and Jews side by side laughing their heads off. That’s why I think it’s best left to each faith to mock itself.

            But “The Infidel” is David Baddiel, an atheist, trying to see the funny side of the often hostile relationship between British Muslims and Jews. And Baddiel raised funds for the musical through a Kickstarter campaign.

          • Yes but a Jewish atheist ;-)

            The story comes out ok for religion in the end. I don’t think it’s just about British jews and Muslims either. There is a bigger story there. There is no problem with this sort of work in the UK. It is in muslim countries that I have concerns.

          • There is no problem with this sort of work in the UK. It is in muslim countries that I have concerns.

            Surely some Muslim countries could take it. If you had to choose one Muslim country to stage this musical, which would it be?

          • That’s a good question. I don’t really know to be absolutely honest. The problem, as I see it, is the interpretation. It really would have to come from someone who knows the culture well and can interpret it accurately. I don’t know if you can fully appreciate that? I have tried to interpret some English jokes I know and tell them to my family but it just doesn’t work. You know, there were muslims and Jews at the theatre, as I said, sitting side by side, with certain jokes only clear to one or the other. Not one, that I saw was offended. Ironically, the only people that were, that I noticed, were the two English women behind me. At the interval, I overheard them say that the Muslim rally, depicted on stage, was “too near the mark” and they did not like it. I find so many people miss so much detail, in films also, it baffles me what they find to enjoy as adults.

          • Olgun,

            The internet already does broadcast our infidel ideas deep into the heart of the muslim “world”. Those who have the means to access the material on the internet are presumably aware of it’s Kaffar source and still, they read it anyway. Would you say that this has no positive effect? Certainly, there are those who read haram ideas and sputter and rail against them, but as we see here, some readers are substantially supported by their access to these ideas on the internet. I also think there is much value in the reading of our ideas by staunch religionists because although they may hate every idea presented to them, there is the possibility that a small seed of doubt could take hold and at some point, after a period of latency, spring to life.

            If you agree that the infidel sponsored internet has had a positive effect, then why not add some ideas on the printed page as well? Is there really so much difference? Books and articles can provide access to those who have no internet access in that part of the world.

            I understand the resistance factor to any criticism of Islam, especially by the infidels. One need only open the Koran to any page at all in order to become acquainted with the dire warnings to the true believer to be on guard against infidels who intend to destroy their sacred religion. And I do agree with you that with any progressive reform movement, the bulk of the change must come from within.

            As for lists of banned books, remember how that has worked for the Catholic church ;-) Blocking free access to ideas is a particularly insidious tactic that is nothing short of a human rights violation, imo. It has contributed to centuries of successful indoctrination and mind control by religions. If religion was a harmless, silly hobby such as astrology or alchemy, then I could go along with a hands off approach. Sure, let the astrologers go their merry ways without harrassment from us atheists. But we are not dealing with the happy clappy head in the clouds bunch here. We are dealing with misogynists, homophobes and control freak fascists who have no problem with advancing their own agenda through violent means. It is apparent that they intent to advance this agenda directly into my own backyard! It is a very easy case to make that if we DO NOT take every action to remedy this situation then we are solidly in the category of ethical violation!

            Since we have a victim class here that is a huge number of people (billions?) then the scope of any failure to act is devastating. Surely those of us who have seen what happens to women in that culture and gays and atheists too have a sharp and clear view of their misery. Please don’t let this stray far from the front of your consciousness when you calculate the risks/benefits of outsider interference.

        • Someone with connections deep in the CIA needs to have a chit-chat with them with the goal of cutting a deal with Richard that will lead to the production of mass quantities of The God Delusion on bible thin paper. Then a strategy of infiltration by stealth would hide the source of the books as you described above.

          • Again, hiding and deception will not help the situation. It is harder to deny your own people than to demonise those outside and then ban.

      • Maybe I can explain better if you take a look at this LaurieB. How would you sell a BMW in a Muslim country, in order to hold onto your job, if the EU are so diverse? If you are being bombed on all sides and then, no matter how eager or honest you may be, those reonsible for voting in the government that is bombing you is telling you to walk away from your only belief…….. A place on the sofa is worth ten feet in the door.

        • Olgun

          I like that article you linked to. It should be put up for discussion and so should the next one that Economist recommended to me for reading about slavery in Islam. (That one was even better.) Based on my personal observations, BMW is having no problem selling cars in Muslim countries. When I lived in Algeria for some years I owned a BMW. :-)

          But seriously, I absolutely get it about the political catastrophe between the West and the Muslim world. I’m not one of the commenters around here who claims that these problems are totally the result of religion. Without a heavy handed political solution then our war of ideas will be all for nothing. I favor a multivalent strategy.

          • I too value all strategies but do not value ones that destroy those that are most successful. Three million hits on a site is pretty successful, even though we don’t know the real outcome.

          • BTW! You did not say, fully, if you got the fact for the link and the science if selling. If you did then I missed it, sorry.

          • Olgun,

            Are you asking me if I understand the relevance of the article that you linked to? If so then what I think you want me to understand is that even though we would send a message into that part of the world to convey a specific idea, that message could be distorted by cultural context into the very opposite of what we had in mind. This paragraph is the one I had in mind:

            That is because DNA’s public image is ambiguous. In one context, people may see it as the cornerstone of modern medical progress. In another, it will bring to mind such controversial issues as abortion, genetically modified foodstuffs, and the sinister subject of eugenics.

            Ok?

          • Sorry, rushed that a bit. My Shepherd’s pie was burning.

            Well, yes and no. The link was to show the science of selling, so before the event rather than after. If it is misunderstood then it is the fault of the seller not the buyer. If better results are achieved by letting muslims preach to muslims then we should acknowledge that.

          • Olgun,
            I get what you’re trying to say here, but the analogy you present is seriously flawed. When the BMW advertising scheme goes awry resulting in lower sales, I have some difficulty dredging up any feelings of sadness for the company. Are there any real victims in this picture? However, if we don’t do a good job “selling” our product, then we can expect to see many millions of victims that will suffer the effects of fundamentalist Islam. Sales are one thing and human rights are quite another.

            Shepherd’s Pie?!! Seriously? A Turk is eating that? Jeeziz, now I’ve heard it all. My dear Olgun, please get help. You’ve lost your culinary moral compass.

            ~sobs inconsolably~

          • Selling human rights in western law against sharia law, that is the difference, IMHO. There is a lot to change here and change is frightening to our species. We must employ all sorts of human sciences and just saying there are your human rights, go gettem, is not the scientific way. It sounds more a leap of faith to me and I don’t get what is missing to understand that. This is not just a fight against oppressors. It is not that simple. The oppressors are as afraid and the same people.

            There are shepherd’s pies and then there are MY home made shepherd’s pies or “çoban turta” as I like to call it. ;-)

  5. One of the most useful aspects of human cognition is unpredictability. It guarantees that you will always find people who think and behave unpredictably (and differently) and as long as that happens here is hope.

    3 million downloads? There is real hope.

  6. I know there are atheist professors in Morocco who are compelled to pretend to be Muslim in front of their students.

    Survival by masquerade is the art of politics and quite common even in a country where we enjoy the freedom to criticise the government, press and establishment. A famous case to mind is T Blair concealing his catholic conversion lest he was thought to be a nutter. (It didn’t work)

    How many senators in the USA bash bibles so that they appear to be on the right side?

    • How awful to live in such a country – I was a latch-key kid with beat-nik Atheist hippy parents! I Got sent to the headmasters office on more than one occasion for taking the piss out of the Religious Education teacher…My science teacher put-me-up to it !!! He hated the pig-ignorant bible-basher and did everything he could to disrupt the wind-bags pointless religious-tedium….

      • I remember my science teacher guffawing out loud in the morning assembly at some ignorant remark from a visiting bible puncher. The puncher was visibly shaken and I often wondered how the science teacher squared up to our religious nut headmaster afterwards. He left within a year.

        I’m inclined to voice my opinions even if it courts controversy but not everyone thinks that such a stance is prudent. You don’t need to live in a country where dissent means death to have to tread wearily. Ignorant people are to be feared and some of them wield immense power far beyond their capacity to reason.

      • I know I’m being irritatingly pedantic here, but historically, “bible bashing” has meant attacks ON the bible (as in wife-bashing). If you want to speak of people who proclaim the bible, you need a word like “bible-thumpers.” Ridiculous distinction, I know, since thumping and bashing are nearly the same thing, but clear communication is all, and “bashing” is clearly meant as attack.

  7. It has often struck me that if we were really interested in pursuing a war on terror, the books of Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris should be translated into Arabic and air dropped instead of bombs in the middle east. Far more destructive to Islamic extremists in the long run (that and if we just stopped using oil). However just making it available for people to download is even better. If I ever came into a lot of money, I’d spend a joyful year travelling the world adding copies of these books into motel rooms alongside the Gideon bibles, we’d need to get bible like covers made to look somewhat like a bible so that it could avoid detection and removal as long as possible. Now Richard, wouldn’t your book look nice with a nice imitation leather cover with gold leaf “The God Delusion” in a nice gold leaf font?

  8. justinesaracen :

    OH, oh. Someone’s just jumped to the top of the “Heads we must cut off” list.

    Funnily enough, the image that sprang to my mind was the thought of the Saudi Religious Police running around like headless chickens ! Keystone Cops, Arabian style !

  9. What a good surprise for me that 10 million (equivalent to the resident portuguese population) of people were interested in reading the book and didn´t fear reading it as if they were not afraid of witchcraft huntings. I would like to know more about their motivations, of course.
    It is even more surprising to me that the title of the book TGD had objections coming from psychiatrists-it seems-, but it is equally surprising to me objections of any kind, even if the objection comes from a dutch prime minister to the Koran or mein kampf, or any other objection- the prohibition of reading Marx has been recently abolished in Turkey too- as though as if readers were children needing protection. Protection against my own freedom and conscience? No thanks !!!!
    What a nice article.

  10. Let´s in addition remark something more interesting about politicians-and people who elect them, of course- the danish prime minister in an recent interview was very surprised to know that although danish people pay the highest taxes they are considered the most happy people in the world, and what he argued was:”because happiness doesn.t pay taxes.” And, what he recommended was “MORE FREEDOM-it is a need”.

  11. Even though it is great news, I detect a flaw in the ointment; to wit, Richard’s famous stridency or rottweilerishness. This character trait wasn’t particularly evident in The God Delusion if memory serves, but your man does believe that not only religion’s precepts but religious people themselves should be mocked.

    I have read some of his books and don’t remember any rottweilerishness. In which of his other books, before or after TGD, was this character trait particularly evident?

      • It wasn’t I who came up with this rottweiller cognomen.

        No, but you certainly implied that the term was justified, although you didn’t find the trait particularly evident in TGD. You didn’t coin the term “sand ni#ger” either, but I’m pretty sure you would not use it other than in a similar context to your above post.

        I think the term can only usefully refer to RD’s determined promotion of Darwin’s theory against attack by Creationists and other religious apologists. You imply the term somehow reflects RD’s personality or style of communication and that this would be a drawback if more of his work were to be translated.

        Googling who coined the term Darwins Rottweiller, points to Alister McGrath, a Christian apologist and author of The Dawkins Delusion, surprise surprise.

        And regarding what you call “Richard’s famous stridency”, I think Hitchens thoughts on that are well worth posting here:

        If you haven’t read it, you will almost certainly have seen it: the critique of Professor Richard Dawkins that arraigns him for being too “strident” in his confrontations with his critics. According to this line of attack, Dawkins has no business stepping outside the academy to become a “public intellectual” and even less right to raise his voice when he chooses to do so. Implied in this rather hypocritical attack is the no less hypocritical hint that Dawkins might be better received if he were more polite and attract a better class of audience if he used more of the blessed restraint and reserve that is every Englishman’s birthright and which he obviously possesses in such heaping measure. I think that Dawkins would be quite right to refuse the oily invitation that is contained in this offer, and I hope that he continues to do so. I say this while having actually found his manners to be quite unusually polite and even quiet, especially when one considers the context of this discussion.

      • Katy,
        Tricks are for kids, but thanks for the fun.

        You have nice control over the English language, and I like a good bit of your humor; but you haven’t sold me that even you believe half the dribble.

        Crossword puzzles are boring? So you come here to poke the alpha goose in the turdcutter, sending the gaggle into a skein; and it’s still fun after two years?

        We are not approaching final debate night in the Middle East, one last, best approach is not necessary. Opening minds doesn’t require a hammer or a screwdriver; rather all the tools in the box. Perhaps a few we haven’t yet invented.

  12. It seems there was a comment by Kate Cordeth that has been removed with no message from the moderator.(”’)
    Yesterday I, ve posted a link to an interview I ´ve mentioned in my previous comment but it wasn´t publihed.

    When i´ve mentionedd danish PM actually is danish minister of foreign affairs.
    Just thought it might be interesting.

    • It seems there was a comment by Kate Cordeth that has been removed with no message from the moderator.

      Must have been the one I replied to below. Katy was replying to Phil’s suggestion about setting up a charitable contributions web site to encourage such Arabic translations of banned books. I think Katy included a link to a download page for TGD – that may be the reason the post has been removed.

      Edit: Katy has re-posted.

      • I think Katy included a link to a download page for TGD

        No, the link was to an article which reported that Richard had responded to people who were unable to view in their location a documentary he made by suggesting they could get it from an illicit source. He was the one who linked to this source.

        • Darn it and part one gone again.

          All the more reason to bring this type of project within the skirts of the law. “Gifting” books appeals to me as an open-handed gesture. I also see it as a talking shop of its own. Striving to make it bilateral and operated by Arabs and Turks etc. etc. etc., would increase its utility. I think an awful lot of misconceptions would be addressed if the authors on both sides got involved in the exchanges too.

  13. Part two of original post

    Back to the OP, and I think it’s great news that Richard’s most famous book is beginning to spread like a virus into these places. I love the idea that people in Saudi or other theocracies (Texas perhaps) are coming together, possibly under cover of darkness, to share their beliefs. The same thing used to happen with Thomas Paine’s writings after they were proscribed. This is the internet as it should be. Not idiots sharing pictures of their cats or telling you what they had for dinner, but a system for delivering controversial, even heretical, ideas to otherwise inaccessible locales. Totalitarianism has always feared information-disseminating technology, going back to the invention of the printing press. Now we have e-readers, little Pandora’s boxes which can literally contain within them everything knowable in our world.

    Even though it is great news, I detect a flaw in the ointment; to wit, Richard’s famous stridency or rottweilerishness. This character trait wasn’t particularly evident in The God Delusion if memory serves, but your man does believe that not only religion’s precepts but religious people themselves should be mocked. This is okay if you’re mocking your own culture—Richard has been accused of bigotry for some of the things he’s said about the Church of England, but never very convincingly; he’s just too Oxbridge establishment for any of these claims to stick—but takes on a new dimension when dealing with other people’s.

    He and other New Atheists have gone to great lengths to convince critics there isn’t a racist element to what they have to say about Muslims, but the fact remains that Islam is so interwoven with the culture and identity of Muslim people, just as ‘cultural’ Christians like Richard Dawkins or atheist Jews such as Herb Silverman are inextricably connected to Christianity and Judaism, that when a white westerner criticizes the religion of Islam, many Muslims, even atheist or ‘cultural’ Muslims, are going to feel they and their family and society and history are being traduced by another white devil of the type Islam has been at war with since God was in short trousers.

    You can repeat “for the umpteenth time” that something it’s possible to convert in or out of isn’t a race so what you’re saying can’t be bigotry (coughs again: antisemitism), but if you wish to become a friend of cultural Muslims, if you want your words whispered around the souqs and medinas, you’re going to have to get very specific about what you hold in contempt and what, or rather whom, you don’t. Paine didn’t preface Rights of Man or Common Sense with a few pithy 140-character remarks about how stupid proles tend to be. You’re going to have to leave the tower and learn about something called realpolitik.

    Yes it sucks having to genuflect before the hated god of political correctness—my intelligence, education and wisdom should be enough to convince you I am correct; it is for lesser men to take the unimpeachable logic of what I say and apply it in the actual, grubby world—but remember, political correctness is the thing we substitute for actual empathy and cultural understanding, which tend to be in short supply on this planet of nearly eight billion psychotic, opinionated and change-phobic chimps. The freedom to shout at a waiter in an Indian restaurant “Oy, Gunga Din, more poppadoms,” or call an Arab who cuts in front of us in the supermarket queue a sand ni#ger may be an important one, but it could be argued that the net gain for humanity is sufficient compensation for this loss to our collective liberty.

    Sam Harris may say many sensible things about religion—anything is possible—but if The End of Faith is translated into Muslim as TGD was, what’s going to happen when some of his interviews with Bill Maher find their way to the ears of atheist Muslims in foreign lands or they learn about how he’s pals with someone who thinks Islam needs to be gotten rid of by nuking the fu#k out of it? Sadly, I think New Atheism may already have burned some strategically important bridges. Hopefully it isn’t too late to rebuild.

    • I’m very happy indeed if Harris goes in there untidied up and Dawkin’s scrabbles to tidy himself up also. I so do not want us all smiling, shoes polished. New Atheism is, prosaically, a social phenomenon not a movement like secularism. For me it has no bridges to burn. The whole point of not being combed and shiny shoed is that it doesn’t matter. We are a society far more of individuals. If we have some schtick in the promotion of western sensibilities it is this, that we allow personal freedoms to a far greater extent. More offense is given, but less is taken. More diverse and creative thinking is done, and less group thought policing. Vulgar and offensive behaviour is dealt with in a slower but more educative manner. “Goodness Gracious Me” go for an English and changed us (a little, at least) sweetly and brilliantly.

      My kids squabbled and I always weighed in to break it up, until someone asked how on earth they were going to learn to live together if I was the one to set the rules all the time? Hands off worked. Conversation after any unkind behaviour worked.

      Albatrossing your antagonist with others cheap killer-canine-jibe of them is a bit crap if you aren’t prepared to justify your own use of it.

      but your man does believe that not only religion’s precepts but religious people themselves should be mocked.

      Details please (leaving aside Sarah Palin, of course.) And whose man and why?

      • Albatrossing your antagonist with others cheap killer-canine-jibe of them is a bit crap if you aren’t prepared to justify your own use of it.

        Ah you sort of hint later. But how you get from a bit clutzy on occasions (which is what I detect in the tweets) to flesh tearing terror seems a bit of a leap.

    • I am getting very tired of telling Turkish people that the EU is not a christian club and it is not because they are muslim that they can’t get in. More of Katy would help. They don’t get the joke of “Going for an English” either. The Indian people are much more tolerant of English thugs. The Turks would neither do it or tolerate it, as they showed in the Tottenham riots when they took to the streets to stop the looting.

      • Just wondering— “something it’s possible to convert in or out of”
        You SURELY aren’t claiming this is possible for Islam?
        In- easily (too easily) but out- only at risk of death…

        That particular phrase, “Something it’s possible to convert in or out of cannot be considered a race,” or words to that effect, came from Richard. It’s how he justifies some of his statements about Muslims when critics level the charge of racism at him.

        I’m glad to see the point about Islam’s being difficult if not impossible in many circumstances to escape has not eluded you as it seems to do with him. His argument is essentially that religion is a choice, therefore the racism accusation is not justified; people have no control over the amount of melanin in their body but they are at liberty to leave their faith at any time without its having any consequences.

        That isn’t even true in the largely secular West.

  14. I have to confess I’m not entirely sure what you’re getting at here, Phil. Albatrossing my antagonist with cheap killer canine jibes. That sounds like a lost line from ‘I am the Walrus’.

    Goodness Gracious Me passed me by. I did see a documentary about religion presented by Ann Widdecombe in which she pretended to be offended by a sketch from that show about an Indian family receiving Holy Communion for the first time. The conceit was that these foreigners misunderstood the meaning of the Eucharist to such a degree they tried to improve the experience by sprinkling flavorsome subcontinental spices onto the host cracker to make it taste nicer.

    Sounds like a perfectly good metaphor for multiculturalism if you ask me, and hardly offensive, but Widdecombe’s response was to do that fake retching thing people do when they want to express disgust about something. Totes fake. If the dreadful harridan had been raised Catholic it might have been more convincing. But she’s a convert; she wasn’t raised to believe Jesus-cookies are the literal body of Christ, that’s a new thing for her. The sketch has apparently never been repeated on the BBC.

    “but your man does believe that not only religion’s precepts but religious people themselves should be mocked.”

    Details please (leaving aside Sarah Palin, of course.)

    Dawkins: Mock Them. Ridicule Them. In Public. With Contempt.

    And whose man and why?

    D’ah. Now. Come on. Phil. Are you a Liverpudlian or aren’t you? I refuse to believe that someone so steeped in the culture of that city could be unfamiliar with this famous Irish pronoun phrase. If you really do not know what ‘your man’ means, I would suggest you familiarize yourself with the humorous proselytizings of the theologian Brother Ó Briain.

    • Dawkins: Mock Them. Ridicule Them. In Public. With Contempt.

      From the link you posted, this was their advice to their followers.

      Delete them. Hang up on them. Walk away.

      Close your eyes. Block your ears. Stamp your feet. Scream. “I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you.” To propagate this as a rational argument against Dawkins deserves a bit of mocking and ridicule.

    • Katy.

      Dawkins was very clear towards the end of those aggregated “highlights” that he was talking about the religious when they made non-scientific truth claims. It was indeed the claims that were the issue. Not his best construction of the point though and fallen upon gleefully by those seeking a defence and those promoting a good thumping.

      Of course I recognise the phrase “your man”. But even in the mouth of Brother Ó Briain I find it an irritating bit of straw-manning implying some kind of uncritical devotion or some personal responibility being called for.

      Albatrossing. Metaphorically stringing something unfortunate around anothers neck that they may not remove. The epithet rottweiler for example.

      • Of course I recognise the phrase “your man”. But even in the mouth of Brother Ó Briain I find it an irritating bit of straw-manning implying some kind of uncritical devotion or some personal responibility being called for.

        That isn’t how I use it. For me it’s just another useful personal pronoun so when you’re talking about someone you don’t have to keep saying this person’s name or ‘he’. If we still had access to our own commenting history, I could point you to loads of instances when I’ve said ‘your woman’ about someone like Anne Coulter or Sarah Palin, or ‘your man’ about Glenn Beck or… whoever. Devotion doesn’t enter into it.

        Albatrossing. Metaphorically stringing something unfortunate around anothers neck that they may not remove. The epithet rottweiler for example.

        See my response to Marktony for what I think about the Rottweiller and strident epithets.

  15. @Marktony

    “It wasn’t I who came up with this rottweiller cognomen.”

    No, but you certainly implied that the term was justified, although you didn’t find the trait particularly evident in TGD. You didn’t coin the term “sand ni#ger” either, but I’m pretty sure you would not use it other than in a similar context to your above post.

    Darwin’s Rotweiller is a clear reference to the description of Thomas Henry Huxley as Darwin’s Bulldog. I don’t know how Richard feels about the sobriquet but it isn’t intrinsically offensive the way the insult for people of Arab descent is. For all we know, Dawkins revels in the description, the same way his avatar on this site is the Daily Mail header “Is This Britain’s Most Dangerous Man?”

    His alleged stridency was discussed at length here a while ago on the thread Richard Dawkins to Speak in Belfast.. As I said in a comment on September 6th (I won’t include a second hyperlink; I think you get one for free but two and the post is automatically flagged as spam) the second definition of strident on Collinsdictionary.com is “urgent, clamorous, or vociferous”.

    Urgent:

    1 Requiring or compelling speedy action or attention

    2 earnest and persistent

    Clamorous:

    1 loud and persistent

    2 vehement, outraged

    Vociferous:

    1 characterized by vehemence, clamour, or noisiness

    2 making an outcry or loud noises; clamorous

    Again, none of these is automatically a bad thing to have as a character trait. Shrinking violets do not make headlines or recruit others to the cause of politicized atheism. The title of The God Delusion was deliberately provocative: people who believe in the Almighty are delusional. That was Richard coming out guns blazing, and it worked and even made him a star, something that wouldn’t have happened if he were more compromising in his approach. Would you and I be having this conversation if his nickname was Darwin’s Miniature Yorkshire Terrier? It strikes me that some of Dawkins’ supporters love his take-no-prisoners style, but don’t like it to be given a perfectly accurate

    As Christopher Hitchens (I shan’t call him ‘Hitch’ as others here do; I never met the man so it seems a bit overly familiar. If I’m ever fortunate enough to encounter Christopher Biggins, I shall address him by his first name or as Mr Biggins, not as ‘Biggins’) said in his interview with Richard in The New Statesman shortly before his death:

    If I was strident, it doesn’t matter – I was a jobbing hack, I bang my drum. You have a discipline in which you are very distinguished. You’ve educated a lot of people; nobody denies that, not even your worst enemies. You see your discipline being attacked and defamed and attempts made to drive it out.

    Stridency is the least you should muster . . . It’s the shame of your colleagues that they don’t form ranks and say, “Listen, we’re going to defend our colleagues from these appalling and obfuscating elements.”

    Demarcation line break.

    You imply the term somehow reflects RD’s personality or style of communication and that this would be a drawback if more of his work were to be translated.

    I stand by my view that some of the things Richard has in the past said about Islam border on racist; his repeated insistence that Islam should not be considered a race should tell you something, shouldn’t it? Remember the scene at the end of Robocop where the boss of the company tells Ronny Cox he’s fired and the hidden command preventing Robocop from shooting him out a window is no longer applicable. Well, that’s what I’m reminded of whenever Dawkins, Harris or whoever go into their spiel about Muslims not being part of a race. Even if they’re correct, if what they have to say didn’t so closely resemble racism they simply wouldn’t need to keep repeating that Directive Four doesn’t apply. These guys try to pretend it’s about political correctness when it just isn’t; it’s about their regarding people from a particular ethnic group as indistinguishable from one another other, seeing them not as individuals but as a teeming horde that needs to be ‘dealt with’, in a way they don’t with, say, Christians. If that isn’t racism, it’s awfully close. A lower-in-fat racism substitute also available as a spray, if you like.

    As far as I’m aware, neither Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins has ever tried to engage with a Muslim audience. When Harris goes on Politically Incorrect and spews his crap about Mohammedans, he isn’t reaching out to them—how many Muslims are there in the United States, about five?—but to people like himself. It’s Americans he’s trying to convince here. And it’s the same thing with Richard. But now one of his books has been published in Muslim and there are calls for the same thing to happen with Sam Harris and we’re supposed to forget that for the past God knows how long these guys have been doing their best to convince the western world that racial profiling at airports is a neat idea and tactical nuclear strikes may be the only thing ultimately to rid the world of the evil that is Islam; they’ve sung the praises of people like Geert Wilders and gotten awfully close to others on the European far right. You don’t wash away years of Muslim bashing—not Islam bashing, Muslim bashing—so easily.

    • Ah, clears up a few items I was muddled about, thanks.

      Muslim bashing

      Would you go so far as to say Dawkins and Harris have been ‘pug’nacious in this arena?

      It’s Americans he’s trying to convince here

      Brings to mind a current controversy over a small school district’s vote: instead of granting Muslim families days off for personal observations, there will be no more distinct religious holidays marked on calendars – instead > winter break.

    • The title of The God Delusion was deliberately provocative: people who believe in the Almighty are delusional.

      When people claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus or God or some other imagined deity, don’t you think that can be fairly described as a delusion? I’m sure Richard understood that the title was provocative but probably mainly in the sense that it’s been seen as impolite to criticise religious beliefs let alone call them delusional. He addresses the choice of title in the preface including:

      “The dictionary supplied with Microsoft Word defines a delusion as ‘a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of psychiatric disorder’. The first part captures religious faith perfectly. As to whether it is a symptom of a psychiatric disorder, I am inclined to follow Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, when he said, ‘When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.

      That was Richard coming out guns blazing, and it worked and even made him a star, something that wouldn’t have happened if he were more compromising in his approach.

      OK, so his strident (uncompromising) approach has been a success. But my initial reply was in response to your:

      Even though it is great news, I detect a flaw in the ointment; to wit, Richard’s famous stridency or rottweilerishness.

      I believe that was in reply to Phil’s suggestion that the translation of other banned books should be encouraged. Rather than any of Richard’s books, you referred to a speech Richard gave to the Reason Rally 2012 where he encouraged the audience to ridicule people for some of the more radical religious beliefs, such as wine turning into blood. Here is what he said:

      So when I meet somebody who claims to be religious, my first impulse is: “I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you until you tell me do you really believe — for example, if they say they are Catholic — do you really believe that when a priest blesses a wafer it turns into the body of Christ? Are you seriously telling me you believe that? Are you seriously saying that wine turns into blood?” Mock them! Ridicule them! In public! Don’t fall for the convention that we’re all too polite to talk about religion. Religion is not off the table. Religion is not off limits. Religion makes specific claims about the universe which need to be substantiated and need to be challenged and, if necessary, need to be ridiculed with contempt.

      I do think he could have put that better, but then again this wasn’t your average american audience. Your man Sam Harris was more subtle in his mockery of Rabbi Wolpe here.

      I stand by my view that some of the things Richard has in the past said about Islam border on racist; his repeated insistence that Islam should not be considered a race should tell you something, shouldn’t it?

      Should it? It seems pretty obvious really. Islam is not a race, Islam is not a gender. It’s a religion, a values system, an ideology. If Richard has had to repeatedly make that point, it is probably because he is repeatedly being accused of racism when he criticises Islam.

      Does this quote:

      The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

      make Richard a racist against Christianity. Since Islamic scripture includes parts of the OT, does that also make him racist against Islam? Mormonism?

      Even if they’re correct, if what they have to say didn’t so closely resemble racism they simply wouldn’t need to keep repeating that Directive Four doesn’t apply.

      That reminds me of this line often used by the religious:

      If you are not religious, why do you keep going on about religion.

      If religious apologists didn’t resort so quickly to racist accusations to shut down debate, he wouldn’t feel the need to discuss the difference between a race and a religion. But I’m not denying that there are people who attack Islam who are just xenophobic bigots.

      it’s about their regarding people from a particular ethnic group as indistinguishable from one another, seeing them not as individuals but as a teeming horde that needs to be ‘dealt with’, in a way they don’t with, say, Christians.

      Have you any RD quotes in mind that seem to convey this message?

      Sam Harris may say many sensible things about religion—anything is possible—but if The End of Faith is translated into Muslim as TGD was, what’s going to happen when some of his interviews with Bill Maher find their way to the ears of atheist Muslims in foreign lands or they learn about how he’s pals with someone who thinks Islam needs to be gotten rid of by nuking the fu#k out of it?

      Given the success of TGD translation I think others such as The End of Faith, God is Not Great, Breaking the Spell and The Greatest Show on Earth would go down very well indeed.

      • “deliberately provocative: people who believe in the Almighty are delusional”

        This is a statement of fact- I can’t see why it is “provocative

        The two are not mutually exclusive; an assertion can be factual and provocative at the same time, without our even needing to trouble Erwin Schrödinger.

  16. @Marktony

    “The title of The God Delusion was deliberately provocative: people who believe in the Almighty are delusional.”

    When people claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus or God or some other imagined deity, don’t you think that can be fairly described as a delusion?

    People who think they have a personal relationship with the Almighty may indeed be delusional. There are other reasons why someone might make such a claim. Religion can give people a sense of identity within a family group or community at large, a state of affairs which would be jeopardized if everyone were candid about what they actually believe.

    “That was Richard coming out guns blazing, and it worked and even made him a star, something that wouldn’t have happened if he were more compromising in his approach.”

    OK, so his strident (uncompromising) approach has been a success. But my initial reply was in response to your:

    “Even though it is great news, I detect a flaw in the ointment; to wit, Richard’s famous stridency or rottweilerishness.”

    I believe that was in reply to Phil’s suggestion that the translation of other banned books should be encouraged. Rather than any of Richard’s books, you referred to a speech Richard gave to the Reason Rally 2012 where he encouraged the audience to ridicule people for some of the more radical religious beliefs, such as wine turning into blood. Here is what he said:

    “So when I meet somebody who claims to be religious, my first impulse is: “I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you until you tell me do you really believe — for example, if they say they are Catholic — do you really believe that when a priest blesses a wafer it turns into the body of Christ? Are you seriously telling me you believe that? Are you seriously saying that wine turns into blood?” Mock them! Ridicule them! In public! Don’t fall for the convention that we’re all too polite to talk about religion. Religion is not off the table. Religion is not off limits. Religion makes specific claims about the universe which need to be substantiated and need to be challenged and, if necessary, need to be ridiculed with contempt.”

    I was talking about the overall impression I’ve formed about Richard since I joined this site a couple years ago. During this period I’ve read numerous articles authored by him, comments he posted here and on Twitter, and a couple of his books. Do you believe New Atheism can make inroads into the Islamic world, which is what seems to be happening with The God Delusion‘s going viral in Saudi, and all the illiberal things he and others have said about Muslims won’t find their way over there too? Do you think the wheat can be separated from all the poisonous chaff? Maybe it won’t matter if they do receive the chaff, it’s not like yer Muzzies are the most intelligent of our species, just look at the number of Nobel prizes they don’t have.

    I mostly agree with the sentiment of the above paragraph you quote, but take issue with the strategy Richard has for challenging people’s religious beliefs. He’s essentially saying most western Catholics do not believe in Transubstantiation but affect to because that’s what they’ve been brought up to think and human beings are very good at compartmentalizing.

    That is the part I agree with. The second bit, the idea that ridiculing those beliefs is a way to win friends and influence people, is where for me it falls apart, for a number of reasons, foremost of which being that people under attack, people who are being mocked, are unlikely to be receptive to what you have to say even if it’s super-true. Your logic may be impeccable but if it’s served up with a side order of cockishness you’re only going to alienate those whose professed beliefs you’re seeking to challenge.

    Richard may be all kinds of clever when it comes to knowing about biology and which way up an elephant is meant to go, but as a recruiting officer his skills leave much to be desired. New Atheism has a sheen of unpleasant superiority about it; the idea that its members should call themselves Brights, which I believe even Christopher Hitchens considered a terrible idea, is one example of this mindset.

    I do think he could have put that better, but then again this wasn’t your average american audience. Your man Sam Harris was more subtle in his mockery of Rabbi Wolpe here.

    Hey, Sam Harris is not “my man”, how very dare you. Kidding. Link copied and bookmarked. Thank you.

    “I stand by my view that some of the things Richard has in the past said about Islam border on racist; his repeated insistence that Islam should not be considered a race should tell you something, shouldn’t it?”

    Should it? It seems pretty obvious really. Islam is not a race, Islam is not a gender. It’s a religion, a values system, an ideology. If Richard has had to repeatedly make that point, it is probably because he is repeatedly being accused of racism when he criticises Islam.

    Not this again. This has been argued into the ground. Okay, in a nutshell: Richard says something one can convert in or out of cannot be considered a race, case closed. Here is (part of) Katy’s oft-repeated counterargument in condensed form: Judaism can be converted in or out of, one can be entirely Jewish without having a drop of ‘Jewish’ blood in one’s veins, so does this mean antisemitism isn’t real neither? Race is a social construct anyway, isn’t it? (In case you were wondering, the other part of the argument concerns Islamic rules about apostasy.)

    I’ll let Alex Gabriel take this up:

    Asserting that because Islam is a religion and not a race, one can never discuss it (or treat its followers) in racist ways makes about as much sense as saying that because ballet is an art form not a sexual identity, it’s impossible to say anything homophobic about male ballet dancers. Hip-hop musicians and immigrants aren’t races either, but commentary on both is very often racist – or at least, informed and inflected to a serious degree by racial biases.

    Or as Tom Chivers writing in The Telegraph says:

    Treating all Muslims as featureless representatives of their religion (as Dawkins does when saying things like “Who the hell do these Muslims think they are? How has UCL come to this: cowardly capitulation to Muslims? Tried to segregate sexes in debate between @LKrauss1 and some Muslim or other”) is – well, it may not be directly racist, but it’s certainly not the sort of thing Martin Luther King would admire. The content of their character, and all that.

    Because Dawkins has gone from criticising the religion itself to criticising Muslims, as a vast bloc. They’re not individuals with names, they’re “these Muslims” or “some Muslim or other”, undifferentiated, without personhood. They haven’t managed to get very many Nobel prizes, presumably because they’re stupid, or brainwashed into zombiehood by their religion. Yes, it’s only a “fact”, but in different contexts, the same fact can have different meanings. For instance, would Dawkins have tweeted another fact, which is that Trinity also has twice as many Nobel prizes as all black people put together? It’s just as true, but presumably he doesn’t believe that it’s because black people aren’t as clever. Yet he is willing to make the equivalent inference about Muslims, without further evidence.

    Ethnoreligious is the adjective we need to remember. Demarcation-line-break truth.

    Does this quote:

    “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

    make Richard a racist against Christianity. Since Islamic scripture includes parts of the OT, does that also make him racist against Islam? Mormonism?

    Richard is happy to identify as a cultural Christian. When he criticizes Christianity it’s from the position of someone on the inside. Some might argue, wrongly, that he’s a self-hating Christian, but I don’t see how racism could enter into it. Does this mean a white westerner should not be allowed to express disapproval of acts committed in the name of Islam? Certainly not, although that is what Dawkins, Harris, Maher etc would have you believe is the liberal position: these guys are speaking truth, but the forces of political correctness and wimpy liberal guilt are trying to censor their truthities.

    Nice try, boys, but: no sale. Take Islam or individual Muslims or groups of Muslims to task till your throat is sore or there’s blood on your computer keyboard from all the typing. All we ask is that you do so in a rational way and without resorting to the kind of reasoning that a tattooed EDL (remember them?) member would find embarrassing.

    “Even if they’re correct, if what they have to say didn’t so closely resemble racism they simply wouldn’t need to keep repeating that Directive Four doesn’t apply.”

    That reminds me of this line often used by the religious:

    “If you are not religious, why do you keep going on about religion.”

    Does it really? I’ll have to strive for more clarity in future because the line I had in mind was the one about how if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck… As the manifestly marvelous Jeremy Hardy observed on a recent edition of BBC Radio Four’s The News Quiz, the United Kingdom Independence Party, or Ukips for short, is the only British political organisation which expressly forbids former members of the far-right British National Party and English Defence League from joining its ranks; because, and this was Jezza’s point, it’s the only party that has to. The Green Party requires no such stipulation on its membership form because xenophobes tend not to gravitate toward it.

    If religious apologists didn’t resort so quickly to racist accusations to shut down debate, he wouldn’t feel the need to discuss the difference between a race and a religion.

    It isn’t only religious apologists who believe as I do, Mark. I think you have it backwards when you say Richard’s remarks about the difference between religion and race came second, rather than being a response to all those who looked at what he was saying and the unsavory types he was buddying up to and started to call him on it.

    But I’m not denying that there are people who attack Islam who are just xenophobic bigots.

    Yup. Geert Wilders, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Pat Condell, Tommy Robinson (aka Steven Yaxley Lennon)… I’m surprised the RDFRS store doesn’t carry t-shirts with the face of Pastor Terry Jones emblazoned on them, going on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my pal.

    “it’s about their regarding people from a particular ethnic group as indistinguishable from one another, seeing them not as individuals but as a teeming horde that needs to be ‘dealt with’, in a way they don’t with, say, Christians.”

    Have you any RD quotes in mind that seem to convey this message?

    Well, we’ve already had:

    “Who the hell do these Muslims think they are?”

    I for one do not know who the hell these Muslims think they are. Does he mean all one and a half billion Muslims, or these few individual Muslims who did something of which he didn’t approve? A Jewish neighbor of mine sometimes tosses his garbage in with my carefully sorted recyclables. Who the hell do these Jews think they are?

    “How has UCL come to this: cowardly capitulation to Muslims? Tried to segregate sexes in debate between @LKrauss1 and some Muslim or other”.

    At least this sort of acknowledges, with “some Muslim” (here Richard might instead have said some “person”), that these guests to our western shores might not all be part of a Borg-like collective consciousness, which could be a step in the right direction for the guy. It’s been on the news that the Westboro Baptist Church lot are planning to picket another military funeral. Damn you Stephen Colbert and the Rev Richard Coles, do you have no shame?

    There was another tweet about beautiful British children being indoctrinated in a “foreign ideology” if memory serves, and one about how not all Muslims are jihadists, wink wink.

    “Sam Harris may say many sensible things about religion—anything is possible—but if The End of Faith is translated into Muslim as TGD was, what’s going to happen when some of his interviews with Bill Maher find their way to the ears of atheist Muslims in foreign lands or they learn about how he’s pals with someone who thinks Islam needs to be gotten rid of by nuking the fu#k out of it?”

    Given the success of TGD translation I think others such as The End of Faith, God is Not Great, Breaking the Spell and The Greatest Show on Earth would go down very well indeed.

    Yes, until some of Harris’ interviews with Bill Maher or Richard’s twitterances come to light over there. Which is where we came in. I’ve already said I think TGD‘s finding an audience in Saudi is an excellent thing. I’ve been an atheist for most of my natural, but I never really examined this faith. That book crystallized my vague, half-thought out feelings about religion, and for that I’m grateful.

    There is a great deal to admire about Richard Dawkins, but it’s the profound lack of empathy that chills my blood. There’s never any understanding that most people have no say about the religion into which they were born, particularly when it comes to Islam. Richard and Sam’s atheism was consequence-free, and cost them nothing. Quite the reverse in fact.

    You can be as snarky as you like about the idiocy of religious beliefs if every member of your intimate circle is as atheist as you. This is what’s meant by talk of ivory towers. It’s not about being sequestered in the hallowed halls of Academe with its accompanying tweed-and-ivy stank, it’s about being surrounded in secular comfort by those who think as you do, people who won’t ostracize you or have you arrested and sentenced to death for questioning the physics of flying horseys. Walk a mile in another person’s footsteps for cryin’ out glayvin.

    • Here is (part of) Katy’s oft-repeated counterargument in condensed form: Judaism can be converted in or out of, one can be entirely Jewish without having a drop of ‘Jewish’ blood in one’s veins, so does this mean antisemitism isn’t real neither?

      No, it means Judaism is not a race and criticising Judaism is not racism. Just as criticising Israel is not racism. Interestingly but not surprisingly, DNA studies have found a large genetic overlap between Jews and Muslim Palestinians. I think Richard is well aware that there are people who criticise Islam who have ulterior (racist, xenophobic) motives.

    • Do you have a feeling of empathy ,with respect to the acquired psychopathy ,that thousands of Islamic idiots have acquired.
      Silly concepts such as Islamophobia(in reality Islamonaisea) are opinions based on the dogshit dogma of Muslims!
      Civilised morality has no place within Islam ; whereas murder of Kafirs is a current exercise.
      Read http://www.thereligionofpeace.com to acquaint yourself with the barbaric culture thereof!

      List item

      • Do you have a feeling of empathy ,with respect to the acquired psychopathy ,that thousands of Islamic idiots have acquired.

        According to David R Allen, who is the closest thing we have on this site to an expert on psychopathy, the condition is something one is born with and cannot simply be acquired. To answer your question, no, I’m not sympathetic to psychopaths if they indulge themselves. Why would I be?

        Silly concepts such as Islamophobia(in reality Islamonaisea) are opinions based on the dogshit dogma of Muslims!

        I assume you mean Islamonausea. Yeah, I’ve heard that one before. No, Islamophobia wasn’t created by Muslims, although that is what you hear if you go on hate websites such as the one you list below or Gates of Vienna or any of the myriad others that cater to and feed the fears of the terminally dimwitted. There you’ll hear tell of secret symposia attended by high-status Muslims from around the globe in which it was decided to exploit western liberal guilt so the Caliphate could be established under our noses. It’s feeble paranoia worthy of David Icke or Alex Jones.

        Civilised morality has no place within Islam ; whereas murder of Kafirs is a current exercise.

        What do you want, then; a holy war? Do you want these people wiped off the face of the planet? And it will have to be a holy war, because there just aren’t enough atheists to take the task on by themselves. It’ll be Christians vs. Muslims for the umpteenth time. By the way, when it comes to the murder of civilians, the body count on the other side is considerably higher than it is on ours. Is murder okay when it’s done by us?

        Read http://www.thereligionofpeace.com to acquaint yourself with the barbaric culture thereof!

        I have read it. I’ve read Mein Kampf, too, and the Unabomber’s manifesto, and Anders Breivik’s, and The Turner Diaries. I’m intimately familiar with it, and it’s garbage.

  17. It strikes me that the words “delusion” and “delusional”, while appropriate and certainly well-founded in many cases, do not entirely describe the religious faith experience. To dismiss the phenomenon of religion and faith as mere hallucinatory or illusionary undercuts something much deeper in the human psyche and universal, if not, evolutionary experience i.e., the innate propensity to tell stories, celebrate, play, create art, music, theater and dance. And while most religions end up doing the exact opposite (especially to those who don’t share their parochial worldview) to discount and exclude their myriad other expressions and cultural contributions as delusional is a little too dismissive and short-sighted. Konrad Lorenz hinted at this in his brilliant observations on human nature.

    “Every study undertaken by Man was the genuine outcome of curiosity, a kind of game. All the data of natural science, which are responsible for Man’s domination of the world, originated in activities that were indulged in exclusively for the sake of amusement. “

    One can just as easily assign this basic human capacity to religion, ritual, mythology and faith. In essence, and what is almost certainly irrefutable, humans make shit up. And in that marvelous world of the imagination they find inspiration to dance, experience awe, play music, paint on walls and canvasses, build magnificent structures and cathedrals, come together, as well as unleash unspeakable atrocities upon the world. While the latter behaviors should never be forgotten, diminished or revised, neither should the former. So, where does that leave us? Once we expose the cruelties and excesses of a particular belief system, we are still left with the essential human attribute to imagine, create and manifest those marvelous, terrible, and wondrous things into our beings, families, community and life experience. Why do so many religions have a dress code, tell you how much hair you should grow on your face, dictate the foods you will eats, and build mini fairy tale kingdoms: churches, synagogues, temples and mosques that concretize those beliefs through community, hymn, ritual, liturgy and prayer? Because we want to believe they’re not just imagination, but real! If we are to more accurately deal with the excesses and extremes of archaic beliefs, we might stop describing them as delusional, but rather, mass-manufactured “realities” instead.

    • mchasewalker Nov 15, 2014 at 10:17 am

      If we are to more accurately deal with the excesses and extremes of archaic beliefs, we might stop describing them as delusional, but rather, mass-manufactured “realities” instead.

      Isn’t a manufactured pseudo-reality the definition of a “delusion?

      http://www.thefreedictionary.com/delusion
      1. (Psychiatry) a mistaken or misleading opinion, idea, belief, etc:.

      2. (Psychiatry) psychiatry a belief held in the face of evidence to the contrary, that is resistant to all reason.

  18. Katy Cordeth :

    The second bit, the idea that ridiculing those beliefs is a way to win friends and influence people, is where for me it falls apart, for a number of reasons, foremost of which being that people under attack, people who are being mocked, are unlikely to be receptive to what you have to say even if it’s super-true. Your logic may be impeccable but if it’s served up with a side order of cockishness you’re only going to alienate those whose professed beliefs you’re seeking to challenge.

    Now why does name of Galileo spring to mind ? The then Pope didn’t like his attitude either ! Luckily for us, Galileo had the good sense to recant, and his ideas spread. I am losing count of the number of public apologies Richard, (yer man), has made for his various transgressions.

    • Katy Cordeth :

      “The second bit, the idea that ridiculing those beliefs is a way to win friends and influence people, is where for me it falls apart, for a number of reasons, foremost of which being that people under attack, people who are being mocked, are unlikely to be receptive to what you have to say even if it’s super-true. Your logic may be impeccable but if it’s served up with a side order of cockishness you’re only going to alienate those whose professed beliefs you’re seeking to challenge.”

      Now why does name of Galileo spring to mind?

      Dunno, is it Freddie Mercury’s birthday or something?

      The then Pope didn’t like his attitude either!

      Tuh, the church and gays, eh. Mind you, after seeing We Will Rock You, I’m sort of on his… oh you mean Galileo.

      Luckily for us, Galileo had the good sense to recant, and his ideas spread.

      I’m not really sure what this has to do with my view that mockery isn’t the best way to recruit people to your side. Was Galileo Galilei known for presenting his ideas in a particularly sarcastic way? “Credi che il Sole si muove attorno alla Terra, Santità? Cosa sei, un idiota?”

      I am losing count of the number of public apologies Richard, (yer man), has made for his various transgressions.

      They’re not always terribly sincere though, don’t you think? They tend to be of the ‘I’m sorry you plebs misunderstood the wisdom of what I said’ variety. One mea culpa I seem to recall was even titled ‘A storm in a teacup’. Maybe it’s just me but I tend to think it’s for other, disinterested parties to determine the seriousness of a controversy.

      • I’m not really sure what this has to do with my view that mockery isn’t the best way to recruit people to your side. Was Galileo Galilei known for presenting his ideas in a particularly sarcastic way? “Credi che il Sole si muove attorno alla Terra, Santità? Cosa sei, un idiota?”

        My, admittedly limited, understanding of why Galileo was brought before the Inquisition was partly because of his somewhat disrespectful attitude towards his Holiness and the RCC. He was a great scientist and he knew that he had made great breakthroughs, but he realised that discretion was the better part of valour. (Bard).

        Of course “our” Richard will not be remembered as such a great scientist as Galileo, but all the same, I am most grateful for his forthrightness in standing up for all things rational and based on evidence.

        Frankly I am bored with discussions about Rebecca Watson, abortion, degrees of stridency, or whether Richard doesn’t like fireworks etc.

        “your man” does far more good than harm.

  19. Marktony :

    I come to praise you not to bury you ! Lend me your eyes.

    Googling who coined the term Darwins Rottweiller, points to Alister McGrath, a Christian apologist and author of The Dawkins Delusion, surprise surprise.

    Ah yes dear Alister McGrath, who “used to be an atheist”, but who is now a devout Christian, was well dealt with on this site in a superb article by Paula Kirby called Fleabytes a few years ago. I’m not sure how to get back to the old site, perhaps Alan4 or someone else more computer literate than me could provide a link? As to Alister, a clever Oxford academic, but one who was “never an atheist” ! (My quotes).

    • Mr DArcy Nov 16, 2014 at 1:36 pm

      Googling who coined the term Darwins Rottweiller, points to Alister McGrath, a Christian apologist and author of The Dawkins Delusion, surprise surprise.

      Ah yes dear Alister McGrath, who “used to be an atheist”, but who is now a devout Christian, was well dealt with on this site in a superb article by Paula Kirby called Fleabytes a few years ago. I’m not sure how to get back to the old site, perhaps Alan4 or someone else more computer literate than me could provide a link?

      There is rather a lot to wade through but if you want to have a look:-

      http://old.richarddawkins.net/users/14311/comments?page=1

      • Marktony Nov 18, 2014 at 6:07 pm

        Religious apologists do seem to believe that proclaiming they used be atheists is a great opener.

        The more narrow minded of them often regard anyone who is following the “wrong god”, as an “atheist” so are no longer “atheists” since they have become “TRrrrrooooo believers”!!

  20. He and other New Atheists have gone to great lengths to convince
    critics there isn’t a racist element to what they have to say about
    Muslims, but the fact remains that Islam is so interwoven with the
    culture and identity of Muslim people, just as ‘cultural’ Christians
    like Richard Dawkins or atheist Jews such as Herb Silverman are
    inextricably connected to Christianity and Judaism, that when a white
    westerner criticizes the religion of Islam, many Muslims, even atheist
    or ‘cultural’ Muslims, are going to feel they and their family and
    society and history are being traduced by another white devil of the
    type Islam has been at war with since God was in short trousers.

    Muslim, a follower of the religion of Islam. There is no such thing as an atheist Muslim. I once said “Oh god” before a climax, doesn’t make me a Christian.

    Your claim seems to imply criticizing Muslims, is racist to Arabs; however there are plenty of non-Arab Muslims.

    • Muslim, a follower of the religion of Islam. There is no such thing as an atheist Muslim. I once said “Oh god” before a climax, doesn’t make me a Christian.

      I don’t know where you hail from, Neil, but if you celebrate Christmas, were given Easter eggs as a kid, call this year 2014 rather than, say, Horse, then you’re probably what’s known as a cultural Christian, whether you worship Our Lord or do not. Or perhaps you are Jewish, by dint of your mother’s being a Jewess and Jewishness being matrilineal. If it’s possible to identify as either Christian or Jew without believing a word of the Bible or Talmud, how come Muslims are not extended a similar courtesy?

      There’s a thread being discussed at the moment on the site concerning what makes someone a true Muslim. My feeling is if somebody tells me he or she is a Mohammedan, that’s good enough for me, no further proof is required. There exist a couple of organisations called things like The Council of Ex-Muslims and the Association of Former Muslims, and I really think these are missing a trick by not promoting the idea that it’s possible to be Muslim without believing in God; especially with apostasy being such a big deal in Islam. If the idea could be seeded that, as with the other two branches of Abrahamism, cultural Islam was a thing, I really think it might make a difference for the better.

      Most older Muslims living in the West are not particularly religious; they go to mosque when they should and sport beards or cover their hair depending on their gender, but it’s tradition more than anything. Some here at RDnet, mainly it has to be said those on the right of the political spectrum — frightened curtain-twitchers, people who wet the seat a little when someone of Middle-Eastern or North-African appearance gets on the same bus as them wearing a Hello Kitty backpack, and long for a return to a time buck-toothed vicars rode bicycles down village lanes and chubby, handlebar-mustachioed policemen gave children a clip round the ear for scrumping apples from Farmer McWhirter’s orchard — insist on defining Muslims by their own very narrow terms; they’ll even inform you that ISIS are the only true representatives of the Islamic faith and anyone who isn’t a violent extremist is a bad Muslim. I bet you didn’t know the website of the planet’s most famous atheist counted among its members freelance recruiters for Islamic State. Makes you proud.

      Your claim seems to imply criticizing Muslims, is racist to Arabs; however there are plenty of non-Arab Muslims.

      I know that. There are Ethiopian Jews too. The point I think is that not being a member of a race doesn’t mean one cannot be the subject of racist treatment. If a bunch of homophobes beat the bejesus out of a guy they think is gay but actually isn’t, it’s still a homophobic attack.

      • As an atheist from an Islamic background, I find the expression “atheist Muslim” quite offensive. When I abandoned the Islamic faith, it was not just the beliefs that I left behind, but also the traditions, the festivities, the culture, and the mentalities of the people I knew. I even stopped using Standard Arabic for a few years. I had become so filled with anger because I was told since I was young that Arabic “was the best language in the world”, and that “Allah could not have chosen it for his last revelation if it weren’t special among languages”; and I acted upon that belief by reading and writing almost exclusively in Standard Arabic up until the age of 16. I felt like an idiot, especially when I realized, around the age of 20, that I was so good at learning languages, a potential that I wasted during my youthful years, when I had a lot of free time, a clearer mind, and a stronger desire to learn, unscarred by fear of humiliation, prejudice, or cynicism.

        Now, even though I reached a kind of a truce with the Arabic language, my overall sentiment is still the same. There is nothing significant in my background culture that I find remotely interesting or worth keeping or being proud of. Even the expression “ex-Muslim” makes me cringe when referred to myself. I want nothing to do with that religion, and if I could I would erase every trace of my passage in my native country.

        I can’t speak for everyone, but I think most atheists from Islamic backgrounds would certainly not want to be associated with Islam in any way. Many are attached to their cultures, many would want to help develop their countries; but most regard Islam with contempt and derision, and would rather excise its cancerous presence from their societies altogether.

        Once you leave Islam, you become aware of its hatred and hostility towards non-Muslims, and there is no way we will turn the other cheek or negotiate with the threats of violence and killing directed at us.

  21. Your claim seems to imply criticizing Muslims, is racist to Arabs; however there are plenty of non-Arab Muslims.(Neil5150)

    ‘Criticizing’ non-Arab Muslims could appear racist to non- Arab Muslims. Muslims don’t have to be all of one race to feel that there is a racist element, directed against them, in attacks on Islam. ‘Criticizing ‘ Islam may seem a racist attack to Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Senegalese. I don’t imply that accusations of racism are necessarily justified in any particular instance, just that the ‘Islam is not a (single) race’ argument doesn’t work.

  22. I am delighted that there is now an Arabic version of this book.
    I spoke to Prof Dawkins, several years ago, at a book signing for The God Delusion in London, and asked him if he would allow me to translate his book into Arabic.
    His reply was –
    I will not allow you to do that for your own safety.
    Well done to Bassam Al-Baghdadi for going ahead regardless of the consequences.
    The message HAD to go out !

  23. Every Christian, Jew and Muslim I have ever met, is wiser, more powerful and morally superior to the god they worship.

    That might be a good attitude to take when discussing religion with believers, what religious individual could ever take that as an insult?

    Or to co-opt a religious saying …..”Dislike the belief, respect the believer”

  24. For me the God Delusion was not particularly memorable. It just seemed to state the obvious. Yet I have seen so many statements from religious people for whom it was a major awakening. I guess the simplicity and common sense of it was able to sneak past defences. I think religious people distrust anyone who seems to have a hidden agenda. They discount all arguments, even if they seem persuasive. Richard is so direct even the religious people trust him.

  25. @G.A.

    I can’t speak for everyone, but I think most atheists from Islamic backgrounds would certainly not want to be associated with Islam in any way. Many are attached to their cultures, many would want to help develop their countries; but most regard Islam with contempt and derision, and would rather excise its cancerous presence from their societies altogether.

    My point is that Islam is an inextricable part of the culture of those places. You can’t acknowledge that people are attached to their culture while insisting religion played no part in forming that culture. Try writing a history of Tibet or Spain without mentioning Buddhism or Catholicism. Richard Dawkins and Herb Silverman identify as cultural Christian and atheist Jew with full knowledge of the horrors which have been and continue to be committed in the name of these religions. Acknowledging one’s cultural heritage doesn’t mean giving tacit approval to historical events such as the Inquisition or the Holocaust, or present-day mistreatment of Palestinians.

    You’re clearly passionate when it comes to your dislike of Islam, G.A. You have that in common with other apostates from Islam such as Maryam Namazie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I do understand you guys’ bitterness, I just don’t see how your approach is in any way productive. If you want to know what New Atheists have in common with Islamic fundamentalists, it’s this: each of these groups has very clear ideas about what makes someone a Muslim. A Muslim believes homosexuality is an abomination and women are inferior to men; a Muslim does not believe in evolution but does believe in flying horses; a Muslim believes in jihad and the establishment of a universal caliphate.

    That would be fine if it were coming from Abu Hamza or one of those types, but it’s us saying it. This website’s rallying cry, found right up there at the top of the main page amid those annoying and apparently permanent links about somebody called Chris Kluwe (?), invitations to penetrate Richard’s intimate circle, and the new Christmassy one that’s just appeared (RDFRS, like other churche… I mean charitable organizations, apparently goes on the ear’ole at this special time of year), is ‘Openly Secular’. That’s how the Foundation hopes to change the entire landscape of the United States: by encouraging closeted non-believers to step out from the shadows.

    So why, G.A., why in the name of all that’s unholy, do New Atheists seem so determined to cut off a potential lifeline to atheist Muslims, while Richard Dawkins and Herb Silverman get to describe themselves as culturally Christian and secularly Jewish? These guys aren’t even at risk of being murdered for their heresy.

    Jerry Coyne writes articles insisting that despite efforts by President Obama and ‘moderate’ (you have to put moderate in scare quotes if you use it when talking about Muslims, as Jer will tell you) imams and community leaders to suggest otherwise, ISIS exists in complete accordance with Islamic principles. Sam Harris accompanied by his performing monkey Bill Maher spouts crap about the necessity of racial profiling and how liberals are too liberal and they should all be gun-toting, intolerant oddballs like him; Harris and his pal Ayaan Hirsi Ali have a nice fireside chat about how Islam needs to be gotten rid of “by military means if necessary”; Dawkins tweets his tweets about Nobel prizes and how someone who believes in Al-Burāq shouldn’t be taken seriously as a journalist; and on it goes.

    There are roughly a billion and a half Muslims currently on the planet. Statistically they can’t all believe in Allah. Those ones living in the secular, wealthy West where censorship of science is less prevalent and information about evolution is available at the swipe of a screen are presumably less likely than their Middle-Eastern or North African counterparts to take the Qur’an at face value. If New Atheism is serious about tackling Islam radicalism, these are the people it should be targeting for recruitment. Islam isn’t just going to disappear from the face of the Earth, but it can be declawed. It can become, at least in part, as innocuous as Christianity is in a rural English village. This can only come about if nice, normal, non-psychopathic, non-explodey Muslims living in the relative safety of western nations are not routinely lumped in with ISIS types, and if they can be permitted to be open about their religious doubts while not risking acquiring the label apostate and facing ostracization from family and community, or meeting an even worse fate.

    This is where the New Atheist movement, rather than being the intolerant, profile-‘em, lock-‘em-up, they’re-thick-you-wouldn’t-want-one-as-a-doctor, bomb-‘em-back-to-Allah, who-the-hell-do-these-Muslims-think-they-are embarrassment it’s evolved into, could do some real good for a change. All it need do is eschew the idea that a Muslim is x and only x and this fact is immutable. The atheists who insist this is the case are the same ones who mock Christian opponents of marriage equality for insisting holy matrimony hasn’t altered in thousands of years, correctly pointing out that this institution has undergone massive changes over the centuries.

    Once you leave Islam, you become aware of its hatred and hostility towards non-Muslims, and there is no way we will turn the other cheek or negotiate with the threats of violence and killing directed at us.

    Islam is not sentient, it isn’t capable of the things you attribute to it. You wouldn’t say vegetarianism is intolerant of meat eaters. I’m not asking you to negotiate with those who would do violence to you, I don’t know where you got that from. This is about extending the same courtesy to atheist Muslims (because they do exist, they must exist) which cultural Christians and secular Jews enjoy as a birthright, and not painting them into a corner from which their only escape is to fall on their knees and beg forgiveness from Allah or do a midnight flit, change identity, and never see their nearest and dearest again.

    Cultural Christian, Secular Jew… Godless Muslim. Let’s invite them to the party.

    • @Katy

      My point is that Islam is an inextricable part of the culture of those
      places.

      Not really. Before the Arab/Islamic conquests, those regions (with the exception of the Arabian peninsula of course) had their own separate cultures and languages. Arabic largely superseded the existing languages, though some of them are still spoken in small or large communities within those countries (Syro-Aramaic is still spoken in some Christian villages in Syria, while Berber languages are spoken by 40-50% of the population in Morocco). There are many local traditions (dishes, clothing styles, music, dance, etc) that are still practiced today, which have nothing to do with Islam, and some of them are in fact in total contradiction with a strict view of the religion (mixing of both sexes in parties, dressing code for women, etc). Thus it is possible for an atheist from an Islamic background to embrace his/her native culture without embracing Islam or any of its elements for the most part. Let me give you a more concrete example: a friend of mine, whose native language is Rifian, the dialect of Berber spoken in Northern Morocco, told me that one of the main reasons why she left religion, was when she went back to her native culture and found that she had more and better rights as a woman in the ethical code of her culture than she did under Islam.

      Islam is but a component in the cultures of Islamic countries. It may be an essential one, but it’s not impossible to isolate it and discard it, since it was originally a foreign element to begin with, while the old native cultures are still alive in one form or another.

      Try writing a history of Tibet or Spain without mentioning Buddhism or
      Catholicism.

      History is one thing, culture is another. While they certainly draw from each other, history encompasses a vaster extent of events and traditions and ideas, while culture is more like a snapshot that captures only the few droplets that trickled down the rocky slopes of history. Islam and Catholicism were just the last newcomers to a banquet that stretches far behind in the past. Why grant them any special treatment?

      Richard Dawkins and Herb Silverman identify as cultural Christian and
      atheist Jew with full knowledge of the horrors which have been and
      continue to be committed in the name of these religions.

      Richard Dawkins has fond memories of his childhood going to church and such. I personally have no such thing. Islamic practices to me have always been boring at best. Jews on the other hand are always considered as part of the community regardless of their religion or lack thereof. Being Jewish is an ethno-cultural identity. I think you’re just too much in love with that idea, and you’re quickly projecting it on Islam and Islamic societies. It doesn’t work that way. Islam is not like Judaism, and Islamic societies are not as open and tolerant as Western societies.

      Acknowledging one’s cultural heritage

      My cultural heritage is the cultural heritage of humanity. I am a world citizen, and I don’t see why I should regard the two square meters of terrain where I happened to be born more highly than any other place on this planet.

      If you want to know what New Atheists have in common with Islamic
      fundamentalists, it’s this: each of these groups has very clear ideas
      about what makes someone a Muslim.

      I’m an atheist and I don’t agree with that. I think there’s a lot of diversity of views among Muslims. The problem is that many Muslims themselves do not acknowledge this diversity. I once told a classmate about a friend of mine who was a liberal Muslim, who accepted evolution and believed that the Koran could contain some errors. My classmate quickly responded then that my friend was a heretic and no true Muslim. That sentiment is shared by the majority of Muslims as far as I know. You just need to see the status of Ahmadi Islam in Sunni and Shia Islam, or how the later two treat each other even today. Only a small percentage of Muslims overall actually have liberal views concerning issues like homosexuality, apostasy, women’s rights, etc. There are many stats on the subject which you can check for yourself; the figures of course change considerably from one country to another, with the Middle East and North Africa usually having the highest percentages of fundamentalist views.

      So why, G.A., why in the name of all that’s unholy, do New Atheists
      seem so determined to cut off a potential lifeline to atheist Muslims

      There are no “atheist Muslims”. People who leave Islam as far as I see distance themselves as much as they can from it. Muslims simply wouldn’t call themselves atheists, because it wouldn’t apply to them and the term itself has a pejorative significance in the common usage. As I said, you’re trying to force a foreign concept to Islamic societies which simply doesn’t work with the way Islam perceives itself and is perceived by others, Muslims and non-Muslims.

      Jerry Coyne writes articles insisting that despite efforts by
      President Obama and ‘moderate’ (you have to put moderate in scare
      quotes if you use it when talking about Muslims, as Jer will tell you)
      imams and community leaders to suggest otherwise, ISIS exists in
      complete accordance with Islamic principles.

      I completely agree with Jerry Coyne. If you take a literal and complete reading of Islamic texts (Koran and Hadith), ISIS are simply applying Islamic commandments as they’re written, and following the model of their prophet Muhammad and his companions, who committed horrors by our modern standards in the name of spreading Islam. Moderate Muslims are cherry-picking passages or are simply ignorant of the content of their religious texts. Some of them use a double discourse, fundamentalist or moderate, depending on who they’re talking to. Liberals and hardcore fundamentalists are usually the most honest about their beliefs.

      Sam Harris accompanied by his performing monkey Bill Maher spouts crap
      about the necessity of racial profiling and how liberals are too
      liberal and they should all be gun-toting, intolerant oddballs like
      him

      I won’t go into this in detail right now, but I think Harris is one of few people in the West who know what they’re talking about when it comes to Islam. As for Bill Maher, as you implied, he seems to be just repeating what he heard from Harris and others, but I agree with him when he says that many Western liberals have a serious bias concerning the subject of Islam, especially because they don’t see it from a global perspective. They treat it like a minority, which it is in the West, but in fact it’s the second largest religion in the world, and it’s the main religion in many countries. Also, the economic, political, and social problems from which many of these countries are suffering are intricately linked to Islam. A reform of Islam is therefore necessary, and there’s no better place for it to start than the free societies of the West. For the record, this is something that Harris has been bitching about repeatedly, but somehow people only seem to notice the parts where he talks about security profiling (I don’t think he said it was “racial” in nature) and military intervention (which he only recommended in dealing with Islamic terrorists).

      There are roughly a billion and a half Muslims currently on the
      planet. Statistically they can’t all believe in Allah.

      You’re just making that up. Those who don’t believe in Allah are called atheists. In most cases they’re closet atheists and are therefore counted as Muslims by national surveys, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re atheists and many that I know, including myself wouldn’t want to be lumped with Muslims in any way. Maybe there are some who would accept the label “atheist Muslim”, but personally if someone calls my like that I’ll.. umm.. shoot him in the face with my water gun! Seriously though, thanks but no thanks.

      If New Atheism is serious about tackling Islam radicalism, these are
      the people it should be targeting for recruitment. Islam isn’t just
      going to disappear from the face of the Earth, but it can be declawed.

      That’s not our job, at least not directly. All we can do is criticize from the outside to push Muslims to rethink their own beliefs and practices. It’s the task of liberal Muslims, like Adnan Ibrahim, Olfa Youssef, Habib Al-Jaafari, who are trying to reform their religion and gather new followers who accept their new interpretations of the Islamic texts.

      This can only come about if nice, normal, non-psychopathic,
      non-explodey Muslims living in the relative safety of western nations
      are not routinely lumped in with ISIS types, and if they can be
      permitted to be open about their religious doubts while not risking
      acquiring the label apostate and facing ostracization from family and
      community, or meeting an even worse fate.

      Yes. Those are who we call liberal Muslims. We should definitely support them. But that gives no legitimacy to the label “atheist Muslim”.

      Islam is not sentient, it isn’t capable of the things you attribute to
      it.

      It is, through its most devout believers who take it very seriously and literally.

      You wouldn’t say vegetarianism is intolerant of meat eaters.

      I don’t think vegetarianism orders its followers to kill meat eaters. Islam does (order the killing of apostates and infidels) on more than a dozen occasions.

      Here’s one example from Sahih Al-Bukhari, the most trusted source of Hadith (quotes and anecdotes by or about Muhammad) in Sunni Islam:

      Allah’s Apostle said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”
      — Sahih al-Bukhari, 9:83:17

      This is about extending the same courtesy to atheist Muslims (because
      they do exist, they must exist)

      Not that I know. I’ve been part of a large network of atheists from the Middle East and North Africa for years now, and I’ve never encountered the term “atheist Muslim” used in any serious conversation, except once or twice when some newbies, who were still unsure about their position, made clumsy attempts to define their intellectual affiliation, and they were quickly dissuaded from using such an (oxy)moronic expression.
      The thing is, Islamic societies are still too intolerant for such a concept to emerge and be widely accepted.

      • History is one thing, culture is another. While they certainly draw from each other, history encompasses a vaster extent of events and traditions and ideas, while culture is more like a snapshot that captures only the few droplets that trickled down the rocky slopes of history. Islam and Catholicism were just the last newcomers to a banquet that stretches far behind in the past. Why grant them any special treatment?

        Exactly. Today’s Spanish culture may be significantly influenced by Catholicism, but go back far enough and you find that most of Spain was part of the caliphate of Cordoba. For hundreds of years Islam had a significant influence on Spanish culture. In fact, a majority of the Spanish people may be of Muslim descent.

      • For the record, this is something that Harris has been bitching about repeatedly, but somehow people only seem to notice the parts where he talks about security profiling (I don’t think he said it was “racial” in nature) and military intervention (which he only recommended in dealing with Islamic terrorists).

        Here is Harris’s response to the criticism he received following his article about profiling for the purpose of airport security.

          • How is this soldier’s confession of war crimes in Iraq related to the article SH wrote about profiling for the purpose of airport security?

        • It was for his comments on the finger on the button and how Muslims are dying to die rubbish a bit further down. The nuke question.

          BTW, not all muslims are dark or are called Ahmed. His idea leaves a wacking great hole in security and serves only to predgudice and alienate people. Check everyone including the nut who might just want to frame muslims ;-)

          • It was for his comments on the finger on the button and how Muslims are dying to die rubbish a bit further down. The nuke question.

            You mean this?

            “But the civilized world (including all the pragmatic Muslims living within it) must finally come to terms with what the ideology of groups like the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS, etc. means—because it destroys the logic of deterrence. There are a significant number of people in the Muslim world for whom the slogan “We love death more than the infidel loves life” appears to be an honest statement of psychological fact, and we must do everything in our power to prevent them from getting long-range nuclear weapons.”

            He was referring to certain fundamentalist groups, not all Muslims.

            BTW, not all muslims are dark or are called Ahmed. His idea leaves a wacking great hole in security and serves only to predgudice and alienate people. Check everyone including the nut who might just want to frame muslims.

            If you read his response you would know that he did not suggest “all Muslims are dark skinned and called Ahmed”. He wrote:

            “Of course, many of my detractors (like Greenwald) have used this quotation in ways calculated to make readers believe that I want dark-skinned people singled out—and not just in our airports, but everywhere. What my critics always neglect to say, however, is that in the article in which that sentence appears, I explicitly include white, middle-aged men like me in the profile (twice). This still leaves many millions of travelers outside the profile. My point is that we should be giving less scrutiny to people who obviously aren’t jihadists.”

          • I explicitly include white, middle-aged men like me in the profile
            (twice). This still leaves many millions of travelers outside the
            profile.

            My bad. He obviously thought it sounded racist so he covered his back.

            My point is that we should be giving less scrutiny to people who
            obviously aren’t jihadists.

            oops! Sorry, my bad again. He contradicts himself ;-) Those poor non-jihadists will have to sue if they wake up dead because security was incompetent.

            Seriously though Mark, Security is vital but so is sensitivity. It might not be essential to search everyone but it might just be polite and good for moral.

          • My bad. He obviously thought it sounded racist so he covered his back.

            Obviously? How so? Are you so close to Sam Harris that you know his thoughts?

            It might not be essential to search everyone but it might just be polite and good for moral.

            The assumption was that airport security is working with limited resources and time. Either they would have to employ far more staff or passengers would have to arrive far earlier. Increasing the staff would result in significant fare rises. You may be prepared to pay more and/or wait around longer but I suspect most wouldn’t and I doubt it would improve the morale of passengers. Anyway, Harris’s point was that limited resources are currently being wasted dealing with people (such as the elderly couple he mentioned) who are extremely unlikely to be a threat.

          • Sorry, didn’t see your reply Mark.

            Obviously? How so? Are you so close to Sam Harris that you know his
            thoughts?

            Just got it from him what wrote it.

            You may be prepared to pay more and/or wait around longer but I
            suspect most wouldn’t

            Although I am from a muslim background I am not willing to be the sacrificial lamb because my family name is deemed a risk. Perhaps the east should be just as cautious of western spies and have special search orders for them, then we can all be offended and stay at home.

      • Being Jewish is an ethno-cultural identity. I think you’re just too
        much in love with that idea, and you’re quickly projecting it on Islam
        and Islamic societies. It doesn’t work that way. Islam is not like
        Judaism, and Islamic societies are not as open and tolerant as Western
        societies.

        You should never speak in absolutes.

        • You should never speak in absolutes.

          Olgun, what does that have to do with the topic? I was not comparing Islam and Judaism in general, only in relation to certain aspects relevant to the discussion, e.g. their acceptance of apostates and doubters.

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