Thursday, March 17, 2011

Atheism and Islam

I was thinking today about Draw Mohammed Day and had to check to see if it was March 20th or May 20th (it’s in May… I always get those months mixed up). And it occurred to me how little there is in the way of anti-Muslim material among atheists.

There’s probably a lot of reasons for this. For one, most blogs are done by people from the Western World (whatever that is), especially English speaking nations, myself included. Islam simply isn’t very influential where we are. Even when I lived down the street from a mosque and a madrasah, Islam just didn’t really affect me. Even the convenience store I went to was run by Muslims and catered largely to a Muslim crowd, and they had some of the best beef jerky I ever tasted.

[Note the obligatory nice thing before I launch into sharp criticism.]

But let’s be honest, if we did live in a Muslim nation, chances are we wouldn’t blog about it, for fear of our lives. Sometimes I see people bending over backwards to try to defend Islam, but they just deserve the same rights as anyone, including the right to be criticized. The problem is, because reasonable people decided to foolishly defend a violent religion, there are primarily rabid Christians who are criticizing Islam, and they do it all wrong.

Yes, the Quran is full of violence, even more than the blood-soaked Bible, but like most people, Muslims aren’t very good at following their book to the letter. Just because I don’t want to live under Sharia law doesn’t mean Muslims should be treated any differently than Christians, or atheists for that matter.

In short, Islam deserves heaps of criticism, but what it’s been getting is largely just a violation of the rights of individual Muslims. Hauling in Muslims to courts like some sort of witch trial, as Republicans are currently advocating, isn’t going to accomplish anything but to strike a blow against our constitution and the ideals we claim to uphold. You can criticize someone without violating the basic principles that made you correct in the first place.

There is something fundamentally better about the culture I am a part of when compared to fundamentalist Muslim nations. Women are more free, homosexuals are more free, minority populations in general are more free… but the key word is “more,” because I’m not from a perfect culture. There are still things to change here, and I don’t think I have an impact on non-English speaking people in countries that commit what I see to be atrocities.

This is why atheists tend to set their sights on Christianity. You talk about what you know, what’s close to you, and what impacts you directly. I suppose if you are a Christian, you have to really reach to pretend you’re being oppressed, and Muslims just seem to fit the bill as being dangerous and hostile enough to warrant being the target of the inherent need in all of us to scapegoat someone.


  1. I have heard from many sources that Muslims have a different relationship with the Koran than either Christians do to the Bible or Jews do to the Torah.

    The Bible has so much more material than the others it's much more obvious Christians have to pick and choose what to follow.

    In the Torah as interpreted by the Talmud, each letter has mystical meaning. First of all, since each letter "had to" be the way it is to allow for the mystical interpretations (like gematrias), it's not as religiously necessary for the narrative to make sense. Secondly, the sophistic interpretations basically nullify getting meaning from the text.

    Muslims uniquely claim how their text should seem and claim its apparent quality is proof that its authorship was divine. That's why they value the original Arabic so much; if it isn't Arabic, it's infinitely lacking because it doesn't support that argument.

    People from other religions say their texts are perfect, and when something seems horrible in it, it is a mystery beyond human understanding. Muslims say their text is so awesome, it obviously and certainly could only have been written by a perfect being. Reading the words in Arabic, it's supposed to be the only reasonable conclusion that it is perfect in every way.

    Other religions are more conducive to set-ups that promote human mindsets in which the value of orders to kill is shocking and mysterious. Islam, by relating to its book as it does, seems set up to promote different sorts of mindsets.

    It's not supposed to be possible to improve any of the books. Changing the Torah to be less violent would mess up the interpretations based on letters (not words or sentences); changing the Koran to be less violent wold mess up the experience of the idealized reader.

    The Quran also uniquely enjoins its followers to hate on basically every page, which is easy to overlook since hate is so much easier to bear than death, and upon a cursory reading it doesn't seem much more or less violent than the Old Testament.

  2. I'm pretty sure anyone who reads )and is able to understand) the Quran will find it violent, and I personally believe that the Quran is taught in Arabic because most Muslims don't even speak Arabic, which places the holy text out of the understanding of most followers and into the hands of Muslim clergy, much the same way the Christian Bible was translated to Latin for centuries after people no longer spoke Latin.

  3. Hey anonymous, turn the other cheek.

  4. Aww, I must have deleted the comment while you were posting that. He's a regular heckler, usually goes by DM or Dennis Markuze or one of a couple other names. I usually just get rid of his comments because they're spam.

  5. I think you are greatly mistaken. The bare minimum Muslim male education is reading the Koran. Catholics tried to deny access to the words of the Bible.

    No doubt it's easily understood as violent. But Christian and Jewish theology allow much more room for the violence to be mysterious. Islamic theology pressures people to interpret the violence as necessary, irreplaceable, and perfect to regular people. We're supposed to imagine that this book as written is uniquely and clearly divine, but if a few verses about hating or killing the infidel were excised, we're supposed to be(come) people with mindsets that would find the resultant book less good and no longer clearly divine. That's uniquely sick.

  6. But most Muslims are not native Arabic speakers, so teaching a foreign language to someone as they learn something means it's solely at the interpretation of educators. It's sort of like how my wife "know Hebrew" in that she can sort of read Torah but not really (and only in the manner she was taught, she cannot pull from a rich lingual understanding that comes from being a native speaker).

    I agree, Catholics stopped the translation of the Bible into anything but Latin for the purpose of being able to tell the population anything they wanted (like convincing them that the church could sell forgiveness "Indulgences"). This is the same reason that Jews and Muslims teach their Holy works in their original languages, which are inaccessible to modern followers (and also why I think Protestants cling to the wordy, out-dated language in the KJV Bible).

    Brian, there are not only offensive verses in the Torah and New Testament that are not excised or explained away, but there are offensive practices which prevent them from being anything remotely resembling a religious role model. I don't spend much time criticizing the Koran because it's not Muslims who are standing in the way of gay marriage or women's rights or basically anything like that where I live.

  7. Atheists in the West are no different than other Westerners in their utter ignorance of Islam, its ideology and history, which is sad because the ideology of Islam is the #1 threat to all Western freedoms today, and all Westerners regardless of religion or lack thereof need to unite to fight it. Never fear, anybody can master all the key facts free online with the Historyscoper's free online Islam history course at:

    Keep up on daily global news of the Islamic threat free:

  8. Ah, a history buff, so you know that the only reason we have access to most of ancient western civilization's history of such philosophers as Plato and Aristotle is because of Muslims, as their work was destroyed in the European neo-Dark Ages?

    I don't think Islam is a greater threat than people who would have us band together to fight a people who pose no danger outside the delusions of Fox News aficionados.

  9. Hi, I found your article interesting, I'm an ex Muslim from India. We have a pretty large Muslim community, you probably already know that, and we have a lot of censorship so as to not hurt the Muslim's (and other religious group's) feelings. Even though I haven't read the Bible, I have read the Quran in both English and Arabic sevral times and it is vioeltn and hateful to the core. Every second page has verses about disbelievers going to hell and other froms of hatred. It also has glaring mistakes and contradictions.
    I agree with your article about the condition of homosexuals and women in non Muslim societies is better than in Muslim societies. Even in a socially backward country like India, I see the contrast with my own eyes.


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