Islam is evil, Part ∞

Note I didn’t say Muslims, I said Islam. Don’t lecture me about all the nice Muslims. I used to live in Dubai and met more of them than you ever will. But any religion whose extremism is capable of the following has no place in a modern, civilized world, full stop.

The suspect, who is unshaven and appears to be in his 20s or 30s, was arrested by Iraq security forces after they retook most of Basra in April.

CNN was shown what authorities say was his first confession. On it are the names of 15 girls whom he admitted kidnapping, raping and killing. The youngest girl on the list was just 9 years old….

Women bore the brunt of the [Shiite] militias’ extremist ideologies. The militants spray-painted threats on walls across Basra, warning women to wear headscarves and not to wear make-up. Women were sometimes executed for the vague charge of doing something “un-Islamic.”

In the wasteland on the outskirts of Basra, dotted with rundown homes, the stench of death mixes with the sewage. Local residents told the Iraqi Army that executions often take place in the area, particularly for women, sometimes killed for something as seemingly inocuous as wearing jeans.

News good and bad from the British Isles

Via Dawkins’ site, I caught this article from the London Times, and its headline is a thing of such beauty it practically made me weep for joy: Churchgoing on its knees as Christianity falls out of favour. The article’s lead practically has you grabbing the phone to hire a marching band and sending out eVites for a block party. If only this were America.

Church attendance in Britain is declining so fast that the number of regular churchgoers will be fewer than those attending mosques within a generation, research published today suggests.

The fall – from the four million people who attend church at least once a month today – means that the Church of England, Catholicism and other denominations will become financially unviable. A lack of funds from the collection plate to support the Christian infrastructure, including church upkeep and ministers’ pay and pensions, will force church closures as ageing congregations die.

But then, read on a bit, and the other shoe drops.

In contrast, the number of actively religious Muslims will have increased from about one million today to 1.96 million in 2035.

According to Religious Trends, a comprehensive statistical analysis of religious practice in Britain, published by Christian Research, even Hindus will come close to outnumbering churchgoers within a generation.

Okay, it’s great to see one pernicious religion biting the dust somewhere, but the idea is not that we just want to see its former prominence supplanted by yet another pernicious religion…one even more pernicious, since, while Christianity’s fanatics (say, Paul Hill) only occasionally resort to outright murder, Islam’s are all too gung-ho about it. When Muslims will parade with signs that say “Behead Those Who Insult Islam!” you know you’re dealing with something far too FUBAR to be dealt with through civilized dialogue. Reason may win the fight fairly easily against Christianity, but if Islam, with its barbaric sharia laws and general bent towards theocratic fascism, simply slipped in and took its place, we’d be even worse off than where we started.

Atheists and rationalists still have a long way to go, and a lot of work to do, before the civilized world gets the message that the best way to get through life and get along with your fellow man is actually to use that little lump of grey matter between your ears.

What the hell is wrong with Muslims anyway?

No religion in the world seems to lend itself to organized mob psychopathy more than the “religion of peace.” When they aren’t flogging women for being impure enough to allow themselves to be gang-raped, they’re doing even crazier shit. The latest tempest in a teapot has erupted over a British schoolteacher in the Sudan letting her students name a teddy bear Mohammed. I was under the impression that, in addition to being Islam’s “prophet,” Mohammed was a fairly common Arab name. When I lived in Dubai, at least two of our houseboys were named Mohammed. So why this should be a big deal is a mystery to those of us with rationally functioning brains. But it appears a lot of Sudanese Muslims don’t possess those. For her “crime” of “blasphemy,” 54-year-old Gillian Gibbons in currently in jail facing a possible punishment of six months behind bars or even a public lashing. It gets even more insane.

“We tried to reason with them but we felt they were coming under strong pressure from Islamic courts,” said [school director Robert] Boulus. “There were men with big beards asking where she was and saying they wanted to kill her.”

Kill her. Over a fucking teddy bear!? What the fuck is wrong with these maniacs? They’re quite simply mentally ill — there’s no other word for it. And you can’t reason with people whose brains have been short-circuited by a religious scourge as omnidestructive as Islamic extremism. I’m starting to wonder if Hitchens has got the right idea about these people. And I speak as someone who’s lived in the Middle East, and knew many moderate Muslims and Arabs back in the day when America had no greater friends in the world. Moderate Muslims are among the finest people I’ve ever met. But the sanity gulf between Islam’s moderates and their radicals is so much wider than that you find in any other religion, that I’m wondering if the only way to pacify these people is just to make them stop breathing before they do it to you (which they’ll do if they can, rest assured). But then, as we’re seeing now in Iraq, follow that course and you just end up radicalizing more and more of them. There’s just no easy way to deal with such faith-based barbarism, especially that which takes such excessively violent forms as Islam.

The messy world of free speech

From Florida comes this report of a Christian evangelist who’s had his TV show yanked off a local station because he can’t resist talking smack about Islam.

Earlier this month, officials from the Council on American Islamic Relations wrote a letter to the TV station’s owners asking for an investigation of the show it broadcasts, “Live Prayer with Bill Keller.”

In a May 2 broadcast, the televangelist said Islam was a “1,400-year-old lie from the pits of hell” and called the Prophet Mohammed a “murdering pedophile.” He also called the Koran a “book of fables and a book of lies.”

Well, I for one utterly agree with the last statement, though I would add that Keller’s Bible also qualifies. I’d have to reserve judgment on the second statement and would agree with the first half of the first statement, too. Someone else who I’m sure would largely agree with Keller would be atheist bestseller Sam Harris, who’s written that Islam is nothing less than the “enemy of civilization”. It’s sweet when we can all see eye to eye on something, isn’t it?

So, were local Muslims understandably offended? Sure they were. Should they have been allowed to protest the show, even to the point of having it taken off the air? Yes again. But did Keller have a Constitutionally protected right to voice his opinions of Islam, however offensive they were? Why, we’re back to yes. Welcome to the conflicted and messy world of free speech.

There are actually many layers to a situation such as this. One valid criticism one might make of Keller is that while he has a Constitutional right to spew invective about a competing religion, he does not (nor does anyone else) have a Constitutional right to a TV show, and members of any community as well as a television station itself have every right to drop something that they find appalling. Readers will note a similarity here to the recent firing of celebrity radio clod Don Imus for making racist wisecracks. It’s a tossup as to which situation is more offensive: Imus made a joke, though an egregiously juvenile and thoughtless one, while Keller was really being deliberately confrontational and insulting.

Should Imus have been fired? I’d have to waffle and say definitely maybe (a long suspension would have served fine; after all, the man’s been offending people on the air for 30 years now, so it’s not as if he hasn’t got a rep). Imus’s bad joke served no purpose but to insult a group of people who’d done nothing to deserve it (quite the opposite, in fact), and was in fact not an insult over anything they’d done at all, but over who they were and the color of their skin. There wasn’t, nor could there have been, any valid programming context to justify its utterance.

Should Keller have been similarly canned, though? I don’t think so. In this case, there’s no bones made about who the man is and what kind of program he’s got. The station which carried him had to have known he was an evangelical Christian, and thus he’d be spouting barbarian opinions on any number of subjects. And since when should anyone be taken aback that a program promoting one religion would, every now and again, knock the competition?

When people express strong opinions, someone will be offended. Period. The Atheist Experience offends a lot of Christians simply by existing at all. Dawkins criticizes faith and is labeled a bully and an “atheist fundamentalist” and a thought-cop and a bigot, though everything I’ve read of his is delivered in a tone that, while certainly confrontational and blunt, never merely seeks to insult people on a personal level. Christians, on their TV networks, say personally insulting things about atheists, liberals, homosexuals, and basically anyone who isn’t in their club with such reliability that you can practically set your watch by the frequency of Pat Robertson’s latest idiotic remark.

In a culture that supports free speech, offensive statements should be allowed, but expressly so they can be aired and then subject to criticism and debate. This is why I think the bad guys in this scenario here are neither Keller nor the Islamic group who got his show pulled, but the TV station itself, for not allowing the Islamic group a chance to counter Keller’s remarks. We all cringe with disgust when filth like Fred Phelps or the KKK announce they’re coming to town. But the value there is that when they do come, hundreds of people whose minds are not poisoned by religious bigotry and ignorance find themselves rallying together in counter-protest.

So I say yeah, Keller should be allowed to have a show if he can find a station that’ll take him on. And the Islamic citizens whom he offends should be able to rebut him publicly and encourage viewers not to watch his show and boycott his sponsors. And there should also be a nice, family atheist show on Florida TV as well, pointing out that both these folks are full of shit and offering rationalism as a better alternative to both. If anything in this modern world is aggressively Darwinian, it’s the marketplace of ideas. Let the bad ideas have free rein, if only so that better ideas can be aired to challenge and ultimately conquer them.

Okay, having said all that, I will anticipate and respond to a criticism I can already see some of our Christian readers making. Isn’t it hypocritical of me, they might say, as an atheist, for you to support free speech and the exchange of ideas when it comes to something like religious broadcasting, but not when it comes to giving equal time to intelligent design alongside evolution in science classrooms?

In short, no. Religious television shows and similar entertainment venues are forums in which people express opinions, even when they’re deluded people who think their opinions are facts. Science classrooms are different, because they are educational (not entertainment) venues in which facts, and not opinions, are to be discussed. If certain facts in science are controversial, then that itself is a fact and is free to be taught there. The reason right now for opposition to ID in classrooms is that the side promoting it hasn’t shored up sufficient facts for their challenge to evolution to be accepted as legit. If the ID camp devoted a fraction of the attention they devote to media dog-and-pony-shows and indignant press releases to actual scientific research programs, then they wouldn’t be currently denied the respect of academia that they seem to feel is their birthright. There’s no appropriate comparison between censoring opinions in the media and refusing to teach students things that aren’t supported by facts in our schools.

Only religious “morality” would condone “honor killings”

Hi all. I’ve had a very busy last couple of weeks, and that’s kept me away from blogging here as often as I’m used to. A shame, because there has been plenty of good stuff going on worth discussing. But a number of the other top-notch atheist and science blogs have been covering them just fine.

Today I stumbled upon this piece on CNN that reminded me why I needed to get back in the saddle and do my very small but enjoyable part in the growing atheist pushback against religious horror around the world.

The very concept of “honor killings” ought to be oxymoronic. Naturally, it would be a concept that would find a welcoming home in the grisly world of religion. In England, a Kurdish man has been convicted of the murder of his own daughter, because, apparently, she brought “shame” upon the family by leaving her first husband from an arranged marriage and falling in love with someone else. Only in the diseased and violent world of Islam would falling in love be considered shameful and dishonorable, and strangling your own child be considered right and proper.

Now, please don’t waste time in the comments section arguing about how this sort of thing is not indicative of the behavior of all Muslims, how most Muslims are fine folks who aren’t terrorists or shoe bombers, and who would find this incident utterly appalling. I know this. In fact, having grown up in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates as a child, and thus surrounded by more Muslims in their native habitat than most Americans would ever dream of, I know it better than many people.

The point I’m raising is that, without something like an extremist religion requiring people to live by perverse distortions of what consitutes “moral” behavior, and backing those benighted ideas up with threats of violence, woe, and divine wrath, you simply would not see this kind of thing going on. Religionists often like to accuse atheists of lacking a moral sense. But who’s out there in the world slaughtering their own daughters (or, in the “milder” cases, simply sentencing them to be gang raped) under the notion that one is restoring your family’s “honor”? I’ll give you a hint. It’s not the atheists.

Religion distorts moral precepts by tying them to whether one is or is not making a capricious and vindictive invisible magic being happy. On an even simpler scale, religious morality is about nothing more than obeying a list of rules to the letter in the hopes of winning a spiritual kewpie doll labeled “immortality”. Very little is mentioned in religious circles about the actual real-world consequences of good or bad behavior having much of a bearing on whether or not said behavior is moral or immoral. In fundamentalist Christianity, morality is especially confused, because while fundamentalists will bleat all the live long day about how our society’s morals have gone to hell in a handbasket, most of them will state in the same breath that salvation is possible only through faith and not “works”. In other words, it doesn’t matter one whit whether you’re a good person or not, all that matters is membership in the club. You’d think this view would make morality an utterly irrelevant topic for Christian fundamentalists, but it wouldn’t be the first inconsistency they’ve preached.

As for this situation…well, let me just say that I’m glad absurd PC ideas about “respecting” religion are still drawing the line at murder. But think of other appalling behaviors that have been enabled because the spectre of religion gave them its support. A prime example would be the Catholic child molestation scandal of a few years back. As Bill Maher pointed out at the time, would any parent entrust the well-being and care of their children to a bunch of aging bachelors if it weren’t called religion? Likewise, would any parent go against all of their innate, biological drives towards nurturing and protecting their own children from harm — indeed, to the point of wilfully and gleefully killing them in cold blood — if there weren’t a religion providing such perverse concepts as “honor killing” to help numb their consciences to the enormity of their deeds? Sure, there have been child-killings by parents where mere mental illness, and not religion, has been the key factor, such as Susan Smith. But then there are Andrea Yates and Dena Schlosser, two mentally ill women whose religious fervor only exacerbated, rather than corrected, their conditions. If God really existed, would he not have seen what was wrong with the minds of these women, and either fixed their malfunctioning cortexes, or at the very least, done something to save the babies before they were butchered? Oh yeah, I forget. God can’t interfere with that “free will” thing. Sorry, kiddies.

Far from providing a sound and rational set of moral precepts to follow, religion most often provides flimsy justifications for people to do whatever they were inclined to do in the first place. In most cases, both religious and non-religious people will do what’s right and proper anyway, because we have evolved as a social species, and it’s in our genes that group cooperation is what will ensure species survival. But when people wish to do wrong, historically, they’ve had a good friend in religion to give them all the excuses they need. I fully expect that, in prison, Mahmod Mahmod will be able to lay out his prayer mat and bow to Mecca as often as he likes, secure in the twisted confidence that what he did to his daughter was right and proper, and suffering no pangs of remorse whatsoever, other than to think of the Western secular judicial system that sentenced him as a horribly corrupt tool of Satan. When Dawkins says that a strict religious upbringing can be comparable to child abuse, the sad, wasted life of Banaz Mahmod, whose only “sin” was love, will loom large as an exemplar.

I understand it’s a “religion of peace”

Check this out. Pakistan, I am told, is our friend in the War on Terror. That’s what they say. Bush says it, and we know what a stand-up guy he is, so it must be true. And we know the Bush administration takes a hard line against those Islamofascists, too, because they’re always saying so on Fox News. And we know how fair and balanced they are, so it must be true. I mean, the Islamofascists are why we can’t leave Iraq, right? Because that’s where they all are, and so if we leave, well then, they’re just going to swarm the globe in their millions, and it’ll be Islamofascism here, Islamofascism there, Islamofascism everywhere!

So I wonder just how our fine, courageous, standing-up-to-the-terrorists president is going to react if our good fellow-Islamofascist-terrorist-fighting friends in Pakistan pass this bill that would make it a capital crime for a Muslim man to decide he wanted to leave the faith. Hey, at least they’re going easy on women, who would only get life in prison. I suppose this is what passes for “progressive” in an Islamic country. After all, Islamofascists aren’t known for making women’s lives very pleasant. I mean, for real. Like, if you’re a woman, and you live in an Islamic country, it pretty much sucks to be you. So for women who want to leave Islam to get off so lightly with a mere life sentence seems to indicate that Islam has made a bold step forward into the 17th century, at least.

But come on. Really. To pass a law saying that we’ll fucking kill you if you don’t want to belong to our religion any more is pretty barbaric even for Islam, which is already just about the most barbaric belief system any bunch of barbarians ever practiced barbarism under. And I say this as someone who has lived in the Middle East, known plenty of the “good” Muslims, knows what good and kind people they can be, and remains utterly nonplussed that decent folks can continue to live under the yoke of such a totalitarian, anti-human, tyrannical religion. Hell, maybe that’s the problem that has motivated Pakistan’s desire to draft this law. You wouldn’t think they’d need it if there weren’t the real threat of mass defections by good Muslims who have concluded they simply cannot stand by and be part of something so evil any more.

Well, I’m sure Bush’ll give ol’ Musharraf what-for over this. Won’t he? He will, won’t he? Sure he will.