Defending the rights of theists does not equal agreeing with their beliefs

Some of you seemed surprised that I defended Park51, more infamously known as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” after my visit there. You commented that Islam, on average, is more violent and oppressive of women. You were shocked that I saw the latter first hand – by being told I’d be segregated at dinner and must dress modestly – and yet I still supported Park51. It seemed ironic to you that someone who’s 15 minutes of fame is based on contesting the standards of modest dress would be okay with all of this. You claimed that defending Muslims’ right to freedom of religion implicitly agrees with their beliefs.

For those of you who are surprised, you don’t know me very well.

What makes inalienable rights like freedom of speech and religion work is when they’re truly inalienable. Once you start making judgement calls on who really gets to say something or what you’re allowed to believe, everyone is in trouble. It doesn’t matter if something is offensive or stupid. I will defend the freedom of speech of conservatives, Neo-Nazis, and misogynists as much as it may personally pain me to do so. And I may be an atheist, but if Muslims, Mormons, or Jehova’s Witnesses are having their religious freedom taken away, I’ll be the first to defend them.

Why? It’s simple. Who gets to make the judgment calls on what’s offensive or inappropriate?What happens when one of my beliefs is being censored because popular vote deems it too controversial? Just imagine if atheism was put up to a vote in the United States. Would we still be able to have atheist books or organizations? Hopefully you see why freedom of speech and religion need to be so adamantly defended.

But again, defense does not automatically equal agreement. Nor does defense automatically equal respect. Muslims can build their community centers and mosques, but I’ll still vocally say that their beliefs are wrong. Allah almost certainly does not exist. Islam is, on average, more violent than other current religions – it’s like getting in a time machine and seeing Christianity in the middle ages. Islam is one of the most oppressive religions toward women, and hijabs and burkas are tools of that oppression.

But Muslims should be able to build mosques and wear burkas if they want, because censorship is never the answer. If we want to defend the rights of some minorities, we must defend the rights of all minorities. And if you’re truly concerned with making Islam more progressive or having more Muslims become less religious, taking away their rights isn’t exactly the best way to open up communication.

Trust me, as an atheist, I’d be very happy to see fewer mosques, churches, and temples springing up around the country… If it was because less people feel the need for organized religion and superstitious thinking, not because we fearmongered them out of organizing.


  1. Stoopidtallkid says

    I agree. The only thing that shocked me was that you didn’t say anything about having to eat in a separate room.Well, that and the fact that you were modestly dressed enough that he would allow you in the building.

  2. Crazyorhigh says

    thank you. i live in texas, my entire family believes they shouldnt build there. i even have alienated myself from several facebook friends. im glad someone out there believes the same as me. thank you again. your so crazy awesome in general.

  3. Jeanette says

    This is perfect. Well said. People were surprised that I so adamantly defend the right to build the mosque even though I vocally denounce Islam as oppressive to women as well. I do think there is an argument to be made for banning the burka in some places, but I won’t get into that now. I 99% agree with everything written here. I especially love the closing paragraph. I look forward to the day churches and mosques close because people realize they don’t need them, not because they’ve been censored or shamed into closing them.

  4. says

    Atheists benefit even more from freedom of belief than do many theists in this country. If people’s rights start getting stripped, I have to imagine that Atheists are in line right behind Muslims as far as this crazy Christian country is concerned. You can tell it’s a deep thought cause of the alliteration =-)

  5. Georgia Sam says

    Thumbs up, Jen! Unlike a lot of people, you really get what civil liberties are all about.

  6. Pablo says

    I oppose it to the extent that I oppose the building of any mosque – I wish they wouldn’t, but what are you going to do about it?

  7. Pablo says

    Strangely enough, most of those who oppose it appear to be christian, while most atheists I’ve heard tend to be supportive of their right to build it.And that’s an important distinction that has to be made – we are not talking about “supporting islam” or “not supporting islam.” It is about support the right of muslims to build their religious center or not. When you couch it in terms of, “Do you support their right to build it?” then the answer “They are muslim so no” is obviously a problem.

  8. Kevinbbg says

    You are absolute right on everything. Paine said it better than me:”He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression, for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach even unto himself.”Thomas PaineThey would be coming after atheists next if the haters get away with this.The quintessentially American thing to do would be to build a giant Mosque (the so-called Ground Zero Mosque is neither) right across the street to thumb our noses at the Muslims around the world who treat non-Muslims badly. A way to say we have religious freedom and you don’t.

  9. says

    I was thinking of the exact same quote when I saw Jen’s post. I agree. I may not like what some people have to say, and reserve the right to mock them without mercy, but I support everyone having the right to say it.Kind of ironic that by doing that we end up letting the ones that want to restrict speech get to jabber on. Oh well.

  10. Pat says

    But some of us Christians support unbelievers’ right to unbelief and Jen’s right to say that Allah (God) “almost certainly does not exist” even though we know that she has salvaged intellectual respectability by the tooth-skin of “almost,” for atheism is a belief held on faith. The furthest one can really go empirically or logically is to agnosticism.

  11. Boston Boy says

    As long as they support gay marriage, let Christians and Jews use the facilities housed there, “ordain” women imams, I say, “Build It and They Will Come”. Can I build a Baptist Church in Saudi Arabia where most of the 9/11 terrorists came from? I’d like to promote peace and understanding there cuz I just know there’s religious tolerance abroad in the land and deserts there.

  12. says

    I’ve caused a lot of drama on Facebook because I support Park51. It’s so difficult to get some people to see the differences between the two arguments. One woman who used to be my friend (or face, because it is called Facebook, not Friendbook) originally commented that it was a slap in the face to the victims and their families. When I succinctly showed her how her comments were about the Muslims and not about their right to build there, she went on to speculate their motives for building there. When I called her out yet again and totally pwned her and her friends on her own facebook page, she then said her argument was that she was upset that it was even a political discussion at all, and she never thought it was a slap in the face or questioned their motives. She then proceeded to ask that I be a little more tolerant and try to see it from other perspectives. That’s when I must have really upset her because I told her in a private message that I didn’t appreciate being asked to ponder a different view when she had no idea what I have thought about or what I have read through to get to my opinion that I have today. All she said in reply was “Noted,” unfriended me, and then called me intolerant, negative, and bitter on her status update (without saying my name of course). My husband and a bunch of other friends unfriended her because of that. She then went on some tirade until she apparently popped a couple Xanax and calmed down (according to a mutual friend). Did I mention that she watches only Fox News and has in the past tried to debate me using only Fox News soundbites?

  13. says

    You’ve made a lot of incorrect assumptions here. 1) atheism is nothing more than a lack of belief in gods. While true that many atheists also think that gods likely don’t exist, that’s not a necessary belief in order to be an atheist. 2) Atheism hasn’t and never has had anything to do with faith. A lack of faith cannot be another type of faith. That’s nonsensical. Furthermore, the belief that gods almost certainly don’t exist is a completely rational, reasonable position given that not only has there never been a shred of evidence for gods or the supernatural, but the likelihood of any of humanity’s gods existing is next to zero precisely because they’re all made up by humans. If by agnosticism you mean the idea that you just don’t know whether gods exist or not, but find it equally likely as unlikely, then no, that’s not a logical or empirical position. Just as it is totally logical and reasonable to say that unicorns, leprechauns, magic, dragons, and the Loch Ness monster don’t exist, so too we say gods and the supernatural don’t exist. To be agnostic about every possible made-up monster, faery, or god is ridiculous. So yeah, it’s possible that a god could exist, or unicorns, or Narnia, but until there’s any evidence for any of them, the default and reasonable position is disbelief.

  14. guest says

    No, sorry you can’t. But that’s because the current culture in Saudi Arabia does not have the unique qualities of freedom that exist in the USA. The USA is special in that respect, and working on fixing other issues such as gay marriage, so you should all be proud of yourselves.

  15. Angela says

    Congratulations, you have officially missed the point. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion do not have a caveat stating that you can only express your views if you subscribe to some other views the majority approves of. Either everyone gets to say what they want to, or no one does. The idea of “freedom of speech for people who think like me” is fascism (I hate to use that word since it gets so abused by trolls and nutjobs, but it applies). This is America, and we support the right of the people to say and believe what they they want, even when we disagree. Asking about building a church in Saudi Arabia is completely irrelevant to this discussion, since we’re referring to the freedom of speech and religion granted to people in America under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. As our constitution has no legal power in Saudi Arabia, your comment makes no sense. It would be lovely if Saudi Arabia decided to enact similar legislation, but as it is an absolute monarchy governed by Sharia law, this is highly unlikely.

  16. says

    > “Do you support their right to build it?”One problem is that some try to weasel around that by saying “They have the right to build it, but I think they shouldn’t”, but not because they support religious freedom while disagreeing with the religion, but because they then go on to call it “tasteless” and the area “hallowed ground”.

  17. says

    @Alan – too funny- maybe we know the same “friend”? I kept hearing the “slap in the face argument” and the “hallowed ground” argument. What is curious to me is that the immediate area between ground zero and the Park51 project contains strip clubs and other, not so hallowed activity centers. And yes, my friend also gets all of her news on Fox. Sigh.

  18. says

    I am old and fat and probably not as smart as youBut I think I love you anyway

  19. says

    Right On Jen!What has always floored me about religious people is that there are any of them trying to tear down the separation of church and state or even opposing religious freedom in a legal manner.I’m an Atheist, but if I was still Catholic from my upbringing I would be supporting the separation of church and state so I would never have to worry about being persecuted by the state for my religion. Christianity is king now in the western world, but if that balance ever changes U.S. Christians would start worshipping the Constitution.

  20. Skywalker says

    It’s shocking to me how many Americans don’t get this simple concept that we all learned in school our country was founded on.

  21. Skywalker says

    Not to mention the guy behind this mosque has, since 9/11, been bending over backwards to try to appear like a Muslim who isn’t hostile to the United States. When he gives speeches abroad he’s regularly booed for being “pro-American”.

  22. Kristen says

    Although, I have noticed a lot of things in the people who oppose it (in my experience). They all say, it’s a “slap in the face” to the victims, and to their families. And then when I politely point out that not only did members of the Muslim religion suffer and die on that day, but their family members were singled out, investigated, and other such stuff, in the name of justice (and the fact that they were Muslim)…. all I get is a cold glare. No comments or nothing.I agree with what you say, and what’s been said in most of the comments “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” in particular.

  23. Zombie says

    Agreed up and down. Wouldn’t normally bother with a “me too” post, but this is one that needs a chorus.

  24. Brainpimp says

    One big problem with your whole article. The ground zero mosque has nothing to do with freedom of religion or freedom of speech. No one and I mean no one is arguing about zoning codes or the right to build any mosques anywhere. You are falling for the same old worn out we just have to be nicer argument. The “we can just ignore that all of the major terrorism in the last 25 years has been from muslims” is a suicide pact. The Imam that everyone is just so sure is moderate has had tapes dropped on him where he is caught preaching for the destruction of America “the great Satan”.How can you be for something that is so obviously not for the reasons they keep dancing around? It is designed to do exactly what it would do. That is to be planted as a flag to all th rest of the muslim world as a conquering symbol. Come out and show me how it is not exactly that.

  25. happy says

    well said, and I totally agreee…only one thing, what about the mixed message this will give the fanatics who will think they made a point? You do know that moslems ( fanatic ones ) do believe that islam will conquer all the world…give them an inch and they’ll walk a mile…

  26. Lalderman says

    What horribly flawed logic, to equate granting the freedom to believe the religion of your choice with the freedom to enslave people based upon religion. That’s why the mention of the ban on religious freedom in other countries is actually not irrelevant, as you suggest. They are the same people, same religion, with practices (honor killings, stoning, etc.) that horrify many “Koran-Only” Muslims who live here and now speak out against the treatment of people under leaders in other countries AND HERE. By your logic, if I want to develop a religion and keep certain people in cages, kill them based on a whim, etc…….that’s cool with you, as long as I evade capture by authorities. People who have the belief the Constitutional freedoms mean “anything you want or you’re a bigot” are so clueless it makes me wonder if we are doomed.

  27. NathanPPK says

    So, the Muslims living here, under the (more or less) equal protection of our laws and guarantee of religious liberty, are opposed to the repression, violence and misogyny they see in Sharia-governed nations abroad?Do you not see how valuable a thing it is for the world that they have the opportunity to speak out freely on those issues as fellow Muslims? Their criticisms may have a hope of changing the face of Islam. That’s just one of the many practical reasons why freedom of religion is so important.I have no idea what you intended to say with your comment about keeping people in cages and killing them on a whim. You know full well that is illegal – at least for private citizens. Speech advocating such practices is protected (unless it directly incites criminal acts), but to perform any of those acts would quite rightly land the perpetrator in prison.

  28. Lalderman says

    You are right that those things are illegal HERE, because of our DIFFERENT core values. Speaking out against a mosque on that site is a great way to help change the face of Islam, as you say. Many Westernized Muslims are against that site as well. Sorry you don’t get what I said. Let me be really simple about it: Any peace-loving Muslim would have had the decency not to have proposed that as a site for a mosque in the first place. Period.

  29. Lalderman says

    So if Saudi Arabians believe something different then that’s cool with you. They do not have to be evaluated like any American bigot who happens to be against the mosque at that site, right? So…..I guess you don’t really think all THAT highly of our Constitution, since you don’t extend the values beyond our own borders and expect everyone to live by the same principles? The fact that you would be buried to your shoulders and stoned to death after a few days there if you practiced the freedoms you enjoy here – that’s beside the point, because if you live outside of America your behavior doesn’t have to be evaluated. That really makes sense. That’s more of a hate for the Constitution than a love.

  30. Lmmoore says

    Although not an atheist…Well, I guess the other way of putting it is Theist, although I have never referred to myself as such :), I have to say, I agree with most of the content of your blog. My issue is not with the fact that they have the right to build their mosque. It’s true, they do and I don’t think anyone can truly argue with that, although many will try. It’s just whether they should or shouldn’t. As someone who tries to respect other peoples beliefs even when they are different (and I say that with a little r, not Respect) and I wholeheartedly disagree with them, I also hope that others would respect me and my position and beliefs. Muslim leaders in NY are using this simply as a tool…It is propaganda, nothing more. But the people around them have a right to demonstrate as well. Their feelings, their passions about 9/11 aren’t going to change…from the rescue workers, the survivors, the family of the deceased, to the neighbors there now and even the construction workers who might be called in to do this job, but refuse. They object for good reason. Again, I’m not denying them the right to build, but in good taste, they should build elsewhere. It would be the right thing to do and if they want to show good will to others in the neighborhood, build a bridge with the community, they would work together with the city and with the community at large to find an alternate place for their place of worship.

  31. Rollingforest says

    No, we should work to spread freedom of religion and freedom of speech to places like Saudi Arabia. But withholding it here until they give it there will never work. Secularism has crippled Christianity in Europe and it can do the same to Islam in Europe if we allow them out of the ghetto and into the society. The three keys to success are getting people involved in Democracy, providing them with the opportunity for material wealth, and teaching them the value of science. The best way to defeat Islamists is to spread American values aka the American meme.

  32. Angela says

    You may have noticed that I based my argument on legality, as laid down in the United States by the Constitution, not on an overarching standard of morality. The US Constitution has no standing in Saudi Arabia, so I stated it irrelevant to the discussion at hand.From a moral (and also legal) standpoint, I would love for all countries to sign onto and abide by the provisions set down by the International Bill of Human Rights. Why a UN document rather than the US Constitution? Quite simply, I am not an imperialist. I don’t expect the citizens of one country to follow laws set down by another country in which they have no representation- that would be exactly what the American colonists fought against in the Revolutionary War. Instead, I hope that the people of Saudi Arabia, and all other countries with human rights problems, work to create change from within their countries so that someday they will choose to sign onto international agreements supporting human rights for all. I simply realize that this is unlikely to occur soon. I support the right of nations to self-determination, and thus I would not support foreign attempts to reshape the Saudi government to better represent the US Constitution.

  33. Andy Ben 68 says

    But Muslims should be able to build mosques and wear burkasyes they should , but why in australia should I have to remove my helmet before entering a shop or bank but a burka can be worn , isn’t this a bit one sided

  34. Ben says

    Yes, it is. It is a sign of the preference and privilege given to religion, something many atheists object to.

  35. Tony B says

    *claps*I agree completely. Thanks for being awesome!I still would have told the nice bearded gentleman where he could shove his segregated dinner.

  36. Cynical100percent says

    in the words of karl popper – Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

  37. A-M says

    Well said. In a similar vein, a far right UK group known as the English Defence League or some such silliness were recently banned from marching through Bradford, a town well know for its large ethnic community (mainly Islamic and largely Pakistani), on a route designed to annoy as many immigrant populations as possible. To show the authorities weren’t singling the English Defense League out, they said ALL marches were banned that day, but it was clearly due to this march that the bann was affected, on health and safety grounds. While I detest what this group stands for, I hate that we banned their march! What happened to freedom of speech and expression in the UK? There is nothing illegal about marching peacefully on public property and chanting a few slogans, even if it is offensive. The fear was it would turn violent. I say let them march, warn anyone who doesn’t want to get involved to stay away, and if it goes tits-up, arrest any trouble-makers and let the justice system handle it. But DON’T stop them from marching just because you don’t like what they’re saying.Same goes for that Mosque!

  38. Pablo says

    What point will they think be made? The bigger question is, what kind of message does it send to the muslim community around the world if we prohibit islam near GZ? I mean, besides the obvious, “We told you they were fascist, anti-islamic pigs”Do you really think the attacks on 9/11 were intended to send the message that muslims need to be allowed to build mosques (or community centers) in NYC?There would be no bigger insult to the anti-american factions of the islam than to say, “You can’t take our freedom away.”BTW, this isn’t giving anyone an inch. They already have that. This is about people trying to take that inch away from people who have just as much right to it as anyone else.

  39. Pablo says

    Supposedly (I’ve never been there but Jen can confirm) the area is heavily populated with porn shops and the like. But a Muslim Community Center is “tasteless”? The “they shouldn’t build it because it is tasteless and dishonors hallowed ground” ship sailed a long time ago.

  40. zuche says

    Be tolerant toward the intolerant. That makes it easier to know what they’re doing and to have some influence on it.

  41. Raven72998 says

    I would have to agree that they are allowed their freedom of religion, however i do not agree with letting them build a mosque at ground zero. Muslims were the ones who flew the planes into the twin towers. Granted this is not to say every muslim is a terrorist however still due to this fact i do not believe that they have the right to build a mosque at ground zero.On this same note, having lived in the middle east for a few years (thanks to the military) i have come to understand a few things about muslims that really doesnt get around the local populace here. One of those is that, and please someone who knows something about this correct me if im wrong, but part of their religion is supposed to be giving i think its like, 10% of their UNTOUCHED earned incom (for example money put away for a rainy day, or into a savings account) is supposed to go to the less fortunate. I truly wonder just how much they spent on that mosque, and how much went to the familys of those who lost loved ones on Sept. 11 to perhaps say…pay for part of the funerals, even if was only just a buck.(and yes im hateful and bitter i know this)

  42. zuche says

    Not even a comma, let alone a period. The arguments against this facility (not a mosque) are based on fear, regardless of who makes them. You can always argue that it’s disrespectful and antagonistic. I’m sure there will be some people who view it as that sort of victory, but they are people who will also claim a victory if this does not get built.The only way a nation that has freedom of religion and speech as core values can claim a win, however, is to stand by those values and let this happen. Better yet, help make it happen. It’s the most effective way to influence results in the long term, as well as the best means of promoting understanding.After all, what’s the point of free speech if people aren’t communicating?

  43. zuche says

    It’s not a mosque, nor is this Ground Zero. The “Muslims flew the planes” argument is not a good one to make when you consider the past crimes of both atheists and Christians (among others), acknowledging that neither belong to all of either group. Should everyone of European descent be forced to give up every facility that’s ever been the site of a Christian prayer to people who saw their land stolen and promise after promise broken? I’ll see your World Trade Centre and raise you a Trail of Tears.All four faiths devoted to the God of Abraham are supposed to set a substantial amount aside from charity. Human nature means this does not always work out in practice, and there are endless arguments about what constitutes true charity. Very few of us actually bring people into our homes these days to feed or clothe them, preferring the security of distance. It brings to mind one of Robert Asprin’s favourite quotes: “It’s easier to throw money at a problem than it is to solve it.”

  44. Pablo says

    I would have to agree that they are allowed their freedom of religion, however I do not agree that Mormons should be allowed to build their churches near public schools. Christian priests were the ones who molested young boys. Granted, this is to say that every christian is a child molester however still due to this fact I do not believe they have the right to build their churches near public schools.On the same note, having lived in Utah for a few years, I have come to understand a few things about Mormons that really doesnt get around the local populace here. One of those is that they don’t allow alcohol to be served on Sundays…Boy, that sounds dumb, doesn’t it? Although I have to comment on one thing:You’ve “come to understand a few things” about muslims, but at the same time, ask someone “who knows something about this” to correct you if you are wrong? Apparently, you admit that you really don’t “understand” it all that well.I should ask, too, given your great experience and understanding, you do know that the islamic sect that wants to build the community center does not have a good relationship with al Queda, right? As in, Irish Catholics vs Protestant levels of disagreements?

  45. Doug Fields says

    I would like to speak up as a conservative, atheist, and an avid fan of Jen. Conservative to me means an adherence to the constitution, including freedom of speech, religion, right to bear arms, etc. What comes with that is minimalist government, with a preference for the more local flavor. If building a mosque right nest to ground zero is OK with the locals there, in accordance with their laws, then there should be no interference from outside. If the locals find the building to be outside of their laws for whatever reason, then also so be it. If somehow that makes me a Neo-Nazi or a misogynist, I would love to hear that bit of reasoning.I do have one point of confusion – my own, that I would love to get help from the posters here – in any other venue, segregation of the sort that I see in Muslim centers would not be tolerated by our society. Why do we give religions a free pass to discriminate against women (can they discriminate based on race too?)?

  46. Zeraphil says

    I’m opposed to the building of the mosque. I don’t think there should be any religious icon near any modern non denominational landmark. It suggests association. I would be just as opposed if it was a catholic church. But like a previous poster said, what can you do about it that doesn’t seem like censorship? I’ll respect their right, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

  47. Blitzgal says

    Fabulous post. I’ve gotten into so many arguments with people over this issue. It really does boil down to the fact that we do not want our government getting into the business of deciding who has rights and who doesn’t, because it ends up being largely political and arbitrary when it does happen.

  48. KN says

    My favourite response so far to those who think it’s “inappropriate” or “offensive” to build a mosque (even though this isn’t a mosque) near Ground Zero has been the one that asked where these people were to protest fundementalist churches near the Murrah Building in OKC.

  49. Raven72998 says

    I never said that i had a “Great understanding” as you put it, just a few factoids, and no i dont fully understand it, had i fully understood it i wouldent have asked someone to correct me if im wrong. Man you just called me out right and good huh.

  50. Pablo says

    The big problem with this, though, is how near does it have to be to be considered “near”? Read Jen’s description of how you get to this place -I get the impression you can’t actually see it if you are standing at GZ.Now, I don’t think “it’s too close to a landmark” is a great objection in the first place (a) where’s the line, and b) if it is too close, then the solution is to zone against it), but in this case it is really hard to even make the claim that it is too close.

  51. Pablo says

    Well, you certainly tried to give the impression that you had super special understanding that most people don’t. Sorry if my summing it up as “great” was overstating it. It obviously was.

  52. Wmn says

    Agreed.I hate it when religionists say that the constitution requires everyone to “respect” their beliefs. No it doesn’t; what it requires is tolerance, and only legal tolerance at that. As far as the community center, I think it’s in pretty bad taste, and it would piss me off if I was a New Yorker, but if someone wants to build a place that’s going to get vandalized ten times a week – go for it!

  53. Zeraphil says

    Are you really going to make an argument about the technicality of “closeness”? It’s close enough that people are complaining. If it wasn’t, this would be a non-issue in the upcoming elections. But it isn’t a non issue. Should it be? I guess that’s another debate, but to me it sounds like the issue you bring up of “closeness” is trivial enough.

  54. zuche says

    There are already several churches, including one Islamic place of worship, closer to the site. Does it matter that all of these are more than ten years old? Should it?

  55. says

    I didn’t get to read all of the comments but I fully support what you’re saying! I’ve already been in numerous “discussions” with people who feel the opposite on this issue. The worst to me is “I believe in freedom of speech and religion BUT” – I don’t think it’s possible to asterisk a freedom without removing it all together.

  56. Jerryscottmaber says

    I like it Craig, very well put, I am getting kind of bored by Christians trying to redefine what Atheism is. And what is my right to unbelieve something? Um no thank you, its not about unbelieving its about there being no such thing. period.

  57. Pablo says

    Talking about the complaining is not the question. You claimed that any religious building close by suggests association. I am trying to figure out what that means. As I stated, I don’t buy the argument in the first place, but especially in this case where you can’t even see the building from GZ, then how can you justify the claim of association?The common complaints about this are not about how the presence of a religious facility is bad because it suggests association. It is based on bigotry. Your argument isn’t like that, and I think you do a disservice to yourself by bringing it up, actually. Your argument is moreso based on the constitutional question of whether religious facilities near public monuments are appropriate. In that case, there is absolutely the question of how close is too close. But as I said, there is already recourse to that, because if the government wants it, they can certainly zone for it. There might be a legal battle over the zoning, but that is not uncommon, and it won’t involve the question of the evil Muslims.

  58. says

    Thanks. I too am very tired of Christians or other religionists throwing straw-man arguments at us, and I find the “atheism is just another form or religious faith/fundamentalism” meme to be incredibly stupid and tiresome.

  59. jane davis says

    I also agree with the original writer..I don’t like the oppression of Islamic women, but I do defend their right to build a mosque..I am agnostic, but I can’t, or won’t, influence others. They do have that mosque-blg. right, even if I don’t agree with CERTAIN ASPECTS of Islam…Here in Gainesville, fl, a horrid so-called christian church (Dove Outreach) is planning to burn copies of the Quran on 9/11…Awful, since Gainesville Fl is not a horribly conservative city due to the U of FL; there is a sizeable Moslem population here, and I am embarrassed by this ghastly church..

  60. EdenBunny says

    I am surprised that you are surprised that Jen has readers who are surprised.Does this surprise you?If it does, would you be surprised that your surprise at my surprise at your surprise at Jen’s readers’ surprise would surprise me as well?;)

  61. EdenBunny says

    I believe in freedom of speech and religion BUT I don’t think the law should allow a person to make unprovoked seriously believable verbal threats against people, or practice a religious rite requiring the murder of a totally innocent person. While we’re at it, maybe we should also prohibit “honor killings” of adulterous women, even if they are guilty as charged….OMFSM! You’re right! Already I’m sliding down that slippery slope. There’s no telling where my bigoted intolerance might end.

  62. Zeraphil says

    Seriously, just read what you posted again. You didn’t understand what I meant by my comment, which I’ll agree wasn’t clear because it was merely a backhanded reaction and not an insightful reply. However, you then immediately jump into what you think it meant and argue against it. I think that’s called a “strawman”, but even more so, it’s simply annoying. Why not ask me to clarify first?I’ll do it for you. I used association incorrectly (English is not my first language), when I meant preference. Allowing any religion to put a monument next to a landmark would seem to suggest slight favoritism, even if it’s not the case. You’re right that the opposition to this mosque is based on bigotry, which is what I thought I was getting at.Now, on the issue of closeness, hearing the complaints IS part of the question. If the mosque supporters were really neutral on the location issue, the minute this strong distaste for its construction arose, good foresight would suggest to simply change the location, no harm done. While religious intolerance is part of the opposition, there are a lot of 9/11 victims who find an Islamic reminder distasteful, thus just as we should respect freedom of religion, they should be respected as well. Line-of-sight is definitely a factor that should be considered (it’s measurable, for one), but this is a democracy, and as a democracy, the opinions of people should be heard.I really don’t think there should be any legal battle, nor should the government get involved. The proponents of the building should have the comprehension to understand that that might not be the best location after all.However, I would also argue, just as strongly, against any other religious group that would attempt to build a congregation center of any kind there. That would be a different argument and a different consideration of “closeness”, but that’s just an opinion.

  63. Zeraphil says

    Not sure what do you want to bring up with that point. Many of them are historical landmarks aside from worship areas. So?

  64. Zeraphil says

    I can already expect the comment on me deeming the building of the mosque as “inappropriate, deemed by the people”. Who am I to judge? It is also an opinion, one that I can’t support with any kind of hard facts. I will say, however, that if a religion promotes compassion and understanding, then it should practice as such. Understanding means in part that there is a place for everything, and just how Christians and Jews and every other religion should have the foresight not to build a congregation center ten paces away from each other (really, what purpose would that serve) and respect their space, maybe we should expect the same from Muslims?I didn’t say “don’t build it”, by all means, do whatever you want, but just as we respect freedom of religion, hear the people out. I doesn’t seem like the location is a good idea. Is suggesting an alternate option really censorship?

  65. Angela says

    “If the mosque supporters were really neutral on the location issue, the minute this strong distaste for its construction arose, good foresight would suggest to simply change the location, no harm done. “They’re trying to build in lower Manhattan. The property market for NYC, Manhattan in particular, is INSANE. There probably isn’t another suitable building available, and Ground Zero itself (which they’re NOT on) is probably the only area other than designated parks that doesn’t already have a building on it. If they were building in Wyoming or something, I’d say sure, it might be best to pick a new location. But if serving your community appropriately requires building in Manhattan, you take what you can get.I realize this is a relatively minor part of your argument, but I think people need to take into account that there aren’t exactly many options available for locations when you want to build within a developed urban area.

  66. Zeraphil says

    You’re right, of course. It’s definitely something that should be taken into consideration. Also, I see lots of disagreement but nobody giving possible alternatives to appease everyone. Myself included, as I, in my following post, talk about alternative options but don’t even propose of one as an example. Well, site relocation, of course, but as you pointed out, this might not be possible.I think the best way, then, is to have buildings with Liftoff capacity. Press hotkey “L” or the liftoff button, and the building detaches itself from the ground and lifts into the air. That way, we can construct a building for every denomination, and switch them around every day of the week. They can all make use of the reactor core we leave on the ground for double worship efficiency.In the event that a spot does open up, we could have it land there permanently, although, I would like to leave spots near the ground zero landmark available, that way, we can use them to build missile turrets to face against zerging terrorists.

  67. Rollingforest says

    Can you provide us with proof of these tapes where the words “the great Satan” are mentioned?

  68. Rollingforest says

    We shouldn’t make our decisions based on what the fanatical Muslims will think. We need to support our own values or the terrorists really have won.

  69. Rollingforest says

    Well, the US constitution doesn’t apply in Saudi Arabia, but morality does. So I would support sanctions against the nation for hurting their citizens. I only support military intervention against the government if it is clear that the citizens want it because otherwise you’ll just end up with insurgents attacking you.

  70. Rollingforest says

    Being tolerant of an intolerant person’s rights is not the same thing as supporting them. You can work against them using your freedom of speech while at the same time supporting them having the same rights you do.

  71. Rollingforest says

    The issue might be that the UK just has a collection of laws instead of a constitution. While politicians in the US can bend the constitution to fit their needs, it is harder to do than in the UK because it is hard to change the constitution.

  72. Rollingforest says

    What do you mean “given a free pass”? Legally, there are lots of groups that are allowed to regulate membership based on gender. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts come to mind. Maybe you mean as far as criticism. In that case, I would say sure, criticize away! There is nothing wrong with criticizing a religion. A person only becomes a bigot when they exaggerate a religion and assume that everyone in the religion is the same.

  73. Rollingforest says

    I want a building with liftoff capabilities just so I can drive it around where ever I want. Everywhere would be home!Oh, and extra points for using Starcraft references to refer to terrorists.

  74. Brian says

    @Craig: I am by no means a theist, but I agree with you on some points and disagree with you on others.You define atheism as “nothing more than a lack of belief in gods”. So, how can you say that “Atheism hasn’t and never has had anything to do with faith” when your definition of “atheism” has the word “gods” in it? (besides, the word “theism” is part of the word “atheism”). I know I’m arguing over semantics, but I think this will end up being politically important.Also, I think you should be careful when saying, “the belief that gods almost certainly don’t exist is a completely rational, reasonable position given that… there [has] never been a shred of evidence for gods or the supernatural”. Is it also almost certain that there is no life on any other planet in the universe, or that all swans are white?Is it possible that you’re confusing “disbelief” with “doubt” or “skepticism”?

  75. EdenBunny says

    Uh, sure, as soon as you show me his name at the top the post I was answering, or show me where my reply to Dannah’s comment mentioned “the leader of the potential Park51”.

  76. EdenBunny says

    This is the second time this has happened; I clicked “reply” to Rollingforest’s reply to my reply, but when I posted, my reply showed up as a new thread. The last time this happened, I assumed that I might have hit the wrong button, and I was able to reply to my own new post to let readers know what had happened. I’ve noticed a few other new threads here also seem to be replies to other threads. If the system bug that caused this sometimes places replies on existing threads other than the one that they are intended for, perhaps Rollingforest was intending to answer another thread and the posting system put his reply in the wrong place. If that’s the case, I owe Rollingforest an apology, and I re-address my handle-appropriate reply to those who wrote the the part of the program that posts thread replies in the wrong place.Also, sorry to stray so far off-topic, but-To the debuggers, in case they’re looking at this problem: In both cases, I hid “Post as…”, then hit “Cancel” on the dialog window to preview my post for typos one more time, then hit “Post as…” again, and completed the posting process. Both misplaced replies were posted through IE8 from a PC running Win7. There was no page reload after the cancellation.

  77. Peter B says

    BrianI have no evidence that you’re an axe-wielding maniac.Does that mean I need faith to believe you’re not?I wouldn’t have thought so. I thought the default position in the case of a lack of evidence was to assume the negative.

  78. zuche says

    Well, then, is it appropriate to close down the ones that aren’t historical landmarks? As for the landmarks, is it necessary for them to remain active places of worship? Their continued use establishes that worship is acceptable within that radius, as it should be within the ideals set forth within the nation’s constitution. There is no need to exempt them from placing a ban on religious institutions with some sort of grandfather clause because someone might become “upset” about it. That excuse winds up leaving you unable to build anywhere, save possibly the most inconvenient neighbourhoods.

  79. zuche says

    Which takes precendent: freedom of speech and religion, or the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

  80. Peter B says

    No, it shows the strength of American society that it can tolerate a mosque being built there.As for the Imam, so what if he calls for the destruction of America. What limits do you place on freedom of speech in the USA?Here in Australia, Sheikh Taj el-Din Hilaly famously got himself in trouble a few years ago when he said of women dressing provocatively: “If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it … whose fault is it, the cats’ or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred.” Spectacularly insensitive and he was rightly criticised for it. But he’s free to have an opinion and express it.

  81. Peter B says

    Do banks allow burqas, or only hijabs (leaving the face uncovered)?Note that an Australian judge has recently ruled that a witness in a court case must remove the part of her burqa which covers her face while giving evidence.As for your helmet, does it have a bar across the mouth? If so, you’re showing less of your face than someone wearing a hijab. And I wouldn’t like to be headbutted by someone wearing a helmet.

  82. EdenBunny says

    Okay, I believe in freedom of speech and religion, BUT:No unprovoked seriously believable verbal threats, no religous rites requiring murder of a totally innocent person, no “honor killings” of adulterous women, and no other religous violations of life or liberty, and no religious physically imposed limits on another’s non-aggressive pursuit of happiness, but that’s as far as I go. Other than that, I’m still a strong supporter of free speech and religion… -Oh my, I just keep widening that exception, don’t I?

  83. Steven Willard says

    I haven’t visited your blog before but must say I’m impressed. Not many folks with strong convictions are able to step aside from their favorite dogma and see the larger picture.I can certainly understand the anti-mosque sentiment running rampant among many people, misguided or not, but I cannot understand how easily these ‘Defenders of Freedom’ can so casually throw away the basic principles that protect that freedom when it suits them to do so.For me, the ability to see all sides of an issue and make descisions accordingly lends far more credibility than blind adherance to a belief and merely preaching to the choir.Personally, I see the locating of the building to be a deliberate provocation and testing of our principles. Should it be blocked, we fail on religious tolorance. Should it be built, we appear weak in their eyes. When someone bombs it, it becomes Christians vs. Muslims. I don’t forsee a great future for this nation but one thing is certain, dismantling the Bill of Rights is not going to improve the situation.

  84. says

    atheism is nothing more than a lack of belief in gods.Actually, that is NON-theism, which includes both atheism and agnosticism. If you claim is true, then what does the assertion, “There is no God” represent?Atheism hasn’t and never has had anything to do with faith. A lack of faith cannot be another type of faith. That’s nonsensical.Then don’t ever let anyone catch you asserting as FACT that, “There is no God.”not only has there never been a shred of evidence for gods or the supernatural, but the likelihood of any of humanity’s gods existing is next to zero precisely because they’re all made up by humans.Baseless claim, since you are confusing your limited knowledge about the subject with everything there is to possibly know (no one can know EVERYTHING), plus you are making a blind, dogmatic assumption (“they are all made up by humans.)it’s possible that a god could exist, or unicorns, or Narnia, but until there’s any evidence for any of them, the default and reasonable position is disbelief.No, the default and reasonable position is doubt when it comes to religious concepts that have not (yet) been disproven, including basic Theism. Doubt is not the same as disbelief. Fictional concepts that are generally acknowledged as fiction are only equated with religious concepts by people who ASSUME that all religions are false. Skeptics should never make assumptions like that, but test everything on a case by case basis. If you don’t, yet claim to be atheist, you are no better than religious fanatics who paint all non-theists with the same hateful brush.

  85. zuche says

    What exception? You’re free to x. You’re entitled to y. Who was it that said, “Your freedom ends where my nose begins,” addressing the point at which there is a conflict between rights?

  86. Fatpie42 says

    I’m not sure I agree with you on this occasion. Hate speech is pretty clear-cut and it should not be allowed. That said, I think it’s pretty clear that building a mosque (never mind a multi-faith centre) doesn’t qualify as an expression of hatred.It still utterly baffles me that the authorities in America continue to allow the Westboro Baptist Church to profit from hate speech:

  87. Fatpie42 says

    “While we’re at it, maybe we should also prohibit “honor killings” of adulterous women, even if they are guilty as charged….”Um… I’m pretty sure that’s already prohibited. *shrugs*

  88. EdenBunny says

    I used to think like that too, but it’s not that clear cut. Do I have the right to rapidly bring my fist within one millimeter of your nose? No? How about two millimeters? An inch? Six inches? (Sound familiar?)Do I have the right to burn a cross on the public property right in front of your home? (“No, that’s a serious threat” / “Yes. Nobody can give any absolute proof that your intentions are intended to threaten and not just to express your sympathies.”)If I have a history of molesting schoolchildren, do I have the right to privately approach your children in conversation when they come out of school? (“No. By becoming familiar to my children you break down their first line of defense.”/”Yes. As long as you don’t attempt to abuse them or threaten them in any way and do not touch them, etc. My children are aware enough to handle anything short of that.”)The line is gray but very wide; and near it’s outer edges, still entirely within its bounds, you will find the mob boss who never touched a gun or explicitly ordered a hit. (“This CaptainSarcastic guy is a nuisance. It’d be nice if he fell under a car.…”)Closer still to its outer edges and yet also entirely within its bounds is the boss who explicitly orders executions. Remember, you always have the choice of disobeying the order. The boss will order your execution if you do, but you can’t blame the boss if the person ordered to execute you fails to be as disobedient as you. -All the boss did was speak, making no actual threat; the threat was implied- or was it inferred by the obedient listener?How about the cleric who says homosexuals should be put to death and praises the 9/11 hijackers as heroes? Is he inciting murder? I would say yes, but some would say no, he’s just expressing his opinion. I would point out that as a cleric he has to be aware that people will act on his words, but the debater has the trump card useful against any incitement charge- the free will of the listener.

  89. says

    Whereas I agree with the principle, namely that of protecting the rights of all, I do also think it’s important to exercise our own rights, namely our freedom of speech. I recently addressed this on my own blog, . Whereas I would never strip these people of their right to build their mosque, I also will not be stripped of my right to tell them that I think it, their religion and all religion is simply awful. I simply cannot condone the proliferation of a religion that is so outwardly violent and cruel to women. Again, I would not stop them, legally, from having the right to do what they wish, but I will express my own outrage at the idea and at their beliefs.

  90. says

    I think you are missing the point. I don’t believe Zeraphil is calling for rules or regulations to dictate the location of these places, she is expressing what SHE feels is right. Which is fine. That does not mean it cannot be done. I agree with Zeraphil completely. I would not stop these people from building their Mosque, but at the same time, I will not be stopped from expressing my outrage.It simply strikes me as incredibly sad that ANY religion continues to spread, much less one based so strongly on hate and violence towards women.

  91. EdenBunny says

    Already prohibited? Nah. Really?…Hey, you’re right! And so are the other things I listed! >Sigh.< I guess that means we don’t have any freedom of speech or religion then, as we’ve already “asterisked” them. Of course, we really didn’t have a choice, did we? Freedom cannot exist unlimited; we have to draw lines. Where they are drawn sometimes depends on issues that are not as obvious as the ones I’ve listed. “Where my nose begins” is not good enough when it comes to expression, because threats occur in degrees and are subject to interpretation. Those legally opposed to the project (and I disagree with them, regardless of my opinion of those behind the project) do not see it as a free speech issue because they draw the line that defines a credible threat a little closer to one side of the gray area, and/or have been exposed to different information (and no, it’s not all conservative christian propaganda; Zuhdi Jasser is a muslim, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali grew up as one. -Nor are these two people unique cases with regard to their experience and their warnings.) Just as the right to bear arms doesn’t include the right to use those arms to rob banks, the right to free expression doesn’t include the right to publicly make harmful false accusations or make credible threats against person or property. To not be covered by free speech, an accusation must be false, and a threat must be credible. Since both threats and accusations are subject to interpretation, falsehood and credibility are often gray lines.With all that, there are cases where the lines are not at all gray, but “Park51” is by no means one of them.

  92. EdenBunny says

    What? Wow, I thought I already killed that horse! How could it still be alive? I’d better beat it some more!I wasn’t expecting this at all! I’m shocked. Stunned.Amazed. Astonished!Flabbergasted! Totally blown away!

  93. EdenBunny says

    Uh, sure, as soon as you show me his name at the top the post I was answering, or show me where my reply to Dannah’s comment mentioned “the leader of the potential Park51″(Re-posted from previous attempt to reply here that ended up as a new thread.)

  94. Old Rasputin says

    Much is often made of semantics when atheism, agnosticism, non-theism, anti-theism (get well soon Hitch) or ignosticism (god help us…) are mentioned, but when it comes down to it, the vast majority of people who call themselves “atheists” (in my experience) ascribe to the “there (very) probably are no gods” set of beliefs. I’m not sure which of the above best embraces that sentiment, but the label that has stuck is “atheist”. There may be folks out there (surely a few) that flat out insist that there are no gods and thus, as DH put it, would assert the “FACT that ‘there is no God.'” – I just haven’t met them. Perhaps I should get out more.In reply to the ‘baseless claim’ above (lack of evidence?): No, nobody can know everything, however if there were solid, demonstrable evidence for something like a deity (or life elsewhere in the universe or any number of similarly profound, perspective-shifting claims that we’d all love the answer to) I’d like to think that kind of thing would be trumpeted from every media rooftop instead of just the National Enquirer (or equivalent). The only alternative is a massive conspiracy theory. Or are we using different definitions of “evidence”?And, yes skeptics generally assume that all religions are false (I sure hope the Mormons aren’t right) much like all unsubstantiated claims, whether they be alien abductions, homeopathy, or extra-terrestrial teapots. I assume that my car will start tomorrow; I also assume that there is not a rabid raccoon waiting in my bedroom to attack me, and I assume there is no god. On all accounts I simply have no reason to believe otherwise … and I make plans accordingly. Hopefully I’m not mistaken – I understand rabies shots aren’t pleasant.Also, I always thought that “agnosticism” was a claim concerning the possibility of knowing certain things – not the existence of the things themselves. Hence agnosticism wouldn’t really belong to the same category as “atheism” or “theism”. Surely under that definition there are many agnostic theists?Sorry for the rambling.

  95. Brian says

    Peter, I think you’re referring to what probability theory refers to as a “prior” belief. It’s the belief you hold (better to say “the probability you assign”) about the outcome of an experiment prior to actually conducting that experiment. Some types of probability calculations require these prior probabilities.The reason you believe I’m not an axe murderer is because you have met many people and most or all of them have not been axe murderers. Thus, you believe (a priori) that I am also not an axe murderer. This same logic doesn’t apply to the case of “is there a god or not” for two reasons. One, there is only one universe/cosmos that we can observe, and thus there is no basis for a prior belief. Two, in this case we have only prior beliefs and no experiment; drawing conclusions only from prior beliefs (that you assigned somewhat subjectively) without any data whatsoever is like dividing by zero: formal logic does not allow you to do it.So, yes, you are allowed to assume the negative if you choose to do so, but you have no evidence to claim that this is the correct position. In fact, no statements about the “true” probability can be made. This is what agnosticism means, not “the idea that you just don’t know whether gods exist or not, but find it equally likely as unlikely” as Craig mentioned above. Agnosticism does not assign equal probabilities, but refuses to assign probabilities at all. And, Pat said it perfectly above: “The furthest one can really go empirically or logically is to agnosticism.”

  96. Brian says

    Nice comment. My last comment above already addresses some of your points, but I have a few more specific things:1) If I think it’s unfortunate that the label that has stuck is “atheist” if very few of them hold to the original motto that “there is no god”.2) Saying “there probably are no gods” has many of the same problems that “there is no god” has. Namely, there is no evidence from which you can make a statement about probability (see my comments on agnosticism above).3) I like your statment, ‘agnosticism wouldn’t really belong to the same category as “atheism” or “theism”. ‘ That’s absolutely true, because agnosticism is a scientific position, and [a]theism are both measures of a person’s faith in the [non]existence of gods.4) Similar to (3), I don’t think that your statment “skeptics generally assume that all religions are false” follows from logic because not believing something is true is not the same as believing that it’s false. I illustrate this above with the “axe murderer” scenario that someone brough up.Overall, though, I like what you said. I wholeheartedly agree that most of these types of discussions come down to semantics. It really doesn’t make a difference what the word means as long as everyone can agree on it. Unfortunately, “atheist” will always carry with it the tones of “godless heathen” and at least a little antagonism towards the belief in a god, which will not reflect well politically with the multitudes of theist agnostics or even passive/weak atheists.

  97. zuche says

    It is clear cut, despite the human need to complicate things. The ability to distance yourself from intent, as with the example you cite of the mob boss, has little to do with the rights in question. Intention must be proven, or you wind up having to jail ever satirist that ever shows a bad thing happening to any character with remote resemblance to a public figure.The cross example is more clear cut than you make it out to be. The “sympathies” argument falls flat if the closest householder isn’t likely to read the symbol in such a fashion.As for the cleric’s argument, that one’s easily attacked with a little public effort. A little proof of hypocrisy goes a long way.

  98. EdenBunny says

    Actually, the only reason atheists are likely to put that “almost” in there is to avoid silly arguments from people who equate faith with reason. My guess is that, for all practical puposes, she is at least as certain of Allah’s non-existence as she is that she is not the only person who was in Stephen Colbert’s audience on August 24, 2010. Yes, it’s infinitesimally probable that the whole thing was a hallucination, or a false memory, but there’s no reason for her to believe that. Imagine if we had to use that type of prevent-a-nitpicking-argument language in our everyday life. An excerpt from a sample phone conversation:”Let’s go out for dinner tonight.””Sounds like a great idea. Where should we go?””I was thinking the natural foods restaurant.””Which one? There are a few of them around here.””You know, the one two doors down from your building.””Oh, yes, I know which one that is. I’ll pick you up at 7 in front of your office?”Seven’s fine, thanks.””I can’t wait; I’ve lived next door to that place for more than a year, and I never got around to trying their food. I heard their stuffed mushrooms are delicious!”The same conversation segment translated to nit-pick-prevention-speech: “Let’s go out for dinner tonight, if we don’t change our minds and are not otherwise prevented from doing so.””I’m almost sure that sounds like a great idea to me. Where would you like to go?””I’m almost sure that I was thinking I would like to go to the natural foods restaurant.””Which one? I’m almost sure that there are a few of them around here.”“I ‘m almost sure that you will feel that you know which one I’m referring to after I give you what I believe to be a more specific description of its location. I’m almost sure that it’s the one that’s almost certainly two doors down from the building in which I’m almost sure you live.”“Oh, yes, I’m almost sure I know which one that is. I’m almost sure I’ll pick you up at what I’m almost sure is 7:00 pm tonight in front of the office at which I’m almost sure you work.”“I’m almost sure seven’s fine. Thanks, I’m almost sure.”“I almost sure I can’t wait; I’m almost sure I’ve lived what I’m almost sure is two doors down from what I’m almost sure is that place for what I’m almost sure is more than what I’m almost sure is a year, and I’m almost sure I never got around to trying their food. I’m almost sure I heard their stuffed mushrooms are delicious!”(Of course this is just a limited version. A fully nit-pick proof version would allow for the potential inaccuracy of every word, and be infinitely injected with “almost sure” because, after all, you could never be 100% positive that you are indeed almost sure of anything.)

  99. Old Rasputin says

    Brian,I gather that we are largely in agreement here, but I wanted to respond to your thoughts about a priori beliefs. I agree if we’re talking about a deistic god (I forgot “deism” in my laundry list above) that it would truly be a case of ‘a priori.’ This falls into the same category as brain-in-a-vat hypotheses where such prior assumptions are absurd and useless. I assume we are all (theists and atheists alike) truly agnostics in the sense that you outlined above when it comes to deistic gods and brains in vats. I don’t think too many folks who refer to themselves as atheists would bother making probability claims about about deism or be particularly antagonistic to the idea – although I haven’t taken a poll.Now the catch that I see is that all the religions I’m familiar with favor a deity that likes to meddle in the physical world in ways that really ought to be testable. Belief in the god of say, Abraham, implies certain things about the way the world works that simply don’t pan out. So while it may be indefensible to make assumptions about any and all /possible/ gods, making assumptions or probability claims concerning the ones proposed thus far or perhaps any god that is in the habit of violating the laws of physics is not, because it’s not really a priori.And yes, I’m (a little) antagonistic towards belief in gods (not the purely deistic flavor) in the same sense that I would be towards belief in voodoo, leprechauns, or zombies – if only because the last time an undead leprechaun told my fortune by eviscerating a goat, hardly any of his predictions came true.

  100. EdenBunny says

    “Intention must be proven…the “sympathies” argument falls flat if the closest householder isn’t likely to read the symbol in such a fashion.” So intention is proven by what the closest householder is “likely” to believe? “Likely” according to who? What if the closest householder happens to share the same sympathies as the cross burner? Does it then become dependent on the “likely” interpretation of the closest non-cross-burning householder?And I’m still not clear where you stand on the issue of the cleric: Is he guilty of inciting murder or not? If not, then you must grant the same benefit of the doubt at the very least to the first mob boss that I mentioned.(Forgive the sexist language below, but in this case I can use overwhelming statistical incidence as a defense.)If so, which of the cleric’s opinions would you forbid him the right to express? That homosexuals “should” be put to death (in accordance with the holy scriptures of all three Abrahamic religions), or his praise of 9/11 hijackers as heroes? That is, would you limit his right to support a death penalty for what he believes to be worthy of such, or his right to morally support the actions of individuals who carry out what he believes to be a just act? Or would you forbid the right to express both opinions? Or would you allow him either one as long as he doesn’t exercise the other? -Or are you saying that incitement to murder should only be forbidden when it is successful, which can only be proven after the fact, if at all?

  101. EdenBunny says

    Yes, how sleazy of them not to agree with you that Park51 is fully within the bounds of good taste and that there is no reason to have any particular respect for that general area that might involve not using it to glorify the concept for which about 3000 people were killed there.

  102. EdenBunny says

    Porn shops are not tasteless. In fact one can often find within them such tasty things as edible undies, chocolate breast (or penis) shaped lollipops, and vanilla flavored lubricant.More to the point, I can’t recall anybody ever flying planes into buildings in that area in the name of sexual promiscuity.

  103. EdenBunny says

    I don’t know of any mass murders committed in the name of atheism (the difference between an person holding a belief system while committing a crime and committing a crime in the name of that belief system is not an insignificant one. I don’t know why you seem to want to ignore it). As for christianity, I don’t see that mass murders in the name of christianity are recently anywhere near as popular among christians as islamic terrorism is among muslims, both in terms of those who carry it out and those who approve of it (or at least will not publicly condemn it). Most modern christians have evolved past that stage. Maybe, if in the near future, islamists stop committing terrorist acts on a scale that far exceeds that of any other religion, then twenty or thirty years from now, you can reasonably put islam and christianity at approximately the same level of barbarism, but certainly not today. The same holds true for Judaism and probably quite a few other religions as well.Even if you allow your measure of belief-system motivated terrorist activities to include those commited by private individuals in the name of a belief system over the last 40 years, your “trail of tears” turns out to belong mostly to victims of islamists. If you add governments, the islamists still have a considerable share of the market, although communists and perhaps some other forms of statists and state-enabled corporate entities considerably cut into and maybe even eliminate their lead.(And I haven’t even discussed the subject of human rights violations within the culture…)

  104. Aceslady70 says

    I agree they have their rights as well. Someone wanted us to post a thing on our fbhomepage saying no to the mosque. I personally don’t agree with their ways. I am wiccan and wouldn’t want my right questioned or stopped.

  105. EdenBunny says

    “Again, I would not stop them, legally, from having the right to do what they wish…”Certainly you would- you just would not stop them, legally, from having the right to do any part of it which doesn’t violate the rights of others. Usually, that qualification can be assumed, but after you point out that the religion is “so outwardly violent and cruel to women”, simply saying they have the right to do what they wish sounds like the old concept that police shouldn’t get involved in domestic disputes. Now, the lines get a little gray; a woman has a right to wear a hijab by choice, but if the religion (or its culture) condones honor killing (or even just beating) of those who refuse to wear it, how do you safeguard a woman’s right to dress either way as she pleases? (The same principle applies to sharia courts as arbitration.) Short of Orwellian levels of privacy invasion, there are two basic ways of dealing with such a problem; neither solves it.One is basically to ignore it and take the “don’t get involved in internal disputes” approach. The drawbacks are obvious, but the other non-Orwellian approach is even worse.The other is to forbid what barbaric culture demands; outlaw the hijab and the woman who dislikes it not only has the law more strongly on her side, she is also likely to gain more sympathy and even perhaps more leniency from her community. But there are two big problems with this approach. Obviously, the potential argument that the rights of a woman who wishes to wear the hijab are being violated; true or not, the appearance of truth is enough to undermine the law.More importantly, the response of some hijab enforcers to such a law would be to create something just short of the hijab and demand that the women in their culture wear it, thereby rendering the law almost pointless. For the sake of a name let’s call it hijab2. The only way (short of Orwellian means) to continue to protect the freedom of the woman who wishes not to wear hijab2 is to outlaw that as well. Next, hijab3, its prohibition, hijab4, etc. Eventually, by law, all women must wear low cut tops and mini-skirts. As we all know from Jen’s experiment, this would result in a severe disruption of space-time, preceded by a major earthquake two months earlier.More to the point, somewhere along the journey from original hijab to two tassles and a thong, the adverse affects on women’s rights resulting from the legal coercion dwarf those from the original cultural coercion. This defeats the purpose of the legal coercion.

  106. EdenBunny says

    You’re “not sure” you agree with me on this, but are you anywhere near certain that you don’t? This is not evolution vs. creationism.You “think it’s pretty clear” that building a structure specifically designed to support one or more belief systems that include condemning homosexuals and blasphemers to death doesn’t qualify as an expression of hatred. Again, are you anywhere near certain it doesn’t?Perhaps the lines are just a little bit fuzzier on closer examination?The reason I gave the cross-burning and other examples that I chose is specifically because they are so well-defined that most would consider them clear cut, and yet even so, they have some ambiguity.The building of anything that will house the moral support of any Abrahamic religion is already far closer to the middle of the gray area. The fact that the 9/11 terrorists acted in the name of religion, and more specifically, Islam, the fact that Ground Zero is only a couple of blocks away from the site, the fact that the financial sources for its construction are undisclosed and yet apparently assured, the fact that the project was initially named for a conquered colony rather than for its supposed concept of peace or tolerance, and some other things that Zuhdi Jasser points out, put Park51 well outside of the “clearly benign” category. As for the WBC, they’re only saying publicly and abrasively what a lot of other churches (not just hardcore fundamentalists) are saying more gently and/or behind closed doors. (Tim Minchin’s “I love Jesus” springs to mind…) Take away the anti-semitic rhetoric, and you can include some synagogues too. As for mosques, well, at least one or two of them could be included in the same category….

  107. Fogzie says

    Great, great, great article. I definetly agree, defend the right to say what you want, to believe what you want. But I also, fiercly, put every religious cocksucker on an island and oops what does this shiny red button do? Trigger a nuke? SEVERAL nukes?! Oh let’ go to town baby. The world would be a much better placeI mean seriously, 21st centuary and people are still believing that superstitious hookus pookus? What a joke… We should have evolved a second brain by now, conjuring up new new ideas, inventing new stuff, realizing new philosophies. Yet it feels 9/10 of the worlds population consist of retards… Pathetic. At least it’s nice that some people are semi-enlightened

  108. Noone says

    on one hand you defend the right of the muslims to build what and where they want but condem the christian for protesting in the way he wants. You can’t have it both ways…either everybody has the same rights or nobody does.I think the dove outreach protest is stupid and counterproductive but it is their right to do so. I also think that build the mosque on that site is stupid and counterproductive after all the public outcry (they will constantly have problems with protesters and probably some violence) but they have the same right to be stupid like everyone else.

  109. Newyork_3 says

    I agree with you that the dove outreach is stupid, but i dont agree with your opinion that it is their right to do so. What if Muslims tried to burn our American flag? Would you still say that it is their right to do so? No. Because the flag means something to us. (plus it is illegal to burn it). What you dont realize is that the Quran is holy to Muslims… they love it and cherish it more than you could ever grasp. It is powerful and deeply meaningful to them. I have a Muslim friend who speaks of the Quran with utter most respect, as if it were his family member.How dare we burn something that valuable to them?!?!! How dare we even think it? I am ashamed of us, using ancient methods of threats and revenge such as burning belongings to prove a point!!Some Muslims value their religion and the Quran more than their lives.. How would the act of burning that differentiate us from terrorists??

  110. Tabula rasta says

    m/{{{>_<}}}Allah is Jehova is the God of Abraham.There is only one God. Irie, Rastafari.The whole world is our country, our Fatherland, because all mankind are born it’s citizens. We are all Brothers & Sisters because One, ever-loving, Eternal Father is our God. We are all-One or none.

  111. roger says

    It is true that sharia law is practiced within the Muslim religion and that it appears oppressive to certain individuals. But sharia law is not the law of the land in the US. It only applies to Muslims. Any adult in the US has the right to accept or reject sharia law. Any “oppressed” female in the Muslim faith has the inalienable right to leave the Muslim religion without fear of legal implication. They don’t get that everywhere.

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