QOTD: Reza Aslan
This interview with Jesse Singal is excellent:
... someone like Sam Harris or Bill Maher sees religion as defining people of faith, their values, their motivations, and I see people as defining their religion.I agree with Aslan. And I would guess most other atheists do as well. We know too many religious people of different faiths for whom religion is just one part of who they are and who are completely balanced, tolerant, open and often evolving in their interpretation of their faith not to. I also know atheists who take a fundamentalist point of view and are totally intolerant of any challenge to their worldview. To me, this is so glaringly obvious that I wouldn't think it had to be discussed. I could not comfortably live in this world as an atheist if I believed that all people of faith were all defined by their religion.
I guess what surprises me the most is that some atheists of all people have taken on a medieval worldview that organizes the world by religion and sees it as some kind of apocalyptic battle to the end. It's not the 14th century guys. We know more stuff now. There is more to human behavior than religions belief. A lot more. (And, by the way, I don't say that purely from an American centric point of view where we're all allegedly so pluralistic and tolerant. I've lived all over the world and traveled extensively. I've found this to be true everywhere I've gone. People's people.)
The whole interview is essential reading. To assume that the religion itself is the reason rather than the excuse for this violent extremism is to miss the point entirely. There are reasons and we'd damned well better figure out what they are and do our best to deal with this thing in a way that makes sense. Fighting the "religion" is completely daft. What are we going to do, follow Bill Maher's pal Ann Coulter's advice to "invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity?" That's what it will take. (By the way the second half of Coulter's comment is often forgotten: "We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war." Is it?)
I find this whole discussion condemning the whole of "Islam" truly disturbing. It's not only offensive, it's as dangerous as the terrorism itself. We are a very powerful country and can do terrible damage if we decide to wage a holy war like this. But we are not invulnerable. To create even more enemies out of ignorance and bigotry is scary. No, it's insane.