Posts Tagged ‘islam


What is your opinion of “Burn the Koran” day?

For those who are not aware, Terry Jones, a Florida pastor and author of the book “Islam is of the Devil,” has declared September 11th to be International Burn a Koran day, and claims to have been inspired by another recently created “awareness holiday,” Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. (WARNING: Linked page contains images of the prophet Mohammed!)

Someone asked for my take on this recently, and I thought it would be an appropriate topic of discussion for this blog.

First, I’m always skeptical of any kind of bold public statement made by someone who has a book out. It almost always seems like shameless self-promotion to me. I don’t want to leave out the possibility that this is all just an effort to move a product, and nothing more.

That said, there are two different issues that I feel need to be discussed here – burning the Koran (or any book) and drawing Mohammed (or anything else).

First, burning books: I’m against it. I don’t care if it’s the Koran, the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, Going Rogue, or The Origin of Species; burning books is one of the greatest acts of fearful ignorance that I can imagine. It is a throwback from a more primitive time, when anything that made the villagers nervous had to be destroyed with fire – and that occasionally included other villagers.

We are smarter than that now. We really shouldn’t be burning books anymore, and those who still have those urges should be embarrassed over them, not displaying them proudly. It makes us look stupid when we do it, and I really wish people wouldn’t participate in it.

But, it is free speech. And because it is, I support anyone’s right to do it.

Now for the second bit – the one about drawing Mohammed, and how such activity could inspire something like Burn a Koran Day. Since I am an artist, you can probably guess where I’m going to go with this one.

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day was inspired by the reaction to depictions of Mohammed on an episode of South Park and in political comics in newspapers and magazines. Devout Muslims have issued death threats against artists for drawing their prophet – an act forbidden by certain Islamic texts (but not the Koran).

As I have said in previous posts here, I support anyone’s freedom to believe as they wish, and follow any rules that those beliefs may include, as long as those rules do not involve harming others.

But you don’t get to try to force me to follow those rules, too. I can make all of the graven images I like (and I do, daily) because your religious rules do not apply to me.

It is an act of independence, not of ignorance.  An act of creation, not destruction. That’s the difference.

So, to recap: Burning books is stupid and shameful, but in the end, I support it as free speech. Drawing Mohammed is an act of independence from rules that should not be enforced against nonbelievers, and is nothing at all like burning books.

(Now that I’ve written all of this out, I have been thinking that this September 11th, the greatest act of independence from both Dove Ministries and Islamic fundamentalism that I could do would be to read some of the Koran along with some skeptical analysis of it, at the Skeptic’s Annotated Quran.)


How do you feel about the controversy over the mosque at Ground Zero?

For those who may not know about the story: There is a big controversy brewing in the United States right now regarding the possibility of a mosque being built on the former site of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed by terrorists on September 11th, 2001. Some have suggested that since the terrorists were Islamic, this act could be seen as a sort of religious “conquest.”

As it turns out, this is yet another case of the American public having an incorrect view of reality, which has been aided by a news media that isn’t very interested in setting the facts straight (after all, rationality doesn’t sell as much cat food and laundry detergent as outrage does).

Here are some facts on this issue:

1. The “Ground Zero Mosque” isn’t slated to be built at Ground Zero (or, the former site of the World Trade Center). It is two blocks away.

2. The “Ground Zero Mosque” isn’t a stand-alone building, nor is it even a mosque. It will be a prayer room contained in a community center.

3. There is already a mosque built closer to the WTC that no one seems to have any sort of issue with whatsoever.

Now, for my opinion. I’m not comfortable with the government deciding which religions can build  holy sites and which cannot. That act goes against our Constitution. If they were to decide that no religious buildings were permitted at all, then that would be as reasonable as permitting any of them. So if there’s going to be a ban, then they must ban everything – mosques, churches, synagogues, temples, you name it.

A few folks who are much smarter than myself have made some excellent points on this issue. In the New York Times, Dick Cavett had the following to say:

“What other churches might be objectionable because of the horrific acts of some of its members? Maybe we shouldn’t have Christian churches in the South wherever the Ku Klux Klan operated because years ago proclaimed white Christians lynched blacks. How close to Hickam Field, at Pearl Harbor, should a Shinto shrine be allowed? I wonder how many of our young people — notorious, we are told, for their ignorance of American history — would be surprised that Japanese-Americans had lives and livelihoods destroyed when they were rounded up during World War II? Should all World War II service memorials, therefore, be moved away from the sites of these internment camps? Where does one draw the line?”

The only point I would add to Mr. Cavett’s comment is this: The Murrah Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed by Christian terrorists. Are there churches near that site? If so, we should tear them down before we start restricting mosques at Ground Zero.


Would the world be a better place without religion?

(This is the 11th question in Brett Keane’s Atheist Challenge)

Would the world be a better place without religion?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: As someone who loves artistic expression, humanism, and scientific discovery, it would be common for most folks to say something along the lines of “What about all of the great things that people have done when inspired by religion?”

Things like:
– Assisting the poor, sick, and homeless at home and abroad
– Building beautiful churches and cathedrals
– Inspiring and commissioning incredible paintings, sculptures, and symphonies
– Promoting scientific discovery and knowledge (particularly during the Golden Age of Islam)
– The hope that religious belief brings to so many people

While I appreciate all of these things, I can’t help but think of two points:

1. All of these things can – and DO – happen without any religion as part of the equation. None of them require a belief in any deity. People would still help others out of the goodness of their hearts, artists, composers, and architects would ply their crafts with just as much passion, and scientific knowledge and discovery would have advanced much further than it has today.

2. This meager list is terribly imbalanced by the great amount of wrong done in the name of religion:

– The witch trials in both Europe and the early US colonies
– The Crusades
– The Inquisition
– Any other religious incursion
– The Taliban, and other theocracies
– The Catholic/protestant wars in Ireland
– The subjugation and physical and emotional abuse of women in any belief system that treats them as second-class citizens (or worse).
– September 11th, 2001, and every other religiously-motivated suicide bombing, big or small
– The recent Ugandan bill to allow the execution of homosexuals and AIDS victims, inspired by books against homosexuality written by American evangelicals
– Rampant (often violent) homophobia, occasionally spouted by closeted homosexuals (Ted Haggard and many others)
– The Westboro Baptist Church
– The Klan and other Christian Identity hate groups
– The Library of Alexandria (if you are unfamiliar with this story, I strongly encourage you to look it up.)
– The Holocaust (Despite what you’ve been told, Hitler was not an atheist, and used his belief in God to justify his holocaust – consider these quotes from him before propagating that myth any further.)
– The Catholic Church’s handling of the pedophile priest scandal
– General religious intolerance and discrimination of any degree
– Satanic panic, and the lives that it ruins
– Parents denying health care for their children because their god would rather be prayed to for assistance
– Megachurches (and the people they bankrupt), faith healers (and the real harm that they do), resurrectionists (yes, there are present-day preachers who claim to raise the dead), prosperity preachers (buy their new books!), and Benny Hinn (redundant, I guess, but I didn’t want to leave him out)
– Willful ignorance, lies, and fear of scientific knowledge and discovery, even in the present day (see Ben Stein’s “Expelled”, Ray Comfort, Ken Hamm, Kent Hovind, the Dover trial, and the Creation Institute for more)

…should I go on, or is that enough?

It is true that people will do good or bad without religion. There were great atrocities committed by atheists – Stalin and Pol Pot are two that are always trotted out in these types of discussions. But they just happened to be nonbelievers – they didn’t commit their atrocities in the name of atheism, the way that Hitler believed that he was doing his god’s work. Likewise, there are racial and homophobic hate groups that have nothing to do with any religious belief.

But all of the above is the product of useless superstition, and we would have been much better off without all of it. Taking religion away doesn’t completely take away terrible ideas and deeds, but it does give us less reason to partake in them.

As for the hope and joy that religion brings to so many – I’ve personally found a neverending supply of both from a real, tangible source. Like Soylent Green, it’s made out of people. 

And it’s an awesome buzz, man. You should try it sometime


What religion is the most dangerous in your eyes, today and in the past?

(This is the 8th question in Brett Keane’s Atheist Challenge)

What religion is the most dangerous in your eyes, today and in the past?

Islam, easily, through sheer power of  numbers and fanatic devotion. It’s difficult to choose any other, in light of recent historical events, such as the September 11th attacks, the actions of the Taliban, the Danish cartoon riots (and the more recent attack on the cartoonist), and much, much more.

That wasn’t always the case, however. Historically, Islam brought us much in the way of knowledge and exploration, before it retreated into fear and superstition. In the past, it was Christianity that brought us the crusades. the inquisition, the witch trials, and much, much more.

Both religions have brought us so much knowledge, discovery, and beauty, but at a great, great cost – and there seems to be a cycle that eventually turns them to ignorance and fear of the things they used to promote.

I am an atheist, a person who does not believe in the existence of any gods.

Many people don't know a lot about atheists, and have questions about them. In this blog, I do my best to answer them, to help build an understanding between atheists and theists.

Do you have a question? You can post it in the comments to any of my blog entries, and I will do my best to answer it in a new entry.