Thursday, January 8, 2015

What is wrong with Islam? Five views.

[This was originally posted on September 1, 2010. This is actually the second time I have reposted it. It seems, to me, to be more painfully relevant now .....]

1. Religion = Bad
All religions are both irrational and intolerant, and they all have a natural tendency toward totalitarianism. All religions are, therefore, ultimately incompatible with humanist values, with liberal democracy, and with the ideals of individual liberty and human equality. At most, Islam is simply a worst case scenario, but the negative characteristics of Islam are shared with all religions, if to a lesser extent.
Proponents: Atheists, Agnostics, Secular Humanists [This position was formerly that of most of the Left, but nowadays leftists are among the most loyal apologists for Islam.]

2. "Islam is retarded."
Islam is uniquely irrational and intolerant, and its tendency toward totalitarianism sets it apart from other religions. Christianity, on the other hand, is especially compatible with, and in fact helped to give rise to, humanism, democracy and the ideals of equality and liberty.
Proponents: Geert Wilders, Sarah Palin, etc.

3. The Three Impostors theory
All monotheistic religions have their origins in totalitarian designs. In particular, Moses, Jesus & Mohammad were "grand masters of the art of trickery" whose sole motivation was the desire "to oblige the people to submit to them." The teachings of these "Three Impostors" have been cynically perpetuated down through the ages by "the ambitious" who used religion to accomplish "the propagation and perpetuity of their laws, as well as the culture of such ceremonies and fanaticism as they deemed proper to establish." [Quotes taken from]
Proponents: Variously ascribed to Friederich II, Averroes, Michael Servetus, Machiavelli, Rabelais, Erasmus, Milton, Giordano Bruno, Boccaccio, Gassendi, Spinoza, etc. The overall argument is similar to those found in the Enlightenment critiques of Christianity penned by Voltaire, Hume, Paine and Gibbon, and also to the writings of contemporary Egyptologist and historian of religion Jan Assmann.

4. The Evil Twins theory
As tempting as it is to classify the monotheisms together as above, it seems, at least to me, to be an outrage against common decency to lump the Jews together in this way with those who have expended so much energy to exterminate them. And I think there is also a need to give far greater weight to the practice of intolerance than to merely theorizing about it. We should look first to the historical record, according to which there can be no doubt that Christianity and Islam form their own aberrant subset of violently intolerant religions - religions that leave a bloody trail of smoking destruction everywhere they go. Having established this category on the basis of objective facts, we can then look to the "teachings", such as they are, of these Evil Twins, to better understand their behavior.
Proponents: Yours Truly

5. What is wrong with Islam? Nothing. And you are a vile bigot for even asking.
Islam is the Religion of Peace. It is not a mosque and it is not at Ground Zero. Arbeit macht frei. We will be greeted as liberators. The public was never in danger. It's morning again in America. We are the ones we have been waiting for. The smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud. Universal home ownership. With the Big Mind Process, a genuine kensho can occur in about an hour—seriously. Remember the Maine. We believe the products we make are not injurious to health. We have always been at war with Eastasia. Land Bread Peace.
Proponents: Karen Armstrong, Barack Obama, etc.

See also:
The Essence of Religion: Four Theories
Are there two kinds of religion?
Good Fences Make Good Religions?
Religions of the Library

[The "NEVER take your freedoms for granted" graphic was snagged from, a right-wing website that promotes position #2 above.]


Arturo Vasquez said...

I wouldn't be so quick to exclude Judaism, at least in its Zionist manifestation. Seems like a whole lot of belligerent rhetoric going on in terms of the occupation of Palestine has deep religious roots.

Denis said...

Apuleus Platonicus,
>>an outrage against common decency to lump the Jews together in this way with those who have expended so much energy to exterminate them.

That's a confusing statement. Is the article about religion or people? Since it has the word 'Islam' and not 'Muslims' in the title, I presume it's about religion. If so, it is not Jews, but Judaism that is classified, and then your theory is inconsistent. A religion is judged by what it teaches. Its practitioners can be all sorts of people unless you believe in collective guilt.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

In my opinion actions speak louder than words. Merely having an attitude of intolerance only makes a person, or a group, obnoxious, but nothing more. It is something else altogether when there is active persecution.

It is absolutely correct to criticize any religion that teaches intolerance. But far greater condemnation should be reserved for religions that engage in acts of violence against other religions.

And whether we are talking about theory or practice one has to distinguish what is exceptional from what is the rule.

NorseAlchemist said...

I'm actually gonna come down on the side of #3.

I can see where Apeleius is coming from in regards to the Jews, but having studied a little of the history of the Israelite and their religion I'm gonna have to still go with #3. The fact that the Hebrews have suffered in the last Two thousand years at the hands of Christians and Muslims, doesn't invalidate thousands of years before that in which they slaughtered pagans, enforced their laws on everyone in their territories, committed genocide, and practiced the art of forced conversions on pagans in their area.

Judaism, in its own way, is as totalitarian as Christianity and Islam. While the last two thousand years have shown Jews to be widely tolerant and peaceful, they had their fair share of ambitious and tyrannical leaders in the past. Enough for me to feel that theory is correct.

Doesn't hurt that most of the proponents for the theory listed strike me as the smartest men of their day.

mamiel said...

I find the "Evil Twins" theory fascinating. I also struggle with how to catagorize Judaism because theoretically it is the origin of the revealed religion madness and the promoter of the Abraham and Moses that laid the blueprint for Jesus and Mohammed (we all know where that has gotten us).

Yet in practice I just don't see Judaism as a force of destruction or regression in the world. Jews and Hindus lived together peacefully in India without incident. For thousands of years, no less.

Yes, when I am confronted with images of rabid Israeli settlers antagonizing their Palestinian neighbors I feel like I get a tiny taste of what a dangerous fanatic Judaism could look like.

I really dislike those settlers but I don't see them in the same way that I see the fanatic christians and muslims of the world. Maybe I see them more akin to ultranationist Hindu activists- people who have been pushed to the brink of annihilation by Christian and Islamic fanaticism and who are responding in kind.

The only Jewish state in the world has managed to uphold representative democracy, freedom of the press, and equality for women and sexual minorities. If only Islamic nations could boast the same commitment to equality!

Katy Anders said...

I'm not sure. My default is sort of #3, but there are problems with it.

I do tend to throw Islam into the same basket as a faith as Judaism, and the current political situation does not change that because the current political situation doesn't seem similar to most of the history of the last 1300 years when it comes to the relationship of Islam and Judaism.

Throughout most of Islam's history - up to 1948 - Jews and Muslims appear to have had no worse a relationship and probably a better relationship than Christians did with either group.

The problem, then, might be a dual one:

1) Cultural issues involving the Arab people themselves. I mean, Islam certainly did NOT add an unknown violence or misogyny to the Arabian peninsula. Those things were already very much there in as bad if not a worse form.

This obviously would not address "problems" in non-Arab parts of the Muslim world. I do think that Islam remains "Arab-flavored" everywhere it goes in some way, just as Christianity remains "Jewish-flavored" in some ways everywhere it goes.

2) Global politics. Centuries of colonizations, invasions, overthrows of leader after leader, etc. have worked to create a oppression mentality.

I don't think it is monotheism itself. Seems like it could be more about a literalist monotheism that has combined with the civil government to enforce to tenets of the faith.

And that milieu in which Islam appeared, which hasn't changed all that much from the Bedouin tribes of the 700's.

I don't know...

Mary said...

Another riposte might be:

Everything changes, and everything stays the same.

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.