18 Responses

  1. Smart man. People should feel free to criticize all they want, but if they don’t do it in good faith and from a position where they know what they’re talking about they should be disregarded as the ignorant demagogues that they are.

  2. liza

    PUTTING MY MONEY on @rezaaslan against @SamHarrisOrg AND AM AN ATHEIST!!! why? whitemansplaining atheists dont represent me. EVER.

  3. Matt C.

    @blogdiva That’s a good highlight, but the full interview is totally worth watching. @cenkuygur is a fantastic interviewer.

  4. Watch “this debate on C-Span” to see how much more sophisticated Reza Aslan’s thinking is than Sam Harris’s is. It really opened up my eyes about the nature of religion and its role in culture, politics, and conflict. I used to think all war was, at its core, about religion, but now I see that both are about identity. I read Reza Aslan’s books Zealot, about the historical Jesus, as well as No god but God, about Islam, in relation to the amazing opening of relations between the US and Iran last November on my blog – “Imagine: Religion as Social Reform – Reza Aslan, Iran, and Religious Faith” .

  5. The best debates on Harris, Maher bigotry being examined are at Cenk Uygars Young Turks. Available on you tube What is the Root of Violence – Religion or Other Factors …

    Video for Cenk Uygur on Maher and Harris bigotry exposed► 19:42► 19:42

    link to youtube.com Also at Professor Juan Cole’s website Informed Comment Islamophobia: Is Sam Harris As Dangerous As Sarah Palin …
    Juan Cole
    4 days ago – “”Whether you think him a truth-teller or a bigot, Bill Maher deserves

    Is Sam Harris As Dangerous As Sarah Palin?

    “Whether you think him a truth-teller or a bigot, Bill Maher deserves credit for launching one of the most robust…


  6. He complains about people not being well versed in what they are criticising, whilst also effectively admitting within the same four minutes that he is not well versed in harris’s viewpoints.

    He nevertheless promotes a negative straw-man along with silly mannerisms and voices.

    Not to mention that he himself has waded into issues that werent directly covered by his own education.

    link to firstthings.com

    • Reza Aslan has a Master of Theological Studies degree from Harvard Divinity School. The aticle you link to says, “if Aslan’s Ph.D. is the basis to scholarly credentials, he could plausibly claim to be an expert on social movements in 20th century Islam”. How could his credentials possibly be more relevant to the topic at hand?!.

  7. One can explain away by some logic or another every monster person or extreme religion nor bad system of gov….as prof cole does much the time,nor does cole allow any views he deems as negative to his positions

  8. When scientists make assertions, we should first ask whether or not the claim they’re making is a scientific conclusion. Science deals with material entities. Since it’s selective, it cannot say whether its account of reality is complete. So, we should listen to what scientists say about the effects of global warming. But, when they talk about atheism, we know they’re just stating their beliefs.

  9. I have a theory about these cycles of seeming barbarism and civilization alternating between the Christian and Moslem world over the centuries. And it’s pretty alarming.

    When the Christians were fending off the superior Islamic civilization of the Middle Ages, you could argue that the rational thing for Christians to do was surrender, since they’d likely have ended up with a higher standard of living. The superstition, bigotry and violence of the Catholic church rejected that rational argument and rallied ordinary Christians to the defense of their corrupt and incompetent elites. The Moslems, on the other hand, were confident about their march of progress, and could afford to have “liberal” things like law by precedent (which an Ottoman caliph terminated), universities, science, etc.

    Now you might see where this is going. After various blows reversed this struggle, the West began conquering the Islamic world, but at the same time gained confidence and optimism in human reason freed of the tyranny of the Church. Logic says that the conquered Moslems should have simply surrendered to, say, the attempted conversion of Algeria into a French province.

    But they didn’t. They fought, and they are fighting, and the longer the fight goes on, the more the fighters look to a mythical past for inspiration, as Medieval Christians looked to Christian Rome as an inspiration. The more it’s necessary to patrol the borders of thought and behavior to prevent defections, the more theocracy serves to rally and aggregate young warriors across artificial borders.

    If true, the cycle might not turn when the Moslems get better, but when us Christians get worse. Which I contend is already well under way. America is to the Christian capitalist world what Haroun al-Rashid’s Baghdad was to the Islamic world, and it’s already in economic and cultural decline in its heartland.

    Of course, a new civilizational player is entering the game in China, which has its own agendas for both sides and a vast pile of cash.

  10. Aslan’s view of religion is pretty vapid. For him, religion is just cultural identity and shared memes. In that regard, I could claim that YouTube memes represent a district religious language and culture.

    Religion must be practiced to be religion. If you don’t attend church, don’t read or believe the scriptures, don’t perform or adhere to any religious rituals, but merely call yourself a Christian or Muslim, how is this an interesting intellectual viewpoint on religion?

    Aslan said he can’t believe atheists would say people don’t take their religion seriously, but Church attendance in the Western world has been going way down. And while lots of people claim to be Christian, few of them attend church regularly, pray, read scripture, or follow rituals. That’s what I’d call not taking your religion serious, and simply treating it as a sports team. That’s what Harris means, if you’re totally ignorant of Christianity, and call yourself a Christian, it’s about as relevant as me calling myself a 49’ers fan, because I grew up in SF, but barely ever watch football.

    Moreover, Aslan said he doesn’t care what people think, only what their actions are. Really? If we polled and found that 95% of Americans think gays and blacks should be subjugated and beaten, but are not acting on it yet, we have no cause for concern? I’d say gays and blacks should have every reason to worry, because people’s beliefs lead to biases, which lead to actions, like discrimination and real violence. That’s why polls of religion people worry people like Maher and Harris.

    When white, southern, republicans are polled, or something is said on Fox news, progressive commentators, the very liberals calling Maher and Harris bigots, have no problem painting the whole South as a bunch of ignorant, racist rednecks. The Young Turks have covered lots of worrying polls about repugnant views of conservatives, and have no problem generalizing in those cases. Let’s be honest, this has nothing to do with the religion itself, and everything to do with the feeling that those criticizing Islam are engaging in a form of cultural racism against economically and politically repressed groups.

    The idea that you need to be an expert on world religions in order to criticize obviously immoral, bad, or wrong ideas is absurd. No one needs to be an expert to point out much of the flaws in the Old Testament of Quran, especially those that disagree with modern science, or those that disagree with modern ethics.

    It doesn’t matter what people though ‘truth’ was before the Enlightenment, I don’t care that 5000 years ago, had not only bad science, but bad logic. It doesn’t justify the applicability of the beliefs to todays world and it doesn’t hand-wave away the flaws in the books. As Cenk said in the interview, why do we need this language based on known wrongs when we can create a new language based on post-Enlightenment ideas. As Harris points out, one can be spiritual without needing organized religion or scripture. Humans create spontaneous shared language and culture _all the time_ effortlessly to share experiences. We don’t need Christianity, Judaism, or Islam for that, they offer nothing special.

    I’ve lost more respect for Aslan after this interview than before. When he speaks to the causes of violence, like professor Cole, I agree. I don’t think Islam is the root cause of terrorism, ISIS is simply ‘weaponizing’ it, when it’s real root is the loss in power and position the Sunnis took post-Iraq war. That’s perfectly agreeable, and Harris I think is only partially right about the effects of religion. It makes an effective weapon, but weapons don’t start wars, politics does.

    But on religion, Aslan is completely non-sensical. He has created a vacuous theory of religion so wishy-washy and malleable, that he can himself claim to be a Muslim, even though he acknowledges he’s a non-believer.

    If that ain’t taking your religions seriously, than what is.


  11. Where the analogy fails for me is that religion is based on some set of axioms that is accepted by a faith, not universal; language is something that every human acquires as it is part of our circuitry. One can have language without religion. One cannot have religion without language.

    There is also a question of the distinction between a religion and a cult. I would be curious to learn how Prof. Aslan would characterize the difference. The implications for society are enormous: religions are afforded a form of credibility based on leap of faith. Cults, whatever they are, are not. What makes something a religion instead of a cult other than quantity of people who have been taught to adhere to that leap of faith?

  12. Azlan paints religion as a complex of symbols by which humans communicate. Okay, then, what are they communicating? Does “Jesus has risen” or “Muhammad is the prophet of God” symbolize something else, other than Jesus and Muhammad? If so, what? (Cue Jungian analysis.) On the other hands, if such utterances are meant as direct utterances, then it is indeed possible for religious statements to be right or wrong, true or false.

    In fact, while religion is not just one thing, it typically serves as a collection of group identity markers (which is the real reason that an “individual religion” seems inauthentic). Such identities only make sense in contrast to other group identities.

    As an aside, let’s not get distracted by who has what kind of doctorate–let their arguments stand or fall on their own.

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