The Wrong Way to Challenge Islam December 12, 2011

The Wrong Way to Challenge Islam

It’s always a touchy subject when atheists go after Islam.

Not because we shouldn’t — Islam has the same level of credibility every other religion does: none. It’s the same type of superstition and nonsense you find in other faiths, mixed in with a few nuggets of wisdom that its proponents love to promote. Islamic extremists have obviously taken their interpretation of the Koran to horrific lengths, but extremists in any faith or dogma are capable of atrocities.

So of course we should continue arguing against faulty beliefs, no matter what they are. (I say this as someone who’s promoted drawing Muhammad in the name of free speech. Twice.)

It’s a touchy subject because people have to be very careful that they don’t stereotype all followers of Islam as if they’re all extremists. Our society does a terrible job of this. Atheists, especially when they’re “leaders” among us, ought to know better than to fall into that trap.

That’s the mistake made by Ernest Perce V, the Pennsylvania State Director of American Atheists in a recent Facebook post:

I will say to you Islam, “I do not respect your filthy, repugnant, and vile views. I will not allow you put fear in my mind or those whom I know! I will not be silent with my disdain and disgust for your culture or your terroristic ways. I am an American Atheist, and I am not afraid to deal with you openly and in the same manner that I treat christianity. I am not afraid to publicly blaspheme your pedophile prophet Mohammed of Islam. I will do this on a corner, in a crowd or a parade! While so many others draw mohammed, I am Mohammed in open public! Am I worried about being attacked or death threats? I’m more worried that if I stay silent that the energy and emotion within me will be worse to me than being attacked or even death threats! So do your worst and I will do mine.”
Ernest Perce V, PA State Director

Oh boy. You think all Muslims are terrorists? You don’t think many Muslims oppose (and actively fight against) cultural “norms” such as honor killings? Does this AA State Director really represent other AA members in Pennsylvania?

I mean, more power to him for having the courage to openly treat Islam as we atheists treat most other faiths, but keep the finger pointed at the faith itself, not every single believer of it.

At least John Shook of the Center for Inquiry didn’t hold back in his response:

From a state director, apparently endorsed by American Atheists, Inc. (Official). Irresponsible hatred and bigoted racism towards a billion people? Check. Know-nothing atheism rearing its ugly head again? Check. There are more dignified and civil ways to defend civil society, surely. Those who would teach others the value of free speech should use it for something better than this.

And people wonder why atheist public relations is so difficult…. brought to you by folks unconcerned for the public reputations of anyone save themselves. Atheists “doing their worst” shouldn’t require descending to their target’s level. And we wonder why atheists aren’t generally trusted? I wouldn’t trust someone so motivated by hatred, either.

Yes. That. Allllllllll of that.

Even worse than hatred is hatred motivated by ignorance. Atheists ought to be the first people who look for evidence to challenge our own beliefs and Perce’s claims are so goddamn easy to disprove…

I want to hear an apology from him. A real one, too, not one of those that begins, “If I offended anyone…”

I emailed him last night about this and I’ll update this post if/when I hear back…

(Thanks to Greg for the link.)

***Update***: Ernest has responded (via email):

To all those offended by my recent statement of Islam on a public radio show and american atheists wall, I say, “if people put a gram of shit on an APPLE PIE it’s still a shitty pie.” No matter how you dress islam up it is still shit! That’s right, I said what I mean and mean what I said. Islam is shit and so is their pedophile prophet mohammed!

So, yeah, I think he learned his lesson…

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Needs a little less hatred and a little more reason.

  • Jen

    That’s his response? Hooooooo boy.

  • Issues…

  • Anonymous

    Would reason have saved that woman in Saudi Arabia who was beheaded for practicing magic and sorcery?

  • ara

    If we’re going to recognize that not all people of Islamic faith are raging fundie assholes, then surely we should do the same for christians…

    but any time someone (usually a christian) points out that not all christians are copies of Rick Perry or some other raging fundie asshole, the other people in this community shout them down.

    the post about “i’m christian unless your gay” article comes to mind as a recent example of this

  • Jen


  • John Purcell

    In another country, maybe. But not in Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International has called on that country to stop all executions. Didn’t help, and AI tends to be a voice for reason.

  • William Garvey

    Although I wish that atheists would criticize religions beyond Christianity more often, that’s pretty over the top.  There’s plenty of legit criticism to throw at Islam as a belief structure and the impact of Sharia overseas, but the vast majority of Muslims themselves are fine people and upstanding citizens.  Show a little more respect to your fellow human beings (regardless of beliefs).

  • Ben

    Ok, so AA should fire him. Can you email David Silverman for a comment?

  • Greg

    Looks like the page admins deleted his post. Good call. Full freedom of speech on your own account, but when representing an organization your words need to reflect their positions and voice. Hopefully they took the mic away from this guy for good, with that nasty response to those questioning his original words he clearly has the makings of a nightmare spokesperson.

  • Jen

    People don’t instantly start using reason just because you tell them to. But if people in Saudi Arabia *did* act reasonably, there would be no justification for beheading a woman for practicing magic. Thus, reason would have saved that woman.

  • Richard Larsson

    I don’t see the problem with the first statement?

    Christianity is a vile and horrible religion that supports slavery and mass murder. Islam is a foul and ugly religion that supports pedophilia and terrorism. Christianity and Islam sucks.

    Now. Did I call every Christian a mass murderer? Did I call every Muslim a pedophile? Must every Christian support slavery from my statement? Is every Muslim a terrorist if my statement is true?

    The answer is NO!!! (with the capital letters and multitude of exclamation marks). You know why? Because those are statements about the ideas not the people. I am thankful everyday that Christians and Muslims don’t know what the hell it is that they are calling themselves. If Christians and Muslims started to kill people as readily as their religions claim they should, this world would be less fun.

    What you seem to want, Hemant, is to play on some feelings of guilt that may occur if people that can’t read see the statement linked herein. It is bloody fine to offend people if they can’t read. And it is outright good to offend religious ideas in any way you wish.

  • Anonymous

    This is sheer hysteria on the part Mr. “Perce.” It is not a critique of Islam, it’s not useful satire, it’s just yelling. I’m glad you’re making the distinction between the doctrines of the faith and its practitioners, Hemant. Insofar as Muslims are willing to reject the teachings of their religion, secularists should be willing to embrace them. As the president of Perce’s organization often points out, there are many atheists who don’t own the title, and a lot of potential atheists who just haven’t been reached out to yet. In college I knew self-described Muslims who drank, engage in pre-marital sex, and did not pray or attend religious services. It seemed like the title of “Muslim” was a cultural identity as much as anything. They were open to discussions of the existence of God and specific teachings of Islam. 

    When I hear something like this, I ask myself if these secular almost-atheists I knew in college would feel like they were being called terrorists and pedophile-worshippers. Of course they would. If those raised in Islamic families who come to America hear this, even those that embrace atheism (and of course many of them will), will never embrace the atheist movement, or the atheist community. We need to build a better bridge to former and questioning Muslims and children of Muslims.  We also need to recognize that the 0.6% of the population who practices Islam is not the group exerting political pressure against gay rights, women’s rights, science, and every form of social progress. I understand that the situation may be different in the UK and Germany, among other places, but let’s be realistic about the make-up of American Muslims.

  • Ben Crockett

    Wow. So… somebody needs to find a recording of Phil Plait’s speech on how to not be a dick.

    Here, I’ll help:

  • John Purcell

    “If”.  I’m sure there is some evidence for the use of reason in Saudi Arabia. The ability to exploit the worlds’ most sought after natural resource indicates that someone is actually using reason.  However, in the areas of witch craft and sorcery, religion tends to intrude in the use of reason,  primarily because witchcraft and sorcery are competitors for the religion du jour.

    In Saudi Arabia, that religion is Islam. So it’s unlikely that reason would work in that country in that limited situation. And as a matter of fact, reason did NOT work to save that woman. Why? Most fingers would point to Islam, justifiably so.

  • Sarah

    I’m a former atheist who happens to now be a Muslim. The views of Mr. Perce (… Mr. V? Mr… ugh, Ernest Perce V, there we go) are horrifying and a huge problem with today’s world.

    The real problem, though, is now that I’m on the outside of atheism looking in, I see this kind of attitude *quite a bit* amongst the demographic (atheists / agnostics, I mean). It is actually quite startling the level of bigotry and hate many atheists, both prominent and not, condone via their every day speech. They believe they are only “standing up to ignorance” except they appear incapable of doing (what they believe to be) so without coming across as bigots.

    It is shameful human behavior.

    There is a difference between “criticism” (which I support as a right to free speech) and hatred. It’s just that many seem to legitimize the latter by claiming it is the former.

    Shameful in every account

  • Anonymous

    Here’ the problem with statements like “Christianity is…” or “Islam is…”- the religions are human constructs, and malleable. There is no permanent definition of Christianity or Islam. S

    So has Christianity been used to support slavery and mass murder? Yes, but you did not in any way accurately describe the beliefs of any Christian I’ve ever known, including the most obnoxious fundamentalists. It’s not the same as quoting an offensive verse, watching the apologists sweat over it, and constructing an argument. 

    It’s a simplistic statement that seems to come, not from a rational place, but from an emotional place.   

  • Jen

    …That’s kind of my point. If they relied on reason, they wouldn’t believe superstitious nonsense (including Islam), and would be unable to use that as justification for murder.

  • Jim Valentine

    There has been a link floating around the Atheosphere on Facebook that leads to a website containing videos of militant muslims beheading people and doing all kinds of horrible things to people.  I’ve avoided watching these videos for the simple truth that if I do, I would be filled with the same red hot fiery vitriol that this guy is expressing.  It is hard to not fall into that mindset when you see it happening, blood and gore, right there in front of your eyes.  Speaking from experience, it is very difficult to harness those feelings into a rational dialog.  Here is the link I refer to:
    and I do not advise watching any of them.  I saw, many years ago, the beheading of Daniel Pearl and it brought up in me a fury I’ve never felt before, a hatred for a people that I never thought I could recover from.  I never want to experience that again.

  • ReligionsAreMyths

    I think the reason why we get Muslim fundies, Christian fundies and other religion fundies is because all religions have one thing in common. That is they all claim they are true and of course fundies of any religion follow their holy books to the letter. If all religions drop the claim they are true (which will include changing the holy books) and if the term religion changes then we wouldn’t have religious fundies at all. Mind you how can we get the world’s biggest industry (religion) to change?

  • William Garvey

    I agree.  I’ve read so many blanket statements about Christians, some of them right up there with “all Muslims are terrorists.”  But while the comments about Islam are rightly treated as fallacies, the comments about Christians are generally well-received. 

    That matters because a lot of people who are questioning their faith come here (I first stumbled across this site years ago when I was looking for answers).  If they come from a Christian background and see a bunch of ridiculous statements about Christianity, they will likely have two reactions: 1) there’s a bunch of bigots here, and 2) these people are speaking as though they’re authorities on an area they clearly do not understand. 

  • John Purcell

    …and the logical conclusion would be to change, moderate or eliminate Islam. Then reason could prevail. That’s sort of what Ernest was saying, in a very outspoken, and perhaps provocative way.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry, when exactly did we start naming internet comment thread trolls as state directors of our organizations?

  • Anonymous

    That was my first thought as well… if he had posted that on his own FB page, it’s one thing.  He has the right to feel that way if he wants.  But to post it on the official page for AA?  Members should be outraged at this apparent voicing of a group opinion by a man in charge.  Not good.

  • Jen

    He’s not being outspoken and provocative, he’s being racist, sensationalist, and practically deranged. His bile summarizes *all* of Islam as being equivalent to the extremist of terrorists, which is obviously untrue. His screed holds no purpose other than to alienate and inflame.

  • D.B.

    Could this have been handled with more tact? Yes. Could he have separated the religious fundies from the non-fundies? Yes. Could he have laid the blame on the nature of religion, rather than on the believers themselves? Yes! However, we atheists need to grow some backbone. Our words offend, and we must tread lightly. However, we shouldn’t have to back down every time someone gets offended. We have to realize that ALL religion is bad. Some followers may not be as irrational than their peers, but they are ALL irrational and unreasonable when it comes to their faith.

  • Greg

    Let’s not run too far with one example of an atheist being a jerk. I think bigotry in general and hatred of Islam in particular are both more pervasive and pronounced among Christians than atheists. These comments wouldn’t even have been noteworthy if they’d come from a Christian pastor.

  • John Purcell

    “I say to you Islam…”

    It’s addressed to Islam, the religion, the idea, the dogma, the theology. He is not addressing Islamists, Muslims, or any other people specifically. I don’t see how that morphed into

    “You think all Muslims are terrorists?”

  • Kerberus of Styx

    I doubt if anybody here understands religion. God is a metaphor and one of the most beautiful metaphors ever — it’s your loss if you can’t feel that. Just because something is badly misused doesn’t mean it has no value. Name any philosophy or idea that can’t be misused in some manner? You can’t. There is not perfect philosophy or ideology that can’t and won’t and hasn’t been misused.

  • Sarah

    I would agree with you. And I don’t want to paint all atheists as jerks, that was not my intention, my apologies.

    My point I suppose is that it goes on a little bit more than everyone would like to admit. Not just re: Islam either, but re: Christianity and re: religion in general. (Criticism vs. Hatred)

  • I have sat patiently explaining Islam to hateful Christians that are convinced all Muslims want to murder all non-Muslims ASAP. I have sat patiently explaining Judaism to out-of-touch Muslims who have been convinced by their clergy that Jews drink baby blood. And I have sat patiently and tried to explain to anyone who says Tom Cruise is particularly freaky when it comes to religion that he’s no less freaky than the Pope.

    Why do I care if these folks all hate each other? Because I don’t like hate. I think it’s counter productive to… everything.

    I think ALL religions are fantasies – or full of shit, however you want to put it. But I also don’t think all religious people are automatically dumbasses or evil. And I don’t think any one religion has a monopoly on killing infidels, oppressing and killing women, pedophile leaders, child brides, or “terroristic ways.” 
    This American Atheists, Inc. guy probably wouldn’t believe me if I told him an Afghan woman cried as she told me how ashamed her family was as they watched the Buddhist statues blown up under the Taliban, knowing her country was eternally losing part of their cultural heritage, and the respect of the world for who knows how long. He wouldn’t believe me if I told him about the Pakistani Muslim woman who thanked me because, in the last days her father was alive in the USA, when he was on his death bed and his family was thousands of miles away, he was surrounded by total strangers, all Christians, all doing their best to make him comfortable and hoping to keep him alive until his family could be there. Or my right-leaning Christian friend who adopted a baby in China, and happily, respectfully attended a Buddhist blessing ceremony before leaving the country; I asked him if he felt like he’s participated in “worshiping a false god”, and he shrugged and said, “Just seemed like the right thing to do.”

    I’m not defending religion – don’t believe in it, and I believe it’s caused way more problems than it’s address – but I *am* defending a lot of religious people who *aren’t* assholes and who would never, ever approve of killing infidels, oppressing and killing women, pedophile leaders, child brides, or “terroristic ways.” Just as I don’t want believers think all Atheists are like this guy. I do not respect “filthy, repugnant, and vile views,” including those espoused by Atheists. This American Atheists, Inc. guy does NOT speak for me.

  • I’m always curious about self-identified atheists who later turned to religion. Care to share what changed your mind?

  • If this increases media attention for AA, Silverman should be thrilled!

  • Rich Wilson

    I’m reminded of the bumper sticker “wag more, bark less”.  We need barking.  I bark a LOT.  But we need to be a little selective in our barking, not just barking to hear ourselves bark.

  • Carl S.

    Quite a few commenters here need to take a remedial reading course.  Mr. Perce is addressing Islam (not Muslims as a whole).  He is talking “to” Islam, though in a personified style.  He hates the religion, which is totally justifiable.  Nowhere does he claim that all or most Muslims are violent.  But if you look at the holy books, someone who doesn’t obey every jot and tittle of those books can’t rightly be called a “real” or “good” follower of the religion.  Is someone who cherrypicks the Quran a “real” or “good” Muslim?  Is he/she a Muslim at all??  And as for the representative of CFI, what has that elitist organization accomplished for atheist rights and visibility over the many years of its existence?  “Center for Inquiry”?   Why not come out and say “Center for the Investigation of Religious Superstitions”?  Afraid??

  • Sarah

    It’s sort of hard to explain. Prior to being an atheist I was a Christian for maybe 8 to 10 years depending on how you would define “Christianity” (I was pretty much out of it the last two to three years, just not really admitting it).

    When I came away from it, I swung in the exact opposite direction right into non-belief. I was adamant to distance myself in all forms from religion entirely. I was bitter and angry (no, I’m not saying people are atheists because they are bitter and angry. I have a high level of respect for atheists and I always will). I was also a bit of a jerk.

    But as the dust sort of settled over the years, I just found myself back into religious study more and more, and finding myself at peace with things aside from atheism. It took a lot of study and soul-searching before I came to where I am now, and it is still a journey.

    I’m not a “Sunni” or a “Shi’a” or any of that. I’m a Quranist or a Quranite (several terms exist), which is a movement within Islam that relies on Qur’an Only teachings. The Hadiths are full of hearsay and contradictions (I know, you’re going to say the Qur’an does to, but just humor me 😉 and culture that has no place in being regarded as religious scripture.

    I am, in fact, would be considered an outcast in Islamic societies abroad 😉

    I am a Liberal. I am educated and hopefully well-spoken. I am reasonable and logical. I am also a Muslim. When people ask “Why?” I find it hard to put into words.  “Because I am at peace” is the best answer I can come up with, which will never be enough for outsiders I realize. I apologize for it being so vague.

    I judge no one and I still stand for reason, separation of Church and State, freedom and equal rights to believe or not to believe, and so on.

  • John Purcell

    What is God a metaphor for? Most believers I know think he’s real.  They talk to him. Who talks to metaphors? A metaphor is simply a rhetorical device to explain something in a way that is easier to understand. If you think God is a metaphor invented to better understand something you don’t understand, then all you’re saying is that God doesn’t exist.

  • Sarah

    That should read “I am, in fact, what would be…”

  • Anonymous

    So, go reason with them. Tell them it’s not reasonable to behead someone for practicing magic and sorcery. Tell them that believing in magic and sorcery isn’t reasonable. Tell them that the Koran isn’t reasonable. Tell them that Muhammad wasn’t reasonable. Tell them that Islam isn’t reasonable. Be polite and reasonable. See how far it gets you. Just about as far as Perce’s screed.

  • SansSleep

    I think the real question here is what effect our approach has.  Agreed we all have the right to call religion nonsensical and dangerous, we all have the right to compare jesus and mohamad to the easter bunny and to ridicule belief in all mythic super creatures.  In doing so we can freely express our need to belittle things that in reality are very important to a majority of the world.  The actual belief may be misplaced but the emotional attachment and meaning and import that they apply to those imaginary things is VERY real. 

    So if your intent is to simply enrage the religious and entrench them further in nonsensical belief and to cause them to retract into a defensive hateful position…..mission accomplished.  Its the exact same approach that neocon’s took against terrorism…bomb the crap out of villages and level communities and then imagine that it is promoting peace and national security, when in fact the opposite is true.   Its simply an ineffective approach.

    Its impossible to brow beat and ridicule anyone into belief.  It simply doesn’t work that way, and in defending reason if you find yourself using emotive terms, chances are you are not making a good case for your cause.

    If we are truly to have effect on the world around us, we must do it by leading people to reason through understanding, not yelling at them and calling them names.  Thats not to say that we shouldn’t take a strong honest stance on the results of religions belief…but calling their deities who they have deeply imagined relationships with names is ineffectual.  Just as ineffectual as religious people yelling at us, calling us immoral, and hellbound and evil.

    In the end the vitriol, although emotionally justified, simply doesn’t work.

    That, and the bothersome fact that there are forms of Christianity and Islam where people have used apologetics and reasoning to interpret the horror in the books they imagine are from a God differently and those Christians and Muslims ABSOLUTELY don’t support slavery, mass murder, pedophilia or terrorism.  The statement is too broad, and frankly exactly the same as religious people claiming that Atheism is a Godless religion that supports sexual deviancy and mass murder.

    Simply doesn’t serve a beneficial purpose.

    Just my 2 cents, have a wonderful day

  • Jen

    Again, learning to be reasonable to takes time. Stop suggesting that I think politely asking them to be reasonable is the solution.

  • EJC


    How dare you throw the word “racist” around like it is some magic panacea that you believe trumps the reality. It does not.

    In fact, he is not saying anything racist in his diatribes. He is speaking assertively against a religion, not a race. 

    The mere fact you go there tells me more about you than it does about the man making the statements against islam.

  • I don’t have a problem with his message, either.  He clearly addresses the statement at Islam, the religion, not at its followers.  Everything he said is 100% true.  Unless you have a problem with his use of the word “terroristic.”   Fine, but take that out, and is there really anything in that post that you disagree with?  I don’t, I’m behind it 110%.

  • EJC

    To all the commenters who are lambasting the man who made the anti-islamist statements, I call you all, collectively, a bunch of pandering, weak hypocrites. Get your heads out of the creases between your buttcheeks and stop trying to be namby-pamby idiots who feel they must show due tolerance to islamists.

    I have read the majority of you commenters saying things equal or worse vis-a-vis xtians. Now, for some reason, you gasp in horror because it is against islam. Hypocrites.

    Islam is a horrid and vile religion. And yes, the fecal analogy is apt. If you add a drop of sewage into a glass of wine, you end up with sewage. 

  • Jen

    Uh, read up on Islamophobia. It is a real thing and not the same as criticizing doctrine or practices. He fits it to a T.

  • Ben

    That he’d be thrilled is what worries me…

  • Rich Wilson

    If you add a drop of sewage into a glass of wine, you end up with sewage.

    A small enough drop, and it becomes homeopathy.

  • There is no *thing* out there in the world that is Islam; there is no *thing* out there in the world that is Christianity.  The only existing things that resemble these false entities “Islam” and “Christianity” are the communities of individuals who consider themselves Christians and Muslims.  Attacks on “Christianity” or “Islam” in the abstract don’t really make much sense.  It’s natural, moreover, logical, that members of those communities will interpret attacks on the false entities as attacks on them personally.

  • Jen, it’s hardly racist.  As if an attack on a religion is an attack on an ethnic group.

  • Islamophobia is not racist…bigoted, yes.Racist, no.

  • Istj04

    The only real difference between the Western religions is the level of stupidity they employ in enslaving the minds of the fools who believe in whatever individual religion. In the case of “islam”, that tactic is TERRORISM, and since TERROR is the foundation of “islam”, it warrants having done to it to eradicate it  with ANY tactic available, as a doctor would use to treat an aggressive cancer! I can only hope that someday the world will be rid of the cancer of islam, its western accomplices in the form of “christ-insanity”, and “judaism” (with its “ethnicity” claim!), and civilization will benefit as a result. 

  • Brian Macker

    “You think all Muslims are terrorists?”

    You put those words into his mouth.  He said that Islam was vile.  That doesn’t mean that Muslims actually practice what the vile religion, Islam, teaches.   Most Muslims probably have little comprehension of what is actually in the Qur’an.   Most that I have spoken to or have discussed with via writing have very little knowledge of their own religion.

    I don’t know how many times some Muslim has claimed that “No where in the Qur’an does it advocate violence” only to have to shut up when I show them not only where it does but how often and how extreme.   Heck, most of the supposedly peaceful stuff in the Qur’an when seen in context isn’t at all impressive, is vague and surrounded by violent instructions to the contrary.

    He’s right in that regard and you are wrong.

  • I don’t see anything wrong with Mr. Perce’s first statement. He was talking about Islam, which is a religion based on fear and violence – terrorism. If we’re not supposed to say things like that, then religion wins.  He didn’t say all Muslims are the same…c’mon.  Plus look at the number of likes he got for that statement. On Facebook, 522 likes for a simple status statement like that is impressive. 

    Hey I bet if he were talking about Christianity, this would be considered a-okay. And I would agree. 

  • Brian Macker

    It’s not misuse when your religious text instructs you to terrorize, murder, and subjegate others and you do so.     BTW, you really don’t want to be be using the term metaphor because I don’t think it means what you think it means.

  • Brian Macker

    Islam is vile and it’s easy to argue such.  No bigotry involved.

  • Richard Larsson

    So what if it is an emotional reaction? You can’t argue for reason or rationality out of reason and rationality, because according to reason and rationality a circular argument is a non-argument. You argue for reason because you think and feel it is a better choice than the opposite. Don’t give me any other bs, please.
    For the same reason I think it is fine to offend an entire religion with statements of truth about its origin. The origin of the Abrahamic religions is belief in an imaginary friend/torturer as written and described by their holy works. To point out the silly content of the Koran or Bible, in any way, aims to make the silly people be embarrassed by their believes. And people should be embarrassed about their religion. Even the people you know should be embarrassed that their religion is based on mass murder support, none the matter if they support mass murder or not…

  • Sulris Campbell

    if our movement gets bogged down in unreasnable bigotry we will have gainged nothing leaving religion behind.

  • Agreed. Are the efforts of atheist organizations made to help improve the cause of free thinking and humanism across the country or elsewhere or are we just out to bash and insult religions the same way they do us? PR is important in the battle for hearts and minds.

  • Richard Larsson

    “Its impossible to brow beat and ridicule anyone into belief.”
    Can you give me your sources for that statement? Since you reason that the effect is all that matters about our approach, I assume you have some sources.

    The only thing I find about how people change when doing a Google Scholar search on “ridicule” is a translated French article: that states: “As a result, many targets and observers of ridicule alter their perceptions, acquisition, use, and disposition of objects in order to avoid unwanted attention”. Though this article seems to be about youngsters so I do not know how applicable it is on larger groups and I admit I stopped looking after I found an article about the subject, so I don’t know what the field in large tell us about the subject.

    However, I would still love your source for the statement at the top of this post. I really spend too little time in the presence of psychologist and neuron-scientists to be familiar with the subjects. Thank you!

  • John Purcell

    You don’t think ideas are things? How about your “worldview”? Does that qualify as a thing? You seem to be saying because you can’t hold it in your hand, or stick it on a pedestal, then you can’t disagree with it.  Christianity and Islam, like all religious, are in fact abstract ideas, like you mention, but for most people in the world, they are real “things” that they will live and die for, and often willing to hurt other people for. So I don’t have a problem with an attack on an idea, abstract or otherwise.

  • John Purcell

    Well, this is what I would expect on the Friendly Atheist, where we are allowed to vent about all things religious, as long as we put a smiley face on it. Sometimes a smiley face just doesn’t work.

    Jebus, who cares if it offends someone, Islamist or Muslim, or even sympathetic atheists? It’s just words, and as someone up there pointed out, words directed at an abstract idea! It’s very clear to me that what Earnest said was directed at Islam in general, not Muslims in particular. He didn’t try to brush all Muslims with the paint of terrorism, and he clearly said that it is the religion, not the people,that engenders “filthy, repugnant, and vile views”. Is that not true? Aside from devout believers, who here would disagree with that? In a country, and blog community, that values the freest of all speech, no matter how repugnant it is, I see this blog owner asking for an apology, (to whom, I wonder – Islam? That’s what he maligned) and others stating publicly that he should be fired from his position FOR SAYING WHAT HE THINKS! In effect, he is being chastised for speech.

    This response is what’s shameful.

  • Trace

    Where is Godless when he is needed 😉

  • “if people put a gram of shit on an APPLE PIE it’s still a shitty pie.”

    If an atheist says some shitty things, does that make me part of a shitty pie?  Is the entire human race a shitty pie?

  • Anonymous

    “If people put a gram of shit on an APPLE PIE it’s still a shitty pie.”
    Oh the fucking irony. So what does this make us?

    Honestly though, I’d be fine with it if he did this in a way that didn’t imply he was representing all American atheists.

  • The more I think about it, the more ridiculous the pie aphorism is.  If you make a pie out of a cute baby, a terrorist, human kindness, and my left foot, I guess the baby is part of a shitty pie and you shouldn’t eat it.  Surely there are arguments against Islam that can’t also be used to argue against baby-eating.

  • I could not agree with you more, Hemant.   One of the greatest strengths atheists have — or at least ought to have — on our side is reason.  Perce’s attack on Islam is far from reasonable and plays into the hands of our enemies.

  • Anonymous

    A genuine question to both Hemant and Jennifer (I posted the same questions on Twitter, but it would be more coherent here). Would you have reacted in the same way if the same words came from an ex-Muslim atheist? 

    Hemant’s position has me puzzled. I actually know atheists born in Muslim families – who feel exactly the same way (as this EPV) that both of you have so soundly denounced. If they were to express their views thusly, would you feel the same way?

    And it’s not even that they keep their views a secret. One such website (non-English though, so you may not be able read it) was featured on Pharyngula because of its relentlessly critical message towards all religions including Islam. 

    These people have seen Islam up close, having been born and growing up in Islamic countries, & they have rejected its tenets because of the same kind of violent, nonsensical stuff that EPV found. They criticize these aspects of their former religion almost in the same manner that EPV did.

    Would you then apply the tags of “islamophobic” & “racist” equally liberally to these ex-Muslim atheists as well? How about Taslima Nasreen, Ayan Hirsi Ali & Maryam Namazie – all trenchant critics of Islam, having experienced the inequities of that religion firsthand?

    I am trying to understand both of your POVs. When the ethnicity of a group of people seem to be defined by their religion, it is possible to criticize one without the other?

  • Islam is a horrid and vile religion. And yes, the fecal analogy is apt.
    If you add a drop of sewage into a glass of wine, you end up with

    If the fecal analogy is true of Islam, should it not also be held true of anything — including science?

  • EJC

    Hey dinglenuts, islamophobia is NOT racist.

  • Are you fucking high?

  • John Purcell

    If the fecal analogy is true of Islam, should it not also be held true of anything — including science?

    Sure. Different result, but the analogy is still apt. Add shit to science and you get unreliable, shitty science.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe I missed something. Is this the right quote? I honestly don’t see him stereotyping muslims. I don’t see him calling all Muslims terrorists. I don’t think he did anything wrong. Will he offend people? sure, all of us atheists do it just by admitting to being atheist. 

  • Brian Macker

    Funny thing is that they actually write nasty bigoted claims using the term”Christians” instead of making specific criticisms of “Christianity” then get upset when others rightfully criticize the actual tenets of Islam, which are in fact vile.

  • TheEcoDude

    All the good things about Nazism can be had without all the vile shit. Likewise Islam. That’s his point. The Nazis don’t get credit for making murder a crime if it doesn’t apply to everyone, and they openly advocate murder of some. Same goes for Islam. It does exactly this.

    Do you think the following invented philosophy should get credit for being one that is kind to animals: “Be kind to every animal;The furry ones, dogs, pigs and snakes, thou shall torture off the face of the earth, but do not exceed the limits.”

    Don’t you think the shit in the middle kind of ruins things?

  • Brian Macker

    So you are at peace with all the vile stuff in the Qur’an? You are fine with the outright bigotry and intolerance expressed within, the gross over-generalizations of entire people’s and out-groups? Muhammad doesn’t criticize ideas, he attacks people and their customs, culture, and cuisine. You are fine with it’s avocation of Jihad of arms, and collecting the spoils from your victims. You are fine with the quite unambiguous calls to violent overreaction, and numerous rationalizations for endless violence, while having very few and ambiguous limits on such, with enormous loopholes?

    How can you be at peace with the ravings of a bigot?

  • BrianMacker

    Atheism isn’t an ideology so no. Nor was the claim made that some shitty thing a random Muslim said would count against Islam, or other Muslims. He’s talking about the “infallible” contents of the Qur’an. That’s full of vile shit.

  • Brian Macker

    Your reading comprehension needs some improvement.

  • Brian Macker

    If Islamophobia consists of criticizing the vile religion called Islam, then everyone should aspire to the label.

  • Brian Macker

    No one has demonstrated any bigotry. Criticizing clearly a clearly vile religion as such shows no bigotry.

  • Brian Macker

    Laughable that you think criticizing Islam is incompatible with accepting former Muslims as Secularists. Some of the most vocal critics of Islam are former Muslims, and the say even worse about Islam.

  • Brian Macker

    The Qur’an actually advocates spreading terror through the land as something a good person would do to spread Islam. So that’s a factual claim also. So if you don’t have a problem with the truth then you shouldn’t have a problem with that either.

  • Thank you, Sarah.

  • Brian Macker

    What do you mean a “add”? The fecal matter is in the original recipe.

  • Brian Macker

    I call for Hemant’s apology for putting words in the other guys mouth that he did not say.

  • Pseudonym

    Accusing all Muslims of having “terroristic ways” is essentially accusing them of being Saudi-style Wahhabists. Admittedly,  it doesn’t look like racism to those who don’t understand the situation in the Muslim world, but it is.

    This isn’t a perfect analogy, but think about what would happen if you accused all Christians of being part of the Religious Right. Even though you didn’t use the word, you would actually be accusing them of being American, which most Christians in the world clearly are not.

  • Pseudonym

    I misworded that a little. I meant to say that you would be additionally accusing them of being American.

  • Pseudonym

    That’s the most insight per word I’ve seen all day. Well said.

  • To call Islam “terroristic” is to unfairly ascribe the actions of a few to hundreds of millions of people who believe otherwise.

  • Brian Macker

    Islam is vile in all its forms. That’s a defensible position. I make that assessment on numerous metrics and values. I do so in the same way I claim that Nazism, in all its forms is vile. The fact both come in multiple flavors of the day does not change those facts. The roots of both are corrupt.

  • Funny, those hundreds of millions of people aren’t doing anything to combat terrorism…

    Silence == Approval

  • Tim

    “How dare you?” Seriously? Fuck…

  • Many condemn it wholeheartedly. We don’t always hear them and they don’t always get media attention, but I have yet to see any mainstream Muslim organization (certainly in America, and very likely elsewhere) support terrorism.

  • Brian Macker

    Great there is not a single thing you’ve said that his statement contradicts. So why did you bother writing it? I guess because you read statements for emotion, not for comprehension. Am I guessing correctly!

    How can those of us who actually distinguish between Islam and Muslims ever communicate with you if you conflates the to. I’d love it if Islam ceased to exist yet I would weep if every Muslim were exterminated tomorrow. I deeply feel the horror of the holocaust but would not shed a tear if every Jew abandoned their faith.

  • Pseudonym

    The USA is a vile rogue nation which supports slavery, racism and corporatocracy. It commits torture, extrajudicial executions, and wages wars on innocent nations to advance its economic interest. It has a blatant disregard for civil rights. It possesses the world’s largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction and has used them against adversaries.

    S0unds about right to you?

  • Still… their silence is disturbing.

    Pretty much boils down to the fact that moderates need to speak up and do more to fight the radicals and extremists, no matter the religion.

  • We need to help them amplify their message. But most of the loud voices on our side aren’t in the habit of helping moderate theists on issues like this. We’re to focused on showing the world that their beliefs are wrong.

  • All of that is true, so what’s your point? That we shouldn’t criticize the US?

  • Then how do we help?

  • Pay attention to those organizations as much as we pay attention to hate groups like FotF and other religious right orgs.

  • Pseudonym

    Just because the Western media refuses to report the widespread opposition to terrorism (and, I might add, cashed-up Saudi-trained clerics threatening the more indigenous variants of Islam) doesn’t mean it’s not there.

    Remember, the vast majority of victims of Islamicist terrorism are Muslims. Accusing them and their families, friends and communities of “silence” is actually kind of insulting.

  • William Garvey

     Have you contacted Ernest to confirm that my interpretation is wrong and yours is correct?

  • Pseudonym

    A non-American like myself would never say that we shouldn’t criticise the USA.

    But a couple of points:

    1. You appear to be a US citizen who lives in the USA.[1]  Why haven’t you emigrated yet? Why do you continue to let yourself be a part of such a horrid, vile nation?

    2. On a less rhetorical note, the stuff that I listed (and more besides) has been used to justify attacks on US civilians by terrorists. Were it not obvious that I was making an analogy (it’s safe to assume that everyone here is smart enough to pick this up), I would never make a list like that without qualifying it, especially if I claimed to be an official spokesperson for an organisation. It’s too easy to misinterpret, and contains an easily-inferred dog whistle.

    Incidentally, you and I both know that the biggest and best critics of the USA are US citizens. What many don’t appreciate is that the biggest and best critics of Christianity are Christians, and the biggest and best critics of Islam are Muslims. A little credit wouldn’t go astray.

    [1] I did due diligence on this. Clicking on your username links to a
    blog, the owner of which claims to live in the USA. If I was wrong about this, you have my apologies, and you should feel free to disregard this point or substitute your own nation’s sins, both past and present.

  • Anonymous

    Most of what you said here makes a lot more sense than the Perce comments. But still, I separate with you at the point where you suggest that my Christian relatives should be embarrassed that Christians in the present (and in the present, though less so) killed in the name of Christ. There are no words attributed to Christ in the Bible they were taught was holy that mandate killing of any kind. They would point this out to me. Whatever “Christian”  means to them is something different from those who have killed for it. 

    All major religions have taken on murderous forms. Tribalism and sectarianism in all forms do that, and adding a divine mandate exacerbates things. But if a Christian decided that the Sermon on the Mount is the only thing that matters, who am I to say that that’s not “real” Christianity? All forms of it are fake. Better to get to the bottom of the silly idea of the Son of God and pointing out the conceptual violence of the hell concept, and so on and so forth.

  • So, kind of a “Hey, look at these guys, they’re doing it right!” type of thing?

  • Well, then what WAS your point? The way I read it, you were simply criticizing a political entity, not every last American ever to reside in this not-so-great country. Was I wrong?
    (P.S. I’d leave if it weren’t for two things. 1: My family is here. 2: I’m on SSDI (disability) — I can’t afford to leave the country, and as far as I am aware, to emigrate elsewhere I’d have to have, you know, actual job skills.)

  • Anonymous

    A lot of Islamic teachings are vile. But if a person has cherry-picked the nice-sounding ones, and decided they know the true religion, what good does pointing out the nastiness of the stuff they’ve rejected do? Here are the roots of the tree from which you’ve picked those cherries, you say, how could you eat them? But they’ve already rejected the roots, so it’s better to explain just what’s wrong with those cherries (there’s always something).

    The metaphor of roots and trees has its limits, but bear with me. Nazism isn’t a tree. It’s more like a pile of nasty roots buried beneath piles of dirt. Anyone who says they’re a Nazi is basically burying their head in the dirt and chewing their down. They can’t hear you arguing with them. 

  • Anonymous

    Ha. “Criticizing Islam is incompatible with accepting former Muslims as Secularists.”

    No. That’s not what I said. You know when I said that the Muslims I was friends with were “open to discussion about.. specific teachings of Islam?” Of course any sane atheist participating in such a discussion would be critiquing the faith. 

  • Bingo!

  • Pseudonym

    My main point is point #2 above.

    What I said was a more-or-less factually accurate  (though severely cherry-picked, something that atheists routinely criticise religious types for) portrayal of the political entity.

    However, that political entity is also nominally a democracy. Every citizen of the US is an active participant in the political entity.

    This was pretty much the argument of Sayyid Qutb, the father of Islamic terrorism, in his justification of why he thought it legitimate to attack civilians. Would you have felt differently about the statement had it been said by Ayman al-Zawahiri rather than some random person on the Internet?

    Sorry about the disability, by the way.

  • No, not really. Valid criticism and complaints are, regardless of the person speaking, VALID. I’m not cool with basically saying, “it’s okay for this group to criticize this thing, but it’s not okay for that group to do the same.”

  • I read Ernest Perce V’s status and I didn’t see the word, “all” in it. You assumed that word in there. One could just as easily assume the phrase, “in general.” When people say, “Christians oppose same-sex marriage,” one can either imply that the word, “all” in front of the sentence or the phrase, “in general.” Obviously not all Christians oppose same-sex marriage, but Christians in general do tend to oppose same-sex marriage. The initial sentence is unclear. With that said, even in Ernest Perce V’s response, he still did not claim that all Muslims were a certain way, just that he believers that the entire religion of Islam is shit. Well shit, I say that about all of western religion. That doesn’t mean that every religious person is equally as shitty. Some Christians are worse than others and some Muslims are worse than others.

  • Pseudonym

    I understand what you’re saying, but I guess I should reiterate two points.

    First off, cherry-picked facts do not necessarily constitute “valid criticism”, and they almost always never constitute “reasoned debate”.

    All of the cherry-picked examples from US history which show both domestically and internationally misbehaviour can be countered with cherry-picked examples of good behaviour. The same exercise can be done with quotes from the Bible or the Quran.

    Secondly, even criticism which is valid on the surface can be a cover for a dog whistle.

    I guess the take-home message is actually this: As a representative of an organisation speaking to the public, it is your job to make your message clear. It is unreasonable to expect the public to pick apart what you said to determine what you meant.

    What surprises me, but really shouldn’t,  is that many people here who are defending what this person wrote sound an awful lot like religionists trying to explain why some part of a sacred text which sounds bad isn’t really bad. The similarity in tone and tactics is uncanny.

  • Mmm… yeah, but that shouldn’t stop us from rightly criticizing things that need criticizing. Sure, there’s always gonna be someone who’ll take a quote or a fact or whatever and try to spin it to make someone else look bad. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop speaking, or discovering new things, or repeating factual statements.
    I guess to me this whole thing is coming off as language-policing, and that’s one of my pet hates. I firmly believe that there are no “bad words” — only the bad thoughts and bad intentions and, hell, the whole range of emotions we attach to them. The word “cat” may, for one person, evoke a warm-fuzzy feeling, and for another, invoke sheer terror. In neither scenario is the cat itself changing quality (from cute and cuddly to demon beast from the depths of hell*), the only difference is the emotions and thoughts each person has attached to the concept of “cat”. All that changed was the perception of “cat”. Does that make sense to anyone else?

    *Speaking as one currently owned by a cat, they can be warm and fuzzy while being absolute little shits. Sooo difficult to discipline with that “What, me? I’m cute and innocent!” look.

  • Anonymous

    Saudi Arabia executed a 60+ year old woman today for practicing witchcraft and sorcery.  She was arrested by the chief of religious police.  I think that this is definitely filthy, repugnant and vile.  I have much disdain and disgust for a religion and culture that sees nothing wrong in murdering a woman for impossible crimes! 

  • Stephanie

    Looks like we atheists have found our Rick Petty. Wonder if his jacket was made in Morocco…

  • Stephanie

    Err, Perry. Stupid auto-correct.

  • Well, in any given group, there’s always That One Guy.

    Though, um… dude has a point about Islam (NOT Muslims, the people, but Islam, the religion), he’s just not communicating it well. At all.

  • Brian Macker

    It’s not even clearly defined other than to be pulled out as a false retort to anyone who rejects Islam. I’ve never heard an atheist called a Christianophobe for making blanket statements about Christians,and never a racist.

  • Brian Macker

    Not if you are calling it terroristic because of instructions in its founding documents and in the example set by it’s founder. Islam is also misogynistic in this regard. In fact all Abrahamic religions have misogynistic roots. That is not the same as calling every Muslim and Christian a misogynist.

    Christianity could also be described as pacifistic, and it has been described that way. That is not to say every Christian is a pacifist.

    It’s not the critics problem that Islam claims to be the infallible word of a capricious and war mongering deity. If they don’t want their religion to be described as terroristic then they had better do one of two things. Stop claiming immutable infallibility for what is clearly terror inspiring instructions, or change the instruction manual. Until they do one or the other they bear some responsibility for the actions of those who follow those instructions on the grounds of their infallibility.

    Also if they are going to claim an instruction manual is infallible they damn well better read and understand it first. It is clear negligence to do otherwise. Clearly the Qur’an is full of error that if followed will result in endless violence, and terroristic behavior.

    Behavior like terrorizing women into keeping silent about rape lest the be accused of adultery. Terror isn’t just practiced by blowing up buildings. It’s also practiced by keeping Muslim only public drinking cups and beating to death and dirty non-Muslims to death for using one. It’s also practiced by having blasphemy law that terrorizes not only non-Muslims but Muslims from exercising their rights to free speech.

    Islam is terroristic at every level and that is not only true in the founding documents but in the living religion as practiced today.

    How many gays need to be stoned and hanged for you to see the terror in it?

  • Brian Macker

    I hate the chopping off of heads. So sue me. That doesn’t in any way diminish my rationality. I rather like my head connected to my body, and I think that condemning the advocation of such behavior to be a rational step towards ending it.

  • Brian Macker

    I misread that part as you claiming the other guy would not do so. I apologize.

  • Brian Macker

    Yeah, issues like not appreciating the quite predictable results of believing in and taking Islam seriously.

  • Brian Macker

    To determine reading comprehension I go by what has been written. If a guy writes that he doesn’t like dogs then I take the clear meaning of the words. I do not assume he meant to write “I hate dog owners”. I don’t need to contact him to read the words. This guy was criticizing Islam. Learn the difference between “Islam is X” and “Every Muslim is X”.

  • Brian Macker

    Horsewhipping rape victims for adultery also comes to mind. Clearly a vile practice. As is amputating the hands of thieves, but let’s not reconsider because everything was figured out by an intolerant 7th century desert dwelling caravan raiding slave taking rapist.

  • Brian Macker

    “Dogs bite” would be an example of this but we need to be much more careful with people and context matters. It doesn’t always mean in general. For example, if I were to say that Catholics commit murder then you wouldn’t assume the statement was an in general claim.

  • Brian Macker

    Also many of the everyday rules of Islam are meant to terrorize people into compliance. What is hell all about if not terror. Fear that non-believers would trick good Christians (or themselves) into eternal hellfire has been used to justify the worst atrocities committed by Christians. Islam has all that sans the Sermon on the Mount.

  • Brian Macker

    “Rather than”??? Where did he once blame something on the nature of Muslims?

  • Citation please.

  • Brian Macker

    How can you be at peace with a religion that the vast majority of original practitioners would consider you an outcast? Do you think Muhammed would consider you an outcast? He did have some quiet disparaging things to say about “the hypocrites”, which consisted of basically any self proclaimed Muslim who didn’t get down with Jihad (aka caravan raiding, and slave raiding). Or maybe you are into that stuff?

  • Brian Macker

    BTW, those statements are directly in the Qur’an so you don’t get to cop out about it being in the Hadith.

  • GSW

    And yet, in 1940, in Germany only a ‘minority’ of Germans were Nazis. Does this mean that Naziism was ok really, just hijacked?
    Or does this mean that the minority were true Nazis and the rest were just plain scared?

    Cherry picking can be done here too: The NSDAP fed the German people.
    Sure, they stole the food from everyone else, but what do you suppose that the islamic regimes have been doing for 1400 years?
    How about the German’s need for Lebensraum’? Maybe if less of them had been catholics, they could of used condoms. The islamic ‘refugees’ seem to be needing Lebensraum too.

    Actually, fascism is always fascism, even when it is wrapped up in religion and ‘anti-fa’.
    Islam, un-cherry-picked is a fascist ideology, so was Naziism.

    If a tree roots in poison, the fruit is likely to be unhealthy too.

  • GSW

    but you are “defending a lot of religious people” who give money to the institutions that “approve of killing infidels, oppressing and killing women, paedophile leaders, child brides, or “terroristic ways.”

    That is the true reason we ridicule these people, for their ignorance and blindness in providing economic and political support to con-men, selling mansions they don’t own, or promising slaves they cannot deliver.

    Just how long do you think that Ratzinger would be able to continue making women’s lives more difficult if he wasn’t rich?

  • Any god that places people in hell for not doing His bidding is a terrorist. Those that do His work would, at the very least, be aiding and abetting a divine terrorist. However, using the words terrorist and culture in the rant were not prudent. The former because the term is too charged, and the latter because it makes a person believve that all who are in the culture are barbarians.

  • Brian Macker

    So I take it you find the Qur’an and the things Mohammed says in it shameful, because he makes no bones about spewing the hate, and he does it directly. He specifically says Jews are this, and Christians are that. Not to mention all the nasty and intolerant things he has to say about idolators. He’s not attacking ideas either. He’s making universal claims about greed, guilt, apishness, lying, and other derogatory attributes against entire peoples, and even worse the out group nonbeliever.

    Worse he doesn’t just claim that he personally thinks Jews are the greediest of all mankind, but he puts those words in the mouth of an infallible deity,and then proceeds to successfully commit genocide against the native Jews of the Saudi peninsula. He ethnically cleansed the area of Jews.

    This is the guy you chose to follow and you think it bigoted hatred to criticize such claims. Talk about turning things on their head. Criticism of hatred, bigotry and intolerance hardly counts as the same.

    Next you’ll be telling me that pacifiers are warmongers for criticizing Jihad.

    Shame on you.

  • BrianMacker

    Idolators don’t even labeled themselves as such. They call themselves names like Hindu and Buddhist. How would you like it if Jerry Falwell claimed to have just received the direct unaltered recitation of an infallible book Wittenberg by god at the beginning of time that identifies Muslims as “Idolators” for praying towards Mecca and the black rock. How would you like it if that text carried instructions from the creation of the universe saying of idolators like you,”slaughter them were ever you find them”? How would you like it if the Kaaba and other Islamic art was blown up because of these teachings? how would you like it if for a thousand or more years you Islamic shines were destroyed and the temples of Jerry erected in their place.

    Worse yet suppose Falwell had claimed Mecca itself, a city he never set foot in, as a holy site of his new religion, in some lame attempt to convert Muslims. Which then later results in claims by the Jerrites that he flew from there or to there on a winged horse, despite his never being there. What if Jerrites then invaded Mecca, destroyed all the mosques and set up Jerry churches on the ruins.

    How would you then feel about Falwell’s behavior?

    Does shameful come to mind? Perhaps vile?

  • Anonymous

    Is an American Muslim who opposes terrorism and says “Islam is a religion of peace” (the Qu’ran notwithstanding) in any way responsible for acts of terrorism? No.

    Was a supporter of the Nazi party in 1940, regardless of their motivations,  in any way responsible for the deaths of 5 million Jews, among many others? Yes. 

    These two situations are not parallel.

  • Brian Macker

    I also hate the IPad auto spelling corrector. I’ m turning the thing off even though wittenberg is more fun than written by, and actually it kinda made sense.

  • Brian Macker

    Which will get them killed.

    “Look at me. Look at me. I’ve been endorsed by a bunch of blasphemers, Jews and Idolarors.”

    Yep, that will win hearts in a religion that condemns it’s own as hypocrites for the transgression of peace-making instead of Jihad.

  • Brian Macker

    That could be read as claiming there aren’t Muslims that combat terrorism. Care to rephrase?

  • Brian Macker

    One would think that 1,400 years would be enough time but perhaps you were comparing it to the time it takes to chop a head off.

  • Brian Macker

    Your claim sounds more racist. It’s not just the “Saudi” kind that practices terrorism. Persian Shiites are at it too, plus followers of plenty of other sects. Terrorism isn’t limited to Al Qaeda, nor to specific acts like flying planes into buildings to get ones heavenly reward. It includes everyday terror like Philippine Muslims hacking up girls for going to school, so called tolerant Indonesians actually poll in favor of terror acts (even in their own country) at appalling rates.

    Don’t blame this on one ethnic group, or sect originating from that group. Most Muslim ethnic groups poll very poorly in this area.

  • Brian Macker

    Nonsense, plenty of people are accused of islamophobia for criticizing its doctrine an practices. That’s all this guy did and you not only called him one you also called him a racist. You are the perfect example of the reason why people think the term is worthless.

  • Brian Macker

    Yes, seriously. It’s a very serious charge, and she should be confronted over making an obviously false claim.

  • Brian Macker

    Yep, I was there having to explain the finer details of what individual christians believe.. Clearly Christianity is homophobic. That doesn’t mean every Christian is, nor every Christian sect.

    I’ve also had to defend Muslims against true Islamophobes, Like the ones that claim Islam allows lying to non-Muslims in general. It doesn’t.

  • BrianMacker

    Pacifists LOL. I’ve been IPadded again.

  • William Garvey

    So in terms of “the clear meaning” you’re saying that wasn’t a blanket statement?  Because “Islam is X” reads like a blanket statement to me, one that applies to all its adherents.

    At the very least, recognize that you’re arguing a very fine semantic line.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    My only question is, is this the official viewpoint of  American Atheists? If it isn’t, but is only a personal viewpoint, then he should not have put his position with AA on the post.

  • Tmaccabe

    I have often argued this on the side of Hemant.  Consider how intolerant we think American conservatives are when they deny Muslims the right to build a Mosque, or when they beat Lowes into dropping advertising on a Muslim centered TV show.  We cry foul against religious freedom on their behalf, mostly because we value it so much for ourselves. 

    It is very hard to stand for religious freedom while disrespecting all religion (and thereby all who believe in some shit or another). We sound as if we will not be happy until there is no belief at all. I don’t no about you, but I don’t want to sound this way, and I am frustrated each time a leader in my community does.  If you want to sound like a bigot, take off the name tag.

    Yes, there are vile teachings, and yes they should be called out wherever the are. All we ask is for a little tact, or we could act like that F’in Fred-what’s-his-face from Westboro Baptist.

  • Tmaccabe

    Petty works for me.

  • Tmaccabe

    Perhaps here we would have just called it fraud (or faith healing) and fined her a few grand. The phrase “religious police” brings chills to my bones. Never will I step foot in a country ruled by Sharia. Just wish we would stop buying gas from them.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Just out of curiosity, what would *reasonable* bigotry be, and when would it be acceptable?

  • EJC


  • Hemant, I think you have fallen prey to my new logical fallacy, The Assumed All Fallacy –

  • SphericalBunny

    Terrorism as in flying planes into buildings? Not so much. Terrorism as in the dictionary definition?


    the use of violence
    and threats to intimidate
    or coerce, especially for political purposes.

    Mostly yes, the same as many other religions, from the Imam who calls for gays to be murdered to the community that’s a little colder and less helpful to a woman for showing a bit too much flesh. Threats do not just come in ‘I’m going to stab you’ form.

    Are there tolerant muslims? Of course, I met one. He told me the Qu’ran was scientifically accurate, I asked what was scientific about a flying horse. He had no idea what I was talking about.

    I have a suspicion that most tolerant muslims are the same as most tolerant Xtians – they know little about their own religion, and of what they do know, it doesn’t occur to them to take that seriously.

  • TheOnlyKarsh

    I don’t see where he said all muslims are evil, he just didn’t qualify his statement to exclude moderates. 

    Intentionally offending someone shouldn’t be the goal but it shouldn’t be the concern either, so long as the statement is truthful. 


  • SphericalBunny

    OK, let’s pay attention to them…who are these groups? Where are they? There must be some muslim groups that promote stuff like sexual + gender equality, right?

    Or are we going down the theist logic route of these groups must exist despite the complete lack of evidence for them? Coz that would be disturbing…

  • Webellion

    I realize i’m a bit late to the game, but I also don’t see where the conclusion of  “Oh boy. You think all Muslims are terrorists” came from, unless there happens to be a straw man in the room.

  • Perfect example of what I am talking about. has a article with the headline “Women bring stress of war home with them.” Hemant, are you seriously going to claim that CNN is making a claim about ALL women? No, that would be ridiculous. So why would you make such a claim about what Ernest has said rather than assume the same thing any rational person would assume in relation to the CNN headline? This is just a pet peeve of mine since I get it a lot from Christians (not all Christians).

  • Tim

    “Is an American Muslim who opposes terrorism and says “Islam is a religion of peace” (the Qu’ran notwithstanding) in any way responsible for acts of terrorism? No.”

    yes he is.  He chose to belong to a vile religion.  If he genuinely thinks that islam is a religion of peace then he might not be blameworthy, but he is still responsible.

    People are responsible for their own actions and their own affiliations.

    Unlike race and nationality which are forced onto you by circumstances.

  • Islam and Christianity are terroristic, but that does not mean that “all” Muslims and “all” Christians are terrorists. That would be ridiculous and I don’t think anyone said that. You assumed the “all” when the statement implied “in general.” This is what I am calling “The Assumed All Fallacy.” –

  • Show of hands here, does anyone here not think that Islam is shit? Does anyone here really think that the Islamic religion is a shining beacon of light to the world? We are not talking about the nice Muslim guy down the block, we are talking about the religion of Islam. I’m just curious here and want to see why people are offended by Ernest’s statement.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not that simple. If you would think about it a little harder, you would realize that it’s not that simple, but you’re clearly not interested in doing that.

  • Mikel

    I think the main lesson learned here what you say will not be judged only on the content of the words themselves, but on people’s perception of your tone ane what you mean. If you expect people to judge only the content of your words and not your tone or manner of expression, you need to wise up a bit. This is why people will get into flame wars on the internet but if you spoke to them face to face they come across a lot nicer.

    If you just don’t care how you come across, then rain on you. Don’t use an angry tone and emotive words and expect people to only consider the literal meanings of your statements.

    From a life member of American Atheists.

  • Ducky

    Your in luck, my man (or woman)! Only 15% of oil in America comes from the Middle East. Most of our oil is from Canada and Mexico.

  • Tmaccabe

    I think the argument here might be on whether we see these comments as in-line with our goals as atheists. Is our goal to change religion, or to rid the world of it? Changing religions such that they are aligned with modern human rights is the work of the religious. The atheist’s job is to encourage them to do so in what ever way works. Are we done being reasonable or nice about it? I hope not. Our voice is relatively new in the chorus, but it seems the volume is going up on all sides. Violence is not an option, and neither is ridding the world of religion.  We aren’t going to re-write the Bible or the Qur’an, and neither will they. The best we can hope for is an everlasting truce, so let’s focus on calling out the bad actors with each and every violation of human dignity, and less on religion as a whole. People will only hear us when we act reasonably. Let’s make sure our message is clear, that we expect people to act ethically, and that we are good loving people willing to work towards peaceful co-existence. I’m certain that ranting about how vile a religion is doesn’t help.

  • I think I_Claudia’s point and also Lina Baker below make good points.  
    The first thing I noticed is that Ernest Perce V’s post sounds self-congratulatory.  He seems to be bragging about how brave he’s being by saying something negative about Islam.  About whether he is talking about Islam and/or Muslims:  In some way, he brings the misunderstanding on himself, because he starts with “I will say to you Islam…”  One could read this as him talking about Islam, not all Muslims.  One could also point out that it’s weird to address Islam.  (Who says “I will say to you Islam/Christianity/Judaism”?)  The sentence reads like something you’d say when addressing a group of people, not an ideology, as though he’s written it about Muslims but put in the word Islam so he can later claim he wasn’t generalizing about Muslims.  If he had said these things about, maybe The Qur’an specifically, then I would tend to be more on his side.  

    What’s happened, in my view, is that there are many people unwilling to criticize Islam, and so someone who says something — anything — negative about Islam thinks they’re being brave by doing so, and there are those who will praise any criticism of Islam, no matter how much or how little thought went into the criticism itself.  

    Similar comments that are broad generalizations are written about Christianity as well, but the difference seems to be that there are also people who write blogs, articles, books, etc. that actually explain their disagreement with Christianity, make good points, etc.  When it comes to Islam, this kind of comment seems to be standard, with few exceptions, perhaps because many people (at least here in the US) know more about Christianity than Islam.  

  • Richard Larsson

    I think Christian and Racist are both comparable here.

    If your friends are not fully aware of the fact that calling oneself a Racist because you like to breed dogs will get you associated with the Racists that want to kill black people, that in itself is wrong. However, if they call themselves Racists due to above reason and are fully aware of the horrors associated with Racism, they will be able to handle a few well or ill chosen words about the cruelness of Racism.

    And I am fully aware that I just lost any argument we may have had since I just made an indirect reference to Nazism…

  • Jun

    There is an argument I think is very legitimate concerning religious moderates in The End of Faith. As best I can remember it goes something like this: The texts (Bible, Quran, Torah, etc.) are regarded as the literal word of God, traditionally. Religious moderates have since ignored or done away with the parts that are obviously unjust. The examples are plentiful, but I won’t belabor that point. There is nothing wrong with this, on the surface. However, as long as our cultures shelter these unjust parts from criticism on the basis that no one takes them literally anymore, there will always be potential for very pious sects to rise up and cause a lot of pain and suffering in the world. In short, religious moderates provide cover for the extremists. If they are so much more numerous, then it shouldn’t be beyond the realm of expectation to see them at the forefront of efforts to stop the heinous crimes their religions are responsible for. In this way, everyone involved has to bear some responsibility for the atrocities of the few extremists.

  • I don’t think there was much wrong with the literal meaning of what the guy said. But that being said, there really is a lot of prejudice and discrimination against Muslims in America, largely compliments of the very same people who hate and discriminate against atheists. I’m not as worried about inflammatory statements against Christians in America, because most of us know enough Christians to know they are not all like Jerry Falwell and James Dobson. But when you are talking about the beliefs of a group that is in the minority and already facing prejudice, we should be more careful about that. It is irrational, but unfortunately in a lot of people’s minds it is not much of a leap to go from “Islam is vile” to “I don’t want to live next door to a Muslim.” And this very unfortunately seems to be the way a lot of people think…

  • Anonymous

    I don’t get your interpretation at all, Hemant. You state:

    “…but keep the finger pointed at the faith itself…”

    That’s exactly what Ernest does.  He addresses his post to “Islam,” not “all Muslims.”  To  say he is addressing all Muslims is an interpretation of his post, but it’s not what he literally says.  His post addresses Islam and Christianity.  It never addresses Muslims or Christians.

    And you agree with John Shook’s assessment of Ernest post?  Since when is Islam a race?  It’s not a race and as part of the reality-based community we shouldn’t perpetuate the myth that it is.  In fact, I should think that Muslims would find calling their religion a race offensive…especially to caucasian, Latino, African, and Asian Muslims.

  • Pseudonym

    A cat owns me, too. I totally get it.

    Your point about language policing is well-made. The flip side is that context matters.  A lot. The remarks above were supposedly made by a state director of American Atheists, and appear to carry the weight of the organisation behind them. That, at the very least, is inappropriate.

  • Oh, I agree that it was totally unprofessional — it should have been limited, if he had to post it at all, to his own personal wall.

  • Well, I’m not Hemant or Jennifer, but I am from a Muslim family and now an atheist, so I wanted to respond to this part:

    How about Taslima Nasreen, Ayan Hirsi Ali & Maryam Namazie – all
    trenchant critics of Islam, having experienced the inequities of that
    religion firsthand?

    I think it’s unfair to compare these three people to EPV.  From what I’ve read by them, they actually go on to explain their points.  They don’t just post a random rant on Facebook.

  • Oh no! It’s Hemant Mehta and the Tone Police (Hey. that’s a cool name for a band!) to the rescue; their self-appointed mission is to tell every atheist what a douchebag they are when they strongly and publicly criticize religion and religious belief. Cuff ’em, Mehta!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Mr. Sharmin, for your reply. I am sure you read my post in full, but let me still clarify that nowhere did I compare these authors and rational, progressive thinkers to EPV. What I asked was this: given that there are many tenacious and trenchant critics of Islam, including these three, who have time and again pointed out the violent behavior that Islam and Islamic religious traditions seem to encourage and condone, what exactly was it that earned EPV the labels of ‘islamophobe’, ‘racist’ and ‘bigot’?

    One common point of dismissal of EPV’s comments may be his possibly insufficient understanding of Islam and Muslims. Which is why I mentioned TN, AHA and MN, as well as ex-Muslim atheists, who seem to generally share EPV’s opinions about Islam.

    Of course, a generalization of a legitimate criticism of Islam to all Muslims everywhere is not warranted, nor prudent. But in many parts of the world, Islam and Islamic traditions are inextricably associated with the lives of Muslims, who seem to be guided in thought and action by the tenets of their faith as interpreted by their preachers. Many Muslims in diverse situations chose Islam to represent their ethnic and cultural identities. In such cases, is it at all possible to separate Islam from Muslims and vice versa?

    True, that EPV’s outburst consisted of a random Facebook rant – unsubstantiated by further discourse. It was, to my mind, a stupid action, given the space constraints of a Facebook post. But was he given a chance to expand on his views and defend his position rationally, before the so-called ‘moderate atheists’ and accommodationists tagged him and started baying for his blood resignation?

    Please allow me to reiterate at this point, I would still very much like to have an answer to my original questions from Hemant and/or Jennifer. But I am beginning to doubt that any response would be forthcoming.

  • I don’t have a problem with it.

  • Brian Macker


    I’ve posted long comments that go into all the complexities.   They all end up with Islam being a vile religion.

    I will cover one small possibility.   Illiteracy is very high in Muslim countries.   Lets suppose that none of the flock of some particular Imam can read, and that the Imam lies to them about the actual content of Islam.

    Of course the actual documents backing Islam are in fact vile.

    At some point despite all the good intentions one of this flock learns to read, sees what the Qur’an actually instructs and starts doing those vile things.   Even if this doesn’t happen it has the potential to happen.

    The Imam who is lying about Islam, (and potentially keeping his flock illiterate on purpose)is commiting the vile act of lying about so important a subject.

    The Qur’an is still vile regardless of all the ostrich like behavior here.

    The illiterate followers are responsible for their own decision not to a) Learn how to read.  b) Make sure they are not being lied to.
    Blindly following some guy is irresponsible behavior in an of itself.  Irresponsibly following the Qur’an a vile document.

    You know all the stuff that is going to be needed to keep this situation in place.   To maintain this level of ignorance they are likely to be actively treating questioners and disenters very poorly.   

    I find lots of things vile that perhaps you don’t.  I think that the Christian idea of doubt as sin as exemplified in the story of Doubting Thomas, as a vile concept.

    I also find a religious person who can say, “There is no violence in the Quran” to my face without reading it to be behaving in a vile manner, especially when they are in fact claiming I’m a liar. 

  • Brian Macker

    The moderates in fact endanger the non-believers and other moderates if they do not directly address the bad parts.   Christians do in fact do this to some extent.   However, they do so in a contradictory fashion, and their basis for addressing it is easy to contradict.   Thus we have to deal with the constant springing up of Christian cults.

    One would think that it would be possible to just remove all the bad stuff from the bible and call it “The New Bible” and get on with calling oneself a Christian, but that doesn’t solve the problem.  The bad versions are still around and since the whole idea of the religion is that “what is old is authoritative” and “revealed authority” they are extremely vulnerable to the charge of not being true Christians.    This I believe is why the Jefferson Bible never took off.

    Once you take that step of removing the bad stuff you also run into the issue of completely undermining revelation.   You are obviously using your own moral judgement, not revelation at that point, so such a religion would tend to evaporate the way Deism has.    It’s obvious you don’t really need Christianity at that point.

    Another route to go is to have a new Prophet but then your “Christianity” is about as Christian as  Christianity is Jewish.

    Islam’s founding documents and claims are such that any modifications that would eliminate the vile stuff would result in a religion that is no longer Islam.    Any new prophet that came along to strip out the vile stuff would result in non-Islam specifically because Mohammad said he was the final prophet. 

    I’d also like to point out that the dangers in Islam are far greater to others than in Christianity specifically because Islam was founded by a mass-murdering criminal, and Christianity was inspired by a pacifist who tolerated whores. 

  • Brian Macker

    Funny I haven’t heard about this wholesale slaughter of villages, and the leveling of communities that you seem to believe in.     Those actions that were taken (not the fictional ones you believe in) were in fact overwhemingly supported by Democratic representatives.    You have an extremely warped understanding of the real world if you think “Neocons” went on a genocidal rampage all by their lonesome.

    So that’s your first mistake.   [Note that “Neocon” is an antisemetic code word for “Jew” in some circles.  Are you in such circles?]

    It’s no wonder you made that mistake because your first mistake is to think that criticizing ideas is, to quote you, ” Its the exact same approach” as “…bomb the crap out of villages”.    Obviously your brain has trouble keeping categories distinct.

    The rest of what you said has other thinking of equal quality.  That is, it really is worth about two cents.  However you owe us that two cents.

  • Brian Macker

    Well actually a very small portion of it is true.  That is if we are being accurate.  

    Yes, it was committing torture.    I’m not sure if it is right now but the answer is “probably”.   

    Thing is that we have a domestic law that makes the commission of torture by an US citizen anywhere in the world an illegal act.  The US in fact has a law against it.    The probem isn’t “the US” in that sense then.  The problem is that certain US politicians are ignoring this law.

    The difference with Islam is glaring.   Islam’s founding philosophy endorses torture and genocide, and it founder practiced both. 

    The USA was founded on principles that are contradictory to torture, genocide, and slavery.   Yes, I said contradictory to slavery, and I can back that up to any idiot who thinks the 3/5th rule is about endorsing slavery.  Yes I said you are an ignorant idiot whoever thinks that.

  • Brian Macker

    No that’s in fact a bunch of half truths, and lies.   For example the US does not “support slavery”.     That’s a full blown lie and you know it.   It has zero in common with criticisms of Islam because those criticisms are factual.   In fact Islam does support slavery.

  • Anonymous

    I still think that a Muslim who rejects or ignores the ugly aspects of the Qu’ran has created for herself a form of the religion that is no less valid than the fundamentalist version. Normally, such a person makes justifications and re-interpretations of the ugly stuff- “that’s not really what it means” and so on. It’s useless intellectually, but many people are able to devise a quality ethical system this way. And I don’t think what they’re doing is any different from what Mohammed and his initial followers did- they’re making it up as they go along.

    And then there are all those near-atheists or closet atheists who call themselves Muslim for some sort of cultural reason. If you were to ask them what their faith consisted of, it might be something vague about an afterlife, and some respect for ritual. I wouldn’t call this “vile.” Maybe “nostalgic” (a quality I don’t care for myself). It’s not good, but not vile. 

    I don’t think you and I can come to an agreement here, though. I realize now that a wider spectrum of things qualify as “vile” to you than me. That is  in part a personality thing (and I’m not saying mine is in any way superior).

  • Brian Macker

    I don’t confuse a noun that refers to a set of ideas with an noun that refers to a set of people.   That’s not a fine line.   Do you interchange the two and say “An Islam blew up a building today” and “Muslim is the the second largest religion”.   I think not.  

  • Brian Macker

    “… what good does pointing out the nastiness of the stuff they’ve rejected do?”

    It shows them that many of their assumptions are wrong.  Like the assumption that the Qur’an is infallible, that Mohammad was a prophet, that they have moral authority because they believe some superstitions.  I could go on and on with the whys.

  • Anonymous

    So what’s the alternative? Kill them all? Another crusade? It’s reason or we’re as bad as them.

  • Anonymous

    You know, you are right. When I just read that quote,  I wasn’t sure at first it was mine. But I did, in fact, type those words. 

    I suppose what I mean to say is that that’s not the first thing you should say to a non-fundamentalist religious person, and not with the sort venom that the Pennsylvania guy did (at Muslims in general, not any individual). It seems more effective to establish some commonalities, get them to define what it is they mean by their religion, and start there. Asking them about why they reject the things they do, and what enables them to choose, is an important part of the conversation, and I’m surprised that I tried to deny that.

    I’ve given the issue deeper thought, and realized what the core of my feelings about this are. I just don’t think that most religious people are doing anything morally wrong by believing. They’ve been so heavily deceived and manipulated, I think many of them are victims. It doesn’t justify outright immoral acts or public stances (like anti-gay bigotry), but those who have rejected the nasty stuff are under a “spell,” to use Dennett’s word for it. I favor a kinder approach, because I sympathize with them, and I feel fortunate for having escaped it. 

    The reason, I realize now, that I felt compelled to deny the truth of the Perce comments is that I value truth very highly. I reacted against the comment, but refused to believe that I was making a “Yes, that’s true, but…” argument. In order to get around making one, I engaged in sophistry, and for that I apologize.

     Religion, at its core, is vile, and that’s part of the truth. But it’s not the first truth you will convince a moderate Muslim of. Other parts are that aspects of Islam are not vile. The sense of connection to a tradition, to one’s ancestors- that is a part of Islam to many- but the supernatural claptrap that comes along with it is outdated, and many of them know it already, almost know it. That’s the first truth you can convince them of (it was the first truth I realized about Christianity, 8 years before I fully embraced atheism). The “vile” stuff can come afterwards. 

    So I guess my contentions are really about attitude and sequencing, which is a lot more banal than what I thought it was to start out with. 

    Thank you for challenging me so thoroughly

  • DD

    I think that the quote is empty iconoclasm, a wan provocation because it lacks depth. However, the idea that this is “doing the Atheists’ worst” is an unintentional compliment. The Muslim “worst” is suicide bombings killing thousands and destroying the fruits of billions of hours of human labor. The Atheists’ worst is apparently just bellicose typing.

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