Does Islam Have a Monopoly on Violent Religous Intolerance?


The western world is still trying to make sense of the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris on January 7, 2015. Four days later, in his Forbes column, Doug Bandow offered a unique analysis. He makes an interesting and persuasive argument that there is much more at stake than free speech. What lies at the root of this incident, reflected time and again in one atrocity after another, is religious persecution meted out against dissenters.

Here is one especially thought-worthy paragraph:

The thugs who cut down a dozen [people at] Charlie Hebdo are the international cousins of those who murder alleged blasphemers and apostates in Muslim nations. Laws against blasphemy once were common in the West, and persist in a few nations—some, ironically, represented by government leaders who marched in Paris—and even a couple of American states, but are rarely used. However, blasphemy laws are actively enforced throughout the Muslim world. The irony is that where Islam is strongest, with belief by overwhelming popular majorities and support from authoritarian state authorities, the slightest perceived criticism of the dominant faith can result in prison or death. That suggests lack of confidence in the truth of Islam and fear of free inquiry by free minds.

The last two sentences draw attention to a neglected point. Would a religious group that is secure in its beliefs be as hypersensitive as those who murder alleged blasphemers?

I would add that such horrific actions—which are a daily occurrence somewhere in the world—are rooted in a worldview, a set of controlling beliefs that are either true or false. Our public discussion needs to acknowledge this point. There has been plenty of talk about whether Islam is a “peaceful religion” that has been hijacked by militant apostates (notice, they aren’t generally called “apostates” even by moderate Muslim leaders). But this distracts from three more fundamental questions:

  1. Peaceful or not, is Islam true?
  2. Are there are good reasons to believe that Islam is true?
  3. What are the best reasons to believe that Islam offers the most plausible worldview?

The atrocities we’re witnessing should prompt us to give more attention to this question.

Quotations: On Atheism


“I try not to believe in God, of course, but sometimes things happen in music, in songs, that bring me up short, make me do a double take. When things add up to more than the sum of their parts, when the effects achieved are inexplicable, then atheists like me start to get into difficult territory.” —Nick Hornby, Songbook

“Agnosticism is not a state in which the mind of an intelligent being can permanently rest. It is essentially a condition of suspense—a confession of ignorance—an abdication of thought on the highest subjects. Generally, however, under the surface of professed Agnosticism, there will be found some more or less positive opinions about the origin and nature of things all of them agreeing in this, that they negate the belief in God. It is not, in the nature of things, possible for the mind to remain persistently in this neutral, passive attitude. It will press on perforce to one or other of the views which present themselves as alternatives—either to Theism, or to Materialism and dogmatic Atheism.” —James Orr, The Christian View of God and the Word

“The number of reasonable atheist questions versus condescending atheist sneers that I have run across just directed at me in [sic] less than one in four.” —SF writer, and former atheist, John C. Wright

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