More Than I Could Chew?

follow_my_way_poster_2

Reflections on Follow My Way

The manicstreetpreacher licks his wounds after a gruelling public encounter with a bunch of religious fundamentalists.  The other panel members weren’t all that rational either…

Right now I don’t want to go out; I don’t want to make any friends.  All I want to do is make enemies.  I’ve never felt this much contempt for everyone and everything in my entire fucking life.  I don’t feel the need for anyone to like me anymore.  Jesus, it’s hard enough to like myself.

– Nicky Wire (1994)

On Thursday, 12 March 2009 at 7:00pm I attended Science Lecture Theatre A, Lecture Theatre Building at Liverpool University and debated a panel of what sounded like the beginnings of an exceptionally poor barroom joke:

Hamza Tzortzis, a Muslim[i]

Rabbi Y Y Rubinstein, a Jew[ii]

James Harding, a Christian and Anglican Chaplain of Liverpool’s three main universities[iii]

Without giving a blow-by-blow account, by the end of what had been an utterly gruelling evening I had felt as if my friends, work colleagues and fellow members of Liverpool Humanist Group would never speak to me again.

What’s more I felt as if I was the extremist, I was the ranter, I was the one trying to indoctrinate members of the audience and far more shrill, far more strident and far more intolerant than those believers against whom I lay the same charge.

It was the first time I had debated a Muslim and the first time I had debated in front of a predominantly Muslim audience.  A few quick points that atheist speakers in the same novel situation ought to be aware:

  1. If the event is organised by an Islamic society, expect arcane absurdities which do the religion no favours in the inclusiveness stakes, such as demanding that unmarried, unrelated men and women sit apart in the audience;
  2. The Muslim apologist will be given special treatment to cut off the other speakers whilst they are at the lectern trying to respond during their two precious minutes;
  3. If you intend to raise the issue of Wahhabi extremists brainwashing their children to become suicide bombers, don’t expect a positive reaction from the crowd.

After a very good reaction to my 10 minute opening address, which gave a whistle stop tour of atheism, anti-theism, secularism and the ills of religion on the world and humanist morality, throwing in a lambasting of the University Vice Chancellor, Sir Howard Newby, for his recent move to shut the philosophy, politics, statistics and communication studies departments, the crowd was firmly against me.

I found myself decrying miracles, the morality of the Holy Scriptures and Mother Teresa.  And then there was the small matter as set out in point three above, which nearly had me booed, jeered and hissed out of the hall.  My Christian opponent subsequently provoked the biggest cheer of the night, condemning me for saying “some really offensive things”.  Cheers and whistles which I myself added to.

It was actually Christopher Hitchens’ question on the usefulness of religion about whether you would prefer a child born tonight in Pakistan to grow up either as an atheist or a Wahhabi Muslim brainwashed into becoming a suicide bomber.[iv]

In retrospect, perhaps I ought to have pointed to the moral beacons of secular Scandinavia in front of a hijab-wearing audience, but I don’t regret it and I certainly don’t withdraw it, particularly, since the question was never actually answered and the topic was speedily moved to Blair and Bush’s adventures in Iraq.

The audience reaction was not so much indicative of any deliberate attempt to upset and provoke on my part (there was none) but the automatic respect accorded to religious faith in conversation.  Were the debate about Marxism, I very much doubt whether I would have received a similar response had I brought up the awkward fact of Joseph Stalin.

I certainly had my wish after my debate three weeks prior against Christian apologist Peter S Williams to come up against tougher opponents.  It wasn’t that my three antagonists had better arguments; it was that they were able to marshal an audience which was clearly on their side from the beginning.

Thus, when I raised the issue of lack of archaeological evidence for the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan, all Rabbi Rubinstein had to do was butt in from his chair by the main microphone and raise laughter and applause with an ad hominem against my bibliography.

“Oh, he reads the serious Jewish school now, does he?”  The flock loved it.

I tried to fight back with the doubtful location of Mount Sinai and the absence of any tombs for Moses, Solomon and David.  It didn’t matter; I had lost both the point and the crowd.  I have to resort to setting the record straight after the event when it’s too late with an open letter to the Rabbi.[v]

The audience were behind Hamza in particular.  He was given a roving microphone and cut me off several times during my precious two-minute slots at the lectern following questions from the audience.  He places a great of emphasis on the Argument from First Cause aka “Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?”  He will not accept any rebuttals which impinge on other arguments, such as design or fine-tuning.  He also thinks that the Qu’ran is a book of such extraordinary power that it could only have been the product of a divine miracle.

I hope we have another live debate soon so I can expose these vacuous claims for what they are and in a more decisive manner than I was able to on this occasion.

Before the night, I had rather hoped that if it was going to turn nasty, it would be a squabble between the three apologists over who has the best imaginary friend, with me being the cool and reasonable one.  Alas, it was not be and I was reduced to fire fighting from all quarters.

The problem with Islam

A full castigation of the Qu’ran will have to wait for another paper, but having read the text myself,[vi] together the excellent executive summaries of Sam Harris[vii] and also my new best friend, Edmund Standing,[viii] I can safely conclude that anyone who says that this book is of such mind-blowing brilliance and so prescient of society’s universal and timeless needs is either deluded, dishonest, demagogic or a combination of all three.

The assertion that “Islam is a religion of peace which has been hijacked by extremists” is a claim utterly falsified by reading the Qu’ran.   Anyone who says that there could be nothing in the book that could possibly have mandated the atrocities of 9/11 or 7/7 doesn’t know what they’re talking about:

And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits.

And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.

But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

And fight with them until there is no persecution, and religion should be only for Allah, but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.

The Sacred month for the sacred month and all sacred things are (under the law of) retaliation; whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted on you and be careful (of your duty) to Allah and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil) (2.190-4).

Ditto anyone who swallows the line that Islam says “there shall be no compulsion in religion”:

Allah will bring disgrace to the unbelievers (9.2).

O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination (9.73).

Meanwhile, the applicability of the Prophet’s family values in today’s ever-shifting moral Zeitgeist are questionable to say the least:

Narrated ‘Ursa:

The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with ‘Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death).

– Hadith collection of Imam al-Bukhari

While it is always a relief to hear religious people do not take their texts literally and read the Holy Scriptures as authorising genocide and jihad, there can be little doubt that many people do take such passages literally.  If you’re still not convinced, perhaps they would care to read Osama Bin Laden’s Letter to America:

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful,

“Permission to fight (against disbelievers) is given to those (believers) who are fought against, because they have been wronged and surely, Allah is Able to give them (believers) victory.” [Qu’ran 22:39]

“Those who believe, fight in the Cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Taghut (anything worshipped other than Allah e.g. Satan). So fight you against the friends of Satan; ever feeble is indeed the plot of Satan.” [Qu’ran 4:76][ix]

The latest polling data should alarming levels of fundamentalism among British Muslims.  The Centre for Social Cohesion produced a report in 2008 entitled Islam on Campus: A survey of UK student opinion.[x] The study, based on a poll of 1,400 students as well as field work and interviews, revealed of British Muslim students that:

  • 32% said killing in the name of religion can be justified;
  • 60% of active members of campus Islamic societies said killing in the name of religion can be justified;
  • 50% would be unsupportive of a friend’s decision to leave Islam;
  • 24% do not feel that men and women are fully equal in the eyes of Allah;
  • 28% said Islam was incompatible with secularism;
  • 40% said that they thought that it was unacceptable for Muslim men and women to mix freely;
  • 25% said they had not very much or no respect at all for homosexuals, as opposed to 4% of non-Muslim students.

A 2007 poll of 1,000 of the wider Muslim population in Britain conducted by the think tank Policy Exchange found that:

  • 86% of Muslims feel that religion is the most important thing in their life;
  • 36% of 16 to 24-year-olds believe if a Muslim converts to another religion they should be punished by death;
  • 74% of 16 to 24-year-olds would prefer Muslim women to choose to wear the veil;
  • 58% believe that “many of the problems in the world today are a result of arrogant Western attitudes”;
  • Only 37% accept that ‘one of the benefits of modern society is the freedom to criticise other people’s religious or political views, even when it causes offence’.[xi]

A 2006 Populus poll for The Times found that 37% of British Muslims believe that “the Jewish community in Britain is a legitimate target as part of the ongoing struggle for justice in the Middle East”.[xii]A 2005 Daily Telegraph poll found that 32% of British Muslims agreed with the notion that “Western society is decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end”. [xiii]

During a coda in a Muslim restaurant after the debate with my two remaining antagonists (Rabbi Rubinstein had to leave at 9pm while the debate was still ongoing) and members of the Islamic Society, I spoke further with Hamza and Muslim students.

The question of 1.3 million deaths in Iraq/ 3 million deaths in Vietnam/ 150,000 deaths at Hiroshima –v- 3,000 deaths on 9/11 arose as it had done so earlier that evening.

I am not going to write one word in defence of US foreign policy since World War II.  America has much to answer for and the body count arising from its activities abroad doesn’t even bear thinking about.

However, unlike the sloppy moral equivalence of Noam Chomsky in comparing Bill Clinton’s 1998 rocketing of the Sudanese Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant, which purportedly lead to the deaths of thousands of innocent Sudanese from preventable diseases with 9/11, the body count is, bizarrely of secondly importance.

It can be demonstrated with this rather morbid thought experiment.  Which would you prefer; that your father was the bombardier on the Enola Gay that dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima which killed tens of thousands of women and children, or that he was in the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam War and killed 20 women and children at the point of a bayonet?

It’s a massive moral paradox, but I think most people would go for option 1!

One of the few statements of Henry Kissinger I have agreed with is that statesmen very often have to choose between evils.  (For the record, I don’t agree with the second part of that statement, that normal rules of morality cannot apply to them.  I think certain liberals have mounted a very convincing case to bring Kissinger to an International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes along with the like of Milosevic and Karadzic.[xiv])

But the question remains, would we like it if the situation is reversed?  Would we like America to switch military support from Israel to Hamas?  Would we trust the governments of Saudi Arabia and Iran by selling them nuclear weapons?  If the Iraqi National guard had invaded Washington, would they take any notice of the US employing human shields?  Would the US even use human shields?

Again, I don’t support the Iraq War, but I don’t point-blank reject its motives and its results either.  It is still possible to establish a first principle; there is still an argument for self-preservation, as there was for the fire-bombing of Dresden and the destruction of Hiroshima.  We wouldn’t be in Iraq if it wasn’t for 9/11.  The World changed beyond recognition for all time that day.

Also, anyone who says “Well ok, Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, but…” should educate themselves as to the extent of the man’s atrocities against the Kuwaitis, the Kurds and his own people.  Whatever happens to Iraq now, it has been an enormously costly exercise; that I cannot deny.  But I just have a hunch that in 10 years time it won’t be looked upon quite the same negative light as Vietnam.

The comparative sense of tribalism between me and Hamza and the Muslim students was astonishing.  Whilst I do not support America’s misadventures abroad, I do not feel the desire to take up arms and avenge the suffering visited upon them by innocent citizens of the perpetrators’ countries, or sympathise with those who do.  I hope I stand to be corrected in this, but I had the impression that Hamza and some of the other students do.

They repeatedly attempted to justify suicide attacks, play down religion’s role and play up that of secular politics.  The moderator of the debate, kindly gave me a lift home after the meal and pointed out that suicide bombing had only arisen in the last 20 years or so and was devised by the Tamil Tigers, whose motives are political, even if their religious views are Hindu, (as opposed to the common misperception that they are atheists).

I said to him that Jains and Tibetan Buddhists do not practice suicide bombing.   Tibetan Buddhists in particular are extremely oppressed.  If mistreatment by a foreign army occupying your country is sufficient to cause the requisite level of despair, Tibetan Buddhists ought to be blowing themselves up on Chinese public transportation.  But they do not do this, because their religion does not mandate in any way, shape or form.  This is a problem with Islam.

The problem with atheism

My opponents had a big advantage to me on the night.  They were advocating something positive, something inspiring, something that can provide hope.  Whether any of it was true or not was apparently of no concern whatsoever to the flock before them.

All I can say in reply to that is those who provide false consolation are false friends.  However, this still left me as the underdog.  I was essentially advancing a negative position.  I was speaking against their offers of hope and salvation.  I was the nasty teenager going around telling all the toddlers that there’s no such thing as Santa Claus.

The Christian chaplain had a wonderfully inspiring story of how he was seriously injured in a car accident as a child.  He spent months in hospital in intensive care whilst everyday his parents were told by the doctors to expect him to die.  However, the power of prayer apparently saved him.   In response to that, I said that we should consider all the children who didn’t make it, who died every single day the chaplain was in hospital, who were seemingly less ill than he was and the prayers of whose parents were not answered by the Almighty.

When people talk about miracles they mean when a baby falls out of a top storey window and bounces harmlessly on a pile of grass cuttings.  People to hold their hands aloft and thanks heaven for this wonderful salvation.  They have nothing to say when in the Congo and Cambodia and Rwanda there were ditches filled with dead babies and no one did a thing.

The truth may set you free, but it sure can leave a bitter aftertaste.

At the Atheist Alliance International Conference 2007, Sam Harris argued controversially that actually the “atheist” brand was doing the anti-religious cause few favours.[xv] Atheism is a term that we do need, in very much the same way that we do not have terms like “non-astrologer” or “non-racist”.  People, whether they believe in God or, what Dan Dennett describes as, “believe in belief in God” see atheists speaking out against religion as a cranky, intolerant, sub-cult.

Atheists seemingly never have to stop answering the bogus “Hitler/ Stalin/ Mao = the endgame of atheism” card.   “This meme is not going away,” commented Harris.  I felt that my knowledge of history and philosophy far outstripped any of my opponents.  Nevertheless, all Rabbi Rubinstein had to do was mention the crimes of Hitler and Stalin being caused by them allegedly being atheists to gain a murmur of approval from the crowd and was then up to me to cut into my own time at the next visit to the microphone to refute it.

That night I had first-hand experience of Harris’ dilemma.  My three opponents appeared so happy, so content living their lies.  They had something to offer the crowd which I simply could not.  On the other hand, I must have come across as miserable, angry, intolerant and trying desperately to indoctrinate people into my way of thinking.

Faith seems to trump evidence at every turn.  I could have lectured to them extensively on the historical unreliability of the Gospels, but they wouldn’t have taken any notice.  The idea that someone died to wash away their sins obviously appeals to their deepest hopes and fears and no amount of evidence would dissuade them of it.  Any claim, no matter how ridiculous, is irrefutable as long as it is dressed in faith.  The onus suddenly switches to the non-believer to disprove it, which is often an impossible task.  Apparently, no qualifications whatsoever are required in order to believe, but conversely no qualifications are sufficient in order to criticise.

Right now, my head is filled with visions of celestial teapots and self-propelled spaghetti monsters…

How to re-brand the atheist mark?  Can it ever be a positive?  I contend that atheism is a by-product of an enquiring mind that is forever asking questions and will not accept easy answers.  There is some empirical data which suggests that religious people are happy and healthier than non-believers and I can easily accept this.  Who would have wanted to be me that night?

When faced with such terrible ideas, what can I do – attempt to refute them or let them go unanswered and keep on plugging the “use what’s up here” card?  It’s frustrating, but I simply cannot provide an alternative manifesto at this time.  The best I can do is to refute the idea that an atheist has no reason to save someone else’s life as I did in my opening statement:

Quite simply an atheist does not need to refer his or her problems upwards.  We view them for what they are, on their own terms.  There is fulfilment in performing a good deed for its own sake, as opposed to doing it because invisible Big Brother in sky wants you to do it.   If we were endangered we would hope someone else would do the same thing for us.

Similarly, an atheist can easily abhor pain and suffering for its own sake.  We object to the Holocaust because we would not like the same thing to happen to us.  If we saw it happening in front of our eyes we would act to stop it.  Or if we witnessed the aftermath, we would try to alleviate its effects.

When the Asian tsunami struck on Boxing Day 2004, it was exactly these kinds of sentiments that took people of all faiths and none at all to the other side of the world to help ease the suffering of perfect strangers.

It’s amazing how far a little human solidity will get you and equally amazing how permission from the divine is unnecessary.

A humanist is, after all, someone who can be good when no-one is watching.

I am a straight-talker and I always have been.  If it looks like a spade, and it feels like a spade, and it digs like a spade, then I will frame it in explicitly shovel-esque language.  I have been loathed for it at every stage of my life, but then again I have always garnered a certain level of respect from what I term a “sincere minority”.

In conclusion – this glorious struggle continues

When the debate itself was all over, at about 9:45pm, I felt absolutely awful!  I was sure that I would be banned from speaking again at the University for good.  One or two of my friends who had come along congratulated me, but others left for their cars and their beds straightaway without a word.

Members of the University of Liverpool Atheist Society were incredulous to put it mildly.  The chair said I was welcome to come to Tuesday night drinks at the society as usual.  I detected more than a hint of polite insincerity in her tone.

However, one gentleman came up to me, smiled and shook my hand and said, “Brilliant.  Your arguing was just brilliant”.  A member of the City Christian Union gave me his phone number and asked to meet up some time as there were “a few things he wanted to talk about”.  At the restaurant afterwards, James Harding said I deserve respect for going into the lion’s den like Daniel.

Members of Liverpool Humanist Group emailed the next day saying how well I had stood up to it all and promoted the cause of humanism.  I had a few positive comments posted on my blog from audience members who wanted me to elaborate on certain issues.

In work the next day, colleagues who had been present said how well I had done and I ought to re-train as a barrister.  One solicitor who had missed the event due to a personal commitment said after the reports from the other she was definitely coming for the next one.

And then there was the small matter of receiving a Facebook message the Sunday after the event from the Islamic Society… inviting me back to Follow My Way Part II scheduled to be held at the University after Easter.

This news could almost make me believe in God.  Surely it must fulfil David Hume’s criteria for a miracle?  I have asked myself whether I am under a misapprehension, or I am deluded, or hallucinating, but apparently not.

However, the more naturalistic explanation for my invitation is, I postulate, that no matter how much your views are disagreed with, a substantial number of people always respect you for having the courage to speak your mind without consideration for what the reaction will be.

Is the heading quote from Manic Street Preachers’ skinny bassist an accurate summation of how I’m feeling right now?  Only in so far as I’m not doing this to make any new friends.  Indeed, I am filled with a wonderful sensation of “me against the world”.  Very Manic-esque.

Is the title to this essay an accurate description of what happened to me on the night?  Well, I was certainly left feeling rather full and had a few crumbs round my mouth and down my front.

But it wasn’t about overfilling my tummy.  It was about finally getting my trousers off.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to friends, workmates and Liverpool Humanist Group members who came along for all their support before, during and after.  I won’t incriminate you here; you know who you are.

Special thanks to Edmund Standing (a qualified theologian with a first class honours in the subject and several other very impressive letters after his name), for giving some helpful advice to a fellow atheist crusader he has never met before in his life:

http://edmundstanding.blogspot.com/

http://www.jewcy.com/user/3956/edmund_standing

http://www.hurryupharry.org/

http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/

Extra special thanks to Liverpool University Islamic Society for having me to speak, for a wonderful meal afterwards and risking the University’s buildings and contents insurance by inviting me back for a second time.


[i] www.hamzatzortzis.com.

[ii] http://www.rabbiyy.com/.

[iii] www.faithexpress.net.

[iv] Among other occasions, the question was posed in by Hitchens in his debate against Dinesh D’Souza, “What’s So Great About God? Atheism –v- Religion” at Macky Auditorium, CU Boulder, January 26, 2009 and can be viewed at: http://richarddawkins.net/article,3623,Debate-Christopher-Hitchens-and-Dinesh-DSouza,Thomas-Center.

[v] https://edthemanicstreetpreacher.wordpress.com/2009/03/22/open-letter-rabbi-y-y/.

[vi] For what it’s worth, my version of the sacred text is translated and with an introduction by Arthur J Arberry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), but I’m sure it’s full of mistranslations and passages taken out of context.

[vii] The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason (London: Simon & Schuster, 2006).

[viii] Edmund Standing, “A Critical Examination of the Qu’ran”, Butterflies and Wheels, 6 February 2009,

Part 1: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/articleprint.php?num=384,

Part 2: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/articleprint.php?num=385,

Part 3: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/articleprint.php?num=386,

Part 4: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/articleprint.php?num=387.

[ix] “Full text: bin Laden’s ‘letter to America’”, The Guardian, 24 November 2002: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/nov/24/theobserver.

[x] Full report: http://www.socialcohesion.co.uk/files/1231525079_1.pdf.  Executive summary: http://www.socialcohesion.co.uk/files/1231525079_2.pdf.

[xi] “British Muslims poll: Key points”, BBC News, 29 January 2007: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6309983.stm.

[xii] Peter Riddell, “Poll shows voters believe press is right not to publish cartoons”, The Times, 7 February 2006: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article727952.ece.

[xiii] Anthony King, “One in four Muslims sympathises with motives of terrorists”, The Daily Telegraph, 23 July 2005: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1494648/One-in-four-Muslims-sympathises-with-motives-of-terrorists.html.

[xiv] For a superb exposition of Kissinger’s war crimes, see Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger (London: Verso, 2002) and its accompanying documentary, The Trials of Henry Kissinger (2002) which contains Kissinger’s statement about statesmen having to choose between evils and can be viewed at: http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=-2411718527195635002&ei=bEO9Se-IBoiGqwL3zcA-&q=trials+of+henry+kissinger+hitchens&hl=en.

[xv] The video of Harris’ speech on 28 September 2007 can be viewed at:

http://richarddawkins.net/article,1805,Sam-Harris-at-AAI-07,RichardDawkinsnet.  An edited transcript is at http://richarddawkins.net/article,1702,The-Problem-with-Atheism,Sam-Harris.

All web-based resources retrieved 15 March 2009.

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21 Responses to “More Than I Could Chew?”

  1. Chris H Says:

    Hi Ed,

    I wish I could have been there! I didn’t think that you would moderate your tone for a mostly Islamic audience and you didn’t disappoint! It’s a slightly different atmosphere to chatting to the CU, isn’t it? I hope there is a second session and I hope I am there to see it!

    Chris

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Too bloody right I wouldn’t, mate! They get a live one when they invite the manic street preacher along! When you coming back from the ‘diff? All the LHGers miss you. We need leadership and direction! Ed

  2. Steven Carr Says:

    I have several articles on Islam at
    http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/mhmd.htm
    http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/quran1.htm
    http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/quran2.htm
    http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/hdth.htm
    http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/hajj.htm

    Don’t forget.

    When you walk around the black stone, you have to walk 3 times quickly and 4 times slowly.

    Or else Allah will kill you.

    And then run up and down a hill seven times.

    Or else Allah will kill you, or at least have you burn in Hell for all eternity.

  3. Steven Carr Says:

    I have several articles on Islam at
    http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/mhmd.htm
    http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/quran1.htm
    http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/quran2.htm
    http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/hdth.htm
    http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/hajj.htm

    Don’t forget.

    When you walk around the black stone, you have to walk 3 times quickly and 4 times slowly.

    Or else Allah will kill you.

    And then run up and down a hill seven times.

    Or else Allah will kill you, or at least have you burn in Hell for all eternity.

  4. AlexMagd Says:

    I know what you mean about atheism being a negative, and it really can be a problem. I personally don’t see it as such a big deal but some people really do believe that ignorance is bliss, and to them we must come across as awfully negative!

    I hope you get a chance at the second one to actually present some of the positive aspects of non-belief. I’ve always maintained that ethical decisions built on a holy text aren’t ethical at all, because they require absolutely no thought. When you leave a faith and become an atheist you actually have to stop and re-evaluate your views on a lot of things and, crucially, have to come up with reasons to back your opinions up. I learnt a lot about myself during that process, and while I undoubtedly share a lot of values with some religious people, they are now my values and not God’s. I find that an incredibly positive thing that I think religion makes hard – you’ve always got that easy option of “because God says so”

  5. j.b Says:

    “Prefer a child born tonight in Pakistan to grow up either as an atheist or a Wahhabi Muslim brainwashed into becoming a suicide bomber.”

    To be fair, if that’s as good as your intellectual musings go, then no wonder you were booed off! That is a pretty childish question – devoid of any intellectual mileage.

    That’s like one of the religious folk saying would you want a kid born in Russia to grow up as a Muslim/Jew/Christian or grow up to be an atheist mass murderer. It’s only suitable for school yard pointscoring, not adult intellectual debates.

    And the argument that religion makes people do evil things is weak. That’s like saying all atheists are weak because of what Stalin, Lenin and Mao did. Maybe they should have stopped teaching people Darwinism, when it was promote racism. Some atheists might have no moral compass; it doesn’t mean all are like that.

    Seriously stupid logic mate!

    Yep people do see atheists as irrational people frothing at the mouth. If religion makes people happy, let them be.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Yeah, I still have nightmares about that moment. Thanks for reminding me! What can I say? It works when Hitchens does it…

      After a cracking opening speech, it all went to pot when the other panel members (apart from the Anglican chaplain, who was a lovely chap!) started cutting me off mid-sentence, playing cheap points with the crowd and taking pot shots at me in their answers that I could not possibly refute. The predominantly believing crowd loved it, which didn’t help.

      I had some knowledge of the Koran at that point, and Tzortzis’ claims that the Koran itself was a miracle made me see red as well. My usual passion and enthusiasm boiled over into sheer rage and I started making stupid and irrelevant attacks on miracles and Mother Teresa.

      I was invited to the next event, but couldn’t make it in the end. While I was considering it, I asked the organisers to have a more conversational structure rather than giving each panellist a mere two minutes to answer each question. I also gave myself a good talking to not let myself be provoked.

      I disagree with your comparison with children being brought up in Stalin’s Russia. These were appalling men with appalling political ideologies. It is true that a forceful eradication of theistic religion was part of Stalin and Mao’s policies. However, the question is not whether individual atheists or believers do evil things, but whether atheism systematically influences people to evil things. There no evidence for this, but there is plenty of evidence that belief in God and a holy book will lead otherwise sane and rational people to kill believing that they are moral and right to do so, indoctrinate their children or want unscientific nonsense taught in schools.

      Do you really think Stalin built the gulags following intense study of the holy scriptures when he decided that they just weren’t that good and religious claims deserved the same amount of respect as belief in the East Bunny?

      MSP

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      P.S. Holocaust denial makes a lot of people happy. Should we just leave that idea be?

      MSP

      • J.B Says:

        “However, the question is not whether individual atheists or believers do evil things, but whether atheism systematically influences people to evil things. There no evidence for this, but there is plenty of evidence that belief in God and a holy book will lead otherwise sane and rational people to kill believing that they are moral and right to do so,”

        Like i said, Darwinism has been used to justify wrongdoings, does that mean that it should not be taught or advocated? Any ideology can be bastardised.

        And just as some people are feel compelled by religion to do evil things, so to are they compelled to do charitable deeds. It can be argued that religious people are more altruistic and charitable than non-believers – how many leper sanctuaries are run by atheists? You can take that further and say religious people are more moralistic than non-believers or commit less crime…but those kind of discussions take us nowhere.

        Again another childish argument; there are no positives to holocaust denial. There are with religions.

  6. j.b Says:

    Plus, don’t wish to be mean. But i think the Islamic Society invited you because they thought your arguments were weak; a patsy for another easy home win.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      You could well be right. I read the Koran cover-to-cover soon after the event and now I wonder what Muslims really think of me given that it says on practically every page of the book Tzortzis was claiming as a miracle promises that I as unbeliever will face a painful chastisement in Hell, Fire or Gehenna…

      MSP

  7. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    Like i said, Darwinism has been used to justify wrongdoings, does that mean that it should not be taught or advocated? Any ideology can be bastardised.

    Racism and eugenics existed perfectly well for hundreds, if not thousands of years before Darwin. Common creationist straw man.

    Can you please provide direct evidence of Darwinism justifying wrong doings? Have Stromfront or the BNP quoted On The Origins of Species when arguing for mass deportation of blacks recently? Can you quote a passage from Origin or The Descent of Man where Darwin supports such practices? The is a passage in Descent that is often mined by creationists to make it look like Darwin advocated eugenics, but read it full, it shows that he was arguing exactly the opposite.

    Hitler’s Mein Kampf references Heaven and the Almighty rather a lot, but Darwin not once. He advocated changing the appearance of the human race by artificial selection, which had nothing to do with Darwin’s theory. Dog breeding and pigeon fancying have going for centuries and are more responsible for Hitler’s eugenics than Darwin.

    how many leper sanctuaries are run by atheists?

    There are plenty of charitable agencies that are secular, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, where the people do it out of the goodness of their hearts, out of care for their fellow human beings and not to proselytise for religion.

    The whole justification of Hamas and Islamic jihad in Gaza is that they provide welfare for the poor. Is this claim valid for them as well?

    The Catholic Church may do a lot of good in the Third World, but they are also perpetrating one of history’s greatest crimes against humanity by arguing that condom use is sinful, or worse, that condoms are ineffective or even defective in preventing the transmission of HIV virus. Which side are you going to choose?

    When the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami struck in South East Asia, people of all faiths and none whatsoever rushed to the other side of the world to help.

    Again another childish argument; there are no positives to holocaust denial. There are with religions.

    Like I say, it seems to provide meaning and purposes to some people’s lives.

    Hitler built the Autobahns; Mussolini made the trains run on time. You can’t just cherry pick the results of an ideology and declare it to above criticism.

    MSP

  8. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    or maybe Muslims think there’s still hope for you….

    Are you a Muslim? Have you read the Koran? The impression I had is that God employs a rather sinister brand of predestination that would make Calvin blush. I have been blinded and deceived into disbelief and there is nothing I can do to save myself.

    The book’s claims are pretty non-negotiable like that.

    MSP

    • j.b Says:

      Fascism, communism and capitalism have all benefited from Darwin’s philosophy. Dictators and despots such as Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Pol Pot have based and justified some of their actions by using Darwin’s materialist ideals

      As you probably know, Darwin’s version of evolution revolves around the idea of natural selection. He said in nature there is always a struggle for survival, which eventually sees the strong overcome the weak. Darwin claimed this struggle also applied to the human race – a struggle which would eventually see the ‘favoured races’, European whites, emerge victorious over others. He referred to Africans and native Australians as ‘savages’, who were deemed to be less evolved and therefore closer to apes. These races, he said, would eventually be exterminated by the ‘civilised’ races. Racists have used this!

      “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes … will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.” (Darwin 1887 The Descent of Man)

      Western colonialists benefited from such views; much of Britain’s imperialist actions during that time were explained by the need to ‘civilise’ the natives who were portrayed as ‘primitive’ and ‘animal-like’. The mentality of being superior justified any action. The ill treatment of black people post slavery continued to be palatable because they were deemed lesser humans.

      The ideology of capitalism has also garnered support from the notion of ‘survival of the fittest’, as coined by the father of ‘Social Darwinism’ Herbet Spencer. The idea that humans constantly struggle to be better is seen as a natural justification of the capitalist’s drive to acquire more wealth – even if that means exploiting others (workers, third world countries, etc.). Palaeontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn once wrote: “The ethical principle inherent in evolution is that only the best has a right to survive” (Evolution and Religion in Education – 1926).

      Adolf Hitler drew inspiration from the ‘survival of the fittest’ philosophy and justified his actions by equating non-whites with monkeys: “Take away the Nordic Germans and nothing remains but the dance of apes,” he once said.

      Hitler believed the superiority of the Aryan race was given by nature. He believed in the perseverance of the Aryan blood and advocated the theory of eugenics. And where did eugenics evolve from?? Look it up! The term was coined in the late 19th Century – well after Darwin’s theory. It was coined by Charles Darwin’s half-cousin Francis Galton, while Darwin’s son, Leonard Darwin, was also an eminent eugenicist. The practice was codified and gathered pace BECAUSE of Darwin’s teachings.

      In Germany biologist Ernst Haeckel promoted Darwin’s teachings with gusto and in particular eugenics. Haeckel’s teachings, lectures and writings provided ‘scientific’ justifications for racism and social Darwinism, views which helped create a convenient atmosphere for the Nazi Party to flourish.

      He and other such eugenicists believed in killing the weak; those that were unproductive and a drain on society. Ideas mooted included the infanticide of abnormal infants and the elimination of the handicapped or the deformed.

      Evolutionist Sir Arthur Keith in his book ‘Evolution and Ethics’ (1947) said of Hitler: “The leader of Germany is an evolutionist not only in theory, but, as millions know to their cost, in the rigor of its practice.” Keith also added: “To see evolutionary measures and tribal morality being applied rigorously to the affairs of a great modern nation we must turn again to Germany of 1942. We see Hitler devoutly convinced that evolution provides the only real basis for a national policy.”

      Communism, in its relative short history span, has taken many lives across the world. Far more than religion. The book “Black Book of Communism” suggested deaths attributed to Communism around the world unofficially totals around 94 million.

      Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the forefathers of communism, were strong adherents of the evolutionary theory. Engels, while reading Darwin’s book, wrote to Marx: “Darwin, whom I am just now reading, is splendid.” Marx, in his letter to German socialist politician Ferdinand Lassalle, said: “Darwin’s book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history.”

      Like other Communist leaders, Vladimir Lenin often stressed that Darwin’s theory was the fundamental basis of dialectical materialist philosophy:

      Leon Trotsky was an admirer of Darwin as was Lenin’s successor and the most brutal Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin. Stalin apparently became an atheist after reading Darwin’s book, Origin of the Species. He explained the importance he attached to Darwin’s ideas in his autobiography: “There are three things that we do to disabuse the minds of our seminary students. We had to teach them the age of the earth, the geologic origin, and Darwin’s teachings.”

      Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian novelist and historian who won the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature, in a speech in 1983 talked of the disasters that had occurred in Russia after the Communist revolution:

      “Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Since then I have spend well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

      BUT

      I’m not against Darwinsims or the evolutionary theory.

      You see how easy it is to bastardise any ideology? …You can cherry pick the results of an ideology and criticise it.

      It would be too simplistic to say that any one thing is the root of all evil. History shows that any ideology or religion is susceptible to abuse and can be hijacked to justify evil.

      You and people like Dawkins are no different from the religious fundamentalist – you believe you are right, and everyone should follow you.

      Stop hating. Look at the similarities, rather than difference.

      • manicstreetpreacher Says:

        [Darwin] referred to Africans and native Australians as ‘savages’, who were deemed to be less evolved and therefore closer to apes. These races, he said, would eventually be exterminated by the ‘civilised’ races.

        Do you really think that the concept that blacks were less human than whites was a new idea that took hold when Origins was published? What nonsense!

        Please don’t come to this blog and reproduce creationist lies. That passage from Descent you quoted was a quote-mined version to make it appear that Darwin was advocating racial superiority. The full passage reads as follows:

        The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, convinced by general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks incessantly occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies – between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridæ [JSW: Tarsiers and Lemurs] – between the elephant and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus [JSW: platypus] or Echidna, and other mammals. But all these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

        The argument given here is not one of progress but of taxonomy! The TalkOrigins writer puts it much better than I can:

        Darwin was arguing that there is no simple continuous “carpet” of forms of intermediates because breaks are formed by extinction. On Lamarck’s older view in which there is constant evolution of forms along set lines, there ought to have been no such breaks – all taxonomic groups should be artificial and conventional or arbitrary. But Darwin is trying to convince his readers that this is not to be expected. The use of the term “organic chain” is one of many unfortunate terms Darwin uses here – it brings to mind the late medieval notion of a continuous scale or ladder of nature – but I think Darwin gets it from the critics he mentions, the ones who argue for a “missing link” in that chain. Missing linkism is a common criticism of Darwin still.

        Doubtless, Josef Stalin accepted Newton’s theory of gravity, but creationists do not claim that Newton’s theory should be suppressed because Stalin believed it. However, Stalin actually rejected Darwinism in favour of Lamarckism and Lysenkoism:

        Mendeleyev’s “periodic system of elements” clearly shows how very important in the history of nature is the emergence of qualitative changes out of quantitative changes. The same thing is shown in biology by the theory of neo-Lamarckism, to which neo-Darwinism is yielding place. (Stalin 1906, 304)

        Can one post contain so many straw men, jb?!

        Communism, in its relative short history span, has taken many lives across the world. Far more than religion.

        I’m sorry, but this is the argument from “Yeah, but what about…” I’m no supporter of Communism either. It’s rather like saying that road traffic accidents kill far more people in a year than homicide, so we should abandon investigative police work and channel all our resources into enforcing speed limits and seatbelt laws.

        You may as well bash me over the head for the crimes of Mugabe. You are attacking positions that I do not hold.

        Stalinist Communism was effectively a political religion with its only dogmas and an unalterable, unchallengeable, infallible leader that everyone must praise constantly for the gifts he bestows on them. Anything familiar about that?

        Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened’.”

        If you and Alexander Solzhenitsyn really want to do body counts, then consider the conquest of the Americas when white Christian Europeans committed history’s least-discussed Holocaust against the indigenous Americans with the full backing and indeed the complicity of the churches. Have you seen Roland Joffé’s film The Mission with Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro? That is a pretty accurate portrayal of the crimes against humanity that occurred.

        Bertrand Russell made the point that although the First World War was not a religious war in any sense (although I heard somewhere that the Muslim Ottoman Empire of Turkey declared the war against the Allies as a jihad!), it was still a slaughter on a massive scale perpetrated by imperialist theocratic regimes who all said they had God on their side.

        Christian faith is clearly no guarantee against such behaviour and I think you are unjustifiably demonising atheists by continuing to trot out this well-worn, bogus argument.

        I’m not against Darwinism or the evolutionary theory.

        Really? You could have fooled me. It is tiresome enough hearing these arguments from creationists. It is especially annoying when they are regurgitated by evolutionists!

        I am still waiting for you and Sir Arthur Keith to quote an actual passage from Hitler’s writings and public speaking or those of any prominent Nazi for that matter, to show that the Nazis were attempting to create Darwin’s utopia. The pair of you are simply drawing your own conclusions, but they have no evidence to support them whatsoever.

        You see how easy it is to bastardise any ideology? …You can cherry pick the results of an ideology and criticise it.

        Darwin’s theory of evolution of natural selection describes a scientific process that is a fact whether we like it or not. I don’t doubt that certain dogmatists have misused scientific discoveries, but Darwin is no more to blame for Hitler’s eugenics programmes than those aforementioned dog breeders and pigeon fanciers.

        Saying that Darwinism is immoral leads to racism and violence is rather like saying that nuclear physics is immoral because it gave us the Bomb. If science students at universities throughout the world were taught that eugenics was contingent and necessary for the advancement for the human species, then I would say you comparison may be valid. At present, it is not.

        The Bible and the Koran/ Hadith on the other hand contain specific instructions to kill people for a variety of theological offences which some of their adherents take literally. I suggest you read my recent post on religious moderates for a fuller picture of my views:

        The actions of the 9/11 hijackers may not be typical of all Muslims, but they were a perfectly rational interpretation of the Qur’an and the Hadith. The recent case of Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian man charged as the Christmas Day Detroit underpants bomber, who was a former head of University College London’s Islamic Society and lived in a £4 million house while studying, is further proof, if any were needed, that Islamism is not a movement where the poorest of the poor have risen up against the ills of the Israeli government and US foreign policy.

        MSP

  9. j.b Says:

    ahh, so Darwin’s books need to be clarifie by experts?!. So when he said “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.” Experts say he wasn’t talking about “race” as in people but he meant “varieties.” I need someone well versed in the topic to “explain” this to me.

    But you read the quran and get your own opinions. You do not read it in its original text; arabic. You do not bother to understand the denotations and the connotations of the book. And yet you expect me to extend that understanding to Darwin – whose book is IN english and is much more recent than the Quran. So there should be less scope for confusion. But there still is.

    And that’s my point. I have nothing against Darwin or the theories of evolution. But the point i was making is that ANY ideology can be misconstrued. Just like you have with religion.

    “Doubtless, Josef Stalin accepted Newton’s theory of gravity, but creationists do not claim that Newton’s theory should be suppressed because Stalin believed it”

    …nope i don’t. That’s the logic you believe in which i’m trying to point out. i.e some bad comes out of it therefore it must be all bad. Obviously you still don’t get it! sheeesh, how myopic can you be??

    “Stalinist Communism was effectively a political religion with its only dogmas and an unalterable, unchallengeable, infallible leader that everyone must praise constantly for the gifts he bestows on them. Anything familiar about that?”

    Yep militant atheism and their supreme leader Richard Dawkins 🙂

    “I don’t doubt that certain dogmatists have misused scientific discoveries, but Darwin is no more to blame for Hitler’s eugenics programmes than those aforementioned dog breeders and pigeon fanciers.”

    And religion shouldn’t be blamed for its misguided followers. Nor should Darwin be blamed for his misguided followers – of which there were many!

    “The actions of the 9/11 hijackers may not be typical of all Muslims, but they were a perfectly rational interpretation of the Qur’an and the Hadith”

    Where in the Quran does it say you can kill innocent people? Again, like you rebuked me for my understanding of Darwin, i question your understanding of Islam. Learn arabic or get an expert.

    But yes, there are people (those who like to hate) who misunderstand the Quran, Bible, Torah just like those who hate misunderstand Darwin and his teachings.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      If Rabbi Y Y Rubenstein can contend that the Pentateuch’s mandate for slavery is a mistranslation by those blind-folded hacks who penned the King James Version, I don’t see why I cannot rely on scientific authorities to interpret Darwin’s work. For example, Richard Dawkins writes in this article:

      It is true that the subtitle of The Origin of Species is “Or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life” but Darwin was using the word “race” in a very different sense from ours. It is totally clear, if you read past the title to the book itself, that a “favoured race” meant something like “that set of individuals who possess a certain favoured genetic mutation” (although Darwin would not have used that language because he did not have our modern concept of a genetic mutation).

      I cannot judge the Arabic in the Koran. Perhaps it is sublime. But the book’s contents are not. On practically every page the reader is commanded to despise non-Muslims. That’s not just Dawkins and Hitchens’ opinion. I have read Why I Am Not A Muslim by Ibn Warraq who is an Islamic scholar.

      Furthermore, Yahweh’s commandment to wipe out the Amalekites is still solemnly debated by extremist rabbis in the Israeli Defence Force who were issuing pastoral letters to the troops this time last year during Israel’s action against Gaza (about which Rabbi Y refused to give an answer).

      All I can do is read these books in their English translations and see how members of the religion interpret them. It’s all very well chiding atheists for taking these texts “too literally”, but that ignores the fact that many religious people take them literally as well.

      As for your charges of “militant atheism”, can you please cite one atrocity carried out by rampaging secular humanists spurred into a killing frenzy after reading the Four Horseman? I am certainly not aware of such an example.

      I think a lot of apologists seem to think that atheists look at Dawkins and Darwin as infallible Messiahs of atheism, so pointing out their mistakes is like them having to answer Matthew 10: 34: “There’s your perfect preacher! What have you to say about that, eh?”

      However, this is view is quite wrong from my point of view. I don’t worship the men. I praise them, I respect them, I admire their methods and their ideas, but I know that they are all too human. There is stuff in The God Delusion that I don’t quite agree with, y’ know…

      I get fed up of the tactic of creationists, IDiots and general religious hacks of not only attacking the argument, but attacking the individuals who produced them in the first place. It is a common apologist tactic to distort what a scientist or philosopher actually said, so the burden in the debate doubles for the atheist to correct the falsehood as well as answering the original objection!

      Can you please name who Darwin’s “misguided followers” were and cite the passages in their public speaking and writing where they said that they were carrying out the ideals of Darwinism? This is the third time I have asked you, but all you keep doing in quoting the fallacious opinions of others.

      Where in the Quran does it say you can kill innocent people? Try these examples for size:

      They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them.

      – Koran 4: 89

      I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.

      – Koran 8:12

      O you who believe! Fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness.

      – Koran 9: 123

      And for good measure, let’s take a look at some of the Haddith:

      …The Prophet said, “If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.”

      – Bukhari 52: 260

      ”Allah’s Apostle never killed anyone except in one of the following three situations: (1) A person who killed somebody unjustly, was killed (in Qisas,) (2) a married person who committed illegal sexual intercourse and (3) a man who fought against Allah and His Apostle and deserted Islam and became an apostate.”

      – Bukhari 83: 37

      That will do for starters, I think.

      MSP

  10. j.b Says:

    long time no speak old chap. Here my reposte:

    You should read these verses in their textual and historical context. You should read the whole verse and it is better that you read few verses before and few after. Read the full text and see what is said:

    (They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): so take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (from what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks. Except those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty (Of peace), or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you as well as fighting their own people. If Allah had pleased, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you: therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (guarantees of) peace, then Allah hath opened no way for you (to war against them). (4: 89-91)

    Now tell me honestly, do these verses give a free permission to kill any one anywhere? These verses were revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad at the time when Muslims were attacked by the non-Muslims of Makkah on a regular basis. They were frightening the Muslim community of Madinah. One may say using the contemporary jargon that there were constant terrorist attacks on Madinah and in this situation Muslims were given permission to fight back the “terrorist”. These verses are not a permission for “terrorism” but they are a warning against the “terrorists.

    This is important to understand when reading verse 8:12. This verse – along with several ahead of it – was revealed in reference to the Battle of Badr, the first major battle between the Muslims and the Meccan pagans around 625 C.E, who were the aggressors. This was a rousing speech in war… similar to Churchill’s “we shall fight them on the beaches…..” He didn’t mean everyone, just Nazi’s.

    Verse 8:12 speaks about what God told the angels to say to Muslims, in order to inspire them before the battle of badr. The Muslims were very fearful, especially since the Meccans were thrice their number, battle hardened, and much better equipped. This becomes even clearer when the verse is read in context:

    “Lo! Thy Sustainer inspired the angels [to convey this His message to the believers]: “I am with you! [And He commanded the angels:] “And give firmness unto those who have attained to faith (with these words from Me:) ‘I shall cast terror into the hearts of those who are bent on denying the truth; strike, then, their necks, and strike off every one of their finger-tips.’” 8:12

    Read the subsequent verses after that and God talks about not running away from the “battlefield” unless it’s a “military strategy”

    The verse is clearly speaking about the events surrounding the Battle of Badr. It is not a general command to “strike at the necks of the infidels.” Anyone who reads the full context knows this.
    Again for your other quote, read the whole context:

    9: 122 And the believers should not all go out to fight. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may gain sound knowledge in religion, and that they may warn their folk when they return to them, so that they may beware. 9:123 O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him).

    …this is clearly still talking about the war…”Go out to fight”…”troops”…not day-to-day situations. What do British commanders say to soldiers in Afghanistan, “hold hands and sing kumbaya in front of your enemies”?! No, they need a rousing speech to fight the their opposition. It’s not to kill any Afghan civilian.

    Bukhari 52: 260: – This was in relation to treason and not religion per se’. You kinda get the answer in you subsequent Bukhari example. You can still be killed for treason in many countries!!

    Bukhari 52: 260: So Mohammed is asking for someone who has murdered, to be killed (it’s the same with the US!), someone who has committed adultery (this is just for Muslims. Muslims feel if they get the punishment in this world, they will not have to face it in the hereafter) And the final one proves my earlier point, that Mohammed was talking about a Muslim that committed TREASON by fighting against Muslim and thereby leaving the religion.

    You see your prejudiced reading of the Quran is no different from the prejudiced selective reading of Darwin’s book. THAT’S MY CENTRAL POINT WHICH YOU FAIL TO UNDERSTAND! You claim other’s “quote mine” but you did it above. You claim others take out of context Darwin’s book, and yet you do the same above.

    When i suggested that Darwin’s teaching reinforced the misguided view that black people were less evolved, you said: “Do you really think that the concept that blacks were less human than whites was a new idea that took hold when Origins was published? What nonsense!”

    Do you think killing people in war or for crimes wasn’t carried out before the Quran or religion? What nonsense!

    You are guilty as the extremist for selective reading!

    P.S – Show me when you asked me three times for the “misguided followers”. Furthermore I answered that ruddy question already. I said: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Pol Pot have based and justified some of their actions by using Darwin’s materialist ideals Or Ernst Haeckel, Francis Galton, Darwin’s son Leonard Darwin..all eugenists.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      j.b.!!! Good to read you again, my FAIL half-hearted apologist!

      That was hilarious.

      You should watch the video on this post which puts paid to any and all decries over “CONTEXT!!!!” from a Christian perspective.

      I keep telling you that I have read Arberry’s interpretation of the Koran cover-to-cover and my overall impression is that it is an appalling book with very few redeeming features. The thought that millions of children all over the world are forced to read it on a daily basis is disturbing.

      Yes, I still think that the expanded passages that you cite would incite some Muslims to go out and kill innocent people just as the violent passages in the Pentateuch incite some rabbis in the IDF to tell troops to do away with the Palestinians like the Canaanites.

      After posting my last reply, I realised that my argument about eugenics and racism existing long before Darwin was not very sound, so I’ll let you have that point.

      However, I stand by the remainder of my argument that you have provided no evidence that the 20th century dictators you list were influenced by Darwin.

      You keep rehashing the bogus arguments of Discovery Institute hacks like Richard Weikart who make tenuous and discredited links between 20th century eugenics programmes and Darwin based on their religious prejudices.

      I, on the other hand, have provided positive arguments that Hitler was not influenced by Darwin whereas Stalin did not even believe in the scientific truth of evolution.

      I suggest you listen to Weikart’s debate against professor of religious studies at Iowa State University, Hector Avalos, as well as Avalos’ takedowns of Weikart’s work here and here to educate thyself.

      Also consider this statement from American Jewish pressure group the Anti-Defamation League issued in response to the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, an intelligent design creationism propaganda piece that made the same claim that Darwin inspired Hitler as you:

      The film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed misappropriates the Holocaust and its imagery as a part of its political effort to discredit the scientific community which rejects so-called intelligent design theory.

      Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people and Darwin and evolutionary theory cannot explain Hitler’s genocidal madness.

      Using the Holocaust in order to tarnish those who promote the theory of evolution is outrageous and trivializes the complex factors that led to the mass extermination of European Jewry.

      Better luck next time.

      MSP

  11. Steven Carr Says:

    JB
    These verses were revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad at the time when Muslims were attacked by the non-Muslims of Makkah on a regular basis.

    CARR
    They started it mummy, they pushed me first.

    It is well known that Muhammad launched raiding parties in acts of piracy.

    He even issued decrees about how the booty should be shared out.

    ‘Then Abdullah, with his companions, the caravan, and the prisoners, returned to Medina , saying, One fifth part of our plunder belongs to the apostle of Allah.’ This was before Allah had made it encument on Believers to give up a fiftyh part of any booty to Him. One fifth of the caravan was set aside for the apostle of Allah, and Abdullah distributed the rest anong his companions.’

    This comes from Ibn Ishaq’s biography of Muhammad

    http://www.faithfreedom.org/Articles/sira/12.htm

    ‘When Allah made plunder permissible He allowed four parts to those who had won it, and one part to Himself and to His apostle, exactly as Abdullah had done with the captured caravan.

    This was the occasion when the first booty was taken by the Muslims, when the first prisoners were taken by the Muslims and when the first man was slain by the Muslims. It was eighteen months since the Emigrants had arrived in Medina .’

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