Seth Andrews of the Thinking Atheist who I met at the Kamloops Imagine No Religion conference a few weeks ago has put together his reflections on the conference and also my talk.

He hits on an important point – that atheists need to be more critical of Islam.

Yes please!

He’s really wonderful to listen to. Here’s the podcast from the conference:

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(Link via Jim)


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  1. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the entire podcast, but to the general question, the answer is simple. Most U.S. atheists don’t know much of anything about Islam compared to what they know about Christianity. Many of them have been raised within a Christian church – some of them have even been priests and pastors within Christians churches. The number that have been involved in Islam or even been around Muslims are considerably smaller than those who have been involved in Christianity and arguably ALL of them have interacting constantly with Christians.

    Unfortunately, where most stop (including me) is the most rudimentary understanding that we pick up in our day-to-day lives. We only know enough to know that when Christians criticizing Islam that they are many-times being alarmist, hypocritical or just plan awful. We know that when Christians want to limit the religious freedom of Muslims or profile Arabs and/or those that cover “people who *look* Muslim” – that they are not treating others fairly.

    Because of all the unfair and hateful “criticism” (if you can call it that) that Muslim populations (or those who “look” Muslim) receive, being critical of Islam simply seems uncomfortable. It feels like we’re placing ourselves in the same camp as the pathological fascists who think that turning the Middle East into glass would solve the world’s problems.

    First things first, I think.

    What the greater community should be doing is supporting those who know and that we trust – in their endeavors to fight against Blasphemy Laws and other obvious points of agreement with secularists. We need to give more time, more support, more inclusion of those who are in the know – especially those who are taking real risks.

    However, before mounting original criticism about ANYTHING – there needs to be more understanding. Without that understanding – without at least SOME knowledge about what Islam is about (the different sects, the various interpretations of scripture, the history) – any criticism coming from secularists, atheists or skeptics is going to get lost in the angry stupid noise of U.S. Christian alarmist theocratic positive-eugenicists (“they” are out-breeding “us” you know, as if religion is genetic – vomit) hateful crap that is increasingly becoming mainstream.

    I need to be able to protect my Muslims neighbors, friends, students, from unfair attacks and marginalization. That matters. However, that should not mean – in the least bit – that somehow Islam gets a pass.

    This isn’t easy to navigate.

  2. May I also point out that atheists need to learn that it’s not spelled “athiests”. Please correct your title.


  3. The usual extreme response of Muslims to the slightest critisism of Islam has a chilling effect.

    It also makes strange bedfellows of those who think they are protecting human rights (and brand critisism as “Islamomphobia” and akin to racism) and the clerics.

    1. The usual extreme response of Muslims to the slightest critisism of Islam has a chilling effect.

      *Some* Muslims.

      1. That’s why I always call them Islamists because that helps to distinguish between Muslims and the far-right political movement Islamism. We would never say the English always attack immigrants but we’d say the far-Right or the English Defence League. We need to start using this language with Islamism too. I think the problem is that because Islam, Muslims, and Islamism are so often conflated (and Islamists promote it as do their proponents),it makes it difficult for people to make these distinctions. They don’t want these distinctions made either as they want to say they represent everyone!

  4. Here in Canada, we have the freedom to criticize everyone, the risks are quite slight. So I write and argue against all forms of religion without worrying about my life or freedom being taken.

    I have the utmost respect for those, like Maryam, Taslima, Hirshi Ali, and others who have been putting their lives on the line for their outspokenness. Would I have the courage to be so public with a price on my head? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t.

  5. The problem is though, that, in general, you’re life’s not at risk when criticizing Christianity, or religion in general, but when criticizing Islam, one cannot be so sure.

      1. That’s true, a lot of people paid in blood to defang the christian faith. Sadly the same price will probably have to be paid for Islam.

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