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It's not like I'm obsessed with the Pope story or anything. It's that there's so much good stuff being posted on it and it's such a big story, it just seems like I have to post on it. The usual menu of books and Mormon Studies topics won't go away in the meantime.

I'm glad you're talking about the 'Pope story.' Are you saying that people in the Bloggernaccle aren't talking about it (because I'm seeing it discussed on the blogs and news I follow). It's good to see a prominent LDS blogger reading GetReligion as well.

We're reviewing and doing a virtual and RL (in the LA/OC area) book group of Sam Harris' The End of Faith over at mindonfire.com. Let me know if you're interested in participating (I think at least two other bloggers are going to read and trackback their reactions). At any rate, I'd love to read your take on Harris.

This seems like an important moment when religious pluralism is facing limitations that we never wanted to remember really exist. This is so much bigger than old questions such as whether a few crackpots can smoke marijuana or marry extra wives if they call it a religious practice.

I am afraid all this new trend of being against "Islamo Facism" is merely Reductio Ad Hitlerem. I am more than a bit sceptical that this anti-islam hate mongering will have any good results from either the republicans or the democrats. While I feel terrorism is a threat, I think rehetoric focused directly against Islam is ill advised.

MW*, I'll at least agree that it is unfortunate that the issue gets bent through the prism of "republicans and democrats." It would be nice (from a policy or national security perspective) if the political dimension could be muted, but that's not going to happen during an election cycle.

FYI, here is a link to the initial reading group post at Mind on Fire. Sam Harris' book The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason won the contest, but I haven't seen other details posted. Perhaps there is a post forthcoming ...

MW* I'm a tad skeptically about applying Godwin's Law too uncritically here. I think there are a lot of parallels between fascism and what is going on. I agree that there are unfortunate PR effects from bringing this up. But the fact is you can't separate religion from what is going on without fundamentally distorting the problem. Yet many seem to be doing this - reducing it to only a problem of miscommunication or misunderstanding.

So is this guy the fifth liberal with sanity, after Koch, Lieberman, Hitchens and Ron Silver? Joking aside, Islamofascists seems like a good name for people who won't be content until every Jew in Palestine is pushed into the sea and Islam dominates every country. Only dictionary slaves will argue “but they’re not national socialists.”. This is one of those conflicts, like the fight against Nazis and Communists, that won't end until one side no longer has the capacity to fight. Forget about appeasing these folks.

I guess I feel the "Islamofascist" title\epithet merely invites Muslims in general to be identified with this terrorist movement, and is offensive to those who are muslims but against the terrorists, and worse, offensive to those who those who are neutral, spurring them to decide which side they should be on. I feel the same about how the term "Jihad" is too casually thrown around.

Unfortuneately, there is no current Authority figure in modern Islam like a pope or prophet who can condemn these terrorists across the board.

I think that believers should be careful in their embrace of Sam Harris. In his television appearances, he seems to equate believers - Mormons, Catholics, Muslims - as all being equally in the grips of a delusional system of proven harm to the world. Likewise, his discussions about The End of Faith seem to breathe the atheist trope that atheists are the rational adults and believers of all stripes are immature believers in an "Invisible Sky God."

On the other hand, it seems that Harris may have discovered an unpleasant truth about the atheist belief system, i.e., being atheist doesn't per se make for rationality. Hence, his comments about the liberal predeliction for delusional conspiracies may be a welcome sign of rapproachment among those truly committed to rational thought.


A couple of interesting Sam Harris links:



I don't agree with everything Harris says, but the guy's got guts, and I find almost everything he writes compelling. I hope you review "Letter to a Christian Nation" after you've finished it.

Also, we've been discussing a little Harris and Karen Armstrong over at this interesting weblog.

Peter, I agree it will be interesting to compare Harris' new book with End of Faith to see any changes. You would think that fascism being such a secular, political movement, but capable of creating its own "cult of death," would give Harris pause from attributing the emerging "cult of death" (his term) of the Islamofascists to religion alone. But not having read either of his books yet, I'll wait for a few weeks before really exploring that idea.


What happens to the core character of a religion when the moderates essentially surrender the pulpit to the firebrands?

Because this is what is happening with Islam today.

When Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the World Trade Center disaster, where were the moderate Muslim clerics?

Why wasn't he publicly declared an infidel?

When Hamas and Hezbollah call for genocide of Israeli Jews, were is the condemnation in American and European mosques?

When Iraqi shepherds are being executed for failure to cover up the "sexually suggestive" portions of their livestock's anatomy, where is the American Muslim outrage?

Where have these people been on any number of issues, from nutty-speak from mad Iranians, to gang-style violence between Fatah and Hamas? Where are the moderates?

I know they're out there. I've even met a few. They seem nice enough.

Actually, I DO know where they are, because they are making public statements. But whenever moderate Muslims get up to "make a statement," what do we hear?

"It's important to remember, post 9-11 not to pick on American Muslims."

"This is always going to be a problem, as long as the US supports Israel."

"Well Israel brought this on themselves because of A, B, and C..."

"You people are being SOOO intolerant of Islam."

The statements go on and on like this.

What they add up to is basically: "These troubles are just as much YOUR fault as... (fill in the blank with your favorite reprehensible fanatic)."

Now, I'm not trying to argue that blame isn't to be had by Israel, or the US, or whoever else. I'm also not trying to suggest that these statements should never be made.

But the fact that the apologetics, the accusations, the justifications, the counter-attacks are made in almost a complete absence of any condemnation of the very real failings of fellow Muslims adds up to a much different message.

I submit that while Osama bin Laden-type individuals are doing their thing, the moderate Muslims are:

A) asking us not to overreact

B) making excuses for their actions (usually by pointing the finger of blame at the victimized governments)

C) mumbling something almost inaudible about how these guys "don't necessarily represent 'true Islam'") or

D) simply not saying anything at all

So what am I supposed to think? And I'd like to ask right now:

Will the real Islam please stand up?

This is one of the reasons why all churches worthy of the name have disciplinary systems - so that the most vile of apostates can be excommunicated. Religions that do not always run the risk of degenerating into mob rule.

In many ways, he reminds me of Chris Hitchens, who I do typically like to read.

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