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Support Christian missions in Africa? No, but . . . - Comments

Andrew B.'s Avatar Comment 61 by Andrew B.

Comment 33 by optln :

I must say, I'm really disappointed by this suggestion of Mr. Dawkins and wouldn't believe if I hadn't saw it with my own eyes. Islam is just a religion. Not more or less evil than Christianity or Judaism or eastern religions. This is just like racist people's saying that African Americans are evil by their nature. They are just oppressed, left uneducated and exploited economically, just like the people of Islamic geography. Don't forget that thousand years ago Christians were the people who were burning thinkers while the Muslims were the ones who carry on the science and philosophy they took from Ancient Greece and Egypt.

No, that's an outrageous comparison. Ethnicity and race are immutable characteristics. They don't cause a person to make one moral choice instead of another. Religious beliefs are not immutable. We are born without them. We're criticizing ideas here. This has absolutely nothing to do with racism.

Sat, 07 May 2011 18:38:31 UTC | #624262

MMAtheist's Avatar Comment 62 by MMAtheist

Comment 55 by Schrodinger's Cat :

Comment 33 by optln

Islam is just a religion. Not more or less evil than Christianity or Judaism or eastern religions.

Hmm.

Jesus : Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you

Mohammed : Seek out the infidels and slay them, wherever you may find them

Aren't you cherrypicking just a bit here?

How about... Jesus: But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

Sat, 07 May 2011 18:42:52 UTC | #624264

Kernel's Avatar Comment 63 by Kernel

Comment 53 by skidmarx :

Kernel - or the people in those nations cling to religion because it is the heart in a heartless world and you mistake cause for effect.

Yes, and it's a funny "heart" they cling to. Why don't you actually learn something about Islam before writing more of these ignorant statements? It is just an appallingly violent religion. There's incitement toward violence on almost every page of the Koran. Islam is itself the reason why the environment of most Muslims seems heartless.

I don't see a fundamental difference between social systems in which control of the means of production resides with a tiny minority 1. What gains have been made in Western Europe I'd ascribe to the strength of independent workers organisations, the lack of which has enabled China's capitalists for example to turn than country into one of the most unequal in the world.

What, trade unions? I sincerely doubt that anyone who knows anything about these matters would attribute the economic success of the West solely and exclusively to trade unions. Try stepping outside your Marxist ideology sometime and come into the real world. Never know, you might like it.

Sat, 07 May 2011 18:45:42 UTC | #624265

skidmarx's Avatar Comment 64 by skidmarx

Here's the preceding verse: 2:190 Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. and the following one: 2:192 But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

You might still want to interpret this as meaning that there's only peace for Muslims, though I'd be inclined to look at 2:191 in full as meaning that such jihad is only inevitable as long as infidels occupy Mecca. But what actually matters is how Muslims interpret it, and there's clearly no necessity for the most bloodthirsty ways of looking at it, or, again of seeing the powerless and dispossessed who turn to religion for inspiration as the source of what's wrong with the world.

Sat, 07 May 2011 18:48:13 UTC | #624266

optln's Avatar Comment 65 by optln

Comment 58 by green and dying :

Thanks for the link, I'm always interested in hearing about different forms of Islam. What do they believe about the Quran, though? I notice that they disagree with divorce. Do they believe God doesn't like divorce, or that he allows it but they just believe it's much better not to? It isn't like the Quran says "you must divorce" or "you must have more than one wife" so they aren't really changing the religion but rather adhering to their own beliefs that fall within Islam. Yes?

The point I'm trying to make is people who follow the "real Islam" that is being presented by western media is actually a minority. A society's moral values has much more parameters than just its religion.

Well, I think you're in denial about how much more harm Islam causes.

I 'know' all the harm Muslim fundamentalists causes is a product of Imperialism of 19th century, cold war politics of 20th century and the capitalism of 21th century. That goes back to my allegory of "Muslims being the world's African-American people", as their current socioeconomic status is a product of slavery.

Sat, 07 May 2011 18:55:29 UTC | #624269

skidmarx's Avatar Comment 66 by skidmarx

It is just an appallingly violent religion.

That's a category error. People inspired by religion may be appallingly violent, but religion doesn't kill people, people with guns do.

Islam is itself the reason why the environment of most Muslims seems heartless.

Are millions of Egyptians in dire poverty because of Islam, or because a dictator and his cronies were stealing the country's wealth?

What, trade unions? I sincerely doubt that anyone who knows anything about these matters would attribute the economic success of the West solely and exclusively to trade unions.

Yes, and socialist political parties. No, they aren't the sole reason for the dynamism of capitalism, but if you study its unfettered operation in England in the 19th Century before the rise of democratic organisation you'll see a decline in living standards because the wealth never trickles down unless the mass of people make it happen.

Sat, 07 May 2011 18:58:41 UTC | #624270

optln's Avatar Comment 67 by optln

Comment 61 by Andrew B. :

Comment 33 by optln :

I must say, I'm really disappointed by this suggestion of Mr. Dawkins and wouldn't believe if I hadn't saw it with my own eyes. Islam is just a religion. Not more or less evil than Christianity or Judaism or eastern religions. This is just like racist people's saying that African Americans are evil by their nature. They are just oppressed, left uneducated and exploited economically, just like the people of Islamic geography. Don't forget that thousand years ago Christians were the people who were burning thinkers while the Muslims were the ones who carry on the science and philosophy they took from Ancient Greece and Egypt.

No, that's an outrageous comparison. Ethnicity and race are immutable characteristics. They don't cause a person to make one moral choice instead of another. Religious beliefs are not immutable. We are born without them. We're criticizing ideas here. This has absolutely nothing to do with racism.

The sentence you should be bolding is the one next to it.You can born in a society "oppressed, left uneducated and exploited" without your choice and your ideas and moral values take form around it.

Sat, 07 May 2011 19:00:19 UTC | #624272

green and dying's Avatar Comment 68 by green and dying

Comment 65 by optln :

The point I'm trying to make is people who follow the "real Islam" that is being presented by western media is actually a minority. A society's moral values has much more parameters than just its religion.

You haven't shown me an example of a form of Islam not following the Quran, really (and yes I know there are individuals who calls themselves Muslims who don't follow the Quran). I want examples of Muslim "scholars" saying you don't have to believe in the Quran to be a Muslim. I'd be delighted if I found out there was such a form of Islam.

I 'know' all the harm Muslim fundamentalists causes is a product of Imperialism of 19th century, cold war politics of 20th century and the capitalism of 21th century. That goes back to my allegory of "Muslims being the world's African-American people", as their current socioeconomic status is a product of slavery.

It isn't just "fundamentalists" I have a problem with (though an Imam in a mainstream British mosque told me "fundamentalist" can't possibly be a bad thing, all Muslims should believe in the fundamentals of Islam). I'm not even just talking about what Muslim people do, I'm talking about the belief system of Islam. Mainly the basic Islamic beliefs about the status of the Quran and the content of the Quran. Those things were not caused by anything that happened after the 7th century.

Sat, 07 May 2011 19:06:39 UTC | #624274

Spawny Rosary's Avatar Comment 69 by Spawny Rosary

I believe this is the conclusion reached by Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her book Nomad: that Christianity should be encouraged, as the transition from that to atheism is easier than the transition from Islam to atheism.

(Edit - didn't notice the other comments already posted - sorry if I repeat a point already made).

Sat, 07 May 2011 19:08:30 UTC | #624275

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 70 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 62 by MMAtheist

Aren't you cherrypicking just a bit here?

Lol ! Not half as much as the sheer number here who in one breath profess to be atheist.....yet who in the very next breath rush to the defense of Islam.

Which is it ??

It's amazing how one can get a 300 post thread....every single post condemning the Catholic church and their activities with choir boys, yet dare bring up Islam and its horrendous attrocities, and all of a sudden half the lefties go into apologist mode and you'd scarcely distinguish that they were actually atheists !

Sat, 07 May 2011 19:15:47 UTC | #624277

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 71 by Schrodinger's Cat

Who needs Islamic fundamentalists when leftist apologists do such a good job of advertising the...er....religion of peace.

Sat, 07 May 2011 19:19:50 UTC | #624278

optln's Avatar Comment 72 by optln

@green and dying

I don't know why but quote button stopped working. Anyway, there's not much I can add to this discussion and I should get back to work. I just want to suggest this documentary again to anyone who wants to know more about this subject: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/inside-the-koran-3466/Overview

Sat, 07 May 2011 19:27:07 UTC | #624281

green and dying's Avatar Comment 73 by green and dying

Comment 70 by Schrodinger's Cat :

It's amazing how one can get a 300 post thread....every single post condemning the Catholic church and their activities with choir boys, yet dare bring up Islam and its horrendous attrocities, and all of a sudden half the lefties go into apologist mode and you'd scarcely distinguish that they were actually atheists !

You also never get a thread on Catholicism full of people saying "but most Catholics use contraception and loads have abortions and Ireland's a Catholic country and it's fine so Catholicism can't be that bad" because people realise that what many individual Catholics do doesn't actually change the doctrines of Catholicism or wipe out any of the harm it causes.

Sat, 07 May 2011 19:27:30 UTC | #624282

skidmarx's Avatar Comment 74 by skidmarx

yet dare bring up Islam and its horrendous atrocities

Did more die in the Twin Towers (or the US embassy bombings in East Africa) than in the invasion of Iraq (and due to the sanctions that preceded it)? Not by a long way. Professor Dawkins, to his credit, opposed that imperial bloodbath; which is why it is disappointing to see him think that Western superstition is preferable in Africa to a more Oriental version when to cast Islam as the problem in Africa is to miss the point by a long way (and if want to look for the worst slaughter in Africa try the Congo, where the legacy of Belgian colonialism and thirty years of US backing for Mobutu are much more plausible villains than religion).

@ Schrodinger's Cat - my apologies if I've given you the impression that I think religion in any of its forms is a positive good in the world.

Sat, 07 May 2011 19:38:58 UTC | #624283

1Derek's Avatar Comment 75 by 1Derek

Like it or not we are all classified under the spectrum of non-believers / non-Muslims within the Koran and subject to the wrath of Mohammed’s alter ego “Allah”.

Are we collectively at War with Islam? Well no, we are not.

Is Islam at War with everyone else? Well yes and it is winning hands down.

We are all non-Muslims (their narrative) and therefore our enemy's enemy is also ours.

NS

Sat, 07 May 2011 19:39:14 UTC | #624284

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 76 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 65 by optln :

I 'know' all the harm Muslim fundamentalists causes is a product of Imperialism of 19th century, cold war politics of 20th century and the capitalism of 21th century. That goes back to my allegory of "Muslims being the world's African-American people", as their current socioeconomic status is a product of slavery.

It's this nihilistic nonsense that will soon make me the enemy of the left too. I am growing increasing angry at such blatant moral relativism.

Sat, 07 May 2011 19:40:10 UTC | #624286

maria melo's Avatar Comment 77 by maria melo

"I know that, but it's much more likely that you'll get benign Christianity eventually out of people who are Christians than out of people who are Muslims."(comment, by skidmarx)

Why do I need to remind you then that Sam Harris, needs body guards ? Perhaps people don´t relly on the "true meaning" of islam´s prophet, but it just an ideal, as far as saying that the only meaning of islam is in fact the worst or just can be that one, no other...

Sat, 07 May 2011 20:56:46 UTC | #624306

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 78 by Richard Dawkins

I said that Islam is evil. I did NOT say Muslims are evil. Indeed, most of the victims of Islam are Muslims. Especially female ones.

Richard

Sat, 07 May 2011 21:04:37 UTC | #624308

ukantic's Avatar Comment 79 by ukantic

It’s an interesting idea: instead of attempting to climb the rock face of Mount Improbable from witchcraft or Islam to atheist hard boiled, why not take the easy route and stop off along the way for a nice cup of tea with an Anglican vicar.

I can agree with this sentiment, because Islam as practiced in some countries in Africa, is a far greater threat to the freedom and well-being of the people of that area than Christianity ever could be. When a country comes under its control, Sharia law is imposed and there is little tolerance shown for other religions. For example, look what happened in the Southern Sudan:

Sharia law to be tightened if Sudan splits - president

Separately, Mr Bashir also commented on a recent high-profile case in which a video posted on the internet showed a woman being flogged by police in the north. "If she is lashed according to Sharia law, there is no investigation. Why are some people ashamed? This is Sharia," the president said.

However, it isn’t just Islam that is practiced in an extreme way in Africa, many of the Christian churches are pretty fundamentalist as well, so they make a poor choice for any rationalist.

A lot of the problems in Africa are down to poverty, corrupt government and the harsh environment, but ignorance and superstition exacerbate these. Life's a bitch, then the Catholic Church/Islamic clerics get you.

I think all we can do is to keep trying to spread the message. Perhaps one day they will hear it there as well.

In the beginning was the word - and the word is: there is no God.

Sat, 07 May 2011 21:11:51 UTC | #624311

Nordic11's Avatar Comment 80 by Nordic11

I have several relatives and friends working as missionaries in Africa, and it seems to me the situation in many parts of the continent is similar to Haiti, where I have done missionary work.

In Haiti, converted Christians frequently blend the Christian faith with voodoo, which can create a volatile mixture that leads to violence as witch doctors defend their turf. None of the missionaries I have worked with (nor any of those I know working in Africa) care of flying rip about homosexuality or the other concerns expresses in these comments. We spent most of our time just trying to help those in destitute poverty.

For example, in Haiti we would backpack into mountain villages not accessible by road, and a missionary nurse would set up a clinic. She was the only medical professional available to 100,000 people, and we spent long days distributing vitamins and vaccinations and other medications to villagers before carrying people out who were so ill that we needed to get them to the hospital some two hours away. One missionary learned how to pull teeth without any medical training. Bad teeth cause constant pain to many Haitians and eventually can kill them. In his decades of ministry, he estimated he pulled close to 25,000 teeth (with no anesthesia by the way).

There will always be nightmare stories about abuses by Christians or anyone else for that matter, but know that the vast majority of Christian missionaries are dedicated to helping the people they serve as well as preaching the gospel. Needless to say, Muslims will not do the same.

Perhaps if atheists and Christians could work together on some of these humanitarian projects, there would be more understanding and less distrust between us. Perhaps we don’t need to be enemies?

Sat, 07 May 2011 21:19:27 UTC | #624312

maria melo's Avatar Comment 81 by maria melo

This anthropologist (not of a "christian anthropology" I ´m afraid) instead promoted the teaching of anthropology, what is a tool of understanding why we cannot paint maps like this one ? Promote education, rather than "buying" peoples´s soul with promises of religion.

Sat, 07 May 2011 21:21:38 UTC | #624313

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 82 by Rich Wiltshir

No. To sponsor any form dishonourable, deceitful and manipulative cult would be to dishonour, deceive and manipulate those we sought to help.

Sat, 07 May 2011 21:23:39 UTC | #624317

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 83 by ZenDruid

I align myself firmly with RDfan [@48]. The key to success has always been good education. It is not an issue of supporting the lesser evil.

I am ignorant of the successes of African universities, to be honest. I need to know more.

I idly think that within the matrix of tribalism that I understand to prevail within Africa, perhaps the solution is to establish universities as city-states...?

Sat, 07 May 2011 21:31:15 UTC | #624319

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 84 by Steve Zara

None of the missionaries I have worked with (nor any of those I know working in Africa) care of flying rip about homosexuality or the other concerns expresses in these comments.

Doesn't it say an awful lot that you even have to mention this? How long has it been since missions were considered virtuous because of their holy works?

Look at where we are now. The church is considered like a leery old relative who hits the bottle a bit too much, and starts muttering foul language about women and poofs in public. We are told he's gone overseas, to help in the third world. But, we need not worry. He hardly gets drunk much now.

At least he's better than the relative from the other side of the family who gets violent.

Sat, 07 May 2011 21:51:32 UTC | #624324

danconquer's Avatar Comment 85 by danconquer

On the subject of describing Islam the "most evil" religion...

Like political ideologies, religious ideologies are not necessarily equal in outcomes when it comes to their harmfulness towards human wellbeing. 'Harmfulness' is of course an extremely difficult variable to measure, but just because it is difficult to accurately measure does not mean that there are no differences of outcomes.

Take two key issues for example; the treatment of women and homosexuality. If someone says "When all other cultural factors are equal, Buddhism tends to be less threatening to women and gays than Christianity", almost everyone would agree with such an obvious statement of fact. Yet when people effectively reverse such a statement by describing a religion (Islam) as more pernicious, people suddenly get bashful about acknowledging the inequality of outcomes.

We all know that some supernatural ideas are more benign than others. But if we accept that some supernatural ideas are more benign, then it necessarily means that others are less so, and I don't see what the problem is with stating that fact.

Sat, 07 May 2011 21:52:30 UTC | #624326

skidmarx's Avatar Comment 86 by skidmarx

I said that Islam is evil

People may be evil, if you want to use that sort of language, but it might be better to classify a belief system as right or wrong. Especially when there are so many who don't want to make the distinction between Islam and Muslims. Is Islam the problem, or is it a response to the real problem? Have you noticed the Arab Spring, in which millions of North Africans have expressed their desire for democracy and freedom without necessarily becoming hardcore atheists? Can you understand why someone might suggest animating the arrows on the map in you OP with the accompanying refrain # Who do you think you think you are kidding, Mr.Dawkins # ?

Sat, 07 May 2011 21:53:27 UTC | #624327

danconquer's Avatar Comment 87 by danconquer

Comment 44 by Kernel :

As Sam Harris wonders, why do you think it is that the American authorities were afraid to confer on Bin Laden's corpse anything less than full Muslim honours?

Hmm. Okay, so on the one hand we have Sam Harris complaining that Bin Laden's corpse was awarded "full Muslim honours". And on the other hand, we have dozens of Islamic clerics angrily insisting that the corpse was not dealt with 'correctly' in accordance with Islam. Well they can't both be right, can they! Although I hate to have to agree with an Islamic cleric over Sam Harris, I think it's safe to say that, when it comes to what nonsense is required for Islamic burials, Harris is hardly an expert!

The fact that right wing hawks in the US are complaining the corpse was treated too respectfully, while Islamists boo-hoo about it being disrespectful suggests to me that the body was dealt with appropriately.

Some people on this very website were demonstrating their own committment to civilised values by saying how they wanted Bin Laden's head hacked off and displayed on a stick. They may just have been 'letting off steam' (I certainly hope so) but such comments were appearing with sufficient frequency to suggest that at least a few people meant what they were saying. It was a good reminder that just because people are atheist is not in itself a guarantee that they wont endorse barbaric, depraved behaviour.

Sat, 07 May 2011 22:09:10 UTC | #624334

green and dying's Avatar Comment 88 by green and dying

Comment 85 by danconquer :

We all know that some supernatural ideas are more benign than others. But if we accept that some supernatural ideas are more benign, then it necessarily means that others are less so, and I don't see what the problem is with stating that fact.

I think at least part of it is that it's Islam in particular. It's rarer for people to get so upset when someone says Catholicism is worse than other religions, and obviously no one ever thinks it's racist. I don't think very many people would have a problem with someone arguing that Christianity is the worst religion (apart from maybe thinking they're factually wrong). It's tricky because I do understand people being more defensive against criticism of Islam because "Muslim" is used by a lot of people as a shorthand for race or ethnicity, and some criticism of Islam is actually intended to be racist. So people get uneasy about anything that sounds like a generalisation and rush to disagree and point out all of the exceptions.

Sat, 07 May 2011 22:21:33 UTC | #624336

danconquer's Avatar Comment 89 by danconquer

The main reason I am apprenhensive about discussing competing supernatural ideas as if one might be worth actively supporting over another is that such discussion tends to elevate religion to a status that is out of proportion to the effect they have on human wellbeing, comparative to political/economic factors. To give an individual example I might go as far as to say that private landlordism is, overall, a far greater source of misery and unhappiness than genital mutilation is.

In all likelihood, in most African states, political and economic decisions stand to make a far, far greater impact on the wellbeing of people than which (if any) supernatural delusions they hold. It's why I find it difficult to lavish praise on people like Hirsi Ali... Opposing Islam for the harm it does to the wellbeing of people as she does is great; but then some of the economic ideas she is promoting are, in my opinion, positively corrosive to the wellbeing of people.

Sat, 07 May 2011 22:27:57 UTC | #624339

maria melo's Avatar Comment 90 by maria melo

Besides being offensive to the owner of this site,(and other "atheists" here) I´am afraid you are painting a virtual map of dominance no lesser ignorant than the OP. Here:

Have you noticed the Arab Spring, in which millions of North Africans have expressed their desire for democracy and freedom without necessarily becoming hardcore atheists?

As Alistair Crooke (or at least historians) reminds us: it is later, after "revolutions", with a cool mind set, that we may attempt to make sense of "revolutions". Notice that you are already thinking it as an "arab spring". But that´s not a real problem either, is it ?

Sat, 07 May 2011 22:31:22 UTC | #624340