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← Lesley Hazleton on Islam and "New" Atheists

Lesley Hazleton on Islam and "New" Atheists - Comments

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 1 by Richard Dawkins

I listened to the recording of this woman speaking at TED, and found her deeply irritating in the same way Karen Armstrong is irritating: sanctimonious, pompous – and you know in advance, from the tone of her voice alone, that she is going to get a standing ovation from TED's fans of 'belief in belief' (TED went so far as to give Karen Armstrong a prize!).

Richard

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 15:22:27 UTC | #843868

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 2 by irate_atheist

Comment 1 by Richard Dawkins -

Fuck 'em.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 15:57:14 UTC | #843891

VitruviannMan's Avatar Comment 3 by VitruviannMan

Just saw the video. She seems awfully mesmerized by the descriptions of "paradise" for an agnostic, in my opinion. But maybe that's just me being too cynical.

I'm sure the Koran was a lovely book to hear for the people living in the primitive tribes of Arabia back in the 6th century, but today it's just not relevant. Just because the verses have a "nice rhythm" in Arabic doesn't mean 21st century people can overlook messages of slavery and subjugation that are so prevalent in it. And what kind of an argument is, "nobody knows what it means, except for God"? That's even a worse excuse than saying it's open to interpretation.

I say, if it's meant for nobody to understand, it deserves a nice visit by good ol' Ockham's razor.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:22:33 UTC | #843900

skiles1's Avatar Comment 4 by skiles1

she quotes Reza Aslan in order to convey how "fundamentalist" scientists and atheists are in their "sole possession of truth (scientific or otherwise)"

That's a common fallacy. Obviously religion and science have very different methods for presenting evidence and the difference is that religion's method lacks all rigors of credibility. In order to present such a fallacy, one would have to be unaware of scientific method, or one would have to reject scientific method in favor of faith. So, the sort of people who present that fallacy don't have an understanding of evolution or The Germ Theory, or anything else having to do with science - therefore it appears to such people that science and religion are on level terrain and science and religions (all of them) have equal chances of being true (their subtext being: so why don't you just stop arguing?).

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:27:41 UTC | #843903

Ranting Socrates's Avatar Comment 5 by Ranting Socrates

I have read the Quran many times, in the arabic and english, and I can understand her point about its beauty. But, such a thing is pointless to what Islam actually teaches.

I dont care how beautiful you command Muslims to ''lightly beat them'' (when referring to ''rebellious'' wives), it is a horrible command. Or, take the other numerous verses which preach vile and disgusting practices.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:29:22 UTC | #843904

TrickyDicky's Avatar Comment 6 by TrickyDicky

Comment 3 by VitruviannMan :

I say, if it's meant for nobody to understand, it deserves a nice visit by good ol' Ockham's razor.

Or a cross cut shredder.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:42:51 UTC | #843919

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 7 by SaganTheCat

every attack on gnu's relies on ad-hominems and straw men like this. the fact that people must resort to telling bare faced lies for the sake of a round of applause is embarrassing to the species

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:45:31 UTC | #843924

Barry Pearson's Avatar Comment 8 by Barry Pearson

Gosh! What highly selective reading of the Koran!

Unlike ZR1, I have read an English translation of the Koran in full. I have also read specific passages many times in other translations. (I have 5 different translations on my PC and 2 on my Kindle). For contentious passages, I have sometimes used other translations (modern Arabic, Indonesian, Spanish, German, French, etc) and then either used my basic French or used Google translator to end up with English.

Some of the Koran could be considered to be hate-literature, especially towards Jews and "pagans". But its attitude towards women is perhaps the best known unenlightened topic in the Koran.

The passage validating (perhaps even advocating) beating your wife (Sura 4:34) still reads the same whatever route is used to get it to something I can understand. Beat (or smite in Spanish). (Later analysis by scholars points out that this should use a light stick, not a heavy one, and the action shouldn't break bones. And scholars point out how good it is that the wife gets 2 chances to become respectful towards her husband before she is beaten - beating is stage 3). Other parts of Sura 4 relegate women to be 2nd class people, with half the inheritance of brothers, etc.

Unlike the Bible, (Christianity is a religion about Jesus, not a religion taught by Jesus), the Koran was intended to be the final eternal word of Allah via the last prophet. It is supposed to be taken seriously, and indeed if you don't take it seriously you are not strictly a Muslim. It should be criticised accordingly. (Some of the mysterious nature of the Koran is caused by the fact that it is clearly incomplete, presumably because parts were lost before it was collected together years after Muhammad died).

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:55:30 UTC | #843937

ScottB's Avatar Comment 9 by ScottB

I've been learning Arabic for the last few months. My teacher (who is a Muslim but the most sceptical and open minded Muslim you could imagine and not some creationist nut) is using the Koran to teach me- as well as more standard teaching materials, of course- as it is primarily the argument that you cannot fully understand the Holy book unless you read it in it's original language that has led me to learn this really quite beautiful language.

Of course, it's a little early to form any firm conclusion but I can tell you that so far the only difference is in the 'timbre' of the language and not in the meaning itself. I am prepared to be wrong but so far the claim that you need to understand Arabic to appreciate the meaning of the Koran seems to be looking rather shaky.

As for this woman, I think Richard's post sums it up perfectly.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 17:01:00 UTC | #843942

Paul the Pretentious's Avatar Comment 10 by Paul the Pretentious

If you want an entertaining and accurate translation of the Qu'ran to read, I highly suggest this:

http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/quran/

It is so amusing to see people call scientists "fundamentalists"; and I don't think that there's any scientist alive who would claim that science is the sole possessor of truth. More like, science is the best revealer of truth that we've gotten so far. Religion has absolutely nothing to do with reality, it's all just wish-thinking and blind hope.

Science is dispassionate, indifferent and incisive. Yet the methods employed in scientific pursuits can show us so much beauty. The simplicity of natural selection, for example; or, if you like astronomy, the Hubble Ultra Deep field. Within a small patch of our night sky, billions of stars were observed.

Science paints a picture of reality that is much more brutal, beautiful, wondrous and complicated than anything ever conceived by any religion under the sun. It's not that science possesses sole truth; it's just that religion never had any to begin with.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 17:13:45 UTC | #843952

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 11 by Neodarwinian

" Fundamentalist " scientists? Atheists and scientists in " sole possesion of the truth? "

As much as I hate to give Freudian concepts any validity here this sounds as the usual projection complex used by losers with nothing to really say.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 17:30:18 UTC | #843960

zengardener's Avatar Comment 12 by zengardener

I reject the notion that a thought cannot be expressed in a given language.

I speak American English of the Midwestern sub species, and I am very aware of the words and phrases that have been imported. This does not change the fact that an idea, expressed in one language by a single syllable, may require an entire chapter in another. In the end, the only limitation is the imagination of the reader and translator. Just think of the books written on Dirac's equation or general relativity.

Let me assume that the Koran is the inspired word of God and that it is so deeply profound, that it takes a lifetime of study to understand. Why is it that the people who claim to understand it cannot give us normal imbeciles any sort of guidance, or at the very least some practical working knowledge?

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 18:05:53 UTC | #843980

Ewout's Avatar Comment 13 by Ewout

It is disheartening to see someone not brought up in an islamic society still speak in such glowing terms about this terrible book. I have read the Koran, and I'm amazed anyone can feel this way. She acts as if people quote a few choice pieces out of context and the rest is marvellous. If anything the context is the constant repetition of phrases like:

Unbelievers will burn in hell, Unbelievers with receive a painful chastisement, Unbelievers with receive a humiliating treatment, Unbelievers will be fed boiling water to drink, Unbelievers are the vilest of animals, They will be the inmates of the fire, Unbelievers' skins will be burnt away and when burnt they will be replaced and they'll burn some more.

These sorts of things, and constant other hate filled remarks about non-muslims you will find on nearly every page. This -is- the context.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 18:34:20 UTC | #843990

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 14 by AtheistEgbert

There is a term "self-hating Jew" for a good reason.

Yes, let's ignore the hatred and evil in the koran, and listen to its poetic beauty, because that's what's important of course, if your priorities are fucked up.

The koran repeats over and over, God is merciful, and then chants on and on more hate.

I wonder if there is any poetic beauty in Mein Kampf? Perhaps Lesley Hazleton can tell me.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 18:41:19 UTC | #843999

chawinwords's Avatar Comment 15 by chawinwords

Religion is what religious people actually do -- no more, no less.

Here is a question for you; one that took me some time to figure out: IF, the existence of Gods/gods require faith/belief to exist and, IF no one believed in the existence of Gods/gods, WHICH would disappear first, the Gods/gods or the cosmos/universe? In the end, I could not believe it took me so long to figure it out! Goodbye Gods/gods -- hello cosmos\universe!

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 18:49:08 UTC | #844006

green and dying's Avatar Comment 16 by green and dying

I'm not really interested in how beautiful the writing in the Quran is, since I'm not going to learn Arabic, I'm interested in what it actually says.

The things that she found in the Quran that surprised her are completely unsurprising. Yes, the command to kill unbelievers is meant in defence of Islam and Muslims and not just for fun. But where has there been Islam-inspired violence where the perpetrators didn't think they were defending Islam and Muslims? Did anyone actually expect the command would be "kill the unbelievers at all times at every opportunity"? A religion with that command wouldn't even survive and spread because it would be perpetually at war and a religion starts with many more non-believers than believers. And how is it surprising that heaven in a desert-based religion is gardens and flowing water?

Also, does she really think the Quran addresses women? All of it's addressed to men. And really, addressing women on equal terms with men hardly makes up for the sanctioning of wife beating or any of the other horrible things about women in there.

Really, what was the point in this talk? To tell us that there are many parts of the Quran which aren't particularly disgusting and that a huge chunk of it is just re-tellings of Torah and Bible stories? Is there anyone who knows anything at all about Islam that couldn't guess that?

Comment 5 by Ranting Socrates :

I have read the Quran many times, in the arabic and english, and I can understand her point about its beauty. But, such a thing is pointless to what Islam actually teaches.

I dont care how beautiful you command Muslims to ''lightly beat them'' (when referring to ''rebellious'' wives), it is a horrible command. Or, take the other numerous verses which preach vile and disgusting practices.

Can you tell me whether the "lightly" part is implied in the Arabic? Some English translations include it and some don't.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 18:53:57 UTC | #844011

alaskansee's Avatar Comment 17 by alaskansee

I like her characterisation of Hitch, that's how I'm remembering him.

I do hope he's leaning back sneering at the likes of her and Armstrong, I only wish I could have been there.

Long Live Hitch!

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 19:29:11 UTC | #844027

keyfeatures's Avatar Comment 18 by keyfeatures

Surely Orientalism at its worst! Romanticising non Western culture for its supposed otherness. No one is a "tourist" when they read the Koran. It was written in order to instruct converts. To assume you need to be born in a desert under Bedouin skies to understand it is to miss the point entirely.

I feel very fortunate to be a healthy mix of East meets West. I've had the experience of 'converting' to Islam (for ease of travel when visiting inlaws I hasten to add) and socialising in Muslim cultures. It's really not that "other" when you get down to it. Most of it is a load of nonsense. Just as our own culture and rituals are. Certainly not worth speaking in hushed tones about.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 20:08:43 UTC | #844042

green and dying's Avatar Comment 19 by green and dying

Comment 18 by keyfeatures :

Surely Orientalism at its worst! Romanticising non Western culture for its supposed otherness. No one is a "tourist" when they read the Koran. It was written in order to instruct converts. To assume you need to be born in a desert under Bedouin skies to understand it is to miss the point entirely.

I got the same impression. Oooh, it's written in a mysterious beautiful language that can express concepts English can't possibly, it's so mysterious and wise. And it doesn't even advocate indiscriminate violence! And some of the sentences mention women as if they might be the equals of men! I wish our culture could be that wise.

What difference does the number of words used in a translation make? A language using fewer words for the same concept doesn't make it more expressive.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 20:26:16 UTC | #844049

-TheCodeCrack-'s Avatar Comment 20 by -TheCodeCrack-

Lesley's certainly trying her hardness to make madeup nonsense - that when erected as a law over a nation state, leads immediately to human rights abuses - as a romantic, beautiful, peace-loving and freedom giving opinion set.

Since religion is a game of interpretation - when not taken literally - then her interpretation of it doesn't matter, furthermore, since her interpretation is so vividly contrasted to the overhwleming majority of mullahs and 'scholars', why even listen to her? Admittedly, she certainly is helping the islamists out as they can give a link to her youtube video now.

Now, off to tackle fairyology!

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 04:19:56 UTC | #844249

KAhmed's Avatar Comment 21 by KAhmed

Comment 16 by green and dying :

Also, does she really think the Quran addresses women? All of it's addressed to men.

This typifies the ignorant and laughable knowledge most posters on this site have about the Qur'an.

"I've read the Qur'an 50 times over and it hates unbelievers!! How can anyone believe this trash!!". Derp Derp. Woohooo, you read the Qur'an like you read Anne of Green Gables! Do you want a cookie??

So WHAT if you're read the Qur'an english translation? Countless idiotic creationists have read Darwin's On the Origin of Species and they still can't stop misrepresenting it and evolutionary biology.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 06:08:08 UTC | #844277

Peter Watkinson's Avatar Comment 22 by Peter Watkinson

Comment 21 by KAhmedCdn

This typifies the ignorant and laughable knowledge most posters on this site have about the Qur’an.

I’ve got as far as realising that the human oral source for the Qur’an was no more than a man claiming that a supposedly existent deity was speaking through him. This makes the Qur’an a great source for studying how man can use a deity to establish beliefs and teachings while taken away from man the necessary means to challenge and change these beliefs and teachings. The Qur’an is best understood as theocratic work of man.

If don’t understand what I mean, think of the difficulties that would have to be overcoming to change the required five prayers a day to one.

Peter

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 07:09:18 UTC | #844286

DocWebster's Avatar Comment 23 by DocWebster

Obviously religion and science have very different methods for presenting evidence and the difference is that religion's method lacks all rigors of credibility.

The difference is Religion doesn't have any evidence to present. Religion can drown you in hearsay, they have 2000 years of that to back up their assertions, but there is nothing beyond an interconnected web of people backing up a story that was told to them by other people. Every book ever published on the "truth" of the divinity of the book that tells us of the divinity of the god that tells us of the divinity of the book that carries the word of the divinity........... You get the idea. It's a pyramid but one that stands on it's point with the all of the proof of the truth of the divinity of blah blah blah yackity schmackity being held up by little more than a fantasy masquerading as a fact.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 07:17:00 UTC | #844292

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 24 by Bobwundaye

I think her point was not to convince people that there is a God and His/Her name is Allah! She was trying to make the point that at the heart of it, Islam is not that violent religion we all think it is. And I think that point can be extrapolated to other religions too.

The cause of atheism does itself a disservice by setting religion up as the Great Evil.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 07:50:28 UTC | #844301

Paul the Pretentious's Avatar Comment 25 by Paul the Pretentious

Comment 24 by SpirituallyAtheist :

I think her point was not to convince people that there is a God and His/Her name is Allah! She was trying to make the point that at the heart of it, Islam is not that violent religion we all think it is. And I think that point can be extrapolated to other religions too.

The cause of atheism does itself a disservice by setting religion up as the Great Evil.

Atheism did not burn people at the stake for being heretics; atheism did not deny people condoms and lie to them about what causes HIV; atheism did not drive German soldiers to massacre another ethnicity; atheism did not compel the Salem witch trials; atheism did not tell young men to fly airplanes into buildings; atheism did not deny women morning-after pills because it felt an inner conviction not to; atheism did not murder someone for stupid doodles in a Danish newspaper; atheism has not persuaded women that they are more property than they are person; atheist fathers do not murder atheist daughters for the crime of HAVING BEEN raped.

Religion is a very powerful motivator. When you tell people that they are going to get rewarded for complete obedience, and that only if they adhere to God's will at every turn, without question will they get this reward; and when you combine that false promise with the terrifying but false fear of hell...you end up with people willing to do anything to make their next life better than their first one.

Religion is wicked.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 10:06:39 UTC | #844351

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 26 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 24 by SpirituallyAtheist :

I think her point was not to convince people that there is a God and His/Her name is Allah! She was trying to make the point that at the heart of it, Islam is not that violent religion we all think it is. And I think that point can be extrapolated to other religions too.

The cause of atheism does itself a disservice by setting religion up as the Great Evil.

Her point is false, as false as your point. Religion is a great evil.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 11:59:03 UTC | #844385

Anvil's Avatar Comment 27 by Anvil

Comment 24 by SpirituallyAtheist

I think her point was not to convince people that there is a God and His/Her name is Allah! She was trying to make the point that at the heart of it, Islam is not that violent religion we all think it is. And I think that point can be extrapolated to other religions too.

> The cause of atheism does itself a disservice by setting religion up as the Great Evil.

Yet physical violence is conducted in its name, and actual violence is contained and condoned within its scripture.

Further, the words of its holy book (as final and immutable as any scientific invariant, apparently) are used to justify differing (and lesser) rights to fifty percent of its adherents, and 100 percent of its non-adherents. It's debatable, I know, but many would classify this, too, as violence.

That said, though it is often and clearly observed that what may be called evil is conducted and perpetuated in the name of religion, I do not think that most religious people are themselves evil, or indeed, violent. However, whilst this allows us to say, correctly, that the 'majority of Muslims are not the evil violent people we may think they are', we cannot, correctly, say that the religion of Islam is not a violent religion - when violence is contained and condoned within its scripture.

Sadly, in comparison to the dynamics of modern society, its immutability shows that not only is it a violent religion, but that it becomes more violent as the arrow of time moves inexorably forward - and this point can be extrapolated to all other religions that cannot undergo reform due to the inertia that is fundamental to the religion itself.

With regard to your last paragraph I think it would be both disingenuous and pedantic to argue that Atheism (a non-belief in deities) does not have a cause, as I believe it does, by default at any rate. Religions like the above, given their head, would rapidly show you the rack, the stake, or the pebble sized stone.

I personally dislike the word Evil due to its religious and non-rational connotations, though I do believe the word Great is appropriate as religion seems fairly ubiquitous.

I therefore propose we do the cause of Atheism a service by re-branding religion as 'The Great Ignorance'.

Anvil.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 11:59:15 UTC | #844386

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 28 by Tyler Durden

Comment 21 by KAhmedCdn :

Comment 16 by green and dying :

Also, does she really think the Quran addresses women? All of it's addressed to men.

This typifies the ignorant and laughable knowledge most posters on this site have about the Qur'an.

"I've read the Qur'an 50 times over and it hates unbelievers!! How can anyone believe this trash!!". Derp Derp. Woohooo, you read the Qur'an like you read Anne of Green Gables! Do you want a cookie??

So WHAT if you're read the Qur'an english translation? Countless idiotic creationists have read Darwin's On the Origin of Species and they still can't stop misrepresenting it and evolutionary biology.

@KAhmedCdn -

That's an excellent point about Darwin's On the Origin of Species, we've seen it here, and in print, countless times. We simply point out their nefarious quote-mining tactics, and move on.

However, and with all due respect, it's not a bunch of atheists on RD.net "misrepresenting" your particular archaic holy text that is the issue here, it's the countless suicide bombers, Muslim extremists, dishonest/ignorant Muslim scholars - and radical Imams teaching pure hate that should be addressed.

Your Qur'an is being used to justify the killing of fellow human beings, rightly or wrongly, in the name of Islam.

Now, what are you going to do about it?

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 12:47:13 UTC | #844405

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 29 by Bobwundaye

comment25 and 27

I have no qualms about anyone pointing out that evil deeds have been done in the name of religion. However, extrapolating from that and saying that all religion is evil is misguided at best.

I don't think that anyone that commits a crime in the name of atheism, or Darwinian thought (such as Jeff Skilling of Enron fame), should automatically be used as proof of the evil of atheism.

As for the comment:

With regard to your last paragraph I think it would be both disingenuous and pedantic to argue that Atheism (a non-belief in deities) does not have a cause, as I believe it does, by default at any rate.

I don't quite see how the phrasing of "The cause of atheism does itself a disservice by setting religion up as the Great Evil" leads you to the idea that I don't think atheism has a cause. In fact, that very statement of mine is explicit in saying that it does have a cause. And (at least to me) it is implicit that it is a cause I believe in. However, I choose to fight with a different set of weapons.

Lastly, I don't think we can proceed without caution in setting up atheism as having the moral high-ground over religion (and I certainly would not argue for the reverse, either) since atheism as a social movement is VERY young, and it remains to be seen what atrocities are committed as a result of atheistic or Darwinian thinking. Just as an example: many atheists refer to raising children in a particular religion as child-abuse. Does a moral society not have to act when they see child abuse? Be prepared to build a lot more orphanages for children and jails for parents - or perhaps it'll just be more convenient to kill the latter.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 14:01:11 UTC | #844433

sandman67's Avatar Comment 30 by sandman67

I echo irate atheists comment - well said Father Dougal.

I would add ARSE to that comment!

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 14:10:30 UTC | #844438