Are Atheists and Other Critics of Religion too Soft on Islam?

Often those of us who are critical of religions, specifically theistic religions often get accused of picking on Christianity while overlooking or being soft on the problems with other religions. The most frequent example of this blind spot tends to be our over abundance of material critiquing Christianity or the bible, and relative lack of material on other faiths, especially Islam. This accusation seems to be the most blatant in Ann Coulter’s allegations that liberals (which she seems to equate with atheists, despite the fact that most are not) hate all religions, except is Islam.

I can only speak for myself but, I suspect that most atheist activists and other critics of religion will agree with all if not most of my position. I find that Islam is just as irrational and unsupported by evidence as Christianity or any other religion. It also has a history of creating and supporting authoritarian theocratic governments, promoting extreme sexism and violence against women, being at the heart of many violent global conflicts and having adherents who committing violence against non-Muslims or different Muslim sects.

I am not saying, that these things are true of all Islamic people or all varieties of the religion. I know for a fact that some are quite lovely and quite people. That said, I recognize that religious moderates often do provide cover and legitimization for the actions of religious extremists. I also find that there is a tendency for extreme religionists to have their religion’s scripture on their side. Often religious moderates seem to want to pick and choose which parts of their religious teachings they wish to follow, while the fundamentalist follow theirs to ever last insane detail.

I tend to agree with Atheist Experience Host Matt Dillahunty‘s notion that Christianity is a religion that has been “dragged kicking and screaming into the twentieth century” and as such Christian are no longer burning witches or killing heretics. This is not necessarily true of the Islam, in much of the world, where equivalent practices are still taking place. I see fundamentalist Islam as in many ways representing a threat to word peace and personal freedom that is far bigger than any other religious doctrine I know of. Despite acknowledging this, I still will likely focus my critiques of religion on Christianity first and foremost and continue to defend the religious rights of Muslims around the world.

My writings are more likely to focus on Christianity more than other religions because it is what I know and it is what my readers know. I am a citizen of the United States raised in a Christian family with many Christian friends and relatives. The criticism worthy religious craziness that is most likely to directly touch my life and that of my English speaking readers is the from the Christian tradition. In the states there are numerous home grown authoritarian Christian theocrats in positions of power and these need to be called out and resisted just as much as their counter parts on the other side of the world. I have a much greater chance of influencing their constituents and spreading secular ideas in the predominantly Christian west than I do in the Islamic world, where I do not speak the language or have a good understanding of the issues. From my experience this is the case with many other outspoken critics of religion from the western world as well.

I will also elaborate on my above mentioned defense of the rights of Muslims to nonviolently practice their faith. I am a secularist who believes in religious freedom. That means freedom to build mosque or community centers on land one that one has acquired through voluntary means, freedom to pray as one pleases and to share one’s beliefs with others. That said, I oppose any use of tax payer money, or government institutions to promote or endorse any religious beliefs anywhere in the world. I believe in a free market of ideas and think that religions should have to compete in such markets.  That said, I tend to also generally oppose US intervention in the Muslim world, not out of a soft spot for the Islamic faith, which I most certainly do not have, but because I find such military adventurism as likely to create as many if not more problems than it is claimed to solve. Once again I suspect this is the position held by most anti-interventionist secularist, and the various political liberals (of which I do not identify) that Ann Coulter is misrepresenting in the quote above.

I’ll also note that my views here do not represent the opinions of anyone else, but most American Atheist I have talked to about the subject will likely agree with much of what I say here. I will note that there are many critics of religion such as the late Christopher Hitchens who did not or do not share my non-interventionist views.


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2 Responses to Are Atheists and Other Critics of Religion too Soft on Islam?

  1. violetwisp says:

    I agree. I’m quite sure I dislike Islam even more than Christianity, but I don’t know much about it and I don’t know anyone personally who’s negatively affected by it. I was brought up a Christian, know the Bible quite well and also know a lot of people who have been negatively affected by Christianity.

  2. makagutu says:

    In a sense I agree with what you say here. I live in an area dominated mainly by Christians. I know very few muslims. Why address them when they are not a major audience? It is akin to asking why atheists don’t write about Hinduism. I would if I was in India and an atheist.

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