Skeptic » eSkeptic » January 14, 2015

The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

May 29–31, 2015 / Save the Dates!

Announcing the 2015 Skeptics Society Conference, at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium

Save the dates for our upcoming conference in May, hosted by Michael Shermer at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium.


The future of the universe, the solar system, and the earth and its resources; the fate of civilizations and the nation-state; changing economic systems; the expanding moral sphere and progress or regress in morality; what language humans will speak; what race (if any) humans will be; the changing nature of gender roles; the future of religion, conflicts, and wars; how we can (or if we should) colonize the solar system and galaxy; and how humanity can become a Type I, Type II, or even a Type III civilization.

Confirmed speakers

Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, Lawrence Krauss, Esther Dyson, John McWhorter, Ian Morris, Carol Tavris, Greg Benford, David Brin, and Donald Prothero.

Confirmed Conference Speakers: Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, Lawrence Krauss, Esther Dyson, John McWhorter, Ian Morris, Carol Tavris, Greg Benford, David Brin, and Donald Prothero.

Close-up magic; Art Benjamin—the mathemagician and lightning calculator; and musical virtuoso Frankie Moreno—pianist and performer prodigy turned Las Vegas headliner sensation.

Basic Itinerary

Friday night dinner with the speakers and special guests. Saturday lectures and evening show. Sunday geology tour to see California’s faults OR a trip to Mt. Wilson to see where Edwin Hubble discovered the expanding universe.


See the 2015 conference web page for more details and registration information to come. Save the dates for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see and hear some of today’s greatest minds and most talented performers.

Don’t miss BILL NYE, the Science Guy

in conversation with Michael Shermer, discussing Bill’s new book: Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation
Bill Nye

Sun., Jan. 25, 2015 at 2 pm
Beckman Auditorium

SPARKED BY A CONTROVERSIAL DEBATE in February 2014, Bill Nye has set off on an energetic campaign to spread awareness of evolution and the powerful way it shapes our lives. In Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, he explains why race does not really exist; evaluates the true promise and peril of genetically modified food; reveals how new species are born, in a dog kennel and in a London subway; takes a stroll through 4.5 billion years of time; and explores the new search for alien life, including aliens right here on Earth. With infectious enthusiasm, Bill Nye shows that evolution is much more than a rebuttal to creationism; it is an essential way to understand how nature works—and to change the world. Don’t miss this enlightening “In Conversation” with Bill Nye, hosted by Michael Shermer.

A book signing will follow the lecture. We will have copies of the book, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, available for purchase. Can’t attend the lecture? Order Undeniable from Amazon.

Ticket Information

Tickets are $15 for Skeptics Society members/Caltech/JPL community; $20 for general public; $5 for Caltech students. Tickets may be purchased in advance through the Caltech ticket office in 101 Winnett, at the door, by calling at 626-395-4652 between 9am–4pm Monday through Friday (Do not leave a message.), or online using the link below. Ordering tickets ahead of time is strongly recommended.

Order tickets in advance

Weekly Highlights

INSIGHT at sheds light, offers critical perspective, and serves as a broadly accessible, evidence-based resource on mysteries of science, paranormal claims, and the wild, woolly, wonderful weirdness of the fringe. This week’s highlights are:

Tim Farley
In the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Donald Prothero observes the 10-year anniversary of a deadly landslide in a coastal California town, and warns that such geologic catastrophes are sure to be repeated in the future.

Read the Insight

ABOVE: A screenshot from January 12, 2015 of the Charlie Hebdo website. The Je suis Charlie (“I am Charlie”) slogan has quickly became an endorsement of freedom of speech and press, with the hashtag #jesuischarlie having reached about 5 million tweets since last week’s shooting, when two gunmen opened fire in the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve.

Some might characterize the faith-inspired murder of satirical cartoonists as shocking. But the prospect of violent reprisal for religious criticism was hardly inconceivable to the now-deceased artists of Charlie Hebdo. In this week’s eSkeptic, Kenneth Krause describes potential relationships between religion and violence, and questions whether these murders would seem possible in the absence of religious devotion to an allegedly all-powerful god.

Kenneth W. Krause is a contributing editor and “Science Watch” columnist for the Skeptical Inquirer and a regular contributor to Skeptic magazine.

Charlie Hebdo: Why Islam, Again?

by Kenneth W. Krause

Some might characterize the faith-inspired murder of satirical cartoonists as shocking. But the prospect of violent reprisal for religious criticism was hardly inconceivable to the now-deceased artists of Charlie Hebdo. In 2011, for example the magazine’s same Parisian offices were firebombed for publishing an issue purportedly guest-edited by the Prophet Muhammad.

Nor was last week’s three-day massacre of 17 people a colossal surprise to me. It might have been, I suppose, if such attacks typically derived merely from the dysfunctional minds of irreligious psychopaths or the maniacal excesses of religious “extremists,” as most commentators tend to describe them.

But, as the perpetrators themselves all-too proudly confess, these are acts firmly grounded in religious text and tradition. Of course, it can be difficult to determine whether a violent act occurs because of religious belief. It is insufficient to simply note, as some critics of religion often do, that the Bible prescribes death for a variety of objectively mundane offenses, including adultery (Leviticus 20:10) and taking the Lord’s name in vain (Leviticus 24:16). And to merely remind, for example, that Deuteronomy 13:7–11 commands the devoted to stone to death all who attempt to “divert you from Yahweh your God,” or that Qur’an 9:73 instructs prophets of Islam to “make war” on unbelievers, provides precious little evidence upon which to base an indictment of religious conviction.

Sam Harris’s vague declaration, “As man believes, so will he act,” seems entirely plausible, of course, but also highly presumptive given the fact that people are known to frequently hold two or more conflicting beliefs at once.1 Nor can we casually assume that every suicide bomber or terrorist has taken inspiration from holy authority—even if he or she is religious.

But there is substantial merit in Harris’s criticism of religionists who, regardless of the circumstances, “tend to argue that it is not faith itself but man’s baser nature that inspires such violence.” First, there can exist more than one sine qua non, or cause-in-fact for any outcome, especially in the psychologically knotty context of human aggression. Furthermore, when aggressors declare religious inspiration, as the Charlie Hebdo murderers did, we should accept them at their word.

A More Methodical Approach

But to more astutely characterize the relationship between religion and violence, and to distinguish between differentially aggressive traditions, we should apply a more disciplined method. Cultural anthropologist David Eller proposes a comprehensive model of violence consisting of five contributing dimensions or conditions that, together, predict the source’s propensity to expand both the scope and scale of hostility.2 These dimensions include group integration, identity, institutions, interests, and ideology.

Eller applies his model to religion as follows: First, religion is clearly a group venture featuring “exclusionary membership,” “collective ideas,” and “the leadership principle, with attendant expectations of conformity if not strict obedience”—often to superhuman authorities deserving of special deference. Second, sacred traditions offer both personal and collective identities to their adherents that stimulate moods, motivations, and “most critically, actions.”

Next, most faiths provide institutions, perhaps involving creeds, codes of conduct, rituals, and hierarchical offices which at some point, according to Eller, can render the religion indistinguishable from government. Fourth, all religions aspire to fulfill certain interests. Most crucially, they seek to preserve and perpetuate the group along with its doctrines and behavioral norms. The attainment of ultimate good or evil (heaven or hell, for example), the discouragement or punishment of “dissent or deviance,” proselytization and conversion, and opposition to non-believers might be included as well.

Finally, “religion may be the ultimate ideology,” the author avers, “since its framework is so totally external (i.e., supernaturally ordained or given), its rules and standards so obligatory, its bonds so unbreakable, and its legitimation so absolute.” For Eller, the “supernatural premise” is critical:

This provides the most effective possible legitimation for what we are ordered or ordained to do: it makes the group, its identity, its institutions, its interests, and its particular ideology good and right … by definition. Therefore, if it is in the identity or the institutions or the interests or the ideology of a religion to be violent, that too is good and right, even righteous.

Arguably, Eller concludes, “no other social force observed in history can meet those conditions as well as religion.” And when a given tradition satisfies multiple conditions, “violence becomes not only likely but comparatively minor in the light of greater religious truths.”

Confronting the question at hand, then, I propose a somewhat familiar, though perhaps distinctively limited two-part hypothesis describing potential relationships between religion and aggression. First, I do not contend that religion is ever the sole, original, or even primary cause of bellicosity. Such might be the case in any given instance, but for the purpose of determining generally whether faith plays a meaningful role in violence, we need only ask whether the religion is a sine qua non of the conflict.

Second, although all religions can and often do stimulate a variety of both positive and negative behaviors, clearly not all faiths are identical in their inherent inclination toward hostility. Indeed, there should be little question that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam satisfied each of Eller’s conditions. Accordingly, I suggest that the Abrahamic monotheisms are either uniquely adapted to the task or otherwise especially capable of inspiring violence from both their followers and non-followers.

Monotheism Conceptually

Eller denies that all religion is “inherently” violent. Nonetheless, he recognizes monotheism’s tendency toward a dualistic, good versus evil, attitude that not only “builds conflict into the very fabric of the cosmic system” by crafting two “irrevocably antagonistic” domains “with the ever-present potential for actual conflict and violence,” but also “breeds and demands a fervor of belief that makes persecution seem necessary and valuable.”

Baylor University anthropologist Rodney Stark agrees. Committed to a “doctrine of exclusive religious truth,” he writes, particularistic traditions “always contain the potential for dangerous conflicts because theological disagreements seem inevitable.” Innovative heresy naturally arises from the religious person’s desire to comprehend scripture thought to be inspired by the all-powerful and “one true god.” As such, Stark finds, “the decisive factor governing religious hatred and conflict is whether, and to what degree, religious disagreement—pluralism, if you will—is tolerated.”3

Religious author Jonathan Kirsch compared the relative bellicosity of polytheistic and monotheistic traditions this way:

[F]atefully, monotheism turned out to inspire a ferocity and even a fanaticism that are mostly absent from polytheism. At the heart of polytheism is an open-minded and easygoing approach to religious belief and practice, a willingness to entertain the idea that there are many gods and many ways to worship them. At the heart of monotheism, by contrast, is the sure conviction that only a single god exists, a tendency to regard one’s own rituals and practices as the only proper way to worship the one true god.4

Religious scholar Edward Meltzer adds that for the monotheist, “all divine volition must have one source, and this entails the attribution of violent and vengeful actions to one and the same deity and makes them an indelible part of the divine persona.” Meanwhile, polytheists “have the flexibility of compartmentalizing the divine” and to “place responsibility for … repugnant actions on certain deities, and thus to marginalize them.”5

For Kirsch, the Biblical tale of the golden calf reveals an exceptional belligerence in the faiths of Abraham. After convincing a pitiless and indiscriminate Yahweh not to obliterate every Israelite for worshiping the false idol, Moses nonetheless organizes a “death squad” to murder the 3,000 men and women (to “slay brother, neighbor, and kin,” according to Exodus 32:27) who actually betrayed their strangely jealous god.

In the Pentateuch and elsewhere, Kirsch elaborates, “the Bible can be read as a bitter song of despair as sung by the disappointed prophets of Yahweh who tried but failed to call their fellow Israelites to worship of the True God.” “Fatefully,” Kirsch notes, the prophets—like their wrathful deity—“are roused to a fierce, relentless and punishing anger toward any man or woman who they find to be insufficiently faithful.”

This ultimate and non-negotiable “exclusivism” of worship and belief, Kirsch concludes, comprises the “core value of monotheism.” And “the most militant monotheists—Jews, Christians and Muslims alike—embrace the belief that God demands the blood of the nonbeliever” because the foulest of sins is not lust, greed, rape, or even murder, but “rather the offering of worship to gods and goddesses other than the True God.”

Indeed, as Biblical archeologist Eric Cline observed a decade ago, Jerusalem alone has suffered 118 separate conflicts in the past four millennia. It has been “completely destroyed twice, besieged twenty-three times, attacked an additional fifty-two times, and captured and recaptured forty-four times.” The city has endured twenty revolts and “at least five separate periods of violent terrorist attacks during the past century.”6

Modern Islam

Sam Harris believes we are at war with Islam. “It is not merely that we are at war with an otherwise peaceful religion that has been ‘hijacked’ by extremists,” he argues. “We are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran, and further elaborated in the literature of the hadith.” “A future in which Islam and the West do not stand on the brink of mutual annihilation,” Harris portends, “is a future in which most Muslims have learned to ignore most of their canon, just as most Christians have learned to do.”7

Is it unfair of Harris to target Islam when Western history is saturated with Christian bloodshed? Pope Innocent III’s 13th-century crusade against the French Cathars, for example, may have ended a million lives. The French Religious Wars of the 16th-century between Catholics and Protestant Huguenots left around three million slain, and the 17th-century Thirty Years War waged by French and Spanish Catholics against Protestant Germans and Scandinavians annihilated perhaps 7.5 million.

Islamic scholar and apostate, Ibn Warraq, doesn’t think so. Westerners tend to mistakenly differentiate between Islam and “Islamic fundamentalism,” he explains. The two are actually one in the same, he says, because Islamic cultures continue to read their Qur’an and hadith literally. Such societies will remain hostile to democratic ideals, Warraq advises, until they permit a “rigorous self-criticism that eschews comforting delusions of a…Golden Age of total Muslim victory in all spheres; the separation of religion and state; and secularism.”8

Likely entailed in this hypothetical transformation would be a religious schism the magnitude of which would resemble the Christian Reformation in its tendency to wrest scriptural control and interpretation from the clutch of religious and political elites and into the hands of commoners. Only then can a meaningful Enlightenment toward secularism follow. And as author Lee Harris has opined, “with the advent of universal secular education, undertaken by the state, the goal was to create whole populations that refrained from solving their conflicts through an appeal to violence.”9

In the contemporary West, Rodney Stark concurs, “religious wars seldom involve bloodshed, being primarily conducted in the courts and legislative bodies.”10 In the United States, for example, anti-abortion terrorism might be the only exception, and even that has become rare. But such is clearly not the case in many Muslim nations, where religious battles continue and are now “mainly fought by civilian volunteers.”

In fact, data recently collected by Stark appears to support Sam Harris’s critique rather robustly. Consulting a variety of worldwide sources, Stark assembled a list of all religious atrocities that occurred during 2012.11 In order to qualify, each attack had to be religiously motivated and result in at least one fatality. Attacks committed by government forces were excluded. In the process, Stark’s team “became deeply concerned that nearly all of the cases we were finding involved Muslim attackers, and the rest were Buddhists.” In the end, they discovered only three Christian assaults—all “reprisals for Muslim attacks on Christians.”

In all, 808 religiously motivated homicides were found in the reports. A total of 5,026 persons died—3,774 Muslims, 1,045 Christians, 110 Buddhists, 23 Jews, 21 Hindus, and 53 seculars. Most were killed with explosives or firearms but, disturbingly, 24 percent died from beatings or torture perpetrated not by deranged individuals, but rather by “organized groups.” In fact, Stark details, many reports “tell of gouged out eyes, of tongues torn out and testicles crushed, of rapes and beatings, all done prior to victims being burned to death, stoned, or slowly cut to pieces.”

Table 1: Incidents of Religious Atrocities by Nation (2012)

As Table 1 shows, present-day religious terrorism almost always occurs within Islam: 70 percent of the atrocities took place in Muslim countries, and 75 percent of the victims were Muslims slaughtered by other Muslims, often the result of majority Sunni killing Shi’ah (the majority only in Iran and Iraq). Pakistan (80 percent Sunni) ranked first in 2012, likely due to its chronically weak central government and the contributions of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Christians accounted for 20 percent (159) of all documented victims. Eleven percent of those (17) were killed in Pakistan, but nearly half (79) were slain in Nigeria, often by Muslim members of Boko Haram, often translated from the Hausa language as “Western education is forbidden.” Formally known as the Congregation and People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad, Boko Haram was founded in 2002 to impose Muslim rule on 170 million Nigerians, nearly half of which are Christian. Some estimate that Boko Haram jihadists—funded in part by Saudi Arabia—have murdered more than 10,000 people in the last decade.

Such attacks are indisputably perpetrated by few among many Muslims. But whether the Muslim world condemns religious extremism, even religious violence, is another question. According to Stark, “it is incorrect to claim that the support of religious terrorism in the Islamic world is only among small, unrepresentative cells of extremists.” In fact, recent polling data tends to demonstrate “more widespread public support than many have believed.”

Shari’a, the religious law and moral code of Islam, is considered infallible because it derives from the Qur’an, tracks the examples of Muhammad, and is thought to have been given by Allah. It controls everything from politics and economics to prayer, sex, hygiene, and diet. The expressed goal of all militant Muslim groups, Stark argues, is to establish Shari’a everywhere in the world.

Table 2: Percent of Muslims who think Shari'a should be...

Gallup World Polls from 2007 and 2008 show that nearly all Muslims in Muslim countries want Shari’a to play some role in government.12 As Table 2 illustrates, the degree of desired implementation varies from nation to nation. Strikingly, however, a clear majority in 10 Muslim countries—and a two-thirds supermajority in five—want Shari’a to be the exclusive source of legislation. In 2013, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life asked citizens in 12 Islamic nations whether they supported the death penalty for apostasy.13 Their responses are reflected in Table 3. Table 4 shows the percentage of Muslims in 11 countries who believe it is often or sometimes justified to kill a woman for adultery or premarital sex in order to protect her family’s honor. Thankfully, only in Pakistan and Iraq do a majority (60 percent) agree. But in all other Muslim nations polled, a substantial minority—including 41 percent in Jordan, Lebanon, and Pakistan—appear to approve of these horrific murders as well as their governments’ documented reluctance to prosecute them.

Table 3: Percent that favor the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion
Table 4: Percent of Muslims who responded that it is sometimes/often justified for family members to end a woman's life who engages in premarital sex or adultery, in order to protect the family's honor

Islam is not universally violent, of course. The same polls, for example, show that few British and German Muslims and only five percent of French Muslims agree that honor killing is morally acceptable. But the data from Islamic nations tends first, to support the proposition that Abrahamic monotheism is uniquely adapted to inspire violence, and second, to demonstrate that the belief in one god continues to fulfill this exceptionally vicious legacy. It is no accident, for example, that nearly all Muslims in these countries are particularists, believing that “Islam is the one true faith leading to eternal life.”14

In conclusion, none of this would seem possible in the absence of religious devotion to an allegedly all-powerful god. END

  1. Harris, Sam. 2005. The End of Faith. NY: W.W. Norton.
  2. Eller, Jack David. 2010. Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence: Religious Violence across Culture and History. NY: Prometheus.
  3. Stark, R. and K. Corcoran. 2014. Religious Hostility: A Global Assessment of Hatred and Terror. Waco, TX: ISR Books.
  4. Kirsch, J. 2004. God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism. NY: Viking Compass.
  5. Meltzer, E. 2004. “Violence, Prejudice, and Religion: A Reflection on the Ancient Near East,” in The Destructive Power of Religion: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Volume 2: Religion, Psychology, and Violence), ed. J. Harold Ellens. Westport, CT: Praeger.
  6. Cline, E.H. 2004. Jerusalem Besieged: From Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel. U. of Mich. Press.
  7. Harris, The End of Faith.
  8. Warraq, Ibn. 2003. Why I Am Not a Muslim. Amherst, NY: Prometheus.
  9. Harris, L. 2007. The Suicide of Reason: Radical Islam’s Threat to the West. NY: Basic Books.
  10. Stark and Corcoran, Religious Hostility.
  11. Stark’s sources included, the Political Instability Task Force Worldwide Atrocities Data Set, Tel Aviv University’s annual report on worldwide anti-Semitic incidents, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s annual report for 2013, and the U.S. State Department’s International Freedom Report, 2013.
  12. The Gallup World Poll studies have surveyed at least 1000 adults in each of 160 countries (having about 97 percent of the world’s population) every year since 2005.
  13. The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society. 2013. (posted April 30, 2013) and
  14. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, The World’s Muslims: Religion Politics and Society. (Washington, DC, 2013).


  1. Roy Bannister says:

    Brilliant article! What is required from secular society is less tolerance for religion, as opposed to greater tolerance, which breeds a sense of entitlement for its followers and ultimately leads to extremism.

    • Rose marry says:

      Mr.Roy What about holocaust?? was that correct Or if I say Yes than would it be freedom of speech???

    • Ricky says:

      I’m not really sure what do you mean ” less tolerance “. Labeling religion alone as the source of extremism is like blaming white people as the source of Nazism or blaming the whole American people for Iraq war. Religion, like any ideologies ( nationalism, tribalism), is a tool to mobilize the mass.

      • Trish says:

        Is it not possible to be accepting of people as humans, whatever their background, while questioning and even rejecting schools of thought, un-supported claims, or organizations that support violence against peaceful civilians?

  2. Clem Viing says:

    Well said Roy. I have been having this discussion with friends and acquaintances for some time now. The power of religion comes from the masses, the so called moderates too. The idea of a greater power with communication through ancient writings opens and holds open the door for it all.

  3. John Haberstroh says:

    The piece starts off well but descends into a hit piece targeting Islam. If, rather than focusing only on religious killing, we look at all killing of innocents, then we see the leader by far is the United States, which killed a million in Iraq during George W. Bush’s pointless war, and continues to routinely drone bombs innocent peasants throughout the Middle East. These of course are not religious killings, but killing for economic or military advantage.

    The article also displays a very poor understanding of the complexity of Islam. For example, the statement “Shari’a, the religious law and moral code of Islam” says that Shari’a is a single code. In fact, Islamic scholars differ with each other on Shari’a and come down with diametrically opposed judgments on interpretation of the Koran and core Islamic texts. “It controls everything” and is “considered infallible,” sure, but no one can say what “It” is. To further confuse matters, regarding the defining power of the hadith, sunnah, and Islamic scholars’ sharia rulings, there is one version of Islam, Quranism, that rejects all but the Koran’s authority. Quranism and similar beliefs further complicate the ‘What is Islam’ picture.

    • dhd says:

      the entire content of your first paragraph is nonsensical and utterly off topic; what is your point? do you type to hear yourself speak? this piece IS about Islam and IS about what motives it may have conjured for the Charlie Hebdo massacre. you literally admit in the final sentence of the first paragraph that the drivel you cite has nothing to do with the topic of the piece.

      your second paragraph follows a similar motif: non-specific, citing issues with which you may have a problem but offering no alternative; alleging a litany of “red herrings” but offering no specific description of how such would actually affect the content or intent or conclusion of the piece other than to say, “it’s complicated”. funny, are the followers of Islam as confused as you are?

      • John Haberstroh says:

        I’ll repeat the point of paragraph one: If our goal is to reduce senseless killing, then why restrict our focus to religious killing? To reduce pointless killings on a massive scale, we then understand the key problem in the last decade or so has been the state that killed a million Iraqis in a pointless and unprovoked war. I’m sorry if that gets us off your preferred topic of religious killings, but I’m interested in reducing senseless killing, not in bashing religion for the relatively tiny number of religion-inspired killings.

        The second paragraph’s point was equally clear but I’ll restate: no one believes in ‘Islam’, they believe in one of a diverse array of Islams. Similarly there are many forms of Christianity, and each believer believes in a particular sect. Evangelicals? Catholics? Presbyterians? Mormons? Mormon fundamentalists? When you condemn “Islam” you are not condemning any person’s actual belief system, you’re just displaying your abject ignorance. Which Islam? Wahhabism? Alevism? Quranism? Sufism? Do some research. Think. Make nuanced distinctions. Then try condemning what needs to be condemned and leave out the rest.

        • Miguel says:

          John, you’re 100% there is SO DAMN MUCH HYPPCRISY when it comes to the issue of senseless violence. The way the concept of terror is used is the most obvious double standard I don’t know how people don’t notice this.

          For example, there are 28 unidentified civilians killed by every intended US drone strike target. Every day there’s a “Charlie Hebdo” some where in the Middle East and US imperialism is at least in part to blame, yet where is the outrage? Where is the “#I am Iraq”? Why do so many of us always take what our governments say for granted like some sheep?

          At least as early as two days after the Charlie Hebdo attack it was reported that up to 2,000 were killed in Baga, Nigeria by Boko Nigeria, which is funded by one of our biggest allies Saudi Arabia as this article points out. Check out this article to see better what I’m getting at:

        • Miguel says:

          *Boko Haram

        • Trish says:

          Let me ask this, when the Abu Ghraib photos came out, were there any demonstrations of delight by the American public – of the type, for example, of the type of streets full of celebration after 9/11.

          Try typing into Google the following search (using the quote marks), for both web and image searches

          “Celebrations of 9/11” – you will see news articles and images of such celebrations (not only in 2001, but subsequent celebrations as well)

          “Celebrations of Abu Ghraib” – the web search shows accusations by some American fringe political commenters about supposed reactions of other Americans

          The image search yields this: ‘no results found for “celebrations of Abu Ghraib”

          • bübby says:

            Ihe Killers of Charlie Hebdo would have to work overtime for centuries to catch up with the Body Count of Faluja alone,for all ist secular and freedom loving intentions the USA have led the way in Body Counts of innocent women and children .they are killed because it is politically Expedient to do so.

    • Shahab says:

      We should not criticize/making jokes of any religion because no any Muslim writer did this as yet as the same can do even they also have much more space in this regards .
      To understand about Islam and any other religion , we should have to learn those religions religiously .The face of Islam and Christianity and other religions are being deteriorating by some Groups /countries by plan.Such type of abnormal groups are being headed by India and some European countries those pushing world into 3rd nuclear war .Further after this type of un-civilized behavior as done by dead Hebdo Charlie the terrorist activity will be increased in the name of JEHAD and all Muslims will be on their Back and the world will become Ball of Fire. So it should be the responsibility of civilized countries specially America and Britain to play their role and pass an ordinance through United nations for respect of all Religions and restriction regarding publication of un-ethical materials.

      • Levity says:

        A long winded and vaguely threatening way of saying, “We need to pass a law that restricts the entire world’s free speech in regards to the subject of Islam.” You’re religion is only one of a few thousand, and is just as imaginary as the rest. Islam deserves no special protection under the law. No idea should be protected by the State to the point that the idea itself becomes the state. Such laws are how tyrants and despots gain and hold power.

  4. Thomas Moore says:

    There isn’t much here about legitimate claims to political rage to which Muslims may be entitled on the grounds of their treatment by either religious groups or governments. I’m unaware of systematic persecution of Muslims by other religious groups. Are there cases of that?

    And the systematic persecution of Muslim extremists by governments bent on destroying the sources of terrorism can probably be escaped by Muslims who shun such groups. Instead, some Muslims not only tolerate, but shield the terrorists. Sometimes it seems Muslims only real complaint is the mere existence of others who do not subscribe to their religion or their idea of theocratic government.

    It may sound like hypocrisy, but I don’t see how we can tolerate such vicious intolerance. Muslims are creating a situation in which they must be segregated, abandoned to fight among themselves, and watched carefully for any signs of outward aggression, indefinitely or until they find a way to abandon that intolerance.

  5. Robert Szelestey says:

    Well written, thoughtful piece. The argument that Islam as a whole is peaceful, and that the violence is propagated by an extremist few, reminds me of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie in response to the publication of his novel “The Satanic Verses.” The Ayatollah, the supreme leader of the largest Shi’ite theocracy in the world, offered a million dollar reward for the murder of Rushdie. To claim that this attitude is extremist is akin to claiming that the Pope does not speak for the Catholic Church. As Sam Harris has written, “Islam is NOT a religion of peace.”

  6. Roy Niles says:

    Any cultural system that tells you what you must do in a particular situation, regardless of extenuating circumstances, and thus removes your individual right to choose, and your need to take responsibility for that choice, is a religious dictatorship. It binds you to a society where neither your conduct nor its rules can either culturally or socially or philosophically evolve.

  7. Richard H says:

    From the article: …It is no accident, for example, that nearly all Muslims in these countries are particularists, believing that “Islam is the one true faith leading to eternal life.”

    “Eternal life” is the name of the game for religious adherents of all “faiths.” Their primary goal–regardless of what they may say–is to get numero uno into “Heaven.”

    As to Islam: Only religious indoctrination can make so many so eager to go against the innate instinct to survive and welcome death as “suicide martyrs.” Religious “leaders” who indoctrinate their young along this path should be rounded up and tried in the international court for crimes against humanity (their own). Why no such international outcry?

    Establish even reasonable doubt that an ever-after heavenly “afterlife” exists and watch the martyr-to-be lines thin out quicker than you can shake a stick. Problem is, the majority of people world-wide also believe in “the afterlife” as a given. Hint: That’s why there’s no international outcry–it gets very uncomfortable for people to discuss such things openly.

    So the elephant in the room continues to be willfully ignored.

    Religious fundamentalists of all ilks seem to look at earthly life as merely a dress rehearsal for the “real” life to come (after death). Fact is, this life is the only one we *know* we have.

    Religious beliefs depend on the existence of the supernatural, and there is simply no such thing in our universe, governed by what we call the laws of physics.

  8. David McNabb says:

    It seems rather convenient to me for the authors of the quoted study to leave out government actions. Throw that in and we’ll see how Christians/Jews use
    B-52s, drones, and Apache gunships for god’s work rather than AK’s, pipe bombs, stolen jet airliners, and rocks & sticks. Then let’s have a do-over on that body count and stop pretending one is worse than the other.

    • Roy Niles says:

      But one IS worse than the other. Christianity, for all its flaws, evolves. Judaism had at least evolved to Christianity. Islam was a much more liberal religion centuries ago when Christians were back to the dark ages. But for the usual complex reasons Islam has shrunk and been shrunk to the lethal bickering system of two competing factions in what we’ve come to call the middle east. Yes, America, a so-called Christian nation in practice isn’t, rules the world militarily. But you seem to think that if we didn’t, we could all depend on the kindness of our middle eastern strangers.
      Our mistake however has been to see the Jews as the self-justifiable masters of their fellow Arabs. And thus instead of letting the various Muslim sects fight amongst themselves, we’ve got them fighting us as surrogates for the Israeli Jews.
      One could imagine that if those Jews had treated the Palestinians as fellow humans, as we treat most others here in the US (unless their skin is a bit too black), the Iranians would now be happy campers and the Saudis too. Potential terrorism nipped in the bud.
      On the other hand, since humans are fiercely competitive, if not fiercely predatory, creatures, I’ve been advised to imagine again.

      • Roy Niles says:

        Typos galore, but what the hail

      • meantime shaper says:

        are you serious?
        Judaism evolved to christianity?
        You are really a latent antisemite.Dis you read and understand the statistics.
        More moslems were murdered by moslems so where does Israel and Jews come into the equation?

        Have you or the 1.5 billion moslems went on the barricades when 18ooo syrians where butchered or thousands were murdered in nigeria?
        No the whole world is shocked if 1 palestinian is killed by Israelis but no one cared if 3 teenagers are murdered by palestinians.

        As I said, it is pure antisemitism.

        • Roy Niles says:

          “are you serious?
          Judaism evolved to christianity?”

          Christ was a Jew, and the evolution of Christianity over 2,000 years ago has little to do with what the Jews are doing to the Palestinians today. And evolution refers to change, not necessarily to moral or philosophical improvement.
          But yes, the more traditional Jews are treating the Palestinians as an inferior race that follows an inferior God. If you agree with that stance, you’re no better than they are.

  9. Tommy Thompson says:

    Exceptional lucidity.

  10. Miguel says:

    It is my fundamental belief regarding this is issue of religious (in this case Islam) inspired terror, that religion plays a very small role and imperialism, history, plus bigotry and discrimination play bigger roles by far.

    The Oxford Companion To Philosophy defines philosophical idealism as: “It maintains in general that what is real is in some way confined or related to our own minds” another definition I’ve come across is simply: “the material world is not real but is simply the reflection of the world of ideas”

    My point of view when looking at and interpreting the world is the oposite, “philosophical materialist”, one. Matter is not a product of mind, but precisely the reverse is true in my opinion. We are not, ultimately, going to deal with the threat of Islamist terrorism by discussing the irrationality of Islam with the Muslims and thereby helping them become atheists. Or even just more “liberal” Muslims. Neither by convincing more and more of the Muslim community to denounce the terrorists more and more vociferously. The conditions I enumerated above are what we have to grapple with if we’re seriously going to fix this problem.

    Your own article hints at imperialism as a cause; “Boko Haram jihadists—funded in part by Saudi Arabia.”

    The USA 9/11 Commision Report stated that Saudi Arabia is the biggest supporter, both in money and weapons, of islamist terrorism in the world.

    Yes, the Charlie Hebdo claimed Islam, avenging the prophet Muhammad, as a motivator. But they also cited US and European, including French, imperialism. “In 2008, Chérif Kouachi was sentenced to 3 years in prison for his involvement in a network of sending volunteers to Iraq to fight along side al-Qaeda. At the time, Kouachi told the court that he had been motivated to travel to Iraq by images of attrocities committed by US troops in Abu Ghraib prison. There are reports the two brothers, who were born in Paris, returned from fighting in Syria last summer.”—Deomocracy Now! 1/8/15

    Armedy Coulibaly, the one that held 4 hostages then killed them at a kosher story, also cited imperialism in Syria as his motivation:
    “You attack the caliphate. You attack the Islamic State. We are attakcing you. One cannot attack and get nothing in return. So you’re playing the victim as if you don’t understand what was happening for some deaths, while yo hand your coalition, you heading it, you regularly bombard over there. You have sent forces. You are killing civilians. You are killing fighters. You are killing.”

    Even the parts about attakcing the caliphate and Islamic State is fundamentally about imperialism. France has been supporting terrorist groups to fight against Assad in Syria. And there would be no Islamic State in Iraq were it not for George Bush invading it for weapons of mass destruction (that didn’t exist), and al-Qaeda—Saddam Hussein connection (that also didn’t exist).

    There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq until US caused a civil war in the country, and Iraqis could go out with out fear of suicide bomb attacks. Granted Saddam was one of the most evil world leaders at the time but 1 million Iraqis died as a result of the invasion, 4 million were displaced, 20% of children have stunted growth. Iraq now has the most backwards healthcare system in Middle East, whereas it was the most advanced before the war, children are still being born with deformities like 2 heads, and on and on…

    And Bush said he invaded Iraq because god told him to. Where’s the outrage over “Christian terrorism”?

    Some more relevant statistics: for every 1 intended drone strike target by US, 28 unidentified people are killed.

    US under Ronald Reagan used ‘mujihadeen’ (who enjoyed blowing up women’s schools among other wonderful hobbies), to fight against the Russians.

    Examples of bigotry and discrimination against muslims and immigrants in France:
    A law was passed a few years ago that all public schools in France have to teach “positive aspects” of French colonialism (France has a lot of people from former colonies, esp Algeria, the Kouachi brothers were born in Paris but they were of Algerian decent), imagine US schools having to teach positive aspects of slavery.

    Algerian historians estimate the Algerian death toll (from their war of independence) at 1.5 million. But French historians very unrealistically say 400,000 on both sides.

    The last 2 things I want to say (before conclusion), a little food for thought;
    If the western imperial powers were predominantly Muslim nations supporting dictators of Middle East and African countries that were mostly of Christian inhabitants, in other words if every thing else was equall and you just “switched” the religions, the terrorists would be citing Bible verses before blowing themselves up, shooting up civilians, etc. All the same old crap only very superficial differences.

    Secondly, if religious extremism plays such a huge role, why don’t the jihadists attack Japan? They are known to make a lot of pornagraphy, and very sick perverted at that like people having sex with animals. The extremist Muslim terrorists claim pornagraphy is a sin, yet porn was found at Osama bin Laden’s home after he was killed.

    In conclusion I believe that Islam is just like any other religion in that it can be used for good or evil depending on the individual’s interpretation. And this, in turn, depends on what type of environment that individual grows up in and if they’re lost in life because things like being marginalized (muslim youth have especially high unemployment rate in Europe) and lack direction and hope for a better future, these individuals are more vulnerable to find their “purpose” in the wrong place, i.e. a terrorist group. Reminds of Dr. Walter Goldschmidt The Bridge To Humanity: How Affect Hunger Trumps The Selfish Gene. Human beings, social creatures that we are, are basically hardwired to seek affection from others. And this inbuilt hunger to seek affective expression from others, provides a reward system for learning language and other cultural information. And remains a motive for social behaviour through out life. This is why, for example, some children growing up in terrible poverty and unloving abusive/neglectful relationships with their parents may sometimes join a gang and do heinous things to feel better about themselves. “I killed somebody, and now I am somebody” is the sort of thing they often say.

    Two more quotes I want to share that are related to all this (sorry I couldn’t be more concise, I’m not used to writing my thoughts down): “Social being determines consciousness”-Karl Marx. “Conditions cause evil”-Howlin’ Wolf.

  11. Rothschild says:

    Miguel, you apparently didn’t read this article. Islam, like many other monotheistic religions has inherent traits that render it more likely than other belief systems to inspire violence. The author explicitly states that religion might not be the only cause involved in religious violence. But because religious people, like all others, do possess the abilities of both rational thought and selflessness, some of them can be reached.

    So you’re mistaken in many respects. And if you didn’t want to read this article, you should have tried to get your own, mostly unrelated, thoughts published independently of this piece.

    • Miguel says:

      The point of my comment was that I strongly disagree with the emphasis put by the article on Islam in itself. I wouldn’t notice that had I not read it.

      How were my thoughts unrelated?

      I don’t think we’re going to reason with many people into not comitting acts of terror against us. Again I think we have to stop our governments from funding terrorists and allying with dictatorships that repress their people and also support terrorists.

      There are $86 Billion worth of arms on order from USA to a country it has identified as the greatest supporter (in arms and money) to terrorists.

      I’m open to having a debate if you like.

      • J. Cruze says:

        Miguel. He’s right, you just don’t want to address the argument in this article. Perhaps another article, somewhere else? Or an imaginary article? The author here explains and documents quite clearly why we should emphasize monotheisms and Islam in particular.

        • Miguel says:

          If any one thinks what I’ve said is incorrect, please tell me how I’m wrong. I’m open to discusion.

          “The author here explains and documents quite clearly why we should emphasize monotheisms and Islam in particular.”

          As I already stated, I don’t disagree that we should be focusing on Islam. My contention is that we should look at Islam+Imperialsim, Islam+poverty, Islam+discrimination, etc.

          You seem to be implying that I shouldn’t comment on articles if I’m not 100% in agreement with them.

      • Shahab says:

        Good! Agreed.

        • Miguel says:

          The barbarous anti-human interpretation of Islam that some terrorist groups use to commit savage attacks like that against Charlie Hebdo would not even exist we’re it not for western imperialism and their lackeys in Middle East governments and capitalists’ interests.

          This was a case of the ‘chickens coming home to roost’ or what the CIA call ‘ blow back’.

          Please take a few minutes to read this article to better understand what I’m talking about. Thanks.

          www. marxist. com / reflections-on-the-events-in-france . htm

  12. Rennee says:

    Ditto, R. Too many pseudo-informed commentators continue to blame socioeconomic conditions, for example, for religious violence. Enough. As this article makes clear, poor people, not so poor people–people of all kinds–are instigated toward violence by religious paradigms, texts, and traditions that are, as Krause puts it, “uniquely adapted to inspire” these problems. Even the most cursory glance at history should tell us that.

    • Miguel says:

      If socioeconomics has nothing to do with it why aren’t muslims attakcing Japan for all the tons of porn they sell?

      Why do they only seem interested in countries that have been allied with dictators that opress majority Muslim countries?

      And also countries that support terrorists?


      “But a lot of these people who do these attacks, something happened in their life somewhere—similar to what happens with school shootings here, you know, what happened at Columbine. I liken a lot of these guys to people who go through some kind of period where they’re lost in life, and then they’re falling. Who catches you when you fall? A lot of times in a society that’s been decimated, a religion that’s been humiliated, people are looking for some kind of greater meaning, and there are a lot of people willing to take advantage of them.”—Journalist Jeremy Scahill on Democracy Now! Jan 12 2015 I strongly recommend watching that interview at Democracy Now . org

      Targeting civilians is not only unneccessary but counterproductive as governments use that as justification for even more imperialism abroad and repression of their own workers with “anti-terror” under the facade of “National Security”.

      In fact France is already trying to do this. Check out the article “The War On Terror And The Terror of War” at In Defence of Marxism . com to better understand what I’m talking about.

  13. Robert Boyle says:

    Nice rationalization about Jews and Christians perhaps being less violent today than Islam . Humbug! These three related religions are inherently violent and prove it daily. It occurs at the nation level and the personal. They are and they will remain, a danger to the civilized, rational world. Everyone who believes, supports or funds is culpable, whether or not, they actually understand the consequences.
    “I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding our world.” Richard Dawkins

  14. Jeremy says:

    Robert: I don’t see any evidence of rationalization. To the contrary, I saw data. Of course, Christians especially have proven violent over the centuries. And the author here acknowledges that. But his data seems to show as well that Islam remains violent where the other monotheisms’ violent tendencies have subsided to some extent, probably because of the continued success of enlightenment values–science, freedom, democracy, and trade in the West.

  15. A Frenchie says:

    Since the killing, French newspapers are very cautious about not stigmatizing Muslim in a general way, explain what is Islam, why Charlie Hebdo shocked some Muslims by drawing the Prophet, how many Muslim cultures DID portray him… and how the Islam in Arab countries (at least) is influenced by the most conservative currents, mainly wahhabism. They have whole states, plenty of money at disposal.

    For example, a philosoph from Senegal was complaining that the Sufi current is totally forgotten, and that it has nothing to do with what happens in Arab countries. The French army is currently in Mali fighting for some local Muslims against other Muslims from Al Qaeda, and fighting both Muslims and Christians killing each others in Centrafrica. In Bosnia Muslims were mainly the victims. (I know, all of this is oversimplified.)

    I love the numbers for Iran in table 1: the one true Islamic theocracy is getting ready to become a secularized state.

    (Please pardon my poor English.)

  16. Georgia says:

    Thanks, Mr. Krause. And now the Pope says we should never lampoon faith. Is this man serious? Is he even conscious? Surely he knows how self-serving that sounds. “Blasphemy” is just a word religious officials use to avoid losing arguments. The Pope a lost argument on stilts.

  17. Guy H. says:

    More. Really. If we could only get this kind of analysis into the popular or mainstream media.

  18. Umer Sohail says:

    How is making mockery and insulting other’s religion or strongly held beliefs justify the notion of free speech? For everyone out there, “HATE SPEECH IS NOT FREE SPEECH!”
    If someone gets seriously offended by a thing e.g the afro-americans with the N word or the jews with the holocaust etc., why do you have to keep bringing it up?
    Get a life and talk about other social, economic problems prevalent in the society rather then brewing up hate and trying to cash in by spreading hate and inciting violence!
    Decency dictates that if someone feels uncomfortable with something, they should debate on it while remaining within the limits of mutual respect, not by making mockery out of it!
    What happens to the principles of “live and let live” and “others’ beliefs are none of your concern” the “west” so vigorously defends when someone mocks or merely argues about things like gay rights or feminism etc.?
    We love our Prophet (SAW) and religion Islam – period! And as much as I condemn the violent route taken by the extremists, I also condemn the mindless and cynical publications by the western media who think that they are the torch bearers of “FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION”, but in reality are no more then some lowbrow schmucks trying to gain cheap popularity by practicing yellow journalism and in the process hurting the sentiments of millions of human beings for no apparent reason! Sigh, indeed they need to grow up and start doing justice with their profession rather then trying to take shortcuts to fame!

    • KenC says:

      Umer, do you feel that apostates should be executed, as most of the Muslim world believes?

    • Shahab says:

      Actually Dead Habdo tried to become fame through short cut . Civilized countries (so called) are silent on this freedom of speech ,how they will react if we expressed that holocaust was right OR about any other activity against the Christianity & jewism. Now it is the responsibility of said countries to play their role and pass resolution through UN assembly regarding respect of all religion religiously as well as restriction of unethical publication.

    • Phea1Mike says:

      Oh, at least get real. If you think for one second, “He called me a nigger, so we killed him.”. or, “He said the final solution was correct, so we killed him.”, justifies homicide, then you *ARE* part of the problem!!!

  19. Ben Stone says:

    Umer: Please don’t compare criticism of an idea with criticism of a “race.” Clearly, they are not the same thing. All ideas, despite what the less than thoughtful Pope says, are subject to criticism. That includes lampooning. And that’s how secular societies based in science, law, and democratic values progress. So please, the “hate speech” malarkey doesn’t hold water here. Moreover, “hate speech” is like “blasphemy”–it’s just an underhanded, dishonest means of stopping people from saying things you don’t want to hear. Too bad, get used to it.

    • Shahab says:

      Ben ,there is only one question .1.why the freedom of speech only for against Muslims why not for Jew and Christian?? what is your opinion about holocaust and First crusades?Brother all this thing is moving world towards world war even nuclear.So its time to understand .

      • Trish says:

        Example of freedom of speech offensive to (some) Christians:

        Piss Christ

        P.S. There was a complete lack of murders in the wake of its display.

  20. G. Palotonio says:

    Dear Umar, surely you can admit that Islam has problems. And surely you can admit what these data clearly show–Islam remains a force for unspeakable violence. The author of this article didn’t make it up. If you can’t admit these things, it seems to me that you only prove the article’s point.

    • Shahab says:

      Dear polanto, Many articles have been written in favor of Holocaust and 1st crusades whatever right or wrong but media and other authors/writer avoid to write the same as RIGHT because jew and Christian community will not digest the same .So it would be better to criticize OR refrain from such type of practices those humiliate any community in the name of religion OR racism.

  21. Harrison says:

    The moral and courageous option is to criticize faith, i.e., belief in the absence of evidence. Faith results in not only sloppy thinking, but, as this article shows, sloppy morality.

  22. Chip says:

    Shame that in the last century, more people (~100 million) have died at the hands of the secular ideology known as “Communism” than any other. Not talking random accidental death, either, but often vicious torturous violent death.

    How does an article purporting to discuss this subject fairly and with a skeptical eye – that ends with the conclusion “none of this would seem possible in the absence of religious devotion to an allegedly all-powerful god” neglect to mention that nugget?

  23. GJ Radison says:

    Really, Chip? Communism was and is bad–fine. But whatever collection of ideologies you refer to here as “communism” didn’t emanate from ancient texts that expressly demanded the blood of unbelievers. Nor did it do so in the name of a singular supernatural entity claimed to be transcendent, omnipotent, and capable of delivering everlasting torment or paradise. Did you read the article? Or did you just decide to overlook that “nugget” as a means of changing the subject to your personal satisfaction?

    • Chip says:

      I read the article, found its conclusion faulty, and stated a factual reason why. Was that not clear?

    • Trish says:

      Not to mention a couple of other facts:

      The leaders of the brutal regimes that some people claim killed millions in the name of atheism did not engage in the sort of convert-or-die campaigns that organized religions have had a history of doing. Stalin’s opposition to the Russian orthodox church was no different from his opposition to the Mensheviks or other entities that stood in the way of his meglomaniac ambitions – and he killed many members of his own political machine. Mao rejected Christianity not because of it being about god but as a foreign influence and Confucianism not as a religion but because he associated it with intellectual elitism, while embracing agrarian peasant faith while tweaking it to direct worship at himself (many Chinese homes inthe era had Mao portraits in front of which families would gather for advice in the morning & confession in the evening. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge Theraveda Buddhists.

      The thing the above leaders have in common that lead to the deaths of millions boils down to disastrous agricultural policies, killing far more people than were executed because of actual or suspected political/ideological/practical threat to these totalitarian dictatorships. In fact, they are better used as examples of the disastrous results of totalitarianism, dictatorship, &/0r leader-for-life political office.

      Some try to include Hitler among the supposed atheists-who-killed-millions, but his own words in public speeches, his army’s gott mitt uns belt buckles, and the clearly religion-rooted history of hatred for Jews that he both exploited and expanded, demonstrate clearly Hitler was in no way an atheist and his regime & ideology in no way secular.

  24. Rhonda V. says:

    Yes, political and religious ideologies are fundamentally different. That’s why the same religious institutions can cause violence for many centuries on end, while the violence of political entities tends to be very short-lived. Both unacceptable, but no comparison. Gods are different, and as this article shows, God is far worse yet.

  25. Jamie says:

    Before I saw these polls, I had some vague idea that Islam had issues contrary to modern Western values. But I really had no idea apparently. Apostacy punishable by death? Unthinkable for anyone I’ve ever known. Entire populations who support killing by the state for lack of a belief? Only religion, I guess. Clearly the Charlie Hebdo killings are not just some aberration from a broader perspective.

  26. Abula says:

    So, are the popular press wrong to call this brand of terrorists “extremists”? Should they be labeled Islamic “militants” instead? Or are they just Muslims who have made a predictable choice after having taken the time to actually read all of their texts and observe all of their traditions?

  27. Kenneth Krause says:

    “I make no apologies for focusing on income. Over the long run income is more powerful than any ideology or religion in shaping lives. No God has commanded worshipers in their pious duties more forcefully than income as it subtly directs the fabric of our lives.” — Gregory Clark, “A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World.”

  28. Shahab says:

    Why only Muslim community is being Targeted.Is the freedom of speech applies only against the same why not about Holocaust and other activity victimized the Jewish and Christian community? So we all not only have to condemned this publication but also efforts to convey our positive message to civilized OR developed countries to get pass resolution through Un assembly regarding respect all religion and restriction of unethical publication. Otherwise world will be put on fire of 3rd world War even(Nuclear).
    God Bless all!

  29. Brantley says:

    Why should religion be “respected,” Shahab. Why does religion receive special treatment? Or is just your religion?

  30. chris says:

    Whenever I get into this type of conversation, someone always says that it’s not religion that’s violent, but only people that USE religion. These people aren’t thinking it through, as this article shows. The very apparent fact that people can USE religion so easily (and so consistently over history) to get others to commit violent acts should tell us a great deal about that religion. Like Krause says, they are “uniquely adapted” to inspiring violence.

  31. Elangovan says:

    A Well written article , has got its pros and cons..the idea is correct that most of the so called great religions of the world propagate violence if not more atleast at par with Islam..but human beings in their inherent capacity to question things and the evolution of science in western countries to a great extent have started to think of the violence in religion is unwanted and the concept of god has been questioned to a great extent…science here i would say has played a major role … but where science has not been taken in Islam whose scientific contribution to the world is negligible this has not caught up…once a religion gets the ability to question god through science violence will come down ..Islam might take some time..the world will have to wait.

  32. Ken says:

    Some comments here and elsewhere point to non-religious violence and mistakenly infer that secularism is just as violent as religion.

    First, secular violence is not monolithic–in other words, it does not derive from the same textual, traditional, and alleged supernatural sources. Second, instances of secular violence, Pol Pot’s massacres, for example, are always short-lived. They typically last only a few years at most.

    On the other hand, Christian and Muslim violence, for example, is monolithic in the sense that it is inspired by the same religious texts, traditions, and alleged supernatural sources. And contrary to instances of secular violence, religious violence persists over centuries. In fact, we have no reason to believe it will ever relent. Its violence is also consistently horrific and extreme.

    So if there is a rational and informed argument that secular entities are as dangerous as religious ones, I have yet to hear it.

  33. Dr. Strangelove says:

    If Mike urges people to murder in the name of Batman, he would be jailed for inciting to commit a crime. When Muslims preach jihad in the name of Allah, they are just practicing religious freedom.

    1,200 years before Muhammad, Thales advocated a world where gods are irrelevant or nonexistent. 2,600 years later, in the age of microprocessors and spaceships, we still believe in religious dogmas more primitive than the ancient Greeks. Islam is a step backward for humanity.

    The holy bible also preaches murder, rape and slavery of nonbelievers. But Christians are less religious than Muslims.

  34. Nobby says:

    As we are on a skeptic site, I guess we should be looking at the logical fallacies of this article. more than anything this stinks of “here’s my conclusion, let’s find some evidence to support it” or the old Texas sharpshooter fallacy.
    I could go on for hours, but the basic piece missing in this is that of human nature. We are animals at the end of the day and we behave like animals. We are tribal and our human nature is to protect ourselves with violence when necessary. Because we are highly evolved animals, what we protect is far more varied than most animals. Yes we protect family, community, territory, food supply as other animals, but we have the added complication of intelligence to allow us to protect an ideal.
    It is coincidence that the humans perpetrating terrorist violence are protecting a religious ideal, it could be political, ethical or good old revenge (a notion unique to humans…..oh and gods).
    Humans have an innate desire to belong, whether it be family, school, team, town or country. We also connect more easily with similar people i.e. those that share a language, nationality, colour or religion. All these, when threatened may be protected by violence and all could incur grievances with enemies that could justify revenge. And justification plays a big part. Humans have a great skill in being able to justify their actions and one person’s justification may be meaningless to someone else.
    The bottom line is that if you have a cause, you can attach yourself to anything. The Nazis, white South Africans or Ku Klux Klan for example, were all evil movements, but members had the sense of belonging and could believe in the cause in order to commit violent acts. Northern Ireland was a harbour for terrorism based on politics, but with nationalism and religion thrown in.
    Secondly the article ignores environment. Everyone has heard the term of “violence breeds violence”. Many of the Islamic states have suffered instability and violence since WW2 and so there have been generations brought up with historical hatred or have suffered war and terror. Islamic systems may or may not have contributed to this, but whilst there have been constant issues in Pakistan and Afghanistan, countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia are generally peaceful. Many in the middle east have a long standing grievance with the west for what they see as the political meddling and war mongering of powerful states, then if you add the clumsy creation of Israel, there is plenty for people to get angry about. Again, they can justify this, we in the west may not agree. Uniting behind the banner of Islam is convenient and it ignores country borders.
    Whilst the article specifically gives figures on religious atrocities it doesn’t balance this against general homicides. In the same period in 2012 there were over 14000 homicides in the US alone. A Christian country – I would expect 99% of the murders were not done in the name of a god, but I bet a large chunk were based on some kind of human tribal justification – Gangs, racial, family feuds etc. And the violence breeds violence term applies here as well. The scale of the violence puts religious terrorism in the shade and also counters the argument that Islam accepts violence more than other cultures.
    Finally, there is no reference to the individual. Just referring to the atrocities in Paris last week, I would think the perpetrators were fairly disturbed people. Just with a basic understanding of human psychology, we know that a person’s childhood can shape their behaviour and emotional state as adults. The terrorist here were orphans. Just that fact raises a red flag that their upbringing in a strange country with no parents may have shaped their attitudes in later life. Quite possible they were looking for a sense of belonging and Islam gave them that. Maybe they were just very angry men who could justify their actions in the name of their religion. They could just as easily become football hooligans or petty criminals. Just my speculation but it demonstrates that you cannot make the automatic connection of religion (or Islam) and violence.
    Whilst there are good points in this article, and I accept that there is a cancer of extremism moving through the Islamic world and that religion can be a catalyst for violence, it is so simplistic that it can’t be taken very seriously. I have only made a few points, I’m sure there are many more but I would definitely say this all comes under another logical fallacy of “false cause”.

  35. Janice says:

    Nobby, you’re entirely too long-winded narrative is simply mistaken. The article doesn’t ignore human nature or the environment. To the contrary, it assumes both, and explains which environmental forces are uniquely disposed (“adapted,” Krause says) to taking advantage of human nature for the purpose of inspiring violence. Maybe another attempt at actually reading the article might be helpful.

    • Nobby says:

      You are probably right about my reply being long winded, but there is so much to say and so little time! I think the simplified response to the conclusion of the article is to say that while religions can inspire violence, humans that want to perpetrate violence can be attached to whatever cause is relevant or convenient and that there are many other causes that should be considered. I still stand by the comment that the author has cherry picked the evidence to match the conclusion and the view is too simplistic.

  36. Blanda says:

    Nobby–more talk about “extremism”? I think someone else may have already explained that you can’t define “correct” religious belief. The Bible and Koran support both good and bad behavior–that’s plain. So neither can be labeled “extreme.” The violence is just part of the religious package.

    • Nobby says:

      I think the generally accepted definition of extremism is to hold views or perform actions at the extremes of a belief or ideology compared to the “average” views or actions.

  37. Robert says:

    If I understand the point, Nobby: Since many different kinds of behavior, including violent acts, are supported by the foundational texts, it doesn’t make any more sense to characterize violent acts as “extreme” than it does peaceful acts. In the religious context (the important qualifier), either set of behaviors is equally valid. If I follow the argument, that is precisely the problem with religion that is extrapolated upon in this article.

  38. Dr G M Mir says:

    By birth a human being is a Muslim, Muslim emerges from silm meaning peace. A new born will grow in peace if we will not train him/her according to our will. Islam shows a complete path of living right from conceiving in mothers womb till the world of hereafter not to talk of unto death only. Islam teaches not the rights of women only but the rights of animals birds and all the other living and non living. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has been kind to all the humanity irrespective of religion, but many non believers are misquoting out of context from Quran which conveys wrong meaning. Most of the muslims are not practicing Islam as it demands, that’s why fingers are being raised towards muslims. the best way is to go yourself through Quran and the holly life of Muhammad (PBUH), you will surely find he difference, and hopefully peace and discipline in your life. Islam teaches to respect other religions.
    The blasphemous act about ones religion is in no way called the freedom of speech, it is severe than as if ones daughter on sister or mother or wife is being kidnaping by robbers, and can we say him shut your mouth, enjoy your life. He will probably catch hold of the person commenting this nonsense. If any way he catches them will he beg them to release his relative or he will attack them even if he would be week. So compare now are kidnappers actual terrorists or the victimized person.
    May all the blessings of ALL MIGHTY be on all of us.

    • Trish says:

      Sorry, no, a cartoon, essay, song, novel is in on way the same as a robber attacking one of your female relatives.

      Notice that the American Bill of Rights First Amendment protects speech – it does not protect robbing or violent attacks on someone’s female relatives.

      Even in the case of violent actions in the service of self-defense, American law does not automatically permit violence in response to threats or even actual violence. “Self Defense” is an affirmative defense, meaning it is up to the defendant to prove the immanent danger of death or bodily harm or an actual deadly-violent attack had happened to the defendant. Also, if someone escalates the violence of the encounter by using a more serious form of violence than the initial attack, say meeting a punch with a knife assault, that does not qualify as self defense.

      Except for some recent changes to the laws of some states, the American legal tradition has been that self defense law also embodies a duty to retreat, meaning that one has a requirement to avoid continuing the violent episode if it is safe to do so.

      Our American tradition of justice makes a strong distinction between speech/expression (including drawings, films, novels, paintings, songs, dance, clothing design) and violence. One is protected (if not always celebrated by all our citizens) the other violates our law.

      • Dr. Mir says:

        The teachings of Islam promotes universal brotherhood, besides giving females a high status/dignified life, protecting her rights at par with men. Unfortunately Westernization spreading in the world has exploited our sisters so to say almost unclothed her for their utmost interests. The status of women is very high in Islam, but we have degraded her, and we are observing its consequences. Just check, the highest rapes are taking place in your America.
        The scientific inventions and discoveries are in conformity with 80% of Quran. when 80% is true, the logic says 20% yet t come will also be true. Islam gives you insight vision of the existing world from beginning to the eternal life. Dear don’t waste time just pick up Quran by saying Bismilah and be benefitted, and if you do so surely you will feel the difference yourself.
        God bless us all

        • Trish says:

          Mr Mir,

          You completely ignored my points, made statements about Islam and women and science, then decreed that reading the Koran would somehow do me some good.

          I’m glad you had the opportunity to freely communicate what you wished to say, and have one response to your claims, an old American saying, “the proof is in the pudding.”

  39. Ahmad Hijazi says:

    Dear sir,
    You are confusing the reader here!
    Islam is very clear about how to deal with no-believers (Infidels, ie non-Muslims) “Kill them” whether you are mild. moderate or extremist Muslim!
    In Christianity the violence in Ols testament (Jewish teaching) was completely rejected by Jesus Christ in New Testament (Love your enemy, Do not kill,….)
    It is unforgivable sin in Christianity if you kill some in the name of Christ,
    But you are allowed to kill in the name of Alla!
    Please be honest in expressing your views
    Thank you
    A Hijazi

    • Dr. G. M. Mir says:

      Dear Sir,
      A muslim can never be a muslim if he/she don’t have love for Jesus(PBUH), rather to say a muslim is a better Christian because he/she believes Him(PBUH) in real faith. Islam describes killing of any human being is as if somebody has killed whole humanity, and saving somebody as if somebody has saved whole of humanity, so how can Islam permit killings. Dear you are innocent about the teachings of Islam.
      I believe that Muslims are the best Christian than people calling themselves as Christians.
      Dear spit hatred and just read Quran conditionally open hearted, surely you will be benefitted.
      High regards

  40. Dr. Mir says:

    Don’t you think we (I mean most of us) are selfish? justifying this, presumingly somebody has good wealth and he/she spends it on unnecessary things, I mean things which are not of immediate need, and on the other side his/her neighbor or relative is in dire need of day today things of living. Now imagine if an earthquake of high magnitude or high floods or any other natural disaster strikes and leaves all poor and rich equal, leveling properties to ground, and striking the economy of the country very badly. I think in that condition the poor habitual of living on earth will survive but the luxurious person will be in trouble. I am not pessimistic, but surely an optimistic person, but my focus is to make readers understand that is our wealth really ours. If God has given us wealth, was this wealth available to our insisters, will this be carried to our new generations, will they carry it forward. Is our wealth earned by legal means, or illegal means, are we answerable to somebody, somewhere someday. Surely yes our wealth is our test, we have to care for needy poor.
    If somebody will not bath for months together what will you expect of his appearance. Will you like to sit with him? surely not. similar is the case with our wealth, we are bound to donate 2.5% of the total annual saving wealth towards poor, it is as if we have cleaned our wealth, and it will be protected from thieves. This will surely not reduce our wealth but increase it many folds.

  41. geoff says:

    That’s not how wealth works, Mir. And no god ever gave wealth. Lord.

    • Dr Mir says:

      Geoff, just think for a while about the creation and the control of the Creater. This life is an examination to be successful hereafter. It is He, the Omnipotent taking care of all.

  42. geoff says:

    Mir, there is no “Creater.” The evidence shows that life evolved. No ghosts, goblins, or god required. You’ve been brought up to believe. Now, you’re a walking, talking tribute to the powers of genetic propensity and cultural indoctrination. So much so that you can’t even comprehend these words. Your alleged prophet is as much a delusion as your alleged god.

  43. Peter says:

    If all this violence is caused by religion… or more so, monotheism, the why didn’t the violence end in communist Russia… or communist China… Remember North Vietnam?

    Surely you remember Che Guevara?
    Surely you remember (still) North Korea?

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