Monday, March 23, 2009

Facepalm time, Part 2

atheism, atheist, atheophobia, muslim, islam, christian, christianity, stupid,
Sorry about the empty post, I need to remember not to accidentally hit "enter" while in blogger.

Today we revisit our friend Yusuf Khan, over at the examiner. Mr. Khan has, in five posts, picked apart atheism with "simple" arguments. (I hate it when people insult themselves for me. Takes all the fun out of it.)

I will now review part 2 and part 3 of Mr. Khan's delightful examination.

Welcome back, everyone.

As was said earlier, the non-religion of nonbelievers (a.k.a. "Atheism" stop that!) suspiciously finds its non-belief being aggressively proselytized in the 'Religion and Spirituality' section of most libraries and online media outlets.

I will restate my original dismissal of this bit of silliness: why does it matter what section of the newspaper articles about atheism (it is improper to capitalize atheism, btw) appear in? I can't think of a paper that has a philosophy section, so religion and spirituality probably is the next best fit. Business wouldn't work.

If we started putting articles about Islam in the sports section, does Islam become soccer? Of course not. Putting articles about atheism in the religion and spirituality section does not make atheism a religion.

Shouldn't they be categorized in the 'Philosophy' section instead? what paper has a philosophy section? Basically the genuine followers of genuine religions are too nice to tell them to go away. but not you, Mr. Khan. or Ray Comfort. Or Mr. Holmgren. Yeah, you're all so nice. So they stay, as unwelcome guests. yeah, we're pretty much used to that. i'm beyond being pissed that fundys don't want me around. in fact, i'd be a little worried if they did want me around.

For the most part being Atheist is not good enough. for what? you? it's quite enough for me. They have to drag you away from belief as well. not true at all. if you consider my not believing what you believe an attempt to "drag you away" from Islam, that's your problem. it says a lot more about the state of your faith than anything else. now, if you mean my unwillingness to submit to your spiritual superiority, then yes, i suppose you're right. Nothing less will do. i don't care what you believe. worship allah, worship odin, worship my socks for all i care, just leave me out of it. (if you do decide to worship my socks, i'll let you have them. otherwise, it gets awkward.) This of course, takes us to our discussion point for today: the Atheist desire for acceptance in mainstream society. why shouldn't i be accepted in the mainstream of society? discrimination is NOT a good thing.

Myth: Atheism should be considered a mainstream way of life. This is because Buddhism is a form of Atheism. i've never, NEVER, heard this argument. atheism should be considered a mainstream way of life because it is. billions of people worldwide are atheists, including about 40% of Buddhists, but even nonBuddhist atheists shouldn't be regarded as freaks.

Fact: Documented quotes from Buddha mention a Supreme Being on at least one occasion, which is an obvious affirmation. this is just painful. about 40% of buddhists are atheists, and about 60% are theists (here, here, and here) because buddhism is divided in the same way that christianity is divided, judaism is divided and islam is divided. and, while i can find many quotes from the buddha that propound and atheistic worldview, i couldn't find the quote that Mr. Khan refers to. (Mr. Khan has a little trouble proving what he says.) In essence, Buddhism as it stands today neither denies God nor is God-centric. Thus it can hardly be claimed that Buddhism is an Atheist religion. nobody claims that. we do acknowledge, however, that a large portion of buddhists qualify as atheists in that they do not believe in a god or supreme being. In other words, the lack of acknowledgment of the existence of an entity does not necessarily constitute disbelief in it.

my advice, Mr. Khan? don't try the semantics again. you're not good at it. either the buddha acknowledged god, or he didn't. either a certain portion of buddhists are atheists, or they are not. this sort of parsing proves nothing.
Take if you will the following example.

Islam acknowledges as valid all of the Prophets who appeared between Adam and Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon them all. how egalitarian! (ooh, and it leaves our Joseph Smith. Take that, Mormons!) However the Qur'an only mentions a little over twenty of them by name. possibly Muhammad was not familiar with all the prophets the world over? Now just because the others are not mentioned by name, can anyone say other Prophets from God are not a part of Islam? Obviously not. where is this going?

Therefore the analogy of Buddhism cannot be manipulated to normalize Atheism.
Buddhism is a world religion.
A=B therefore C=P? Sorry, I'm calling fail on that one.

Atheism? You figure it out. I'm still guessing. I have figured it out, being an atheist and all. Might be more helpful to ask me than this asshat.

Today's post is a little history lesson. this should be fun.
But before we begin I would like to take this opportunity to make it crystal-clear that I don't have an express agenda against individuals. It's the ideology I take exception to - just as Atheists take exception to monotheism. Fair enough? no, not fair enough. i don't take exception to monotheism, polytheism, monolatrism, or any other godism. Just stop trying to shove it down my throat already!

Having said that, let's proceed.

A basic review of Atheist tendencies reveals that they oppose the authority of God. what? i can't oppose the authority of a nonexistent entity. i can oppose your supposed "god given" authority, but that's a different thing. God is seen by them as 'controlling' or 'oppressive'. not god, religion. religion is controlling and oppressive. As a result of this, contemporary Atheist attacks are directed against God-centric religions, primarily Christianity. what other sorts of religions are there? (okay, buddhism, but I don't thinkg that's what he's referring to.)

On occasion Atheists will also make disparaging attacks against Islam. oh noes!
Curiously enough, ancient mythologies and pagan creeds are never attacked by Atheists. because i never have pagans calling me stupid or defiant, and i have never EVER had a pagan hand me a tract or interrupt my dinner to proselytize. which is a shame, cause that'd be cool. what would pagan tracts look like? But it remains Christianity that usually receives the brunt of their furor. Here's why. because most open atheists live in countries that are overwhelmingly christian. i sure wouldn't do this openly atheist blogging in Yemen or Saudi Arabia. I like not being beheaded.

The Medieval era in most of Europe was filled with great excesses committed in the name of religion. Witch-hunts, persecution of scientists (e.g. Galileo), even the cruel killing of cats that happened to be black in color were all the product of a twisted interpretation of Christianity. there had better be a mention of all the atrocities Islam has created. FGM anyone?

Forced conversions of non-Christians during the infamous Spanish Inquisition also gave politically established Christendom a bad name. and your point is?

Naturally those who arrived in the New World from Europe, though Christians themselves, expressly pledged to separate Religion and State. sigh. i suggest actually reading about US history if you want to talk about it.

Myth: Established religion is cruel and oppressive. it certainly can be, and has been.

Fact: The above conclusion is derived from a singular bitter experience: medieval Europe. oh right. the only example of established religion being cruel and oppressive is medieval european christianity. right.

Have Atheists taken the time to study other faith-based societies and empires? some of us, yes.

Where do we see forced conversions of Catholics during 850 years of Muslim Spain? Do we come across documented instances of witch hunts and prolonged persecutions of religious minorities in Ottoman Turkey? did we see atrocities at the hands of muslims? yes.

The fact is all Atheist accusations of religious atrocities are based on only one historical reference: medieval Europe. not a fact.

Expand your horizons. anyone got a used irony meter for sale? mine just exploded.

The remarkable progress in science and technology that was sparked in Asia, North Africa, and Eastern Europe was a direct product of Islam, not a pre-Islamic phenomenon. i can't speak to this.

This historical testimony serves as clear-cut evidence that the presence of monotheism in a society in no way hinders scientific progress. also not a fact. In fact the above example taken from Muslim history proves that in fact it fosters education and encourages development.

Don't agree? Proof please. already gave you that.


  1. "The remarkable progress in science and technology that was sparked in Asia, North Africa, and Eastern Europe was a direct product of Islam"
    What?? Please tell me he isn't trying to say that the accomplishments of the Chinese and Japanise societies is because of Islam. Because that is almost insultingly stupid. If he is trying to state that post Roman Empire technological advances in these areas of the world (only the near East though, not as far as China) was in part thanks to Islam, I will go with him on that. Especially in Africa, where there is evidence that Islam did help to advance science and mathmatics. However, if that is what he is trying to say, he really should try and say it.
    I would also love to see pagan tracs. Hee! I'm imagining how Chick would handle the greek myths. I'm going to have the giggles today.

  2. This whole thing has left a head-shaped dent in my desk. Thanks.

  3. I just don't know what scientific advances Islam gave the world hundreds of years ago. I find that statement suspect, but I don't really have the time today to do the research.

    When I don't know something, I admit it. I don't just make shit up. Unlike some people we know . . .

  4. Islam gave the world algebra.

    and while i, personally, have never seen a place where algebra was the thing to use in real life, i DO have to admit that calculus is very dependent upon algebra (as are chemistry, physics and most other hard sciences) i have even seen "tactical calculus" - a form of math that deals exclusively with military calculations (if you have x number of soldiers vs y number of soldiers, D= difference in hardware capabilites (where a positive number is where you have greater capability, a negative number is that you have lesser capability) and this can (and should) be further divided into different areas - D1 is rifle capabilites, D2 is RPG or mortar, D3 is detection capability, D4 is stealth.... etc and etc. there are LOTS of things.

    erm. which wasn't the point, sorry lol.

    i, personally, can't think of anything besides algebra, a lot of (good!) poetry, and the first women's rights establishment (until the crusades started, women in Islam were ALLOWED TO OWN PROPERTY. even WHILE MARRIED). BUT algebra.

    other than that, this guy makes all the sense of a cockroach. which is probably insulting cockroaches. and i'm bugaphobic.

  5. Weren't Muslim mathematicians responsible for building on geometry and algebra to basically give us those disciplines as we know them today? Because if so, I hate them.

  6. The remarkable progress in science and technology that was sparked in Asia, North Africa, and Eastern Europe was a direct product of Islam, not a pre-Islamic phenomenon.

    Oooh, oooh, oooh. Since you can't speak to this, let me. Pretty pretty please?

    This is what we in the business like to call Grade A bullshit.

    First off, as Leigh already said, there's absolutely no way that the Chinese were influenced by Islam. Up until roughly 1400 CE the Chinese were pretty much the undisputed masters of technology and science. They may or may not have been better off than Rome, but either way, they were on top of things and that reason had nothing to do with Islam.

    Meanwhile, there were any number of technologically advanced groups that predated Islam in the areas of actual Islamic superiority. The two big ones, of course, are Egypt and Babylon, which are rather famous. Then there was Persia, Alexander and the successors, the Parthians, and the Sassanids, in broad strokes. All of these societies were highly advanced and quite capable of surviving on their own without Islam, thankyouverymuch. It's actually far easier to argue that Islam borrowed from the existing attitudes and sophistication of the areas of Egypt and Persia than to argue that Islam fixed their backward ways. We can plainly see now that there's nothing inherently urbane and advanced in Islam itself and that the people drive the religion's attitudes, much like Christianity.

    Meanwhile, I have absolutely no idea what this assertion that Islam drove advancement in Eastern Europe. Other than a limited Turkish incursion in to the Balkans and the whole Mongol invasion of Europe thing I can't think of any particular place a claim of massive Muslim influence in Eastern Europe came from. Especially since "Eastern Europe" is traditionally given as Russia, Poland, Hungary, and the like, which remained quite Christian throughout the Middle Ages and in to the modern era.

    Have Atheists taken the time to study other faith-based societies and empires?

    This, for the record, is a weasel question. "Faith-based societies and empires" could mean just about anything (frex: America is a Christian nation!). However, I like to go with Calvin's Geneva, Cromwell's England and Puritan America (Hmm? The Founding Fathers might have had a more immediate reason to look askance at religion in governance? No!) in addition to things like the Spanish Inquisition and the general European hatred of Jews throughout the Middle Ages.

    The one thing that Goddy McDumbass does get right is that in the period leading up to the Enlightenment the Islamic nations were actually pretty good compared to their Christian counterparts. It could easily be argued that Islam is going through its Dark Ages now. Of course that doesn't mean that there weren't Muslim atrocities back in the day. It just means that on balance they actually were better than Christians for a certain period of history.

    But that doesn't change the fact that the biggest problem is that I have no idea what his thesis statement is. Is he arguing that Islam is blameless, that the Enlightenment came out of a false premise, or that his opponents don't actually know what they're talking about? Am I supposed to engage him in the context of the US in 1776 or the world in 2009? The arguments change with context.

    It's difficult to contend with his thinking, but not because he makes an air-tight argument. Precisely the opposite, in fact. It's like trying to grasp water.

  7. Ooohh!! Look, I got a real historian! I'll think I'll keep him!

    Thank you, Geds. Unfortunately, while I could certainly tell you that China and Eastern Europe have had little to do with Islam, anything else is outside my purview.

    But not yours.

    Feel free to stop by any time!

  8. Geds, I have a feeling this guy is dumping Turkey into Eastern Europe instead of Asia. Though that doesn't excuse the rest of his strange arguments, it may explain that one.

  9. Hey, hey. I'm a pretend internet historian who just so happens to have a degree in history and religious studies. If that's all it takes to be a real historian these days then I just don't know what to think any more...

    Even so, I'm pretty sure than Mr. Khan's arguments are outside my purview. I was taught mostly about how to handle history as we think it actually happened. I'm not so good at crazy fantasy history...

  10. A modest historian, no less. I went to college. I'm not as impressed by PhD's as some people are. I'm more impressed by actual knowledge.

    I think Leigh may be right about the whole Turkey thing. If you count that as Asia, then Islam did make inroads into Asia. In the common parlance, however, especially historically, if you refer to Asia, you're referring to China, which is not Turkey.

  11. What he doesn't seem to realize is that atheism is a position one takes about religion, not a religion itself. That's why people categorize atheist writings in the religion section: because it is ABOUT religion, not a religion itself. It could very easily qualify for the philosophy section if it was just about atheism, or it could be put in the science section(Dawkins style evolution-centric books ), or the sociology section (history of religion and effects on society, often a favorite subject), or even in psychology (looks into how these beliefs come to be like Shermer and Dennet often do), and so on. It really is something to judge on a book by book basis, and if it doesn't fit as anything but a critique of religion, then it should probably go into the religion section.
    Since half of the books there already are books that take pot-shots at rival belief systems, one that dedicates itself to shooting at all targets shouldn't be too obscene.

    I wonder if he sincerely wonders why atheists don't bother to criticize ancient religions now deemed "myths" and the pagan belief systems so reviled by the Christians so plentiful and vocal in our modern world. Because I think it is a covert way to say "whaah get off our backs" than an actual attempt to make a point.

    Good job handling this inanity. I have no idea how these people are able to get themselves published when they are recycling weaker versions of the same old, discredited ideas.

  12. Well, there was Tamerlane's (or his successors?) push in to India and the establishment of the Mughal Empire. But there, again, we have two problems. India was doing fairly well on his own there already. And it doesn't answer to the fact that any claims of technological capability in "Asia" that don't contend with China are hardly compelling.

    Moreover, the primary driver of Islam in to the Indian subcontinent were the descendants of the Mongols (As in, Tamerlane, wherein the name of the Mughal Empire came from). If you're going to try to argue for an enlightened collection of rulers, there are few worse places you can go than the Golden Horde. The Mongols were able to take three large, established ares by force of arms: China, Persia, and India. It's important to note that in each case the Mongols ended up on the receiving end of change. Compare that to, say, Alexander the Great, who managed to Hellenize huge chunks of the world.

    Actually, if you consider Muslim mathematical capability as the primary driver in the upswing of science (which works, even if the sentence is deeply convoluted), it's fairly obvious that Muslims drew off of knowledge that predated them by millennia. Even before the Persians there was a concept of a null space in counting in Babylon. India had a similar concept. Neither had a true "0," but they were ahead of the Romans in applying the idea of nonexistence to numbers. It's not too much of a stretch to conceive of the Muslim mathematicians simply being in the right place at the right time to put it all together. Discovery doesn't just happen in a vacuum, after all.

  13. Asylum: you said what i was trying to say, only you said it better. Atheism isn't a religion, but it can be related to religion, or a whole lot of other things. I totally get why it ends up in the religion (or in my paper, the lifestyles) section of the paper.

    Babylonians had zero? (I was quite surprised to discover how important, and rare, a concept of zero is. It seems intuitively obvious that one can have nothing, but apparently not so much to mathematicians throughout the ages.)

    I won't deny that Muslim mathematicians/philosophers/scientists/etc. have made discoveries and contributions to our general understanding of the world. To say they made them all is demonstratively silly and ignores history even I am aware of. (And if I'm aware of it, we all should know about it.)

    Keep going Geds! This is fun!

  14. The thing about zero is that it doesn't actually serve much of a purpose until you start working with actual mathematics. Numbers were created basically for bookkeeping. So if I have a goat and I get two more goats then I need to know what three is. If I have a goat and it dies I don't technically need to know what zero goats are. Or, at the very least, I don't need to keep track of them.

    The leap here isn't actually from one to zero. It's from one to negative one. If it's hard enough to grasp "I have zero goats" from an ancient accounting standpoint, it's even harder to then go to, "But I owe Bob two goats, so I have negative two goats." We can take it for granted that "I owe you two" is the same as "I now have negative two," but it's actually a pretty big leap. This, by the way, is why I recommend Ken Alder's The Measure of All Things to anyone who listens. It's not just the story of the metric system, but the story of why the world before the metric system was completely different than the world today. We assume that the things we learn in elementary school have always been around, but we truly stand on the shoulders of giants in even the most basic of things.

    Back to the point, the Babylonians and ancient Indians apparently did make the mental leap and so created a placeholder for zero in their own counting system. Why? I don't know. But we (and Senor Khan's scholars) owe them a great deal due to that little gap.

  15. Oh, and since I'm a historian, not a mathematician, I owe David Morgan-Mar of Irregular Webcomic! a great deal of credit. Especially this footnote.

  16. I wonder if that's the same guy who did the Brick Testament.

    I'm always amazed at how supposedly "barbaric" cultures achieved amazing leaps in understanding. The Mayans had an amazingly accurate calendar- at a time when Galileo was being persecuted for claiming that the earth revolves around the sun, instead of the other way around.

    And Stonehenge. How did they move those stones at all without construction equipment, and how did they line them up so perfectly with the stars and planets? The pyramids are another example. How did they do that? And how "advanced" are we really?


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