The Atheist Prophet

I recently watched Hasan Minhaj’s hilarious one-man show, Homecoming King, a really well-written and funny bit of stand up. After watching it there was one thing that stuck with me beyond the comedy. In a bit towards the end of the show, Hasan brought up Bill Maher of HBO Real Time with Bill Maher fame. He recounted how Bill along with his guest Sam Harris, a noted scientist, and Atheist, had bad mouthed the Muslim faith and how Ben Affleck, of Gigli and Batman vs Superman infamy, had come to the defense of Muslims everywhere. Even Batman, Hasan claimed, was against the blowhard Maher’s indefensible claims that Muslims must be thrown into internment camps like Japanese-Americans were during the second world war.

Now, even though I am an Atheist I am not a big fan of Mr. Maher’s. His show and its writers can be quite funny and he is a seasoned comedian with good timing but his smug over-simplification of complex issues as well as his reprehensible habit of bringing fame-seeking imbeciles like pro-pedophilia Milo Yiannopoulos and the snake oil salesman “Dr.” Samit Chachoua, a man who has claimed to cure AIDS with fucking goat’s milk, onto his show have stripped him of all credibility. This kind of showbiz buffoonery delegitimizes Maher as a leading voice for Atheists everywhere.

This being said, I must come to Mr. Maher’s defense. Nowhere in the ten-minute segment does Maher call for Muslims to be interred. I understand that he has a long history of badmouthing and demeaning Islam, much more so than any other particular religion. Despite this, he does bring up some legitimate and on-point concerns about the Muslim faith. At the beginning of the segment, he makes the claim that “Liberals need to stand up for liberal principles.”

This is an admiral stance.

His argument, as far as I can tell before Ben Affleck starts to yell (drunkenly?) over everyone, is that Liberals in America have grown to conflate the argument against bad ideas as an argument against the people who hold said ideas. Case in point “Batman” equates calling out Muslims for some of their more despicable views, namely murdering apostates, homosexuals, and those who dare leave the faith, to calling someone, “A shifty Jew.” Affleck claims that if you call out members of the second largest religion in the world for their holy book’s indefensible stance on everything from women’s rights to glorifying suicide, then you are in his eyes a racist.

This is terribly flawed logic. Muslims are not a race of people. Neither are Jews for that matter. Islam and Judaism are both just monotheistic forms of religion. It so happens that the term Muslims or Jews has become synonymous with different ethnic groups from the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. You can identify as a Jew but not go to Temple or believe in the doctrine of the Torah. Liberals in America seem to have no problem accepting this, but for some reason when you replace Jew with Muslim it’s a different beast entirely.

Liberals claim to despise the acts of barbarity committed daily by ISIS and Al Qaeda but then in the same breath call others bigoted for making the assertion that perhaps these jihadists are the true practitioners of their faith; a faith that was born of conquest and violence. After all, the Quran was cobbled together by the disciples of the illiterate “prophet” Muhammed from bits and pieces of the Old and New Testaments sometime in the sixth century and was used as a unifying document in Muhammad’s battles against the other Meccan tribes.

To say for instance that the Quran does not directly call for the murder of non-believers or free thinkers is simply false.

Quran (2:191-193)“And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief or unrest] is worse than killing… but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah [disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah] and worship is for Allah alone. But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun(the polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.)”

This passage is honestly no more evil than anything found in Jewish or Christian doctrine, but it does seem to be more widely executed by its practitioners. A day does not go by where you do not read about suicide bombings, or a family burning their pregnant daughter alive for marrying a non-Muslim, or another terror attack committed in the name of a supposedly all-loving Allah.

I do not mean to start a which religion is worse debate, I simply make the point that in any of the three Abrahamic religions there are many repeated passages that call for actions that a modern and civilized society should find barbaric.

All organized religion lends itself to abuse and violence.

To decry another’s beliefs because they do not stand up to the test of modern morality and justice is not the same thing as hating another person for such idiotic reasons as skin color or place of birth. The argument against the problems with Islamic faith is not an argument against a specific people, but against a specific set of ideas.

In the 1950’s it was common to hear a person openly decry the system of Communism because it did not meet the American criteria for decency. It was considered an immoral and inhumane method of governance and should be gotten rid of, and looking back most people would agree on this point. So why is it that a political or governmental worldview can be attacked for its merits, or lack thereof, but a religion is immune to equal scrutiny?

Can we not differentiate between the freedom to practice a religion, within the constraints of modern law, and the freedom to criticize a religious idea when it’s a bad one?

I have no problem with intelligent people like Hasan believing in a god, nor with their right to practice their religion unmolested by such un-American tests or bans as the current administration is inflicting on theists of a certain skin type. I do, however, take issue with those who would brush aside any discourse about the morality of a certain religion by saying that any such discourse is automatically racist or, as in this case, Islamaphobic.

Beliefs do not have intrinsic rights, only people do.

For instance, Kyrie Erving of the Cleveland Cavaliers thinks the world is flat. I don’t begrudge him this idiotic belief, but if he starts cutting members of the Warriors head’s off because they don’t share his beliefs then I would take umbrage with said flat-eartherisms.

To repeat Mr. Maher’s words, “Liberals must defend liberal principles.” Society cannot afford to sit idly by while members of one of the largest groups of us act like animals in the name of a fictitious book. If the more reasonable and educated members of the Islamic faith want to truly affect change they must be the first to admit that their book has flaws. As does any religious text. Only by admitting this problem can they begin to shift the faith away from its more violent roots into the religion of love that it’s proponents claims it to be.

Hasan was the right to call out Maher for his self-appointment role as the Atheist Prophet as freethinkers neither need nor want any one person, let alone some perpetually-stoned comedian, to speak on our behalf.

Atheists don’t need prophets, we let facts and reason do our speaking for us.

Meanwhile, the impetus is on smart young Muslims like Hasan Minhaj to be the change they want to see in their faith. The worst parts of the religion cannot be expunged by more bombs or occupation forces, but only by the overwhelming pressure of a billion and a half of their fellow Muslims to rid their beliefs of a doctrine of bigotry, hate, and violence that has plagued it since its inception.

And if anyone can do so it Hasan and those like him.

 

Quran quote from http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/violence.aspx

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The Atheist Prophet