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Discussion Point XXXI

According to Peter Hitchens:

The Atheists must reject Christianity as well as Islam. Alas, for them, Islam responds to their rejection by ignoring them, whereas Christianity tends to retreat before them. And a weakened church laces a vacuum into which Islam can move. Result? The growing power of Islam in our society, our culture, our government, our political parties and our schools, so that an essentially Atheist state pays increasing obeisance to Islam. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the new Atheists, by attacking Christianity, are simply clearing a space for Islam to establish itself in the space they have swept and garnished.

Discuss.

60 comments to Discussion Point XXXI

  • Christianity is, by and large, cultural spice that can be sniffed with relatively little harm. I do not ‘reject’ Christianity so much as generally try to ignore it.

    Islam however is a totalitarian political system that is only tolerable in others when they do not actually take it seriously… it is a mistake to conflate the two religions.

    Islam is not growing because Christianity is fading… in fact it is debatable if toxic Islam (i.e. Islam taken seriously) is actually growing at all.

  • Laird

    Nonsense. What Hitchens is arguing is that Christians are so weak in their faith that they (a) capitulate when challenged by atheists, but then (b) latch onto Islam as an alternative. Neither is true, in my experience. Christians generally don’t succumb the the arguments of atheists*; they dig in their heels and try to convert the nonbeliever. And when the inevitable impasse is reached, they just declare a truce and walk away; they don’t collapse from the experience and fall into the arms of Islam.

    Frankly, I don’t understand the point Hitchens is trying to make. Is he saying that atheists should abandon their (non)belief because we’re somehow making the world safer for Islam? We should embrace Christianity or, at worst, simply shut up? Disingenuous at best. I reject his entire premise.

    * Just as atheists don’t generally succumb to the arguments of theists, which is why religious debate of that sort is both frustrating and inherently pointless.

  • “And a weakened church laces a vacuum into which Islam can move. Result? The growing power of Islam in our society, our culture, our government, our political parties and our schools, so that an essentially Atheist state pays increasing obeisance to Islam.”

    Bollocks. The commies look upon Islam as nothing more than an ugly tool.

    The primary threat to freedom isn’t atheism, it is the continuous maturation of the democratic state into the totalitarian state.

    Cut down the state and where will the Muslims be? The majority of them will leave Britain whilst a minority will start little businesses or look for productive employment just like the Indian and Pakistani immigrants before them.

  • Jose Angel de Monterrey

    Perhaps it is necessary to respond to Islam in kind. Build minarets of knowledge and freedom everywhere, call for rational and intelligence war against radical, fanatical dogma based on religion. Print millions of Atlas Shrugged copies and give them away to all people, create an army of objectivist missionaries and send them abroad and at home to spread the word of freedom, rationality and objectivism.

  • Alice

    Laird wrote: “Frankly, I don’t understand the point Hitchens is trying to make.”

    Could Hitchens point be the Law of Unintended Consequences? The triumph of atheists over (Western) Christians has created an opening for a more muscular form of Theism (Islam)?

    Think of it as “Britain’s Got Talent”. By beating the Chipping Sodbury Maypole Dancers, you get to advance to the next round, where your opponent is — Susan Boyle!

  • Valerie

    Hitchens is saying that after many years of bashing Christianity as only for stupid people, the muslims are not cowed by such tactics and won’t back down, leaving secularists to face a much more determined foe. Many if not most of the elite would never challenge the orthodoxies of islam the way they do christianity, leaving the field open to the worst among us.

  • ahem

    Hitchens is right, A civilization with a clear worldview will always prevail over a civilization with a weak, or negligible, worldview.

    Islam, as it happens, has a very strong worldview. Christianity–were it not enfeebled by modernity–would be the only force in Europe strong enough to stand up to its barbarity. Too bad it is so despised. Secularists have themselves become enervated by relativity and are practically impotent to withstand Islam’s cultural onslaught. They should enjoy their last years of religious freedom–it won’t last.

    I suspect one day even those among you who are not Christians will find this a cause for deep regret.

  • Hank Scorpio

    “I suspect one day even those among you who are not Christians will find this a cause for deep regret.”

    So we’re supposed to believe in bronze age mythology because of the Islamic boogie man? Thanks, but I’ll stick with rationality.

  • Whether it clears a place for Islam to take over or not, I think modernity is a bad enough plague in itself and that if its replacement of classical Christianity represents “progress,” it only represents progress toward more of the unprecedented suffering it sowed over the last century and the eventual annihilation of whatever remnant there is left in us that can properly be called “human.”

    I’m aware my assertion is unlikely to find many supporters here.

  • frak

    Hank Scorpio: personal beliefs are irrelevant. The matter at hand is whether atheists should verbally attack Christianity along with radical Islam when radical Islam in its current form is a fundamentalist political ideology that seeks to control you, your freedoms, and your life.

    I know a lot of atheists and agnostics and many of them openly call Christianity stupid and wish it were gone. But, putting the verity of religion aside, it is clear that humans desire something – call it religion or a worldview that appears to appeal to a higher authority. But what do you prefer – the contemporary version of Christianity (rather tame and soft) or what would replace it if it disappeared and left a huge cultural vacuum to be filled – radical Islam, Gaiaism, etc.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  • Nuke Gray

    Hitchens is wrong. When I confront an atheist, I don’t back down- I openly talk about how science has proven that going to Church adds years to your life, for example , and that rational people would , therefore, go to church. Hitchens may not have met people like me, of course. Maybe the average Christian does back down.
    Certainly you can get away with extremist statements if you are muslim- I remember a few years ago a statement by a religious leader in Indonesia who called for the Northern Territiry to be colonised by Muslims, and then to become part of Indonesia. I wonder what sort of names I’d be called if i proposed colonising parts of Indonesia with Christian settlers, and grabbing them for Australia?

  • I agree, Messamore. Even post-modernism is preferable to modernism.
    And christianity isn’t dying, or dead, or whatnot. Church-ianity in europe, maybe. And no wonder.
    But real faith, and lives of real faith, are not retreating before islamo-fascists or atheists.

    Didn’t Twain say that man is the religious animal? So true…and we can see it clearly if we care to look -A great big religious festival is going on right now in Copenhagen, if I am not mistaken. >:-)

    Let’s not talk about what the sacraments of that particular faith might involve, given the announcement of free whatever by Copenhagen’s hookers.

  • frak

    Nuke Gray: While I am not entirely sure if you are being sarcastic or not, your point that being religious increases longevity is a worthwhile one.

    Another is the fact that higher degree of religiosity is generally correlated with higher birth rates.

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  • “I’m aware my assertion is unlikely to find many supporters here.”

    Well might that have something to do with the likelihood that none of us possess powers of telepathy? It’s no good flinging this word “modernity” around if you’re not going to make its’ referents clear. Are you talking about the advances of modern medicine? Are you talking about modern transport? Are you talking about “modern” tolerance of homosexuals? Are you talking about the crap that goes on in “modern” schools? Are you talking about modern entertainment? Are you talking about some unspecified combination of these things? What exactly are you talking about?

    Christ almighty. Is it too much to ask for people to just compose clear and meaningful sentences?

  • @darthlaurel- I’d agree in part, but must say that I think post-Modernism is a half-hearted attempt to address modernity’s problems, and that in the end, the “post” in post-modern isn’t really earnest enough.

    @mike Sorry! Given the context in the original post, I was a little vague- by modernity I mean the naturalistic (or strictly materialistic) view of the world espoused by the New Atheists Peter Hitchens refers to).

    In my usage here, modernity is not necessarily a period of time either- but a mindset. Its ideas and effects can certainly be seen in the ancient world, and I think that dear Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle among others very soundly refuted it.

  • Nuke Gray

    Yep, Mike.

  • veryretired

    It strikes me that some of the comments here are taking the situation under discussion on too personal a level. This is about larger social movements, not individual debates at a pub or in a classroom.

    The modern secular state in the west has coopted the traditional social functions of the church in providing medical care, relief to the poor, and education. The church, for its part, has generally accepted and applauded this increased social consciousness on the part of the state apparatus.

    But, as in all complex interactions, there are significant trade-offs that affect both sides of the equation.

    The church assumes the role of moral teacher to the body politic, urging it to approve an ever increasing and expansive state activism, all in the name of social justice. Gradually, however, the state asserts the right to define its own moral and ethical parameters, and the influence of the church’s formal teaching becomes more and more marginalized.

    Finally, in the current situation, there is a powerful strain in public discourse which demands the church refrain from any interference in public affairs other than cheer-leading from the sidelines. As regards several contentious issues in the public forum, strong moral pronouncements by the christian church are held in a negative light, and criticisms of islam or alternative secular lifestyles are even, in some cases, considered to be hate speech and legally impermissable.

    Christianity, splintered, and somewhat overwhelmed by the moral relativism of the culture that has increasingly rejected its authority, sputters in futile protest, but, unwilling to impose serious consequences against its critics and ridiculers, is unable to salvage much of its previous social and cultural standing.

    Meanwhile, islam has no such inhibitions against either physical retaliation against any critics, or demanding that its total range of teachings— moral, economic, social, personal, etc., be enacted across all of society.

    The vacuum the party quoted is speaking of is the vacuum of larger than human moral authority, which western societies have stripped from christianity, with the church’s unwitting cooperation, and which has now been grasped by islam with a confidence and belligerent aggressiveness that neither the state, awash in multi-culti jello, nor the church in its weakened condition, can effectively oppose.

    As many have pointed out over the course of this dans macabre, the crisis in western civilization is a moral crisis. The current situation is the end result of decades of nonsense being passed off as complex thought, and the abandonment of morality being sold as a new morality which improves upon the traditional beliefs of western society.

    Naturally, as in any human endeavor, there were and are sufficient flaws and errors in the various beliefs and moral teachings of the west to make reform a legitimate topic of interest.

    However, much that has been peddled as reform is, in fact, empty rhetoric, and many moral teachings that ensured a stability and vigor in western society have been jettisoned, not because they were in error, but because they stood between those who desried power and the power they sought.

    We are the heirs of a bankrupt estate. The promissary notes issued over the last few centuries of moral incoherence are now coming due.

    Whether religious or secular in derivation, only those with a firm and coherent moral framework upon which to construct their lives, both personally and socially, will be able to withstand the gale whose winds have only begun to blow.

  • Jjamess

    A Christianity which is threatened by atheism is not a Christianity worth keeping or one that could stand up to Islam.

    Biblical Christianity has tools to confront Islam by saying that worship of Allah is idolatry and therefore objectively wrong.

    Atheism (it seems to me) at best can say that worship of Allah is wrong because he doesn’t exist, but as far as I can see, can give no moral case against Islam.

  • “The modern secular state in the west has coopted the traditional social functions of the church in providing medical care, relief to the poor, and education.”

    Yes, that is abundantly clear.

    “…many moral teachings that ensured a stability and vigor in western society have been jettisoned, not because they were in error, but because they stood between those who desried power and the power they sought.”

    Clear referents have an instructive value:

    Self-defence and responsible firearm use (and maintenance) would certainly be one inherently moral teaching passed from father to son, without which state power – via protection promises – can be more easily expanded, but it is not clear to me that it has anything uniquely to do with the Church.

    The moral injunction against fraud and the danger of insincerity in serious matters are certainly moral teachings, the general undermining of which has made possible the banking crisis and accompanying economic distortion. Yet are the moral values of truth – accuracy and sincerity – unique to the Church?

    The family is rather more than a “moral teaching”, but its undermining by Statist welfare schemes, public miseducation and economic distortion can hardly be ignored. Is the family unique to the Church? Well I suppose the particular western form of the family is – with the institution of marriage in particular.

    “Whether religious or secular in derivation, only those with a firm and coherent moral framework upon which to construct their lives, both personally and socially, will be able to withstand the gale whose winds have only begun to blow.”

    Exactly – religious or secular in derivation. The historical importance of the Church has been as a psychological vessel for morality, not necessarily the morality itself.

    Attending to the collapse of the Church and the spread of atheism/agnosticism merely obscures from focus the devouring of social institutions and their underpinning morality by the democratic state.

    How long before our Jewish defender of the Church wings his way down onto this thread I wonder…

  • Ian Bennett

    First, I reject, for myself, the term ‘atheist’ simply because I consider it unnecessary to have a word for someone who does not believe in the existence of one specific concept; there’s no word for non-belief in orange flying mastodons so why have a word for non-belief in a supreme being, given that there’s zero evidence for either?

    It seems to me that mere worship of a god – under whatever name – is not so much wrong, in a moral sense, as simply stupid, a mostly-harmless delusion. Where Islam is specifically more non-harmless than modern Christianity is that is infinitely more repressive, and where it is specifically more dangerous is that it is more consistent. Where two irrational opinions are in conflict, the more consistent will win (paraphrasing Rand), but only among the irrational. There are, however, an overwhelming majority of irrational people around, and it’s for that reason that Islam should be challenged. No-one cares what Jains think.

  • Hmm, I’m not even going as far as most of you are, finding deep metaphysical and existential import into Hitchen’s words.

    I think what he’s saying is rather simple and it’s this. Nature abhors a vacuum, and when you’ve pushed Christianity out of the national consciousness something takes its place. And between atheism and Islam, the cohesiveness, fellowship and communitarian nature of Islam wins out more and more, while atheists, lacking the means to generate a common and coherent response, loses out more and more.

    You will notice that the billboards do not say “Allah probably does not exist. Go and bang a hooker tonight”. No, they say “There is probably no God…” But which God? Most people will probably only think YHWH doesn’t exist, and afaik I don’t see Dawkins saying “Zeus is a figment of some gay Greek’s imagination”, or “Wiccans are morons – go piss on a bonfire” do you?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I disagree with Mr Hitchens; it seems to be based on the idea that “people need to believe in an imaginary friend in their head because if they don’t then they will believe in another imaginary friend instead”. Not terribly convincing.

    It is quite true that some – not all – unbelievers do not seem to be that interested in putting forward a more coherent world view or philosophy of life to fill the space vacated by religion. However, the response is not to despair, or to pretend to be Christian as a least-bad alternative to radical Islam. Rather, the approach is to embrace a philosophy of life on this earth, a philosophy that helps explain how Man can live happily, virtuously, justly and productively. The Ancient Greeks started this process.

    Anyway, as Perry keeps saying, what really frightens Islamists in the West is the idea of their daughters turning to pop music, Western clothes and dating non-Muslim guys. And there is no reason to suppose that this process is not happening. The radicals may make the most noise, but to paraphrase Edmund Burke, do not confuse the noisy grasshoppers with the silent herds of cattle.

  • Ian Bennett: Oh, that’s a simple one.

    There is a word for people who believe in gravity; realists.

    There is a word for people who believe in the Sun being at (or very near) the centre of the solar system: heliocentrists.

    Hence, there exist also words who believe otherwise; insane or geocentrists.

    There is a word that describes religious people: theists (well, more or less, within statistical error)

    Hence, there are words for those who believe otherwise.

  • guy herbert

    I think this makes the common mistake of comparing the claims of Islamists about Islam, with the experience of the Church of England, a fairly uniquely enfeebled (I’m glad to say) Christian institution.

    Mr Hitchens is offering his obtuse defence of Christianity against atheism only by missing that the (many times plural) establishments in Muslim countries are so profoundly threatened by atheism that it they aren’t ignoring it as no threat, but refusing to admit the possibility exists, and where they must comment on it, characterising the operative atheism of Western Culture as “Christian”.

    There are cultural bubbles with no basis for understanding one another. I have a young Muslim colleague from a Pakistani background, who has real difficulty digesting that I have not and never have had any religious avocation. The assumption that since I’m neither Muslim, nor Jewish, nor another recognisable religion, therefore I must be a Christian, seems to spring up from the back of his mind into conversation however often I gently explain that it is wrong.

  • el windy

    The attraction of Atheism has increased along with the increase in knowledge of how Christianity’s main practitioners have become the “scribes and pharisees” vilified by Jesus in the Gospels. They take the best places in the “synagogue” ( or “church”) and are greeted in the public spaces ( look at how people behave towards priests and bishops in Italy or elsewhere)); “Thou shalt kill thy neighbour” as in Northern Ireland; Bible-belt fanaticism in the USA; abuse of children in the Irish Republic; the modern version of kamikaze bombings were pioneered by the Tamil Tigers who, as far as I know, are Hindu and Christian; most Italian mafiosi are extremely devout but this doesn’t stop them killing people or ruining their lives in other ways. And I haven’t even touched upon the old chestnut of the Inquisition!
    That is why Christianity has become so weak – its practitioners have taken the scriptures and hung them on a hook in their bathroom. If even a minority of Christians started to behave like followers of Christ (as they claim) then rival philosophies such as atheism/agnosticism, New Age versions of Buddhism and /or Islam, etc..could start looking less attractive.
    Incidentally, in some parts of the world there has been an increase in Christian followers because it is a better alternative for them than the social and economic restrictions of being, for instance, an “untouchable” in India or being held back by “tribal” restrictions in some Islamic countries – especially applies to women in the latter case.

  • John B

    Hey. Why are you all debating this? I thought God was some mumbo jumbo, to the rational mind? (Of course, that is actually ‘rational’ with a clearly defined limit as to how far you are actually going to look/explore, to my thinking.)
    God´s kingdom is not primarily of this world. Render Caesar´s unto Caeser, and all that. So what happens in this world, while relevant, is not really in anyway determining on things other than the extent to which our real motives, intents, etc, are exposed.
    But yes, as we have turned our backs on God and called Him irrelevant, and declared the spiritual realm of no consequence in the form as presented to a large extent by Christianity, so another force has moved in to the vacuum.
    The Islamic way is profound because it does indeed deal with spiritual realities. It is also the application of those forces to a political, worldly, system and if you don´t go with it, submit here and now, you get the chop or at best subservience.
    Parts of the historical church have tried to do a similar thing – turn the whole set of events and reality about the Lord Jesus into a political, controlling, structure.
    Which makes a lie of the actual message Jesus brought, which in many ways is akin to libertarianism, a situation of individual freedom and responsibility, under God.
    I would agree that cutting the spiritual reality out of things has left us vulnerable to alternative forces.
    However my thinking is that the secular western security forces who can hack there way into practically any hard drive in the world are surely not defenceless and impotent when faced with the threat of militant Islamism.
    Which leads me to think they are allowing this situation to develop so that in the not too distant future, for the good of mankind, the obvious and sensible thing to do will be to ban all “religions” equally so we can bring in the final great world belief system (religion?) of . . . what?

  • Ian Bennett

    Gregory; not so simple. First, “insane” describes gravity-deniers (among many others) but does not identify them, and gravity-believers are realists in this respect but not necessarily in others. Second, “geocentrism” is one of several alternatives to “heliocentrism”; a person can easily be neither of them.

    Give me a word which specifically identifies (not merely describes) believers in orange flying mastodons, and I’ll withdraw my objection.

    In any event, the point is subsidiary.

  • Ian Bennett: But that’s my point precisely. Because there isn’t a word that describes or identifies someone who believes in orange flying mastodons, there probably isn’t a word for those who *don’t* believe either.

    Mind you, there *is* a word that describes people who believe in the FSM – Pastafarians. Even if it’s mostly tongue-in-cheek. Therefore, the term anti-Pastafarian works quite well in describing those who don’t.

    Also, I would argue that the label ‘theist’ also describes someone, but does not identify. Certainly, there’s a whole lot more to me than being a theist.’

    In any event, I am only answering your question why there should be such a word as atheist. Well, that’s because there’s such a word as theist.

    And sure, there are plenty of words that describe alternatives. You have to understand that ‘theism’ encompasses all beliefs in at least one god. But if you restricted the set to ‘monotheist’, then you can have ‘pantheist’, ‘polytheist’, and so on.

  • Valerie

    el windy,
    I love how you claim Christians don’t practice their faith in a way that you find acceptable. Perhaps you need to get out more. Guy Herbert: To a muslim, secularism is merely the flip side of Christianity.

  • I’ve not read all the comments above, but has the point been made that maybe muscular atheism is sweeping away unmuscular Christianity, allowing unmuscular Christianity to be replaced by a more vigorous, non-nationalised Christianity?

    Surely the biggest religious gainer at the moment, less noticed because not nearly so psycho in atmosphere and public behaviour as Islam, is Evangelical Christianity.

  • Brad

    Atheists come in two brands – those who are Statist and will compete with anyone who opposes them within the corridors of power. Anti-statist atheists also oppose religion proper but wish to replace it with nothing.

    Libertarians suffer the same reality politically – you try and take down that which threatens you most which may leave a space for another brand to take hold of the power supply. But common sense dictates you take out the biggest bully first and work your way down.

    It’s a matter of proximity and severity. Do you worry about the ruffian with bad designs on your laptop sneaking around your back yard or the lunatic waving a knife and yelling threats ten thousand miles away?

  • Atheism (it seems to me) at best can say that worship of Allah is wrong because he doesn’t exist, but as far as I can see, can give no moral case against Islam.

    That is a bit like saying “trigonometry can give no moral case against Islam”. Atheism is not a moral theory, it is a view of reality. I am an atheist but I do not seek my moral theories from atheism because that has nothing to do with disdaining to explain reality by recourse to the supernatural.

    There are all manner of impeccably secular ways to trash Islam, of varying wisdom, be they rational objective morality or a consequentialist approach or even a variety of utilitarian approaches, none of which require a religion of their own to counter Islam.

  • I openly talk about how science has proven that going to Church adds years to your life, for example , and that rational people would , therefore, go to church.

    This always makes me laugh as a utilitarian defence of religion. Even if true, what it probably proves is that self delusion and moral displacement is probably good for the blood pressure :-)

  • Laird

    Laughing is also good for the blood pressure, Perry, so perhaps Nuke Gray’s attendance at church extends your lifespan, too!

  • Alice

    “Anyway, as Perry keeps saying, what really frightens Islamists in the West is the idea of their daughters turning to pop music, Western clothes and dating non-Muslim guys. And there is no reason to suppose that this process is not happening.”

    Well, we know for sure that the reverse is also happening — some Western women converting to Islam and voluntarily putting on the hijab.

    From just a casual reading of the English newspapers, the Muslim girl in England who puts on Western clothes has a chance of ending up on the receiving end of an “honour” killing. The good atheist girl who converts to Islam faces no such risk. Maybe that was part of Peter Hitchens point?

  • Well, we know for sure that the reverse is also happening — some Western women converting to Islam and voluntarily putting on the hijab.

    Indeed but I suspect the vast majority of those who ‘move’ are muslims who become functionally secular.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Hitchins is mostly correct – but only if one makes careful qualifications that he does not make.

    For example, it is not “Christianity” or “Christians” who reteat before athiesm – it is, as Mr Hitchins knows well, “offical” Christianity.

    The pathetic “liberalism” of the those who control the Church of England and the, once, “mainline” Protestant churches in the United States, and (of course) the “modernists” who seemed close to destroying the Roman Catholic church (under John Paul II and Benedict XVI the Catholic Church may have saved itself).

    For example, Bill O’Reilly (no great theology) had no trouble debating with Richard Dawkins on the “O’Reilly Factor”.

    “But why should evolution mean there is no God – you have not proved your case, evolution doed not mean that God is some form of delusion”.

    Mr Dawkins is not used to be contradicted (he is just to dealing with Church of England Archbishops who will agree with all his “arguments” but then say how “useful” Christianity is in fighting “capitalism” and promoting “social justice”).

    So Mr Dawkins did a little internet film demanding that Bill O’Reilly be taken off the air – and only “intelligent” people (i.e. people who agree with Dawkins) be allowed to conduct television interviews. Thus (unintentially) showing how weak his case actually is.

    The state loves “liberal” Christianity (and not just in Britain – for example Obama loves “people of [no] faith” who preach about “social justice” and “health care is a right” from the pulpit), but it is faithless and weak – nothing that can oppose Islam.

    Nor is it a matter of people being converted to Islam (although there are quite a few conversions – especially in the inner cities) it is a matter of immigration and birth rates.

    Either the new people will be converted or the nature of society will fundementally change – in an Islamic direction.

    Of course someone could suggest that Muslims be expelled – but that does not sound very libertarian.

    “But we can covert them to athiesm or to liberal Christianity” (much the same thing of course). No we can not – because these doctrines do not offer anything.

    If the Muslims are going to be converted it will be to real Christianity (the conservative forms of the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches).

    Otherwise it will be increasing conflict and the Islamification of society – in this Peter Hitchins is correct.

    “The nasty forms of Islam are not increasing”.

    Pull the other one, it has got bells on.

    Nor are they the “nasty forms” (as if they were somehow untrue to basic Islam) – they are simply Muslims trying to follow the example of the life of Mohammed and the holy texts of their faith.

    Of course that may well be very nasty indeed.

    By the way this MAY mean that the Afghan war is a waste of both lives and money.

    Barack Obama was right for once – Afghanista is indeed “not Vietnam” (although he then proceeded to tell lies about the Vietnam war). In Vietnam only a small proportion of the population of the Republic of Vietnam were Communists (although Communist North Vietnam had the entire force of international Marxism behind it, including many Americans).

    Whereas in Afghanistan almost everybody is a Muslim. And there is no policy to convert them.

    “But the Taliban have interpreted Islam wrongly” – says who?

    It may well be that the majority of Afghans are not very religious (although Islamic history shows, again and again that a “not very religious” population is an exploded bomb that can become very religious almost over night) – but they do not like the corrupt, criminal “pro Western” government of the Kazai either.

    That was an important difference with Iraq – I did not support going into Iraq, but I have to admit that the Bush Administration made a real effort to make sure elections in Iraq were fairly honest.

    People begged the Obama Administration to prevent the rigging of the Afghan elections – but they did nothing.

    Leaving us all with this farce.

  • Kim du Toit

    “Print millions of Atlas Shrugged copies and give them away to all people…”

    …if we want them all to be bored to death as opposed to being killed by Islamists as heretics. Atlas Shrugged is as big a fairytale as the Bible or Koran.

  • Kim du Toit

    And Hitchens has been at the gin even more, if such a thing is possible.

  • Paul Marks

    Atlas Shrugged is hardly a “boring” book – it (and the work of Ayn Rand generally) is about the only inspiring athiest work to occur in Western Civilization.

    If the West can exist without a relgious basis (and I doubt that very much) it will be on a Randian basis.

    As for Peter Hitchins – even when I do not agree with him (which is often) I have to admit he argues well.

    To dismiss him as “on the gin” is the response of a idiot Kim Du Toit.

  • Sunfish

    Biblical Christianity has tools to confront Islam by saying that worship of Allah is idolatry and therefore objectively wrong.

    That may be, IF one accepts Christianity of one sort or another as being true. I do, and yet I am well aware that there are no shortage of people[1] who do not.

    This always makes me laugh as a utilitarian defence of religion. Even if true, what it probably proves is that self delusion and moral displacement is probably good for the blood pressure :-)

    I suspect that church attendance and good health are both effects of some other cause not given here.

    [1] including people I like and respect, such as our hosts here. But people likely to be swayed by appeals to Biblical authority are people who are already probably Christian or Jewish and don’t require further convincing.

  • Kim, you may be confusing Peter Hitchens with his brother Christopher who has more of a reputation as a booze-hound.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    TT, here is a joke about C. Hitchens: he was at a conference at Denver, and during a break went up to the bar and asked for a gin and tonic. The waitress suggested that was not a good idea at a high altitude. Hitch stopped for a second, and then said: “Ok, make it a double.”

  • [Warning – ‘humour’ alert. Sadly necessary.]

    This seems to me a recounting of my “inoculation” theory of religion. The world is filled with dangerous mind viruses like scientology or Islam in the same way it is filled with dangerous biological viruses like smallpox.

    A child who goes out into the world having been exposed only to rationality trusts what they are told and is unprepared for the deceptive, coercive persuasion methods of the cultists. But one who has been brought up on the tooth fairy and Santa Claus and a world that was created a whole three days before the sun itself will have built up the mental tools to recognise and repel the invaders. All the best niches are filled with symbiotic “friendly bacteria”, and for the rest they are equipped with a functioning ‘cock and bull’ detector.

    Catholicism is therefore like deliberately infecting your children with cowpox, so they can survive smallpox. Or a gut full of lactobaccillus bifidus for good digestion. A sensible move.

    Except that atheism isn’t simply maintaining sterile conditions. The world is too filled with zany beliefs for that to be possible. Atheism is generally taught instead as a more powerful mental toolbox for recognising nonsense, so powerful that even the cowpox is driven back.

    If Christianity cannot even stand up to atheists, who merely argue about it, how are we supposed to believe it will stand up to a cult that uses bombs to persuade?

    Do we not want instead to encourage ever more radical and aggressive atheists, who will not merely debate with Islamists, but who will actively resist the tendency to grant them undeserved respect and power simply for being religious beliefs?

    Surely that is the logical consequence of this argument. You want the most powerful cultural force you have to defend you. But to do that, we all need to unite and really believe in atheism.

    If you really think atheists would be willing to abandon truth for the sake of unity against the Islamic boogy-man, then wouldn’t Christians be willing to do so too? Time to do unto others, turn the other cheek, sacrifice oneself for the sake of all mankind, and all that. That stuff works, right?
    ;-)

  • Nuke Gray

    Laird and Perry-
    Go ahead and laugh now, whilst you are still alive to do so.
    I am guaranteed to have the last laugh! Simply because I’ll still be around!

  • If western female converts to islam are putting on the hijab voluntarily, I guess it doesn’t really change anything other than that they never have to worry about a bad hair day. I remember reading that orthodox jewish women sometimes wear a wig or head covering, too. It is a symbol of submission in any religion that uses it.

    I personally don’t see the point of putting your submission on display, but as a libertarian, feel that people should be allowed to express that if they want.
    Covering the face though….that is another story, at least in a free society. People hiding their face and eyes, and covered head to toe in a walking tent could be hiding anything. We can’t extend religious liberty that far anymore….thanks to islamo-fascists.
    However, I find the burkini entirely acceptable – and hilarious.

  • Laird

    Perhaps, Nuke. But I do laugh a lot (and not just when you’re around making silly remarks), which is supposed to be good for general health and longevity.

    “Guaranteed” is a strong word, especially when your “argument” is basically statistical and doesn’t really say anything about you personally. Shall we put it to a small wager? You, Perry and I each contribute a nice bottle of wine, and the last man standing gets to drink all three. (Of course, if you go first Perry and I might just split them!)

  • Nuke Gray

    Laird, what a crummy deal you offer! I put up a good Australian wine, like Jacob’s Creek, and you give me some English lemonade? Or will you offer me some warm beer?

  • Laird

    Actually, Nuke, I was thinking of something from California (since I’m American, not British). We haven’t heard from Perry yet, though.

    One small problem: who do we get to hold the stakes?

  • Hey guys, can I chip in? I’d bring a bottle of best Iban tuak (rice wine) you’ve ever tasted… and taste is all you will do before keeling over unconscious. Unless you’re more powerful than I thought.

  • Nuke Gray

    What! No warm beer? and Gregory is offering rice wine?
    Gregory, I can guess, but you really should tell us which side of the debate you think is right (in case you’re different to the gregory with whom I was engaged in debate about Original sin.)

  • Nope, NG, same dude here.

    I have to level with you, though, when it comes to blogs, I’m an amnesiac troll. I usually jump in, keep the fires burning when it’s something I’m interested in, and then forget about it once it seems to have died out.

    But, uh, yeah, well, I believe in the inherent depravity of man; not so much as in actions per se, but in our very nature; call it spiritual DNA if you want. I believe that nobody is capable of moral perfection, and this is true right from the beginning of life.

    But what does that have to do with the current OP? Or am I babbling about something which you’re not even talking about?

    If you’re talking about whether religious belief leads to longer, healthier lives, ah, well, I’d say it leads to *happier* lives. It can lead to longer lives, sure, but then again you have the parabolani who worked in lazar houses – and I’d bet their lives weren’t extended by 50%, you know what I mean?

  • Laird

    Gregory, the wager we’re contemplating isn’t about a “happier” life, merely a longer one. A very simple binary answer: alive or dead*. The last man standing gets all the wine (but won’t be standing for very long after that!). Still in?

    *Heisenbergians need not apply!

  • Richard

    I suspect that the longer life is mostly due to having a support network. When you’re lying on the floor with a broken hip on a Sunday morning, other people in the congregation notice and care and maybe you’ll be found before tiddles starts munching on your fleshy parts.

    The government, of course, doesn’t care.

  • Paul Marks

    Pa Annoyed:

    Christians are quite prepared to stand their ground against athiests or Islamists.

    It is “liberal Christians” who are not (a point that Peter Hitchins did not make clearly in his article).

    As for Christianity being silly and irrational.

    See Thomas Woods for a very rational defence of the Roman Catholic church (this happening to be the Church your humour mentioned).

    And for conservative Protestants see such philosophers as Noah Porter and James McCosh (neither man had any trouble accepting evolution even back in the 19th century) indeed even the man who invented the term “fundamentals” (as in “”fundamentalist”) accepted evolution. The problem is that now accepting evolution is seen as accepting a whole list of other stuff – which accepting evolution does NOT logically lead to, but which people like Dawkins claim that it does.

    Perhaps it is time to save evolution from its “defenders” who insist on linking it with atheism and lots of other stuff.

    Of course their are atheists who are prepared to stand their ground against Islam also.

    And some of these atheists believe they have a basis for Western Civilization that is rooted in the traditions of the West but which rejects religion.

    The Randian Objectivists are clearly the most important group of such atheists.

    Even as a nonathiest I must admit that a lot of their work is inspiring.

    I doubt a society could have this work as its basis (its foundation), but they think differently – and they are not stupid people.

    They certainly do not put their heads in the sand about Islam – they understand that it is a threat to all that is dear to them.

  • Laird, I suspect NG will be standing long after I';m gone, because I;m a boozer and a glutton. Religion doesn’t seem to have had an impact on that yet. But I don’t pretend to be a good Christian.

    I’m willing to stand for the bottle of tuak, no problems though. Nothing better than knowing someone’s enjoying it.

  • “If the West can exist without a relgious basis (and I doubt that very much) it will be on a Randian basis.”

    Never a possible thing. Heinleinian, maybe–Rand’s not commonly human enough.

  • Rand’s not commonly human enough

    You are typing this on your laptop from under you desk, at an undisclosed location, aren’t you?:-)