The religion of death

May 12, 2014 • 4:27 am

I woke up to several links from readers about religion—mostly Islam, but also Catholicism. So we shall have a bit of documentation.

Here are three items found, and scanned, by reader Howard from a single page of this week’s The Economist.  Tell me again how Islam is the religion of peace? (Oh right, the opposition to polio and educaton is the West’s fault.):

Picture 2


Picture 4



Picture 3

Humans wiped out smallpox, and we wiped out rinderpest. Those are two of the great triumphs of science and humanism. We could have wiped out polio, too, but it would be a lot easier if Islam didn’t exist. Instead of eliminating polio, Muslim extremists”—I no longer know if that phrase is nearly a tautology (see the following post)*—try to eliminate girls who want an education.


UPDATE: Since people are getting exercised by the phrase in dashes (“I no longer know if that phrase [‘Muslim extremists’] is nearly a tautology”), let me clarify it briefly. Yes, I certainly recognize that there are some liberal and moderate Muslims who do support things like gay rights, women’s rights, and decry violence. My question is how many of these there are among all the Muslims of the world.  The evidence I’ve seen is that they’re only a handful compared to a greater majority with more extremist views, and most of them are in the West. But even in the West a surprisingly large number of Muslims (see post above) hold what I see as “extremist” views. And even those so-called “moderates” like Reza Aslan show a darker side when pressed, or vociferously decry fatwas or the death penalty for apostasy.


28 thoughts on “The religion of death

  1. I am very far from being a fan of Islam. However, the CIA played into the extremists’ hands by using a fake polio vaccination scheme in an attempt to find Bin Laden. What better proof could there be that vaccination is a Western plot? And surely, knowing which city he was in, they could have found him in other ways.

    1. True, that was an utterly irresponsible thing to do, and one which must have had the WHO seething with anger, since it’s *their* operatives who are going to get threatened and killed because of that.

      However, Islamic opposition to the polio vaccination programme long pre-dated the Abbotabad scam, and was strong in Africa as well as SW Asia.

    2. Sure, and the fact that Bin Laden is now killed should mean that the plot is over.

      Oh, it isn’t? A poor excuse then. Excuse me while I go and straighten out my neurons again.

    3. The CIA squirted an entire can of lighter fluid on the smoldering embers. What the CIA did was one of the worst crimes against humanity so far this millennium, one that will have devastating and lethal consequences perhaps even in the States.

      But the CIA was only able to ignite the conflagration because of Islam’s eagerness to burn.

      Both are to blame…but at least Islam has the “excuse” of being an ignorant and uneducated superstition. The CIA is “merely” the brutal enforcement arm of powerful monied interests who care for nothing beyond next quarter’s profit margins and, indirectly, next month’s poll ratings.

      It’s hard to know — or care — which is more contemptible.


    4. But they are against the polio vaccination even before this, specially in NE frontier province and some other palaces, and the reason is completely different.. although religion is key factor, there is also an element of pervasive distrust to the punjabi-dominated central government..which has a horrible history of oppression..

  2. While a CIA ploy is a factor in Pakistani resistance to polio vaccination programs, the fact remains that inoculation opposition is rooted in ignorance perpetuated by religion.

    It is easy to fault the CIA for the unintended consequence of one their ruses but had we been in the CIA planning room at the time, how many of us would have truly anticipated the consequence of the plan to gain additional intelligence about the bin Laden compound and been able to propose a less problematic yet viable scheme?

    1. Oh, I’m fairly certain that they knew it could mean more dead or handicapped than if they abstained. This is the Red Cross et cetera scenario all over again, the US military trampling on all sorts of war & peace time agreements for shortsighted benefits. (E.g. deportation for depriving prisoners of justice and to apply torture, depriving the rest of the world the means to put US military in court if they perpetrate war crimes, et cetera. You know, the usual bully behavior normally associated with dictatorships – or former superpowers.)

      The other thing they knew was that polio mostly is a problem elsewhere than US, among poor and conflicted nations.

      I assume they put that together. :-/

    2. Well, the stupid and highly irresponsible thing was telling that they had done that. Even without the repercussions to health workers, nothing like compromising the future ability to use the same ruse. In one way, it’s even worse than revealing an agent’s identity. You can get a new agent. You can’t use the same ruse again – at least not easily.

      1. That approaches something that has been bothering me for a while during our long ‘war on terror’. It is not unusual to have the media report on intelligence gathering techniques, and this info must have been released or leaked from intelligence operatives. Why do they do that? For example shortly after 9/11 there was a video released of Ben Laden talking about the attacks, and he was out in the open & you could see the background rocks & hills. Reporters on CNN were describing how our assets were using the geological data to find that location. Thereafter, all videos from BL were carefully screened to hide clues about location.

  3. “We could have wiped out polio, too, but it would be a lot easier if Islam didn’t exist.”


  4. How someone can argue that a faith can still be a good thing while calling out the most rigorous adherents as deeply wrong always baffles me, yet I would caution against becoming too polemic. I am certainly not one to advocate giving Islamic doctrine any kind of pass, and if I had to choose a religion that is actively doing the most harm in modern times Islam tops the list with little contest (Catholicism might be a not too distant second) .

    Even so, implying that all Muslims are extremists just makes a person look foolish. Go to a Mosque in America. I doubt you will be in much danger, since Islamists in America are largely forced to be “housebroken” in ways that do not seem possible in countries dominated by that religion. The Atheist Community of Austin did just that not long ago.

    And again, this is not to say that there are not some licks that all who would call themselves Muslim don’t have coming. Even the most moderate Muslims have to answer for their silence and lack of outrage concerning the actions of their own extreme practitioners, and sexism is pretty endemic of even the most lukewarm adherents of that particular faith.

    Criticise on, but be wary of falling into obtuse tribalism and overly broad generalizations while doing so.

    1. Thank you for telling me how to feel. In fact, a large proportion of the world’s Muslims have an extremist view (see the next post and the page of links to Muslim opinion polls). It is extremist to see women as second-class citizens, which Muslims do even in Western countries. It is extremist to mandate the death penalty for apostasy, which many Muslims do–over 40% in many countries. The religion itself is, in fact, extremist, as is Catholicism. The difference is that 40% of Catholics don’t feel that those who leave the church should be killed, or commit mass terrorism or issue fatwas to the science of their adherence. Catholicism and Islam are both extremist faiths (as are others), but many more Muslims than Catholics adhere to the strict tenets of those faiths.

      Need I add that the marginalization of women, and treating them as second-class citizens, is inherent in Islam? If anything is “extreme” in today’s more enlightened world, it’s that view.

      It is telling that you use the word “housebroken” for the small minority of the world’s Muslims whoa re in America.

      Islam is extremist by its very nature, and to a large degree Muslims are much more fundamentalist about its tenets than are, say, Catholics or Jews. Here’s a moderate Muslim for you: Reza Aslan. He spends his life saying that Muslims are peaceful and there are only a few extremists. Then what does he do? When asked to donate for protection for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, he not only refuses, but disses her for criticizing Islam. Some moderate.

      When 50% or more of the world’s Muslims issue a call to revoke the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, then I’ll start thinking that most of the world’s Muslims aren’t extremists.

      So if you think I look foolish, for saying that, fine, but that’s a violation of the Roolz. As I’ve always said, disagree with my arguments, but don’t call me names.

      1. Many apologies. My attempt to go after the sentiment and not the author has apparently failed. I most definitely do not want to try and police the posts here.

        The idea that all Muslims are equally extremist is demonstrably false. That is all. I do not dispute that Islam is religion in one of its most destructive forms, and it is in no small part because it has so many fundamentalist practitioners. I even said that the moderates are still very sexist.

        Did I imply how one should feel about Islam? I did not intend to do so. I hate it and what it does very much, I just worry that the line into asserting too much about a person based on too little information can be easily crossed and should be guarded against.

  5. All religions are religions of death.

    Islam isn’t a religion of death because of polio and Boko Haram, it is far more fundamental than that.

    It is a religion of death because of its emphasis on heavenly rewards you only really get to experience when you’re dead.

    Religion is at its most fundamental root the wish to die – with rules against making it easy.

    1. indeed, most religions have always been at their heart death and fertility cults, often (as with the catholic church) in very fancy dress.

  6. I should note that in Boku Haram’s case they are against education (or at least any education beyond that of Islam) for both men and women. There have been several major massacres of school boys before the recent abductions and rapes of school girls. Note that the girls at least (and I presume the boys) are both Christian and Muslim (fewer Muslim than Christian girls but then there were apparently fewer Muslims in the particular town anyway).

    1. They may claim to be opposed to western education, but they are utter hypocrites. If they were true to their beliefs they would launch their raids on camel-back, fight their opponents with spears and publicise their demands in the form of hand-written scrolls. Instead, they ride around in pick-up trucks, wield AK47s and release videos onto YouTube. What kind of educational system do they imagine makes all those things possible? I don’t recall any of them being mentioned in the Koran.

  7. Islam is certainly infested with fundamentalist anti-science, anti-intellectuals and that does not help the polio situation, but here in the the USA, nearly a century after we realized that fluoride is a big help in preventing cavities, we still have a significant cohort of opposition to water fluoridation. And I don’t think religion is much of a factor in that. ISTM that paranoia fueled by economic insecurity is a much greater factor in both of these cases. Since we have seen correlation between religiosity and economic insecurity, it may be that fundamentalism is more of an effect than a cause.

    1. Religion is still a cause, it just doesn’t cause everything. Sometimes things like fluoride opposition or vaccine avoidance is caused by a general lack of understanding of science and a lack of critical thinking skills (also factors in religion).

    2. Fluoridating the water was recently rejected in my home town, Portland Oregon. It had nothing to do with religion, or with science. It was all about the politics of it, and who would have gotten the contract for fluoridating the water, and how the decision was being made. Good local political squabbling, in other words.

  8. Just like to point out that the elected government of Pakistan, like the government of every Muslim country in the world, supports polio eradication programs. Syria has been having some other problems lately which have hampered its program, and as for Cameroon:

    “Until October of last year, Cameroon seemed to be free of polio, a viral disease which assaults the central nervous system and can cause paralysis.

    This was largely thanks to the success of vaccination campaigns. In fact, the sudden outbreak of new cases last year can only have been possible because some children had not been immunised, and many believe this lack of vaccination may have been because of hard-line Pentecostal doctrine which teaches that healing is a sign of the presence of God and that followers should therefore refrain from taking medicine.

    “The first case was detected in a seven-year-old child, which is unusual because a seven-year-old should have been vaccinated,” says Marie Ekobela, coordinator of the National Immunisation Programme in the Ministry of Health.

    “The child belonged to a family in which the grandfather is an official with a Pentecostal church and who doesn’t want to hear anything about vaccination. So this child was not immunised and when the virus arrives and infects an unvaccinated child, an epidemic is triggered.”

    That child would not have been the first. 15-year-old Delphine Manka’a, the daughter of a Pentecostal churchgoing mother in the city of Douala has not walked since she was two when she was struck by polio.”

  9. I believe that religion can be usefully compared with AIDS. While it does not always directly cause the malignant ideologies that bring about so much death and suffering, it cripples the faculty for critical thinking that otherwise guards against them.

Leave a Reply