The Paris murders: Catholic League’s Bill Donoghue gets it wrong; New Yorker’s George Packer gets it right

January 8, 2015 • 12:02 pm

Bill Donohue is the Muslim of Catholicism. What I mean by that is that he thrives on offense, and though he doesn’t kill anybody when he’s offended, he’s made a career out of raging at those who insult the Pope, the Church, preachers and nuns, or anything associated with the Vatican Mafia. So far Catholics have been loath to criticize him, but his latest piece at the Catholic League site, “Muslims are right to be angry“, may change that. For in it, Donohue pins a fair amount of blame on the murders on the Charlie Hebo journalist and cartoonists themselves.  The only way I can account for this lapse in judgement is from Donohue’s own  personal history. For he’s spent so much time defending his own religion against perceived smears that he’s now taken it on himself to defend Islam, too, and so sees the satirical cartoonists as just as offensive as those who criticize Mother Teresa.

In his first paragraph, Donohue gives the game away. He pays lip service to morality by decrying the murders (he more or less has to; who would approve of them?), but then shows where he’s going:

Killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned. That is why what happened in Paris cannot be tolerated. But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction.

With that out of the way, Donohue goes off the rails, arguing that Charlie Hebdo brought the murders on themselves by “intentionally insulting” Muslims in a vulgar way. The bolding below is mine (indeed; the whole thing should be in bold):

While some Muslims today object to any depiction of the Prophet, others do not. Moreover, visual representations of him are not proscribed by the Koran. What unites Muslims in their anger against Charlie Hebdo is the vulgar manner in which Muhammad has been portrayed. What they object to is being intentionally insulted over the course of many years. On this aspect, I am in total agreement with them.

Stephane Charbonnier, the paper’s publisher, was killed today in the slaughter. It is too bad that he didn’t understand the role he played in his tragic death. In 2012, when asked why he insults Muslims, he said, “Muhammad isn’t sacred to me.” Had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive. Muhammad isn’t sacred to me, either, but it would never occur to me to deliberately insult Muslims by trashing him.

Anti-Catholic artists in this country have provoked me to hold many demonstrations, but never have I counseled violence. This, however, does not empty the issue. Madison was right when he said, “Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power.”

A touchstone for a right-thinking person in this tragic situation involves whether or not they blame the magazine itself for the murder of 12 people. If they do, they should be ridiculed or dismissed, for they’re claiming that if you make fun of people’s faith, you’re complicit in your own murder.

That’s like blaming rape victims for dressing in a way that supposedly provoked their attack. Donohue, in fact, is not acting like the person who tells women that their chances of being raped may be higher if they wear scanty clothing or walk in unsafe places; he’s acting like the person who says they deserve what they get. The people at Charlie Hebdo understood the dangers, and went ahead and published anyway. As cartoonist Stephan Charbonnier said, “I would prefer to die on my feet than live on my knees.”

By claiming that Charlie Hebdo committed an “abuse of liberty,” Donohue aligns himself with every fascist and tyrant who would stifle the criticism of authority. And he’s made himself irrelevant. The proper response to this tragedy by any enlightened person is to defend the right of free speech and condemn those who kill to prevent it.

But we have a palliative article, and, surprisingly, it’s in the New Yorker, which has been notoriously soft on religion. I would have expected the magazine to decry the killings but avoid blaming religion. But they pin the blame directly where it belongs: on the excesses of faith. In George Packer’s website pice “The blame for the Charlie Hebdo murders“, you’ll find stuff that you rarely see in a major journalistic venue. Read and cheer:

They are only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades. It’s the same ideology that sent Salman Rushdie into hiding for a decade under a death sentence for writing a novel, then killed his Japanese translator and tried to kill his Italian translator and Norwegian publisher. The ideology that murdered three thousand people in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. The one that butchered Theo van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam, in 2004, for making a film. The one that has brought mass rape and slaughter to the cities and deserts of Syria and Iraq. That massacred a hundred and thirty-two children and thirteen adults in a school in Peshawar last month. That regularly kills so many Nigerians, especially young ones, that hardly anyone pays attention.

Because the ideology is the product of a major world religion, a lot of painstaking pretzel logic goes into trying to explain what the violence does, or doesn’t, have to do with Islam. Some well-meaning people tiptoe around the Islamic connection, claiming that the carnage has nothing to do with faith, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or that, at most, the violence represents a “distortion” of a great religion.

He’s talking about you, Ben Affleck, Glenn Greenwald, Robert Pape, Krista Tippett, Karen Armstrong, and the rest of the unctuous Islamic apologists.

A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents. Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique. Charlie Hebdo had been nondenominational in its satire, sticking its finger into the sensitivities of Jews and Christians, too—but only Muslims responded with threats and acts of terrorism. For some believers, the violence serves a will to absolute power in the name of God, which is a form of totalitarianism called Islamism—politics as religion, religion as politics. “Allahu Akbar!” the killers shouted in the street outside Charlie Hebdo. They, at any rate, know what they’re about.

. . . The cartoonists died for an idea. The killers are soldiers in a war against freedom of thought and speech, against tolerance, pluralism, and the right to offend—against everything decent in a democratic society. So we must all try to be Charlie, not just today but every day.

Why I see this incident as a watershed moment in the war on terrorism is that it’s almost impossible to pin the murders on anything but blind adherence to religious faith. The murders come directly from the belief that making fun of or even depicting the prophet is a capital offense. Why else would the terrorists target Charlie Hebdo instead of, say, French government offices? If the murders are due to colonialism or simply angry males looking for an outlet, it’s hard to see why the target is so obviously connected with Islam. What may have changed with this tragedy is people’s willingness, as we see in Packer’s piece, to recognize that religion causes people to do bad things. That has been obvious to most of us for some time, but has been adamantly resisted by religionists like Karen Armstrong, who are incapable of finding any harmful consequences of faith, and liberals who, in their desire to coddle the underdog, will blame Muslim violence on the colonialism and oppression by the West.

Yes, some of that violence is undoubtedly due to other factors besides religion. But the time is past to say that all of it is. Right now the West is not occupying the Middle East, and much of the violence we see is not only inflicted by Muslims on other Muslims, but, as in this case, is explicitly justified in the name of Islam. It’s only when we recognize this that we can fully apprehend the problem.

I don’t know how to address the problem of terrorism save by increased surveillance and intelligence. But I do know that the way not to solve it is by demonizing free speech. For if we do that, we become like the enemy—and then we are truly lost.


And a p.s.: Read Ayaan Hirsi’s reaction at The Daily Beast. A snippet:

The ball is now in the court of the media. If the press responds to this by not reprinting the cartoons, by not defending the principle that Charlie Hebdo was defending, then we have given in. Then they have won. Those three men yelled, “Allahu Akbar.” They yelled, “The Prophet is avenged. Charlie Hebdo is dead.” Our duty is to keep Charlie Hebdo alive. Our duty is to make sure that they realize that the Prophet is not avenged.

In 2006, when Jyllands-Posten in Denmark published the Muhammad cartoons, the mainstream media made the decision not to reprint those cartoons, to respect the sensibilities of Muslims and to avoid Muslim rage. This time it would be the biggest mistake for the Western press to repeat that—absolutely the biggest mistake.

. . . But the most important point I want to make is about what the press does now. When you’re all sitting in your editorial rooms and you’re reflecting on this, when you’re asking yourselves, “Should we reprint these cartoons or not? Should we print cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad? Should we use satire to depict these things?” Please ignore those voices saying, “Please let’s not provoke.”

I would urge everyone in the media to take a stand now. An entire magazine has been wiped out. If you think they won’t one day come for you, too, just because you abstained from mocking the Prophet, then you are gravely mistaken.

h/t: Ben Goren, Chris

209 thoughts on “The Paris murders: Catholic League’s Bill Donoghue gets it wrong; New Yorker’s George Packer gets it right

  1. Excellent post. I don’t always agree with Dr. Coyne on matters relating to religion (and Islam in particular), but I definitely agree with this post.

  2. I just commented on this to my son (23) and I will give his, expurgated, reply:

    “* off. There is nothing so sacred that you can’t extract the urine from”.

    I concur.

      1. “Killed […] in the line of duty, knowing the dangers.” Some call that “bravery.” Donoghue calls it “narcissism.”

      2. I understand the sentiment.
        Had the people in the initially-attacked building, 2 doors along, accepted the same risks with the same clarity of understanding. Or, in a Glasgow case, have ^H^H^H how often have Rangers fans petrol bombed the wrong house?
        Is dieing by mistaken identity any succour?

  3. Donohue assumes that all Muslims were equally offended by Charlie Hebdo, and that the attack was supported by all Muslims. That is obviously untrue, given the spectrum of opinion we know exists in every religion. Clearly not every Muslim was sufficiently outraged to commit murder, not even every Muslim in Paris. What Donohue is doing is arguing for is a right against being insulted, which would make every individual the judge of his own right to murder. I find that insulting.

    1. Donohue fully supports the culture of (so-called) honor, i.e. he has no idea what the word means (these days).

  4. Bill Donahue has never condemned bombings and killings committed after the Peace Accord by the Real IRA. On the other hand, he regularly denounces victims of sexual assault by Catholic priests for coming forward.

    That says just about everything.

    1. Donahue is a torn individual. He so badly needs for his faith to be congruous with the universe and yet he struggles to make sense of the fact that religion directly inflicts so much unambiguous harm upon our species. Based on the insecure statements he makes, it is likely he will take, to his grave, some measure of doubt that religion, including his own, is really any good.

  5. Even if these Charlie Hebdo cartoons were the most crass and offensive things ever, guess what, shooting people dead is not an appropriate response!

    I side with Jimmy Carr on this, in any case: offensive is taken, not given.

    Also, nobody has the right to not be offended. Freedom of speech includes satire. It’s the bedrock of our civilisation.

    Oh dear, another reason why religion needs to be kept essentially private.

    I’ve blogged on this twice now:

    I’m so happy that liberals are rising up in response. Let’s get the mainstream media to republish all of these cartoons printed by Charlie Hebdo.

    1. Unfortunately, with the suspects ‘neutralised’ a few minutes ago, that’s probably not going to happen.

      1. What’s not going to happen? You mean the re-publishing of the cartoons? I would agree with you on that, though I am very upset by the fact. Why have our media failed to report the news by not actually reprinting the cartoons already?

  6. Packer is right on. It’s long past time to stop playing footsie with radical Muslims and hit them back harder.

    By the way, Prof. Coyne might want to add Juan Cole to his list of appeasers of radical Islam. He seems to propose a turn the other cheek approach.

    1. “It’s long past time to stop playing footsie with radical Muslims and hit them back harder.”

      What exactly does the above mean? Have you been paying attention to the past 13 years? We’ve been hitting “them” pretty hard in various places around the world, and that hasn’t worked out super duper well.

      1. We are hitting them in the wrong places. The invasion of Iraq was based on a lie that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. All our invasion did was to destabilize Iraq, which was not where the Islamic extremists were.

        1. Right. Although we are currently fighting (and have been) in a lot more places than just Iraq. So I repeat my question – what exactly do you think we should be doing to “hit them back harder”?

  7. Donahue’s entire argument rests on the notion that we should not only be angered by free speech that we disagree with it, we should fight to suppress it. By this logic, he should have simply refrained from writing any more, for surely his own words have angered many. Of course, he’s implicitly stating the double standard he advocates-that his religion has a privileged role in society.

    1. Personally, I think the reason he’s siding with Muslims for a change is that ‘Charlie Hebdo’ published ostensibly offensive images of Jesus, Mary, and the Pope, and he’s joining the extremists in solidarity.

    1. It’s only not Islam when they’re caught with their pants down in the confessional. Oh wait, that’s not Catholicism. I’m mixing my metaphors up. I think I’m on my way to sophistication!

    2. And particularly ironic given that the cover that caused the problem this time said, “Charia Hebdo: 1000 lashes of the whip if you don’t die of laughter.”

  8. To be sure, religions can be a wicked accelerant, but they don’t deserve the credibility of root cause and might be better-exposed for eradication if we direct attention to their lifeline of preconditions.

  9. I would think that Donohue’s opinion is the result of his own twisted religion and it belongs in the trash with others who live by such nonsense.

    Great report on the other writings by Packer and Hirsi. This is the proper position every person of reason must take and the one required to move forward on this issue.

  10. “Why I see this incident as a watershed moment in the war on terrorism is that it’s almost impossible to pin the murders on anything but blind adherence to religious faith.”

    And it’s significant for another reason that I haven’t seen mentioned: the killers got away. They weren’t suicide bombers. They weren’t killed by law enforcement, but were prepared for a confrontation. They left the scene, presumably with help. Their organization now feels strong enough to plan survivable attacks and is organized enough to carry them out, even if the people responsible are eventually caught.

    1. Oh yes, I noticed that too. Reportedly wearing flak jackets too, they obviously did have their own welfare in mind.

      I’m not sure if this is a hopeful sign or a bad one. Bad that they got away and are ‘free’ (if the police don’t catch them) to do it again. Good only in the sense that it’s much harder to stop an attacker if they don’t care what happens to them after.

  11. George Packer is a good journalist/writer. His book The Unwinding, about the last few decades in the US with the focus on the mortgage crisis, is absolutely great.

  12. “Muhammad isn’t sacred to me, either, but it would never occur to me to deliberately insult Muslims by trashing him.

    Anti-Catholic artists in this country have provoked me to hold many demonstrations, but never have I counseled violence. This, however, does not empty the issue. Madison was right when he said, “Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power.”

    The reason that Bill hasn’t counseled violence is because he doesn’t want to be sued or arrested. He doesn’t just trash Mohammed, he says that Mo is going to hell.

    Thank you Founding Fathers who prevented the US from being a theocracy with idiots like Bill in charge.

  13. This comment by Donoghue is flat out wrong is it not? “While some Muslims today object to any depiction of the Prophet, others do not. Moreover, visual representations of him are not proscribed by the Koran.” There are no pictures of Mo in any mosque or book, and the few that I have seen have him veiled or somehow obscured. And that’s been true for centuries as far as I understood it.

    1. I was wondering that too. What the status of the No Mo(hammed)Pix taboo is. I learned on a video on YouTube about Draw Mohammed Day that the Koran doesn’t say No Mo Pix. But there is a haditha that does. The Hadithas were written later, after Mohammed died. According to my imagination when there is a reform movement in Islam they will look at the Hadithas and say ‘oh we are free to throw all of these out.’
      And either that video which I think was by South Park guys of all things, showed a whole bunch of olden times paintings of Muhamed. He’s not veiled or obscured, they’re perfectly ordinary medieval and later religious paintings. Except for in some of them he looks exactly like a Bollywood star. :-)Just punch Draw Mohammed Day into YouTube. It is well worth it. Hope that helps.

  14. Ayaan Hirsi Ali –

    If the press responds to this by not reprinting the cartoons, by not defending the principle that Charlie Hebdo was defending, then we have given in.

    I would go further. I would say that any news outlet that does not show these cartoons in the context of reporting this story is complicit in the next attack.

    1. I love the glow in that Serrano. So ethereal. numinous. Spiritual even. Makes you want to support journalism, criticism, and all the arts.

      1. The Onion piece is a pre-sponse — check the date of publication: Sep 13, 2012.

        It is most definitely a classic.

        Normally, it would deserve the “NSFW” label. But, damnit, any boss who gets upset at somebody viewing offensive political cartoons at a time like this is one who doesn’t deserve to have any employees.


  15. “Right now the West is not occupying the Middle East, and much of the violence we see is not only inflicted by Muslims on other Muslims, but, as in this case, is explicitly justified in the name of Islam. It’s only when we recognize this that we can fully apprehend the problem.”

    Yes indeed. Another major obstacle to overcome is one of the other most common apologist claims “it’s not religion, it’s culture.” This claim is purely obfuscation, often likely directed at themselves as well. Religion is an aspect of culture. It is inextricably intertwined with it. It defines and informs culture, and other aspects of culture inform and define it.

    Regarding Donoghue, simply a dispicable little person. He is addicted to indignation and is righteous about it. One of the saddest things to me about humanity in general is that people as clearly mean spirited and unethical as Donoghue are so highly respected, and rewarded, by so many people.

  16. It’s times like this when I really miss Christopher Hitchens. I hope Sam Harris stands up and tells it like it is

    1. Harris’ inclination to rank religions whitewashes over the more important fundamental point that they are all simply vessels for suspension of reason. Further, singling-out any one religious doctrine as particularly diabolical can serve to enable another, suggesting it might deserve a place of credit, at least relatively. No doubt the Christian right appreciates the reliable finger-pointing at Islam and hopes that Harris will continue to contribute to a blurring of the lines between educated-world values and Christian values. The Bible of course has underwritten every bit as much violence and commitment to jihad as the Quran where it has been exposed to similar environmental circumstances, just as Islam was associated with one of the world’s point-in-time most tolerant empires for centuries where the Ottomans provided an environment of relative encouragement of education and protection from outside manipulation.

      Christopher Hitchens put it best when Harris tried his prioritization distraction on him, rejecting the notion based upon the fact that religions’ shared feature of suspension of reason means “they are all equally rotten, false, dishonest, corrupt, humourless and dangerous” (1:50:50 in the Four Horsemen round-table), following on Dawkins said, “I am prepared to be even-handed, because they all make this claim [to untruth] it seems to me equally” (1:46:40).

      1. Twaddle. That Christianity was more virulent in 1500 doesn’t mean it’s as virulent in 2015. It is quite clear which religion *today* inspires and animates the most murder. Nuns didn’t attack Charlie Hebdo.

        1. Historical evidence is relevant. Why abandon science and reason now? Let’s figure out what drives radicalism under different doctrine in different environments. *Today* is no better than a gut feeling. Unreliable.

          Short list of suspects; insufficient education, oppression, totalitarianism and general disenfranchisement. Just to start the conversation.

          1. Short list of suspects; insufficient education, oppression, totalitarianism and general disenfranchisement.

            Or in other words, fundamentalist religion and in this case Islam.

            What root causes are you looking for that could cut off the snake’s head?

          2. Those four things you mentioned go hand in hand with many countries that have state sponsored religion. In fact, the religion drives them. The fact that the ideology uses untouchable Divine mandate as it’s epistemological basis doesn’t help. Sure, those things can be a problem without religion too, but fundamentalist Islam and Christianity are excellent tools for propagating them.

        2. Also, 3000 HIV deaths in Africa today question the notion that Islam is more lethal than Catholicism *today*.

          1. Catholics and Fundamentalist Christians ensured that more effective means of preventing the transmission of HIV
            were not made available in Africa.

            Also, the Catholics and Fundamentalist Christians are working together to do away with legal abortions in the U.S.

            All religions should not be trying to control the sexuality of any individuals or groups

            1. “All religions should not be trying to control the sexuality of any individuals or groups

              For the longest time, the Bible verse, “Fornicators shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” held me in heavy sway, until I got to thinking, why not a similar verse about murderers? Murder is not an essential requirement of sexual intercourse.

        3. It’s not twaddle. The way to deflect charges of Islamophobia (if you aren’t a Christian Islamophobe) is to point out that not only is Islam rotten, so are all the religions. Sure, some are worse than others but belief in false models of the world inevitably leads to trouble. (Global warming is going to wreck us because religion makes us distrust science.)

          1. False choice, Curt. Nothing prohibits calling out all religion as false while also acknowledging that some are more violence prone than others. There’s no need to pretend otherwise.

            1. I did say some religions are worse than others. But I’m bothered by people, like Ben Affleck, who think Islam is being singled out (due to Islamophobia), and who need to understand that many of us are not singling out Islam – it’s just the worst of a bad lot that deserves special mention.

              Stay cool, Ben. You need to understand something about me. I hate all religion.

              1. Sorry. I thought you were using the “all religions are equally bad” gambit to dilute criticism of Islam, which clearly deserves special opprobrium.

          2. I would not go so far as to say that “not only is Islam rotten, so are all the religions.” If one has studied Comparative Religions,one knows that not all religions worship a god or gods (such as Buddhism and Confucianism). Many of us may perceive religions as unscientific and irrational, but some are worse than others, as you say. We should try to be aware of the distinctions between them and not tar them all with the same brush.

            1. I’d suggest there are also big distinctions between different branches of Islam, too. (As we know from Iraq and ISIS).

              What I don’t know is whether it’s the one branch that’s causing all the trouble – Taliban / ISIS / Boko Haram / Paris shootings? If so then it seems inequitable to blame equally the other branch(es).

      2. That’s silly, Adam.

        Religions are all equally untrue. They are not equally dangerous. You are far more likely to be killed by an Islamic religious extremist than an extremist member Unitarian.

        1. What does an extremist Unitarian even look like? Somebody who insists on bringing both traditional and gluten-free vegan casseroles to the potluck, so nobody gets left hungry?


          1. Well the following has been published before as the manifesto of the Unitarian Jihad

            Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.

              1. So the accommodationists would have us think, but, in reality, it’s not that complicated. You can always factor out the real component, leaving you once again with a pure imaginary number….


              2. Ben, have you considered that gods come in pairs of complex conjugates. When you add or multiply them together they become real!!!

                (Or at least Tanya Luhrman’s musings on evangelical religion would seem to imply 🙂 )

            1. They do that, and I’ll just have to fart in their major direction. And, if they’re not careful, I might decide to escalate and fart in their general direction!


              1. How nice of you. Much quieter than an automatic weapon. They’ll want you to join them in the coffee circle after.

              2. Make sure it’s an appealing bouquet wafting in their direction. Flatuate (?) with the enthusiasm of a middle school male child. 😉

        2. I think we should direct our attention to addressing the conditions that push people to suspend reason and embrace religion. It seems sensible to focus on what causes the alcoholic to seek a bar rather than pointing the finger at Vodka as the cause of bad behaviour (particularly relative to Gin); if we cure the alcoholics, the Vodka industry will suffer along with every other label.

          1. I think we should direct our attention to addressing the conditions that push people to suspend reason and embrace religion.

            Oh, that’s trivial. Overwhelmingly, they’re indoctrinated into it from birth. Yes, there’re exceptions of those who aren’t and who come to religion in adulthood, but even they’re immersed in cultures in which religion is portrayed as the ultimate paragon of morality and virtue.

            You want to cure society of religion, you’ll have to get to the kids.

            One great way to do that is to make plain how ridiculous and shame-worthy religion really is. I can’t imagine a teen or near-teen who could bear the thought of being the one who still believes in Santa, even if they still (of course!) get a kick out of the whole Christmas thing. But how can it be that there’s no social stigma in taking seriously an ancient faery tale anthology that opens with a story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard; that prominently features a talking plant (on fire!) that gives magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero; and ends with a bizarre zombie snuff pr0n fantasy with the king of the undead getting his rocks off when one of his thralls fondles his intestines through a gaping chest wound?

            That’s incidentally the real reason why the conservative types don’t want kids reading Harry Potter and other kinds of fiction. They don’t want their own kids to realize that their own favorite faery tales are cut from the exact same cloth. Once schoolkids catch as much flak for believing in zombie Jesus as they do in flying Santa, religion is toast.



            1. I don’t know Ben. I think it is more that the conservative types realize at some level just how crappy a piece of literature the bible is. Compared to many other ancient mythologies, let alone the many good examples of more modern story telling. In other words, it isn’t just that they don’t want kids to realize the bible belongs in the same category, fantasy. They don’t want kids to see by comparison how crappy the bible is.

              Gotta maintain that myth of epic grandeur because it is not good for your self esteem to come face to face with just what a tchotchke (in the modern art scene sense of the word) piece of work your bible really is.

              1. Definitely part of it, yes. It’s bad enough that the Bible is a faery tale anthology. But even worse that it’s a fourth-rate faery tale anthology….


          2. I’d call that moving the goalposts, Adam. Vodka has precious little to do with whether all religions are equally dangerous.

              1. I understand that it was intended as analogy. But it is a bad one. It asserts that religion is like vodka, that believers are alcoholics, and that alcohol doesn’t alter the actions of drunks.

                Alcohol does alter the behavior of drunks, as anyone who has lived near a bar understands very well.

              2. I’m not sure the analogy did assert that (that alcohol doesn’t alter the behaviour of drunks). And certainly comparing religion to alcoholism has a certain appeal.

                Anyway, I don’t think it was moving the goalposts (to reference another analogy…)

              3. Every analogy has its flaws precisely because it is a comparison of two different entities, so there will be differences. Viewed charitably, we should assess an analogy by its similarities, not its differences.

                In this case, alcoholism (I prefer alcohol abuse) also results in innocent deaths and it is fair to say that vodka or rum or brandy is not the root problem. And, plenty of people can drink alcohol responsibly just like religious people can act responsibly towards others.

                But where the analogy falls short in an extraordinary way is with regard to intention. Most alcohol abusers do not intend to kill innocent people and there are plenty of debates to be had as to whether we can implement preventative measures at a societal level to prevent inebriated people from harming others. There is no such debate when it comes to religious fanatics. The ideology must be eliminated. And I mean that explicitly with regard to the ideas not the people who adhere to them lest anyone accuse me of any type of plans for a Final Solution.

              4. “Most alcohol abusers do not intend to kill innocent people and there are plenty of debates to be had as to whether we can implement preventative measures at a societal level to prevent inebriated people from harming others.”

                That well enough may be true. I only know that I would have appreciated the immediate availability of those preventative measures when I heard my inebriated (now ex- as of December, 1971) step-father say to my mother: “Do you want me to whip those boys, too?” Of course, when one is a minor, one has no say-so about who marries whom.

      3. Sam Harris also says that religion at its best inclines people to do good things for bad reasons. The commonality between the major monotheistic religions is that the reasons for any action are bad, whether it be helping the poor to ensure eternal paradise, or paying lip service to the poor in the mold of Mother Theresa, or blowing yourself up in a Baghdad marketplace to secure 72 virgins. As an aside, what happens 36 minutes later when these sick fucks are done with the 72 virgins for all of eternity?

        While the reasons for action are all equal, the results certainly are not. Acknowledging that some religion people do good things for unjustifiable reasons is not the same as praising other people of the same religion for doing bad things for bad reasons.

        1. These virgins aren’t human women, but Houris which are “creations of God, intelligent yet soulless ….. They are created for the purpose of serving the believer, and as such, they don’t exactly have free will.” (quoted from Yahoo Answers). And, supposedly, they stay virgins eternally. Faithful women get one male houri.
          However, some Islamic scholars dispute this interpretation of what houri are.
          Sex slaves or not, I find the idea of looking forward to being waited on for eternity by ethereal Stepford wives made just to serve you kind of repellent.
          Why do so many religions have concepts of the afterlife that are a bizarre combination of childish fantasy (Oooh, all the candy I can eat!) and adult pathology (Oooh, I can watch while everyone who didn’t believe me is tortured for eternity!).

          1. Well, as with most notions of eternal paradise, that makes zero sense whatsoever. My first skeptical inquiry about the afterlife came around age 7 or 8 when I asked my father if there were good baked potatoes in heaven. He said we have no need for food there as we don’t have bodily needs. Even if that age I couldn’t grasp what in the world an enjoyable activity absent our bodies would be. I wonder if the Houris get potatoes…

  17. What unites Muslims in their anger against Charlie Hebdo is the vulgar manner in which Muhammad has been portrayed. What they object to is being intentionally insulted over the course of many years. On this aspect, I am in total agreement with them.

    It wouldn’t be so easy to insult religion if it wasn’t so ridiculous in the first place. Perhaps Donohue and other apologists need to respond to vulgar satire by taming down its absurdities and admitting that faith isn’t really much of a virtue after all. Why provoke ridicule?

    No, I thought not.

    1. “What unites Muslims New Atheists in their anger against Charlie Hebdo Islam is the vulgar vicious manner in which Muhammad has been portrayed they respond to criticism and ridicule. What they object to is being intentionally insulted terrorised over the course of many years. On this aspect, I am in total agreement with them.”

      I’m not sure that quite works, but… 


  18. It is absolutely mind-boggling to me that someone could be killed for making lines on paper. It reminds me of Hitchens’ regular assertion that religion doesn’t make people happy… for the believer to be happy, it’s necessary that I must believe in it too.

    I am pleased to see a general condemnation of their action by the Muslim community and the larger world community of all stripes, Donohue and a few others notwithstanding.

    1. ” . . . for the believer to be happy, it’s necessary that I must believe in it too.”

      I’m reminded from my fundamentalist Southern Baptist upbringing of emphasis on “The Great Commission,” something to the effect of “Go ye into the world preaching the gospel, baptizing . . . .”

      Yea, verily, something is so because someone merely and solely says so.

      1. That’s actually one of my favorite bits of the Bible.

        And it’s a triple whammy.

        First, of course, it’s not something an evangelical can reject. The whole point of spreading the Good News is because Jesus, in red-letter text, said that that’s what they had to do. And he did it in, literally, his final word to his creation. After the Resurrection, after everybody knew exactly who and what he was, so there wasn’t any possible way to mistrake this for being a really, big, huge freakin’ deal.

        Next…in that very same passage, Jesus himself has a message to those whom the evangelicals would convert: how we are to recognize the evangelicals as being true believers and worthy of spreading the Gospel. It’s a simple test, really…just drink some deadly poison without ill effect, and you’re good to preach! Always be sure to offer those door-to-door Jesus salespeople a nice, tall, refreshing glass of household ammonia to chug — with a chaser of bleach, should they finish the ammonia. (For their sake, start with the ammonia…the stuff’s so nasty nobody’s even going to be able to inhale enough to drink, whereas the bleach could be readily enough swallowed in deadly quantities.)

        Lastly is the minor little detail that basically every scholar agrees that the ending to Mark 16, from about verse 9 on, is a rather late addition to the text….



  19. Ayaan Hirsi’s snippet reminded me of Martin N’s (I can’t remember his last name) poem:
    “…and then they came for me!”, which is a generation or two old now. But then I’m reminded of a quote from Bertrand Russell (I think it was him): One thing that man learns from history is that man never learns from history.

    1. First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Socialist.

      Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Jew.

      Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

      — Martin Niemöller

      Niemöller created multiple versions of the text during his career. The earliest speeches, written in 1946, list the communists, incurable patients, Jews or Jehovah’s Witnesses, and civilians in countries occupied by Nazi Germany.

  20. Sadly, Donohue has said so many other wrong-headed things in the past that I doubt any of his current listeners will desert him over this one. They should, but if someone is still listening to him in 2015, this stupidity is unlikely to be the straw that breaks their listening habit.

    1. I assume he has children. I wonder how his children cope with him. From his debate with the Hitch of some years ago, I gather that he is a sociology prof. I wonder how his students cope with him.

  21. I notice there is a handy website
    Scientific Errors in the Qur’an

    Scientific view:Stars are spread throughout the Universe and there is no such thing as the “nearest” heaven or layer.

    “Surely We have adorned the nearest heaven with an adornment, the stars” Surah 37:6

    Also, this verse is in keeping with the author’s claim (Quran 71:15) that the seven heavens are arranged one above the other.

    1. The Prophet Muhammed was really talking about dimensions. Heaven is a metaphor.

      According to String Theory, a universe with multiple dimensions is possible.

      For all we know, The Prophet knew this and His interpretation of the universe is advanced even by today’s standard.

      1. Sarcasm noted lol
        Sadly ‘Signs of the last day’ Islame website tries to pass of such twisting of texts for real.

        However no amount of shoe horning will get Mohimmad’s foot to fit Cinderella’s shoe.

        1. Actually, I dare say with a little procrustianism, one could get Mo into the shoe. Unlike the supposed science in the Koran, which is nonexistent. I heard of a challenge once – write Einstein’s field equations, using the Koran as one’s crib notes.

          (I’ve seen a lot of philosophers do this – mention “anticipations” in the history of thought, which are qualitative at best. For example, Leibniz like Einstein was a spatial relationist, but did not develop the idea, nevermind wed it to temporal relationalism in the right way, etc.)

  22. And Salon decided they would use the opportunity to attack Richard Dawkins – accusing him of going on an anti-Islam rant.

    Dawkins tweeted: The shouted “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad”. Some useful idiot will claim it had nothing to do with religion.


    No, all religions are NOT equally violent. Some have never been violent, some gave it up centuries ago. One religion conspicuously didn’t.

    And Salon’s Sarah Gray decided that was a horrible rant against Islam. I think she must be one of those ‘useful idiots’ Dawkins mentioned.

    1. In the face of a 12-person killing spree? Thats….well, that’s exactly the sort of absurdity that Charlie Hebdo would probably love to write about.

  23. Donohue characterizes the actions of Charlie Hebdo as being intolerant but such is not the case. Were they attempting to disallow the existence of Islam or were they trying to prohibit or hinder Muslims from freely practicing their faith? I think we can agree that this is well beyond the capabilities of a French periodical. This is what is called being tolerant. It doesn’t mean respecting or not insulting.

    Compounding this error Donohue then states that the actions of ‘Charlie Hebdo’, which he has just mischaracterized, should themselves not be tolerated. In other words he calls for prohibiting what it is that the periodical does because of a perceived insult or lack of respect. Or maybe I’m being too critical here and he just doesn’t know what these words mean but is simply using them because they trigger the desired emotional response from his readers who also don’t know their proper meanings.

  24. I guess everyone’s seen Donald Trump’s comments about how it would have been better if the cartoonists had been allowed to carry guns.

    1. Their armed police guards probably wouldn’t have been comfortable with that, even presuming the cartoonists were insane enough to want to.

  25. What a pity we haven’t got the right Hitchens around to write about this. Religion is always nasty stuff, but contemporary Islam is by far the worst of all.

  26. Unfortunately, Jyllandsposten chose NOT to republish the original cartoons today. Other main Danish papers have published a row of Charlie Hebdo cartoons. The religious terrorists now have evidence that if they persist they will win.

    1. Just watched a segment on it on Danish tv.

      Their excuse is that they’re in a “unique” situation and therefore chooses caution. ( Or self-censorship depending on pov. )

      I guess they think they have one in the bank compared to other outlets.

      I don’t buy it.

  27. I really loved the New Yorker’s take and when I read it felt that finally people were getting it.

    I especially loved Ayaan Hirsi’s reaction – every media outlet should stand together and say enough and reprint those images. I think it would allow moderate Muslims to speak up – I think radicals wouldn’t dare do anything (with so many united, where would they start) and their hesitation at taking action would give that little bit of room for moderates to step in.

  28. Unfortunately Donohue is not alone. Similar sentiments have been expressed in New Zealand by one Derek Fox, a leading Maori journalist and former Maori Television chairman, with gems such as “The editor of the French magazine has paid the price for his assumption of cultural superiority and arrogance, he was the bully believing he could insult other people’s culture and with impunity.”

    He is however being universally condemned.

    1. A classic, and cliche, “Culture of Honor” response there by Derek Fox. These people would have us believe that they are such badasses, and yet they are so fragile they can’t withstand having their culture criticized or ridiculed by someone without wishing them violence, or actually committing violence against them. Wimps.

  29. Some excellent stuff from (former Jihadi propagandist) Maajid Nawaz…

    “Islam, my religion, is an idea, and no idea should be above scrutiny…”
    “..The Holy Quran criticizes every other religion out there…”


    1. “The Muslim community must start to deal with these medieval ideas about blasphemy…I am addressing myself to those Muslims who say they condemn the violence but also condemn the cartoons…”

        1. He was addressing himself to those moderate Muslims (his word), who he perceives as not having thought clearly enough about the situation. He wasn’t addressing himself to anyone who is in imminent danger of harm.

  30. The game is up for any pretentions to innocence, we now know our nature. Science has illuminated our worldview and the paths are lit. Culture may propagate along two paths, the path through the plane of the mind, the civilised and progressive path for humanity, and the path of war, the kill strategy, which I see as the dead end path of self destruction. Kill strategies reflect systems built on foundations of sand, e.g. gods and corruption, incapable of competing in the plane of the mind.

  31. The New York Times just broke this news:

    A recent issue of “Inspire” — the propaganda magazine published by the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen — encouraged its followers to attack Westerners who have insulted the Muslim faith. It identified Charlie Hebdo’s top editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, whose name appears in a two-page spread under the heading, “A Bullet a Day Keeps the Infidel Away — Defend the Prophet Muhammad.”

    1. A Bullet a Day Keeps the Infidel Away — Defend the Prophet Muhammad

      …because clearly Allah the all – powerful can do fuck-all herself.

          1. Somehow, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to learn of that degree of…anal retentive tendencies…amongst the Germans…though, once again, this is entirely news to me. (And how on Earth is one supposed to keep anything even remotely like that vaguely sanitary?)


            1. Oh it’s sanitary enough. Once you hit the button, it’s away. But you do get a chance to examine your product before it goes.
              TBH, a 2 foot squatter seems most comfortable to me.

            2. I’m reminded of observing certain (male, of course) customers, using the restroom in a place of public accommodation (let’s say Starbucks) and not washing their hands. Then they go place an order and hand their debit cards to the barrista(o). There’s a sign in the bathroom saying words-to-the-effect, “Employees must wash their hands before returning to work.” Well, that’s reassuring, but what about the customer who’s always right? Do microbes distinguish between customers and their servants?

              Which leads me to contemplate, with regard to hospital infection rates, what per cent of hospital visitors not only do not wash their hands, but also use the toilet in the hospital room. That is never mentioned in media articles about the subject.

              1. It may not be in articles on hospital infections in your country, but it is in mine.
                Individual toilets in hospital rooms? Can’t remember ever seeing such a thing. After all, if you’re in hospital, then you’re pretty unlikely to be ab le to use a toilet without assistance anyway, so “pass the bedpan” becomes considerably simpler all round.

              2. Fortunately, I’ve not had too many reasons to go into hospital for more than a couple of hours. And not overnight for over 40 years, when there was no such thing as “4 bed wards”.
                That said, when I was in yesterday, the single-bed room didn’t have a toilet. But since my buddy had just lost half of his feet, that’s maybe not surprising.

              3. I hope he’s able to get a prosthetic on and return to living in his first-floor flat. But I look at the ulcers on his remaining leg and think “nope!”
                But that’s the way he wants to try to play his hand, so we mothballed the flat and put a hold on getting big-strong-boys together to move him out. I can’t claim optimism though.

              4. Yeah, there are different kinds in Canada too but lately I seem to recall toilets and showers in the rooms. Others may just have toilets and then there are those without any and those people have mobility issues.

              5. “Individual toilets in hospital rooms?”

                It’s the rule, rather than the exception, here. With showers even.

              6. “…so “pass the bedpan” becomes considerably simpler all round.”

                Not for the nurses. 😉

              7. “Not for the nurses. ;)”

                True enough. But not as quite as rough as debriding wounds or inserting a catheter, eh?

              8. @aidan

                When I had a heart valve repair, IIRC they assisted me the very next day to the room toilet (I had a room to myself so this was quite convenient). Never needed a bedpan. But bottles were available and used, it was much more convenient than getting out of bed several times a day.

      1. Except Muhammad is a PROPHET – a man – and not Allah.
        The irony is that, supposedly, Islam prohibits the depiction of humans in art to prevent people from worshiping the images, but even without these images, people now fetishize a mere man, to the point of idolatry.

  32. Donohue’s statement reminds me of the conversation between Robertson and Falwell shortly after 9/11. Those two said America deserved 9/11 because we were not enough like the people who attacked us.

    And now Donohue expresses his fatwa envy. It’s clear that he believes that violence is a appropriate response to offended religious sentiments.

  33. Once you speak ill of the dead for having caused their own deaths, you have crossed a basic line of decency, no different really from Jerry Falwell saying AIDS was God’s punishment.

    I cannnot agree that Catholics have been reluctant to condemn Donahue in the past. Most significantly, BD has encountered a great deal of opposition from Catholics on his soft-pedalling of the child sex-abuse scandal especially from SNAP. Many Catholics defended the TV series “Nothing Sacred” against his attacks. Catholics also came forward to defend the Empire State buildings refusal of his request to light up for Mother Theresa.

    As author Phillip Pullman put it when discussing the controversy over “The Golden Compass”, “the only person Bill Donohue represents is himself”.

  34. In claiming that the violent tendencies of Islamists is “currently unique”, isn’t George Packer forgetting the Hindu mobs that all too frequently slaughter their Muslim neighbours in India? Let’s not give Hinduism a free ride!

  35. “Why I see this incident as a watershed moment in the war on terrorism is that it’s almost impossible to pin the murders on anything but blind adherence to religious faith.”

    I don’t know about that. Friends and colleagues I’ve asked say things like, “These guys were extremists,” or “There is obviously something mentally unstable with them.”

    They will do anything to avoid blending religion.

  36. The BBC is as bad – the repeatedly refer to ‘The Prophet’ rather than alleged prophet. What did he prophesy??? Are no other prophets available???

    1. Surely a ‘prophet’ is anyone who prophesies, whether they get it right or not. Didn’t Xtianity have plenty of prophets too?

      An ‘alleged’ prophet would be someone who was accused of prophesying but in actuality never did. It’s my impression that Muhammad issued plenty of prophecies, therefore he was, undoubtedly, a prophet.

      Question – have the Beeb ever referred to Jesus as ‘the Messiah’? Same sort of thing.

      I just can’t see the objection.

      1. Well, I’d object to them calling him “The Messiah”. They aren’t The Christian News Network. Plenty of people don’t agree that Jezuz was the messiah. Many of us seriously doubt the existence of said personage.

        Referring to Mohammed as “The Prophet” automatically demeans every other religious of what a prophet is. Hell, Mormons think they have one running their church/cult/business.

        Fine for them to say “Muslims refer to Mohammed as ‘The Prophet'”. It is a statement of fact. It is different to refer to him as “The Prophet” directly. To do so implies that the news organization believes this idea to be true.

          1. Well, he was very naughty with Aisha. But not exactly a boy….

            (In the same sense, of course, that Jesus walked on water, Harry Potter rides a broomstick, and Luke Skywalker can swordfight with both hands tied behind his back.)


        1. Well, I just don’t give credibility to any prophets, so I guess I don’t much care if they call Muhammad ‘the Prophet’ or not. It’s a bit like ‘the evangelist’. Not a title to be esteemed.

          I just think ‘alleged’ prophet (as Dominic suggested) is probably factually incorrect.

          And yeah, on reflection, I think ‘the Messiah’ is actually worse because as we know, while Muhammad certainly was a prophet, Jesus certainly isn’t a Messiah ‘cos there ain’t no such thing, at least not in the Xtian sense of saving the world. My mistake.

    2. From the comments section of the online NY Times, I gather that in some article the Times has described the (first) police officer as being “executed.” A commenter asked why “murdered” was not used instead.

      (What should give a rational, intelligent human more offense, a cartoon, or an above the fold page 1 photo of a wounded policeman about to be bludgeoned to death by a barrage of bullets?)

      1. What should give a rational, intelligent human more offense, a cartoon, or an above the fold page 1 photo of a wounded policeman about to be bludgeoned to death by a barrage of bullets?

        Perfectly put. Should be the standard reply to the being-offensive-is-actionable crowd.

  37. France has plenty of immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, or India, who aren’t white, but aren’t Muslim, and probably face the same kind of discrimination that non-white Muslim immigrants face. The fact that we’re only seeing this kind of violence from Muslims gives a strong hint that Islam itself may be part of the problem. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote yesterday:

    “We do need to wake up to the fact that there is a movement—a very lethal movement, very cruel—that has a political vision about how the world should be organized and how society should live. And in order for them to realize their vision, they are willing to use any means. They are willing to use violence. They are willing to use terror.”

  38. “Why I see this incident as a watershed moment in the war on terrorism is that it’s almost impossible to pin the murders on anything but blind adherence to religious faith.”

    Some are suggesting that this is a clever plot to drive a wedge between French Muslims and the rest of France. That it isn’t religion, it’s just a ploy to create more terrorists.

    I really wonder about these people, if they can really be this obtuse. What do they gain by this pretzel logic? Are they really so blind?

    Mr. Coyne, you have used the word “odious” to describe a an occasional email sender, but I think the word applies to Donahue, more than anyone else. Donahue has attacked and offended all manner of people, from homosexuals to single mothers, yet he is safe, he knows he can criticize, because his apponents are civilized. More so than Donahue it would seem.

    Donahue is an odious hypocrite of the worst kind. He hides behind the constitution, his religion and free speech while he offends others. Under Donahue’s logic if Donahue is murdered by a homosexual, or single mother, it will be Donahues fault. Except that the people he regularly criticizes are more moral than he. We now know that Donahue stands shoulder to shoulder, ideologically, with the worst of the worst of human beings.

    Those who are civilized, including his victims, know that words are no justification for violence.

      1. Correct. He starts out with some nice rhetoric, but then establishes a false equivalence with antisemitism and runs with it. He’s a jerk.

    1. Jesus Christ. Has he even noticed the most obvious difference between modern-day Judaism (or most of the other big religions) and modern-day Islam?

      1. You are so right. He does not make the distinction. Islam is at war with itself trying to figure out how to get from the 7th century to the 21st. This makes for hard times. Greenwald is totally blind.

        1. Re: “Jesus Christ.” I gather most have heard the appellation, “Jesus H. Christ.” I want to know – what does the “H.” stand for?!?

  39. Do you know anyone who intentionally insults and displays contempt for others? (Intentionally, regularly insulting misinformed or uneducated people is still abhorrent.) I don’t know, and I don’t want to know such rude, arrogant people.
    And yet they didn’t deserve to be killed for their disgusting jokes.
    Idiots poking the hornets’ nest, and unthinking hornets responded — just a senseless mess on all sides.

  40. The rape analogy doesn’t fit, because religion is a learned set of beliefs, while the male desire to sexually procreate with women is innate and biological. Each case actually has the opposite orientation: A person who is never taught religion will never kill in the name of religion, but a person who is never taught NOT to rape would automatically go on committing rape without ever knowing it is wrong (until someone explains it to him).

    1. but a person who is never taught NOT to rape would automatically go on committing rape without ever knowing it is wrong (until someone explains it to him).

      Erhm…you mean yourself?

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