Kristof osculates all faiths, avers that they’re equally wonderful

December 14, 2015 • 9:34 am

The New York Times editorial staff continues its relentless campaign to osculate faith—all faiths in the case of Nicholas Kristof’s Sunday op-ed piece, “How well do you know religion?” In his tendentious essay, he first offers a quiz designed to show that the Bible is full of bad stuff while the Qur’an has some good stuff. His aim is to show that despite the sometimes scary contents of the Qur’an, it’s no worse than the Bible, and the violent content of scripture doesn’t matter anyway.

Kristof begins with 14 quotations from scripture or religious history, asking readers to identify the source. I’ll show five; make your guesses.

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As you might expect, the source of nice scripture (5 and 11) is the Qur’an, while the rest of the Questions have answers from Christianity or the Old and New Testaments. Kristof admits cherry-picking, but that, he says, is precisely his point:

Some of you are probably angrily objecting right now that I am cherry-picking texts. Yes, I am. My point is that faith is complicated, and that we’re more likely to perceive peril and incitement in someone else’s scripture than in our own.

In fact, religion is invariably a tangle of contradictory teachings — in the Bible, the difference between the harshness of Deuteronomy and the warmth of Isaiah or Luke is striking — and it’s always easy to perceive something threatening in another tradition. Yet analysts who have tallied the number of violent or cruel passages in the Quran and the Bible count more than twice as many in the Bible.

Well, Kristof’s right in that Christians are more scared of the bad stuff in Muslim than in Christian scripture, but Christianity has largely divested itself of its bad scripture over the ages by ignoring it. Islam, however, hasn’t done the same de-fanging: while the vast bulk of Muslims aren’t inspired to violence by the malevolence of the Qur’an, the majority in all Muslim countries read the Qur’an as literal truth. The faithful haven’t yet found a way to ignore the bad bits of the Qur’an, though I hope that will come.

But Kristof’s statistics in the second paragraph are totally bogus. Yes, perhaps there are twice as many violent or cruel passages in the Bible as in the Qur’an, but anyone with two neurons to rub together will ask the question, “Yes, but what is the relative length of those scriptures?”

The answer:

Bible: About 800,000 words
Qur’an: About 77,000 words (3/4 as long as the New Testament)

So, given that the Qur’an is less than 10% as long as the Bible, the density of violent and cruel passages is over 5 times greater in the Qur’an than in the Bible.

But ignoring Kristof’s innumeracy, he then goes on to imply that scripture is irrelevant in judging a religion:

It’s true that terrorism in the 21st century is disproportionately rooted in the Islamic world. And it’s legitimate to criticize the violence, mistreatment of women or oppression of religious minorities that some Muslims justify by citing passages in the Quran. But let’s not stereotype 1.6 billion Muslims because of their faith. What counts most is not the content of holy books, but the content of our hearts.

I agree that we shouldn’t stereotype or demonize Muslims because of their faith, but what if the content of some Muslim hearts is determined by the content of their holy books? Shouldn’t we then hold the books up for criticism? That doesn’t demonize the faithful, except insofar as the book inspires them to do bad things. And except for denialists like Glenn Greenwald, that’s pretty much indisputable for the Qur’an. In fact, it’s the violent nature of that scripture that, according to reformers like Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, must somehow be tamed or ignored to solve the problem of Islamist terrorism.

In the rest of the piece, Kristof utters the usual liberal sentiments—most of which I agree with. Trump is a jerk for trying to ban Muslims, let’s not discriminate against Muslims simply because of their beliefs, and so on. But he ends this way:

Yes, the Islamic world today has a strain of dangerous intolerance. And for all of America’s strengths as a society, as Donald Trump shows, so does America.

Of course there’s some intolerance in America. But compare it to Iran, ISIS-controlled Iraq, Afghanistan, or Saudi Arabia. We don’t behead criminals, we don’t kill blasphemers, we don’t stone adulterers or throw gays off roofs, we don’t prohibit women from driving, we don’t have a religious system of law (one that gives women half the say of men), and we allow Muslims to be citizens (Saudi Arabia doesn’t grant that privilege to non-Muslims).

It’s undeniable that much of the biased and undemocratic behavior of these Islamic societies comes from Islam. It won’t do to pretend that “the Islamic world” is just as bad in its treatment of minorities, unbelievers, women, and gays as is, say, the United States. Kristof, in his fervent and admirable desire to prevent bigotry against Muslims, in the end must resort to distortions to do so. But you don’t need to do that: all you need to do is realize that you can criticize a creed without demonizing its adherents.

Greg Mayer called my attention to this piece, and I reproduce his comments below the line:

My view is that Kristof wanted us to make the following syllogism:

Premise 1. Granted, there’s some pretty bad stuff in Islam.

Premise 2. But there’s also bad stuff in the Bible.

Premise 3. And, there’s good stuff in both Islam and the Bible.

Conclusion 1. Therefore, Islam is pretty much equivalent to Christianity/Judaism.

Premise 4. We know that Christianity and Judaism are good.

Conclusion 3. Therefore Islam is good.

He of course is counting on his readers to share his premise 4 uncritically.

The particular questions he chose for his “quiz” seemed designed for people to get them wrong, and thus feel uninformed about religion, and thus unqualified to have an opinion about religion. (I got 11 out of 14 right.) Kristof obviously thinks himself sufficiently informed to have an opinion. But the questions are almost all pointless scriptural exegesis or memorization– you don’t need to know any of that to have an informed opinion, because religions are what their practitioners do, not some nonbeliever’s interpretation of somebody else’s scripture.


105 thoughts on “Kristof osculates all faiths, avers that they’re equally wonderful

  1. There’s a fundamental difference between the bible and the koran; it is this: the bible is a pseudo-historical record of instructions for murder and mayhem from el to his prophets telling them what to do at a point long ago in time. These instructions are not incumbent on people of the bible today.
    The koran is the direct instructions from camel thief and murderer mo to all his followers for ever as to how to plunder and murder all populations of the world at all times in history including today and tomorrow! slight difference d’you see?

    1. Where in the Bible does it lay out the expiration date for the laws in Exodus and Leviticus? I know that modern practicing Jews don’t try to apply the laws to stone infidels or adulterers or disobedient children at the gate, but I can not really see how they come to this conclusion from anything written in the text. If you read the Old Testament, there is no way to come away with any idea but that these laws still apply.

      Christians can at least say that Jesus somehow set aside the law in the Old Testament, at least if you read beyond what Jesus himself said to Paul’s interpretation, which most Christians take as binding. Jesus himself said of the OT law, however:

      till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven;

      I think heaven and earth are still here, so…

      That said, it’s pretty clear that Christians pretty quickly put away a literal reading of this verse and eventually put away a lot of violence in Jesus name. Mostly. Similarly, somehow practicing Jews have found some way to ignore or reinterpret all of those heinous laws to be compatible with modern life and morals. For some reason, more Muslims in the modern world take the violence of their text, which is exceptional in density, to still be applicable. That could be because the text is even more explicit about the ongoing need for it, because the violence is more dense if no more barbaric, or it could be just a case of not yet having caught up to the modern world. I don’t know. I do know that all three Abrahamic religions can never fully escape the shadow of the despotic and barbaric God depicted in their holy texts because that God is held up as the ultimate moral exemplar.

      1. I was referring to the instructions to el’s prophets to massacre cities and nations – the midionites for example. You can’t put an order not to eat shellfish in the same category as an order to kill all infidels and apostates. Sure the dress and dietary and even sex laws still apply to those who want to think that but no-one today is going to go out and massacre midionites or philistines because it’s in the bible…..

  2. In fact, religion is invariably a tangle of contradictory teachings —

    Someone needs to introduce this guy to Sithrak – an equal-opportunity hater of all mortals. Not in the least bit complex. You will die. You will suffer an eternity of the most abysmal torment. Nothing that you do will change this. Simples.

      1. I’m using a work’s computer today, so I can’t give you the exact link, but the comic’s name is “Oglaf”, it is definitely not Safe For Work (unless your work is in S&M Fantasy Porn, and the God in question is Sithrak … oh, hang on, there’s a Wiki for it … “Sithrak is the author of The Book of Dismay, written with the blood of his enemies on the skins of his friends, in which he indeed promises unconditional torment in the afterlife as the Doomsayers believe.”
        I believe that Sithrak has a career – past, present or future – in the oil industry.

        1. Sorry, but I was just firing up the telly looking for the news, and caught a trailer for “Star Trek Wars Volume 47- A New Merchandising Campaign Is Born” while I was checking my replies and ‘likes.’
          Is the intention of the extension and raising of a light phaser really what I just caught out of the corner of my eye?
          Oh dear, we’re back down in the depths of the Baby Jesus Butt Plug. And to add to your festive shopping list for the religious freak in your near (but not too near) vicinity, they’ve now brought out an Exorcist-themed crucifix.
          Actually, I’m not so sure that’s a new product, but what the hell. In Sithrak sense.

  3. Great syllogism (Mayer), though a modification:

    Premise 1. Not a word that we are made of atoms in Islam.

    Premise 2. Not a word that we are made of atoms in the Bible.

    Conclusion 1. Therefore, Islam is pretty much equivalent to Christianity/Judaism.

    Another example of a seemingly profound quest that people like Kristof try to make when they need to consider that no religion can compete against science. They all have that in common.

    1. *Ahem*
      “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Hebrews 11:3.
      Isn’t it perfectly clear that atoms are predicted?

    2. Yes, “equally good” begs the question “at what?” Because there are probably many specious examples. Equally “good” at atomic theory would be one; equally good at extracting money from followers would be another.

      1. If science could make a real afterlife, e.g., brain upload to nirvana paradise program powered by brown drwarf, then science might put religion out of business.

        1. Have you come across the science fiction novel “Surface Detail” by Iain M Banks? The central plot is that some societies have implemented virtual reality hells – horrific affairs, seemingly modeled on the Renaissance depictions of hell by Bosch et al.

          It’s chilling that we live in a world where we might soon possess the technology to implement such a ghastly thing, and where religion still holds such sway that there might be the will to do so.

          1. Or whatever dark impulse caused people to put those things into religion in the first place. Even if “religions” disappear, we are still the same creatures who invented them.

          2. Excellent book (I’ve a signed copy). Quite a complex plot, and the concept of virtual hell is brilliant, and, well, hellish. I must re-read it.

            Iain M Banks was a great loss.

        2. Hmm. What is a brain? About 20W? Yeah, brown dwarf could run that for a while. Before you needed to go for Hawking Radiation.

  4. I’m afraid you nailed it with that last sentence – religions are what their practitioners do. I have to be reminded as Richard Dawkins was in his last book, of Sam Harris’s End of Faith. After a horrific suicide bombing of a bus by a young man. Why is it so easy to guess the young man’s religion.

  5. Read the readers’ choice comments. Kristof gets his hindquarters handed to him. The comments were closed fair quickly I heard.

  6. The major difference between the way believers approach the Bible and the Koran is that in Christianity the view that the text is the literal word of God, dictated to the writers, inerrant and inspired is considered a narrow fundamentalist viewpoint. In Islam however this view of scripture is a perfectly orthodox mainstream view. Even most “moderate” Muslims seem to believe that the Koran was dictated verbatim to Mohammad by Allah. This is why the Koran is only considered authoritative in Arabic and not in translation. Christians can chalk up the “bad” stuff to human misunderstanding. Muslims have no such recourse.

  7. Here is a here and now question for Mr. Kristof.

    What proportion of Muslims would find it morally less reprehensible for a Muslim to mass murder infidels than to give up Islam?

  8. Apparently the only two narratives available to us are the reactionary bigotry of the right or the mush-brained multiculturalism of the left. In no way is it possible to welcome Syrian refugees while also maintaining reservations about some of their beliefs.

    Yaweh help us.

    1. I’m pretty sure that most on this particular site maintain reservations about all religions but that does not mean we cannot welcome refugees from Syria or any country. Don’t confuse us with bigotry of some in the far right.

  9. Sometimes I think you forget the fact that your own country is always teetering on the brink of becoming a theocracy. If the Christian bible didn’t hold so much sway, why do republicans brandish it at every opportunity?

    1. No, we don’t forget that, and I constantly discuss the theocratic drives of Republicans on this site. But at least we don’t execute non-Christians or prevent Jews or Muslims from getting citizenship.

      Would you rather be a woman, an atheist, or a gay in the U.S., or Saudi Arabia?

      I think I know the answer.

    2. I think teetering is a bit of an exaggeration. The US is plagued with an annoying strain of Christianity and the bigotry that comes with it, but I don’t see that group taking over the government and creating a Saudi Arabiaesque republic.

      At least in the US, people are free to criticize religion….try THAT in Saudi Arabia! I hope you aren’t too fond of your body parts.

  10. Ho-hum. Religious prescriptions were considered the best ideas on how to live at the time. Most were carried orally, changing as knowledge expanded. By recording the stories prescriptions, they became timeless in the minds of the unthinking.

    We see the same phenomenon with the Constitution, the demand that it be interpreted as originally cast, ignoring the fact that at the time of its amendment by the Bill of Rights a rapid fire rifleman could get of six shots a minute at best rendering any change in gun laws unconstitutional.

    I know quite a few Christians, progressives mainly, conservatives shun me, and none of them take the Bible literally, although they do like some of the prescriptions, the Golden Rule, for example.

    1. ‘they do like some of the prescriptions, the Golden Rule, for example.’

      . . . which was NOT first propounded by Hebrews or Christians.

  11. I think the premises 1-4 go too far, putting essentially words into Kristoff’s mouth (paper?) I read the article as targeted to US Christians, using his admittedly cherry -picked quotes simply to ask for a bit of humility when so many are assuming the worst about Muslims in our country. I find that valuable and timely, despite the “numerical” facts that the “cruel words per page” metric is higher in the Quran than the bible (though I don’t think that’s particularly significant, the bible being so bloated and much more a committee work), and now half of domestic deaths from terrorist attacks are attributed to islamic extremists, despite Muslims making up 2% or so of the population.

  12. …religions are what their practitioners do, not some nonbeliever’s interpretation of somebody else’s scripture.

    Fully agree. Personally I would state it at the level of sects (sects are what their practicioners do…), since in any given religion you’re going to have a huge variety in ‘what practitioners do.’ Keeping it at the level of sects also makes clear that we have little or not beef with the existence of peaceful, law-abiding sects. OTOH your version definitely rolls off the tongue better, and would be must more quickly understood by laypeople.

    1. Quite agree. Here’s a quotation Kristof might have included in his test.

      ‘By their fruit shall you know them.’

      A) Koran
      B) New Testament
      C) RHS Grow Fruit and Veg Guide

  13. There are branches of Christianity and Judaism which plainly and overtly disavow troubling parts of the Bible, whereas no such branch of Islam exists.

    There is no figure in Islam comparable for example to the Presbyterian Charles Briggs who in the 1880s overtly stated that the Old Testament is just a historical record written for a morally undeveloped people and that modern man has a far superior morality and that Scriptural literalism is non-credible. (In the wake of Briggs, the Presbyterian church revised the Westminster Confession of Faith.)

    Or Harry Fosdick who said that the virgin birth and second coming are meaningless in the light of modern science in a sermon at First Presbyterian church in New York City in the 1920s! (His chief opponent in the church was William Jennings Bryan, the prosecutor at the Scopes trial.)

    That’s why Christian fundamentalism rose up as a movement that called itself by that name in the 1920s. It was a backlash against Christian modernism, the latter accepting historical analysis and criticism of the Bible.

    Similarly, various Catholic thinkers have been overtly willing to embrace political secularism, a rationalistic approach to the Bible, other Englightenment ideals, and overtly reject the classic Catholic views on gays.

    No comparable figures exist in the Muslim world, and that is one reason why simply comparing the Scriptures doesn’t go very far. Too many Christians and Jews have openly declared the Bible to be not a literal narrative in a way that hardly any Muslims have done.

    Kristof wrote a mushy ambiguous piece an Ayaan Hirsi Ali a few years ago that was a tad annoying.

    1. “Kristof wrote a mushy ambiguous piece an Ayaan Hirsi Ali a few years ago that was a tad annoying.”

      Disgustingly, Kristof was chosen to review for the NYT Hirsi Ali’s two most recent books, Nomad and Heretic. (Perhaps he reviewed Infidel as well–if so I didn’t see that.) The results were exactly like John Stuart’s Late Show interview with her about Heretic (or like Ben Affleck contra Bill Mayer & Sam Harris). He started with his own agenda and nearly lectured her in writing about what she should be saying, as opposed to what she actually wrote.

      This latest article is just boilerplate Kristof. In fact, it’s pretty much the same article he’s been re-submitting for years.

    2. @JonLynnHarvey: I wonder what the conditions were that prompted people like Harry Fosdick to declare the virgin birth and second coming as meaningless in light of science. What social or economic influences infiltrated Fosdick and the Presbyterian church? My guess is that Fosdick would not have made such a declaration had he not observed a willingness among his flock to exegete scripture less literally. The reason I think this stems from my time in divinity school. We were trained to be “prophets,” where prophecy was defined not as foretelling the future but forth-telling the present. We were trained to read social events and the mindsets of parishioners and to bring forth realities that we saw as emerging. The role of the minister is often to be the voice for what is already happening. In other words, they channel what they see.

      So, I’m back to wondering about the social and economic conditions that prevailed enough for people like Fosdick to voice non-literality.

        1. Me too. I think that’s part of it.

          I also wonder whether the moderate Christian view of the Trinity influenced willingness of liberal Christians to vocalize non-literal interpretations of the bible.

          Reason for wondering: Un-channeling a sophisticated theologian, central to the concept of the Trinity is that g*d (via the holy spi*it) continues to work in the world. It’s not necessary to think that this activity of g*d is miraculous. That’s where myth of Jesus comes in. G*d is seen as being part of our incarnate, mundane, ordinary lives the way that g*d became flesh in Jesus. We see g*d’s activity in us by interpreting how g*d acts through human society. This action is the function of the holy spi*it. So, because g*d is still active in real time, it is necessary to exegete real life and not just the bible, which is the historical record of g*d having interacted at previous times with humans. So, it’s not critical to hold to a literal view of the bible when g*d is still speaking and active in the world.

          Note that most Christian fundamentalists are not true Trinitarians and they by definition see the bible mostly literally.

          I don’t know how Islamic leaders conceptualize g*d, but if the primacy is given to g*d’s actions and words being in the past, then perhaps this impacts willingness to see the Qur’an less than literally.

      1. I would think it was the rise of science that led to the non-literality. When it becomes obvious that the literal reading is no longer tenable in the light of science, it seems natural to shift to the non-literal reading.

        Another way of saying that is God of the Gaps, with the gaps getting narrower.

  14. One of the slides in recent thought is the bizzarre twist that we should welcome moderate delusions.
    I dislike all religions because they activate the psychology of submission and raise the messiah /prophet to the level of demi-god.
    Many of the humanist progressive left should start questioning just where their acceptance comes from. Certainly not nature.

    1. Actually, acceptance of “the argument from authority ” may be evolutionarily selected.. That doesn’t make it a better argument, just one that was effective at the time.

        1. “Johnny! Don’t eat that! [thwack round the earhole]”
          The argument from authority as a shortcut to rapidly getting survival-necessary information to the inside of a child’s skull.
          If you’ve got time to discuss the merits of mushrooms versus dog shit as a dietary supplement, then you can have a long debate about it, but sometimes “get over here!”, “don’t do that”, are the appropriate responses.

      1. Thats right.
        Authority and the evolutionary role of authority figures /alphas/ elders is a often missed element of the human condition.

          1. I would suggest that in the pre-modern group/band era (7,000ish years ago) there would have been a far broader leadership in the group.
            Having said that merit and experience were essential for group survival.
            Re equality, nature, indeed evolution shrugs re such value driven thoughts. Not that I like it, but I see thats the way it is.

            1. Pardon me for saying this, David, but–no, duh. Don’t you imagine many thinking people with some degree of evolutionary understanding also arrive pretty easily at the same conclusions?

              BTW, that was to the last part of your post. I have no idea what you base the first part on.

              1. Well I apologies for stating the obvious.

                The other comment was based on reading people like Jared Diamond. The point being that authority was based on family connection and merit and experience. Modern Authoriy is all to often based on the usurption of the ‘elder/family leader role. See church or nation state.
                Re equality, whilst I agree, however many still push the ‘all men are born equal ‘

              2. AIUI humans are far less sexually dimorphic than our nearest relatives – chimps, bonobos, and to a lesser extent gorillas and organutans. This observation suggests that mate selection in our ancestors was not based on male physical competition or specific physical traits, and that roles in the group were somewhat gender fluid. Having said that, I think we would be fools to expect our prehistory was some sort of liberal, gender equality setting. It almost certainly was not. At a minimum, the relatively high child mortality rate prior to modern medicine (something like 30% death before maturity, even in prosperous 19th century families) would’ve meant that each women would have had to bear 3-4+ children just to maintain tribal numbers.

                And even if we hypothesize some sort of gender equality or matriarchy, the point about authority remains; chimp and many other apes and monkeys form hierarchical societies, where authority matters and it can be physically and socially dangerous to challenge someone higher in the social pecking order than you. Robert Sapolski (great books, I recommend him as an author) notes that even amongst lower-ranking individuals, obedience to authority is generally less stressful and more prosperous than attempting to fight your way up the social ladder. So there is at least some indirect evidence that accepting ‘argument from authority’ would often have some positive social value.

        1. It’s just on element of “culture”…
          Or as Goebbels I reputed to have said, “When I hear the word culture, I reach for my Petri dish!”

  15. The problem I see with Islam is that in several countries it is not just a religion, but the law. When the spokesmen (because it’s nearly always men) of any ideology have the power to force their beliefs on others, there is inevitably conflict. Because Islam has power in some places, and it is a tenant of the religion to spread not just the religion but its control, some of its adherents have become entitled. They believe the religion is so important that the end justifies the means.

    There are people in other religions with the same mindset. Christianity is an obvious example, and has an huge history of thinking they know what’s best for everyone. Since the Enlightenment though, it is slowly becoming more and more humanist, which has placed a check on its behaviour.

    Many Muslims are becoming more humanist and looking for ways to progress a Muslim Enlightenment. Those who want to retain power via theocracy are often in a position to force others to (at least appear to) comply by methods as brutal as the Inquisition.

    70,000 imans in India have collectively denounced DAESH, al-Qaeda etc. via a fatwa. Prime Minister Modi of India recognizes that the way forward for his country is secular democracy. He makes statements saying such things as, “toilets are more important than temples,” but he’s still seen as a good Muslim.

    There are many other examples too; there is hope.

    1. You make the point that most often does not get said. That Islam is a way of life that does not apply to most other religions. Even in more secular Turkey, I remember years ago hearing the music blasted out everywhere, the call to prayer. To tell you the truth, it reminded me of being in the military, living on base. In the morning they blast out one tune to get up and at 5 pm sharp there goes another one. Fortunately for me, the military was something you could leave eventually. Not so easy with Islam.

      1. This is an example of how execution of Muslims’ religious rights spontaneously becomes infringement of other people’s rights. Non-Muslims are told that Muslims, like all people, have the right to exercise their religion, so a mosque is needed to satisfy this need. OK. Then, the mosque starts to broadcast the call to prayer by loudspeakers, and mufties say, “Our religion requires the call to be heard outside the mosque”.

          1. Because of this argument, I think that in the very recent future, Europe will either have to submit to the Islamic call of prayer or will have to say goodbye to church bells. On the other side, I’ve been in a resort town that seemed to have no functional temple of any kind, and still a bell was heard. It was mounted at the municipality clock.

          2. The Church bells in my town typically ring every hour to denote the time. Occasionally I’ve heard them play the tune of a song. I’d think these things are still subject to noise restriction laws, the same would go for a mosque. I think calling church bells an expression of religion might be a stretch though.

            1. There was a HUGE issue here in NYC a few years ago with church bells. A Catholic church in Manhattan had been ringing their bells just twice a day, but a new priest took over and they started playing them several times a day. They were not actual bells, but synthesized sounds and apparently not pleasant to hear. Local residents complained and the church responded by playing them even more often (and/or louder), and also accused their neighbors of being anti-Catholic (but you knew that was coming…). I’ll post a link to the story if I can find one.

              1. Yes, absolutely the same phenomenon I was ranting about, but Christian!
                Actual bells, if not too loud, are pleasant to the ear. The synthesized “bells” must sound like an abomination.
                The same is true for human voice. Most people, including me, wouldn’t mind if someone from the minaret calls Muslims to pray by his own voice – it can be only as loud as human voice goes, and definitely more pleasant than a call distorted by loudspeakers.
                Somebody should ask the loudspeaker supporters why they insist so much to call the believers in a way that was impossible back in the days of the Prophet, PBUH :-).

              1. Wow, my office building is about 100 yards from that church and I’ve never noticed bells ringing. I guess if I had to sleep next to them, that might be another story.

            2. Of course we’re ‘used to’ church bells, and Xtianity has been largely de-fanged.

              Whether Muslim calls to prayer are likely to be more or less offensive depends, IMO, on how noisy, how frequent and how long they go on for.


    2. I thought Modi was a Hindu and the leader of a Hindu nationalist party.

      As to your main point, one advantage of Christianity as seen from a modern secular viewpoint, is that the New Testament was written when Christians held no power and were anxious not to be confused with rebellious Jews, hence ‘Render unto Caesar…’ etc. By contrast, So I’ve been told, the later Koran was written when Mo had power and shows the corrupting effect of power.

      1. Modi is Hindi – I fu*ked up with that part of my comment. But there are millions of Muslims in India and 70,000 of their imans have collectively issued the fatwa I mentioned, and regarding Hinduism, Modi has said people should be building toilets before temples and is going further down the inclusive secular democracy path.

        (Modi has a bad anti -Muslim history in his own province, which I knew about long before he was even elected, so why I typed he was Muslim I’ll never know! Part of his election campaign addressed putting that firmly in the past.)

        1. (Just to pile on, Heather, I think you mean imams. 😉 )

          Wow, that bit about the imams is most encouraging, as is your take on Modi. As I think I’ve said before, I learn so much from you!

          1. Not from this thread you didn’t! Gotta take the rough with the smooth! It was a good lesson to always check. 😉 (Although I think I’ve mentioned imams enough on my bl*g for you to know I know how to spell it really. 🙂 )

            1. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. 😉

              And yes, I did learn a lot–while aware of the Muslim/Hindu conflicts, I knew nothing at all about Modi. And that anti-DAESH fatwa is great news.

              1. I was half asleep when I wrote it, but since there’s another kiwi in the thread and he’d know it was about 9.00 am here, so I wasn’t too keen on admitting I was still half asleep (and in bed) at that hour on a Tuesday morning! I do have a good excuse, but too much information already I think! 🙂

      2. Yes, there is a lot of work ahead of moderate Muslims because there is no concept of rendering unto Caesar….the first step, is to disavow themselves of these nasty jihadism and killing of apostates concepts.

          1. Thanks, Heather. I learned a lot from this thread. In skimming the piece you linked to immediately above, I see:

            “Additionally, the religious leaders asked the media to stop referring to the terrorist groups as Muslim, with the idea being that true believers of Islam do not support extremist perversions of the religion.”

            It is interesting to me that it is the unified position of the Islamic religious leaders that ISIS is not to be referred to as Muslim.

            And the world appears to be responding to the voice of Islamic religious leaders by censoring itself from referring to ISIS as Muslim.

            (Incidentally, the Mormon church talks similarly about groups it considers to be on its fringes.)

            1. Yeah, I saw that too, and I’m not too sure about that. I think the key is in educating people that Islam isn’t a monolith – that there are lots of different people within the religion with differing beliefs, just like within Christianity. I don’t think referring to DAESH et al as not being Muslim works because they are Muslim, they just have a different interpretation of Islam.

              And incidentally, the interpretation of DAESH is almost exactly the same as Saudi Arabia:

              1. Hey Heather,

                I had to google DAESH. It seems this is the Arab term for ISIS? In my google search, seemingly in support of the use of DAESH over ISIS, I found that France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was quoted as saying: “This is a terrorist group and not a state. I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims, and Islamists.”

                Quote from:


                In contrast, I recently read an article arguing that it is a mistake not to consider ISIS as closer to a pseudo state than a terrorist organization.


                . . .

              2. I’ve written about it too a while ago:

                They are a pseudo-state, but I personally don’t wish to acknowledge that, which is why I always use DAESH. For me it’s sort of the same as whether Crimea is Ukrainian or Russian territory. Although Russia controls it, administers it etc, as far as I’m concerned their occupation is not valid and it’s Ukrainian territory. Same for DAESH controlled areas of Iraq etc.

                Thanks for the links. I knew France was officially using DAESH – it’s what made me look into it. The second link is an excellent analysis – one of the best I’ve read. I’ve put it on the Facebook page for my bl*g.

        1. I don’t think that is right, localplato. Modi is a member of the BJP.

          “The BJP is a right-wing party, with close ideological and organisational links to the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.”

          I’m almost comfortable calling the Republicans a Christian national party. But it doesn’t fit the Democrats.

  16. I think there is some credence to the point that the Bible is a nasty book, and we don’t assume all Christians take every verse literally. There are people in Africa today killing “witches” thanks to the Biblical prohibition on it, but most Christians think these people are insane despite no explicit Biblical denunciation of the practice. Christianity also has a special place in history when it comes to spreading the faith via the sword. It should be noted that this is not a selling point for Christianity, nor Western religion in general.

    The fact that many Christians have learned to ignore the vile parts of the book just shows that the reason needn’t come from the religion itself. Enlightenment values have colored the way many Christians view the book, including the “unchanging” Catholic Church. Muslims can (and many do) the same thing with the Koran. Again, this is not a selling point for Islam.

    These are selling points to ignore the books as authorities as anything. Sure, there’s some good things in them, but we didn’t figure out they were good based on the source being good. Yes, the Koran might have a higher density of nastiness. Who cares? The goal here is to get people to dismiss the nastiness, and on that front we currently have a much bigger problem with Islam.

    1. I view the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran as novels. As such, the Koran is the worst written, the Old testament has some great stories and a really racy section which are entertaining. The New testament is kind of boring with occasional gems of literature, but mostly just boring and very dated. Oh hum. I wish people would quit making such a fuss about ancient novels.

      1. Well in should only be a matter of time before there’s complaints about modern approbation of ancient cultures through these novels and the requisite demands to ban these books to ensure safe places. Now wouldn’t that be the delicious height of irony?

  17. And for the final question:

    Which major world religion can most aptly be described as having been hijacked by the Enlightenment? And approximately when was that?

  18. “Kristof osculates all faiths, avers that they’re equally wonderful”

    That was a bit clickbaity, wasn’t it?

    I was going to answer ‘yes all faiths are equally wonderful’ which of course is a double-edged statement, since it could mean they’re not remotely wonderful.

    Unless of course ‘wonderful’ is taken to mean ‘full of [phony] wonders’.

    But of course all faiths are not equally good/bad/fantastical. Some sects are obviously far worse than others. And I didn’t notice any mention of Buddhism or Hindu or Judaism in the article?


  19. My answers to the quiz would have been:

    5-10: all of them

    11: all of them, but the next few pages after that line showed that they didn’t really mean it.

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