Reza Aslan is a charlatan. He is giddy with delight that both his broad rationalization of a need for religion and his redefinition of religion have inked the waters as he darts around on the sidelines of the latest uproar over "bigotry" in the discussion of radical Islam. He calls religion a language used to communicate one's faith. He then steps back and groups religion with other belief systems like socialism and nationalism to show how any belief system is susceptible perversion. All of this to defend his misrepresentation of the views of Sam Harris, Bill Maher and thousands of others who see the inherent blood lust in Semitic scripture and then point at current events as real world examples. Any spectator with an open mind should easily see through Reza's defense mechanism here.
In his book, The End of Faith, Sam Harris is the first brave soul (in my experience) to put forth the idea that the moderates of these religious affiliations are complicit in the violent results of the interpretations of their sacred texts. They either see the evils their denominations spur and fail to condemn it or they brandish scripture as a tool to show the world that the heinous acts of a few are not representative of their faith. The former, in my experience, only occurs when someone, backed into a corner, presents a defense that is basically the “I know good people who are cops…” argument. The latter makes things even worse. Modern Christians, in their stubborn simplicity, hurdle the Old Testament violence by interpreting the acts of Jesus as a new covenant, displacing the old covenant with all its genocide and rape and imperial conquest… and human sacrifice and infanticide and torture... ect… But they still use it to teach their theology albeit one wrung above folklore, like Greco/Roman mythology. And let’s call a spade a spade. Christianity, Catholicism especially, is polytheism. When you highlight it, that once stubbornly simple Christian doctrine breaks into theological acrobatics that stun on-lookers of any religion. The doctrine of the Trinity basically describes an entity suffering from multiple personality disorder. We have a vengeful, jealous Father, a “meek” Son, and the Holy Ghost , a thing that we can trace through the history of the Abrahamic texts but as of today we have no clear definition of what it is… or what She is? All these personalities are one thing… but wait! Although completely removed from the schizoid mind of the creator of the universe, one cannot deny Satan his presence and purpose in the theology… nor can we deny the “other” angels. This is polytheism painted up all pretty like a schoolgirl of monotheism and it’s very creepy in here. Christians must defend these weird texts—the inspiration of faith—against, say a reverend with a lot of followers down in South America who might shoot a US Congressman or command his hundreds of followers to drink poison Kool-Aid or maybe just some poor deranged mother who held her four children under the bath water till they were dead because… God. Condemning with contradictory doctrine acts of violence inspired by shared sacred texts is a losing proposition.
I am not as privy to specific hysterics of the Quran as I am to the Bible. Yet as this thing between Harris/Maher and Affleck/Aslan came to a boil, I knew there were things about Islamic theology that illuminate the difficulties of condemning any violent interpretation. One of these things is called “the principal of abrogation.” Maarten Boudry wrote a great piece on his blog which includes some points on abrogation:
"Peaceful verses in the Quran, such as that there is no compulsion in religion (Sura 2:256) and that whoever kills a soul has killed all of mankind (Sura 5:32), are certainly there, but they are few and far between, and often hedged with qualifications, such as “unless it be for mischief in the land”. Moreover, according to mainstream theology, many peaceful verses from the early Meccan period are cancelled out by later verses, by the principle of abrogation (naskh), which is itself derived from the Quran. Even without abrogation, anyone can start cherry-picking from the Quran, and there is no shortage of verses supporting the ideology that motivates ISIS. Nearly every page in the Quran is filled with invective against unbelievers and their unspeakable crimes."
I don't see any effective way to condemn terrorism by defending the source of the desire to spread terror.
“killing people for their beliefs…” seems the Harris’ phraseology that stymies most of his opponents, especially Aslan and—to my shock—Cenk Uygar. (I also think another step further might even stymie Harris.) I have a few questions for these people. Isn’t building monuments to killing people for their "beliefs," based on actions spurred by rhetoric and scripture, a part of civilization? What about WWII? I’ll give you all the Nazis who died in pure combat. They died in a 20th Century war, patriotism and all that. Okay. What do we have left? We have Nuremberg. What else does a modern capitalist society need aside Nuremberg to rightly kill certain people for their beliefs? We sentenced to death men who committed murder in alignment with their beliefs. “Justice Systems” imprison, punish and execute people every fucking day. It’s not my world. It’s Reza Aslan’s and Cenk Uygar’s and Sam Harris’ and Ben Affleck’s world. Any law, any punishment can be pushed back to a difference in beliefs. I’m not defending any bombs or assassinations, I’m simply exposing the paradox. In my opinion, laws are “bad ideas.” We can debate that anytime but I for one stand with Harris and Maher in pointing out that right now, at this point in history, Islam is “the mother lode of bad ideas.”
P.S. I must throw this in after watching Aslan spew his goo all over Cenk Uygar’s TYT Interviews. "Truth as we know it has only been around 300 years,” Reza Aslan. Reza, how are things at home? Who feeds you? I really hope there’s a qualified home healthcare professional involved. Aside from the fact that there's all manner of bullshit that has fallen to the wayside of history—like slavery, a thing that each of the Semitic texts endorse—the truth is the fucking truth. The truth as we know it today meant enough to the Egyptians and the Romans (two empires, many leaders of which considered themselves gods) and every other government since to make an effort to rewrite history in the wake of their reign. The truth is the truth, Reza, whether you like or not.
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.