Author Topic: Would these quotes by Dawkins on Islam be considered bigotted and/or wrong?  (Read 1918 times)

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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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There is a Wikipedia page about Richard Dawkins' views on various topics. Things like abortion, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, animal rights, and so on, which I know that you are all dying to learn about. ;)

There is also a section about his views on Islam, with two quotes of him:

Quote from: Richard Dawkins
It’s tempting to say all religions are bad, and I do say all religions are bad, but it’s a worse temptation to say all religions are equally bad because they’re not. If you look at the actual impact that different religions have on the world it’s quite apparent that at present the most evil religion in the world has to be Islam. It’s terribly important to modify that because of course that doesn’t mean all Muslims are evil, very far from it. Individual Muslims suffer more from Islam than anyone else. They suffer from the homophobia, the misogyny, the joylessness which is preached by extreme Islam, Isis and the Iranian regime. So it is a major evil in the world, we do have to combat it, but we don’t do what Trump did and say all Muslims should be shut out of the country. That’s draconian, that’s illiberal, inhumane and wicked. I am against Islam not least because of the unpleasant effects it has on the lives of Muslims.

Quote from: Richard Dawkins
There is a belief that every word of the Koran is literally true, and there's a kind of close-mindedness which is, I think, less present in the former Christendom…There are people in the Islamic world who simply say, 'Islam is right, and we are going to impose our will.' There's an asymmetry…I think that it's possible to be naively optimistic, and if you reach out to people who have absolutely no intention of reaching back to you, then you may be disillusioned."

Would you classify those quotes as bigotted? Why or why not?

I must admit that I myself have a hard time to see anything bigotted or even wrong with the quotes. So please point out and explain why if you think that they are.

Offline John Albert

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I don't think they're bigoted at all.

They very specifically criticize the ideology of Islam, but quite pointedly draw the line at demonizing the people who follow Islam.

Offline Shibboleth

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I would say that it is bigoted in the sense that it ignores other factors that play into the behavior discussed. It also doesn't recognize that there are many forms of Islam.
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Offline Calinthalus

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I would say that it is bigoted in the sense that it ignores other factors that play into the behavior discussed. It also doesn't recognize that there are many forms of Islam.
Isn't that the same #NotAllMen kind of thinking?  If you quantify that X is bad because of Y...if Y doesn't apply to you, why should I have to mention you?  He specifically says "preached by extreme Islam, Isis and the Iranian regime".  If your version of Islam does not match that, why should we assume he is also talking about you?  That's like feminists having to mention how some men are great every time they talk about misogyny in the boardrooms of America.
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Offline SkeptiQueer

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Can we ask what brought these quotes and this question together?
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Offline haudace

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I would say that it is bigoted in the sense that it ignores other factors that play into the behavior discussed. It also doesn't recognize that there are many forms of Islam.
Isn't that the same #NotAllMen kind of thinking?  If you quantify that X is bad because of Y...if Y doesn't apply to you, why should I have to mention you?  He specifically says "preached by extreme Islam, Isis and the Iranian regime".  If your version of Islam does not match that, why should we assume he is also talking about you?

He didn't specify a specific sect of Islam - quoting him again "If you look at the actual impact that different religions have on the world it’s quite apparent that at present the most evil religion in the world has to be Islam." Granted, I should verify that is his actual words. This makes him bigoted in my eyes. Imagine if he had stated the same thing about black people or Christianity. One can always find extreme examples of members of a specific community doing/saying stupid things. Would you find it objectionable if this were to be generalized over the whole group?

Edits: some phrasing.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2018, 02:40:34 PM by haudace »

Offline Soldier of FORTRAN

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Would you classify those quotes as bigotted? Why or why not?

The quotes don't run afoul of my usual concerns.

The quotes basically amounts to, "The Middle East tanks Islam's score, it ranks the worst."*

Edit: * Which begs the question as to why but that's its own matter.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2018, 01:46:37 PM by Soldier of FORTRAN »
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Offline Calinthalus

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I would say that it is bigoted in the sense that it ignores other factors that play into the behavior discussed. It also doesn't recognize that there are many forms of Islam.
Isn't that the same #NotAllMen kind of thinking?  If you quantify that X is bad because of Y...if Y doesn't apply to you, why should I have to mention you?  He specifically says "preached by extreme Islam, Isis and the Iranian regime".  If your version of Islam does not match that, why should we assume he is also talking about you?

He didn't specify a specific sect of Islam - quoting him again "If you look at the actual impact that different religions have on the world it’s quite apparent that at present the most evil religion in the world has to be Islam." Granted, I should verify that is his actual words. This makes him bigoted in my eyes. Imagine if he had stated the same thing about black people or Christianity. One can always find extreme examples of members of a specific community doing/saying stupid things. Would you find it objectionable if this were to be generalized over the whole group?

Edits: some phrasing.
Sorry for the delay, I was on a business trip for a couple of weeks.


I read the Dawkins quote as specific against "extreme Islam, Isis and the Iranian Regime". He specifies a difference between Iranians in general (most of which are Muslim) and the regime itself which is controlled by extremists.


I can imagine the same statement in Christianity via saying something like "extreme Christianity, Focus on the Family and the Westboro Baptist Church".  I wouldn't make a parallel with black people because someones skin color isn't evidence as to their thought processes and/or beliefs the way religion is so it is an entirely different statement either way...and one I can't imagine Dawkins saying.
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I don't think Islam is inherently more bad than Christianity.  Maybe todays incarnations are, but from what I recall, there are plenty of times in history where it was absolutely the reverse.  My main question when someone brings up that they think Islam is worse than other religions is, "What do you think making that distinction is going to add to the conversation?"  I think going after an entire religion is a pretty stupid thing to do when you're guaranteed to put off members of the religion who don't do the things you're against.  Just go after the practices you don't like, any specific people who do shitty things, and any groups that are dedicated to doing shitty things. 

Offline Calinthalus

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I agree that Islam isn't inherently any worse than Christianity...or for that matter, Judaism.  I think in our modern day, if you are discussing worldwide dangers, then Islam is a greater threat.  If you are gay in Missouri, then I'm sure that's not the case for you...Christianity is by far the greater threat.  A strong argument could be made that in the U.S. in general, Christianity is a greater threat than Islam.


I don't tend to bring up which one is worse than the other given a set of circumstances.  I'm just not sure where saying something like "Islam is the mother of bad ideas" is racist.  We have to be able to discuss any religion as a good or bad idea on its merits.  Islam contains mountains of bad ideas.  So does Christianity, and Judaism, and Scientology, and Mormonism etc.etc.etc.  But why must we caveat that statement at all. Why, when pointing out something bad about Islam (treatment of women) do we have to point out how bad Christianity is on the same or another subject or otherwise be labeled as racist?
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Offline SkeptiQueer

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I would disagree with "Islam is the mother of bad ideas" in principle. Islam was merely the combination of a series of other people's bad ideas under one roof. Islam is the daughter of bad ideas? Certainly! Continues to be propagate those bad ideas? Absolutely. A framework under which new bad ideas can be honed and propagate? Yupyupyup.

Because of the coopting of anti-Islam by racist groups, we have to be careful with our language so as not to give the appearance of siding with the likes of Pamela Gellar, and to avoid accidentally giving credibility to them in doing so.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2018, 05:04:02 AM by SkeptiQueer »
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Offline John Albert

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I agree that Islam isn't inherently any worse than Christianity...or for that matter, Judaism.  I think in our modern day, if you are discussing worldwide dangers, then Islam is a greater threat.  If you are gay in Missouri, then I'm sure that's not the case for you...Christianity is by far the greater threat.  A strong argument could be made that in the U.S. in general, Christianity is a greater threat than Islam.

I agree in general with this statement, but I'd say that Islam is worse by several measures. The fact that Islam is a "greater threat" makes it objectively worse. Six countries fully qualify as Islamic theocracies; over twenty more countries list Islam as their state-sponsored religion and use Sharia as the basis for their legal and criminal justice systems. The way Islam is being interpreted, believed and acted upon is, on the whole, far more fundamentalist, more totalitarian, and more aggressive than Christianity. Muslim majority countries rank among the world's most brutal regimes with regard to human rights abuses. In addition to that, it's the world's fastest growing religion so it represents an escalating potential threat.

But that's the situation worldwide. In the US, most Muslims are better integrated into Western culture, and fundamentalist Christianity represents the far greater threat.


I don't tend to bring up which one is worse than the other given a set of circumstances.

I feel that a reasonable argument can be made that Islam as it is practiced by most Muslims today is objectively worse for human rights than Christianity as practiced by most Christians today.

However, I do have friends, coworkers and acquaintances who are Muslim. Just as I wouldn't go calling Catholicism a "worldwide death cult and pedophile-hiding organization" to my Catholic family and friends, I don't go around bashing Islam to my Muslim friends. 


I'm just not sure where saying something like "Islam is the mother of bad ideas" is racist.

Calling Islam "the mother of bad ideas" may be a bit hyperbolic, but criticizing a religion is not racist by any reasonable interpretation.


We have to be able to discuss any religion as a good or bad idea on its merits.  Islam contains mountains of bad ideas.  So does Christianity, and Judaism, and Scientology, and Mormonism etc.etc.etc.  But why must we caveat that statement at all. Why, when pointing out something bad about Islam (treatment of women) do we have to point out how bad Christianity is on the same or another subject or otherwise be labeled as racist?

Some activists see it as a situational problem: there's a population of ignorant racists in the US and Europe that do harbor hatred toward brown-skinned people, and they tend to conflate those ethnic groups with Muslims. So the activists consider the bashing of Islam (for whatever reason) to be feeding into that racist hatred.

That rationale works on one level as an "ends don't justify the means" argument, but is it really reasonable to prohibit the criticism of bad ideologies? I don't think so. I believe no ideology ought to be held above reproach, especially one that plays a major role in terrible human rights abuses. The relative merits and faults of all ideas ought to be open for debate, because refusing to address bad ideas only allows them to flourish in the dark recesses.

Maybe the best approach is just to consider your audience before you go bashing on Islam. The criticism you might discuss in the company of like-minded secularists may not be appropriate to speak aloud in mixed company at a crowded bar. When speaking in public, consider which is more important; proclaiming a strong opposition to religion, or running the risk of playing into the racism of those who don't understand the difference between criticism of an ideology and denigration of people.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2018, 08:49:17 AM by John Albert »

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I guess another point that just occurred to me would be to ask what we mean when we refer to Islam or any other religion as a whole.  There are so many elements that make up what you would call Islam that are not even close to universal in terms of applying to individuals.  It seems kind of like when we refer to black people in the US.  Statistically speaking, there are many good reasons to care about what black people are like in the country, but in terms of using it to put down an overall moral judgement, I don't see how that label could ever be accurate enough to avoid being racist.  I mean, think about it in terms of racial superiority: if you really wanted to, you could run all sorts of numbers and come up with defensible conclusions for why one race might be superior to another (i.e. average IQ is higher, athleticism is more innate, people are generally more productive and disciplined, crime stats are lower, etc) but we don't because those kinds of conclusions don't serve to do anything besides empower racists to think they they, as individuals, are better than others as individuals.  I'm just thinking about this as I type it, but I don't really see how it's much different when referring to a religion.  You're taking a massive group of individuals who are complex and have tons of different backgrounds, practices, beliefs, and so on and then judging them based on some overall numbers that may or may not actually represent who they are and how they live.  This isn't like Scientology where conformity is mandated so you can say the religion is just plain bad based on how the church behaves. 

I'll just go back and reiterate what I said before then; what is the utility of making such an assertion about an entire religion?  It's hard for me to escape that it's not much more than an argument for superiority on behalf of the one making the argument.  Maybe that's not the thought behind making them, but what other use for such arguments are there?

Offline Calinthalus

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I don't think you can draw a parallel to race.  If you are a self-proclaimed Christian, that means you espouse some specific beliefs which impact how you view the world.  Sure, there are fundamentalist Christians and liberal Christians etc.  But they all (more or less) believe that Jesus rose from the dead.  Depending on how strictly they claim they believe (Full Gospel etc) you can make certain assumptions as to whether or not they think gays will burn in hell.


Nothing about your skin color, or even the state/culture you were raised in says anything about how or what you think the way religion does. 


Fundamentalist Muslims are putting actions into certain beliefs, much like fundamentalist Christians are here in the U.S.  Those beliefs translate into actions like throwing gays from buildings and shooting abortion doctors.  You wouldn't say that a Christian who shoots an abortion doctor wasn't influenced by his religion...but if you say a Islamist Terrorist was influenced by his religion then you're a racist in certain circles.  That's why it's brought up.
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But even in your response, you keep qualifying "Fundamentalist" which is not the same as "Islam."  Belonging to Islam does not predict violence and other disgusting behaviors by itself as there are millions of believers who don't participate in any of that stuff.  Belonging to a race does not predict a lot of things that statistically may be more common among that race.  We must deal with each individual and group on their own merits or else we risk disenfranchising those who might otherwise be allies.  And if we did, what would it be in service of?  An easy categorization?  The knowledge that we are independent thinkers?  I just don't get what purpose it serves to do all this work to justify a view that an entire religion is worse than others.

 

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