The World According to Intolerant Atheists

This tweet and blog post headline is really something:

Islam Apparently behind Boston bombing

It’s from Jerry Coyne, the evolutionary biologist who apparently would blame environmentalism for Ted KaczynskiI know Coyne doesn’t like it when atheists are accused of being anti-Muslim, but he’s a whisker from being no better than Pam Geller, the queen of Islamophobia.

I’m no fan of religion myself, but I’m also no fan of fundamentalist atheism, especially the kind that paints religious faiths with a broad brush.

UPDATE: In response, Coyne calls me a “devout accommodationist” and tries to have it both ways:

 I am apparently an Islamophobe for saying that Islam was behind the Boston bombing. Actually, I didn’t say that Islam was behind the bombings—Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the bombers, did!

For someone who claims to be a rationalist, I don’t see how Coyne can play these semantic games with a straight face.

75 Responses to “The World According to Intolerant Atheists”

  1. countervail says:

    Sorry but I don’t know how you can ignore the role of religion in this instance. Don’t shoot the messenger.

  2. Zdeno Czarnowiejski says:

    I don’t know if Boston Bombing has much to do with Islam. Nevertheless Czeczens are known in Russia for their terrorist tactic including suicide bombing. And in my opinion its driven by Islam being fueled by political reasons.
    But what really startle me is using terms like “fundamental atheists”, especially by atheists themselves. It’s a bad PR, really, really bad.

  3. beanfeast says:

    Keith, what a wonderful example of a ‘weasel worded‘ argument.

    Jerry Coyne derives his headline “Islam Apparently behind Boston bombing” from the following passage in a CNN news feed:

    “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev indicated his older brother, Tamerlan, was the driving force behind the attacks and wanted to defend Islam from attack, the source said.”

    I might not have mastered the finer points of journalism, but I still remember English comprehension exercises at school and the meaning of that quote is crystal clear. Furthermore, Jerry’s use of the word “apparently” is warranted because the quoted text is hearsay.

    Based on the contents of Jerry’s post how do you manage to arrive at the conclusion, “Jerry Coyne, the evolutionary biologist who apparently would blame environmentalism for Ted Kaczynski” ?

  4. Alright, Keith: what the hell is “fundamentalist atheism”? Is your ardent defense of the existence of AGW and the safety of GMO’s “fundamentalism”?

  5. Steve Crook says:

    As far as one knows or can see: “the child nodded, apparently content with the promise”.
    Used by speakers or writers to avoid committing themselves to the truth of what they are saying.

    So you can infer what you like from apparent and apparently. That’s the problem I think. ‘Apparently’ is too often used by people who want to shout FIRE and want people to react as if there’s a fire, but don’t want be held accountable if there isn’t a fire.

  6. Keith Kloor says:

    Oh please. I’d like to know how a few murderous fanatics represent Islam any more than Kaczynski represents environmentalism.

  7. kdk33 says:

    People. People are the cause of all these bombings. Every last one. If only we could rid ourselves…

  8. Matthew Prorok says:

    I’m not sure what’s wrong with it. After all, that’s what Tsarnaev actually SAID was behind the bombing. Not a terrorist organization, not a personal grievance, defense of Islam.

  9. Tom Scharf says:

    KK: If you want to pretend that Islamist Jihad is not responsible for motivating a significant portion (>50%?) of terror attacks over the recent decade, go ahead. Bury your head in the sand. If this was a loony right wing extremist, would you be offended that someone pointed this out in print?

    We’ve all been down the “most terrorists are Muslims, but most Muslims are not terrorists” road. We understand that.

    We know for poorly understood reasons that It’s liberal heresy to link terrorism to Islam, but if the terrorists themselves are saying Islam is the motivator, what more could you possibly need before you could say it yourself, out loud? Go ahead, use the “t” word, I dare you, ha ha.

    From what I can see, there have been multiple instances of Muslims outing potential terrorists from their own flock since 9/11, which is exactly what needs to happen. We need their help. Blowback occurs when people make an argument that Islam need do nothing to rid itself of this (very small) extremist element, that there is no problem.

  10. Steve_Reilly says:

    Yeah, I don’t get that either. A “fundamentalist Christian” isn’t just “a Christian I find too strident”. It’s a Christian who believes in the literal truth of the Bible, as opposed to an ordinary Christian who takes some parts nonliterally. So what book does a fundamentalist atheist believe in the literal truth of? Ah, well, I suppose if you’re deabbling in the fallacy of false of equivalence, any silly phrase will do…

  11. Tom Scharf says:

    It’s the numbers Keith. Your straw man doesn’t hold up. Islamic Jihad is ahead in body count over eco-terrorism by at least 10,000x.

    Eco-terrorism rarely actually targets or takes lives. Islamic Jihad specifically targets high innocent civilian body counts for political purposes, and sometimes succeeds. It is the international scope and the number of attacks. It is the support system of radicalism anyone can find from multiple sources. Been monitoring Iraq and Pakistan for the last decade? It’s not news over here when they target their own, but it’s still Islamic terrorism. Ask India. Ask Russia. Ask the UK. Spain.

    The numbers of Muslims who engage in terrorism are an extremely small minority of all Muslims, granted. The percentages of legal gun owners who murder people is also very small.

  12. beanfeast says:

    If the brothers were an example of a small number of barbarities performed in the name of Islam it might be tricky to justify arguing that they represent Islam. Sadly there are many more than a handful of such atrocities carried out in the name of Islam and I predict that it won’t be too long (hours probably) before someone else somewhere in the world is blown up in the name of the Religion of Peace.

    By appearing to be unwilling to acknowledge that there might be some sort of link between Islam and those who perpetrate such actions, you are in danger of redefining a Muslim as someone who believes that ‘there is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of God and I don’t do naughty things in his name.” The overwhelming majority of Muslims would probably be covered by this declaration of faith, but there are some that wouldn’t and to try and argue that they don’t represent one aspect of a manifold faith is rather peculiar.

    Unabomber, however, seems to have been a bit of a lone crackpot and not part of a worldwide up-welling of Bombers for Trees and Whales (that is, if environmentalism was actually a central tenet of his warped philosophy.)

  13. JonFrum says:

    Ted Kaczynski? Talk about an analogy fail!

    All around the world, you’ve got thousands of men telling you they want to kill you IN THE NAME OF ISLAM. They didn’t come up with the idea themselves. They justify themselves by quoting the Koran – and the quotes are not taken out of context. Their prophet, who brought them the literal Word of God, was the leader of an army. He personally killed those who rejected his teachings. Fighting and killing for the faith is not an aberration – it is part of the definition of a believer. If you die defending the faith, you go straight to paradise – guaranteed.

    Kaczynski and environmentalism? Not so much.

    If you want to say that all Muslims don’t behave in such a fashion, have at it. But there is a fundamental difference between a generalization and a sweeping generalization. Calling all Muslims terrorists is bigotry. Recognizing what people are screaming in your ears is good sense. Christianity was once militant – now it is not. But Jesus was not a warrior king, and he did not promise eternal life for killing anyone who offended his honor. Nor did Thoreau or Muir or Rachael Carson.

  14. Skeptico says:

    Coyne didn’t say the bombers “represent Islam,” so your argument is a straw man. He said “Islam now seems to really be behind what happened in Boston.”

    It seems a shame that your normally logical and rational arguments desert you when talking about this subject.

  15. Cillian says:

    ‘fundamentalist atheism.’ Yeah. almost as bad as fundamentalist aunicornism. This article is nonsense.

  16. What_Noodle says:

    Oh, I thought this was going to be an article.

  17. Diagoras Rex says:

    Seems like you’re trying to bashing those that paint religious faiths with a broad brush by painting atheists with a broad brush (e.g. The World According to Intolerant Atheists). Hypocrite.

  18. alqpr says:

    Who are you accusing of ‘weasel words’? Jerry for his use of “apparently” to allow promotion of an unattributed third party hearsay allegation, or Keith for his use of the same word re Coyne’s presumed response to Kaczynski?

  19. alqpr says:

    The headline “Environmentalism Behind Unibomber Rampage” may be misleading but is within the bounds of current journalistic practice (though perhaps like Coyne’s outside those of common decency).

    There is indeed a sense in which both are accurate. Namely that (presumably invalid) arguments based on (possibly invalid) concerns about the environment (or Islam) lay behind the actions of Kaczynski (or the Tsarnaevs).

    Both of course unfairly encourage the alternate more sensational interpretations that Environmentalism (or Islam), as a movement, stands behind the nefarious actions of the deluded. But, hey, that’s how we sell papers (and build blog readership)!

  20. Keith Kloor says:

    You’re playing semantics. If he would have written “Islamic extremism apparently behind Boston bombings,” that would have been more accurate. Instead, he chose to indict a whole religion.

  21. I’m a pretty intolerant atheist. But I had a lot of time to think as I was walking over to put flowers on Sean Collier’s porch. I realized it didn’t matter to his family which belief system caused this. Their son is a victim of a sick outlook.

    And as I stood waiting for Krystle Campell’s funeral to start–I had gone over to help keep her family from being victimized again by the Westboro Christians–a line I had seen earlier that week stuck with me:

    Muslims view “Islamic” terrorists the same way most Christians view the Westboro Baptist church…

    There are plenty of ways to develop a sick outlook, and religious
    fundamentalism is just one of them. But it seems a disproportionate one.
    No atheists screwed up my backyard this past week.

  22. Tom Scharf says:

    Are you reading this headline as “Islam (stands) behind the bombing” as in supports it? That’s not how I read it.

  23. beanfeast says:

    The provenance or rather the less than perfect nature of the provenance was made adequately clear in Jerry’s post. The use of unnamed, OTR or secret sources is not unusual. The reader has to decide for themselves how much trust to place in the organ reporting the comments.

  24. Keith Kloor says:

    I respect this view. I guess I question the wisdom of using the fundamentalist strains in religion to generalize the way Coyne does.

  25. Skeptico says:

    No, I am not playing semantics. I am pointing out that you made up a position Coyne never took and then argued against that made up position, You wrote “I’d like to know how a few murderous fanatics represent Islam.” Coyne never wrote anything that suggested that fanatics “represent” Islam. That was your invention. Classic straw man fallacy.

    This is an example of playing semantics: “If he would have [sic] written “Islamic extremism apparently behind Boston bombings,” that would have been more accurate.” That is, quite literally, playing semantics.

    Making up a straw man position and claiming that pointing this out is “playing semantics”? By those rules no one would ever be able to call out a straw man argument.”

  26. Shi says:

    With all due respect, Keith, this is what I feel like is going on in this post:
    Islamophobia is a poor accusation.

  27. Shi says:

    How do a few (percentage-wise, since in numbers they are not few) fanatics represent Islam? Like this: When the Qur’an says multiple times that “oppression is worse than slaughter.”
    I would argue that the moderate muslims who don’t engage in violence are doing so DESPITE the Qur’an and Muhammad, since those two sources are rife with violence.

  28. Dan Hart says:

    Doesn’t take a genius or even an atheist to link bombings and religion – fundamentalist or otherwise. I’ve never heard of bombings in the name of atheism.

  29. DKeane123 says:

    Additionally, there is no holy environmental book that says you get paradise for killing corporate polluters, their families, and neighbors.

  30. William Post says:

    @KKloor – here we go again. You still have not personally defined what “fundamentalist atheism” is, in your own words. You failed to when challenged last time, instead offering up arguments from authority, and poor ones at that.

    You sure are quick to conflate two things, however – atheism and islamophobia.

    I do not think JAC’s aversion to Islam has much of anything to to with his atheism, I think it has almost everything to do with his cultural heritage.

    “I’m no fan of religion myself, but I’m also no fan of fundamentalist atheism, especially the kind that paints religious faiths with a broad brush.” The title of your article is “The World According To Intolerant Atheists”, not “An Intolerant Atheist” or “Jerry Coyne”. The hypocrisy is rich, please, do continue not being of fan of painting with a broad brush.

  31. Nullius in Verba says:

    “You’re playing semantics. If he would have written “Islamic extremism apparently behind Boston bombings,” that would have been more accurate. Instead, he chose to indict a whole religion.”

    Unfortunately, it’s arguable that the whole religion is indictable. Islam in both scripture and history treats the duty to wage holy war against the unbeliever in much the same way that Christianity does for the duty to give up all your worldly goods and devote your life to the poor. It is a core teaching. The fact that most modern-day adherents do not follow its rulings doesn’t make it any less an aspect of the religion. Pretending this is not the case does not help to solve the problem.

    But stirring up opposition to Muslims generally doesn’t help either. A lot of Muslims want reform, and are waging a battle against the traditionalists. From women’s rights, gay rights, minority religious rights through relations with the West, economic development, trade liberalisation, to terrorism, conflict, slavery, and oppression – reform of traditional Islam is still a work in progress, and essential for lifting a great blight from the lives of millions of people around the world. There is, however, a very large subset of Islam compatible with the modern world, that gives people a much-needed feeling of cultural connection and fiercely moral self-discipline, that it would be good to preserve, and does no harm at all. (At least, no more than any religion.) A lot of modern Muslims want that and work for it, and they deserve our support.

    The problem with everybody pretending that the problem doesn’t exist is that it stops people looking for the problem, reporting possible problems, or taking sensible precautions against the problem for fear of being labelled an ‘Islamophobe’. It takes the pressure off the hardliners, because there’s no blowback from their actions. It makes routine deception psychologically more acceptable and the dangerous sort harder to detect. It raises the burden of proof that has to be met before anyone will act. It makes it harder to raise funds for efforts to help, and it makes it harder for those within the community to ask for it, if it will be perceived as attacking or betraying their own community.

    And ironically, it makes converting people to Islamophobia much easier because the deception is so easy to expose. Islamic writings are copious and very clear on the point. Trying to hide what Islam says for fear of an anti-Muslim backlash actually fuels the hatred and persecution of Muslims even more.

    The situation is complicated. It’s arguable, for instance, that while Jihad is a duty on the Islamic community, that this particular way of waging Jihad is not permissible. There are arguments about the merits and legalities of different proposals and routes to reform. It is a delicate and volatile situation, in which mistakes could lead to a lot of people getting hurt. But I still think honesty is usually the best policy.

  32. Curt Nelson says:

    It is my sense that a fundamentalist atheist is someone who criticizes religion, from the point of view of someone who views all culture and belief as valid or sacred.

  33. E de Mas says:

    Let’s not be childish, or foolish for that matter. The Koran incites violence against non-believers in over 100 passages. Non-violent Muslims are choosing to ignore those passages, just as now Christians ignore the Old Testament.
    As a religion, Islam is violent. That’s not a matter of Islamophobia, it’s a matter of the execution of gays in Iran and Saudi Arabia. It’s a matter of the subjugation of women. It’s a matter of honour killings. It’s a matter of substituting rational thought for mysticism and traditions that have no place in civilized society.

  34. Robert Ford says:

    ah, the classic “that’s not real Islam” argument.

  35. Robert Ford says:

    that’s like saying “that’s not real Nationalism.” when a neo-Nazi murders someone. it’s a stupid argument. no one said it represents the whole and it doesn’t matter if it does or doesn’t. what matters is that things you believe influence your behavior. how about: “GW deniers aren’t true conservatives.” see? they’re in your group whether you like it or not and you have to own that because your ideology influenced their behavior.

    Atheists don’t need to make that excuse because atheism exists only by default. we shouldn’t need to have to call ourselves atheists but we do because people believe in imaginary gods.

  36. Tim Fuller says:

    It was Islam. Now we know. It wasn’t those so called “militant atheists” who as far as I can tell have actually been responsible for ZERO acts of violence, religious or otherwise. Enjoy.

  37. Keith Kloor says:

    Jerry Coyne responds, calling me a “devout accommodationist.” (Clever). See my update.

  38. Nullius in Verba says:

    Perhaps he thinks you’re painting all atheists with the broad brush of fundamentalism?

  39. FosterBoondoggle says:

    Let’s not be childish or foolish. As a religion, Christianity is violent. That’s not a matter of Jesusphobia, it’s a matter of execution of innocent people in Texas and Georgia. It’s a matter of terrorist bombings in Oklahoma City. It’s a matter of substituting creationism for science in the public schools. It’s a matter of a culture of uncontrolled gun ownership, a tradition that has no place in a civilized society.

  40. srm says:

    If at the core of environmentalism lurked an imaginary violent god to whom fealty is demanded then one might well blame it for the likes of Ted Kaczynski. Fundamentalist atheism? Man, you’ve got some thinking to do.

  41. jh says:

    Excuse me, but what’s wrong with it is that there are millions of people involved with “Islam” and most of them reject the bombers, reject the idea that Islam is violent or that the religion itself compels people to do such things, and most of them don’t believe in or participate in such things themselves.

    What’s really behind the bombings is a couple of people with a deranged idea on how to change the world who went looking for and found an excuse to act out their ideas. They could have found that excuse in Christian writings, Jewish writings, and any number of non-religious writers. The fact that they thought they found it in Islam has nothing to do with anything.

    It’s one MF sorry world when so many people can support your silly comment with not a single opinion to the contrary. If this is what you, your “likers” and Coyne think atheism stands for, that I’m damned glad to have nothing to do with the lot of you.

  42. Tona Diaz says:

    Which you totally are. All over the comments sections your readers have systematically demolished all the lame excuses (because frankly, they cannot be called arguments) you have been giving so far.

    You have not however, even begin to address the main point of the WEIT post, which is that the accused has pointed out himself that Islam was a motivating force behind the attacks and that accommodationists would waste not time before start crying Islamophobia at the first attempt to state the now obvious conclusion.

    Accommodationists are not just lame, but completely predictable.

  43. jh says:

    How long do you thing that will last? 🙂

  44. jh says:

    “Islam in both scripture and history treats the duty to wage holy war
    against the unbeliever in much the same way that Christianity does for the duty to give up all your worldly goods and devote your life to the poor”

    Ha ha ha ha! What a bunch of crap. Have you every read the f’in Bible? It’s just as full of violence and smoting as the Koran!

    I’m stunned that a person as intelligent as you can’t come up with a deeper analysis than this trash.

  45. jh says:

    But we can find atheists participating in wonton acts of stupidity on a daily basis.

  46. Robert Ford says:

    i’m glad you and everyone who agrees with you found a way to feel morally superior about it while also being wrong. When Army of God burns an abortion clinic it is motivated by Christianity. Extremist Christianity is PART of Christianity. It’s not magically something else just because you want it to be. No one is saying it represents ALL of Christianity just that it was motivated by Christianity. If religion didn’t exist would the clinic get burned?

    Neither the bombers or Army of God members are mentally ill. Just like Anders Brevik isn’t mentally ill. THEY ARE DRIVEN BY THEIR BELIEFS. Why is that hard to understand? Just because there are different versions of religion doesn’t mean that none of them are a motive for anything.

    There are many different versions of white nationalism. When a neo-Nazi murders a minority would you say: “Oh, he’s deranged. His ideology doesn’t have anything to do with it.”? I’d bet money you’d never bother to get worked up defending an extremist Xtian either.

    Furthermore, why is Islam *currently* more violent? They’re several hundred years behind.

  47. But Kloor doesn’t view “all culture and belief as valid or sacred”! That’s the strange thing about his whines!

  48. Kotrova says:

    There is absolutely no question that the Boston bombers were motivated by Islam. Denying the plain facts is nonsense. Here are four facts about the bomber’s motivation and background. Please explain why it is intolerant to conclude from these facts that the Boston bombers were motivated by Islam:

    1. NYT: “Boston Suspect Cites Islamic Extremist Beliefs as Motive” (

    2. Boston Globe: “Bomb suspect influenced by mysterious radical” (

    3. The bomber’s mainstream mosque in Dagestan:

    The branch of Islam that apparently motivated Tamerlan Tsarnaev is
    mainstream Islam in Makhachkala, Dagestan. According to TIME, the
    Russians were watching Tamerlan because of his involvement at the Salafi
    Kotrova Street Mosque (, مسجد كوتروفا). Using Google translate, here’s a taste of the sort of sermon delivered at this mosque ( in July 2010:

    “God does not accept pure filth, shirk mixed, and the desire to communicate with claim outweigh the infidels on God in judgment, and legislation. Do not fool yourself and do not fool others. … in spite of the victims, which are inevitable in war, those who want to join the ranks of the Mujahideen is increasing every day. The best good guys are sacrificing their lives for God and do not bargain [with] polytheism and Juggernaut authorities. … God will accept nothing but the Quran and Sunnah … Therefore all the talk ho tolerance, such as tolerance with immorality and infidelity, and the multiplicity of the right, Kaljma between Sharia and the laws of the idol, and the rights of human beings, Kadaa one succumb to the laws of superstitious, and democracies, as arbiter of the majority, even if they are an infidel and other terms the many is not only a reference and life according to the law Juggernaut , unacceptable to unify Muslim. So must all the Muslims of the Caucasus, to accelerate the establishment of Sharia, and follow the Muslim ruler, and obedience to the judge in the Islamic Shariah is obligatory.
    Jamaat Shariat”

    Read this mainstream Islamic sermon delivered at a major mosque in
    the Dagestani capital city, and then explain why anyone concerned about
    this widespread problem is “intolerant.”

    4. The bomber’s mainstream mosque in Cambridge MA:

    USA Today: Mosque that Boston suspects attended has radical ties (

    “Several people who attended the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Cambridge, Mass., have been investigated for Islamic terrorism, including a conviction of the mosque’s first president, Abdulrahman Alamoudi, in connection with an assassination plot against a Saudi prince.

    “And its sister mosque in Boston, known as the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, has invited guests who have defended terror suspects. A former trustee appears in a series of videos in which he advocates treating gays as criminals, says husbands should sometimes beat their wives and calls on Allah (God) to kill Zionists and Jews ….”

  49. kch says:

    Before you slap a coat of innocence over them with that broad brush of yours, you might want to check out the ‘militant athesists’ known as marxists, as well as their varied descendants. Hardly a peaceful bunch…

  50. Thanny says:

    Theodore Kaczynski was not motivated by environmentalism. He’s a Neo-Luddite, and targeted modern technology. It is entirely correct and reasonable to say that Neo-Luddism was his motivation for the bombings.

    Likewise, it’s entirely correct and reasonable to say that Islam was the motivation for the Boston bombings.

    Only a fool would conclude from the first statement that all Neo-Luddites want to bomb modern technological targets, or from the second that all Muslims want to bomb innocent civilians. Jerry Coyne drew no such conclusion, as he’s no fool.

    Furthermore, while it’s common to see it claimed that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate and don’t approve of violence in defense of their religion, that’s simply not the case. A 2011 Pew survey shows that about half of all Muslims approve of death for apostasy, and an even higher percentage approve of stoning to death as a punishment for marital infidelity (for the woman, of course). Violence for religious purposes is mainstream in Islam. That’s a fact, not a phobia.

  51. Nullius in Verba says:

    Yes, I’ve read Bible, Koran, Haddith, Sharia, their interpretations and history extensively. And no, while Christianity (or rather early Judaism, which I suspect is what you mean) is not violence-free it is not as violent as Islam. Which is saying something.

  52. Seems to me that what so-called “intolerant atheists” are most intolerant of is violence in the name of religion, and the stifling of free expression in the name of religion with the threat of and use of violence. And what’s wrong with that? Are you tolerant of bombings, Mr. Kloor?

  53. DKeane123 says:


  54. srm says:

    A 2011 Pew survey shows that about half of all Muslims approve of death for apostasy, and an even higher percentage approve of stoning to death as a punishment for marital infidelity (for the woman, of course).

    I would be willing to bet that some percentage of those people would change their mind or at least not participate in these activities when the opportunity arises. This is only because they lack the courage of their convictions. Now people who kill others, they possess the courage in addition to the conviction…and we all pay for this stupidity and deranged, induced psychopathy. Some pay more than others of course as demonstrated by some of the horrible pictures coming out of Boston, as just the most recent example. The writer of the OP is attempting to inoculate an inherently false and broadly violent ideology from criticism, as your post suggests.

  55. mtvessel says:

    It is always interesting to see the uproar that results when anyone dares to be critical of some aspect of the new atheism. The new atheists have ascribed all rationality to themselves. Anyone with a different viewpoint from them does not disagree with them but the the irrefutable insight of reason. it is impossible to reason with them since they simply cannot comprehend that others us reason as well. They simply discount all contrary arguments as the result of ignorance and/or superstition. As evidenced in the comments here is their tactic of playing semantic games that miss the point of the dispute. It gets very tiresome discussing anything with a group that has a sophomoric certainty in their own opinions.

  56. Roger Lambert says:

    “Oh please. I’d like to know how a few murderous fanatics represent Islam any more than Kaczynski represents environmentalism.”

    Please don’t hurt yourself thinking about it! The main thing is those intolerant atheists are intolerant.

  57. Jake West says:

    “This tweet and blog post headline is really something:

    ‘Islam Apparently behind Boston bombing'”

    Yes, Keith, it should be a headline, but not for the reason you think it should be a headline… From the Independent:

    “A US government source told CNN that the 19-year-old, still in a serious condition in Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, claimed that his brother Tamerlan had organised the bombings because he wanted to “defend” Islam.” (

    One of the bombers clearly states that the bombings were, in his mind, in defense of Islam. No, this does not mean all Muslims are terrorists, and no, no one rational believes such drivel. What is it with Islam/religious apologists that each and every time someone criticizes Islam they are immediately labeled an Islamophobe, or in this case, a “a whisker… [from being an] Islamophobe?” Unless, of course, that person happens to be an ex-Muslim himself… For example, Tauriq Moosa, an ex-Muslim, tweeted this about an article he wrote (which is linked in the tweet):


    @DJGrothe @RichardDawkins Because I was once Muslim, I seem to be getting less ad hominems defending @SamHarrisOrg

    6:22 AM – 21 Apr 13″


    And then, Keith, you wrote this:

    “It’s from Jerry Coyne, the evolutionary biologist who apparently would blame environmentalism for Ted Kaczynski.”

    Shall we list the fallacies committed in this one statement?

    (For those unfamiliar with logical fallacies, here’s a good source to learn a bit:

    1) Appeal to ridicule
    2) Ad hominem abusive
    3) Poisoning the well

    And then this statement:

    “I’m no fan of religion myself, but I’m also no fan of fundamentalist atheism, especially the kind that paints religious faiths with a broad brush.”

    What is a “fundamentalist atheist?” The only definition of “fundamentalism” which would work here is this one, from Merriam-Webster (all the other definitions mention religion): “a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles.”

    What “set of basic principles” do “intolerant” and/or “fundamentalist” atheists share?’ For lack of a better word, I consider myself agnostic, but I’m very familiar with the different types of atheists and their arguments, and I opine that the only “basic principle” that could be considered as being “in common” to ‘intolerant’ atheists is their heavy criticism of religion.

    (You can’t, for example, “strictly adhere” to, say, evolution or science. Yes, an overwhelming majority of atheists agree with evolution and the theories of science as well they should, but science is defined as, “The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.” It’s a method for figuring out how things work, not a method for how to behave.)

  58. Jake West says:

    “The new atheists have ascribed all rationality to themselves.”

    As someone who is neither a “new atheist” nor a religious apologist, I can say clearly that both sides of this ‘debate’ have, to a certain extent, claimed “to have ascribed all rationality to themselves.”

    But isn’t that true of just about any debate that has ever taken place?

    Look at American politics. Look at the creationism v. evolution debate. Look at any person who has ever held a strong opinion or belief, ever. Who hard is it to get anyone one is these debates to change their mind? Would you be happier if everyone started their posts with the phrase, “I could be wrong…?”

  59. Roger Lambert says:

    You mean since the Enlightenment, yes? ;D

  60. Roger Lambert says:

    And they generalize! Oh, how they all generalize! And they are unreasonable! And intolerant!!

  61. Nullius in Verba says:

    Christianity != Christians.
    Islam != Muslims.

  62. Tom C says:

    Speaking of boondoggle – why do you blame Oklahoma City on religion when there is not a shred of evidence? Why on earth would you think that capital punishment is uniquely Christian? If anything, aboltion of same is uniquely Christian. What on earth does creationism have to do with anything? Knee-jerk and uninformed comment.

  63. FosterBoondoggle says:

    Tom, I think you missed the recall notice on your sarcasm & irony detectors. They’re broken.

  64. Tom C says:

    Ah – sorry. It’s getting harder to detect parody when so much is over the top.

  65. srm says:

    It is always interesting to see the uproar that results when anyone dares to be critical of some aspect of the new atheism.

    Nice try mtvessel. But you have it completely backwards, naturally. For centuries religion has held a charmed position, largely because those that criticized it would be imprisoned or put to death. Gee, putting people to death seems to impy a rather strong certainty in their own opinions. And this still happens to this day in muslim countries. Funny, but it is difficult to see how not believing in a god could lead to such strident and psychopathic behaviour. But although in the Western world religion no longer has the legal power to kill non-believers, it still retains the sense that it is above criticism. Hence describing atheists by the terms militant, strident, fundamentalist, or (laughably) “just another religion”. Too bad for you that most of the pyres have been extinguished because you are now reduced to impotently lobbing back the criticisms that you well know have applied uniquely to religion for these long dark centuries.

  66. satanaugustine says:

    Capital punishment is certainly not uniquely Christian, but the Bible is pro-capital punishment, just as much as it is pro-slavery. Another thing that is not uniquely Christian is calling for the abolition of the death penalty – that’s either severe ignorance or a flat out lie. Freethinkers have often been at the forefront of progressive social movements, but once the Christians join – after years of kicking and screaming against it – they try to take credit for it and say “Yeah, we were against capital punishment/slavery/(give it enough time)discrimination against gays the whole time.” When Christians take these positions, they are taking the correct, ethical positions, but they are also taking very un-Biblical positions. They are taking humanist, not Christian positions. The Bible, like the Koran, is a moral mess, with the barbarity outweighing any bits of decency.

  67. Tom C says:

    Augustine – The movement to outlaw slavery – world-wide was led by what would today be called evangelical Christians. Any serious history book will testify to that. Capital punishment is not a clearcut case, since Christians have been divided about it going back millenia and still are.
    Try to read the Bible with a little more historical and literary sensitivity. Your analysis is not very sohisticated, to say the least.

  68. satanaugustine says:


    As I said, ethical movements are eventually accepted by Christians, who then proceed to retroactively take credit for the *entirety* of the movement. And of course history is always written by the winners. That’s what makes it into the history books. I’m not suggesting that religious people didn’t play a huge role in opposing slavery and say, women’s suffrage. They did. But atheists played a role too (though of course there were far fewer of us and atheists have always been demonized by the religious so many identified as freethinkers at the time instead), but were often shunned by some movements because people were fighting for equal rights of an already demonized minority. They reasoned that atheists would just make their cause even more difficult than it already was. I mean blacks and women were one thing, but atheists?! This actually continues today. Through atheists/freethinkers are more pro-egalitarian than probably any other minority in the US (not that we don’t have horrible sexist/racist/ageist/ableist people who are atheists; it’s just that the views of such people are heavily criticized by most of the atheist movement to ), many gay organizations want nothing to do with atheists because they’re already discriminated against enough, they don’t want the world’s most US citizens hatred & distrust of atheists (if you disbelieve this I can link to polls proving this) to make their cause more difficult – the same as the suffragists and the anti-slavery movements. Thus atheists support and actions are still, all these years later, thrown into the background lest we cast a negative shadow on an already unpopular movement. As a result, we don’t make it into the history books (at least not where we’re cast in any positive light) and that is disgusting!

    I’m very seriously interested by what you mean by reading “the Bible with a little more historical and literary sensitivity.” Could you explain? As you no doubt know, there are multiple different takes on the Bible by Christians – from pure literalism to pure mythicism (yes, there are Christians who believe that everything in the Bible, including the death and resurrection of Jesus, is metaphorical). I don’t know how you view the Bible so I don’t know how to interpret what you mean by “historical and literary sensitivity.”

  69. Frank Bushnell says:

    So Tim, you’re telling us that atheists don’t start fights or bully people or commit murders or robberies or rapes or start wars (&c &c &c) ?

    Or just not the militant ones ? Or just “not as far as you can tell” ?

    Wakey wakey.

  70. Tom C says:

    Augustine – thanks for engaging in good faith. The Bible is not a “book”. It is a collection of literature that tells a multi-faceted story. Some of the literature is mythological, some is propaganda, some is pretty accurate history, some is parable (like the book of Job), some is religious instruction.
    The church Fathers who assembled this collection of literature were well aware of the abuse that could occur should someone seize one part or another and force an interpretation at odds with the meaning of the whole story. That’s why it was always felt that it should not be read without the help of those schooled in the texts. There was serious debate, for example as to the wisdom of including the book of Revelation, since its imagery could be the source of mis-understanding and abuse.
    So, while some unschooled person might seize on something from the Old Testament and twist it to improper ends, it does not excuse you, as an unbeliever, to claim “the Bible promotes violence” etc. Any text can be abused or mis-interpreted.
    I guess the question is, in this case, why is the Koran so heavily implicated in extreme violence while other religious texts, including the Bible, are not. I don’t think Keith has seriously engaged this question.

  71. laursaurus says:

    Timothy McVeigh was an atheist who stated “science” was his religion.
    Stalin and Mao slaughtered exponentially more people than the Crusades and the Inquisition put together.
    I ready for your goal post moving rebuttal claiming their Atheism had no influence on their mindsets. They were evil for some other reason. Since one of the first orders of business was eradicating religion on their journey to Utopia. The leaders weren’t troubled by the gravely immoral ways they used as a means to an ends. When there is no God, dictators are happy to step into his shoes. The 20th century was one of the bloodiest in all of history, because of brutal political leaders who came to be their nation’s self-appointed God, whom all must obey if they wanted to be able to stay alive.

  72. laursaurus says:

    Timothy McVeigh described himself as an agnostic and that science was his religion. Can we please blame the Oklahoma City bombing on the actual religious beliefs of claimed by the perpetrator.
    Guess what! There were plenty of people who concluded that by rejecting Christian moral values, McVeigh had gone to the dark side of humane nature. Jesus famously summed up the Ten Commandments and I’m paraphrasing here since I’m no Bible-thumper. First, love God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Second, love your neighbor as you do yourself. “What you do to the least of my people, you do onto me”.
    Your comment serves as a terrific example of the world according to intolerant (and ignorant to boot)atheists. Non-believers who regard the deaths of innocent children as collateral damage in their war against the evil shadow government have no place in civilized society. Good thing he was executed!

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