Reading along #11 | The critic of Islam and misuses of the Ecstasy metaphore

FSM3dSam Harris is an atheist and a proponent of rationality, even advocating for a mild form of intolerance towards certain (religious) ideologies and ad hominem attacks during debates, through which not only the argument, but also its author is put on the spot for adhering to irrational ideas (so, I hope he doesn’t mind when other people do the same to him!). However, it seems that for him, intellectual and scientific rigor doesn’t need to be applied to reflexions on religion, and most notably, on Islam, or at least, that his how his blog post entitled Islam and the Misuses of Ecstasy makes me feel.

Indeed, he goes on about Islam by confusing several levels of reality concerning this religion, following the now age-old argument: I’m not totally against this or that ideology, belief or set of values, I even acknowledge that it might have many very positive aspects. But let’s face it: some of its other sides are so dark and dangerous that they completely outweigh anything constructive and right that it can bring along, so we need to fight it as whole and without any nuances! Especially since it can make hundred of millions of victims and alienated victims at that, as in the case of Islam, which concerns no less than a billion people who are supposedly all spell-bound in this dangerous fantasy.

Thus, Mr. Harris completely misses out the fact that there is often a complete and deep gap between the intention of those who produce a message and how it is interpreted by those who receive it. This means that people don’t just gobble down whatever is served them, not even when it is done using extraordinary eloquence and charisma. And it is even more so when part of the message is old and has undergone many changes and interpretations as is the case for the Koran. On top of it, he also completely skips over the fact that the concept of “Muslim” itself can mean many different things depending on who you’re talking to. Not all Muslims are believers in God or even respecting religious rituals. Actually, a surprising number of them are secularized practitioners of religious-related traditions in the same way many Christians are, that is they are “culturally”, not “religiously”, Muslims. In the same way that many European or American people celebrate Christmas or Easter as a special social event devoid of any spiritual meaning, they will celebrate Muslim festivities just for the sake of gathering and partying with friends and family. Continue reading