Best-selling atheist author Sam Harris pushes back against Karen Armstrong's sympathetic take on religion.
"In her article ("Think Again: God," November 2009), Karen Armstrong discovers that Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and I have mistaken "fundamentalism" for the totality of religion. (Sorry about that.) But do Richard and Christopher really hold religion responsible for "all human cruelty"? That is a surprise. I hadn't realized that they were idiots.
In any case, I am hopeful that Armstrong's winsome depiction of Islam will shame and enlighten them, as it has me. They will discover that Hassan al-Banna and Tariq Ramadan are paragons of meliorism and wisdom, while we are ignorant bigots who know nothing of theology (of course), politics (Christopher, are you listening?), human nature (what's to know?), or the proper limits of science (um ... narrower?)
I can't quite remember how we got it into our heads that jihad was linked to violence. (Might it have had something to do with the actual history and teachings of Islam?) And how could we have been so foolish as to connect the apparently inexhaustible supply of martyrs in the Muslim world to the Islamic doctrine of martyrdom? In my own defense, let me say that I do get spooked whenever Western Muslims advocate the murder of apostates (as 36 percent of Muslim young adults do in Britain). But I now know that these freedom-loving people just "want to see God reflected more clearly in public life.
I will call my friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali at once and encourage her to come out of hiding: Come on out, dear. Karen says the coast is clear. As it turns out, those people who have been calling for your murder don't understand Islam any better than we do."