Bill Maher Show: Sam Harris vs Ben Affleck Debate- I’m with Sam on this one

Ideas should never be above criticism, particularly religious ones. Though I have great respect for Ben Affleck’s acting and humanitarian work, I have to go with Sam Harris on this debate. Islam not only leaves room for violence and oppression, its texts call for it. I am grateful that a great deal of the adherents to Islam, being around 1 billion in the world, have found a more nuanced way to view and practice their faith. Yet, many Muslims take the fundamental dictates of Islam regarding violence very seriously.

Affleck was impassioned in his challenge to Harris. Yet, his indignation, straw men, and non sequiturs added nothing to his argument.

There are several key points to consider about this issue:

1. Islam is not a “race,” rather, a religious ideology. Ideas are not above reproach or criticism. People deserve protection, rights, and respect. Ideas are made to be tested, discussed, debated, and even ridiculed. To quote Steven Brutus, “Anything that can’t be mocked is dangerous.” No idea, philosophy, or ideology should ever be off-limits from being battered like a pinata to see what ends up falling out, for better or for worse.

2. Islamic religious texts not only allow for violence against non-believers, but actually prescribe it. The portion of Muslims who put those admonitions into actual practice (or just agree with them) are not employing strained or fringe interpretations of those religious texts, but literal ones. For a list of such references, click the link: http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/quran/cruelty/long.html

Not to single out Islam for possessing religious texts with a call to kill unbelievers, as there are plenty of similar verses in the Hebrew Bible & other religious texts. I am no fan of those either. But, it is Islam that is the matter of debate in the video above.

3. Any fundamental and violent faith text or system is an enemy of human progress. ANY text, religious or otherwise, that says, “Kill a person who does not agree with this,” is an abomination to humanity. Any or all texts deserve public condemnation. We should all support religious freedom and also the freedom NOT to be religious. But, that doesn’t include the right to harm, imprison, or kill others for not agreeing with you.

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US and Allies Now Bombing ISIL in Syria

Map of Syria-

Map of Syria-

Based on reports, the U.S. and certain allies have launched a bombing campaign against ISIL targets in Syria. Based on the reports of unnamed officials, all actively participating nations involved, other than the United States, are Arab nations. Though it has not been officially confirmed, those reports assert that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain have participated in the air strikes. Official confirmation or denial of those reports will apparently be forthcoming. The bombings are said to have been primarily centered on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria thus far.

The first wave of strikes began at approximately 00:30 GWT and lasted around 90 minutes. More strikes are expected to follow.  Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that The U.S. and “partner nation forces” began air strikes on ISIS targets utilizing a combination of bombers, fighter planes, and Tomahawk missiles.

The Pentagon spokesman also said, “The decision to conduct theses strikes was made earlier today by the US Central Command Commander under authorization granted him by the Commander in Chief. We will provide more details later as operationally appropriate.”

For more information on the situation, please visit the links below:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/09/us-begins-bombing-isil-positions-syria-201492313622252650.html

http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/22/world/meast/u-s-airstrikes-isis-syria/

Muslims and Atheists the Most Coldly Viewed Groups in America Says New Pew Data

pew data

According to recent Pew research data, Muslims and Atheists are the least favored religious groups in America. Per the Pew data, Muslims and Atheists rated only a 40/41 on the cold side of the Pew “Warm-Cold” scale. Jews, Catholics, and Evangelical Christians rated on the warm side at a 63, 62, and 61. The middle ground of the scale was made up of Buddhists, Hindus, and Mormons ranking 53, 50, and 48.

One can argue that Atheists, such as myself, do not comprise a “religious group” as atheism is not a religion. But, religious polls only have so much room to make such distinctions.

Please click the link to view the complete Pew article online:

http://www.pewforum.org/2014/07/16/how-americans-feel-about-religious-groups/

Being that approximately 78% of Americans claim a Christian affiliation of some stripe according to 2008 Pew data, it is not so surprising that Muslims and Atheists are among the least regarded groups in the USA. It can be discouraging to know that the majority of Americans automatically have a generally negative feeling toward you if you fall into one of the two coldly viewed groups.

My advice is, take people one at a time as much as possible. Get to know someone a bit before you automatically dislike them. Perhaps even assume that you will like a person until they give you a reason not to. There is too much division in our Nation as it is. Many of us, even who are in different religious or ideological groups, can still find common ground and a point of solidarity between us. Hopefully, all groups can take a “warmer” view toward others of different groups and judge one another based on our individual character rather than our theological distinction.

Please take a moment to answer this poll below to share your own opinion. Thanks!