Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Criticizing Islam

One very frequently asked question asked of us on The Atheist Experience goes something like this: "Every time I watch you guys, you always seem to be bad-mouthing Christianity. There's lots of other bad religions out there. Why don't you criticize Islam more?" This question was asked again on last week's show, and then repeated in email, sparking a small internal debate on whether we should in fact be focusing more on Islam.

I contributed this to the discussion:

Please tell me, when was the last time that anyone called and tried to defend Islam as a true and correct worldview? When, in the entire history of our show, have we EVER been asked to defend atheism from Islam?

I imagine it has happened once or twice, though I can't personally remember a single time in the show's entire history. That's a history that goes back a good 10 years or so.

We don't spend time on Islam because nobody freakin' believes Islam. There are people in the world who do believe Islam, but those people mostly aren't watching our show. If they did, and they called or wrote to us, we'd take them on. Just like we take on every silly idea that
comes our way.

But the fact remains that it is a complete waste of time to go out of our way debunking something that everybody already knows isn't true. It would be amusing, but it wouldn't be any more relevant than spending an entire show debunking Santa Claus. It would be like spending an entire show explaining why putting your cat in the microwave is a bad idea. To all but a very, very tiny percentage of our audience, it would just be reaffirming something that's totally obvious to them.

Disclaimer: Not putting Islam on the same moral footing as a cat in a microwave, one way or the other.

I want to add that this is very different from me saying that Islam is not a serious threat to our culture. Sam Harris has pointed out many times that liberals have a tendency to overemphasize religious tolerance, and underplay the role of religion in inspiring people to do some really crazy stuff.

But our show is outreach. It's aimed at communicating with a culture that is largely dominated by Christianity. It is about dealing with things that we face on a daily basis here in the United States. Of course there's a lot of focus on Christianity; Christianity is what our culture wants to talk about.

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