I write this as an Atheist and Anti-Theist.
I recently saw your appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher (a haven for asinine rhetoric and bad comedy) and I wasn't at all surprised by what unfolded between you and Ben Affleck. You continued your not very shocking (and certainly not new) anti-Muslim rhetoric and I found it to be as bigoted and ignorant as usual. Bill Maher agreed with you entirely as far as I could tell (another non-surprise) and tension quickly rose between you and the all male, non-Muslim panel.
As someone who is somewhat familiar with your work, I generally find your writing to be distasteful and you to be intellectually dishonest (something you accuse your critics of being). I often refer to you as "a dumb person's intellectual hero" and your recent appearance on Bill Maher's show only justifies my reasons.
My primary concern here isn't with you, however. I am often deeply concerned, yet not shocked, by my fellow Atheists. I find it deeply disturbing how bigoted they reveal themselves to be whenever you or your work comes up. Since Atheists don't have a Church (it would be stupid if we did), many of us go to the internet to find each other. The amount of hatred and type of bigotry they spew could only come from a nation that is rooted in forms of deep historical oppression and institutions of white supremacy, something you don't experience as a rich, cis-gender, white male. (See? I can be condescending too.)
But if you're so concerned with oppression, let's return to some things that you have written in the past. In The End of Faith you use your intellectual prowess to justify torture, military occupation, and Fascist dictatorships.
You write, "Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live.”
So, you believe in murdering people for just thinking things?
“Given the vicissitudes of Muslim history, however, I suspect that the starting point I have chosen for this book—that of a single suicide bomber following the consequences of his religious beliefs—is bound to exasperate many readers, since it ignores the painful history of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It ignores the collusion of the Western powers with corrupt dictatorships. It ignores the endemic poverty and lack of economic opportunity that now plague the Arab world. But I will argue that we can ignore all of these things—or treat them only to put them safely on the shelf—because the world is filled with poor, uneducated, and exploited people who do not commit acts of terrorism, indeed who would never commit acts of the sort which has become commonplace among Muslims; and the Muslim world has no shortage of educated and prosperous men and women, suffering little more than their infatuation with Koranic eschatology, who are eager to murder infidels for God’s sake.”
Are you that ignorant of history? Are you familiar with the history of colonialism? In Latin-America? Asia? Europe, even?
“There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense. That is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.”
You do know that Afghanistan was a secular state prior to U.S intervention in the region, right? It was a secular democracy that elected a Communist party without aide from the Soviet Union and it was only when the U.S. started funding radical Jihadists that it turned into a fundamentalist Islamic country. You...you know that, right?
It seems that your solution to anyone or group who will not comply with the grand imperial project must surely face death. By the United States, of course. If this isn't bigotry, I would like you to tell me what exactly you consider to be bigotry. Saying things like, "Not all Muslims are bad, but Islam is a violent religion" doesn't make sense and it's intellectually dishonest and kind of dumb. But I'm sure your fans cling to such rhetoric in order to justify their own bigotry and racism against Arabs and Muslims, terms which are often interchangeable to racists.
Quick question: have you ever been to the Middle East? Have you travelled throughout the "Muslim world"? Last time I checked you hadn't, but that was a little while ago now. The answer to the question could have changed. I don't know. If not, do you only rely on polls which ask vague questions that can be interpreted in various different ways? What makes you put all "Muslim countries" together? They vary by definition. They have their own unique histories, cultures, interpretations, governments, economies, etc. Making blanket statements like, "The Muslim world" seems oversimplified and....well, racist.
I would also like to know what your thoughts were on the Arab Spring. You seemed rather quiet during this period and my suspicion was that your bigoted narrative against the "Muslim world" didn't hold up. When people, Arabic people (many of them Muslims), were in the streets chanting, organizing, and fighting for democracy (sometimes to the death), I found your analysis of seeing these people as primitive and needing to be controlled by dictators to be obsolete and completely false. I thought for a moment you might have reconsidered your position.
Did things go awry from that movement? No doubt. But seeing organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood call for open elections did a number on your assumption that the "Musilm world" needs to be controlled and can't handle democratic institutions, something you imply in your book.
But, as we all know, the U.S. empire wouldn't allow democracy in an area so rich with natural resources. But that's another long political discussion.
I also read your response to the Real Time appearance on your blog and was, again, unimpressed. You talked about how dangerous it would be had you burned the Koran on television that night. You even said that embassies would "fall" had you done such a thing. I guess my question is why would you want to burn a book? That's what Fascists do. I have no problem with discussing some of the dangers in religion, but I think it's even more dangerous when you or Bill Maher say that only one religion works "like the Mafia." When Bill Maher went on his little rant, he very well could have been talking about the U.S. government, an entity that has murdered and oppressed far more people than Islam ever has, as you would put it. If we're talking about governments and institutions that oppress, I would ask you to look at the behavior of your own government before you criticize a region that you have zero influence over. Should we be discussing bad ideas? Sure. Let's start with U.S. imperialism. You know, something you might have some kind of influence over.
You need to sell books. I get it. You have a core audience that expects this kind of rhetoric from you and they buy your bullshit. But Islam is not an all unifying religion or ideology. It is the most diverse religion in the history of the world. Defining Muslims as either dangerous, potentially dangerous, or people who don't take their religion seriously is a gross oversimplification. This kind of analysis proves that you are an intellectual parasite.
I'm not an expert on the subject. But, then again, you clearly aren't either. You just go on television and pretend to be. I remembered your praise for Buddhism, but then forgot to mention how Buddhists are slaughtering minority Muslims in Mynamar. Are you familiar with sectarian violence between England and Ireland? You know, that conflict that has lasted for over 800 years? Do you impose the same intellectual prowess on the Irish? I could be wrong about this, but I haven't heard you comment on the radical, racist, right-wing Zionist movement that calls for the death of Arabs and leftists and supports Apartheid. Have you written about that?
I can't read your mind (nor would I want to read something so uninteresting), but I'm sure you entirely believe what you're saying. And I certainly agree with you on one point: there is no talking to some people.
That means you.