Should Political Moderates Be Blamed for Political Extremism?

I see that Jerry Coyne has criticized Katherine Cross’s call for violence.  Good for him.

I wonder if Coyne now recognizes the errors in Sam Harris’s arguments against religious moderates.  According to Harris, religious moderates are just as bad as religious extremists, because the moderates create an atmosphere of respectability for religion that the extremists then exploit.

It would seem the same logic would apply to political moderates.  After all, the arguments of Coyne vs. Cross are the arguments of the Left vs. the Far Left (or, as Coyne calls them, the Regressive Left).

If we are to use Sam Harris’s logic, it would seem to me that the Left has created an atmosphere of respectability for various ideas (like political correctness) that the Far Left exploits to justify their violent rhetoric and actions.  If religious moderates are partly to blame for the actions of religious extremists, political moderates (like Coyne and Harris) are partly to blame for the actions of political extremists.

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42 Responses to Should Political Moderates Be Blamed for Political Extremism?

  1. Allallt says:

    To be clear about Harris’ point: moderates who demand unbridled respect for religion, so that it cannot be criticised, are partly responsible for harbouring the views and actions of the extremists. It is moderates who refuse honest criticism of bad elements of religion, wherever they lay, that are the problem; not all religious moderates.
    And to that, yes, ‘moderate liberals’ who do not speak out against things like the UC Berkley riots and who do not condemn the ‘regressive left’ for their abandonment of free speech and intellectual honesty, and the absurdity of ‘safe spaces’ at universities are part of the problem.

  2. TFBW says:

    “Moderates who demand unbridled respect for religion, so that it cannot be criticised,” are basically a myth invented for the convenience of Harris and his ideological ilk. Which ideological camps demand safe spaces where criticism of various ideas are literally prohibited?

  3. pennywit says:

    If we are to use Sam Harris’s logic, it would seem to me that the Left has created an atmosphere of respectability for various ideas (like political correctness) that the Far Left exploits to justify their violent rhetoric and actions. If religious moderates are partly to blame for the actions of religious extremists, political moderates (like Coyne and Harris) are partly to blame for the actions of political extremists.

    I very much agree with this sentiment, although I think that Burke expressed it far more eloquently:

    The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

    Not to mention Martin Niemöller’s famous words:

    First they came for the Communists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Communist
    Then they came for the Socialists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Socialist
    Then they came for the trade unionists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a trade unionist
    Then they came for the Jews
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Jew
    Then they came for me
    And there was no one left
    To speak out for me

    World history is replete with evils, great and small, perpetrated because a majority of folks — the “moderates,” of whatever stripe — were unwilling to corral the extremists in their midst.

  4. Allallt says:

    If the subset doesn’t exist — if no one has ever said ‘why can’t you just let me believe what I want to believe?’ or ‘why do you bother taking the time to criticise a religion?’ — then no one has anything to worry about from that particular admonishment from Harris.

  5. TFBW says:

    @Allallt: so you lump “why can’t you just let me believe what I want to believe?” in the same category as “safe spaces?”

  6. Allallt says:

    @TFBW In terms of offering protection to the extreme versions, yes. Why don’t you?

  7. TFBW says:

    Because I don’t lump the act of ignoring what you don’t want to hear in the same category as the act of gagging people into not saying what you don’t want to hear. And I don’t see why I should in terms of “offering protection to the extreme version” of anything.

  8. FZM says:

    To be clear about Harris’ point: moderates who demand unbridled respect for religion, so that it cannot be criticised, are partly responsible for harbouring the views and actions of the extremists.

    This is just from my personal experience but it’s the first time I’ve encountered this qualification. The way I’ve seen this argument presented in the past has been more along the lines of entertaining the views (and persons) of Anglican vicars leads to the Taliban. I remember that because it was the specific example someone used, and as far as I could tell it wasn’t meant ironically.

    If the subset doesn’t exist — if no one has ever said ‘why can’t you just let me believe what I want to believe?’ or ‘why do you bother taking the time to criticise a religion?’ — then no one has anything to worry about from that particular admonishment from Harris.

    If anyone ever saying ‘why can’t you just let me believe what I want to believe’ or ‘why do you bother taking the time to criticise a religion’ must mean demanding ‘unbridled respect’ for religious belief, it looks like Harris would have a problem with all religious believers who ever disagree with or fail to accept any kind of secularist criticism or contradiction of their beliefs.

  9. Allallt says:

    @FZM: Out of curiosity, did you hear that version of the argument from Harris, or someone else? Stifling a conversation with nonrational reasons, like refusing to hear criticism, is the symptom of the moderates Harris is concerned about in this particular commentary.

    I admit to recounting this from memory, so I may be missing some nuance.

  10. Michael says:

    To be clear about Harris’ point: moderates who demand unbridled respect for religion, so that it cannot be criticised,

    It would help if Harris actually cited examples of such people.

    are partly responsible for harbouring the views and actions of the extremists. It is moderates who refuse honest criticism of bad elements of religion, wherever they lay, that are the problem; not all religious moderates.

    I don’t think Harris is merely arguing about some religious moderates who refuse to criticize extremists. I don’t recall him making such qualifications. He preaches against “The Virus of Religious Moderation.” His thinking is actually somewhat confused on this issue, as I think he often conflates “religious moderate” with “New Ager,” (for example, he speaks of religious moderates as making no distinctions between religions, which is quite untrue).

    Anyway, as I read him, his problem with religious moderation is that it creates an atmosphere of respectability for religion which is then exploited by the extremists. Much like Coyne and Harris’s political moderation creates an atmosphere of respectability for their political views, which are then exploited by political extremists.

  11. Vy says:

    To be clear about Harris’ point: moderates who demand unbridled respect for religion, so that it cannot be criticised,

    That would be Canada’s Justin Islam_needs_a_safespace Trudeau and their Islamized BLM.

    Not exactly “moderates”, or “religion”.

  12. Crude says:

    It’s funny to see the Cult of Gnu leadership on the receiving end of hate and bile, from atheist SJWs.

    When are they going to finally admit that religion was never the problem, and indeed it was helping restrain the real problem, when it comes to rationality.

  13. Allallt says:

    Well, here’s a link to the article you’re citing: https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-virus-of-religious-moderation
    And here’s a quote: “Moderates do not want to kill anyone in the name of God, but they want us to keep using the word “God” as though we knew what we were talking about. And they don’t want anything too critical to be said about people who really believe in the God of their forefathers because tolerance, above all else, is sacred.”

    In that, his problem is with people who don’t want to hear criticism of religious faith. It’s not people who won’t criticise religion themselves, but people who believe it is virtuous to stop others criticising them as well.

    By contrast, Harris does criticise the far-left and liberals. And he doesn’t say anything to stop others from criticising them.

    It’s not that the analogy doesn’t work. It’s that there is no analogy here.

    Making criticism a taboo is a problem, even if one is of the moderate ilk. There are religious moderates who do that. They are a problem in that this fosters extremism.
    There are even liberal moderates who do that. They are also the problem, in that they also foster extremist.

    Harris belongs to neither group*. (I know little to nothing about Coyne.)

    * Here is a post from his blog called ‘Racism and violence in America’ (https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/racism-and-violence-in-america) and here is a relevant quote: I’m very worried about this as well. I worry that Black Lives Matter, if it got all the attention that it wants, could set race relations back in this country a generation. Obviously I’m not aware of everything that is said under the banner of Black Lives Matter, and it could be that some highly rational and impeccable people are advocating in the stream of this movement. But I’ve seen it filtered through the left-wing media that is largely, if not entirely, sympathetic to the movement. And most of what I have heard—in particular about these videos and the cases about which we don’t have videos but which have been well described, like the Michael Brown shooting—has struck me as dangerously and offensively irrational.

  14. Michael says:

    And here’s a quote: “Moderates do not want to kill anyone in the name of God, but they want us to keep using the word “God” as though we knew what we were talking about.

    Notice no complaints about people being unwilling to criticize. That’s not the problem here. I interpret this is an example that supports my perception. Harris is basically saying that moderates are keeping a nonsense term alive – creating an atmosphere of respectability for religion.

    And they don’t want anything too critical to be said about people who really believe in the God of their forefathers because tolerance, above all else, is sacred.”

    In that, his problem is with people who don’t want to hear criticism of religious faith. It’s not people who won’t criticise religion themselves, but people who believe it is virtuous to stop others criticising them as well.

    Just who is Harris even talking about? I can’t think of any Christian moderate who would say, “Don’t you dare criticize the Westboro Baptist Church!” It would help if Harris actually listed names of moderates who hold the position he claims to exist.

    It’s not that the analogy doesn’t work. It’s that there is no analogy here.

    It depends on what version of the Sam Harris argument we are talking about. If it’s the moderates should criticize extremists argument, that’s hardly a new or terribly controversial point. If it’s the moderates are the problem because they lend credibility to a position that others will take to an extreme, the analogy holds.

    The problem is that Harris never really defines moderates and provides examples (that I can find, at least).

  15. TFBW says:

    Allallt, I don’t agree with your interpretation of your Sam Harris quote. I won’t assert that you’re wrong, as such, but I will say that I agree with Michael regarding the lack of examples. Without concrete examples, his essay suffers from both ambiguity and the lingering impression that he’s criticising a straw man. This latter problem is particularly evident when he characterises his religious targets as holding that “tolerance, above all else, is sacred.” This seems incongruous to me. Religions are always being accused of intolerance — usually by “the Left”, for whom tolerance* is sacred. Now, there is an intersection between “the Left” and “religion”, or even “Christianity” specifically, but this would be a very particular subset of all concerned, and Harris is speaking broadly.

    * Tolerance of their sacred cows, that is.

  16. Kevin says:

    The notion of it somehow being taboo to criticize religion was one of the main talking points of New Atheist for several years after Harris first spouted it. It’s nonsense, of course – society has been mocking Christians for decades as par for the course. There is one devout Christian in The Big Bang Theory tv series – Sheldon’s mother – and she is characterized as a complete idiot completely due to her being a Christian.

    Ned Flanders in The Simpsons is mocked relentlessly. South Park isn’t nice to Christianity (or any religion) at all. If Christianity is features in a mainstream Hollywood movie, it’s likely in a negative fashion. Everyone from your street protester all the way to the former president has bashed Christianity with no repercussions. Rock music has trashed it for decades.

    So the question is, in what way is it taboo to criticize religion? Who are these mysterious people holding the reins of power preventing it from happening, despite it having happened for decades and longer?

    I think we can glean some clues from Harris’ own writings as to what he means. For example:

    “I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance-born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God-is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.”

    Looks like what he really means is that so long as religious freedom exists as a perceived virtue, anti-religious bigots like himself won’t be able to go to the extent that Peter Boghossian dreams of when he says:

    “One can sit at the Adult Table if one has evidence for a position…Those at the Kid’s Table can talk about anything they’d like, but they have no adult responsibilities and no voice in public policy.”

    We all know the futility of playing the evidence game with anti-religious bigots who don’t know what evidence is, so in the utopia Harris and Boghossian and other New Atheists envision, if you are a Christian, you are not allowed to be part of public policy.

    It goes on:

    “We must reconceptualize faith as a virus of the mind : and treat faith like other epidemiological crises: contain and eradicate.”

    “Once religious delusions are integrated into the DSM, entirely new categories of research and treatment into the problem of faith can be created. These will include removal of existing ethical barriers, changing treatments covered by insurance, including faith-based special education programs in the schools, helping children who have been indoctrinated into a faith tradition, and legitimizing interventions designed to rid subjects of the faith affliction.”

    “In the long term, once these treatments and this body of research is refined, results could then be used to inform public health policies designed to contain and ultimately eradicate faith.”

    Since it is already socially acceptable to bash religion (Christianity anyway), it seems clear that the only thing they have left to lament is that they don’t have the legal authority to do away with the freedom of religion, prevent parents from teaching their kids about God, and indoctrinate everyone into state-sponsored atheism through the use of forced “medical intervention” designed to eradicate belief in a god.

    Those poor, powerless bigots.

  17. Allallt says:

    Like I said, if Harris is simply talking in the abstract but describing no one, then no one need worry. Now we’re asking the empirical question of whether some religious moderates make a taboo of criticising religion in general (and thus extremism specifically).

    If he is simply arguing moderation lends credibility to extremism, then he’s stupid; that is a stupid position. That’s not the position he is describing though. And your insistence in painting it that way without providing quotes, and now misrepresenting individual sentences, is dishonest.

    I urge the readers to go to the source material, linked above.

  18. Allallt says:

    Why don’t you explain to me the difference between making a taboo of people saying what you don’t want to hear (as is the charge against religious moderates), and creating a space where it is a taboo for people to say what you don’t want to hear (as is the charge against the regressive left)?

  19. Allallt says:

    I’m not sure what you’re point is.

    Yes, there are extremists on the left. Like all political labels, there is more than 1 flavour of ‘the left’. The commentator in your video refers to them as the ‘Identity Politics Left’, which is a descriptive title. There are moderates within the IPL who refuse to accept criticism of BLM is valid. They do this indirectly, sometimes by divorcing BLM from everything they do; the ‘BLM isn’t about censorship and violence’ rebuff. They are the problematic moderates of IPL.

    I am a moderate leftie. People who are willing to commit violence to get what I value are wrong. By virtue of that sentence, I am not a part of the problematic moderates.

    People who want to divorce Islam from Jihad, or talk about violence against homosexuals in terms of ‘an abomination’ may well be moderates themselves, but are offering cover to extremism. They are part of the problematic moderates.

    By no stretch of the imagination is Harris in that sort of group.

    Here’s the irony. Michael, the OP, has elements of a good idea in his post: moderates should speak out against extremism in their name or for their goals. Coyne did, and Michael praised him for it. But instead of making that the core of his argument, Michael just had to find a way of making, what he calls, ‘a gnu atheist’ look bad. He simply couldn’t make the point without slipping into his own bias.

  20. Allallt says:

    I accept his essay fails to give any examples, and that is a problem. However, one need only to look at the idea Harris is currently talking about — the percentage of Muslims who agree with the end-goals of Jihadists: the spread of Sharia Law and political Islam — to see that the moderates do provide cover for extremism.

    One of the responsibilities of the moderate should be to denigrate extreme end-goals or extreme methods. It’s a defining trait of the moderate to not hold to the extreme views! I’m a moderate political leftie, and I denigrate extreme end goals and methods if I ever talk about the issue. So I don’t see it as being condescending to expect that from people.

    Even Michael, OP, is guilty of this: so focused is he on his slightest perception of a transgression from the so-called gnu atheists, that I don’t think I’ve seen him ever bother Christian violence. So, he strongly castigates the gnus for literally anything, but as far as I remember or searching this blog, Michael has no voice on the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting or Robert Doggard’s planned violence.

  21. Michael says:

    Like I said, if Harris is simply talking in the abstract but describing no one, then no one need worry.

    Because no one would need take Harris seriously; he was arguing with ghosts in his head.

    Now we’re asking the empirical question of whether some religious moderates make a taboo of criticising religion in general (and thus extremism specifically).

    Which is effectively impossible to do unless you or Harris are willing the name and source examples. Emprical questions should be answered with empirical evidence.

    If he is simply arguing moderation lends credibility to extremism, then he’s stupid; that is a stupid position.

    Would not be the first time. For example, his opposition of Francis Collins to head the NIH was a stupid position.

    That’s not the position he is describing though.

    IMO, it depends on which version of the Sam Harris argument you are talking about.

    And your insistence in painting it that way without providing quotes, and now misrepresenting individual sentences, is dishonest.

    I’m not insisting or misrepresenting. I’m merely pointing out that’s how it looks to me and used one of your quotes as an example.

    I urge the readers to go to the source material, linked above.

    Better yet, I’ll make some blog postings about them when I get the time. I would encourage readers who go to the sources to look for where Harris provides real-world examples of what he is talking about.

  22. TFBW says:

    Why don’t you explain to me the difference between making a taboo of people saying what you don’t want to hear (as is the charge against religious moderates), and creating a space where it is a taboo for people to say what you don’t want to hear (as is the charge against the regressive left)?

    Why don’t you give us an example of what you’re talking about, since Harris has failed to do so? There are a bunch of religious moderates here who don’t make a taboo of anything, so presumably you’re referring to something somewhere out there in the broader world. Fill us in.

    You’ve scatter-gunned a few replies here without specific reference to the comment you were replying to, making it hard to follow. Excuse me if I cherry-pick a part that seemed like low-hanging fruit.

  23. Allallt says:

    It’s good to see that most of your quotes there come from Boghossian, not Harris. It’s a great way to paint exactly the picture you need, by shifting from the initial subject (Harris) to a more extreme one (Boghossian). In fact, if you don’t see that as a misleading step, you’ve just epitomised Harris’ point.

    I believe that positions which are not rationally defended don’t belong at a the table of rational discussion. You can still have a rabbi, an imam and a priest at the table, but they can only present the view they can defend. (If that happens to exclude religious views, so be it. It equally might reveal that my leftist view of wealth distribution also doesn’t belong at the table. But we’re not going to discover that by happily ignoring the burden intellectual conversation puts on the speaker: to defend one’s own view.)

    I believe in personal religious freedom. I don’t believe in political religious freedom: where unsubstantiated religious claims get a seat at the political table. But it is de jure the case in the UK that this happens: we have seats reserved for Bishops in the House of Lords. It de facto seems to happen in the US, with basically no politician declaring themselves nonreligious.

    As for this idea that it’s okay to ‘bash’ Christianity, that’s simply not true. People who bash religion either are relegated to a counter-culture society, else pay a heavy social price. I’ve been silenced by making claims about Christianity in earshot of ‘The Catholic Society’ at my university, and even hushed by nonreligious people whose family is religious — but not even present at the discussion table. If you’re argument is that it is comedy and rock music that bash Christianity… is that not the definition of a taboo subject? One only covered by rock music and comedians?

  24. Allallt says:

    Nice to know you think it’s better to see the source material through your eyes than to actually see the source material.

    It looks that way to you, because you are trying to see it that way.

    (I thought it was Dawkins who called Collins a stupid person. I don’t recall Harris saying it. Not that Harris hasn’t said stupid things; his agreement with profiling at airports is dumb.)

  25. pennywit says:

    You can still have a rabbi, an imam and a priest at the table,

    I thought they were supposed to walk into a bar …

  26. Kevin says:

    Allalt,

    Would you disagree that my Harris quote shows his opposition to a society extolling religious freedom? And if you interpret it in plain English, as I do, then how is that different from Boghossian? Looks to me like Harris floated the concept, Boghossian floated the means of implementation.

    Regarding the table of rational discussion, as has been shown, the New Atheist movement counts nothing as evidence for God. I’m unaware of any (respected) Christian apologist who cannot, at a moment’s notice, offer the philosophical, historical, and scientific evidence he believes points to God. I’m unaware of a neutral party to moderate that debate, so I’m also unaware of any justification of excluding religious people from any sort of rational discussion.

  27. Allallt says:

    I do apologise, the reader I was using offered a ‘Reply’ function to individual comments, so I thought the replies would indent under the comments, like Michael’s comments sometimes do.

    @TFBW I have given examples in the comments here.
    @pennywit Lol
    @Kevin You can look at Harris’ actual work and interviews where he very explicitly says that what he wants is an open and rational discussion. He does not say he wants to exclude people from the conversation, just the model of conversation that excludes irrational conversation. As for the claim that apologists can defend their religious views, I disagree. Apologists are perfectly good at talking, but the rationality and relevance of what they say is, at best, doubtful. The classics — The Cosmological argument, Teleological argument and moral arguments — are demonstrably irrational. Spend 5 minutes listening to Reza Aslan and you’ll realise there are a lot of ‘respected’ apologists who talk crap.

  28. Regual Llegna says:

    Implementation of “atheism” ideology in gnus athesits terms is no different from scientism and communism, if is not then “atheism” means “i never do anything/i don’t do anything/i will not do anything” is anything, they are 100% dependent on the existence of religious belief in their society because their ideas cannot exist without its “dual” counterpart,

    In scientism, no society was ever formed by scientism above religion and common language as base, the gnus atheist (the ones that are not the “face” of the movement) simply leave all the making of ideas to the scientists, the scientists have the prerequisite to be gnus atheists to be considered scientists, for gnus atheists their SCIENCE tm is not for any person that don’t have their same belief, “scientific elitism” because we alredy know that is not because of merits made by any scientists: https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/01/14/politicizing-science/ .
    Unless the scientist ideas give a “boost” to the anti religious rethoric:
    Monseigneur George Lemaître, CATHOLIC PRIEST,a ccomplished astronomer and a talented mathematician and physician: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre .

    In communism the religious belief are considered an unnecessary threat to the way the people that control the goverment of the society implement their laws. At the end they want to destroy religion or control it:
    http://time.com/3743742/dalai-lama-china-reincarnation-tibet-buddhism/
    “The Communist Party’s spiritual prerogative has stoked controversy before. In 1995, the Dalai Lama named a 6-year-old boy living in Tibet as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, widely considered the second-holiest monk in Tibetan Buddhism. The Chinese government then picked its own child. For 19 years, the Dalai Lama’s choice has not been seen in public, and his whereabouts are unknown.”
    “Members of the Tibetan exile community have also disparaged the ruling Communist Party’s insistence on dictating the Dalai Lama’s afterlife, which Chinese officials say reflect rules from the Qing Dynasty. “It’s like Fidel Castro saying, ‘I will select the next Pope and all the Catholics should follow,’” Lobsang Sangay, the Tibetan Prime Minister in exile, told Reuters earlier this week. “That is ridiculous.””

  29. TFBW says:

    @Allallt: if the examples you are referring to include such things as people asking you not to talk about stuff in certain company, then it may be the case that they are just asking you not to be a dick about it. It’s one thing to come in with guns blazing here, where “hit me with your best shot” is the name of the game, but quite another thing to do it in other contexts. I think you’re confusing a general expectation of social grace with a taboo.

  30. FZM says:

    Allallt,

    @FZM: Out of curiosity, did you hear that version of the argument from Harris, or someone else? Stifling a conversation with nonrational reasons, like refusing to hear criticism, is the symptom of the moderates Harris is concerned about in this particular commentary.

    I didn’t hear that version from Harris, it was presented by some one from the British Humanists. It sounds to me more like Dawkins (I don’t think the example of Anglican vicars would occur that readily to Harris)

    I read the article but I’m inclined to agree with what TFBW wrote about it’s exact meaning and target being a bit ambiguous (there appear to be some idiosyncratic assumptions behind some of it) . I think it could be read in the way you suggest but that it could also be read and understood in the way Michael suggests.

    I believe in personal religious freedom. I don’t believe in political religious freedom: where unsubstantiated religious claims get a seat at the political table. But it is de jure the case in the UK that this happens: we have seats reserved for Bishops in the House of Lords. It de facto seems to happen in the US, with basically no politician declaring themselves nonreligious.

    I think here the controversial question will be about who gets to decide (and on exactly what grounds) whether a claim is substantiated enough to deserve a seat at the political table. For example many religious people may be wary of entrusting a committed atheist left wingers to make all the decisions about whether a particular claim can be considered substantiated (and therefore permitted a place in politics) or not. Atheist left wingers would be wary of giving a right wing devout Catholic or Shia Ayatollah this authority, and so on.

    The classics — The Cosmological argument, Teleological argument and moral arguments — are demonstrably irrational.

    As far as I know The Cosmological argument is more like a family of arguments, there are quite a few different moral arguments, there are even different teleological ones (Paley type ones and Aristotelian types). The idea that it can be demonstrated that no reasonable person could believe any of them sounds similar to a claim that no reasonable person could fail to be an empiricist and reject rationalism, could fail to be a nominalist and reject the existence of universals; i.e. metaphysically controversial.

    If you were really convinced of it though I guess you could campaign to make it, and the relevant demonstrations, part of the constitution of a secular state so that any beliefs based on/referencing these arguments and their philosophical flaws had to be excluded from politics and public life because of their irrationality and lack of foundation.

  31. Allallt says:

    @FZM
    I don’t think it’s fair to say ‘no reasonable person’. It is difficult to talk of a ‘rational person’, as a person is perfectly capable of being highly rational in regard to one question, and completely divorced from reality in regard to the next. Instead, we can only really talk about reasonably defended positions and arguments.
    I’m more than willing to listen to arguments from many views. I’m willing to rest of rationalist answers, while in the absence of empirical ones. But when someone uses a recognised fallacy to make their point, and no one can save that point in reasonable terms, that point shouldn’t be considered.

    Talking of the people who might police this in terms of being atheist or deeply religious seems misleading to me. You want someone who wants the best for the country to chair such a conversation; someone who is capable of following broad rules and principles.

    As to the Harris essay, I recommend looking to Reza Aslan as an example of a moderate who shields extremist views. He does it by deflection, redirecting criticism of Islam to accusations of bigotry or blaming something else entirely.

  32. Allallt says:

    @TFBW – Thank you for your explanation. I didn’t realise that a ‘taboo’ was more than a social construct. I thought they were the same, and so the distinction between a promoted ‘social grace’ and a ‘taboo’ was that one fills the gaps around the other; that there was a(n inverse) proportional relationship between the two.

    Can you clarify for me, though: what do you think a taboo is? Do the laws of nature have conspire to kill a person who engages in a taboo, for it to be a taboo? How is the concept of a taboo divorced from the idea of a social grace?

  33. Allallt says:

    @Kevin – Sceptical also tend to not consider anything evidence for Bigfoot. It’s a strange position to blame atheists for the fact that theists do not bring forward sound evidence that can be evaluated.
    Harris does not extol the virtues of religious suppression; just that irrational positions do not belong is rational discussions. Defending Islam in general — as an intellectual project — when heinous things are happening in the name of Islam is a problem. And, Islam is not an intellectually defensible model of reality.
    No one is saying that you can’t be a Muslim at home, or even in the streets. But, if you are a politician you should be setting your religion aside. And if you are engaging in a political debate, you are assuming the position of a politician (not an apologist). To extol the virtues of Sharia Law from within a religious context is irrelevant to a political discussion about what a society needs.
    Moderates, who defend Sharia Law as a concept (even if they don’t try to spread it themselves), are offering a shield to those who seek to spread Sharia Law by more violent methods.

    This is not the same as Boghossian’s view that atheists and religious people shouldn’t really mix. And the term ‘atheist’ is kind of meaningless here. The position is ‘secularism’, and there are religious secularists: people who are personally religious but politically not.

  34. Dhay says:

    Allallt > As to the Harris essay, I recommend looking to Reza Aslan as an example of a moderate who shields extremist views. He does it by deflection, redirecting criticism of Islam to accusations of bigotry or blaming something else entirely.

    It looks like some would view Sam Harris’ friend and collaborator, Maajid Nawaz, as being another stealth jihadist:

    http://gatesofvienna.net/2015/12/maajid-nawaz-stealth-jihadist-exposed/

  35. TFBW says:

    @Allallt:

    I didn’t realise that a ‘taboo’ was more than a social construct.

    I made no such claim. Taboos and social graces are both social constructs. Taboos are prohibitions; social graces are more a matter of what is appropriate and polite in what circumstances. A word like “fuck” isn’t taboo, but it’s often inappropriate, and you can’t just use it anywhere, any time and expect people to be okay about it. So it is for many subjects and styles of engagement.

  36. Allallt says:

    @Dhay – I can’t pretend to have read the book or Mawas’ work, so I don’t know for sure. However, what this article is accusing Mawas is to intentionally emulate the ‘dangerous moderate’ (to coin a term) for the purposes of driving for exactly the consequences Harris accuses a moderate of accidentally creating.
    If true, it would be a rather exquisite irony.

    @TFBW – If “fuck” isn’t a taboo, because it is appropriate for “many subjects and styles”, then there is no such things a taboo. Nothing cannot be said.
    “Fuck” is only inappropriate because enough people say so. And so they expect to not hear it in conversation. The same is true of criticism of religion. One might say that both are, in fact, a taboo.

  37. TFBW says:

    Okay, Allallt. Seems like you have fairly concrete ideas on the subject. I won’t waste my time.

  38. Allallt says:

    @TFBW – This seems to be becoming a habit of yours. That’s okay; I accept your concession.
    Unless you want to actually offer a definition of a taboo… just a thought.

  39. TFBW says:

    I tried. You dug in your heels. It’s not like I can force the issue.

  40. Allallt says:

    @TFBW – Well, if you will try to force a distinction without a difference…

  41. TFBW says:

    If you’re colour-blind, red/green can be a distinction without a difference.

  42. Tim'L says:

    Mike, back in the TT days… who was the anti-theist who made the comment about coming out with the steel tip boots on the creationists and ID folk?

    There’s a parallel in this violent SJW group that reminds me of some of the tendencies of the atheists back around 2005-2010 (maybe alittle before and alittle after that too). The idea that the best counter-argument towards anything an ID proponent or creationist would say is to point and laugh as hard as you can; justifying violence; justifying re-education….

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