Just watched this little exchange with Sam Harris, Ben Affleck and Bill Maher. Not sure why someone like Affleck was on the show. Not only can he not debate well, he got all too personal and cheap. He could have made his arguments much better. Harris, who in many ways I disagree with wrote a great overview and commentary on is exchange here.
For the most part I agree with Harris here though. I think we need to think truthfully and critically about all things, including Islam, including Christianity and whatever ideologies are present in our world. We need to ask hard questions about the kinds of people we are, what our ideologies say about us and what they mean for forming our worldview and how we live in the world. I also understand what Affleck was trying to get at. He just doesn’t like painting with a broad brush and watching as innocent Muslims can thrown under the same bus as radical ones. I don’t think this is what Harris is doing really though. I do think Harris fails to see how religions are complex living organisms. He cannot understand Islam via IS anymore than we can understand Christianity from God Hates Fags. I think this is what Affleck was trying to get at. Religion just can’t be reduced to one particular interpretative methodology of what sacred texts mean and how they are applied. So sure, the Koran says “kill the infidel” and then the West freaks out that the whole religion is violent. I’ve even heard Christians tow this line, which I guess shouldn’t be that surprising considering Christians apply their own sacred texts in ridiculous and violent ways all the time. Islam cannot and should not be reduced to bad application of their texts and/or OUR uneducated application of their texts. The Bible is significantly more violent than the Koran, and maybe IS is reading the text about bashing babies heads on rocks in our beautiful Psalms as the signifying text that defines all of Christianity and the West. How violent the west is!
But Harris is right. None of it should get a free pass. We should be opposing and criticizing all death dealing ideology, religion and politics no matter where its coming from. I think we should be questioning nationalism, Islam, Christianity, consumerism, feminism – and everything. What I foresee happening though is us continually being blind to our own contradictions and pointing out how dangerous everyone else is. It is all too ironic that any American can talk about Islam being a violent religion from their place of military strength and political advantage. America is the most violent and oppressive religion the world has ever seen.