Sam Harris has some definite views on religion and what follows are an excerpt from his recent blog article, Freedom to Offend an Imaginary God.
The latest wave of Muslim hysteria and violence has now spread to over twenty countries. The walls of our embassies and consulates have been breached, their precincts abandoned to triumphant mobs, and many people have been murdered—all in response to an unwatchable Internet video titled “Innocence of Muslims.” Whether over a film, a cartoon, a novel, a beauty pageant, or an inauspiciously named teddy bear, the coming eruption of pious rage is now as predictable as the dawn. This is already an old and boring story about old, boring, and deadly ideas. And I fear it will be with us for the rest of our lives.
Consider what is actually happening: Some percentage of the world’s Muslims—Five percent? Fifteen? Fifty? It’s not yet clear—is demanding that all non-Muslims conform to the strictures of Islamic law. And where they do not immediately resort to violence in their protests, they threaten it. Carrying a sign that reads “Behead Those Who Insult the Prophet” may still count as an example of peaceful protest, but it is also an assurance that infidel blood would be shed if the imbecile holding the placard only had more power. This grotesque promise is, of course, fulfilled in nearly every Muslim society. To make a film like “Innocence of Muslims” anywhere in the Middle East would be as sure a method of suicide as the laws of physics allow.
What exactly was in the film? Who made it? What were their motives? Was Muhammad really depicted? Was that a Qur’an burning, or some other book? Questions of this kind are obscene. Here is where the line must be drawn and defended without apology: We are free to burn the Qur’an or any other book, and to criticize Muhammad or any other human being. Let no one forget it.
Religion only works as a pretext for political violence because many millions of people actually believe what they say they believe: that imaginary crimes like blasphemy and apostasy are killing offenses.
The freedom to think out loud on certain topics, without fear of being hounded into hiding or killed, has already been lost. And the only forces on earth that can recover it are strong, secular governments that will face down charges of blasphemy with scorn. No apologies necessary. Muslims must learn that if they make belligerent and fanatical claims upon the tolerance of free societies, they will meet the limits of that tolerance.
I have to agree with the above statements. Freedom of thought and expression, even if in poor taste, is a fundamental freedom that needs preserving.I do draw a line at hate speech, but criticizing a religion does not fall in that category. In my WAKING GOD TRILOGY, much is said regarding religious dogma and its historic, and current, destructiveness. These books did not start riots even though there is much criticism of religion and one of the heroes in the novels is Lucifer. Just as Christianity should be faulted for the Inquisition and the crusades, no religion, including Islam, can justify the use of force to prevent criticism. That should be a no brainer that fundamentalists and hard-liners obviously don't get. You can't protect teachings by violating the teachings. The ends do not justify the means. Efforts in the Muslim world to further outlaw blasphemy is not acceptable. Are they so insecure in their faith that violence must be used to fend of anything offensive? Their ideas are a return to the intellectual dark ages and their arguments are based in ignorance.
So yes, Muslims must learn that if they make belligerent and fanatical claims upon the tolerance of free societies, they will meet the limits of that tolerance.