More nonsense from Jerry Coyne

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by Neil Godfrey

At any rate, there’s a lively discussion going on in Heather’s comments section, and Neil Godfrey has shown up, arguing, as he always does, that the role of Islam in Islamic terrorism is much overrated. I’m just glad he’s inflicted himself on Heather and not me.

It baffles me that nearly every nonreligious ideology—Nazism, Stalinism, racism, and so on—can be seen without opposition as a source of horrible acts, but when you get to religion, well, nope, it never inspires anything bad. (Of course, those same folks will tell you about all the good it inspires.)

Jerry Coyne, Heather Hastie on why Bin Laden masterminded 9/11: was it Islam?

Of course Islamists terrorists used their religious beliefs to justify their terrorist program. Of course National Socialism and Stalinism inspired wicked things. So is “socialism” to blame for the Holocaust? the genocide of the kulaks? I recently wrote a post referring to Robert Owen and his socialist ideas. It’s utterly absurd to suggest socialism itself is responsible in any way for Hitler’s rampage in the name of National Socialism or anything done by Stalin.

Nazi and Stalinist ideologies are to socialism as Islamism is to Islam — as my recent posts on the origins of Islamism make very clear in the words of the Islamists themselves.

Who the hell is this Neil Godfrey anyway that Jerry Coyne should bother to even make reference on his blog post to my comment on Heather’s site?

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21 thoughts on “More nonsense from Jerry Coyne”

    1. Jerry’s comparison of Islam to Nazism and Stalinism is instructive. It could not be a clearer demonstration of the way propaganda works (as my recent posts have been arguing). Reds and Nazis are classic anti-american symbols and placing Islam alongside them is another way of manipulating all the larger fears of existential threats that makes propaganda so effective.

      1. The people who take up a religion or political ideology or even “generic” propaganda do so because they want to be afraid of something cool and exciting rather than something mundane but substantial. American military power is strangely both which pays special benefits to its enemies. So the absolute best thing the United States could do is not pay any attention at all to Islamic militias regardless of whether anyone thinks that Islam is even relevant to their existence.

        It’s pathetic that in 15 years no one with any political influence could figure out something so stupidly simple. It’s not power, or expediancy, or money, or Israel, it’s the fact that even Americans think its cool for people to be afraid of their military, such that if they didn’t have that, America would become mundane and most importantly trite.

      2. Coyne is now responding to a commenter, asking them to name a New Atheist who has asserted that ONLY religion has had something to do with it (terrorism) and asking for instances where and when this has occured?

        Worth compiling a list of examples?

        1. It’s a word-game. Harris says at one time that other factors are involved but they do say like saying a mantra that means nothing because they simultaneously argue that the only significant and real factor behind it all is Islam. They toss in meaningless words in order to win their word game. The question is not worth discussing. Coyne and co raise it as a distraction.

          It is not about what New Atheists say about religion being the “only” cause: it’s about what are the factors that lead people to radicalize. That’s the point that needs to be addressed.

          And if you dispute that belief in the Quran itself causes radicalization then you are attacked for not joining them in their Islamophobia, McCarthyism, Jew-baiting, witch-hunts.

  1. That they are hypocritical in their claim that the don’t say “Islam is the only cause” is demonstrated by their ignorant attacks on the serious researchers who do examine and publish on the whole range of factors involved. Take Scott Atran for instance. I have seen several mocking posts or comments by Harris and Coyne and even though Atran bluntly says that the terrorists are religiously motivated. They simply ignore Atran saying such things and assume (I can’t believe they have actually read his publications) he somehow argues religion plays no role at all. They are blinded by their hate for Islam and unless you make that your primary target you are their targets of slander.

  2. “Nazi and Stalinist ideologies are to socialism as Islamism is to Islam”

    So let me sum it up, so we’re sure I understood 😉
    You claim that like socialism, Islam does not contain ideas that some people should be killed.
    You claim that like nazism and stalinism, islamism is centralized and led by a dictatorial leader, as opposed to popping out in various islamic states in many different forms.
    You claim that existence of a peaceful and well educated socialist, Owen, proves that socialism is unable to inspire impoverished, illiterate peasants to take revenge on those whom socialism singles out as guilty of their condition, and that socialism is unable to inspire power hungry psychopaths to take advantage of such sentiments of the masses.
    Is that right?

    1. Instead of attacking what you presume I must be saying, I’m suggesting you try to actually understand what I am saying. If that is beyond you, if I have not expressed myself clearly, then I am happy to try to make my point clearer.

      1. You don’t think i believed you were saying that, do you?

        The purpose was to demonstrate that the analogy you presented may not be as good as you seem to think.
        I give you that there are some similarities between these relationships, but not nearly enough to justify such kind of reasoning.

        You seem to understand why it’s invalid to say that if we consider Socrates a historical figure, we must consider Jesus historical too. These cases have similarities, but Socrates is not Jesus, and the evidence looks different. In the end, it comes down to the details.
        Yet you do the same thing here. You cherry pick an ideology you believe is benign, and say ‘Look, this one seems fine, the other must be too’. No, that’s a false analogy fallacy.

        You’re right socialism did not contribute directly to violence of the nazis, it wasn’t the most important component of nazi ideology, but it played an important role getting them support of the working class.
        But you’re very wrong about Russia, socialism taken too seriously had a catastrophic impact there, both inspiring direct violence and devastating the economy resulting in extreme poverty and even more deaths of starvation, but that’s a too broad topic for a comment, and it’s irrelevant anyway, because regardless if socialism is benign or not, your argument is still illogical.

        1. Islamism is not Islam. Islamists say mainstream Islam is apostate. That explains why they kill far more Muslims than non-Muslims.

          Islamism is an extremist sect within Islam just like Christianity has had its extremist cults that declare mainstream Christianity is false.

          Those extremist cults say they are the only true believers in the Bible and all other Christians are not true believers in the Bible.

          Islamism is comparable to those extremist Christian cults.

          If you want to protect people and stop them joining those cults how useful do you think it would be to attack Christianity and the Bible? I think most people would think that mainstream Christians would be in the best position to help fight the appeal of extremist cults.

          1. You changed the subject. Does it mean we’re clear about what was nonsense, and what was not?

            “Islamism is an extremist sect within Islam”

            I couldn’t agree more.
            Whatever is done by Islamism, is done by Islam, end of story.

            “If you want to protect people and stop them joining those cults how useful do you think it would be to attack Christianity and the Bible?”

            That’s exactly the problem i have with your views about Islam and religions in general. They seem to serve a purpose of being useful more than being as close to the truth as possible.
            Don’t you realize this is exactly what makes it a perfect example of propaganda?

            We’re both atheists, aren’t we? Nobody intends to attack religion here, we’re just talking about it. You can speak freely and honestly. If you believe you can’t it’s better not to say anything.

  3. Sorry. I call bullshit. There is nothing in the founding texts or tenets of socialism or that calls for the use of violence in their inception or maintenance. The same cannot be said of Islam. The fact that some namby-pamby Muslims exist, who cherry-pick their foundational holy text to subsume its overarching violent nature does not acquit the institution of Islam of being condemned as a hateful and violent ideology. You are making and/or promoting a false equivalency here.

    1. You reify Islam. Your comment indicates that for you Islam is (1) an institution and (2) an ideology and (3) both of these have the human attribute of a “nature” that is both violent and hateful. I have never seen such a beast that is both an institution and an ideology, and certainly not one that is an institution and ideology with personal or even demonic natures.

      Presumably the people who are Muslims are somehow possessed or brainwashed by this hateful and violent demonic force that has them in their power.

      Is that how you understand Islam?

      I fully agree with Jerry Coyne’s comparison of Islamism with Nazism or Stalinism. My point was that socialism comes in so many varieties it is surely evident that there is no such thing a socialism apart from whoever is interpreting it. People decide what it will mean for them. Socialism can be an inspiration for peace or violent revolution. Socialism itself is neither peaceful nor violent. It is interpreters who make it either.

      The Bible has Jesus saying that the Jews are the offspring of Satan. Christian identity extremists today take Jesus at his word and say Jews are literally, genetically, descended from Satan. They are interpreting the Bible literally. Is Christianity therefore responsible for today’s Christian identity extremists?

      1. Yes. If you want to put it that way, I reify Islam. I am a pragmatist. Islam is a blueprint for global conquest and domination in the guise of a religion. Neither socialism nor Marxism are comparable. The “purest” implementation of Marxism if you will, is probably the kibutz collectives in Israel. Stalin abused Marxism. He was a despot. The writings of Marx were primarily economic in nature. They did not call for violence. The purest implementation of Islam is the Caliphate declared by the Islamic State. Do I need to elaborate on that?

        The whole apologetic for Islam amounts to, as I said, a false equivalency. Judaism. Christianity. Islam. One of these things is not like the rest. To pretend otherwise is sophism.

        Note I have nowhere stated, nor do I believe that it is not possible for someone identifying as a Muslim to be a normal, peaceful and benevolent person. That is not the issue. These are the people I glibly described as namby-pamby Muslims. Unfortunately, such individuals are despised to the point of being killed by the other practitioners of the faith. The same is absolutely not the case for either non-orthodox Jews or non-fundamentalist Christians. We live in a real world. Sticking one’s head in the sand on this issue is neither helpful nor prudent.

        1. So you agree with the Islamists that most Muslims are “namby pamby Muslims”. That’s how you see them, yes? You see them as insincere and weak-willed or weak-minded for not taking their religion seriously, yes?

          Is that the “real world” view of how things are?

          If so, is that how you believe things have always been ever since the beginnings of the Muslim religion? If so, how do you respond to the claim that we did not hear of Islamist terrorism before the 1979?

          (Out of curiosity, by the way, do you mind telling us if you American? I find your emphasis of “realism” etc interesting in the context of other reading I have been doing about US culture and world-views and beliefs about ideologies that stand in opposition to US values.)

      1. Marx, yes, I am saying he was not a violent or dangerous man. I don’t know as much about Engles, but I am inclined to say the same of him. Lenin is not in the same category as them.

        1. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote in their popular tract “The Manifesto of the Communist Party” the following of the need for violence:

          “In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.
          . . . . .
          The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution.

          Socialism, by the way, preceded Marx. But Marx and his writings were the inspiration for many violent groups.

          Marx’s relationship with Socialism might in some ways be compared with Qutb’s in relation to Islam. Both set down a violent and political interpretation of the ideology they chose to embrace and that political interpretation was was taken up by the extremists who followed them. Robert Owen’s socialism, by contrast, eschewed political activity.

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