My first thought after reading this book was to be mad at myself for not having read this earlier. As someone who follows world politics very closely, especially the regions whose history is covered in this book (which can broadly be described as “Asia”), knowing the history of this region is essential. There’s no way to understand what’s happening in the world today without understanding “how we got here” – and that’s this book’s #1 contribution and why I think it’s a must-read.
Let’s assume you could move to any country in the world. Where would you go?
This is a tough question to answer. A lot of people answer this based on a cool picture they saw of a mosque in a certain country, or the alleged attractiveness of people of the opposite gender there, or something like that. In actuality, this question requires a more systematic approach.
Jerry Coyne wrote an article, published on his blog as well as in the New Republic, in which he claimed that it’s wrong to claim that ISIS is not Islamic. The title of the piece was: “If ISIS Is Not Islamic, then the Inquisition Was Not Catholic.” He claims that both ISIS atrocities and the Inquisition are examples of crimes carried out in the name of religion, and so if we argue that ISIS is not truly Islamic we’d have to claim that the Inquisition was not truly Catholic. However, the piece is full of logical fallacies (and factual errors: such as his claim that the Qur’an calls for killing apostates) as articles by “New” Atheists usually are, so I’ll respond to his main claim here:
There is a such thing as “true” religion. Perhaps Jerry Coyne and his fellow atheists see the world (specifically: moral values) in subjective and changing terms. But religion deals with absolute Truths. Coyne himself acknowledges this when he criticizes religion for promoting “dogma.”
The Inquisition was sanctioned and carried out by the official Catholic Church. ISIS has been condemned by every major Muslim institution throughout the globe. Coyne’s comparison of the two is a false equivocation.
Muslims have been fighting against ISIS for almost a year now. Thousands of Muslims have lost their lives trying to stop ISIS. Just because it wasn’t on the news, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. For more info, see: this, this, and this. Also, a June 2014 report (link – AR) by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated that 2,764 Syrian rebels alone had died, up to that point, fighting against ISIS. That doesn’t even include Kurds and Shi’ites, who are also Muslim, and it’s probably even higher by now. There have also been thousands of civilian casualties, vast majority Muslim.
How many Catholics lost their lives trying to stop the Inquisition?
So I think we can safely conclude that while the Inquisition was indeed “Catholic,” ISIS is certainly not Islamic.
One of my favorite writers and speakers about science and religion is David Berlinski. He’s Jewish himself, and he wrote a devastating critique of “New” Atheism called The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions.
This is an excerpt from that book:
What Hitler did not believe and what Stalin did not believe and what Mao did not believe and what the SS did not believe and what the Gestapo did not believe and what the NKVD did not believe and what the commissars, functionaries, swaggering executioners, Nazi doctors, Communist Party theoreticians, intellectuals, Brown Shirts, Black Shirts, gauleiters, and a thousand party hacks did not believe was that God was watching what they were doing. And as far as we can tell, very few of those carrying out the horrors of the twentieth century worried overmuch that God was watching what they were doing either. That is, after all, the meaning of a secular society.