Lots and lots and lots of people weighed in after that, and there are so many logical fallacies being brandished on both sides that it's hard to know where to begin. For example, from Reza Aslan we have an argument from authority:
Sam Harris, to me, gives atheism a bad name because he comes from a tradition of atheism that is really disconnected from the titans of intellectual, philosophical atheism who gave birth to the modern world. These were experts in religion who, from a position of expertise, criticized religion. Sam Harris is a neuroscientist; he knows as much about religion as I do about neuroscience. The difference is that I don’t go around writing books about neuroscience.Hemant Mehta follows up with some ad hominems:
Aslan seems to suffer from a mix of neediness (brought on by insecurity) and outright hubris. It might be a defect of his imagination ...Guy Harrison offers up a straw man:
Reading the Koran and being aware of its potential to inspire some people to violence do not lead me to fear every Muslim on EarthSurprisingly, Richard Dawkins starts out by being the voice of reason:
“Religion itself is not responsible for this… It’s also this feeling of political involvement. It’s a feeling that it’s ‘us against them.’ And I think that quite a large number of young Muslims feel kind of beleaguered against the rest of the world. [Emphasis added.]Indeed. Alas, he does not go on to ask the obvious question: how much of this beleaguerment might be attributable to the kinds of blanket statements that are made by the likes of Harris and Dawkins? Instead he jumps straight to affirming the consequent:
And so religion in some sense might be just an excuse, but I do think that a dominant part of the motivation for these young men has to be religion.”For a community supposedly dedicated to reason, the amount of unreasonableness being un-self-reflectedly bandied about is truly disheartening.
Utterly lost in the confusion is this central claim raised by Aslan:
There is a fundamental misunderstanding among these critics of religion in that they believe, first and foremost, that people get their values, their morals from their scripture, when in reality the exact opposite is true. You bring your morals and your values to the scriptures; you don’t extract them from them.I don't want to take a side here on whether or not this claim is true. I believe it is, but that's not the point. The point is no one is talking about this despite the fact that it's the most important thing that got said in the entire discussion. Why? Because if it's true then Harris & co. are wrong, and if it's false then Aflek & co. are wrong. So why is so much ink being spilled slinging logical fallacies around and absolutely no effort is going into determining the truth or falsity of a crucial empirical claim that could actually inform the debate? Perhaps atheists, too, bring their prejudices to the scriptures (or the data) rather than the other way around.
So to lead by example, I'd like to offer up an actual data point. That link goes to the Wikipedia page on the application of Sharia law by country. I don't have time to slice-and-dice the numbers, but even a cursory glance will show that although there are major populations of Muslims all over the globe, those countries where Sharia law is in full effect are overwhelmingly found in the Middle East. Last I checked, the Quran is the same all over the world, so this seems to me to be very strong evidence that the violence and barbarism often associated with Islam (and, to be sure, that's a very real problem) cannot be accounted for merely by the words in the Quran.
But I don't have a Ph.D. in religious studies, so what do I know?