Friday, October 10, 2014
Sam Harris On Lawrence O'Donnell
Sam Harris is a dingbat. So is Lawrence O'Donnell. But I have something important in common with each of them: Harris and I are both atheists, and O'Donnell and I are both Democrats. If the one dingbat hadn't been on the other's show last night (MSNBC fired Olbermann and gave O'Donnell a nightly show. Paranoid Democrats should be forgiven if they occasionally wonder whether MSNBC is a fiendishly clever right-wing scheme to destroy the Democratic Party), I probably wouldn't have anything to say about him right now, just as I wouldn't have had anything to say about Michael Paulkovich if Free Inquiry hadn't published his piece on the 126.
But Harris was on O'Donnell's show last night, and the two of them were discussing Islam as if it were just like Christianity, except 700 years earlier. Harris said, for example, "It‘s as though we‘re encountering the Christians of the 14th century, armed with 21st century weapons."
Well, no, it's not like that, ya freakin dingbat. Christianity and Islam are not going through similar courses of development. And I'm going to concentrate on the development of Western Christianity here because it's clear that's what he had in mind, and not clear if he knows as many as 4 facts about Byzantium. And Islam actually began more like 600 years after Christianity did.
Let's run a while with this thesis that Islam is taking a course similar to Christianity's. 500 years after it began, (Western) Christianity was smack dab in the dark of the Dark Ages. (I'm using the term Dark Ages to mean, not the entirety of the Middle Ages between Antiquity and the Renaissance, but the period between the middle of the 5th century and the end of the 8th, which even compared to the Middle ages in general was dark.) We're talking about a welter of war, chaos, plague, illiteracy, superstition to the stage of rampant mass hallicination, etc.
500 years after Islam began it was maintaining many elements of the Golden Islam of Islam, leading the world in math, chemistry, medicine, astronomy, physics, architecture, etc, while holding off the beginnings of those barbarian invasions which we know as the Crusades. Not so much already with the parallel courses of development.
What does Harris envision with this parallax view when he thinks of Islam 400 years from now: Islam colonizing Christendom the way Christendon colonized Islam in the 19th and 20th centuries?
Okay, enough for right now about Harris and his notions, let's summarize the mess with ISIS, the so-called "Islamic State," which, let's face it, is the only reason Harris and his Islamophobic fear-mongering got onto the other dingbat's show last night: it has perhaps as many as 35,000 troops currently, and its stated ambition is to bring all of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world under its control. It's currently fighting against Iraqi and Syrian Muslims and against Kurds, who have no state of their own and are mostly Muslims, and whom Turkey is not supporting because of longstanding ethnic hostilities between (Islamic) Turks and Kurds, and also because Turkey hopes that ISIS will destabilize or even topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad (a Muslim) in Syria; however, some of the (Muslim) Syrian rebels who also oppose Assad are fighting alongside the Kurds against ISIS. And a few non-Islamic Westerners have gotten caught in the fray. Yes, it's horrible the way ISIS has been beheading Westerners, but they're only a tiny fraction of the casualties in the conflict between these extremists nuts and most of the rest of the world, which is what it comes down to, just as it would be if it came down to it with most extremist nuts, whatever their metaphysical beliefs or lack of them: the extremists versus all the rest of us. Most of the people in the world oppose extremism, and say so, but Harris is too busy cherry-picking books for justifications for his fear to raise his head and look around a bit and see that the world is much more complicated than how he's trying to tell us it is.