‘Selfish Gene’ author and esteemed scientist Richard Dawkins has issued a tweet in the wake of the deadly attacks on a French satirical magazine; a most unwelcome contribution to a horrific situation.
Armed gunmen are on the run in Paris after attacking the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, leaving at least 12 people dead and many more injured.
At around midday local time, at least two masked attackers stormed the offices – armed with AK47 rifles, pump action shot-guns and according to some reports, a rocket launcher.
Images and video of the attack begin circulating on social media almost immediately, revealing the sequence of the furious attack.
One such video purports to be taken from a rooftop and shows a gun battle in the street between the attackers and local police. In the footage, which readers are warned is extremely upsetting, a policeman falls to the ground after apparently being shot by the gunmen. The gunmen then walk casually toward the officer, who lays prone on the ground, begging for his life – and execute him with a gunshot to the head.
While police and security services scramble to ascertain the identity and motives of the attackers, which is far from being established – Dawkins chooses to make it about a faith held by the world’s 2 billion Muslims.
It’s not his first intervention on the matter of Islam, far from it. My personal favourite for both cruelty and ignorance was this:
When a journalist attempted to draw the Pope into yet another condemnation of the world’s 2 billion Muslims on the basis of the actions of a few thousand – the pontiff responded with far greater insight.
“You just can’t say that, just as you can’t say that all Christians are fundamentalists. We have our share of them (fundamentalists). All religions have these little groups,” Pope Francis said.
With this succinct, unapologetic statement – Pope Francis has said what many of us, religious and not, have been quietly thinking for some time: Christian and Muslim fundamentalists have far more in common with each other than the rest of us.
I reported this for a US site at the time, and made a number of comparisons which hold true inside this conversation.
Was it US Muslims or Christians that lobbied against legislation outlawing spousal rape? Answer: Christians.
Virginia Republican Richard Black argued against such legislation in January 2014, stating that a woman could not be raped by her husband because she had already given consent through marriage.
Was it Muslims or Christians that used the state’s legal system to allow corporations to remove female workers’ control over their own reproductive health? Answer: Christians.
The US Supreme Court, dominated by Christian Conservatives, upheld the rights of corporations to bar women accessing birth control through their health insurance plans.
Was it a Christian or Muslim legislator who argued a woman could only get pregnant through consensual sex? Answer: The US Republican Party.
In 2012, Missouri Republican Todd Akin drew ire around the world for this comment:
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Was it a Christian or Muslim fundamentalist news channel that put women on air to advise other women not to vote? Answer: Christian.
Fox News does this regularly, as in this October 2013 discussion of how married women tend to vote Republican and single women tend to vote Democratic:
“It’s the same reason why young women on juries are not a good idea. They don’t get it! They’re not in that same life experience of paying the bills, doing the mortgage, kids, community, crime, education, healthcare. They’re like healthy and hot and running around without a care in the world.”
Ok, so maybe there’s a parallel with women…but then there’s the violence. Christian fundamentalists aren’t terrorists are they? Answer: Yes they are.
Contrary to popular opinion, most of the terrorist activity in the U.S. in recent years has not come from Muslims, but from radical Christians, white supremacists, and far-right militia groups. Our friends at Alternet prepared an astonishing list of the 10 worst US terror attacks by Christian Fundamentalists which included:
- Wisconsin Sikh Temple massacre, Aug 2012. white supremacist Wade Michael Page used a semiautomatic weapon to murder six people during an attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
- The Dr. George Tiller Murder, May 2009. In 1986, his clinic was firebombed. In ’93, he was shot five times by female Christian Right terrorist Shelly Shannon (now serving time in a federal prison) but survived – but in May 2009 Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed by anti-abortion terrorist Scott Roeder on May 31, 2009. He was a victim of Christian Right terrorism, not al-Qaeda.
- Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, July 2008. On July 27, 2008, Christian Right sympathizer Jim David Adkisson walked into the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee during a children’s play and began shooting people at random. Two were killed, while seven others were injured but survived. Adkisson said he was motivated by a hatred of liberals, Democrats and gays.
- The Centennial Olympic Park bombing, July 1996. Eric Rudolph is is best known for carrying out the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics—a blast that killed spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others. His long list of terrorist attacks committed in the name of Christianity includes his bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama in 1998 caused the death of Robert Sanderson (a Birmingham police officer and part-time security guard) and caused nurse Emily Lyons to lose an eye.
Please note, this is not a conversation about which religion is best. I’m an atheist. But what we should not tolerate, under the guise of atheism, is good old fashioned racism. It seems to me that Dawkins doesn’t find Islam more violent than other religions because that argument is true – to which the most cursory glance at the KKK, Hindu extremists, and even the extremist Buddhists in Myanmar who continue to massacre Muslims can attest. He does so because he has bought into a neoliberal world view that at times veers into the realms of Crusade level rhetoric. For an atheist, and a scientist, that is astoundingly obtuse and hypocritical.
From an atheist point of view, it seems to me like God didn’t create man in his own image, but quite the opposite. Angry people believe in an angry God, socially liberal and compassionate people see those values reflected in their God. And bottom line, no one has ever needed a God of any kind to inflict pain and death upon each other.
The way to respond to terrorist of all kinds – those in Wahhabi strongholds, Westminster, Washington and Wall Street – is to retain our connection, stand for each other, care for each other, and hold accountable those who would tear us apart. That starts with you and me.
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