Recently, Fareed Zakaria invited one of the leaders of “New Atheism” for a brief debate on his Sunday morning CNN show, “GPS.” The atheist was Sam Harris, author and critic of religion. Harris had made news by his statement on Bill Maher’s HBO show to the effect that “Islam is the Mother Lode of Bad Ideas.” You can view Fareed’s 8-minute debate with Harris at this link.
While some Christians may cheer on Harris’s attack on Islam, it raises an interesting question, because we should be assured that Harris is no friend of Christianity. He is perhaps best known for his best-selling book, Letter to a Christian Nation. This confrontational book (which I have not fully read) contains challenges like, “People have been cherry-picking the Bible for millennia to justify their every impulse, moral and otherwise.”
So here is the question: Is there a point where Muslims (like Fareed) and Christians (like me) become allies as theists against the onslaught of atheists (like Harris and Maher)?
We might consider the old principle from warfare and diplomacy: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But who is the enemy here, the atheist or the Muslim?
I’m still chewing on this. If you watch the video, you will see that Fareed becomes uncharacteristically angry and defensive. He asks Harris if his conclusion to over a billion Muslims world wide is the “your religion is crap.” Yet isn’t that what Christians generally say?
Harris returns twice to the reasonablist position: words and ideas have consequences. What he means is that if jihad as holy war is found and sanctioned in the Quran, we should not be surprised that many Muslims support Sharia law and forced conversions. There is a basic reading of Muslim Scriptures that leaves no room for tolerance of other faiths. Harris’s point is that this was the Quranist reading of Osama bin Laden, and that bin Laden represented the scriptural spirit of Islam with a purity that apologists for Islam do not. It is not a philosophy of peace, but of the sword, and it has been this for over 1,000 years, according to both bin Laden and Harris.
Some things to think about.
Nebraska Christian College