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Mohammedan
Posted: 07 June 2007 04:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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People like that make me ashamed to be an atheist.  I hate this kind of juvenile nonsense:

Mohammedans prefer to be called Muslims — a term derived from the Arabic aslama, meaning ‘to resign oneself [to Allah]’. They prefer their religion to be called Islam (from Arabic islam, meaning ‘submission’) rather than Mohammedanism. Most western scholars have gone along with this, rather than risk the wrath of purportedly peaceful members of ‘the third great Abrahamic faith’.

How about “Most western scholars have gone along with this because it’s generally considered polite to call people what they prefer to be called”?  I don’t understand how “not believing in supernatural beings” (a perfectly sensible attitude) gets equated with “running around poking sticks at believers and trying to upset them.”

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Posted: 07 June 2007 05:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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languagehat - 07 June 2007 04:29 AM

I don’t understand how “not believing in supernatural beings” (a perfectly sensible attitude) gets equated with “running around poking sticks at believers and trying to upset them.”

Ignorance and a lack of manners. It is a shame that many people equate atheism with antitheism but it is a common attitude for people to feel that anyone who isn’t with them is against them and by extension feel that they must be against anyone they are not with. Such attitudes have always been a plague on humans and one wonders if it will ever not be so.

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Posted: 07 June 2007 06:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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languagehat - 07 June 2007 04:29 AM

I don’t understand how “not believing in supernatural beings” (a perfectly sensible attitude) gets equated with “running around poking sticks at believers and trying to upset them.”

I declare, on behalf of theists, that its OK.  Don’t sweat it.  I learned years ago that there is little correlation, positive or negative, between faith and intelligence, or between faith and common courtesy.  As a theist, I am far more bothered by rude and stupid theists.  They give the rest of us a bad name.

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Posted: 07 June 2007 07:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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happydog - 07 June 2007 05:27 AM

languagehat - 07 June 2007 04:29 AM
I don’t understand how “not believing in supernatural beings” (a perfectly sensible attitude) gets equated with “running around poking sticks at believers and trying to upset them.”

Ignorance and a lack of manners. It is a shame that many people equate atheism with antitheism but it is a common attitude for people to feel that anyone who isn’t with them is against them and by extension feel that they must be against anyone they are not with. Such attitudes have always been a plague on humans and one wonders if it will ever not be so.

Mencken said it best.

We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

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Posted: 07 June 2007 07:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Tru dat!

kthxbye

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Posted: 07 June 2007 07:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Richard Hershberger - 04 June 2007 06:04 AM

As for “Darwinist”, this just doesn’t fit in with normal scientific naming practice.  One might speak of “Newtonian mechanics”.  I was taught Newtonian mechanics in freshman physics.  But one would not call a physicist a “Newtonist” and one would not expect to have to explain to random passersby that there have been discoveries in physics since Newton.  Evolutionary biology holds a different place in our public discourse.  There are people who misunderstand and misrepresent physics, but they are widely regarded as cranks.  Evolutionary biology is not so fortunate.

Does “Intelligent Designer” (if such a word yet exists) refer to a Primum Mobile or to a proponent of ID ‘theory’ like Michael Behe? Wouldn’t “Intelligent Designist” be better as it is a front for the nonsense “creationists” spout?
In philosophy it is called ‘the Argument from Design’ though many prefer ‘the Argument to Design’ because ‘from’ presupposes what you are setting out to prove.
It came as no surprise to me to learn that Behe is a Christian trying to prove scientifically that which shores up his ‘faith’.
The nomenclature is interesting, too. Popperian? Popperist? Kuhnian?

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Posted: 07 June 2007 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Thews McHeftigan - 06 June 2007 11:37 AM

To return to the original post: although the term ‘Mohammedan’ may not have pejorative origins, there are certainly those who have found a pejorative use for it.

Excellent find, Thews. This is the usage I had in mind and no religion should consider itself above criticism, derision or satire unless something has gone very wrong. Answering and challenging such stuff rather than condemning it outright can only make your beliefs stronger. Or that’s the idea.

“You cannot reason a person out of a position they haven’t been reasoned into.” This is the main problem for me. You might as well be talking to a wall. I respect people’s right to hold religious beliefs but don’t ask me to respect their beliefs.

‘Mohammedan’ is a weird case, though. Maybe no detractor with a wide audience can use it to take the piss for fear of fatwas, and this is surely an inappropriate and intolerant response. I wouldn’t use Mohammedan, but it should not be completely off-limits, like those Danish cartoons. Muslim newspapers publish Jewish-stereotype cartoons.

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Posted: 07 June 2007 12:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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First, I’d take the “fear of fatwa” out of the question of whether or not one should use the term. It’s really irrelevant. If the term gives offense, that should be reason enough to avoid using it--for reasonable levels of sensitivity to offense, of course.

Languagehat got the principle right. We should, as a general rule, label people as they choose to be labeled. This is simple courtesy and politeness. Unless one is writing a 19th century historical novel, I can’t see any reason for using “Mohammedan” other than deliberately trying to provoke an angry response from Muslims. What’s wrong with “Muslim”?

It’s not a question of “banning words” or anything like that. It’s simply recognizing that certain words carry with them connotational baggage and one should use them with care, lest one would appear to be a bigot. If you use terms like “Mohammedan,” “Democrat Party,” or “Darwinist” you are really telling people more about you than you are about the people you are labeling.

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Posted: 08 June 2007 02:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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’You cannot reason a person out of a position they haven’t been reasoned into’ is a great as an aphorism but I’m not sure its true. If no one reasoned their way out of beliefs they had been born and brought up with ‘acts of God(s)’ would still be the explanation for all natural phenomena we now have non-religious explanations for. We’d also all still be treating those of a different gender, colour, race, creed or origin as inferiors or enemies. But this is going a bit off-topic so apologies Dave.

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Posted: 08 June 2007 09:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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I agree, Dave, that inflammatory words should be avoided in polite discourse but no religion should be above satire. Islam now is, I’d say, maybe because it comes from a culture unfamiliar with the concept, and has cowed detractors with its threats and extreme reactions. The satirical Brit mag Private Eye, for example, described the Danish cartoons but didn’t print them. This wasn’t out of sensitivity to Muslim beliefs.....

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Posted: 09 June 2007 06:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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I would distinguish between labels and satire and not conflate the two. Using someone’s preferred label is part of the social grease that allows smooth interaction between people of differing backgrounds and beliefs. It’s basic courtesy and costs one nothing.

The use of satire and criticism is a different question. Here it’s not the choice of words that offends, but the ideas themselves. There’s often no way to avoid giving offense except by remaining silent and that is not always the desirable course. I don’t put the Danish cartoons in the same bucket as the clown on the atheist site who used “Mohammedan.”

There’s justification for criticism and satire; there is none for just being a bigot.

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Posted: 09 June 2007 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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I agree with your common courtesy argument and I follow it always, as I said.
Is it OK to call the Pope “Pope Benny” or “Benny the Rat” (from Ratzinger)? Is this bigotry? I don’t know, but I’m sure he can handle it.
‘The clown in the atheist site” was clearly attempting to provoke by using Mohammedan. How is it that he was but the Danish cartoonists weren’t?

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Posted: 09 June 2007 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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Is it OK to call the Pope “Pope Benny” or “Benny the Rat” (from Ratzinger)? Is this bigotry? I don’t know, but I’m sure he can handle it.

It’s insulting, but not bigotry. Whether or not it’s okay, depends on the context. Someone will get upset regardless of the context, but it would be appropriate in a comedy routine but not in an article on the history of the RC Church, for example. (I’m not saying you can never be offensive, but it should be limited to situations where people should expect it and you should be aware that if you are offensive, you stand a good chance of failing to communicate any higher point.)

‘The clown in the atheist site” was clearly attempting to provoke by using Mohammedan. How is it that he was but the Danish cartoonists weren’t?

Again, context. The atheist site was purportedly giving an objective and factual description of Islamic religious tenets. In such a context there is no place for bigotry--in fact it defeats the purpose by ensuring that the viewpoint is not objective. For another, it’s not satire or criticism, it’s simply name calling. (And in this case, unlike the papal epithet, it is bigotry in that it reflects preconceived notions about a class of people.) Had the web site examined the teachings of the Koran and pointed out internal inconsistencies or where that book is at odds with facts, that would be another matter. But instead it is provocation for the sake of provocation and adds nothing to the debates about religion or Islam and west.

The Danish cartoons, on the other hand, did have a larger point. Personally, I didn’t think they were all that insightful (or amusing), but there was a point to their publication other than to simply piss someone off. And I agree that in the wake of the overwhelming and violent response to the cartoons, other publications in the west should have reprinted them so that we could understand what was upsetting about them and participate in enlightened debate.

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Posted: 10 June 2007 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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Enlightened debate is all very well and good but how possible is it in the case of Islam? “Pointing out inconsistencies in the Koran” is not a wise move by anyone, especially lapsed Muslims, because apostasy is a sin punishable by death in Islam, and it will be interpreted as blasphemy if perpetrated by an Infidel, with the bizarre consequences we have seen.
Dawkins and Hitchens despise the concept of religion but they are not bigots because they have reasoned arguments. I have these, too, so I guess I am in the clear.
So is bigotry down to name-calling only? Rather than stating that you consider, say, Scientology an untenable belief, and then offering reasons?
It beats me. Is “tolerance” the key? How skeptical do you have to be before you become “intolerant” or a “bigot”? The definitions are hazy. Is it only in the vocabulary used? Or the tone and reservations expressed?
I long ago gave up trying to reason with Evangelical Christians and I would claim they are the bigots what with their intolerance and unassailable certainty.

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Posted: 10 June 2007 12:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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“Pointing out inconsistencies in the Koran” is not a wise move by anyone, especially lapsed Muslims, because apostasy is a sin punishable by death in Islam, and it will be interpreted as blasphemy if perpetrated by an Infidel, with the bizarre consequences we have seen.

all Islam?

I long ago gave up trying to reason with Evangelical Christians and I would claim they are the bigots what with their intolerance and unassailable certainty.

All Evangelical Christians?
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