Sam Harris, Reza Aslan and Hiding the Ball

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Harris

Sam Harris

There’s a new volley in the ongoing feud between Sam Harris and people who question his crusade against Islam. During a discussion at the Harvard Science Center, Harris made the claim that Muslim violence is different than any other religious violence. He maintained that when any other religionists commit violent acts, they are individuals committing violent acts unrelated to their faith’s doctrines and “articles of faith”. Islam’s articles of faith were uniquely different.

He used as an example the brutality perpetrated against Muslims by Zen warrior-monks, and ended up making this argument that their violence wasn’t religious violence:

“Now, the truth is it was never pure Zen. It was Zen mixed with Shinto mixed with a kind of Japanese nationalism and war ethic. So it was a weird brew, but it was not at all a surprise that certain Zen teachings, which do not emphasize compassion to the degree that most Buddhist teachings do, could be spun into this sort of martial ethic.” (italics mine)

If this prompts a “Wait … what?” response, I would not be surprised. That was certainly my reaction.  Though he has just taken pains to acknowledge that Buddhist on Muslim violence is “a weird brew” caused by external influences and artful interpretation of certain teachings, Harris then faults others for making the same argument in the case of Islam. I’ve studied both Buddhist scriptures and the Qur’an and what stands out in both cases (as in examples of Hindu or Jewish or Christian violence) is that given the preponderance of teachings on compassion in all of those faiths, believers feel they have any wiggle room to “spin” certain teachings into a “martial ethic”. Continue reading

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Borders Part 1: Suffer the Little Children

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140717074651-newday-dnt-kosinski-border-crisis-politics-00014206-story-topGo to any article, news story or blog discussing the immigration issue and/or the current refugee crisis on our southern border (they’re often conflated), and you will find phrases like the ones below. These are real comments pulled verbatim from comment threads, from blogs and from interviews contained in the news stories about immigration and the current border crisis.

“We need to make illegals uncomfortable…”

“We need to stop the infestation…”

“We need to stop this plague…”

“If we can’t secure our borders, we can’t protect our country…”

“IF IT IS BETWEEN OUR CITIZENS AND FOREIGN INVADING KIDS, MY COMPASSION IS NOT FOR THE INVADERS.”

“…the state of Texas would appear to have the right, not only to use whatever means, whether it’s troops, even using ships of war, even exacting a tax on interstate commerce that wouldn’t normally be allowed to have or utilize, they’d be entitled in order to pay to stop the invasion.” 

That last one stands out because it was from an elected official—a Congressman—who ostensibly has the authority to make laws. Given that the “invaders” are children and mothers, what does the Congressman propose that the troops and warships do? Shoot women and children? Shoot just the few men with them in the hope that they’ll go home in despair? I had to wonder if he would be willing, himself, to pick up a gun and demonstrate how he would keep the tide of refugees out of America by force. He’s a professing Christian, so I also wondered if he’d be willing to demonstrate this before the eyes of Christ and God.

jesus-with-children-jesus-33864297-500-375This would certainly put a different spin on Jesus Christ’s words: “Suffer the little children to come unto Me.” Continue reading