Normally I avoid religious topics and just stick to educating about skepticism and my own journey as a skeptic.

Today is going to be a bit different.

Yesterday was a very emotional day for many of us here in the US. I will always remember getting a panic-stricken phone call from my husband telling me to turn on the TV. Something terrible had happened with one of the Twin Towers, he said.

I fumbled for the remote, turning on the TV mere moments before the second plane hit the second tower.

I watched for hours with the rest of our nation while the horror continued to unfold.

When Bush declared war, I was right there with the others cheering him on. Like millions of other Americans, I was still hurting. My pain was nothing compared to those who lost someone in the attacks. I can’t begin to imagine what today is like for those people.

For those reasons, I can understand why people are still angry and distrustful of Muslims. We can point out that the people who flew those planes into the towers were extremists. We can keep saying that it is only a small faction of Islam that was responsible for those attacks. Until the emotional pain subsides enough for those people who are hurting to truly grasp that, I’m not sure how much progress we’re going to be able to make.

According to a poll, 70% of people polled feel that the “Ground Zero Mosque” shouldn’t be built. I have debated with people about this on Facebook. What it boils down to is that they are still arguing from emotion. Even when it is pointed out just how far from Ground Zero the proposed community center is and that it is more community center than mosque, the people I spoke to kept saying “Yes, they have the right, but is it appropriate?”.
This is still an emotional argument.

It’s an emotional issue so who can blame them for being emotional about this?

Along with the people who are avidly opposed to the “Ground Zero Mosque”, there is Reverend Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center who threatened, until just a couple days ago, to burn copies of the Koran on 9/11. His original reasoning was to burn these books in memory of those who died in the attacks.

What he did not seem to be aware of is that sixty Muslims also died in the attacks nine years ago. I am personally firmly set against burning books. ANY books. As an atheist, I think that all religious texts are works of fiction. Some stories in these books are beautiful and inspiring. They offer hope and solace in times of grief and confusion. Others are terrible and horrifying. But they are still just stories along the same lines as Greek mythology. Those books are the stories our ancestors told to try to make sense of our world.

That being said, I have never read the Koran but now that people are talking so vehemently about how vile it is, I wouldn’t mind reading it. I’ve read the Bible. I’ve read the Book of Mormon. I’ve read Buddhist texts. I’ve even read the Satanic Bible just to see what all the fuss was about. So why not actually *read* the Koran to find out what all the uproar is?

Cultural differences are scary and in this particular situation it can be very difficult to overcome the past. I understand that some people may not be ready to move on and who are ANY of us to tell them to “get over it”?

It boils down to this:We cannot continue to blame an entire group for the actions of a few. The US government did that after Pearl Harbor and the Japanese population of the US paid for it by being put in concentration camps right here in the US. When I was a teenager in Powell, WY we lived near the camp on Heart Mountain. We visited the place a few times and it was heartbreaking to think that our own government imprisoned US citizens out of fear.

Where will this fear lead us? There have already been personal attacks against Muslims simply because of their religion. According to the report, this type of hate crime is still under-reported. We have people calling for the banning of mosques (and not just the “Ground Zero Mosque” – ALL mosques) in the US merely because they are the religious centers of the Muslim community.

I am not saying that we should forget what happened. I won’t ever forget. I’m not sure that I can. What I’m saying is that it is time to stop blaming an entire population for the actions of a small group of people. It’s time to stop punishing all the members of the Muslim community for the actions of their fringe element. We don’t blame all Christians for the actions of the man who shot Dr. George Tiller. We also don’t blame all Christians for the actions of Eric Robert Rudolph or for Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City Bomber.

If some of us are not ready or able to move on, we can at least encourage those people having a hard time to analyze their thoughts and beliefs. If we can’t change a mind, perhaps we can at least plant a seed.



  1. Jason said,

    September 12, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    A couple of thoughts.

    First up, please get your facts straight, Tim McVeigh was a self-described atheist who said his only “god” was science. He was _your_ coreligionist not mine.

    Secondly, You might want to check your facts on the recent attacks on Muslims. They are not exactly the “hate-crimes” the media wants them so desperately to be.

    And thirdly, building the GZM is a deliberately provocative act by the people doing so. They know it upsets people, so if they are really about doing “community outreach” and “building bridges” they would take public feeling about the whole thing a little more seriously. I mean seriously, they have a legal right to do it, but building it there is about as sensitive and understanding as building a German cultural center at Dachau.

    • September 12, 2010 at 10:19 pm

      Jason, according to CNN McVeigh took last rights before his execution. He was, by his own admission, a lapsed Catholic. By taking last rights, that implies a belief in a higher power. I’d like to see the source of your quote.

      Noah addressed your second point well enough, I think.

      Third, your argument is precisely the type of argument that I talked about in my post. You seem to be implying the same sort of “Yes, the can but should they” argument. Are you also aware that the proposed community center is nearly a mile and a half away from the farthest corner of Ground Zero? The other mosque that has been there longer that the second tower is less than three miles away. How far is far enough?

  2. Noah said,

    September 12, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Here’s a couple points.

    First, try to avoid logical fallacies when forming an argument. For example, the notion that the Oklahoma city bomber was an athiest is a non-sequitor because McVeigh wasnt a scientist or some expert in theology. So his notions of what any sort of personal God meaing to him are not relevant, the point was that extremists should not be considered as being representative of the whole.

    Second, the implication that the recent attacks mentioned were in some way not “the hate-crimes the media wants them to so desperately be” is a false assumption because the “facts” that were provided was a report done by Human Rights, a non profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization that maintains it’s independence by not accepting any government funding. The media wasn’t mentioned in the post.

    Third, the point you make regarding the proposed building of the mosque near Ground Zero is an appeal to emotion or also known as the ad populum fallacy. Personally, I find the very act of provoking Americans into making irrational decisions based on emotional responses instead of reason and logic can be much more dangerous and destructive. This Maybe the proponents of the mosque issue’s goal is for us to fight internally over it. Your point also made me question, would it be like having Native Americans celebrate Columbus Day?I wonder why nobody has a problem with the porn shop within the same proximity of ground zero.

  3. Jason said,

    September 12, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Noah, it isn’t a non-sequitor at all. The claim was made that McVeigh was a “christian” but he said (sorry I misquoted) “Science is my religion” ( notes the quote and source) and it is pretty clear the guy was not in any meaningful sense a “christian” anymore than it would be reasonable to describe Maria as a christian.

    As to your second point, I was just noting that a number of “attacks” on muslims turned out to not be “hate-crimes” at all. I’d be interested to see how the group you mention collect their data. Hopefully they aren’t dumb enough to take CAIR’s word for it.

    As to the last point. My reasoning isn’t fallacious at all. I wasn’t offering it as a logical argument for why they should not build the mosque. I was noting that they claim to have a particular goal in mind with its building and their ongoing actions and attempts to build the thing clearly put the lie to those claims. If any group expects people to be “sensitive” and understanding towards them then it is incumbent on them to do the same thing in return.

    I was principally noting that they are clearly arguing in bad faith and that the construction of thing clearly is not in line with a group that really wants what they claim to want. I am quite reasonably questioning their motives. To call that perfectly reasonable questioning “islamophobia” is stupid.

  4. Jason said,

    September 12, 2010 at 11:55 pm


    My point was, if they are claiming to seeking outreach and understanding, then they have a funny way of going about it. That was all I was driving at. I know it is a distance away from where the twin towers stood. I am quite aware of the whole situation, i’ve been following it for a while. I just find it odd that the utter duplicity and bad faith argumentation of the guys building the thing is not more obvious to people such as yourself. You claim to be a skeptic and in favour of critical thinking but this point seems to pass you by.

    As I said, this is as sensitive and understanding as building a German cultural center at Dachau. If their goal is outreach and understanding, they have a funny way of going about it.

    If they have more nefarious motives as the location and name of the place suggest, then their behavior is much more understandable. Do you think it is a co-incidence it is called Cordoba House?

  5. Noah said,

    September 13, 2010 at 4:17 am

    Your point is still a non sequitor, it does not pertain to the point Maria was making. The personal beliefs of McVeigh was not the point. Once again, the idea presented is that we cannot condemn a group for the actions of one. Mosques all over the country are being protested against, so it’s not like it’s just isolated to Ground Zero. Listening to conservative news talk radio or Rush Limbaugh would be more of an example of portraying Islamophobic behavior. But, the entire notion that Maria is “calling reasonable questioning Islamophobic” is simply a false premise. Simply questioning things, such as you were doing, is clearly not who she was adressing. As to your point, I was adressing your remark about the media, which was not mentioned in the post. I’m not really sure what your point is on this issue, just that you think it’s insensitive to build the mosque there, but the point was that this is an emotional issue, not that it should be.

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