Chris Peak, a freelance writer from Boston and self proclaimed ‘new’ atheist wanted to understand more about the issues facing Islam in the current climate of intense media attention and the negative affects of groups like ISIS. So he asked acclaimed writer and scholar Dr Reza Aslan for an interview.
On the problem of it being the reader (of scripture) and not the book:
That’s the most basic, most simple foundational understanding of religion that there could be. And for the life of me, I cannot understand why people don’t get that?particularly, why the aggressive militant-atheist don’t get it.
Of course it’s about the reader and not the text. The text can promote violence, it can promote peace. It can promote pluralism, it can promote bigotry. And how one confronts that text, has everything to do with who that person is.
Honestly, it’s the most childishly, unsophisticated, and simplistic understanding of religion to believe that there is this 1:1 causal connection between a text and a person moved toward action. And yet this is the sort of the primary error of the so-called new atheist movement. I mean, just go and read that criticism of me in Salon by Jeffrey Taylor, and that’s exactly what he says. He says, “It’s ridiculous to think that people bring their own values to their scriptures when the scripture itself is so full of horrible things.” Except by that silly logic, that would mean that every single believer, without exception, who reads that scripture, responds exactly the same way. And that’s not just irrational, it’s idiotic. And more importantly, then what do you do with the hundreds of verses that promote peace and compassion and tolerance. Just ignore those verses?
I really have to be honest with you, I get so sick and tired of saying this sentence, because it’s as basic and obvious as the sun is hot. And to have to continually say it is an indication of how willfully ignorant people are when it comes to religion.
As a member of the Lahori Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam I feel the very same frustrations. We work hard to put across the true message of peace and guidance that Allah has given to the World only to see Muslims and Non Muslims alike diminish the word of Allah by isolating and twisting a certain few verses from the Holy Quran for their own gain, whether that be political like ISIS or to gain fame and money like Sam Harris.
You can read the whole interview here.