The following is from a discussion, elsewhere, about Islam. Johnny, is confusing Muslims with Islam and is concerned about hatred in the world. My response clarifies my position about as well as I've ever clarified it, so I'm posting the exchange here in my blog.
@ Atheist Exile
First, there is a rational justification for not hating anyone. One day I think we can eliminate hate if we don't blow up the earth first.
Second, I have really enjoyed your posts on Muslims, Atheist Exile. I am not often exposed to Muslims, coming from a highly Christian area, so I don't pretend to be able to debate one effectively. What is your experience with Muslims? Is your area highly Muslim?
Thanks for your comments. I lived, for 6 months, in Kuwait and I've been in the Philippines (where there's a Muslim insurgency, in the south) for over 3 years now. It's very important to understand that the adherents aren't the problem: the religion -- Islam, Muhammad and the Quran -- is the problem. Extremists have NOT hijacked Islam -- Islam has hijacked extremists. This difference can't be emphasized enough.
Having spent most my life overseas (Japan, Panama, Okinawa, Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Kuwait, Philippines) I know for a fact that people are the same everywhere. Most people are good and decent: some are not so nice. A few are downright pathetically depraved.
The problem with mainstream adherents is that they're apathetic about their religious institutions. It's the squeaky wheels that end up commandeering the agenda. With religions, squeaky wheels = fundamentalists. Extremists constitute the fringe of the fundamentalists. Yet these minorities tend to control or overly influence the direction of their religions: particularly when those religions have a weak hierarchy or no hierarchy at all.
Islam is a rabid dogma. I challenge anybody to find uplifting verses in the Quran. For every one you find (there ARE a few), I'll quote you at least 20 to 50 negative verses. Islam is a harsh, uncompromising religion: there is no wiggle-room for a moderate interpretation.
Then why do so many people subscribe to Islam? Early on in Islamic history, they were converted at the edge of the sword. After that, people mostly inherited the religion and haven't really studied it closely (much the same as Christians). Many of the ones who have studied Islam, started as children, in school, where they were encouraged to memorize the Quran. As a consequence, most adults don't know much about the Quran and many of the ones that do were brainwashed as children. I won't even go into the teaching of hatred for Jews and Israel to school children . . .
Consider the areas where Islam prospers: the Middle East / Mediterranean, Africa, and Asia. These are all harsh, under-developed, locales: harsh geography, harsh environment and/or harsh economy. The harsh, uncompromising, discipline of Islam, in human terms, is best matched to these harsh locales.
Though most Muslims are basically good people, many of them don't know what their own religion stands for. They repeat the few positive verses of the Quran as if the whole scripture is positive. For them, Islam is more defined by their Mullahs than by the Quran. And most Mullahs are fundamentalists, though there are exceptions, of course. With western cultures condemned as immorally decadent and with exposure to western cultures often restricted, Muslim countries depend on censorship to keep their populace ignorant of the superior ideals of the west. I know that last sentence will be a red flag for the moral relativists out there but they're going to have to admit that Islamic values just aren't up to progressive, modern, standards.
In Kuwait, there are daily calls to prayer at specific times during the day. All activity stops and everybody prays. If you're in a grocery store, you better quit shopping until the prayer ends. From minarets across the city, clarions bellow prayers in Arabic. As the sun sets, some drivers on freeways pull over to the shoulder, lay down their prayer rugs, and kneel to Mecca. There are many devout Muslims across the world. The vast majority of the devout are very nice people. A few are murderously hateful: they fill the ranks of the Jihadis. If only 1 percent of Muslim men are recruitable to the Jihadi cause, that would equal over 7 million Jihadis. I'm sure there are far fewer active Jihadis than that but if the conflict should escalate, there is a ready reserve of potential Jihadis.
Judaism and Christianity have both been reformed over the centuries. They lack the power they used to have. The worst thing about Islam is that it's still unreformed. The Old Testament (Torah) has worse atrocities than you'll find in the Quran but the Quran is dominated by us-versus-them, Muslim-versus-infidel, rhetoric. The Quran gives ample license and cover to violent Jihad. Jihadis know that they'll be admired by most Muslims because they actually practice what the Quran preaches. They fully embody the Quran and follow Muhammad's example.
Of course, there are others who could care less about religion. The most cynical of them will gladly take advantage of the Quran's license to kill and join Jihadis and terrorists out of sheer bloodlust. It takes all kinds of people . . . but the Quran empowers the worst of them to join ranks and kill indiscriminately in the name of Allah.