Is Islam Really the Mother Lode of Bad Ideas?

Late last year author and intellectual Sam Harris appeared on Real Time With Bill Maher and stated, "We have to be able to criticize bad ideas, and Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas." Unfortunately it seems the irony of his statement is completely lost on Mr. Harris.

Whether you believe his words to be "gross", "racist" and "ugly" or feel that this is just a statement of fact, the question Harris has really never answered is what makes Islam the mother lode of bad ideas. Few would argue that currently Islam doesn't possess the largest contingent of extremists; however, it seems like a stretch to blame the religion for this, as Harris does.

There's no doubt that media outlets have pulled verses out of the Quran in an attempt to "prove" that the Muslim holy book is the source of this evil, but are quotations from a religious book really enough to indict an entire religion? With this in mind, listed below is a mix of verses from the Quran and the Bible. Is it obvious which book is the mother lode of bad ideas and which one is the religion of peace?

1) "But that whoever would not seek the Lord ... should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman."

2) "As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help."

3) "Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death."

4) "If a man commits adultery with another man's wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death."

5) "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent."

6) "Men are in charge of women."

7) "All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. They are guilty of a capital offense."

8) "Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death."

9) "For if a woman is not veiled, let her hair be cut off; but if it is a shame to a woman to have her hair cut off, let her be veiled."

10) "Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments [veil]; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble."

11) "A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death."

12) "If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives."

13) "Do you commit immorality while you are seeing? Do you indeed approach men with desire instead of women? Rather, you are a people behaving ignorantly."

14) "Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and tell all those who heard him to lay their hands on his head. Then let the entire community stone him to death."

15) "Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all -- old and young, girls and women and little children."

16) "And when the forbidden months have passed, kill the idolaters wherever you find them and take them prisoners, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush."

17) "If even then you remain hostile toward me and refuse to obey, I will inflict you with seven more disasters for your sins. I will release wild animals that will kill your children and destroy your cattle, so your numbers will dwindle and your roads will be deserted."

18) "If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity."

The reality is that nearly all religions have at one time or another been a haven for violence and extremists and used their holy book as justification for their actions. The problem with Islam right now is not the Quran but the number of people who interpret the Quran in a way that allows them to rationalize the killing of others as doing the Lord's work. As Fareed Zakaria has stated, "There is a cancer of extremism within Islam today" that needs to be addressed; however, condemning an entire religion that contains hundreds of millions of peaceful devotees is certainly a bad idea that is worth criticizing.


1)B, 2)Q, 3)B, 4)B, 5)B, 6)Q, 7)B, 8)B, 9)B, 10)Q, 11)B, 12)B, 13)Q, 14)B, 15)B, 16)Q, 17)B, 18)B.