This book becomes semi-competent after the first three chapters, but the first three are so astoundingly awful – overflowing with pomp and tripe – that it doesn’t salvage this mess. If anyone picked this up, read the first three chapters, and concluded that it was all rubbish then they would be well within their rights to do so. While there is a good display of competence and critique in the latter 6 chapters, they’re spaced quite horribly and jarring to read. There’s simply no nice way to say this: This book is badly sectioned. At best, you could call it a semi-competent exploration of Islamic theological failings. Yet, Harris Sultan makes a few severe mistakes that will make people who are more learned in Islam’s theological problems wince.
A bit about me and why I purchased this book: I bought this book back around February 2019 when I was still a supporter of the Western Ex-Muslim cause and never really got to it until this year due to my immense backlog and real life situations happening. I was finally able to start reading this book late January 2021 and finished it in Early February of the same year. Now, I don’t want to completely trash this book as some people may find a measure of utility in the latter six chapters, but there is no hiding that the first three chapters are asinine. If not for my personal experiences and observations of their behavior, I’d be shocked that one of the Ex-Muslims were nowhere near close to this idealized standard of the hypercompetent people that I’d hoped they’d be. Ever since my experiences from 2018 to just last year, I’m forced to admit the fact that they’re just regular people; although they espouse an atheist enlightenment, they’re far from the necessary level of intellect for a greater IQ civilization of atheists that I’d hoped would come to fruition in my lifetime. Indeed, my personal standards of wanting to live in higher forms of intellectual sophistication only seem to be fulfilled by the average Japanese person of Japan and I’m unfortunately not fluent in Japanese. Sadly, the Japanese stand alone on Earth in being the greatest intellectual, cultural, and moral people and civilization that we should all kowtow in awe of. Unlike the filth of Western Barbarians such as myself and Harris Sultan, the Japanese needn’t suffer any of these annoying questions of fighting against laughable superstitions; their lack of concern for even the concept of blasphemy has rendered religion to be mostly impotent in their civilization. One can only weep with joy when recognizing humanity can live and thrive in much greater intellectually sophisticated societies, but unfortunately chooses not to due to superstitious beliefs in non-East Asian societies (and while such notions may be an oversimplification of sorts, they’re notwithstanding from the overarching point about the superiority of Japanese culture).
All that aside, it is important for me to get into what I found so asinine within the contents of this book’s first three chapters and certain subsections of the latter six chapters. To do this, I’ve decided to put forth excerpts in their appropriate context from the book itself and then give my criticisms beneath them as I find that to be the most useful way to get straight to the point. These range from disagreements of opinion to criticisms of some of the so-called factual evidence that Harris Sultan claims to put forth:
This book is written for those Muslims who unknowingly disagree with the values that are fundamentals of Islam. My message to all these in-between Muslims is to either denounce Islam altogether (since you disagree with its values) or become like the Taliban or ISIS since they are the true followers of Muhammad’s Islam. It may seem harsh, but the true Islam is actually the Islam of the Taliban and ISIS, and by living a double life, I am certain, if there was a God, he would not be happy with you for accepting some of his ideas and ignoring the rest.
Right off the bat, Harris Sultan declares a very extreme position that’s sure to make him sound like an extremist for any Muslim, non-Muslim, and perhaps some Ex-Muslims who are reading his book. Many are sure to immediately denounce anything that he says from this point forward to be a strawman. That’s not convincing anyone and it isn’t easing readers in with a very good hook.
Lastly, the real audience of this book is the Muslim women who are being abused by this religion. I cannot comprehend the sorrow and sense of powerlessness a woman has every day in a male-dominated religion. Any sane person understands how important women are in producing the society of not only today but also of tomorrow, yet women are treated as if their sole purpose is to produce babies and serve their men. I would like to reach out to those women who are being abused and discriminated against by their husbands, brothers, or fathers and encourage and empower them to raise children who will be like anything but those husbands, brothers, or fathers
This contradicts the summary of his very book as he makes it sound as if the purpose is to help readers be better armed in criticizing Islam:
In a lengthy, meandering quote; Harris Sultan displays a complete lack of understanding of pantheism, which is part of Hinduism, when he goes in a long-winded argument for why he doesn’t believe in deism and theism of “gods of any known religion” while only describing the Abrahamic god. Unfortunately, the full quote was too lengthy to copy, but it’s merely a regurgitation of an argument that he made earlier in the book which I also have some objections with:
I grew up as a Muslim, went to the mosque for the Jumma (Friday) prayers, and read the Quran in Arabic as per the tradition, but a lot of things still didn’t make sense. As I was growing up in Pakistan in the ’90s, the Internet was still new, and answers were not easily found, so it was frustrating. There came a point in my life when ‘God did it’ no longer made sense to me. To try to understand the validity of Islam or any other religion, I asked three questions: 1. Is there any evidence in favour of this God? 2. Is the morality depicted in this religion good? 3. Is the science in this religion correct? I will note here that I would be dishonest if I said that I could do this all myself. Books like The God Delusion helped me a lot to understand the other side of the argument. These three questions led me away from Islam, but what about other gods? The gods of Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, the ancient Romans or Greeks, or a thousand other gods that people have died worshipping? After all, they would all claim that their religion passes all three questions. I did not study every religion in as much detail as Islam, but I could answer questions about the character of God in general as almost all gods have similar traits to those of the Islamic or Abrahamic God. My frustrations with each religion could be summarised by the following thoughts: 1. Why is the creator of billions of galaxies so obsessed with what we tiny humans do in our private lives? He gets angry if we sleep with someone of our own gender. He gets angry if we do not have a ceremony before we sleep with someone. If we do not worship him, he gets so angry that he will torture his own creations in hell for eternity. Why does he need worshipping? It made me think that the creator of billions and billions of galaxies has the temperament of a child; if I tell a child that he cannot have candy, he will start screaming and crying until he gets his own way. This is very similar to all these gods – ‘Worship me, or I will burn you in hell forever!’ 2. Why does this God, who wants us to believe in him blindly, show no evidence of his existence? He could reveal himself right now in front of the White House and end all wars. He could show up today and say, ‘Hey, this is who I am. This is what my name is, and I want you to do this and this.’ End of story. But he wants to hide himself, and then he wants to blame us for not believing in him? Muslims and apologists of other faiths say, ‘Well, our God sent his message thousands of years ago,’ which begs another question: why did the Abrahamic God send all his messages to a tiny part of the Middle East? What about people who did not get his message on the other side of the planet, say, Australia or the Americas? They did not know about Muhammad or any other Middle Eastern god until they were discovered in the fifteenth century and later. Just imagine the millions of people who were born and died at that time in those continents, completely oblivious of these Abrahamic gods, burning in hell simply because they were born in the wrong geographical area. 3. Muslims claim that humans contaminated previous scriptures like the Torah and Bible. Wouldn’t the creator of everything know that if he sends a prophet, like Jesus or Moses, their messages would be contaminated by other people and his message would be lost?? If he knew, then what does this mean for all the Jews and Christians born after the Torah and Bible were contaminated? They lived and died believing in their scriptures, but if they were contaminated by their forefathers, how were they meant to know this? Muslims love to say that the Quran is not contaminated, but even if this was true, I think it is worse than contamination that every sect of Islam has its own interpretation, Sunnis say that they are right, while Shias believe they are right. This means that the Quran is easily misunderstood, poorly written, or even just full of nonsense.
Ordinarily, this would seem innocuous if he’d just kept the context to the Abrahamic faiths, but throwing aspersions on Hinduism and polytheistic faiths is where it begins to fall apart. There are also some objections that can be raised by Jewish folk. For question 1, you don’t need to believe in a god or Gods to be a Hindu or a Jew. The theologies simply don’t require it. For question 2, speaking as a Hindu, I believe that ahimsa (non-violence), freedom of thought (a teaching so fundamental to the development of Hinduism in 800 BCE – 600 BCE that it didn’t require any coined terminology since it was the norm), and Krishna’s teachings of selfless service are all either fundamentally or mostly good moral teachings. There’s other moral teachings that aren’t so good such as Casteism, misogyny, and there did exist anti-gay views judging from the Manusmriti until later social books / lawbooks seemed to have changed that prior to the Islamic invasions. The latter-half of Harris’s critique on this section shows that he fundamentally doesn’t understand that Hinduism (a largely pantheistic faith that is open enough to allow for atheism as a valid stance) and polytheistic faiths don’t follow the Abrahamic belief in hell. In fact, Judaism itself doesn’t require a belief in hell. It was the hateful teachings of Jesus Christ that imposed hell as a punishment. There are some subsets of Hindu theology that seem to have beliefs pertaining to a hell with hellfire, but Hindus largely don’t need to believe in that and our traditions largely place Samsara and Moksha (roughly, reincarnation and self-liberation) as the afterlife. I, being a Hindu Atheist, don’t believe in that either and the logic system of the Pramanas don’t require it of me nor would even theistic variants since Krishna in the Smriti text of the Bhagavad Gita firmly says that all paths can attain Moksha so long as they’re a good moral person (i.e. faith in a god is not required).
Setting all of that aside, when I first read this, I felt there was a fundamental self-contradiction in Harris Sultan’s arguments in this passage. First, he says “The gods of Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, the ancient Romans or Greeks, or a thousand other gods that people have died worshipping? After all, they would all claim that their religion passes all three questions. I did not study every religion in as much detail as Islam, but I could answer questions about the character of God in general as almost all gods have similar traits to those of the Islamic or Abrahamic God.” and then near the end he says “But he wants
to hide himself, and then he wants to blame us for not believing in him? Muslims and apologists of other faiths say, ‘Well, our God sent his message thousands of years ago,’ which begs another question: why did the Abrahamic God send all his messages to a tiny part of the Middle East? What about people who did not get his message on the other side of the planet, say, Australia or the Americas? They did not know about Muhammad or any other Middle Eastern god until they were discovered in the fifteenth century and later. Just imagine the
millions of people who were born and died at that time in those continents, completely oblivious of these Abrahamic gods, burning in hell simply because they were born in the wrong geographical area.” and it seems like a clear and fundamental self-contradiction on his part. First, he claims that thousands of other religions and Gods are the same as the decadent Abrahamic god as a way of admonishing all religious beliefs and then clearly only references the decadent Abrahamic god while stating people who followed other Gods didn’t know the teachings of the decadent Abrahamic god. The passage is confusing to say the least and it seems like he wrote a rant, confused himself on what his own point was, and never bothered to do any form of editing before publishing his book.
The next one may raise eyebrows for those familiar with the history of Ancient Greece:
To emphasise the importance of method B over method A, let us assume we are in ancient Greece in the sixth century BC, when the idea of a flat Earth was very popular. We shall now look at both hypotheses, one at a time, and use our critical sense to find the truth. Hypothesis 1: Earth is flat since it appears flat. Method A thinking accepts this hypothesis straight away without any further scepticism. However, method B demands that we assume that the theory is correct but still question and look for evidence. For example, why have the humans who have travelled farthest never come across a point where there is a sheer drop off the edge of Earth? Let’s address two possible reasons: A) Earth has no edge, and it keeps on going forever; or B) no explorer has reached the edge, or those who have never made it back because they all fell to their deaths. We can rule out the first possibility as we can see the sun set and rise the next day, so no matter how large Earth is, the sun goes around it, so it cannot be infinitely large. The other possibility to defend this position could be that the sun takes a dip in the Western ocean but that doesn’t explain why it would come out from the Eastern ocean. This possibility was never really popular. We shall now focus on the second possibility. Keeping all the exploration people have undertaken in mind, it would be safe to assume that there may be no such point. Obviously, this supposition isn’t the absolute truth, but it does bring us closer, making us doubt the hypothesis. To get even closer to the truth, we can carry out a simple experiment by standing on a high cliff on the beach and observing approaching ships. When we see a ship in the distance, we can see that the highest point of the ship becomes visible first, and as it approaches, we start seeing the rest of the ship. If Earth was flat, the entire ship should become visible at once, but this is not what happens. Also, people have been observing lunar eclipses for thousands of years, and according to one school of thought, it was the lunar eclipse that made people question whether Earth is flat or not. Lunar eclipses happen when Earth gets between the sun and the moon and casts its shadow on the moon. If you have a look at your own shadow, you can get a pretty good idea of your shape. Consider this image below, taken during the August 2010 lunar eclipse; you can clearly see the shadow of Earth on the moon and see the edge of the shadow is like an arc, clearly revealing the shape of Earth. Furthermore, we can send multiple exploratory missions with enough food and water supplies to last them for months or even up to a year in the sea. If they sail to the east and return from the west, then it would mean that Earth is not flat. In fact, this is how it was proven by Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastián Elcano in 1519–1522. If you need to see the evidence with your own eyes, you aren’t alone. Some people are determined to see this for themselves, like American flatEarther Mike Hughes, who, at the time of writing this book, is attempting to send himself 1,800 feet in a homemade rocket to see if there is a curvature of Earth or not. At 1,800 feet (which is barely 550 metres; there are taller buildings), he is unlikely to see any curvature. Last time I checked, his local government had stopped him from doing it for safety reasons. So if we feel we have begun to doubt that Earth is flat, it stands to reason now to test our new hypothesis: that Earth is round. Hypothesis 2: Earth is round just like all the heavenly bodies we can see in the sky. To test this hypothesis, we shall now assume that it is correct and ask questions. If Earth is round, then why does it appear flat? Imagine you were walking on the surface of another planet; would it appear flat like it does on Earth, or would it be visibly round? Let’s try a thought experiment: if you assume that the sun is huge as compared to our body size, then the answer is obvious that it would appear flat. What if we ask what Earth would look like if it was round? Would it look flat, or would it have felt like walking on a big ball? You can now start increasing the size of the ball you are walking on, and you will notice that larger the ball gets, the flatter it feels as you walk on it. If this thought experiment doesn’t work for you, you could conduct the same physical experiment we conducted when we were testing the first hypothesis: if Earth is round, then the ships setting off in the east would come back from the west. Since this is what happened, we can agree with our hypothesis that Earth is round. Hopefully, I demonstrated how we should test a theory, a hypothesis, or even an argument by choosing method B. Of course, some absolute truths are a lot harder to find than finding out whether Earth is flat or round. For example, our current knowledge doesn’t tell us what happened before the Big Bang, and philosophically, we run into a lot of problems with almost all the theories. Although we have determined some absolute truths, there are even more yet to find. Since we cannot disprove god(s) created our
universe with absolute certainty, I will not make claims that there is no god whatsoever, but the book will cover various arguments that will argue that our gods (theistic gods) almost certainly do not exist. I must admit it is impossible to disprove a super-being who created the entire universe (a deistic god), but I feel strongly that this super-being has not yet been described by any known religion. Their creator sounds very small, egoistic, angry, and very unscientific, whereas the deity that may have created the universe must be very grand and above all feelings such as anger, happiness, sadness, vengefulness, etc. and doesn’t need validation from the humans it created. Just like the thought experiment earlier didn’t give us a conclusive answer but supported one side of the discussion more than the other, various thought experiments and arguments in this book will suggest that the gods humanity has introduced are far from any real god. Just because we cannot completely disprove God, this is not any evidence that gods exist, and since we cannot disprove God, no matter how improbable, we cannot rule out God’s existence completely. However, we can absolutely disprove the gods that human minds have conceived of so far by studying religions using method B. If we study religions with open minds, it is easy to start seeing the cracks that appear early in the study. Most of this book will present arguments going against the traditional gods created by mankind’s wild imaginations, such as Apollo, Zeus, Yahweh, Allah, etc., but it will also highlight the improbability of the deistic God, a god who created the entire universe but does not interfere in the petty business of humans or any other species living on other planets. Simply put, the deistic God created the universe and then left it. I must admit it is much harder to disprove a deistic god than the popular gods who supposedly interfere every day and listen to our prayers, but the gods we’re concerned with are the ones people are fighting wars over. These gods are definitely theistic and not deistic gods
Whether it was dumb luck or a last-minute correction by Harris Sultan that he’d put down the 6th century BCE of Ancient Greece and not the 5th century BCE, I may never know. Nevertheless, you don’t need a long-winded explanation on “critical sense” and the movement of ships in relation to lunar eclipses. In fact, ancient Greeks figured out the Earth was spherical approximately a century later:
Excerpt from NASA:
StarChild Question of the Month for February 2003
It has actually been known that the Earth was round since the time of the ancient Greeks. I believe that it was Pythagoras who first proposed that the Earth was round sometime around 500 B.C. As I recall, he based his idea on the fact that he showed the Moon must be round by observing the shape of the terminator (the line between the part of the Moon in light and the part of the Moon in the dark) as it moved through its orbital cycle. Pythagoras reasoned that if the Moon was round, then the Earth must be round as well. After that, sometime between 500 B.C. and 430 B.C., a fellow called Anaxagoras determined the true cause of solar and lunar eclipses – and then the shape of the Earth’s shadow on the Moon during a lunar eclipse was also used as evidence that the Earth was round.
Around 350 BC, the great Aristotle declared that the Earth was a sphere (based on observations he made about which constellations you could see in the sky as you travelled further and further away from the equator) and during the next hundred years or so, Aristarchus and Eratosthenes actually measured the size of the Earth!
Also, approximately four hundred years after the date that Harris Sultan places, there was a way to figure out the Earth was round using two sticks and observing their shadows. There was no need for using ships:
This next one made me cringe at the sheer thoughtlessness and oversimplistic view:
This is why I have a problem with ‘conservatives’ – because by definition, they are change averse and hold to their traditional values. How can you ever improve on your current position without changing? Whether we like it or not, we all change, even the conservatives. If we were all unchanged as Muslims or Christians, we still would have slaves as the Quran and Bible sanction them. We have a slave-less world thanks to the people who ‘changed their minds’.
So, for the sake of the argument, if “conservatives” supported Free Speech based upon Enlightenment Values and / or legal and constitutional basis (depending on the country of origin of the conservative) and that was considered the “traditional” view, then would it be better to throw that away for the more “liberal” view of Islamophobia, which is just a neologism for blasphemy against Islam?
This next part is damning and shows that Harris Sultan didn’t bother to fact-check what he wrongfully thought was strong evidence:
Religion’s defenders also claim that religion is useful because it makes people more charitable to one another. I will not deny the great charity work most philanthropists do, but I would argue that philanthropy is not limited to religious people. In my personal view, if you do ‘good’ just for the promise of an eternal reward, that is not very commendable anyway. Charity is another phenomenon that has been hijacked by religion. The biggest philanthropist in the world is Bill Gates, who, to date, has donated twenty-eight billion dollars via his charity and who also happens to be an atheist. The second biggest philanthropist is Warren Buffet, who has donated close to twenty-seven billion and also happens to be an atheist.
Bill Gates is a practicing Catholic, his family attends his local Catholic Church, and he grew up in a Protestant denomination as a child. This is a damning blow to the book, because Harris Sultan published this book in December 2018 and Bill Gates interview with Rolling Stone clarifying his religious beliefs has been available since 2014:
You’re a technologist, but a lot of your work now with the foundation has a moral dimension. Has your thinking about the value of religion changed over the years?
The moral systems of religion, I think, are superimportant. We’ve raised our kids in a religious way; they’ve gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in. I’ve been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that’s kind of a religious belief. I mean, it’s at least a moral belief.
Do you believe in God?
I agree with people like Richard Dawkins that mankind felt the need for creation myths. Before we really began to understand disease and the weather and things like that, we sought false explanations for them. Now science has filled in some of the realm – not all – that religion used to fill. But the mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there’s no scientific explanation of how it came about. To say that it was generated by random numbers, that does seem, you know, sort of an uncharitable view [laughs]. I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don’t know.
Furthermore, while slightly less damning, Warren Buffett, with two “ts” in his surname, has identified as Agnostic for many years. Harris Sultan did not do his due diligence with research when writing his book.
Next up, a seemingly innocuous but no less important quibble:
When I was a boy and first watched Jurassic Park, I loved it so much, I started thinking there might be a place in the world where dinosaurs still exist.
Next up, Harris Sultan doesn’t understand Judaism:
Obviously, if it was this simple, then no one would worry about hell, but as religion comes with so much baggage, it is impossible to live without worrying about it. For example, in all Abrahamic religions, if you don’t believe in God, you will go to hell
- Not all of Judaism requires belief in a god.
- Judaism allows Jews to choose whatever Afterlife to believe in. The concept of hell was imposed by the hateful, barbaric teachings of Jesus Christ. Judaism is more intellectual than mere Christianity.
To get a better glimpse at how Harris Sultan meanders in his first few chapters and why it is jarring to read, please take a look at this. It is ridiculous. He jumps all over the place from Hitler to lions:
The Islamic faith asserts that those who sin in this world are punished both in this world and the next, so why do a lot of wicked people die without any punishment on Earth? How do we know they are burning in hell? I was once watching an episode of Q&A where Cardinal George Pell told Richard Dawkins that it is nice to know that Hitler is burning in hell now. The cardinal thought that since Hitler got away so lightly in this world, it was not justice for his fifty million victims. Obviously, it would be nice to know that Hitler and Stalin are still paying for their crimes some seven or eight decades after they committed them, but does Earth really owe us any sense of comfort? Just because it is nice to think that Hitler is still burning in hell, is it enough evidence to believe he is actually burning in hell? What about a newborn lion cub who is killed instantly by a male lion who wants the lionesses for himself? Would this lion be burnt in hell forever for killing baby lions? Why do humans consider themselves so special that we demand comfort in response to natural injustice, especially when we share this planet with millions of other species who don’t get any comfort from the natural cruelties that are beyond their control? No, I don’t think there’s a hell
This next part is an issue that isn’t unique to Harris Sultan and I’ve seen Armin Navabi make this same mistake. However, most strikingly for me, it was Sam Harris who made this mistake even before them. It was far more embarrassing for Navabi and Sam Harris than it is for Harris Sultan here, but this is important enough to tackle. I’ll be adding a bold emphasis to help clarify this next point:
Now what about heaven, where we have rivers of milk and wine and seventy-two virgins at our disposal (not to mention only one husband to the women who go to heaven), where we will never die and will have everything we want? Wow, isn’t that a beautiful dream? Evidence? Zero. Probability? Next to zero. Do you want to waste your entire life over a highly improbable dream and not listen to music, enjoy art, or give equal rights to women? You would deprive almost 50 per cent of Earth’s human population of their basic rights just because heaven might be real? I certainly do not want to waste my life over such an improbable dream. This is why faith is taught to be a virtue; because of the improbability of heaven and hell, you are bound to question its existence no matter how blindly you believe in it. The constant struggle in the minds of religious people can hardly be considered a comfort
For something to be improbable, there needs to be statistical evidence that the outcome could possibly happen. For an event to be a statistic, there needs to be an element of its occurrence happening in the real world that is measurable. Since none of it is measurable and it has no element or unit to be a statistic, a sample of the event having occurred, the events aren’t improbable. To be clear, they aren’t improbable because their likelihood of occurring is exactly zero. There’s no sample to measure, no units available to do any mathematical computations, and no element of the belief systems of heaven or hell exists on earth to measure in the first place. The probability is zero unless there’s a unit of an event occurring to measure. It’s not an election whereby percentages of a President’s likelihood to win or lose is based on who the majority of a large sample of people say that they will support. There is no heaven or hell to measure or any End of Times / Judgment Day to measure. The probability of superstitious beliefs being true is zero in the absence of any measurable occurrence. Unless the Scientific Method can prove they exist in the first place, there’s nothing to support they have a probability of anything but zero.
There is a well-known medical phenomenon called the ‘placebo effect’, which makes people feel better if they are told that they have been treated for a problem. If a cancer patient is given pills and told that their cancer has been cured, they actually start feeling better and think that they have beaten cancer. But just because the patient is feeling better doesn’t mean the cancer is actually gone. Even though religion seems to comfort people, we can’t assume it actually does, so the argument that a belief in God and the afterlife is comforting cannot be presented as a fact.
Harris is confusing subjectivity and objectivity in this paragraph. The next one made me raise an eyebrow:
Dr Kaku went on and said some people think we may actually have a ‘God gene’, a gene that makes us want to believe in a higher power. Earlier, I demonstrated that simply because we like to believe in something does not mean it is real. But why are we asking this question? Why are we debating whether God exists or not when we actually have a gene that forces us to believe in a higher power? If we have a gene that forces us to believe in a higher power, we should remove that gene through science. Just like we do not have a tail anymore because we no longer require it, we can actually work towards getting rid of this useless gene.
Harris Sultan could have argued for the unlikelihood of a “god gene” by suggesting a scientific experiment be conducted or spoken of how silly the notion of a “god gene” is, but instead he just sounds extremely hateful and antagonistic. I can’t know what he was thinking by writing this portion, but it just gave me the impression of an extremist and I doubt this was convincing to his stated audience for this book.
Religion stops you from evolving your thoughts. While religious societies are still constantly evolving, it is important to notice the speed of this evolution and compare it with less-religious societies. Religion does not encourage you to change your mind, particularly Islam. Change of mind can be perceived as a bad thing, and so politicians, lawyers, and people in general go to great lengths to claim that they are still standing firm on their initial position.
I was unaware that the implicit freedom of thought in Hinduism, Krishna’s statements in the Smriti text of the Bhagavad Gita that all paths can lead to Moksha so long as you’re a good moral person, and the Pramana logic system of Hinduism meant I wasn’t allowed to change my mind on anything. The next part is even more embarrassing:
Religion stops this discussion and forces you to stick to beliefs deemed correct and makes you fight against progress. For example, in Islam, homosexuality, female equality, and adultery can never be accepted, but Muslim countries are moving slowly towards accepting them. Two hundred years ago, no one in the Muslim world would have denounced slavery because it was allowed in Islam, but the societies that got rid of slavery forced the Muslim world to change.
- This argument of his is a self-contradiction.
- Due to being a self-contradiction, it is highly likely that he has repudiated his own argument in the eyes of the religious people that he’s supposedly trying to convince that Islam cannot change.
Ellen wanted to die independently and honourably through euthanasia. However, in our great country, we still have people who impose their religious views on the rest of us. The voluntary euthanasia movement has only one obstacle: organised Christianity in Australia. The religion Ellen followed so dearly was now standing in the way of her freedom and personal choice. Daniel Andrews, a Victorian Premier and a devout Roman Catholic, had been a strong critic of the voluntary euthanasia movement. As a Roman Catholic, he had to be critical of voluntary euthanasia despite reason and strong arguments. His views on voluntary euthanasia changed after a tragic personal experience; his father suffered from a rare cancer and died in 2016 after a long and painful battle. After seeing his father suffer, he changed his views. This is a clear example of how religion stops you from changing your mind for good outcomes. How unfair is it that had his father not died, Daniel Andrews would have remained a staunch critic of voluntary euthanasia? Voluntary euthanasia is still not legal in Australia or even Victoria; however, the debate has started, and I am sure that eventually, human decency and intelligence will prevail over dogmatic beliefs
His choice of words regarding Daniel Andrews is at best crass and at worst, appallingly insensitive to the man losing his father. It’s also another contradiction to his argument that religion slows down change since Andrews’s personal experience did change him and making a what-if scenario is pointless.
You may think I am contradicting my own statement by pointing out that religious societies and people have changed their minds, but I consider this another failure of religion. If Muhammad came today, he would be shocked to see Muslims being tolerant towards and befriending homosexuals, non-Muslims, and especially atheists, allowing women to go out on their own, etc. If you think about it, this is a failure of Islam to keep Muslims in the seventh-century Muslim world. Despite religion’s best efforts, human morality still evolves, but Islam has given a strict code of conduct that is not to be broken. If slavery was not condoned by Islam, Christianity, and other religions, we would have gotten rid of it a long time ago, maybe in the Renaissance. If Islamic women were not supposed to be subservient to men, Saudi Arabian women would not have waited till 2017 to be allowed to drive cars. If homosexuality was not considered an abomination, a progressive country like Australia would not have waited until 2017 to allow marriage equality, and Muslim countries wouldn’t have to wait another fifty or maybe one hundred years. These things change anyway, but all religion does is slow down this progress. This is why it is necessary to get rid of religion altogether.
This argument can only be applied to Islamic societies and not all religious societies since he only cites Islamic societies as examples with the slight exception of Australia which he doesn’t go into much detail about.
It is true that the suicide rate in Muslim countries like Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia is comparatively quite low given the latter two are rather oppressive states. Pakistan, on the other hand, is a rather financially poor society but isn’t as oppressive as the other two. So why do these Muslim countries have such a low suicide rate? Suicide is discouraged in Islam, and that could possibly be a factor, but that is not the full story. Being a Pakistani, I am well aware of how suicides are systematically hidden from the official records as they are considered a stigma and shameful for the family. Suicide and rape are the two biggest phenomena that go
massively under-reported purely because of the societal pressure in Pakistan. Just like you wouldn’t trust a human rights report coming out of Saudi Arabia and Iran, we can’t trust a report on suicide from these countries. Suicides have more to do with one’s state of mind than simply the belief in God or lack thereof. There are far too many variables involved that lead to a suicide. If belief in God alone was effective in preventing suicide, then Kazakhstan, which is a majority Muslim country, would not have had such a high suicide rate.
Why is voluntary euthanasia progressive and moral for people suffering from severe and incurable physical pain, but regular suicides somehow reveal a decadent civilization that is backwards and barbaric when we don’t know the reasons behind why they do it? And if all religions really forbid suicide, then how do we make sense of Islamic suicide bombers who believe they go to paradise with 70 wives and 2 houris?
This next part is just the most confusing sentence structure that I’ve observed in a long time:
‘Accept Allah as the one true God and Muhammad as his last messenger’. Waleed Aly, a famous Australian Muslim apologist, once said on ABC’s Q&A that on your deathbed, it is perfectly rational to accept God as you have nothing to lose. What more can you expect from a religious apologist? If I live my entire life on the principles of rationality and evidence, how can I let go of those principles in my dying moments? Wouldn’t that be a gross display of hypocrisy and immorality? No, Waleed Aly, some of us like to live with principles and die with honour, and if we didn’t buy into your religious nonsense when we were alive, we are not going to buy into it when we are dying
He also confuses subjective and objective yet again:
Religious apologists love to claim that they found God in their darkest hour. I have never understood this claim. Yes, we all go through rough times. We are all equally likely to witness the death of our parents or a total breakdown of our romantic relationships etc., but to say that ‘God took me out of that troubled time’ is not a factual claim. They may think that their belief in God took them out of depression, but that is not to say they could not have taken themselves out of depression any other way.
It seems as if he switched the point that he was trying to make mid-paragraph as these are just bizarre to read. To get better insight on how he jumps from topic to topic and why it is so jarring for me. I’ll give no judgment for this next paragraph, just read it and see for yourselves:
Not so long ago, I also went through a period of prolonged sadness, and I experienced this depression firsthand. There was this time when conversations with friends no longer interested me, music was no longer calming, books were boring, and even the feeling of sunlight on my skin couldn’t cheer me up. There was this feeling of sadness that just didn’t go away, and it seemed like the harder I fought against it, the harder it became to get rid of. Being experimental in nature, I decided to give Allah another go and tried talking to him; when that didn’t work, I tried Yahweh. When you are drowning, you will try to grab anything that would keep you afloat. Just like that, when I was down, I would believe in anything to get out of that feeling. Despite all my efforts, there was no response from the other side. I felt like I was talking to myself, and no one can say I didn’t have enough faith as I was 100 per cent willing to give it a go. Since I was vulnerable, weak, and depressed, I was open to any idea that would take me out of that low, sad feeling. I can understand how people fall victim to believing in God when they are going through hard times. The universe is a big, scary place; there are billions of stars in our galaxy alone, and who knows what is happening on the planets around those stars? Are there people on those planets too? Are they also going through happiness and sadness? Are they killing one another over what fairy tale they believe in? These are simple questions, but the answers aren’t simple. We just don’t have the technological capability to find the answers, and that is what frustrates humans. Out of this frustration, we invent stories and myths that give us Band-Aid solutions. Any moment, a wandering black hole can come to our part of the galaxy and swallow all the planets and our sun, and we will be gone. Any alien species that wanders around where our solar system was would not even know about us. They wouldn’t know that there was once a mighty Julius Caesar who crossed the Rubicon or a Martin Luther King Jr. who started a civil rights movement or the great wars we fought over resources and ideologies, yet here we are, doing all those things while we are existing. All these wars and movements look meaningless at the cosmological scale, don’t they? Yes, indeed, they are, but that is not to say that we stop fighting for good and what is just simply because it is insignificant to the universe. We are significant to ourselves. An ant colony is as insignificant to us as we are to the universe, but the ants have been working and building their colonies for millions of years. They don’t have to stop living just because humans find them insignificant. It is easier to believe that we are all there that there is and we have this big father-like figure who is watching us and looking after us. Why fear the big and vast universe when you have the king of the universe, God, watching over you? A black hole is coming our way? No problem. Let’s pray, and the king of the universe will make it go away. It does seem like a comforting belief, regardless of whether it is true or not. If I am lost in a jungle with no food, water, or clothes to keep me warm, I would love to have a friend with me who would be able to help me and get me out of my predicament, but my survival would depend on the truth. If I do have a friend, that’s nice, and he will help me out, but if I don’t have this friend, then the mere belief or wish that I should have a friend would not help me survive. I will have to do something myself to get out of it. This is exactly how I got out of my troubled times. I talked to God, and since he doesn’t exist, I didn’t get any help from him. I fought and battled and got out of my depression. I would not recommend techniques to get out of it as I am not qualified, but if you are going through depression, seek professional help as there always is a way out through help and personal resilience but not through prayer. So if we can get out of depression by working on ourselves and not by praying, then why resort to false beliefs? Even though we feel insignificant sometimes, why keep on feeling that way and not take responsibility and action? Atheists are not just a bunch of depressed people; we are humans just like everyone else. We get diseases like everyone else, and we get sad just like everyone else. The only difference is we overcome them through reality, not by praying to an invisible friend.
These next few ones are amazingly thoughtless and I cannot resist making wry objections:
I find it very hard to believe that in an atheistic society, we would have systematic discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual preference.
Apparently, China’s one-child policy from 1979 – 2015 wasn’t enough evidence for Harris Sultan.
Can a non-Muslim be the head of the state in Pakistan? Of course not. The constitution of Pakistan actually publicly discriminates on the basis of religion. If Pakistan was a secular humanist country or if there was no religion in our world, I do not think governments would mandate that a non-Muslim cannot be the head of the state.
My, my! Imagine what I felt when I read this after he bluntly told me the exact opposite regarding the discrimination of the religious minorities in Pakistan in my debate with him. He said religious minorities didn’t suffer any discrimination except that they couldn’t be Prime Minister, yet this passage is him admitting that the Pakistani constitution discriminates against religious minorities. So basically, he was not above lying directly to my face regarding issues I was unfortunately ignorant of at the time and it was in front of his esteemed audience too, and all to claim a “victory” in our debates. There’s something called credibility Harris Sultan and you clearly let yours die that day and the proof is your own book.
I doubt they will change because the reason for polygamy is not that there ever were more women than men but to keep men happy. What is better than selling imaginary rewards like heaven and virgins after death? Real women in the real world. Subjecting a woman to something as disgusting as hearing her husband having sex with another woman in the next room has no room in modern society.
Apparently, Harris Sultan takes offense to women who have a sexual kink for being cucked.
I don’t think so because in Western society (where it is not considered shameful when a woman chooses her own husband), we have zero honour killings. Yes, women are murdered in the West, but are those murderers supported by the state or its ideology? Obviously not.
This is a gross oversimplification and he should have known better than to frame it this way as there are indeed places even in the West where institutional discrimination results in the violence and killing of women, such as the Christian extremism in certain areas of South Carolina.
Finally, in the section “Tyrannical”, Harris Sultan opens with this:
Muhammad behaved like a warlord and a king; anyone who no longer believed in him had to die. Although there is no direct verse in the Quran that dictates death for apostasy, there are various hadiths that show Muhammad wants anyone leaving Islam be put to death.
I remember; when the anti-Hindu bigotry reached a fever pitch on Twitter by him, Armin Navabi, Zara Kay, Ali A. Rizvi, and other Western Ex-Muslim activists; Harris Sultan claimed that Hindu and Christian religious texts supported killing apostates and that Islam’s Quran never did. I don’t have the quote on hand, but I was going through a cascade of emotions that I can’t quite put into words. There was such a huge array of logical failures in what he said and – if it were true that Ex-Muslims were getting killed by Muslims in the Middle East – such a dangerous degree of harm that Harris Sultan was willfully unloading. I thought to myself, he had to have known he was doing that because of the whole incident involving Spartacus (an anonymous Ex-Muslim that Harris Sultan helped to get out of Pakistan by requesting donations for help from his fans) and the gang rape that Spartacus suffered in Pakistan by Spartacus’s own admission. I thought to myself . . . could Harris Sultan truly be stupid enough to not understand the consequences of what he’d just done? It was also vexing to see that, just like Marxists from India, he was imposing Islam’s criteria onto Hinduism. The only real difference was that he was imposing it on Christianity too. Whereas Christianity has the theological concept of open interpretation, thus rendering what Harris Sultan said as a moot point if the Bible condoned murder for leaving Christianity; Hinduism has the Pramanas as a logic system, the freedom to choose among different denominations, freedom of belief in general, and emphatic support for non-violence. Yet, Harris Sultan was treating both Christianity and Hinduism as if they existed under the Tafsir system of Islam and that was asinine of him to do that. But stepping away and observing it with as much impartiality as possible, it makes no rational sense to disparage Christianity and Hinduism for teachings they don’t follow anymore. If the Bible teaches to kill for leaving Christianity, it isn’t part of the theology in modern times. Furthermore, if the 5000 year-old Hindu texts having teachings of killing for leaving the religion during its earliest texts was accurate, even assuming it wasn’t a mistranslation that he was posting which the Hindus who responded to him (and for which he purposefully ignored) showed conclusively that Westerners had indeed mistranslated the particular texts that he cited, it would have meant nothing. He based his judgment on the 5000-year old texts and not the Sramana movements which served as a reform movement from 800 BCE – 600 BCE and the tail end of 600 BCE consisted of acceptance of free thought and even respect for the open insults towards Hinduism by the Charvaka Philosophers who were respected members of society. Harris Sultan was clearly ignorant of this history and ignoring the latter Vedas to point to something from approximately 5000 years ago when the Indus Valley civilizations were probably in their infant phase to say that Hindu texts preached the killing of apostates. It was the most disingenuous argument that one could make and he shamelessly did it. By 600 BCE, Vedic followers didn’t need religious laws imposed to endure insults when they were insulted and were freely able to criticize right back. Yet, no Western Ex-Muslim ever seems to acknowledge this inconvenient historic fact when they preach about Enlightenment values.
Above all, what really made it insidious for Harris Sultan to do that on Twitter was that he was preaching a concretely debunked lie that his own Ex-Muslim cohorts have repeatedly debunked. Do they not watch each other’s videos or at least discuss these issues amongst themselves like they claim? He was ridiculing other religions and disparaging them while trumpeting Islamist propaganda that could seriously get the Ex-Muslims that he supposedly cares about in the Middle East and Pakistan killed. The Quran does, in fact, teach to kill Apostates. It’s Quran 4:89:
Sahih International: They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah. But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.
Pickthall: They long that ye should disbelieve even as they disbelieve, that ye may be upon a level (with them). So choose not friends from them till they forsake their homes in the way of Allah; if they turn back (to enmity) then take them and kill them wherever ye find them, and choose no friend nor helper from among them,
Yusuf Ali: They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks;-
Shakir: They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah’s way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper.
Muhammad Sarwar: They wish you to become unbelievers as they themselves are. Do not establish friendship with them until they have abandoned their homes for the cause of God. If they betray you, seize them and slay them wherever you find them. Do not establish friendship with them or seek their help
Mohsin Khan: They wish that you reject Faith, as they have rejected (Faith), and thus that you all become equal (like one another). So take not Auliya’ (protectors or friends) from them, till they emigrate in the Way of Allah (to Muhammad SAW). But if they turn back (from Islam), take (hold) of them and kill them wherever you find them, and take neither Auliya’ (protectors or friends) nor helpers from them.
Arberry: They wish that you should disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate in the way of God; then, if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them; take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper
Another troubling issue I noticed was that none of his Western Ex-Muslim cohorts rebuked him on this claim. It was as if they’d all silently agreed with each other that they were going to campaign to be obnoxious anti-Hindu bigots and so facts didn’t seem to matter anymore when they conducted this shameful, obnoxious, and bigoted Twitter campaign against Hindus. Also, it didn’t escape my notice that Spartacus had claimed his finger had been cut prior to fleeing Pakistan for the Hindu-majority Nepal where he’d be safe, but somehow his videos featured him with his hands perfectly fine with no finger appendages missing. For all those reasons and more, it felt to me that they weren’t taking human rights seriously enough and that I had been mistaken in my impression of them being a serious group of human rights activists. Even on presumably serious issues, it seemed like there was an embellishment of the truth and their behavior no longer seemed logical, coherent, and their views seemed dangerously close to the Islamists they supposedly were fighting against. I was surprised to learn from a few Middle Eastern and Indian Ex-Muslims I met via various social media channels that the Western Ex-Muslim movement seemed deranged from what I had described of them with links of their own content as evidence. I’ve said all I feel that I’ll ever need to say regarding my opinions of them.
Overall, I’d rate Harris Sultan’s The Curse of God as a 2 / 5. Whatever positives this book may have, you can honestly find most of the information from Youtube videos such as Apostate Prophet’s channel and it isn’t enough to save Harris Sultan’s book from its obvious shortcomings.