Bill Maher is only half wrong and if he had only kept some consistency in his reasoning and logic there would be no controversy over the extent to which Islam is more or less violent than any other religion. Liberals by and large tolerate if not applaud his broadsides at the institution of religion itself, but parsing out which is better than the other destroys his credibility on what was considered to be a well-rounded condemnation on the concept itself.
Reza Aslan, on the other hand has exhibited a more logical and well-reasoned approach to the flap that has been unfolding for actually several months now but disappointingly resorted to a personal jab at Maher in his exuberance to defend his position by pejoratively referring to him as merely a comedian. The old legal axiom is when you do not have a case attack the opposition. In this instance it was uncalled for and cast a suspicious eye towards his position.
So can we turn down the dial on this important discussion and have an intelligent, thoughtful, and civil discourse on the issue? For the sake of all, the last thing we need in a world that seemingly is imploding from any number of directions: wars, climate change, income inequality, and immigration just to name some of the more prominent challenges facing the planet, are irrational accusations and heated animosity.
Can any serious scholar of religion, of which I do not pretend to be, argue that neither the Koran nor the Bible has a monopoly on peaceful coexistence? I mean, both contain their fair share of violent passages so impugning one and not the other seems to be more than a little self-serving. Any individual who is so beholden to the written words of a document that was composed by fellow humans that common sense or reasonable intelligence has no standing in its interpretation is certain to be misguided by misinterpretation.
In other words, any religion that does not at its very core espouse general and specific foundational concepts based upon peace and understanding, love and tolerance, and compassion and empathy is not really a religion at all. It surely would not be one worth following. Therefore, if the major religions of the world adhere to these precepts yet entail different belief systems in a higher power let us not fight over which one is right or wrong. We as humans are simply not equipped to make such a determination.
What is really important is that those charged with spreading the faith, regardless of which religion it is, must strive to preach, mentor, and implore their congregations to adhere to the underlining foundations elucidated above and set aside the vitriol and hate emanating from those who would either misuse, misinterpret, or purposefully manipulate religion as a tool for violence and hate. It is within our powers as humans to exercise persuasion, reason, judgment, and force if need be to corral the true infidels who hide behind religion to advance their hatred, but it most certainly is maximally destructive to question the connecting thread that binds billions of people. Similarly, we must understand and appreciate when political applications of religious doctrines skew them to their favor for purposes of power, greed, or conquest.
The fact that Muslim countries have varying levels of political acceptance with regard to treatment of women, for example, is ample evidence that it is not the religion but rather the political application of the religion that differs.
Bill Maher is not just a comedian, he is a thoughtful and intelligent purveyor of human events and he applies his own brand of logic and reasoning together with an inimitable style of conveyance of such thoughts and intellect that makes other think. So can we please put this latest confrontation to rest with an acknowledgement on both sides that reason and civil debate can and should prevail?