Note of Clarification: My semi-facetious interpretation of Quranic verses and hadith should not be taken as an accurate depiction of how all (or perhaps any) Muslims interpret their religious texts.
it seems like a logical thing to say that people get their values from their scriptures. It’s just intrinsically false. That’s not what happens. People do not derive their values from their scriptures — they insert their values into their scriptures.
Meanwhile, Sam Harris thinks Islam can inspire no good.
But the task isn’t as simple as discrediting the false doctrines of Muslim “extremists,” because most of their views are not false by the light of scripture. A hatred of infidels is arguably the central message of the Koran.
I’d like to see both of them try to us those arguments outside of an interview with a Western media outlet.
A Muslim: “My devotion to Allah inspired me to do charity work with non-Muslims.”
Sam Harris: ” But if you actually took your faith seriously, you’d behead those infidels, not help them.”
Another Muslim: “I behead these non-Muslims in the name of Allah!”
Reza Aslan: “Actually, you didn’t do that in the name of Allah. You did it because [insert any and every motive besides religion here].”
They are both wrong. Like any religion and/or set of dogmatic beliefs, Islam can inspire net good, bad, and/or neutral actions. Those actions do not arise in a space devoid of influences outside of religion, of course. However, it is absurd to deny that religion plays a significant role — especially when the people taking those actions directly cite their faith as inspiration.
If the voices of Muslims claiming that their actions are inspired by Islam are not enough, let us quote the Quran and Hadith — the sources of Islam as a religion — themselves on the matter.
If any good reaches them, they say, “This is from Allah,” but if any evil befalls them, they say, “This happened because of you.” Say: “All things are from Allah.” What is wrong with these people that they do not understand any word? [An-Nisa’ 78]
Faith is to believe in Allah, angels, books, prophets, the Day of Resurrection, predestination, that good and evil are from Allah, death, and the Resurrection after death. [Bukhari, Muslim, Nasai]
Allah said: “Whoever believes in Me but does not believe in qadar and that good and evil are by My preordainment, let him look for another Lord besides Me. [Shirazi]
A person is not considered a Believer unless he believes that good and evil are from Allah. [Tirmidhi]
Good and bad can come from the belief in Allah. Saying that the good or the bad doesn’t actually count as part of True Islam™ isn’t helpful when Islamic texts, as well as Muslims themselves, feel differently.
While I, as an ex-Muslim atheist, would prefer that people base their values on sources other than religion, that outcome is highly unlikely. Realistically, it makes more sense to encourage movement toward the net good and/or neutral interpretations of religion.