An Open Letter to Bill Maher…

Bill…can I call you Bill?  Oh, okay, Mr. Maher, then.  I watch your show every week.  I’ve been a fan going all the way back to ‘Politically Incorrect’.  We don’t always agree but then, it would be weird if we did, wouldn’t it?  As it happens, we agree on many things.  I share your outlook on Marijuana.  I share your feelings on political correctness.  I’m a Progressive.  Like you, I’m an atheist.  We agree more than we disagree but I’ve got to tell you; on the subject of Islam, I’m beginning to be concerned about you.  It appears your emotions have overwhelmed your rational mind on the subject and the situation seems to be getting worse.  On your March 24, 2017 broadcast, you became more emotional than I’ve seen you on the subject since Ben Affleck called you a racist.  For the record, I think Mr. Affleck was wrong – over the top.  But now it looks as though your own emotional involvement has caught up with Ben’s energy.

You swatted away comparisons to Christian outrages as “false equivalents” without first giving them any consideration.  Just, “No”.  And you seemed really angry.  Your position, if I understand it correctly, stands on two legs: violent acts of some people who are Muslims and polls.  I’m asking you to consider a couple of thoughts on those subjects that seem to have evaded you for the moment.  One, there are no atheists in foxholes and, two, polls are inherently biased and often, spectacularly wrong.

As to the first point, it seems most important to me that the “Muslims” who intend harm to America and Americans – aside from the occasional sympathizers who spring up from around the globe – all come from pretty much the same place and it cannot be a coincidence that the place they come from shares a common history of oppression and repression at the hands of “the West”.  (Specifically, Great Britain and the US.)

Simple math makes clear this is not a problem of Islam.  The Pew Research Center estimated that in 2010 there were 1.6 Billion Muslims in the world.  The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates the size of ISIS’ forces at somewhere between 80,000 – 100,000.  That works out to .00625% of Muslims actively fighting.  That means that 99.99375% of Muslims are NOT trying to kill Americans.  Suggesting that six thousandths of one percent of any given population represents the entire population seems…specious at best, particularly when those that do mean us harm share a far more common thread: the vast majority of them come from places where the US has “projected her strength”.

When a people who have been subjugated, demoralized, and exploited for four and five generations finally declare they’ve had enough and begin to fight back, the oppressors might well attempt to demonize them as “terrorists.”  It’s common, in fact.  But one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.  Either way, it’s war and war is insane.  It’s a well-known fact that in the insanity of war, fighters will turn to anything – anything – that might help them make sense of the events they’re experiencing.  They might even turn to their invisible super-friend for help and support…because there are no atheists in foxholes.  It just happens that in this case their invisible super-friend is named “Allah” and not “God”.  I submit that desperately grasping for hope from one’s religion is NOT the same as fighting for or because of that religion – even if the optics of the fight have been usurped by religious fanatics…

Ah, but you’ve got polls.  The polls you point to indicate that Muslims the world over support the tenets of Islam.  Let’s set aside the obvious problems inherent to polling like who did the poll?  What was the methodology?  How large was the sample?  Let us instead cut to the most basic difficulty of polling – and I feel funny even saying it because I know you know: when it comes to polls, people lie.  On every subject from sexual practices to sugar – people lie.

When a question of executing a heretic is nothing more than an abstract concept, people will often give the answer they feel they “should” give.  I suspect the poll findings would be very different if one restricted the poll respondents to people about to lose their own child to execution for “disrespecting the Prophet”.  Maybe not.  For sure, there are extremists in every religion.  But I’d bet there is a difference between an abstract concept and an actual reality in most cases…

So I’m asking you – as a friend – all right, no, as a fan whom you’ve never met, to take a step back and reconsider your position from a more…pragmatic perspective.  Do it for fairness.  Do it for honesty.  Do it for your health.  Carrying around that kind of energy is pernicious…

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