Time to Draw Mohammed

“Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” is May 20. I have already published my entry and explained my reasons for participating. I have also explained why critics of the campaign are full of hot air.

I am pleased that other prominent organizations also are promoting the campaign. Michael Moynihan is leading the charge at Reason, while Craig Biddle of The Objective Standard is also publishing drawings.

And yet some critics remain miffed about the effort.

Eboo Patel worries that college students who chalked images of Mohammed needlessly offended Muslim students who don’t support violence. Patel writes, “Muslim Students Associations (MSA) on all three campuses [Northwestern, Illinois and Wisconsin] said they believed in free speech and were opposed to fringe groups who threaten violence, too.”

Patel argues that attacking a “sacred cow” is not a good way to defend free speech. For example, making fun of a sick grandmother or a cancer patient, or using the “N” word, would also attack a sacred cow, but doing so obviously would be wrong.

Further, argues Patel, drawing Mohammed “intentionally and effectively marginalize a community” and hurts the Muslim students.

Shahed Amanullah argues that the death threats made against the South Park creators (who used images evoking Mohammed) are not representative of the Muslim community. With the “Everybody Draw Mohammed” campaign, “these Muslim-Americans are being subject to mass insult.” Amanullah likens drawing Mohammed to drawing “vile stereotypes of blacks.”

The arguments of Patel and Amanullah are entirely bogus.

The first critical point is that, while most Muslims (especially in America) do not make death threats or try to murder people for drawing Mohammed, a significant number of Muslims do exactly that. Let us review, shall we?

* Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Versus was met with Islamist rioting, death threats, and a fatwa by Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

* A violent Islamist murdered Theo Van Gough for daring to create a film critical of Islamist oppression of women.

* The Danish cartoons of Mohammed also were met with widespread Islamist rioting, death threats, and acts of violence.

* Violent Islamists threatened to murder the creators of South Park.

* A violent Islamist planted a bomb in New York City, perhaps partly in response to South Park.

* A violent Islamist recently tried to burn down the house of Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks.

* A violent Islamist recently broke into the home of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

* A violent Islamist recently attacked Vilks at a university lecture for daring to show a controversial film. (See also the AP’s account.)

* Violent Islamists have threatened to murder an organizer of the “Everybody Draw Mohammed” campaign.

Claims that the threats like those against the South Park creators are totally atypical and just the result of a couple of New York nut jobs are, put simply, lies. A frighteningly large portion of the Muslim community threatens, condones, or openly practices violence.

Let the majority of peaceful Muslims take a stand, denounce violence and threats of violence, denounce terrorist organizations, and strongly advocate individual rights and freedom of speech.

Are Muslim students at American universities all peace and light? Then let them openly and loudly condemn the Muslim student at the University of California, San Diego, who sympathized with the Nazis and Islamist terrorist organizations and called for the extermination of the Jews.

Moving on to tangential matters, I have already explained why drawing Mohammed is not like expressing racism or making fun of a sick grandmother or a cancer patient. Racism is inherently evil. Making fun of sick people is inherently wrong. But there is nothing inherently wrong about drawing Mohammed, the fact that some people take irrational offense to it notwithstanding.

Indeed, there is great moral virtue in drawing Mohammed in the current climate, for doing so offers some protection and moral support for those threatened by violence.

Moreover, religious beliefs are inherently ideological. One’s race or illness is not derived from ideology. The primary purpose of freedom of expression is to protect ideological discussions. Do Muslims ever criticize other religions? Obviously. Likewise, “infidels” and Muslims alike properly have every right to criticize Islam, just as I have the right to criticize socialism, Christianity, etc. Drawing Mohammed can be a way to express views about that figure and the religion he developed. Muslims who condemn such drawings essentially are claiming that their ideology uniquely may not be criticized.

Contrary to Patel’s claims, drawing Mohammed does not marginalize Muslims, but instead treats Muslims exactly the way that members of every other religion in America are treated. For example, South Park has relentlessly mocked Christianity. What Patel actually is demanding is special treatment of Muslims. But I refuse to marginalize Muslims by failing to subject them to the same level of criticism to which I subject Christians, socialists, and every other group with which I disagree.

What of the claims that drawing Mohammed hurts and insults Muslims? Well, what of them? If people are irrationally offended by some drawing, that’s their problem.

Perhaps Muslims should work on expressing less outrage about drawings of Mohammed, and more outrage against Islamist violence and terrorism, Islamist abuses of women, Islamist mutilation of little girls, Islamist murders of homosexuals, Islamist censorship of speech and art, and Islamist oppression of Muslim peoples.



Prometheus May 18, 2010 at 4:42 PM
Another outstanding article. Well done, Ari.

David McBride

Harsha May 19, 2010 at 10:00 AM
Too good !

Vinnie May 20, 2010 at 2:57 PM
Couldn’t decide how to draw it… until now


Anonymous May 21, 2010 at 5:56 PM
Announcing Show Mohammed Day June 3rd: Rallys in Celebration of Freedom of Speech & Religion.
I hadn’t expected much to come of Everybody Draw Mohammed Day once the instigator canceled it and there was no organized effort for rally’s in support of it. Little did I know there were so many in favor of censorship that would arise and capture the day instead. I’d planned to to announce the new event yesterday on the wall of the Everybody Draw Mohammed day facebook page… only to discover when I was ready that it had disappeared. I thought it would be back today but since it isn’t I need to find other ways to get the word out to suggest people being organizing real world rally’s in support
of freedom of speech and religion. I was hoping you might consider helping announce and spread the word about the group.

The facebook page is at

and a backup of the welcome page is at

Unfortunately with the Everybody Draws Mohammed facebook page and its > 100,000 people following it perhaps having been censored.. I seem
to be suddenly starting from scratch to find sources to spread the word.


Bryan May 30, 2010 at 5:30 AM

Celebrations June 5th!

Resurrection, Interrupted

Bart Ehrman’s Jesus Interrupted is filled with fascinating insights into the Biblical scriptures. Today it seems appropriate to touch on some of his notes about the resurrection of Jesus.

Ehrman points out, “[W]e don’t have the originals of any of these Gospels, only copies made later, in most instances many centuries later. These copies all differ from one another, very often in the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection” (pages 47-48).

The scholarly consensus, Ehrman notes, is that “the final twelve versus of Mark’s Gospel are not original to Mark’s Gospel but were added by a scribe in a later generation” (page 48). This is particularly interesting given that Mark was the primary source for Matthew and Luke.

Because the Gospels draw on the same narratives, they “agree that on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and found it empty. But on virtually every detail they disagree” (page 48).

For instance, who went to the tomb? After he rises from the dead, to whom does Jesus appear, and what does he say?

For instance, in Mark Jesus tells “Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome” to “tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee” (16:7). In Luke, Jesus says, “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise” (24:6-7). Ehrman points out that Luke also authored Acts, which states that Jesus charged his disciples “not to depart from Jerusalem” (1:4). (See Ehrman page 49 for commentary on this point.)

Of course many will see this as missing the forest for the trees: is not the central narrative the resurrection, and the rest detail? Perhaps, but the details do matter when evaluating the nature of the overall narrative. (Obviously, looking at this resurrection story from the perspective of its canonized representatives hardly exhausts the types of criticism to which it may be subjected.)

Though it strays from the resurrection narrative, another interesting point that Ehrman makes is that Matthew had an odd way of fulfilling Old Testament prophesies (see page 50).

Zechariah 9:9 says: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! [Note the repetitive verse.] Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt and the foal of an ass.” (I’m using a different translation than Ehrman uses.)

The last part of the line modifies the first instance of “ass” or donkey. “But Matthew evidently did not understand this poetic convention in this place,” Ehrman notes; thus Matthew writes, “The disciples… brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments on them, and he sat thereon” (21:6-7).

I have no doubt that, in the Gospels, Jesus fulfills (select and vague) Old Testament prophesies, for the Gospels were written precisely to make him do so.

But the narrative of Jesus’s resurrection is itself only a tree in the broader forest of spring-time life-generation myths. It is a lovely, sunny day, the earth (in my part of the world) is returning to summer life, and it’s time to celebrate plants, fertility, bunnies, eggs, and long life!

Conservative Deceit About Christian Liberty

Some of my fellow Coloradans wish to outlaw the birth control pill and subject my wife to the death penalty if she takes it, yet today David Limbaugh dismisses as “paranoia” concerns about “the intersection of Christianity and the public square.” Limbaugh is amazed by “how much [critics] fear something that represents such a little threat to them.”

Let us review, shall we? Many Christians in the United States advocate the following political goals:

* Outlaw all abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and risk to the woman’s health, from the moment of fertilization, with criminal penalties extending to execution.

* Outlaw all fertility treatments, birth control (including the pill), medical research, and medical treatment that may involve the destruction of a fertilized egg.

* Impose mandatory waiting periods and ultrasounds before a woman may obtain an abortion. (This is a marginal step toward the goal of complete prohibition.)

* Outlaw all expression involving consenting adults that is arbitrarily deemed “obscene.” (Various Christians want to outlaw all material deemed pornographic.)

* Force Americans to subsidize religious institutions for “faith based” welfare.

* Expand welfare (the forced redistribution of wealth) because of Biblical principles of helping the less-well off.

* Imprison American adults for consuming various drugs, including marijuana taken for medical purposes, regardless of the level of police powers necessary to achieve this goal. (Some Christians even want to return to alcohol prohibition.)

* Require religious prayer and religious instruction at tax-funded schools.

* Deny equal protection under the laws to homosexuals, including the right to form romantic contracts and adopt children.

A few Christians want to execute homosexuals and adulterers and explicitly call for theocracy (see Christian Reconstruction or the comments of a Christian radio host.)

No, nothing to worry about!

Limbaugh makes a couple of basic mistakes in his article. First, he pretends that the only relevant issue is freedom of expression. Second, he pretends that the only debate is between “the left” and Christian conservatives. Obviously the left with its campaign censorship laws and media controls at least matches conservative Christianity in its hostility toward free expression. Unfortunately, as seen with President Obama’s expansion of President Bush’s “faith based” welfare, the left increasingly mingles politics with religion as well.

True, many Christians fight for liberty in at least some areas. Whether that effort flows from Christian doctrine, or is ultimately incompatible with it, is a debate for another day. But for Limbaugh to dismiss as “paranoia” concerns about the efforts of many Christians to base politics on religion is ludicrous.

Come On, You Homosexual Demon

No need to go to uncivilized, pestilence-ridden hovels at the far corners of the earth for crazy. We’ve got plenty of that right here in the U.S. of A.

Witness for yourself a “gay exorcism;” the attempt to cast a “homosexual demon” out of a teenage boy. The religious scene features a disgusting display of bigoted ignorance.

(It’s unclear to me whether the alleged demon in question is itself homosexual, or if it merely causes homosexuality in its purported victim. I suppose a gay demon that also causes gayness would be particularly hard to exorcise.)

The Stoning of Soraya M.

Who was Soraya M.? She was a young woman murdered by Islamist thugs in 1986. She is every woman who continues to suffer under Islamist tyranny around the world.

Most of the horror stories we never hear about. One story has been made into a film, The Stoning of Soraya M. I am not looking forward to watching it. But watch it I must.

[September 14, 2014 Update: The video in question is no longer available at YouTube.]

Emotionalist Worship

Thanks to Flibbert, I ran across two bizarrely interesting videos of religious worship.

In the first, a toddler walks around the stage spouting impassioned nonsense in the style of an old-time country sermon.

In the second, Marjoe Gortner continues to pretend to be a faith healer for a time even after he has become convinced that it’s all nonsense.

One message to take from this is that some people are just goofy. They do things that make no sense. This is true whether they package their nonsense in religion or something else.

However, there is an especial tendency with religion, grounded as it is in faith, to promote emotionalist, cathartic practices quite separated from any understanding of reality. While religion at its best is quite sophisticated and intellectual, religion’s popular manifestations seem to lean toward the other variety.

[September 14, 2014 Update: The videos in question are no longer available.]

Censorship for Allah

“A right-wing lawmaker should be prosecuted for inciting racial hatred with anti-Islamic statements that include calling the Koran a ‘fascist book,’ a Dutch court ruled Wednesday.”

Because the best way to demonstrate that the Koran is not a “fascist book” is to promote fascism in the name of the Koran.

Unfortunately, and hypocritically, the lawmaker in question “called for a ban on the Koran ‘the same way we ban “Mein Kampf”‘.” Someone who wants to censor the Koran (or Hitler’s screed) can hardly complain when somebody wants to censor him.

If the West loses free speech, it loses itself. There is no more important political issue than maintaining free speech, no matter who finds it offensive.

Does Free Will Prove God?

A large portion of articles from the conservative Town Hall attempt to prove the existence of God or slam atheism. (This is yet another example of how the conservative movement is captured by the religious right.) A recent example is Ben Shapiro’s “Why Atheism Is Morally Bankrupt.”

Here is Shapiro’s argument:

[W]ithout God, there can be no moral choice. Without God, there is no capacity for free will.

Thats because a Godless world is a soulless world. Virtually all faiths hold that God endows human beings with the unique ability to choose their actions — the ability to transcend biology and environment in order to do good. Transcending biology and our environment requires a higher power — a spark of the supernatural. As philosopher Rene Descartes, put it, Although I possess a body with which I am very intimately conjoined [my soul] is entirely and absolutely distinct from my body and can exist without it. [A direct quote?]

Gilbert Pyle, the atheistic philosopher, derogatorily labeled the idea of soul/body dualism, the ghost in the machine. Nonetheless, our entire legal and moral system is based on the ghost in the machine — the presupposition that we can choose to do otherwise. …

According to atheists, human beings are intensely complex machines. Our actions are determined by our genetics and our environment.

Shapiro’s claim about atheists is obviously false. Many atheists reject determinism.

But notice the basic form of Shapiro’s argument: “I cannot explain X as part of the natural world, therefore God exists.” This argument has been repeated in many forms over the centuries. “I cannot explain [lightning, weather, causal laws, gravity, the origin of species, morality, free will] as part of the natural word, therefore God exists.”

But an inability to explain something does not justify the move to Making Stuff Up. Lack of knowledge about the natural world does not demonstrate the existence of a supernatural world.

I do not pretend to have the final answer to free will. (I don’t pretend to have the final answer to gravity or many other things, either.) Yet it is obviously the case that an account of free will need not invoke God, because two major theories of free will avoid doing so. Objectivists such as Leonard Peikoff argue that mechanistic causation does not exhaust the nature of causation, and that certain things in the universe — people with rational consciousness — are capable of self-causation in important ways. Others, including Daniel Dennett, make a case for compatibilism, the view that free will operates within a deterministic world. I hope to return to this issue squarely within the next couple years.

The unassailable fundamental is that we do have free will. We obviously can “choose to do otherwise.” We can observe the phenomenon of choice within ourselves. The fact that science cannot explain free will with finality does not disprove free will any more than a lack of understanding about gravity allows us to float freely above the earth with no upward force. The point of science is to explain aspects of the natural world, not rationalize away their existence.

Shapiro claims that atheists cannot explain free will in the context of natural law. His solution? Conjure a God not bound by natural law. He counts his ignorance as his proof: we don’t understand something, therefore, God. Yet even within that rationalistic framework Christians have struggled to explain free will. Many influential Christians were determinists. Indeed, Christianity is driven to its own form of compatibilism: God must simultaneously have perfect knowledge — including a perfect awareness of the future — and grant humans free will. Neat trick. The upshot is that Christians reject compatibilism based on a competing theory of compatibilism. But the absurdities of the supernaturalist framework are secondary: the main point is that there’s no reason to accept a supernaturalist framework, and the attempt inherently defies reason.

Perkins vs. D’Souza: Morality

In his fourth essay criticizing Dinesh D’Souza, Greg Perkins notes that D’Souza accuses atheists of rebelling against moral rules. After summarizing why that’s not the case for atheists who know what they’re talking about, Perkins adds:

[T]he religionists are themselves guilty of the sin of moral subjectivism. The essence of subjectivism is acting on whim — wishing, assuming, feeling, or declaring that facts will align themselves with thoughts and lives. Of course, this gets it exactly backwards: thoughts and lives must align themselves with the facts because facts are absolutes to be discovered, not declared. Merely hoping or asserting something is good doesn’t make it so, and it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about the whim of a lone subjectivist deciding what is good or bad, the whim of an entire civilization voting on it, or the whim of a “supernatural” mind decreeing it. So the religious who claim to have an absolute morality are really only subjectivists of a supernatural stripe. The trouble for them is that their sort of subjectivism is just as false as any other: God telling Abraham that it is good to slay his innocent son Isaac doesn’t make it good. His ordering the enslavement of entire peoples in the Old Testament doesn’t make that good.

While Perkins only hints at the full case behind his arguments, he starts down the right track and offers a useful reading list.

There is a point that Perkins doesn’t make: D’Souza is psychologizing. He is postulating some psychological rebellion that, in most cases, simply does not exist. (Perkins correctly claims that many atheists resort to the theory of subjectivism, but that’s a very different charge.) Thus, D’Souza’s argument on this point is not only wrong but ad hominem.