Millman on the “Bad Book” Theory


It’s a fairly popular way of theorizing against Islam, namely that to be a good Muslim one must also embrace violence. But, loathe as I am to admit, it may be that NRA logic is onto something. Maybe books don’t kill people, people do. To quell my unease at giving gunnie culture props, I will here borrow from the Van Tillians and suggest that the NRA is just stealing Calvinist capital.

But this Calvinist is pleased to borrow from a secular Jew on what’s wrong with the Bad Book theory:

I’m just saying that there are perfectly logical arguments that can be made that completely reverse the Christian apologetic claim that because Jesus preached non-violence and Muhammad (like Moses) led an army, therefore Christian civilization is inherently less-violent than Muslim (or Jewish?) civilization. Obviously, if you’re a Christian, you’ll find a Christian apologetic argument congenial. But that doesn’t mean it has analytical value.

For that matter, the United States was founded by genocidal racist slave-trading colonialists. Does that mean the Constitution is essentially and irredeemably racist? Isn’t that where the “bad book” theory logically leads?

This entry was posted in American Conservative, Islam, Noah Millman. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Millman on the “Bad Book” Theory

  1. Zrim,

    The constitution isn’t quite like the Qur’an is it? The constitution made allowances for slavery but it didn’t command people to go kill in the name of Allah. One of these documents is not like the other. Is Mein Kampf a bad book? Yes! That’s a better analogy. Further, his account of the Founders is a little jaundiced.

  2. Zrim says:

    Scott, no argument is perfect, but some are better than others. And even if a little jaundiced, Millman’s at least takes into account the complexities of being human. I don’t think anybody is saying books don’t have important influences, but in the end it seems not a little overwrought to hang so much on a book when it’s people who act.

  3. RubeRad says:

    Seems to me (and I am fairly uninformed) that the koran (I’m not cool enough to spell it like RSC) is akin to the pentateuch, in that it instructs the faithful to kill unbelievers. Except that it also instructs to spread and conquer the earth, not just stay isolated within the promised land. And of course there is no muslim analogue to the new testament, which would reinterpret as a temporary period of intrusion justice.

    Also, note from here Ken Myers’ insightful comparison of Is 2 vs Joel 3 with regards to swords and plowshares, for anybody that wants to pull some scripture out of context and prove that Christianity is violent.

  4. Have you guys read the Qur’an? I’ve been reading it and about it. My eyes are opening a bit. The Qur’an is not the Torah. There are great differences. Yes there is holy war in the Torah, no question but there are other themes as well.

    I think I was complacent about Islam because we were lulled to sleep by a few hundred years of relative peace but things have returned to status ante quo, to the relations we had for the preceding 1000 years.

    Yes, people (and not books) do things but when was the last time Orthodox Jews declared a Fatwah on anyone? Where is the desire to impose the Torah on the whole earth? Of course the NT knows nothing about such an idea but the Qur’an is another animal. And then there is the Hadith and there are other influences. It’s not just the Qur’an but that’s a major influence on the desire to kill infidels and impose Sharia. It’s not just another religious book. It has violence built into it. Those who seek to impose Sharia by force are only being faithful to what they’ve read. Even mainline religious studies types, writing before the current wave of terror (pre-1979) see this in the Qur’an.

  5. RubeRad says:

    Have you guys read the Qur’an?

    No, I have a paperback edition I picked up cheap or free somewhere, but I haven’t prioritized it for reading. I was just listening to this on the way to work this morning. Adam Francisco was recommending that the best way to read the Koran is chronologically (which is not the way it would be in the book); that way you can see the progressive/abrogation nature. Early on, before Muhammad had enough power to back up aggression, he advocated getting along with Christians and Jews. But later, after a lot of successful conquest, he changed his story to force infidels to convert to Islam, or live as second-class citizens.

    when was the last time Orthodox Jews declared a Fatwah on anyone? Where is the desire to impose the Torah on the whole earth?

    I don’t know about the whole earth, but one could argue about the West Bank etc.

  6. David Beilstein says:

    Not to be a party-pooper but what’s so bad about the N.R.A. that the author is “loath to admit” they might be right about something?

    Look, I’ve got my issues with the N.R.A. when it comes to race—as the leadership therein has been slow to adapt a message directed at inner-city blacks worthy of classical liberal distinctions. At the same time, I’m not quite sure what the animus would be toward a private organisation which seeks to stand up for individuals to protect “life and limb” as part of individual sovereignty thrust inherent in the U.S. Constitution. Inalienable rights has consequences. One of them happens to be you can arm yourself. And if someone threatens to destroy your property (your life, family) you have the just right to put them in the ground.

    Of course, I realise us 2k folks have profound animus for what calls itself conservative in America, and I also realise conservatism and orthodox Christian faith are to be decoupled—and distinctions allowed, especially when periscoping at the Christian right and Republican Party. But a few books might suffice to clear the rancid air…read Burke, Smith—folks like Dr Williams, Dr Sowell; even William F Buckley, Jr., (even Barry Goldwater) and taking the religious right and moral majority seriously as expressions of American conservatism will no longer tempt ones fantasies. After all, Goldwater, no fabian socialist or modern liberal used to kick the rear end, throwing a double-clutch into the posterior of the religious right and moral majority whenever he could. And I’d listen to Goldwater about what conservatism/libertarian is before the religious right and moral majority any day of the week besides the Lord’s Day.

    Still, with some minor exceptions, the N.R.A. has actually stuck pretty close to its private mandate and funding by gun owners, and out of that the U.S. Constitution, generally. And the Christian saint with a proper and humble perspective of the state and civil magistrate would be unwise not to grant the individual his or her rights to protect home and body if need be in the appeal to living “peaceful and quiet lives” as commanded by the blessed St Paul of Tarsus.

    Contrarianism has its richness, but it ceases to be gold when it becomes “contrarian” just to be so. In a word, it loses its function when we’re disagreeing with one side just to “disagree” because we’re pissed off at the Republican Party or religious right because we believe they’re a bunch of sham-artists pretending to be classical liberals.

    One can have one without the other!

  7. Zrim says:

    David, I can’t speak for Millman, but the NRA does seem to be a hyper manifestation of rights-culture. That’s pretty annoying to communitarian conservatives, especially to us non-gunnies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s