In which Andrew Sullivan loses his own argument

Sullivan has been on a multi-day kick commenting on the Event Which Shall No Longer Be Mentioned Here, siding (albeit in a slightly more nuanced way) with the “Islam is the problem” crowd. Today he took the interesting step of completely undercutting Harris and Maher’s argument and then proceeding as if he hadn’t. After suggesting his readers watch a 13 minute video of Christopher Hitchens explaining why Islam Is the Problem, he writes this:

It’s well worth twelve minutes of your time. And I think Hitch’s arguments about what must follow from a religious text still regarded as perfect and pristine and utterly unquestionable, and a caliph or Shi’a theocrat regarded as a “supreme leader”, and a politics saturated in apocalypticism, and a culture marinated in absurd levels of sexual repression, and an endemic suppression of blasphemy and apostasy as unthinkable offenses, stand the test of time.

The totalism of Islam is as dangerous as any other totalism – and liberals better understand that about it.

Yes, well, that’s interesting, because if the “totalism of Islam” is merely “as dangerous as any other totalism,” then it kind of follows that the trouble is with “totalism,” doesn’t it? Not Islam? Hitchens’s argument, and thus Sullivan’s, is that the nature of Islam makes it uniquely susceptible to being used by Bad People Who Want to Do Bad Things, which would be an interesting argument if it weren’t for the centuries of evidence we’ve accumulated that say that pretty much any ideology — Christianity, Communism, Rationalism, sun-worship, you name it — can be twisted into serving as the intellectual underpinning of somebody’s dangerous totalitarian impulses. It’s those impulses that are the problem, not the religion.

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One thought on “In which Andrew Sullivan loses his own argument

  1. Right with you on that one, totalism is the problem – although I habitually call it fundamentalism because that is the context where it causes me trouble personally.

    My city’s Interfaith Council Book Club is reading Ali’s “Heretic” for this month, and I can already see that it’s going to turn into a huge shouting match – quite the contrary of the Interfaith intentions, of course – in that some of us are going to find it a pack lies through and through while are going to find it proof of mooselman iniquitude of a stature higher than the Book of Mormon yet slightly below that of the Bible itself.

    Naturally, there are no moslems on the council although I do believe there is a mosque out in the hinterlands.

    And I will say again that this alliance of convenience between the christers and the hard atheists for the purpose of hating on Islam is the weirdest thing. It surprises me even more than the alliance between the Fundamentalists and the right Catholics, who in my childhood who spit when they were not actively trading blows.

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