Ignorance is No Excuse

Sweet Jesus on Pogo Stick, but I do get sick of ignorant people around here. One just popped up in the comment threads for The Election and Kerry’s Shoes and dropped a wide load of ignorance on the proceedings; the item that’s currently exercising my irritation is this little gem:

We are the infedels. The Koran instructs Muslims to bring the world to Islam or kill them. Since we will not convert…they will kill us anyway they can.

Yes, this is exactly what the Koran says in 60:8: “God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for [your] faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loveth those who are just.”

And let’s get a load of this bloodthirsty passage from the Koran, 29:46: “And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, ‘We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).”

Hide the children! Clearly Islam wants us all stone dead.

“The People of the Book,” incidentally, would be Jews and Christians, whom Islam recognizes as part of the same religious tradition and worshiping the same God. Rather than being forced to convert at the point of a sword, Jew and Christians within Dar-al-Islam are doctrinally protected from being forced to convert, and are supposed to be allowed to practice their faiths. Sadly this is often not the case, but I suppose it’s not terribly surprising that people often don’t live up to the ideals of their own faith. God knows it happens enough outside Dar-al-Islam as well.

So basically, that’s that for the idea that the Koran encourages conversion at the point of the sword. If we want to talk about the history of forced conversion, it’d probably be better to talk about Christianity, whose record on that score is somewhat more colorful. But we don’t need to get into that right at the moment.

Here’s what offends me about this little bit of ignorance festering on my comment thread. First, that this fellow is ignorant at all; that he apparently uncritically swallowed this load of crap without inquiring whether it might actually be true. After all, it’s not difficult to check for one’s self: Go to Google, type in “Koran,” and you’ll find quite a few versions of the book online; here’s just one. And here’s a fine wikipedia article on Islam, you know, for extra useful context.

If one’s feeling ambitious to get out of the house, one may even try one’s local library; the tiny library in my little rural town has two English translations of the Koran. The library also has a few books on the history of Islam; heck, it’s even got Islam for Dummies. The information is not difficult to find. But clearly this fellow doesn’t feel he needs to actually discover things out for himself; someone said it, he believes it and that’s that.

I can’t remember at what age it was that I discovered that people are indeed willfully ignorant — that they choose not to know things despite the ease with which knowledge can be acquired — but I know that even at that young age I was agog at the idea. It still astounds me, even more so because there has never been another era in which so much information was so readily available. This ignoramus sits in front of an Internet-connected computer, the single greatest tool for the acquisition of knowledge in the history of the world, and uses it to show off his lack of knowledge rather than to use it to increase his knowledge. He might as well use his computer to squish bugs for all the good it’s doing his brain.

The second offensive thing about this exhibition of ignorance is that this fellow is not content to remain ignorant and silent, which, if one must choose to be ignorant, is the ideal position to maintain. No, clearly he feels it’s his duty to spread his ignorance, thus his appearance on my comment thread. It’s possible he doesn’t know he’s ignorant, but I find that hard to believe: Most people know whether or not they’ve read a book. I’m pretty sure he knew that when he said the Koran said something, he knew he hadn’t actually read it himself. So we’re left with the conclusion that he knew he didn’t know what he was writing about, but that he wasn’t going to let a small detail like that get in his way (there’s the third possibility that he has read the Koran, and his simply bald-faced lying about it, but in my opinion this is the most unlikely scenario). However you slice it, ignorance loves company, and this fellow was clearly trying to increase the ranks of the ignorant.

Well, you know. I don’t want that for my site. I like it when people who have viewpoints that are different than mine come to the site, make their points from an informed position and participate in the give and take that comes out of that with other people in the comment threads. I don’t like it when people with no more knowledge on a subject than any random chicken stroll by, vomit up a gout of nonsense, and try to pass it off as a useful contribution to the discussion. My readership deserves better than to be presented by this kind of crap.

Let me note that if this fellow had said something along the lines of “I’ve heard the Koran tells Muslims to convert or kill Jews and Christians,” I would not be whacking on him like I am. We all have our list of received knowledge which may or may not be true; I like to think I’d be welcoming to anyone who knows he or she might not know something. If I can give them an answer, I’d like to think I’d try; if I couldn’t, I’d like to think I’d point them in the direction of finding more knowledge on the subject. But this guy is purporting to know something he clearly does not, and trying to pass it off as fact. I bring out the mallets for people like that.

Which bring me to the third reason I find this stuff offensive: this fellow is trying to pass his ignorance to me. The implication here is that in his estimation I’m either ignorant or stupid enough to swallow this crap, and I resent that. Is there anything about this site which suggests I am credulous or dim? Do I appear especially open to the vacuous utterances of the woefully ignorant? Is there a blinking neon sign over the top of my head that says “Shovel Crap Here?” I’d like to think the answer in all three cases is no. But please, someone tell me otherwise if I am incorrect.

As I’ve said before and undoubtedly will again, I don’t believe I’m always right, or that I know everything. I’m always excited to meet people who challenge my opinions and positions and make me think of the world in ways I may not have before. I like diversity of thought; I like to think I encourage it here in the comment threads. And I like to think the people who comment here also enjoy the challenge that comes from a diversity of thought.

But the key word here is thought. Coming to my site to spread ignorance insults me. It offends me. It demeans me. It means you think I’m as ignorant as you are. I’m not.

37 thoughts on “Ignorance is No Excuse

  1. “vomit up a gout of nonsense”

    Classic John! As usual, your verbal/visual skills cause great convulsions of laughter on my part.

    Thanks for making my day. It’s always the little things, no?

  2. So, I guess I can’t interest you in joining my church of the Ever-Returning Saintly Elvis? Damn.

    We believe that Elvis is alive and living, but also that he did die in 1977. Has, in fact, died many times. But he always returns to spread his message of hope and defiance in the face of the virulent evil message of the unholy Satanic Buddy Holly Templars.

    I was going to offer you a cardinalship. I mean you’re already ordained, right? All you have to do is get past your anti-ignorance stance and the position is yours. There’s quite a hefty stipend that goes with it.

  3. The stipend consists of free supplies of the special diet of the Ever-Returning Saintly Elvis (think heavenly fried peanut butter-and-banana-and-bacon sandwiches). Much, much better than money.

  4. John, thank you.

    As an American Muslim, I fairly often see messages like the one you quoted. I’m thrilled to see that there are people here who can see through this to the truth, and I’m even more happy when people I respect help to educate others.

    Sadly, there are a lot of Muslims in the world who believe that same lie about killing infidels. All Muslims are supposed to read the Koran, but many people don’t bother, and instead revel in the ignorance you describe. This makes it harder for sensible non-Muslims to spread the message, so thank you.

    Let’s all do what we can to reduce ignorance in the world.

  5. John Cater said:
    All Muslims are supposed to read the Koran, but many people don’t bother, and instead revel in the ignorance you describe. This makes it harder for sensible non-Muslims to spread the message

    Unfortunately, John, it seems many religious fanatics don’t actually read the books which contain the tenets of their religion. Or pick only those bits that support their already warped view. Heaven knows many self-proclaimed “Christians” fall under this umbrella. I’m positive Jesus would be totally pissed at what is being touted as “gospel” in his name.

    Naturally, those people make it difficult for the reasonable Christians – the ones that actually follow the teachings of Jesus – to avoid being tarred with the same brush. I’m sure the same is true for many of the world’s religions.

    Let’s all do what we can to reduce ignorance in the world.

    Hear, hear. (Or is that, “Here, here”? I’ve never been quite sure.)

  6. Byron wrote:

    “Ah, so by “hefty” you were referring to actual mass of the stipend.”

    Yup. And the eventual mass of anyone who lives off it. We at the Church of the Ever-Returning Saintly Elvis are engaged in a bitter battle to end the scourge of anorexia.

    He who dies on the toilet shall be redeemed.

  7. On the topic of people spouting bizarre selective interpretations of the holy books they supposedly revere:

    I just got back from attending a funeral for my great-uncle who was a Southern Methodist minister. There were 3 ministers who spoke at the funeral, and the first two were also Southern Methodists. The entire point of both of their remarks was that I, personally, was going to hell. They paid scant lip service to the amazing life of the deceased in their gleeful rush to make sure that everyone in the church knew they were either saved or damned.

    The second guy actually deigned to tell us about the wonderful place my great-uncle had gone to, so of course he chose to read 8 verses from the ever-uplifting Book of Revelations (Rev 21:1-8). Now the first 7 verses do in fact describe John’s trippy vision of heaven…but he had to throw in the 8th which not only tells me that I’m destined for the “fiery lake of burning sulfur”, but also lets me get a peek at my company, to wit: “the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars”.

    If it wasn’t for the fact that I was a pallbearer (and thus seated at the front of the church) I would have just walked out at this point. Which would have been a shame, really, because the third minister to speak (who was a Baptist) did not have any trouble at all celebrating my great-uncle’s life, including his deep and abiding faith in God, without trying to make me feel like I was a dirty heathen who might as well kill myself now so I can get a head start on my eternal suffering and stop polluting the air the good people around me were breathing.

    It was really quite awful. The worst part was that the first two ministers weren’t just spewing invective — they were doing it quite badly. Confused glancing at notes and awkward pauses don’t really go well with the whole fire and brimstone approach. Sadly, I couldn’t even enjoy them as entertainment.

    Now before anyone starts yelling at me for being religiously intolerant, I’m not saying these guys shouldn’t be allowed to preach their version of Christianity — just that I’m not obliged to respect it. As I sat there, I wondered if my great-uncle had any Jewish friends who were in attendance. I certainly don’t think that pointed attacks on their faith were really necessary when they were trying to grieve (assuming they exist, as I figure that as an agnostic, I’m simply beneath contempt). It’s the whole things-I-have-the-right-to-do being a superset of things-that-are-good-to-do again.

    And man, do I feel for children who are brought up with this sort of faith. I humbly submit that if you can read the Bible and the most important part of it seems to be the bits about the fiery lake of sulfur (that Jesus never mentioned)…you’re reading it wrong.

  8. If Elvis doesn’t do it for you, you’re welcome to join the Cult of the Invisible Pink Unicorns.

    (Like all religions, the Cult of the IPUs is based on both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible, because we can’t see them.)

  9. Brilliant rant, once again, John :)

    You do bring up one further possibility for believing in Bush, though. You previously listed stupidity, ignorance, and hypocrisy.

    There’s also the folks who actually have, and look to continue to benefit, from Bush’s policies. Granted, in some cases this requires a rather radical reorganization of personal priorities….

  10. This entry, and the one immediately preceding it, have caused me to start a new folder in my bookmarks file entitled: Blog entries worth saving.
    Thank you.

  11. Just to offer a counter-argument…

    Sometimes, recieved knowledge blends in with legitimately researched knowledge and forms impressions, and structures on which other ideas, opions, etc hang.

    So, things which somebody is not necessarily CONFIDENT about get stated with the “voice of authority” because they just live in the brain mostly parts of mental structures that don’t indicate where the information came from, or it’s relative reliability.

    The plus side of spewing MISTAKES of that variety on the internet, is that there’s a good chance somebody will correct you. If, after the correction/challeng, they refuse to check primary sources for the wellspring of their belief, then they’re willfully ignorant.

    P.S. I haven’t read the thread that is the source of this rant, and am not necessarily speaking to the defense of the person involved, but rather more generally to the question of not always checking primary sources before speaking.

  12. John:

    You have correctly pointed out that the Koran, like the Bible, can be interpreted for peaceful or violent purposes. Moreover, the offending poster WAS guilty of an over-generalization.

    But his comments, however inarticulate they may have been, did not come out of thin air. To quote religious texts is one thing; to look at the situation on the ground is another.

    The fact is that the vast majority of senseless killing done in the name of religion in 2004 has been done in the name of Islam–from Russia to Sudan to Indonesia. Can you name any religion with a higher body count in 2004? (When was the last time a group claiming allegiance to Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson set off a car bomb?)

    Then there are the atrocities that the Islamic world commits on it’s own. I assume that you are aware of “honor killings”–a custom in Pakistan, Jordan, and elsewhere in the Islamic world in which men murder female members of their own families for minor moral infractions. Once again–all done in the name of a supposedly peaceful religion.

    Can we at least agree that the Islamic world has a “violence problem” at the moment, regardless of the peaceful Koranic passages quoted in “Islam for Dummies”?

    Ed

  13. I agree with you on all points, John, but only as regards moderate Islam/Muslims. I do have an issue with Wahhabism, its ascendancy, and the seeming disinclination/inability of moderate Muslims in countering it.

  14. Ed writes:

    “Moreover, the offending poster WAS guilty of an over-generalization.”

    “Over-generalization” is inaccurate. “Complete misstatement” is more in line, in regards to what is actually in the Koran.

    “Can we at least agree that the Islamic world has a ‘violence problem’ at the moment, regardless of the peaceful Koranic passages quoted in “Islam for Dummies”?

    Well, I don’t have any problem agreeing that there are a lot of people in the Islamic world who use their religion as a shield and justification for terrible acts that have nothing to do with the religion itself, including suicide bombing, beheading civilians and the horrifying practice of “honor killing.”

    Would you have any problem agreeing that Islam is not the *only* religion that has a problem with people using it as a shield and justification for terrible acts that have nothing to do with the religion itself? To use an example somewhat close to home: The absolutely senseless violence between protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, which is thankfully in abatement at the moment, but is never *that* far from flaring up again.

    Or, moving away from violence and on to other sorts of atrocities, the continual sexual abuse scandals coming out of the Catholic church here in the US these last few years. While I’m heartily glad we’re not setting women afire here in the US, I think we can all agree that the all-too-frequent sexual abuse of children by priests — and the Church’s antedivulian methods of dealing with that abuse — qualify as an atrocity of their own.

    Point of fact, name any major (and most minor) religion, and one can easily whip a table of atrocities committed in its name, even if one limits one’s self to, say, the last 25 years. Islam happens to be the one we’re fixated upon at the moment — and it certainly *is* getting a workout from all sort of odious people doing odious things in its name — but if you want to suggest there is something *inherent* in Islam that causes its adherents to default to a violent state more than other religions, I would suggest you won’t get very far.

    In any event, regardless of the “situation on the ground,” one does not have leave to lie about, or ignorantly misstate, the contents of a holy book. Given the “situation on the ground” regarding the Catholic Church’s sex scandals, should I have leave to suggest that the Bible declares man-boy love to be just peachy? Quite obviously, no.

  15. Well, Christianity has its own checkered history in violence. What about the Crusades, the Inquisitions of the 12th and 13th centuries? I like to think that people of different religious faith pass through Dark Ages,and also manage to come out of that spiral of violence- Christianity shook itself out of it, and maybe Islam will as well.

    I think the problem is also largely economic: the problem in radical Islamic countries is poverty- which push the masses into extreme interpretations of their faith, and they aren’t well-read enough or educated enough to know better. Moderate Muslim countries- Turkey, Malaysia, UAE- are also the ones with more well-rounded economies and industries (I don’t think you can count Saudi Arabia and other oil-awash countries; they sustain themselves on oil, and have no real compulsion to progress otherwise).
    Schools in countries like Pakistan (and in large parts of Afghanistan, even now) are dominated by madrassas, which teach the Koran to the exclusion of science and social studies. It puts religion above everything else in thinking- a dangerous situation to be in.

  16. Excellent work in smacking down the unenlightened once again.

    On the broader issue of Holy Books, in my opinion, most of the problems associated with them is that they seem to go a long time without getting translated intothe venacular languages.

    The Koran is written in what I’m told is fairly archaic Arabic and most Muslims would recite and learn the verses of the Koran in this language. Now only a few learned men really understand it (the old Arabic) anymore. No more than you or I would be able to read and understand an old English version of Beowulf (though that was written about 5oo years after the Koran). Until more modern translations of Koran into the vernacular become widespreadly accepted for religious teaching and study. This problem is misinterpertation will remain widespread.

    Not that the Bible is any better but having a Bible in your own language increases your understanding of it and allows you to take a lot of responsibility for its interpertation on yourself rather than depending on religious scholars and ministers to tell you want it means. Took Christians about 15oo years to put the Bible into modern European languages so I suppose Islam is running a little ahead of schedual.

    Colm

    P.S Northern Ireland’s problems have very little to do with sectarianism, both sides religious leaders have always condemed the violence. It’s politics plain and complex.

  17. Colm Mac writes:

    “P.S Northern Ireland’s problems have very little to do with sectarianism, both sides religious leaders have always condemed the violence. It’s politics plain and complex.”

    Heh. “Plain and complex” is right, since from about Henry V forward, it’s implicitly impossible to thread out religion from politics in the British Isles. And conversely, politics has often been inseparable to how people approach their religion. The Protestant Reformation and the wars following were as much about princes in the Holy Roman Empire trying to get out from under the political and economic thumb of the Pope as they were about religion.

  18. Qur’anic Arabic is not THAT hard (except that a lot of it is mystic poetry, which is hard in any language) – more like Shakespeare or maybe Chaucer than Beowulf.

    Certainly not as inaccessible to Arabic-speaking Muslims as a Latin bible would be to non-Latin-speaking Christians. (Non-Arabic-speaking Muslims are a different case, of course, and are in the majority).

  19. Sri Lanka’s last 20+ years of ethnic conflict have been fueled in significant part by rhetoric regarding the ‘defense of Buddhism’ — with actual Buddhist monks inciting terrible violence. Buddhist philosophy has peace at its very heart — it’s deeply saddening that humans have even managed to twist that philosophy to the service of violence and atrocities.

    If interested in learning more, I recommend Stanley Tambiah’s _Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics and Violence in Sri Lanka_.

  20. Ed wrote:
    “Can we at least agree that the Islamic world has a “violence problem” at the moment, regardless of the peaceful Koranic passages quoted in “Islam for Dummies”?”

    Heh, most of the world has a violence problem. But yes, there is a particularly virulent streak of misogynism in the Islamic world, and suicide bombers are approved of in parts of the Islamic world (I’m thinking of Palestine in particular). So yes, there is a big, big problem with violence in the Islamic world.

    BUT, the Islamic world is a diverse place. For instance, Iran is tottering between theocracy and democracy. And it’s no liberal paradise. But as far as I can tell, it’s also a pretty decent place to live.

    Ed:
    “But his comments, however inarticulate they may have been, did not come out of thin air.”

    In this case, I think they may as well have. Yes, we have turned one of “his” points into an intellectual discussion. *One* of his points, the rest are sitting there taking up space and wasting people’s time. *In a different thread*. There is no way that we could discuss even a small fraction of the points in one thread, even if we had the time and noone was vomiting pre-digested intellectual crap all over the thread. Having a discussion takes time, and it takes reflection, and because someone couldn’t be bothered, the rest of the posters had intellectual diarrhea dumped into their discussion. That’s rude.

  21. John, the flashing neon sign says “BARDAHL! ADD IT TO YOUR GAS — ADD IT TO YOUR OIL”

    I imagine you haven’t noticed it because it’s actually up above the field of view in your typical mirror, although I can’t for the life of me guess how it is that Krissy hasn’t complained about it keeping her up at night.

  22. John:

    I agree with your statements regarding the scandal in the Catholic Church. And as a Republican who has grudgingly decided to vote for Kerry in November, I cringe as much as you likely do when Dubya mixes politics and religion. So I am not coming at this from the standpoint of trying to prove that the entire world should embrace the Western version of Christianity.

    However, most of what I see in the Islamic world disturbs me, and it is reasonable to *ask* if the religion itself may be a large part of the cause. Why do so many diverse Islamic societies have so many problems?

    As you note, it would be difficult to prove that Islam is “inherently” more violent than any other religion from a doctrinal standpoint. However, I think it *is* correct to state that the Islamic world is currently in a more radical phase than the Christian west–which is today fundamentally secular.

    The radical elements in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc. are more than just fringe groups, they largely set the tone for these societies.

    I recently read Karen Armstrong’s book on the Crusades (Holy War : The Crusades and Their Impact on Today’s World). The author suggests that part of the problem is that Islam (as opposed to Christianity) contains a specific concept of a religious state, as well as a religious-military element, which makes the religion exceptionally prone for exploitation by violent groups. Any thoughts on this last point?

  23. Justin Anderson,

    Regarding proselytizing at a funeral – right on, brother!

    My cousin belongs to a whacko ‘christian’ church. I listened to *her* minister tell all of us “Be born again or fry in Hell” at both her Mother’s funeral, and her brother’s funeral. He even claimed at the brother’s funeral that my bad boy cousin had ‘embraced Jesus’ before the end, which was just a big bad lie.

    I didn’t attend her Father’s funeral.

    To take a large captive audience who are there to grieve for the deceased and then to proselytize them is a sin worthy of hell itself.

  24. Side note: Better than being told you’re going to hell at funeral is getting it at a wedding where you are the Maid of Honor.

    Yeah, cause I really needed hear that a marriage was “between the bride, the groom and Jesus.” Ugh.

  25. Ed says:

    “I recently read Karen Armstrong’s book on the Crusades (Holy War : The Crusades and Their Impact on Today’s World). The author suggests that part of the problem is that Islam (as opposed to Christianity) contains a specific concept of a religious state, as well as a religious-military element, which makes the religion exceptionally prone for exploitation by violent groups. Any thoughts on this last point?”

    I haven’t read that book of Armstrong’s, although (as I noted in another thread) I did just recently read her Islam: A Short History as part of a general boning up on Islam.

    From what I understand about Islam, it certainly does has the concept of a religious state (in the Dar-al-Islam, the “house of surrender”), which is implicit in its makeup. But while Christianity does make the distinction between this world and the next, as a practical matter since Constantine there’s been a Christian impulse to intertwine religion with politics, and on the religious-military tip, certainly the Crusades in themselves are a fine example of how religion is used for violent, military ends.

    I think one of the fundamental differences between Islam and Christianity is that Christianity is designed eschatologically while Islam is designed practically: Early Christianity believed the end times were nigh and focused on the implications of that, while Islam was created with a plan for being in the world. Muhammad, from what I know of him, was an intensely practical person; he was a trader and he was active in civic life before he became a prophet.

    As such, it’s not terribly surprising that the Islam has more concerns about living in this world, and integrating Islam to it. Christianity, on the other hand, had to develop practical strategies outside of the doctrines of the early church, when it became apparent that not only did no one know when next Jesus comes, but whatever that time was, it wouldn’t be particularly soon.

    So as a *practical* matter, I would wonder whether the differences between Christianity and Islam vis-a-vis religious states or an integration of religion into militaries is all that different. It’d be interesting to research beyond mere spinning thoughts off the top of my head, but that’s where we stand at the moment.

    “However, I think it *is* correct to state that the Islamic world is currently in a more radical phase than the Christian west–which is today fundamentally secular.”

    Well, this I can agree with, while noting that it’s not so much the Islamic world in total as it is the Middle East (including Pakistan), since a number of countries with predominately Muslim populations (including Indonesia, which as I think others have noted has the largest number of Muslims of any country) are not especially radical.

    Someone up the comment thread noted issues with Wahhabism, and from what I can see it does seem to be the wellspring of a lot of the problems Islam has today — it seems an especially closed off and not particularly world-engaged variant of Islam. Although it’s worth noting that the late, not-at-all-lamented Taliban come from a different Islamic school entirely (called Deobandi, out of India). But to get back to Wahhabism, it’s a real shame (to put it lightly) that the Saud family couldn’t have picked a less fundamentalist version of Islam to promote with all its money.

  26. Religious fundamentalism has as much to do with religion as a seascape has to do with the ocean. One refers to the other, but they are *NOT* the same thing.

    When we speak of the violence committed in the name of religion (true of just about every major religion), we should be careful to note that this is not violence committed *by* the religion, or through actions *taught* by the religion, or even necessarily by people who *believe* in the religion’s teaching. Religion is the context they use to add (false) legitimacy to their actions.

  27. to the shithead that runs this blog:

    talk about willful fucking ignorance. get your head out of your stinking rotten asshole. all you know about islam you learned in a goddam toilet stall. just like every other stinking rotten lib, you turn all criticism of islam into criticism of christianity or judaism. and i’m not religious in the least, so don’t even try pulling that usual lib shit and call me a fudie or whatever. your point of view is through being a political force in this country.

    now get lost, you fucking hack

  28. Hmmmm. Let’s grade this.

    Invective: I’ll give it a D+. The cursing is pedestrian, and while I did think the part about “all you know about islam you learned in a goddam toilet stall” did show a mild bit of initiative, it was compromised by the rest of the messages’ utter bland use of profanity. Ordinarily I’d give it a flat D, but I’m feeling generous today.

    Factual: I learned what I know of Islam from books and from actual Muslims, none of which were located in a toilet stall at the time. I will note that I mentioned that if we’re talking about this history of forced conversion, it’s best to go to the Christians, but inasmuch as this is an actual fact countering an ignorant falsehood, I feel it’s justified. It’s also not a criticism, just an observation. I don’t know how this guy pulls out a criticism of Judiasm since none is either implied or expressed. So overall: D

    Style: Lamely outraged, which takes no effort at all. Trying to counter criticism by denying fundiness both poorly executed and easily countered, since one can rather criticize him for being rhetorically poor (he offers no proof that his understanding of Islam is in any way superior) and stylistically bland: i.e., not only has he nothing intelligent to contribute, he contributes it in a boring fashion — both of which are independent of his religious status. Any idiot could have written this, which leads one to suspect one did. Grade: F

    Overall grade: D-. However, our correspondent gets an extra half grade knocked off for presuming to parodize HL Mencken, whose prose his resembles as a sea sponge resembles a human being. So, in all, a big, fat stinky F.

    Next!

  29. excuse me, who ever is saying this stuff about Islam is dumb excuse my language. U should know for one that Islam is the religion in which there is the most peace
    ive been in an American school for 11 years and i dont know a lot of verses from the Koran, but i do know about three and one of them says thats weather you are from another religion and u dont want to convert than that is your business and nobody elses.
    Plus the Prophet(pbuh) himself used to have a Jewish neighbor who use to try and provoke him by throwing trash infront of his door and the prophet (PBUH) never even said a word to that guy, until one day the trash didnt show up infront of his door, and he knew that his neighbor must be sick or something happened to him, and not forgetting SILAT ARAHEEM(seeing friends and family who are sick, or who havnt seen in a long time) he went into his neighbor’s house to ask if he was all right. and he did find out that he was;
    Now just looking at this example you can tell that Ismam = Peace!!!

    hope u get the point, im not trying to insult or anything im just trying to give you a different point of view and it’s up to u to jude:):)
    thanx for ur time:)

  30. Just cruising past an old haunting ground…. (Crap, this happened eight years ago?)

    Anyway, I have to say, Scalzi, that I’m a bit disappointed in you. I thought you were a just adjudicator of invective. I thought you were…better than us…wiser…had shinier clothes.

    Sadly, I am disillusioned. Cry for me, Argentina.

    Okay, to move on to the actual substantive critique: You gave “HL” (heh) a D+ for Invective? Really? Even you noticed that “all you know about islam you learned in a goddam toilet stall” contained “a mild bit of initiative”. I submit to you, sir: how shall we train the trolls of tomorrow if they are not rewarded for their (barely) above average scribblings?

    So, I say: a solid C- for that. Yes, yes — it was floating in a brackish mire of feculence (Pro Tip: Chrome doesn’t know feculence is a word…or scribblings…or heh…or Scalzi!), but by Pete, it floated to the top!

    None of this is really addressing the question, though. Are you going to call him a “fudie” or not? (Note that I have assumed that “HL” is male — I leave it to an exercise for the reader as to why.)

    Seriously, why are you avoiding the real question, all these many years later? What, are you going to try to deny that shawarma is delicious? Damn, now I have to go get some shawarma. Cuz that shit is delicious, yo.

    Oh, he didn’t say “foodie”? He said “fudie”? What the hell is that? Okay, I stand by your F.

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