Last week, I had an essay up on HuffPost entitled “An Atheist Muslim’s Perspective on the ‘Root Causes’ of Islamist Jihadism and the Politics of Islamophobia.”
One of the goals of the piece was to emphasize the difference between the criticism of Islam and anti-Muslim bigotry: the first targets an ideology, and the second targets human beings. This is obviously a very significant difference, yet both are frequently lumped under the unfortunate umbrella term, “Islamophobia.”
I highlighted this distinction by describing myself as an “atheist Muslim,” which drew the single most commonly asked question about the piece by both atheist and Muslim readers: “How can you be an atheist and a Muslim at the same time? Isn’t that contradictory?”
Let me explain.
One of the central themes of the essay was that all religious people are selective in their religiosity. This cherry-picking is almost universal, and even inevitable considering the frequency with which contradictions appear in religious texts.
If this selectivity allows people to disregard some of the teachings of their faith, such as the orders to publicly execute non-virginal brides and homosexuals, or behead and mutilate disbelievers, it may not be a bad thing, for obvious reasons — even if it appears intellectually dishonest.