Robert Spencer Interview

Hour-long Podcast Interview with Robert Spencer

I am pleased to share, as a podcast, my interview with Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch and author of many books, including two New York Times bestsellers, The Truth About Muhammad and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). We have been reading Mr. Spencer’s Qur’an Commentary as a supplement to our reading of the Koran for our Koran Reading Group. Mr. Spencer answers a range of questions in the interview, from general observations about the poetic nature of the Koran, to discussion and interpretation of specific passages of it–including those that call for the use of violence against non-Muslims and require women to produce four witnesses in order to prove that they were raped. You can listen to and download the interview here:

Robert Spencer Interview

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “Robert Spencer Interview

  1. M.Stern

    This was informative. I have heard other Christians make Spenser’s argument (ie Rodney Stark) namely that Christianity sees nature as uniform whereas Islam sees nature at the perpetual command of its god. This is really interesting. It seems like since Thomas Aquinas, Christianity has treated god like a philosophical axiom. God is identity, logic and order. (But wait, where do miracles fit in? And if no miracles, what of Jesus?) Islam on the other hand seems to dispense with metaphysical uniformity altogether because it does not want its god limited in any way. So I would put it like this: the Christian god cannot square circles but the Islamic god can. (I add here that there is a very revealing Islamic expression that goes something like this: What is the definition of parallel lines? Parallel lines are two lines that never shall meet unless Allah wills it?)

    That is a significant difference and perhaps that is why the Christian world rose and the Islamic world didn’t. Christian apologists like Spencer and Stark would therefore be right in one sense, a shallow sense, but wrong in another sense, the far more profound one. They are correct that Christianity’s philosophical premises allowed for science and liberty to rise. But they are wrong to argue that those philosophical premises are correct.

    Bottom line for me is this: Christianity is a less toxic form of philosophic poison than is Islam. Christianity therefore had more loopholes for logic and naturalism to emerge. This I suspect was due to its Hellenistic origins; Christianity was mixed with Greek philosophy from the start [just read The Gospel of John to see this (the concept of logos is paramount there and that is a Greek concept)]. Islam is militantly anti-philosophic on the other hand. This I suspect is due to the legacy of al-Ghazali.

    So the West was saddled with a religion that was inferior to the Greek Pantheon but better than Islam. Given the state of the Islamic world, I guess we should consider ourselves lucky in a way. Although it would be nice to be rid of supernaturalism totally, and throw in Kant’s categorical imperative and Leftism with it.

    • John Galt

      @M. Stern

      “This I suspect was due to its Hellenistic origins”.
      Indeed, you really believe that?
      As with any running narrative, events, actions, and the persons of the tapestry developed from the telling, do not limit it to any source other than that of it’s author, in this case according to Christian belief, God. Your remarks about the Hellinistic origins set you pretty much in a camp of your own.
      The word “beginning” appears in the Word of God over 100 times and is synonomous with the word origin. At what time did the Greeks begin? Who were their precursors? What were their origins? What influence did the Greeks have, hundreds of years prior to their appearance, on Christianity. What I am saying is, should you be looking for your supposed “loopholes” in the influences of those prior to the Greeks, who became the Greeks? Perhaps you should look to the Jew who influenced the cultures around them instead, and consequently produced the Messiah who is denied both by them and yourself.
      Obviously I disagree with your rather shallow dismissal of Christianity, and of Christ in particular, which truly is the thrust of your remarks.

      • I went ahead and approved this comment, as it did not resort to name-calling, as have some of the others submitted today. I do have to mention, however, since you call yourself “John Galt”: the character by that name is an atheist.

  2. David Race

    reply to M. Stern: Very skewed perpective on “Christianity”. It would be nice for a little more objectivity and less minimalist categorical statements.

  3. Pingback: Spencer speaks to Qur’an study group «ScrollPost.com

  4. Viewpoint

    Christianity is many things, but toxic it is not.. not even, “less toxic”. The worst thing you can say about Christians is that they are typically identified as “uncool”… or… “goody-two shoes.” They are viewed in this light because they are Biblically obligated to refrain from the cultural pressure of “cool” behaviors such as recreational drugs, promiscuity, tattoos etc. Christianity bashers typically cite historical events without recognizing that the ancient blood-soaked baggage was the blood-thirsty consequences of Catholicism. Although Catholicism is quick to embrace Christianity, most Christians are quick to reject Catholicism. The historical record, without dispute, reveals that Catholicism first attempted to kill Christianity before attempting to incorporate it.
    The most significant difference between Islam and Christianity is not the “parallel lines” analogy… the most significant difference is that Christians are not Biblically obligated to kill all non-Christians and all non-Christians who reject conversion.
    A secondary and much more detrimental consequence than the supposed unlimited power of Allah (supposed because this is contradicted by Muslim recognition of Allah’s incapability to heal the sick), is the Muslim propensity of inbreeding. The inbreeding in Muslim nations is widely encouraged because it was practiced by their prophet Muhammad… and it is mandated by Islam that Muslims follow every detail of Muhammad’s example. Researchers estimate that nearly 50% of the Arab world is inbred. Widespread practice of Muslim inbreeding and the subsequent birth defects that drop intelligence 10-16 IQ points and increase mental retardation among children from cousin marriages, a crippling 400%, is a overwhelming factor… much more overwhelming than Allah’s contradictory unlimited power.
    Although Christianity was influenced by the Greeks, it is important to recognize that Greek philosophy, like many other philosophies, is not without merit… and it is natural and often beneficial to taste the exotic fruits of foreign lands. Christianity was also influenced by the Egyptians, paganism. Christianity continues the attempt to purge all forbidden influences… including the more widely practiced Catholic and pagan traditions. This, however, does not discount nor diminish Christianity… it simply reveals how influence and tradition are often so acutely incorporated that it takes centuries, millennia, to address the detrimental impact, much less purge it.

    • I’m an atheist, and my intention in posting the interview/discussion was not to stir up a debate between atheists and Christians, so I am hoping that there won’t be much more of that here. The question in the podcast was posed because one of the reading group’s participants is also studying New Testament Christianity and was himself trying to compare and contrast the two. Who could be better to ask than Robert Spencer?

      • Allen

        Another atheist! I think that listening to Robert Spencer complain about Islam is like listening to a tiger complain about how a lion eats.

        • Edward Cline

          Spencer is a Catholic, yes, but he’s also one of the foremost authorities on Islam. He can quote chapter and verse of the Koran and Hadith as well, I’m supposing, as of the Bible. I’d focus on what he has to say about Islam. He would agree that Christian morality should not be politicized. He argues that Islam is politicized from top to bottom. Except for Pamela Geller, I think most experts on Islam are “believers” in one sense or another. Christian morality is nearly as horrendous as Islam’s, but that’s not what he discusses anywhere. Remember that we’re living in an era of pre-reason (some would say post-reason). Stay focused.

  5. Man boy sex (Pederasty) in Islam
    http://crombouke.blogspot.com/2010/01/1.html

    The valorization of youthful male beauty is found in the Quran itself: “And there shall wait on them [the god fearing men] youths of their own, as fair as virgin pearls.” (Quran 52:24; 56:17; 76:19). Islamic jurisprudence generally considers that attraction towards beautiful youths is normal and natural.

  6. You might be interested in Robert Reilly’s Closing of the Muslim Mind if you want to know more about the philosophical basis of islamic thought. After conquering Christian and Zorastorian lands, islam was influenced by hellenist philosophy but, unfortunately, they lost the great battle – was the quran created or uncreated – around the 11th Century and since that time islamic thought can only come from the islamic trilogy.
    http://www.amazon.com/Closing-Muslim-Mind-Intellectual-Islamist/dp/1933859911

  7. Talal

    Christianity is indeed toxic, despite all those who pretend and claim otherwise.

  8. Frankly, the poetry found in the Koran is not a redeeming enough attribute for any rational person to respect it, no more than should be the poetry found in the Bible. I wish I could live long enough to see the day when men would regard either document with astonished incredulity. “People really believed this stuff?”

  9. M.Stern

    Robert Spencer linked to this at JihadWatch so it attracted the attention of some Christian apologists. I like Robert Spencer alot. Politically he is more a Classical Liberal than a Conservative. Many (though not all by any stretch) in the anti-Islam movement are real nasty Cultural Conservative types who likewise are not Classical Liberals (and dislike Classical Liberalism); types with views similar to Anders Breivik. Spencer is not like that at all. He is a Christian but a benevolent one and does not push a Cultural Conservative agenda. I vastly prefer him to the new atheists like Harris, Dennet and Dawkins who are also anti-Islam. I fear their Leftism more than I fear Islam.

    Regarding the origins of Christianity, I find it a fascinating subject and have read at least 10 books on the subject. Suffice it to say that Christianity is a complex development, really an example of religious syncretism. There are man influences on it: Near Eastern, Jewish, Platonic, Cynic, Stoic, Gnostic and even others. That being said, I think it can be said that Christianity is the far more philosophical religion than Islam. The reason is that, because it developed in Europe, Christianity was bequeathed the legacy of Classical philosophy – something Islam would deliberately turn its back on.

    My main point was that on the level of epistemology, Christianity allows for metaphysical uniformity and epistemological certainty to a far greater extent than Islam. This I think is _extremely_ important to any comparison between the two religions. Yes, Christianity doesn’t command the killing of non-believers and doesn’t sanction pedophilia (at least not NT Christianity) and those are important but they are not fundamental. Epistemic concerns will always be paramount. And there, post-Thomistic Christianity is just less hostile to reason than Islam. This is why the Islamic world is what it is.

  10. Deborah

    This is great, Amy, I really enjoyed this fascinating interview! I wrote a blog that recommends/links to it at my tea party group website: http://trivalleypatriots.com/content/interview-author-and-jihad-watch-producer-robert-spencer

  11. I left this comment on a Middle East Forum article on “Muslim Radicalization”:
    http://www.meforum.org/3030/muslim-radicalization

    As important as it may be to draw distinctions between Islam and “radical” Islam (that is, between Wahhabist, “pure” Islam and the allegedly “moderate” version as practiced, say, by proprietors of 7/11 convenience stores), the religion is still at root a prescription for totalitarianism. Regardless of the version, it requires the submission of one’s mind, of one’s volitional consciousness, to arbitrary and utterly irrational authority. One may quibble between the differences between applications of the ideology, and because the religion makes no distinction between its “ethical” imperatives and what an individual Muslim must do to conform to them, that is, to advance Islam at every chance, even in Western societies, it is an ideology, and not just a set of principals which one may hold privately and not be compelled to impose it on others. Muslims are not the Amish.

    Moreover, and Ibrahim introduces but does not pursue the point, there can be no such thing as a “secular” Islam, only half-breed versions of it such as what governed Egypt under Hosni Mubarak until his Western-instigated downfall, or in Turkey, which is finally succumbing to its Islamic roots. In such a compromise between Islam and eclectic Western secular elements, the more consistent ideology will ultimately triumph, and in Egypt’s and Turkey’s instances, Islam was the more consistent or “pure” ideology. Saudi Arabia and Iran are examples of two “hostile” versions of Islam, but each is equally inimical to reason, rationality, and freedom. Sunni and Shiite brands of Islam are simply two ends of the same ideological club.

    Finally, Ibrahim also touches on a subject I have not seen advanced before by any articulate “counter-jihadist,” the alleged Christian roots of Western culture:

    “Yet we continue to hear Western politicians casually talking about ‘de-radicalizing’ Muslims. This is no different than, say, Chinese politicians casually talking about ‘de-radicalizing’—de-Westernizing— Western peoples, so that they can stop thinking and acting in a distinctly Western way.”

    Very vocal conservative politicians, most prominently most current Republican candidates for president, contend that Western civilization and culture are based on Christian moral tenets – Christ’s teachings, the Bible, and so on – and make that claim in the face of the fact that everything we have that advances human happiness is based on reason and rationality, and not on another version of mysticism. What we do have, however, is the “secular” version of the Judeo-Christian ethic and this has governed our politics for about one and a half centuries, with disastrous results. Sacrifice, selflessness, “volunteerism,” the notion of “giving back” to society if one is extraordinarily successful in the material realm – call it the Christian version of Islam’s zakat, or welfare tax – indeed, the whole structure of taxation and regulation that continues to stall and skew a vigorous economy, is founded on secular Christian ethics.

    As Ayn Rand pointed out decades ago, a “benign” welfare state, if not checked and opposed and dismantled, will ultimately and from necessity lead to totalitarianism – which is what we face today under Obama and the Republicans. As the welfare state established by Bismarck necessarily led to Nazi Germany, the welfare state advocated by the Progressives and legislated by a succession of presidents and Congresses will lead to the same consequence.

    Yes, it would be absurd for Chinese politicians to talk about “de-radicalizing” Western peoples. “Western peoples” cannot be both “Western” and “non-Western” at the same time. More absurd is to hear Christian politicians discuss “de-radicalizing” Muslims or even Islam itself. They cannot make any credible headway in arguing against “radical” Islam before they recognize that Islam is by its nature “radical” and then repudiate their own ethics of selflessness, living for others, and submitting to the authority of Christ, God, and the Bible. Why make a distinction between Mohammad, Allah, and the Koran and Christ, God and the Bible when they are all attributes of the same species of mysticism? What was it that Rand’s arch-villain, Ellsworth Toohey said about today’s moral conflict: Fight the system that destroys the individual with the system that destroys the individual? Christianity, which was severed for the longest time from secular, individual rights-recognizing politics, is simply a rival system of Islam’s. Virtually its only redeeming feature is its stress on personal salvation, something that is completely absent in Islam. The better known enemies of Islam employ the irrational to combat the irrational.

    If Islam is making any progress in the West, it is because, as I note in my Post 9/11 Retrospective article, it is riding on the coattails of Western statism, a statism based Christian ethics, an ethics not in any fundamental sense dissimilar from Islam’s. Why disparage Islamists who boast of wanting to replace the Constitution with Sharia law, when Christian “extremists” wish to replace it with the Bible? If Western civilization is to be saved, its defenders must be consistent in their argumentation and reject any version of anti-reason.

  12. Pingback: Audio: En blogger Interviewer Robert Spencer « Veritas Universalis

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