I've blogged often on the bad habit conservatives have of treating their speculations as facts. There is a new meme bouncing around the conservative blogosphere that illustrates this well, and Mike Gallagher's latest column is the latest example. While discussing the raid on the polygamist compound, he got off on a tangent on all the nasty things Bill Maher has said about the Catholicism and Christianity in general, and said this:
"But if he was really as tough as he wants people to think he is, he’d mock and ridicule the prophet Muhammad. It would be fascinating to watch what would happen to Bill Maher’s career if he attacked Muslims, Jews or blacks the way he bashes Christians."
Let's leave aside the absurdity of including blacks or ethnic Jews in the same category as Muslims and Christians. Ethnicity, being entirely permanent and out of our control to even pretend is different than it is without serious cosmetic surgery, is in a completely different category than opinions on religion, however strongly we may hold them.
But note the subtle implication, often made explicit in these circumstances that Maher (or any random atheist) does not, or will not, criticize Muslims, either because he is hypocritical or a coward.
Here is another example from Kristen Fyfe:
"When confronted by the Catholic League on why it continues to give Maher air time, HBO stated that Maher’s anti-Catholic remarks were a matter of 'creative freedom.' One wonders if HBO would be so sanguine if Maher’s vitriol was regularly aimed at Muslims."
This time it is HBO that is accused of hypocrisy or cowardice, take your pick, on the speculation, speculation mind you, that they would not allow Maher to criticize Muslims. She didn't bother to check the facts. Neither did Gallagher. They just assumed they already knew the answer, or worse yet, knew it and ignored it, but I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt until they force me to do otherwise.
But you see, there is a real danger in assuming you know something simply because it fits in with your ideology. You might very well be wrong, and make yourself look well, sort of incompetent, unprofessional, and not at all objective. That, and you further cement your flawed opinion in your own mind by turning what should have been a disconfirmatory, theory-changing event, into an imaginary confirmation.
So, Mike and Kristen, and anyone out there who has sympathies with what they said above, let me make it clear for you. We atheists don't lack for spicy things to say about Muslims. I've said my share. Their brand of religious irrationality is definitely worse than that which the vast majority of believing Christians in the US practice, though as recent events remind us far too often, the gap is not nearly as large as a lot of Christians would claim.
But I grant without hesitation that we American atheists criticize Christian lunatics far more proportionately than we criticize Muslim lunatics. The reason should be obvious, and its not that we're hypocrites or have an irrational hatred of Christians or fear Muslim reprisal. Who did you think it was that reproduced the Danish photos of Muhammad or linked to them like so many of us did?
No, the reason we give Christians a harder time is because the Christians are the ones trying to piss in our porridge. The Muslims might be crazier than you are, but they are over there, and you are over here. It's not Muslims screwing up American science education, or murdering abortion doctors, or obsessing over what people do with their own bodies in private and passing laws according to their religious views to limit the rights of everyone else. It's not because of Muslims that I can't buy a damned beer at 11:00 am on a Sunday before enjoying my football game.
All of that my pious people, is because of you. So you get more flack than they do. It's that simple. You screw up our lives more than the Muslims do. Gnash your teeth and wail all you like about Osama Bin Laden; Pat Robertson is far more of a threat to what I value about my life in America, so he pisses me off more.
As for Maher, he also has made his opinion of Muslims quite known, and often. My favorite, and I paraphrase from memory:
"As bad as the Christian religion is, their's is worse. Their's is worse. Promising p*ssy in the afterlife is the lowest thing ever. Ever."
He also commonly refers to the traditional covered garb of Islamic women as "beekeeper suits". Maher has been plenty hard on Muslims, but you have to actually listen to what he says to know that. Speculation is not evidence.