The Power of the Internet

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

This conversation first aired live on June 25, 2013. An edited version played as part of a best-of Brian Lehrer Show on November 29, 2013, on WNYC. 

Amir Ahmad Nasr, blogger and author of My Isl@m: How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind - and Doubt Freed My Soul (St. Martin's Press, 2013), explains how the wide world of the internet helped him see outside the religious fundamentalist bubble in which he was raised.


Amir Ahmad Nasr

Comments [50]

Hadiel from NY

I used to be a Muslim and left because those Atheist whom you call "Stupid" have valid arguments that you cannot Handel. If you are bold enough to say what u just said on this website or carry on a valid argument by making a valid statement to an Atheist and actually walk out of their with success meaning winning the debate then I would think about considering your stupid comments. Oh and by the way I was a Muslim and left doesn't that mean the death penalty ? So since your a Muslim you get to go to heaven for killing me I'm right here home boy ...waiting .....

Jun. 28 2013 07:59 PM
Enough Already from a State of Exasperation

EDIT: "does not comport" --> "comports"

Jun. 26 2013 10:01 AM
Enough Already from a State of Exasperation

"One thing the new atheists have done is to demonstrate for us the meaning of the word 'stupid'.

Actually, they might show us that there is no rational argument for atheism - because they've tried to make it, and haven't succeeded."

Lazy, lazy, lazy. This comment isn't an argument - it's simply name-calling. No evidence presented at all. How is there "no rational argument" for atheism? Is there a RATIONAL argument for believing in a sky-god who intervenes in human affairs? Or that a Jewish carpenter 2K years ago was the son of said deity? Or that an illiterate Arab was the mouthpiece of God 1.4K years ago? Clearly, someone does not have a definition of "rational" that doesn't comport w/ the rest of society - and I'd venture to say that someone isn't me.

Jun. 26 2013 09:58 AM
Ed from Larchmont

One thing the new atheists have done is to demonstrate for us the meaning of the word 'stupid'.

Actually, they might show us that there is no rational argument for atheism - because they've tried to make it, and haven't succeeded.

Jun. 26 2013 05:37 AM
College Boreds

"If you're Jewish, you should consider following the Kabbalah instead of following the rigid orthodoxy."

Okeeee... & while we're on that topic, any tips for rehabbing those pesky Islamic terrorists? Tnx in advance...

Jun. 25 2013 11:22 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Not to be critical of the speaker, he has made a courageous step forward. He rejected a belief that had elements he knew couldn't be right, and for a time was atheistic in outlook. But then he came back to faith. At this point he seems to still be rejecting any creed, I think he has to consider the question 'Is it possible for a creed to be true'?

Jun. 25 2013 03:36 PM
John A

Keep looking, keep an open mind, and open that door some time.

Jun. 25 2013 02:27 PM
Unaffiliated Listener from Outside the Church/Synagogue/Mosque

"Nonfundamentalist" is probably the key word. Some of my best friends are religious. ;) But alas it's usually the nastiest portions of congregations that are the loudest and most visible, so it's easy to tar w/ too big a brush. That said, my previous remarks still stand. To close this topic out (for me, at least), IMO religion should be something to fill one's life (and the lives of others around you) w/ joy and fulfillment, while bestowing utter humility and a deep appreciation of the fragility of the human condition. Instead, I see way too many people (incl some regular posters here!) who use religion as a weapon to demean others and (to attempt) to elevate themselves. God is not selfish; too many of his alleged followers are.

Jun. 25 2013 01:09 PM
John A

I don't see any fight picking inside the church, BTW.
I've seen it in religion on TV, but not in church.
Nonfundamentalist sect reporting in.

Jun. 25 2013 12:08 PM
Unaffiliated Listener from Outside the Church/Synagogue/Mosque

Believers tend to say only God is perfect, while humans are flawed. Yet the falsity of this humility is revealed by the inability of many believers to tolerate any criticism, however justified, of their chosen professed faith. They seem to forget that religions are human creations and are not equivalent to a deity, if one in fact exists.

Jun. 25 2013 11:50 AM
Adam Holland from Brooklyn

The guest's concluding slam on Orthodox Judaism per se was not helpful. Lumping together all aspects of Orthodox Judaism in this manner showed an ignorance of the subject bordering on hate, albeit with a friendly face.

Jun. 25 2013 11:42 AM
Unaffiliated Listener from Outside the Church/Synagogue/Mosque

Dispensing with religion DOES NOT MEAN "worshipping at the altar of the self." Typical (literal) holier-than-thou attitude. Which touches upon one of my biggest beefs w/ the religious (as opposed to religions). The smugness. Where is the generosity of spirit that religion proclaims as (supposedly) one of its fundamental tenets?

Jun. 25 2013 11:38 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Joe Mirsky, maybe there are no billboards, but there is a button that says, "Militant Agnostic: I don't know and you don't either!"

Jun. 25 2013 11:36 AM
NMT from Greenwich, CT

Dear Mr. Nasr,
I really appreciate you talking about your experience. I have grown up in a moderate Muslim family but rejected religion at a very early age. At this point, age 39, I have come to an understanding that religion and culture are manufactured by humans to have a easier outlook on life. The truth is we do not know why there is anything as opposed to nothing. It is scary but from personal experience I can tell you once I learned to accept this, now it is not scary anymore.
My question to you is why do you look for comfort in spirituality? what is it? why should there be a God? what is God?
Many thanks,

Jun. 25 2013 11:36 AM
jf from the future

Science is the only true religion. It's ok to believe something wrong, you get a tax break, you get a church to go to. but for anyone who wants to worship science, you get no community lab, not tax break, no exceptions to laws on religious grounds. America is encouraging falsehoods and punishing truths.

Jun. 25 2013 11:35 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

Thank you, paulb from Brooklyn:

"Hacking" your own religion? It just sounds like more squishy consumer culture to me. Meaningless."

Jun. 25 2013 11:34 AM

Dog bless the nuts.

Jun. 25 2013 11:34 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

@ dboy

Say no to religion? NO, I won't. I will not worship at the altar of self.

Jun. 25 2013 11:32 AM
henry from md

Until he started talking about 'enterprises/entrepreneurs' moving into a direction of 'social enlightenment' (my paraphrase) I walked with him.
Unfortunately he has left a lot of the real reality out of his vision.

Jun. 25 2013 11:32 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Some doctrine is correct. (To deny any doctrine is a mistake.)

Jun. 25 2013 11:32 AM
Chad S. from Keene, NH

Amir Ahmad Nasr's story is an example of the kind of trajectory analyzed in depth in Richard Rorty's _Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity_. The kind of melting away of one's own indigenous biases, and the self-awareness of that state, has entered the vocabulary as "Rortyan Irony"

Jun. 25 2013 11:31 AM
Lauren Messelian

I agree with him 100%. I have always felt this is nice to hear it so eloquently put.
It is one's experiences that create the "religious" bonds, not the dogmatic mechanical practice or "religious brand name", if you will. It is the feeling of all being one, and the desire of connectedness that in my mind creates the religion.

Jun. 25 2013 11:30 AM
John A

A good rule of thumb is: where religions agree, that's god getting through, where they disagree, that's just we lowly people messing things up (as does happen). Seeing the difference takes patience.

Jun. 25 2013 11:29 AM
RJ from prospect hts

There are many communities driven by morality that are not based on religions: pick an issue--environmentalism,labor, food shortages ... People don't need religion as the basis of moral community.

Jun. 25 2013 11:28 AM
Unaffiliated Listener from Outside the Church/Synagogue/Mosque

Goodness, so many hateful/propagandistic comments from what I presume (based on my identification of "the usual suspects") are believing folks.

Anyway, I always appreciate Mr. Lehrer's segments on Islam EXCEPT I don't understand why he always pronounces it "iz-lum," which I've never heard anyone else say. Me, I say, "iz-lahm."

Jun. 25 2013 11:28 AM
Joe Mirsky from Pompton Lakes NJ

From my book Ornamentally Incorrect
God Only Knows
My town [West Milford] voted to allow holiday religious displays on public property, all comers allowed — the no establishment of religion thing.

The town put up the standard pagan “Holiday tree” in front of the municipal building with no religious ceremony. A resident pushed to have it officially called a “Christmas tree”, but the town council declined.
A rabbi agreed. Instead of ecumenically christening it a Hanukkah bush, he asserted that it was a Christian symbol and put up a menorah, which he said was not a religious symbol but a universal symbol of freedom and light.

Then the Christians put up a nativity scene. The infidels trumped that with a 2 x 9 foot billboard with the 3 wise men, the nativity scene and Star of Bethlehem (6 pointed version) saying “You KNOW it’s a Myth. This Season Celebrate REASON!” The billboard was promptly desecrated in the dead of night, either by an ill wind or sacreligionists unknown.

You never see agnostic billboards. Vigorously asserting that it can’t be asserted comes off wimpy: It May or May not be a Myth!
God Only Knows sounds better.

Jun. 25 2013 11:27 AM
Brian from Red Bank, NJ

Great segment. I find it interesting that your guest doesn't identify as a believer (& suspect that has a lot to do with his exposure to Sam Harris). During the segment he's been identified as Sufi, can you ask him how he's settled on that community out of the many, equally hard to believe religions out there?


Jun. 25 2013 11:26 AM
paulb from Brooklyn

"Hacking" your own religion? It just sounds like more squishy consumer culture to me. Meaningless.

Jun. 25 2013 11:25 AM
Bonn from East Village

Some of the nicest, kindest people I have met are totally unreligious. And some of the biggest bigots are religious. So what's the point?

Jun. 25 2013 11:25 AM


Jun. 25 2013 11:25 AM
Amy from Manhattan

oscar, God's name is Islam is "Allah," which is related to the Hebrew "Elohim" & is the same God Jews & Christians worship. "Muhammad" is the name of the prophet who is the principal prophet of Islam but not the only one.

PJ, of course there are some Jews who hate Muslims. Who said there weren't?

Jun. 25 2013 11:24 AM
Robert from NYC

Right, it's not religion it's politics and often big business. But then today the two often go together.

Jun. 25 2013 11:24 AM
John A

Have to give the man credit for not staying Athiest.
HaHa the mention of YouTube, the page title "The Power of the Internet". YouTube is rife with thousands of 'little Bill OReilly bigots'. A lot of hate there actually. When you find a good source it sometimes takes weeks of searching.

Jun. 25 2013 11:23 AM
Miscellaneous from Brooklyn

I am Jewish. I am ethnically Jewish and it is my preference as well.

The Torah, for me, is not merely a "book of G-d," but also an historical, sociological and legal document. We believe not only in G-d, but that He has given us a way of life that indicates very clearly how we are to treat one another as well as people in other walks of life or of other beliefs.

This is something I feel I cannot give up. There are other Jews who interpret the Torah and other writings slightly differently, but I feel that our legal and sociological background makes it possible for us to live with non-Jews and to continue to exist on this planet.

G-d, for many of us, is conscience and teacher and parent, as well, and there is no harm in this perspective. We are not threatened, but strive to this example of how to act while we are alive.

Jun. 25 2013 11:22 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Amy

The Jewish religion has always believed that while truth is one, there are many other paths to that truth.

Jun. 25 2013 11:21 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

@ Ed from Larchmont

So many "Catholics" utterly fail to understand this.

Jun. 25 2013 11:20 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

@ Ed from Larchmont

So many "Catholics" utterly fail to understand this.

Jun. 25 2013 11:20 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I've seen a mandala over the door of the Integral Yoga Institute that shows the symbols of different religions, along w/the words "Truth Is One, Paths Are Many." I believe that, but I also believe all those paths (& I'd include atheism in this too) go in both directions & can be followed either toward or away from the truth.

Jun. 25 2013 11:20 AM
jgarbuz from Queens


Jews do not hate Muslims. But Jews were ethnically cleansed out of the Hijaz by Muhammad for refusing to accept him as a prophet. Since then, Islam has often vilified Jews just as Christianity did. But there were Jews who did convert to Islam though. Nonetheless, most of the Jews have had to leave the Muslim countries after 1948 whereas Israel is well over 21% Muslim.

Jun. 25 2013 11:20 AM
Ed from Larchmont

'In other faiths we see glimples of the truth that enlightens all men.' Vatican II

One doesn't love God for fear of hell, but it's a realistic fear.

Saved by God's grace - that's Catholic belief as well.

Jun. 25 2013 11:19 AM
JP from NYC

To paraphrase a philosopher we all studied..." an examined religion is not worth having." The young man is to be lauded for his humanity and humanism but I find his "theology" too loose. You really have to study a lot and to understand the "golden thread" of religious beliefs. My religious beliefs are rooted in experience. I did what he did when I was a Buddhist. Now, many years later, there are fingerposts in one's life.

Jun. 25 2013 11:19 AM
Ed from Larchmont

This story can't come from a Catholic because of all religions, Catholicism has a creed. (It's a good thing to throw off doctrines that are fundamentalist and incorrect, and one feels free, but there are doctrines that are true.) If a Catholic doesn't accept Church doctrine, that person isn't a Catholic anymore.

Jun. 25 2013 11:17 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

Do it yourself religion. So typical of today's egocentric world.

Jun. 25 2013 11:16 AM
PJ from Nj

Make no mistake. There are Jews who hate Muslims too. That's not the accepted narrative but that hatred exists in some people.

Jun. 25 2013 11:14 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Their service is to show us how wrong they are, and intellectually dishonest.

He's not a religious believer?? Then he isn't a Muslim, I guess.

Another evolver. The point of mysticism is communion with God.

No kidding. Other people other than Christians experience God's presence.

Jun. 25 2013 11:14 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Brian Lehrer is always happy when someone leaves religion or doubts its beliefs.

Many religions are not accurate descriptions of reality, but have some parts of reality correct.

It reminds me of St. John's description - 'If a man says he knows God, but hates his neighbor, he is a liar' (paraphrase). If other people are hated, one senses that something is wrong.

Jun. 25 2013 11:11 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I agree with JOhn A that communists and fundamentalist "progressives" are as bigoted and narrow minded as the most fundamentalist religious sect.

As for Islam, it is by its intrinsic nature, an expansionist religious movement that advocates domination by whatever means necessary including violence.

Jun. 25 2013 11:11 AM
John A

No need for fundamentalism to be religious.

Jun. 25 2013 11:07 AM
John A

No for fundamentalism to be religious.

Jun. 25 2013 10:49 AM
oscar from ny

For the muslims theres only one god and his name is Muhammad ..thats why the devil keeps them victims of confusion, these only love the things of men.

Jun. 25 2013 09:56 AM

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