It's the software, stupid!

There are a lot of people in the world who are so dim, it's a wonder they are able to tie their own shoelaces in the morning. It took me a long time to understand that, and to accept it. But there they are among us, saying and doing the stupidest things. And there really are people walking the earth who have given themselves over to evil. Every minute of my life I spent trying to figure out if someone was doing stupid things because they didn't know any better, or because they were in the service of the adversary, was wasted time. By their fruits we do know them, and that’s all that matters. They will have to answer to God and explain themselves one day, and that’ll be their problem.

We need to derail the irrational ideas and schemes of these people, because they are seldom content with living their own lives. No, in their unfounded arrogance they think that they are special, and that they can tell everyone else how to live their lives. We can start to do that by refuting their lies and sinking their arguments. One of the most common lies that we hear today is that anyone who criticises the belief system known as ‘Islam’ is a ‘racist’. This outrageous lie is long past its sell by date, so let’s make a start by doing that one in.

Point 1

Religious beliefs are not the same thing as the human beings who hold those religious beliefs.

To anyone capable of rational thought, this is an obvious fact. The former UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank La Rue, has stated that:

‘He [the Special Rapporteur] wishes to underscore once again that international human rights law protects individuals and not abstract concepts such as religion, belief systems or institutions …’

That position makes sense because human beings and religious beliefs are two entirely different things. Human beings are hardware: bones, blood and water. Religious beliefs are software, or as one of my old software engineering lecturers used to call it, ‘thought-stuff’.

Point 2

If human beings and religious beliefs are two different things, then it is possible to talk about one without referring to the other.

Therefore ...

It is possible to talk about religious beliefs without referring to a human being.

Every rational person understands perfectly well that it is possible to make an assertion about a religious belief without ever referring to a human being, just as it is possible to make a statement about software without ever mentioning hardware. If the subject of a sentence has to do with software, then the sentence is clearly not about hardware. It's about software. It really is as simple as that.

'Windows 10 has a start menu.'

Is that statement about the new Macbook Pro? Or HP laptops? Or encrypted memory sticks? No. It's about hardware. It's about software.

In fact, any assertion about a religious belief, by definition, says nothing about any human beings, anywhere on earth, who hold that the belief in question is true. (Nor does it say anything about any human beings who hold that the belief in question is false.)

Point 3

Religious beliefs are not protected under human rights legislation.

The clue is in the name. Human rights legislation protects human beings. It does not protect religious beliefs. (See point 1.) As the Special Rapporteur has stated:

‘Moreover, the right to freedom of religion or belief, as enshrined in relevant international legal standards, does not include the right to have a religion or belief that is free from criticism or ridicule.’

Point 4

Religious beliefs can, and should, be criticized.

As the Special Rapporteur has stated:

‘Indeed, the right to freedom of expression includes the right to scrutinize, debate openly, make statements that offend, shock and disturb, and criticize belief systems, opinions and institutions, including religious ones …’

‘As the Special Rapporteur has previously emphasized, for the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion to be fully realized, robust examination and criticism of religious doctrines and practices — even in a harsh manner — must also be allowed.’

So if you criticise the religion of Islam, and some wingnut calls you a ‘racist’ for doing so, you can tell them that you are not talking about hardware, you are talking about software.

And obviously, religious software can run on any human hardware. It doesn't matter what a person's 'race' is. Anyone on earth can believe that the truth claims made by the Islamic religion correspond to reality. You might want to mention the ‘ginger jihadi’ Abdullah Elmir and the ‘white widow’ Samantha Lewthwaite when you make this point, to make sure that the person before you gets it.

Try putting this to them: The only possible way that ‘race’ could be involved when someone was discussing Islam would be if that religion’s software was only designed to run on people of a particular ‘race’, so that only people of a particular ‘race’ could possibly become Muslims. Is that what they are saying? That Islam itself is ‘racist’, because if someone is the wrong ‘race’ they can’t become a Muslim? Is that true?

If they say yes, then you have them. If they say no, then you have them.

Obviously, it's not true. Anyone can choose to believe that the truth claims made by the Islamic religion, as opposed to the entirely different truth claims made by every other religion, correspond to reality. That would be why you reminded them about the 'ginger jihadi' and the 'white widow'. And that’s the point. That is the point.

It’s not about human hardware. It never has been.

It’s the software, stupid.


La Rue, F. Promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, UN General Assembly, 67th Session, A/67/357, September 7th 2012, paragraphs 35, 36 and 53, available at: Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights > English > Human Rights Bodies > Special Procedures > General Assembly 67th session (accessed 17th Dec 2015).

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