Leaving the Allah Delusion Behind: Atheism and Freethought in Islam, by Ibn Warraq (Berlin, Germany: Verlag Schiler, 2020, ISBN 9783899302561). 752 pp. Hardcover, €68.00.
Who has an illusion about Allah? Most obviously, Muslims hold an illusion about Allah, a delusion about the Arab god. They deem him real, but he isn’t. In a sense they have made him real in the same way all deities, though man-made, are nonetheless real because belief has made them real. It is called “reification,” the process by which the institutions fashioned by one generation come to be regarded by the following generations as more than human creations. Because the inheritors of their forbears’ creations received them as accomplished fact, the heirs regard the institutions, including religious beliefs, as real in a more profound way than their predecessors, the “founding fathers” did—or could. Thus, Allah became real to all Muslims thereafter. Older than them, Allah seemed to them more real than themselves. All religions begin this way, and thus all are delusions. But some delusions are more dangerous than others. The man who believes himself to be Napoleon Bonaparte is less dangerous than he who believes he can jump from a ledge and fly. And if one believes the delusion of the jumper is no worse than that of the fellow wearing the Napoleon hat, one has thereby rendered oneself nearly as dangerous as the jumper, because one will not take necessary precautions to save life. In Leaving the Allah Delusion Behind, Ibn Warraq shows how dangerous are both the Islamist fanatics and the Westerner “useful idiots” who make excuses for them—for the latter have an Allah illusion as well.
What can you say about a religion that retains its members by forbidding them to leave under pain of death? That’s the way it is in very many of the Muslim countries. And these threats are not idle! Warraq details a sorry and shocking history of Islamic persecution of nonbelievers, independent thinkers, and dissenters. The announced theme of this book is the persistence of freethought and atheism bubbling up amid the toxic swamp of obscurantist, misogynistic barbarism. Yes, Christianity has had its own dark ages, but for the most part, Christians, even fundamentalists, have gotten past that. Not so with Islam, as a great deal of documentation in this volume relentlessly demonstrates. Muslim leaders and many of their obedient minions have determined to stop the socio-religious clock at the seventh century—and not only in lands they already rule.
But polite Westerners do not want to understand this. They would condescendingly discount jihadis’ own explanations for their acts—that they are purely religious. No, we tell ourselves that it is all economic and that it is what we deserve for being prosperous and so on. (That’s the Allah illusion, for you, our version.) What a racket! Islamists have pegged us very well. They know Americans, like whipped curs, hag-ridden by political correctness and identity politics, will bite their tongues before criticizing Islam. The Islamists have persuaded us that any such criticism amounts to “Islamophobia,” as if fearing theocratic imperialism were an unreasoning fear. Leaving the Allah Delusion Behind is persuasive that it is not.
But is Warraq just preaching to the choir? I only wish it were so! The amazing fact of the matter is that many atheists and humanists become apoplectic about public manger scenes and team prayers before football games—as if Oliver Cromwell were imposing the Christian faith on them—all the while promoting the rose-lens view of Islam as if it were Disney’s Aladdin and bending over backward to ignore issues like Muslim anti-Semitism. If secularists in America and Europe must choose their battles, they’re choosing the wrong one.
But aren’t most American Muslims peace-loving citizens? Islam is essentially theocratic. American Muslims are not members of some alternative sect of Islam, the “peaceful Muslims.” No, the more American they are (the more assimilated they become), the less Islamic they are. It is like the Unitarians. Long ago they were Christians, but they have so watered down their religious beliefs that they no longer count.
Warraq introduces his readers to a colorful gallery of Muslim philosophers, heretics, kings, and poets, as well as the pious totalitarians who tried—and often succeeded—to silence them. But the book is not only a history of the old days; there is also a surprisingly large number of contemporary, mostly college-aged, drop-outs from the House of Islam. They have organized internet groups, podcasts, marches, and meet-ups, often at considerable risk, whether in their home countries or in the Western lands to which they have had to flee. The plight (and the courage) of women and homosexuals is particularly serious, but coming out as a nonbeliever is dangerous enough by itself. The author’s 1995 book Why I Am Not a Muslim has had enormous influence on this burgeoning ex-Muslim movement. One hopes this new work will throw plenty of gasoline on that already-raging fire.