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What should atheists do with Islamic State?

March 26, 2015

Islamic State poses many problems to our world. It is described as a barbaric ‘death cult’ and it is criticised as being fundamentally irrational. Now this accepting this appraisal – what should we do about them?

It is often asserted that it’s impossible to reason with unreasonable people. This is the topic for many Internet memes, for example,

To argue with a person who has renounced reason is like administering medicine to the dead (Thomas Paine)

If you could reason with religious people, there would be no religious people. (House)

Hence it seems impossible to even begin reasoning with Islamic State. Yet they still pose a threat to the world. They still behead innocent civilians and murder innocent people. Hence when reasoning is not possible, what should we do?

I’m intrigued to know what atheists think we should do about Islamic State?


From → Comment

  1. I don’t see that the views of atheists would be revealingly different from those of say, Christians, or even moderate Muslims.
    There is an excellent description of the goals and motives of Islamic State here:

    For those sworn to ISIS that are truly committed to the cause – and we should assume all of them – there can be absolutely no reasoning or negotiation with their medieval and egocentric perspective on reality. They intend to fight to the death, because that is what has been foretold in their religion and is what they teach each other.
    The author of this article suggests that probably the best outcome is to hold a defensive line rather than take an offensive assault, and I suspect militarily it makes sense to work on blocking supply lines. Rather than ‘force’ them into a final confrontation – which is ironically what they are seeking – the best result is to stop their spread and let them peter out, to the point where we might hope that many of the soldiers see that they’re fighting a lost cause, and not the final holy war, and eventually abandon it. My fear for the people of that part of the world is, although ISIS could burn out within a couple of years, that it could take a whole generation before that brand of Islamic extremism is significantly diluted out of existence. Of course, by that time it could just morph again into another caliphate movement, and the cycle will start again…

    • Paul, I appreciate your comments. Thanks. I’m not expecting the views to be different, but I think there is genuinely great uncertainty on what to do.

      I have seen that article on what ISIS wants. My question is, what if they don’t peter out? What are we to do with the next cycle?

      I think it’s a genuinely difficult question. THanks for your comments as always. I hope you’re going well.


      • “…My question is, what if they don’t peter out? What are we to do with the next cycle?
        I think it’s a genuinely difficult question.

        Yeah, it is. But megalomaniacs with weapons and armies have always been in existence. Although these people are driven by a backwards (and possibly self-destructive) ideology, and their terror tactics look particularly nasty to our Western eyes, there is nothing especially unique about them militarily. On a regional scale, they are just yet another rogue state. The US and other Western countries will continue to vacillate on how offensive they should be, balancing regional and domestic politics and other factors. They could continue to spread, which would be bad of course, but it’s not realistic to expect they could invade Turkey and eventually occupy Europe or anything that severe. If they don’t peter out, they’ll morph, and the misery will continue in that part of the world. While we have to remain attentive to them, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to be pre-occupied with it.

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