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July 23rd, 2010
11:35 AM ET

My Take: No conservatism in Gingrich's attack on the ground zero mosque

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

This week, Newt Gingrich joined Sarah Palin in expressing his opposition to the Islamic community center and mosque at ground zero.

Palin’s argument, while wrongheaded, was better. Her appeal was to “common decency.” Don’t build the mosque, she wrote, out of respect for the dead and out of sensitivity to those who lost loved ones on 9/11.

Gingrich’s argument, by contrast, was simply bizarre.

In a macho manifesto that echoed some of the most hateful comments attacking my earlier post supporting the ground zero mosque on religious liberty grounds, Gingrich wrote, “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.”

Really? Since when has Saudi Arabia been the model for American civil liberties? And if it is our model, why don’t we follow it more rigorously, banning all mosques from all America, or for that matter all non-Christian places of worship?

And while we are at it, why stop at violating our citizens’ religious liberties? Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow political parties and severely restricts freedom of speech. So perhaps we should outlaw New York’s Republican and Democratic parties until Saudi Arabia agrees to allow political organizations. Perhaps we should shut down The New York Times until Saudi Arabia agrees to respect freedom of speech.

Gingrich’s truly bizarre argument basically admits that opposition to the proposed Islamic community center and mosque is rooted in religious intolerance. In fact, the whole point of the piece is to justify that admitted intolerance on the ground that Saudi Arabia is even more intolerant.

Reading Gingrich’s strange statement took me back to a chilling passage in a brilliant book by the Dartmouth historian Susannah Heschel called The Aryan Jesus. In this study of the intellectual lengths Christian theologians went to demonize the Jews during the 1930s in Nazi Germany, she makes a chilling observation about how racism works.  “By defining the target as immoral,” she writes, “the perpetrators permit themselves to violate their own moral norms.”

Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that Gingrich is a Nazi, or a racist. I don't believe he is either. What I am saying is that he is following this same script. By defining his target—in this case “the Islamists and their apologists”—as immoral he and his followers permit themselves to violate America’s longstanding moral norms.

There are many words for such an argument, but conservative is not one of them. True conservatives seek to safeguard a society's core values, not to dismiss them in the name of the demon du jour. And one of America's core values, inscribed into the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, is freedom of religion.

But we are at war, right? And don't desperate times call for desperate measures? According to Gingrich, “America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.” And I will grant him that. There are Muslim extremists who hate America and want to destroy us.

But while terrorists may take down our buildings and murder our citizens, only we American citizens can bury our core values. And that is what Palin, Gingrich, and other so-called conservatives are all too willing to do.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Islam • Politics

soundoff (600 Responses)
  1. SnafuBob

    All your base belong to us!

    July 23, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
    • John Smith

      Speak english moron!!! Try coming to any of our bases and see what happens to you! I WILL be the first person to drop you!

      July 23, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
    • Luke

      John Smith clearly doesn't know an internet meme when he sees one.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
    • Uther

      wow, had to look that one up. wonder if there's some linkage to lolcatz?

      July 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
    • Mike

      All your base ARE belong to us!

      August 14, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
  2. BigToe

    Stephen, If a group wanted to build a Militia Recruitment Center on the Oklahoma City bombing site, would you think that was a good idea? Should it be allowed?

    July 23, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
    • Luke

      A Militia Recruitment Center is not a religion and not covered by the Bill of Rights. The building of said Center would likely fall to local zoning laws and be denied.

      July 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
    • Stephen Prothero

      Hi Big Toe–Great question. But isn't the parallel really if someone wanted to build a Christian community center and church two blocks from the Oklahoma bombing? McVeigh was a Christian right? The parallel to your question isn't an Islamic center and mosque, it's an Al Qaeda center, no?

      July 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
    • KERRY

      You can't compare a militia with Islam because most of the Muslims denounce and are disturbed by what the extremist in the name of our religion did. Again and again Muslims have spoken against the acts of these terrorists saying that it is against Islam to do anything like this. It just doesn't make news because it is not newsworthy; nothing interesting for the news. I believe the one of the reasons to build a mosque (more a community center) there is so people can actually learn what Islam is by interacting with them. If it was build somewhere else nobody would care; thus nobody would care to go there and see what Islam and Muslims are all about. I kind of think that the terrorists may be happy if it weren't built there; it would be just another reason for them to attack the values of Americans and thus recruite more followers. If it were built there it would be a punch in the face for the terrorists because Americans continue to be unshaken and most of all carry the belief of freedom.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
    • LilP

      The parallel should be what inspired the attacker(s) to do such henious acts. I do not see how Christianity could be the inspiration for McVeigh, but if that is the picture you are trying to paint Stephen, present your case....

      July 23, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
  3. renaldo

    Carl, yes. And we are the only ones who actually have the death star.

    July 23, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  4. geecee827

    I do find it interesting that some politicians who neer had anything good to say about New York because it was "so liberal" are now all up in arms now over whatever is being proposed to be built in the City. Years ago they could not have cared less about New York and now they see fit to put their two cents in whenever something is planned to be built near Ground Zero. Sure, we were attacked on 9/11 at that site, but I believe these opportunists are just using it to further their political agenda of hatred, rather than really caring what is built there. They should mind their own business and worry about what gets built in their own backyards.

    July 23, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  5. mrsister

    Wouldn't it make sense to allow the Islamic center to be built in order to improve relations with those who hate us or are thinking about hating us? By denying it, it further creates a rift and gives people more reasons to become terrorists. If we are not accepting of their religion, then how can we expect them to not foster resentment toward us? We will be viewed as complete hypocrites, as we will not be true to what America stands for.

    July 23, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  6. realworld

    What are you suggesting, mr. tolerance, maybe catholicism be the only religion allowed on earth? It doesn't just offer guidance; it TELLS its followers how to live, and tolerates pedophilia to boot.

    July 23, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
    • brad

      The Catholic church tells it's followers how to live? Fascinating comment to this old baby boomer. The cultural revolution of the 60's and 70's sold the same set of ideas to millions of "free thinkers". Now we have an STD epidemic, rampant divorce with attendant damage to children, drug addictions, and an abortion rate that will have serious negative impact on future demographics (I leave out the moral side).

      July 23, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
  7. Realistic

    Have you read your writing? Hate allover it.
    You should read a little bit about history. Maybe you get our of your shell before your judge others.
    You can start from here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqHi50YdAQQ&feature=player_embedded

    July 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • CubanMom

      Not every Muslim is a hater...... just like not every Republican is a racist!

      July 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
      • McCluck

        Yeah, and not every cuban is worthless

        July 23, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
      • Beerman

        This is nothing but an attempt to create a new wedge issue in NYC politics.

        The US constitution expressly denounces intolerance of religion, it also forbids legislation that takes religion into account. This was done to insure that minority beliefs are not discriminated against. I find absolutely no reasonable evidence that suggests in any way that Islam should be treated differently than any other religion and further that there is no cause to prevent this mosque from existing. Any act to the contrary is completely unconstitutional.

        From a LEGAL and CONSTITUTIONAL standpoint there is no justifiable reason or rhetoric to preventing these people from freedom of worship.

        Why is it that the only amendment Republican's ever seem to care about is the 2nd Amendment? It seems to me, the only time they care about stuff like this is when it evokes fear and loathing in the hearts of the paranoid and spiteful. They act like separation of church and state were "unintentional" and that the founders of our nation really just wanted everyone to be puritans because they evoked the catchall phrase of "God" a few times.

        "God" is a lot of things to a lot of people and the founders knew that. Let the muslim's have their mosque, this is America: last time I checked, it was called the land of the FREE.

        July 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
    • Albert

      As sad as this footage is, much of it looks staged. There is no way that people can stand around dead bodies and not gag or cover their mouths. This is nothing more evil propaganda. Shame on you!

      July 23, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
  8. RobertONP

    When did America land of the free become land of the free only if you are a Christian!

    July 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • whatever

      When did American's become so dumb? American's are being played like fools and in the end it will come back to bite us all in the a**.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
    • Pearl

      Uh, hallo! The Muslims in this country have plenty of freedom as well, which is why they are here. Not only Christians have freedom in the US – everyone does – that is obvious by the many mosques, synagogues, and churches of every denomination, atheist group, church of Satan, and even the KKK. In my opinion the term "Christian" is overused. A Christian is someone who follows Christ – and if you look at many who say they are Christians, they have no clue who Christ was. So I dont agree with many who say this is a Christian nation. What bothers me about Muslims in the US is that they don't seem to be following the same faith as their fellow Muslims in other parts of the world. I still can't get the pictures out of my head of the Muslims jumping up and down in jubilee after the news of 9/11 in other countries. The remorse and defensiveness of the Muslims in the US seems to be different of that in the Mid-East. If they want to denounce what these extremists are doing all over the world then they shouldn't have such ties to Islam in the Mid-East, that's what scares people. And can we blame people for being scared after all that has happened in present day? And bringing up the past of Christianity has a point, but only to a certain degree. Obviously we can say there are some off-beat radical "christians" who do and say insane things, how can anyone compare that with the magnitude of terrorist ties to Islam in present day? Show me an Islamic leader who would deny that they want the US government to adopt Islamic law and maybe I'll change my mind about why I feel many Muslims REALLY want to live in the US.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  9. ghina

    Seriously those looney-bins are out there, and there is thought structure that supports them. But that is not representative of all muslims. And while you're attempt to inflame is pathetic, you clearly have not read primary sources or done any thoughtful analysis and therefore any good that can come from addressing your fears is lost.

    July 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • billy396

      You're absolutely correct that the attack does NOT reflect the majority of the Muslim community. The fact remains that the mosque has in fact been in the planning stages ever since the planning stages of the attack and the mosque is to be built as a shrine to the Muslim's successful attack "into the heart of the infidel". Those are the facts. If they could, they would place the mosque directly on the exact spot of the attack. This has been very common for thousands of years. The mosque at the site of a 'Muslim victory' is to serve as a reminder for the terrorists to come that they can 'strike at the heart of the infidel'. You may not believe this truth, but there are thousands of years of precedent for this type of behavior, and they shouldn't be allowed to intimidate New Yorkers in this manner. They could build their Mosque anywhere. Why do you think they chose the site that was the as close as possible to the terrorist strike?

      July 26, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
    • nycuws

      @Billy396 – My office looks down on the Freedom tower, I live in Manhattan and walk past the future mosque site twice a day, and let me tell you - I am not intimidated by this mosque. I firmly believe in the right to build this mosque, and am disheartened by the fear and anger I see driving so many American's to abandon our core values of religious freedom. (I'm also boggled by denials that Islam is a religion - It's just as much a religion as Christianity is. Ever hear of the Holy Roman Empire?)

      August 14, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
  10. justin

    Im not opposed to the mosque religious freedom is a right in the US but for many it does feel like a knife in the side historically mosques have been put on or near where Muslims feel they have had a victory. My real problem is the Imam who is wanting to build he is a dangerous man he has a more militant interpretation of the koran and is a supporter of Hamas

    July 23, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • KERRY

      Justin; just curious about who the imam is; how do you know this? I'm sure an extremist would not be allowed there.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
    • John

      Justin is probably going off what he heard about the imam from somebody else.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
    • Linda K.

      9/11 was not a victory for me or for any other Muslim I know. I was a teacher in an Islamic school on that day and when I heard the news and told my students there was no celebration. We talked quietly and prayed and when death threats started coming in the rest of the school day was canceled. The school stayed closed for the rest of the week and when we opened again on the following Monday there were police cars in the parking lot, there to protect us against anti-Muslim extremists. No Muslim was attacked in our city but there were attacks against other Muslims in other cities, and a Sikh man was also assaulted because he was mistaken for a Muslim. My children and I stayed in the house all week, listening to the news in horror. On Saturday I ventured out to buy groceries but I took my two teenage sons with me as protection because I truly didn't know what would happen. As it turned out, people in our city were much kinder than those in other places. There was no celebration of 9/11. I am an American who, thirty years ago, chose to be a Muslim. I wear a headscarf and have been told numerous times to "Go home." My home is in Missouri where I was born and raised. There are millions of other Muslims like me, converts and children of immigrants who were born here and have no other home. Why would you deny us the right to worship where we choose? Did I stop being an American when I became a Muslim?

      July 23, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
    • Qodex

      Linda K: the persecution you feel is because you follow a a religion that calls for the violent subjugation and death of non-believers (infidels). You might be one of the "peaceful" muslims who ignore the basic tenets of your own religion, but it's hard to tell just by looking at you.

      But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (9:5)

      Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book (Christians and Jews), until they pay the jizya [tribute] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (9:29).

      July 23, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
    • BradLW

      All these folks cherry picking from the Quran make me wonder if they have ever read the old testament of the xtian bible; maybe the old testament is no longer a part of the xtian bible?

      July 23, 2010 at 8:21 pm |
    • Frogist

      Qodex, this person is telling you she is afraid and you respond with what amounts to "you should be cuz it's your fault". How about recognizing her situation with a little empathy? It's people like you who have made our world as cold as it is.

      July 26, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  11. Frogist

    Reality, the fact that every muslim on these boards have not declared a jihad on you because of your hateful speech should tell you that they are not all that you think they are.

    July 23, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
    • Reality

      Fortunately this is a anonymous blog or I would probably have been assassinated by now and why? For stating the truth, something Muslims need desperately as they continue to be trapped by the biggest con ever pulled on humankind.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
    • AZ

      Realistic, keep up the good fight.

      -AZ

      July 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  12. Luke

    Carl – Nicely played.

    July 23, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  13. JohnQuest

    Reality, why do you HATE all Muslims?

    July 23, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • Reality

      Full disclosure yet again:

      Recognizing the flaws in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the "kneelers" and "pew peasants" will quickly converge these religions into some simple rules of life. No clerics, imams, rabbis and priests needed or desired. It will be called the great "Pink Slipping" of religion and its leaders.

      As per James Somerville, Philosophy professor emeritus from Xavier University, Cincinnati,

      "The faith of the vast majority of believers (and non-believers) depends upon where they were born and when."
      It is disturbing that such violence and hatred continues unabated due to radomness of birth. Maybe just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of it all.

      July 23, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
    • kurtinco

      I hate all muslims for the same reason I hate all KKK members. I hate them because they are violent and hate any people that are not like themselves, just like the KKK. Not all members of the KKK are willing to hang a black man or torch a cross. I guess that makes them moderates, right? Not all muslims fly planes into buildings or detonate roadside bombs, either. I guess those are the moderates, too.

      July 23, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
  14. Nonimus

    @Carl
    perfect

    July 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
  15. Carl

    ahhh....feel your hate flowing through you!!! give in to your anger, and your journey to the Dark Side will be complete!!

    July 23, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
    • J.Crobuzon

      You will also warm the hearts of the radical Muslims who know that your belief in Christ is only talk, and that in reality you hate your fellow man and will turn away from your false religion on any slight provocation. Make it easy for them, and let them know that we're bending to their will; another 9-11 and we will toss away our Bibles and come roaring over to bomb women and children.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
  16. Nonimus

    @Reality
    You're right inline with those you preach against. Radical religious fanatics of the Muslim persuasion would have similar arguments against the existence of you and your groups. The only difference would be which ancient text you choose to believe.

    July 23, 2010 at 2:05 pm |
    • AZ

      Man has fallen and is sinful. All of us, of all regions. We violate the teaching of our holy scripture. But it doesn't follow that all scripture is bad. It is we who are bad. Judge a religion by the ideals that it sets forth and the actions that adhere to those ideals.

      Koran 9:5 – "Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful"

      Bible, Gospel According to Matthew 5:43-44: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
      But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"

      Fortunately most Muslims don't take the 1st sentence of 9:5 seriously enough.

      Unfortunately many Christians don't take Mathew 5:43-44 seriously enough.

      Realistic was right. And I'm sure that he/she doesn't hate Muslims. It's the Koran that is steering some Muslims wrong.

      Government definitely shouldn't be in the business of regulating religion. But don't confuse government with culture or social discourse. Not all religions are equally "good" for lack of a better word. Western Culture has lost its mind when everyone feels compelled to pitch in and do their part to declare all criticism of Islam as hate speech. I love Muslims but I am justified in saying that is wrong to slay, besiege, and prepare ambushes for non-Muslims as the Koran instructs.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
      • gg

        @ AZ if you believe that those who are religious have not practiced religions in the way it was designed, why havent you guys been punished yet? Oh maybe because no one is there to punish except man himself.

        July 23, 2010 at 3:38 pm |
        • KERRY

          gg the punishment for those who do wrong comes after the life of this world ends (Judgement Day). You always get the grade after you take the complete test. I don't know of any tests where you can get the final grade during the exam.

          July 23, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
      • JohnQuest

        Bible: 1 Samuel 15:3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ ”

        July 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • AZ

      This (below) is what Christians are called to do and be. When Christians live their faith they bring the light of God's love into the world. We need to live their faith more fully and consistently....

      A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34).

      But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-28).

      Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse (Romans 12:14).

      We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it (1 Corinthians 4:12).

      Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21).

      Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).

      Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble (1 John 2:9-10).

      July 23, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
    • Reality

      Nonimus, Obviously you missed some previous comments so yet again:

      Recognizing the flaws in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the "kneelers" and "pew peasants" will quickly converge these religions into some simple rules of life. No clerics, imams, rabbis and priests needed or desired. It will be called the great "Pink Slipping" of religion and its leaders.

      As per James Somerville, Philosophy professor emeritus from Xavier University, Cincinnati,

      "The faith of the vast majority of believers (and non-believers) depends upon where they were born and when."
      It is disturbing that such violence and hatred continues unabated due to radomness of birth. Maybe just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of it all.

      July 23, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  17. Luke

    Reality – I don't think anyone is going to disagree with you to some extent. The problem is that the Constitution says one thing, and those that oppose the mosque are in violation of it. Do I want Islamic domination? Do I want Christian domination? Absolutely not. No. Do I want to attend worship at a mosque or chruch? No. Sadly, much of what you said about Islam could be stated about the founders and crusaders of Christendom. The problem is religion itself and the warping of minds it causes among all faiths and sects, not just one in particular, and you know it.

    July 23, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
    • Objective Guy

      Luke, our constitution clearly sets boundaries for a separation between church and state, so your comments about being forced to attend religious services is not meaningful in this context. However, the basic foundations (I.e. moral and ethical guidelines and principles) of the constitution were indeed shaped by Judeo-Christian VALUES. After all, the founders and settlers of the US were Judeo-Christian, and so naturally, so were their values. Values are not to be confused with forced religion–they are not even remotely close to being related. These values have served us pretty damned well for the last 234 years, and I don't feel that we suddenly need to flush all of that down the toilet in order to appease Muslims who want to take over our country.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
    • Luke

      Objective Guy – Interesting argument, but Thomas Jefferson was a strident deist (not quiet the same as atheist, but close) that absolutely hated the Christian establishment. He also owned and slept with slaves. Seems as if values have a way of changing over time, eh?

      July 23, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
    • Reality

      Luke,

      Recognizing the flaws in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the "kneelers" and "pew peasants" will quickly converge these religions into some simple rules of life. No clerics, imams, rabbis and priests needed or desired. It will be called the great "Pink Slipping" of religion and its leaders.

      As per James Somerville, Philosophy professor emeritus from Xavier University, Cincinnati,

      "The faith of the vast majority of believers (and non-believers) depends upon where they were born and when."
      It is disturbing that such violence and hatred continues unabated due to radomness of birth. Maybe just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of it all.

      July 23, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
    • kurtinco

      Again, the big myth is that islam is a religion. It is NOT. It is a system of government, or a political movement, that advocates violence in the name of God and their so-called profit Moe Ha Mud. It must be crushed.

      July 23, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
    • BradLW

      kurtinco:

      I hope you are simply being a rabble rouser here because I have a really difficult time imagining that anyone (even a radical, right wing, xtian being that ignorant. Islam is one of the three Abrahamic religions; the other two are Judaism and xtianity. The correct order for them is Judaism, xtianity, and Islam.

      July 23, 2010 at 8:02 pm |
    • robert hill

      @ Objective Guy

      Our country was in fact not founded on judeo-christian principles, it was founded more on the philosophy of John Locke than any other single source. Furthermore, most of our founding fathers detested religion. I figured I would include some examples.
      "Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects."
      - James Madison, letter to Bradford, January 1774, from Albert J. Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom
      "Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."
      - Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82
      "I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies."
      - Benjamin Franklin, quoted from Victor J. Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001)

      Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 states
      "The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the
      Christian religion."
      I've left out a few selcted quoes from Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and a few others, but I believe you've gotten m point. Our nation is a secular nation and our founding fathers meant for it to be that way.

      August 25, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
  18. Lauren

    Bravo! And for all of you who think that building the mosque is an insult to America, I would have to say that it is an insult not to build it. If we can't accept Islamic people because of a few radicals that decide to take it to the extreme, we also shouldn't accept all Christians for the few radicals that blow up abortion clinics. Let's show the world that we can keep an open mind, America!

    July 23, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
    • billyjack

      It's not about keeping an open mind and acceptance. We NYer's are more open minded and more accepting than the residents of any city in America. With the diversity we have here, we couldn't survive any other way. The real issue to me is this: sensitivity. The group that wants to build this facility HAS to know it's a sensitive spot. Can they build no where else? Are there NO other options? If it gets built, we will, as NYer's, deal with it. But many people, myself included, think that it is insensitive and not needed. Just because someone CAN do something, doesn't mean that its RIGHT. Heck, you can burn an American flag too (if I'm not mistaken), that certainly doesn't mean thats cool, either. Yes, the group has the same liberties as the rest of us. Yes, they have the rights we have. But don't act with insensitivity, and throw those liberties and rights in our faces as defense against what is plain, old fashioned lack of taste and compassion. If they backed out and found another spot, they'd win TONS more supporters with that display of compassion. It'd be the biggest win-win ever. But I find it interesting that they aren't interested in that option. Makes me really think of where their hearts are, or if they even have one.

      July 23, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
    • Kris

      The problem with heal's reply is the following statement: "All muslims just want the west to go down in smoke". That's why you're afraid – you can't see the difference between radicals and moderates. I would like to have seen a condemnation by moderates, but if you think about it, where or who is their "leader" to give them voice. If you speak to individual muslims, they will condemn what happened on 911.

      July 23, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
    • Jonny boy

      Well, if you can lump all islamic peoples into one violent group because the majority don't speak out against the violent acts of the minority, then I can lump all catholics into the pedophile group. All christians in the murder to save unborn children group. Basically, all christians are hypocrites, by your logic. I can't say I disagree with the last one, but I must admit also, somewhere, some christian is not shoveling his/her beliefs down the throat of an innocent non-believer. I think any building I have to drive by that exists to serve a religion is offensive. I am atheist, but I have yet to see a church of darwin, or a non-believer church anywhere. I don't care about people wanting to worship in their own home or heck, go worship your god in the great outdoors. Serve your lord by soaking up some nature. We ALL have enough religious paraphernalia to serve a planet the size of the sun. How about, you people build a homeless shelter, or a soup kitchen. Don't build more churches. Why not build another prison at ground zero? I would find a church to be more offensive than a state penitentiary.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
    • Jonny boy

      BTW, I think prisons are the epitome of conservatism. Conservatives in America would rather build churches and prisons than schools or shelters. Pretty sick if you ask me. I don't think we should conserve conservatism in America. I think we should root out those who are against progress and send them back to elementary school where they could get a second chance at a decent education.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • Robert

      Lauren and Jonny Boy,

      It's not the people but what the belief system teaches its followers to do.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
    • Jonny boy

      I didn't know catholicism teaches pedophelia or scientology teaches stupidity.... I think the people are extremely vulnerable to bad interpretation.... I also believe many are just not bright enough to look beyond what is presented to them and critically analyze the paths they follow.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
    • kurtinco

      What a bunch of crap. We do not have to be tolerant of islam and muslims. They are a political group, not a religion. And no amount of tolerance will change the fact that they hate what America stands for and will continue to fight against her. To hell with these wackos.

      July 23, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  19. Luke

    This is exactly the argument I've been making, Stephen. I, for one, work in what's left of the World Trade Center 50 floors up overlooking the current construction. I've been watching it for 10 years now and I will always work and live here. Even 9-11 couldn't faze me. What I find most interesting about this debate, is that most of the angst is coming from non-New Yorkers and those that have never even been here or only visited for a short while. Really, what does a tourist from Nebraska know about living in Gotham? We can handle anything and ignore what we don't like. That's what makes this culture so magnificent. When I leave my office, I hear English, Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, Polish, Arabic and French. Our culture in NY is a giant melting pot and the most blatant example of how America was built and what it currently stands for. There was a day when the Irish needn't apply for jobs and when black people couldn't use the same water fountain as my grandfather. The Jews were persecuted (and still are) and those walls fell as the moral zeitgeist shifted. This too shall pass. I do grant that Islam in some sects is violent, but shutting the door is not the answer. Education, reason and rational thought are the keys. And furthermore, we cannot shut down mosques. If we do, I will immediately call for the closing of the Catholic Church 1 block from my apartment on the Upper West Side because I fear for the safety of my children – there are very likely child molesters inside the walls of that church, given its very recent track record. Fair is far and I wish I was kidding.

    July 23, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
    • Stephen Prothero

      Thanks, Luke. Precisely the point I was trying to make in an earlier piece about the mosque and the "live and let live" attitudes of New Yorkers–another part of the American fabric I am keen to "conserve."

      July 23, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • Matt

      Right on, but not quite the right sentiment – most of the people making noise about this not only haven't *been* to NYC, they hate virtually everything it stands for. For most of Caribou Barbie's "Real Americans", the only bad thing that happened on 9/11 was that there were some residents left alive; they'd love to see a nuclear attack there that would take out the "New York liberals", the substantial Jewish population, the UN and all the rest of the "dirty furriners" while simultaneously allowing them to get started with their plans for a new Crusade.

      July 23, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
    • Luke

      Matt – Even the Fox News headquarters? *snickers*

      July 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • Eric

      Nicely put!

      July 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
    • Chris

      Luke,
      I agree with you. Seems people are using bad arguments that basically boil down to a fear of the unknown and their sticking their noses where it doesn't belong. I have no opinion on how the park service takes care of Central Park...Why? Because I live in NEW MEXICO.
      I love these message boards because you see first hand that...how little some people know about any given subject have a converse relationship to how loudly the profess their opinion.

      July 23, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
    • Sir Craig

      Just so you know, Luke, this "tourist from Nebraska" agrees with everything you say, but would like to remind you to please not so wide a brush – some of us lived in other "Gothams" before coming to Nebraska, or whatever midwest/plains state you care to mention. We're not all Palin/Gingrich bumpkins...

      July 23, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
    • JoeB

      Luke and Stephen are both wrong. Luke thinks that just because he lives in downtown NY that it gives him a better perspective on the effects of 9/11. That's the standard liberal way of thinking. No matter where they live or what they do, nobody else can have the superior understanding that they do. I live in th Bronx, my children lost an uncle on that day. Does that give me a better ubderstanding then you. I could say it does, but we both know it does not. You are also wrong when you say most of the opposition is coming from outside NY. Who do you think is showing up at the community board meetings to oppose this? It's not out of towners coming in for that purpose, it's your neighbors who are taking a stand for something that you don't have the stomach or guts to do. They are the ones standing up for your rights, not you for theirs. Stephen, you end your article by stating, 'only we American citizens can bury our core values. And that is what Palin, Gingrich, and other so-called conservatives are all too willing to do." Conservatives are not trying to bury our core values, they are standing up for the values that you, and the people who think like you, are willling to give up in the name of political correctness. You, like the Muslims who are trying to build this Mosque, try to use the basic principles of what makes America great as a means of undermining our core values. If you have done any reading on the individual who is leading the charge in building this Mosque you will find that he has published articles in support of the most radical aspects of Islam, including his reasons why Sharia law will be good for America. This individual and the groups who support him (of course he is keeping that secret) go against all of the values that made America great, yet he has people like you who try to make themselves feel all goody two shoes inside, by saying we must respect hate to show how much we love. Can your argument really be anymore ridiculous? The people opposing this Mosque are not opposing Mosques everywhere. But they are taking a stand. They are standing for what made America great, they are not willing to surrender it to please you or others.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
    • Robert

      Luke,

      While what some Catholics have done, and I fear may still doing, to children is reprehensible, Catholicism does not teach its followers to abuse children. Islam does teach its followers that it is their duty to spread Islam throughout the world, by the sword if necessary. Am I saying all Muslims believe and follow this teaching? No, of course not. But that does not change the fact that the people involved in bringing the towers down on September 11th were driven by that tenet of Islam. It does not also change the fact that historically Muslims have built mosques on conquered lands as a symbol of its power which I, for one, believe is the reason for the attempt to build this mosque on this location.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • Braveheart

      Luke certainly don't see the danger of Islam. Yes tell me how many Christians in the name of God wants to kill innocent Americans to go to heaven . Tell me how many Christians threatens you to convert to Christianity. You talked about the melting pot....Has the Muslims and Islamic followers (tolerant or fundamentalist) become Americans. Nooo they are first a Muslim and then a Muslim and then aMsulim. How many Muslim organisation protested the strike on twin tower, how many Islamic followers came on the street to say this is against Islam and their believes.

      People like you don't understand Islam, or you being a Muslim are again deceiving . Islam is not compatible with the western society and believes. You like it or not...this the truth. Mosque you can built any where why on the tomp. As always Muslims want us to be sensitive to their believes and faith but not the other way...

      July 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
    • John

      @Braveheart

      Did you sleep through the first 1900 years of Christianity or something?

      July 23, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
    • Luke

      Braveheart – Considering that I am Jewish and had family killed in the Holocaust, and that you clearly have no sense of the history of Christianity, I'm not going to even bother answering your question. It doesn't even warrant a reply.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
    • Joe

      This is totally dishonest that most New Yorkers do not care. When you walk around the surrounding areas and interview people. 8 out or 10 people think it is absurd that they would be building a Mosque on this site! This is a ridiculous lie perpetrated by those who want this Mosque built. As far as the Catholic church is concerned, any person whether is be a priest or not should be castrated and sentenced to a minimum of life in prison without the possibility of parole for hurting a child. Unfortunately left wing wimps won't ever go for that! Many left wing wacko's support pedophilia! Look at the actors out in California who are 99% liberal and their support for actors like Woody Allen and the director Roman Polanski! They live breath and love these men who are pedophiles! These men should have been castrated long ago along with every Priest who hurts a child. And this is coming from a member of the Catholic Church!

      July 23, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
    • Rickey

      This is one of the most intelligent comments made on the issue

      July 23, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
    • Jeremy

      JoeB –

      You are absolutely wrong. But I want you to answer this: you say that you, and other protesters of the construction of this mosque are "standing up for American values". What value(s) are you standing up for?

      You say that "liberals" are too cowardly to go against political correctness: I say that *you* are too cowardly to stand up for what our values really are. Here's a hint - #1 includes Freedom of religion. You think there is some sort of Islamic conspiracy to undermine our country: I say that makes you paranoid, and probably delusional.

      Jesus said to "turn the other cheek." That meant that you demonstrate to your enemy that they *can not hurt you*. In the context he spoke, it was because God always has everyone's backs. The best thing we could have done after 9/11 would have been to say, "we're going to rebuild, we're going to move on, because we are strong." Instead, we've shown our weakness by being caught up in this ridiculous paranoia and by begging our government to please, please protect us from the scary terrorists.

      July 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
    • AMuslim,.

      Braveheart,
      How can you say that muslims have not condemned 911. All of muslim organizations in US have condemned terrorism and 911 attacks. I am a muslim and I strongly condemn terrorism.
      Please do some research before posting

      July 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
    • Luke

      Janice – Just out of curiosity, did you just wish my death? How very lovely of you. It would be forthright if the moderators banned your Email address and IP address.

      July 23, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
    • AMuslim,.

      Luke,
      These are the values why muslims like myself love US. You are free and religion is your own choice. Its amazing how people from different backgrounds, religions and cultures live in peace and harmony.

      July 23, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
    • Buck

      I agree with you Luke. I am from the Detroit area with the largest Muslim population in the US. My experiences with Muslims have all been positive and the name Cordoba comes from a period in history when Jews, Muslims, and Christians worked together to promote the arts and sciences while the rest of Europe was in the Dark Ages. I have read quite a bit about this controversy and I don't know where JoeB got his information but as a friend of mine once said to keep me from spreading unfounded gossip "Site your source".

      July 23, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
    • Luke

      Robert – And Christians built churches in conquered lands, killed all the men, impregnated all of the women and created more christians. I don't really see your point? One day, all of you, will finally see that the problem is religion itself, not just one sect.

      July 23, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
    • kurinco

      Islam is not a religion, it is a system of government, and a disgusting, deplorable, violent one at that. I hate islam and muslims. There is no such think as moderate muslims. Do be fooled. This is not about religious freedom. It is about gaining another political foothold in America. It must not be allowed. If it is, don't be surprised if it draws more violence to the Ground Zero area.

      July 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
  20. devanney

    Wake up America! Do you think this is only a faith adventure? The people behind this project are far more dangerous than Japan was in Dec. 1941.

    July 23, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • Luke

      Japan is not a religion. And you are forcing American citizens to forfeit their civil liberties by shuttering mosques. Do you really want to go there, devanney? Will you forfeit some of your in exchange?

      July 23, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
    • Mister Big

      Think about this. True followers of Islam would never have been a part of the 9-11 attacks or anything of the like. Its young and dumb rock farmers led by older fanatics who promise them glory and paradise in exchange for becoming a martyr. The older fanatics blame the west for everything bad that has happened to them and when you tell a dirt poor rock farmer in Afghanistan that the great Satan is why you are so poor it is going to be easy to get a few nut jobs signed up to do whatever. Think it is related to Islam? David Koresh, Jim Jones and Eric Robert Rudolph, Scott Roeder and members of the KKK could all be classified as Christian terrorists but the media never says "Christian terrorists did xyz today" but are quick to say "Islamic terrorists did xyz today". A nut is a nut no matter what religion they are hiding behind and said nuts are not representative of their respective religions no matter how you cut it. Putting a mosque near or even in the new site is only an insult because some in the media choose to call it that. And FYI, I am a Christian and I have a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

      July 23, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
    • Ben Lonetree

      Here! Here! Americans do not realize the hidden agenda. If things like this continue we will end up like Europe. I am not a native New Yorker but have been there many times for extended stays. 911 hurt like heck and still does. I have no tolerance for Islam. Whatever that makes me so be it. First and foremost I am an American who will NEVER forget.

      July 23, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
    • AZ

      Koran Verse 9:5 "Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful"

      July 23, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
    • GP

      The irony of the matter is lost on Palin and Gingrinch. Here we have two prominent national voices dictating what New York should or should not do. Who wants to wager these two would remain silent or even simply entertain the opinions of outsiders in matters that are local to them?

      Would Palin sit by idly if liberals were condemning a community decision in Anchorage? I seriously doubt she would remain silent. It isn't hard to imagine her first line of defense would be states rights.

      Same argument holds true for Gingrinch.

      These folks are hypocrites and are using this matter as a way of keeping their names and faces in the public domain. They should be ashamed of themselves for using the Manhattan community in this manner.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
    • Stefun

      hmmmmm it must be easier to the lazy to think in just black and white I guess.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
    • Jamal

      They are no more dangerous than the nutjobs of the Christian faith who have mamed, tortured, and killed in the name of their faith. There is extremism in every religion in this world, some more wicked than others. Islam just happens to be in camera view for now. What about tommorrow? Americans are as ignorant as ever, with their sweeping indictment of an entire religion and it people without complete facts. Learn the truth about what it is you don't know about this religion, and neither let a media that is just as ignorantly as you might be nor some politician elected blindly influence what to think. No religion in this world is perfect.
      As for the mosque, there is a more appropriate for it to be built, rather than near ground zero. It should be built where it won't a source of conflict.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
    • Bill

      @sagebrush: and by that logic The Roman Catholic Church condones pedophilia.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
    • Jonny boy

      If you can lump all islamic peoples into one violent group because the majority don't speak out against the violent acts of the minority, then I can lump all catholics into the pedophile group. All christians in the murder to save unborn children group. Basically, all christians are hypocrites, by your logic. I can't say I disagree with the last one, but I must admit also, somewhere, some christian is not shoveling his/her beliefs down the throat of an innocent non-believer. I think any building I have to drive by that exists to serve a religion is offensive. I am atheist, but I have yet to see a church of darwin, or a non-believer church anywhere. I don't care if people want to worship in their own home or, heck, go worship your god in the great outdoors. Serve your lord by soaking up some nature. We ALL have enough religious paraphernalia to serve a planet the size of the sun. How about, you people build a homeless shelter, or a soup kitchen?? Don't build more churches. Why not build another prison at ground zero? I would find a church to be more offensive than a state penitentiary.

      BTW, I think prisons are the epitome of conservatism. Conservatives in America would rather build churches and prisons than schools or shelters. Pretty sick if you ask me. I don't think we should conserve conservatism in America. I think we should root out those who are against progress and send them back to elementary school where they could get a second chance at a decent education.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
    • Guyintpabay

      sagebrush, all religions are cults. the only way they can get new members is to indoctrinate their children from birth, which to me is simply child abuse. Christians dump water on their screaming babies heads, jews barbarically cut off the foreskin of their sons penises, muslims coerce their women to walk around like Cousin It in those burqas...YIKES! How can sane people be so deluded? It is truly frightening how these folks can argue and pontificate over such imaginary BS!

      July 23, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
    • Peter

      Yes, these Islamic extremists are evil, but so are Christian extremists who blow up abortion clinics, pedophile priests who prey on children, The IRA blowing up innocent people, you name it. I doubt if Gingrich or Palin would make the argument that a Catholic church should not be built because the priests within will be a danger to young children in the neighborhood.

      I guess we Americans (and probably all human beings) like to have a "catch-all" devil race or religion.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
    • misomoses

      And there is a Shinto shrine not far from Pearl Harbor . . .

      July 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
    • mary

      Agree!
      Wake up America.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
    • Braveheart

      Luke
      uke certainly don't see the danger of Islam. Yes tell me how many Christians in the name of God wants to kill innocent Americans to go to heaven . Tell me how many Christians threatens you to convert to Christianity. You talked about the melting pot....Has the Muslims and Islamic followers (tolerant or fundamentalist) become Americans. Nooo they are first a Muslim and then a Muslim and then aMsulim. How many Muslim organisation protested the strike on twin tower, how many Islamic followers came on the street to say this is against Islam and their believes.

      People like you don't understand Islam, or you being a Muslim are again deceiving . Islam is not compatible with the western society and believes. You like it or not...this the truth. Mosque you can built any where why on the tomp. As always Muslims want us to be sensitive to their believes and faith but not the other way...

      July 23, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
    • Braveheart

      Luke thinks Americans can still be fooled by Islamic lies and deception. The world would have be peaceful without the so called religion of piss...ISLAM. Americans are now aware of your deception....Abdul and Fatima ...

      July 23, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
    • runswithbeer

      JUST WHAT PART OF THIS DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND? : Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,

      July 23, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
    • Braveheart

      Lukee....thinks Americans can still be fooled by Islamic lies and deception. The world would have be peaceful without the so called religion of piss...ISLAM. Americans are now aware of your deception....Abdul and Fatima ...

      July 23, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
    • IrqiAmerican

      Building a Mosque at or near ground zero is an insult to all those who died on 911, it will be a trophy for Islam and Muslims because where ever Islam conquered they built a Mosque to commemorate that occasion. Unfortunately money talks ( $100 Million) and it will be built. I also want to add that this is " True Islam" if you follow it by the letter you will get people like Alqaeda, The Taliban and the Islamic revolution in Iran ( from their fruits you will know them) said Jesus the Christ

      July 23, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
    • Steveo

      limited government, religious tolerance and free speech for all....unless you disagree with me.

      while we're at it why don't we forbid christian churches from being built anywhere near where some right-wing pseudo-christian nut job sent an exploding package or shot a doctor?

      July 23, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
    • IrqiAmerican

      The theme of Islam's book the Quran is Kill or Die in the name of Allah in order to get to heaven. It is NOT a tolerant religion, in fact the word Islam in Arabic also means surrender that's why you have two swords on the Saudi flag as if it's ordering you to "surrender or get beheaded" WAKE UP AMERICA

      July 23, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
    • Bob

      Planting a mosque on the site of an attack is a well-known sign of "Islamic Victory"- the Jewish temple, Joseph's Tomb, churches all over Indonesia and the Phillipines, Buddhist temples all over Afghanistan and Pakistan and northern India, the destruction of the priceless Buddha statues at Bamiyan... ISLAM IS A RELIGION OF WAR AND DESTRUCTION, not a so-called "religion of peace."

      July 23, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
    • sherman

      Its insensitive and I'm sure absolutely outrageous to the people that lost loved ones – I am surprised at the city of NY – a city that can use any number of zoning and environmental laws to their benefit for years upon years to their own ends. I am against all religions because to me what they represent are the fairy tales that MEN tell to remain in power.
      I do not think we can be friends as long as they want to sit on our heads. Which is what this is pure and simple. It is not okay with me and I am a pretty liberal person, meaning I like allot of cream cheese on my bagel, a "liberal" amount, Not large government giving away what I earned to people that can't even speak English! No not the Mexicans – they have an excuse for not speaking English, I mean the ones born in LaGrange GA, Little Rock and lots of places. They also believe in an invisible man in the sky. Humans, I am sure they are from some other planet.

      July 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
    • MaZe

      Koran Verse 9:5 "Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful"

      This is a correct translation for 9:5, but what is missing is 9:4
      Except the people with whom you have an agreement to live in peace, and they did not break the agreement and fought you. These agreements must be respected to the end.
      Talking about taking things out of context!!!!!!!

      July 23, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
    • Martin

      Actually, Luke, in 1945 Japan regarded the Emperor as a living God, and was a very religious society, much more so than now.

      Even now, Japan's religion is more spiritial than what you've come to know as organized religion.

      The idea of having the Emperor as a living god was so strong that the allies demanded that this idea be removed from the Emperor as part of the peace treaty.

      July 23, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
    • PJ

      Ben, I don't know what that makes you either, but using "here here" instead of the correct "hear hear" makes me know what you're not.....LOL

      July 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
    • Kevin Duffy Arlington VA

      Well done on this article. I was surprised by the argument and how in-congruent it was to the authors intellect. I do not support many of his beliefs but I've always respected his thinking. I will not vote for him if he runs for president in 2012, and this is one of the many reasons.

      July 23, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
    • Adam

      I believe every American has the right to argue against Mosques at the point, when will American Muslims rise up and decide to take a stand against radical Islam? Until American Muslims decide to openly oppose radical Islam, every non-American Muslim is going to be suspect to Mosques popping up everywhere. Notice we only have huge issues with Mosques.. I wonder why.. maybe because everyday we turn on the tv and hear about how America and Americans are being targeted throughout the world by people citing the Koran and stating it is their religious duty... Maybe American Muslims should take a stand against it and show non-American Muslims that their religion is not so bad.

      July 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
    • salvaje

      MisterBig:
      These true followers of Islam that you reference stand idol and allow their children and people they know and interact with everyday to be a part of the radical ideology. They turn their heads and do nothing, and then claim it was not them, but it happened next door to them or near their work, right under their nose. While I understand your argument, I think it is not looking at things entirely. The challenge today with Islam is not the religion but the people who participate in it. The radicals do as they wish, because others who participate turn a blind eye. They do not police their own. If ones nephew kills innocent civilians he is a hero in their eyes. If he sleeps with his uncles wife, she is stoned to death. Where is the logic and justice in this and how does your argument support these very clear relevant fact.

      July 23, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
    • Buzz

      Folks,
      It's not about symbolism but about the nature of humankind. If you frighten them they will want protection and relinquish their liberties. If they are dissatisfied with their livelyhoods they will easily be distracted by externalizing these problems.

      July 23, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
    • ScottK

      @ AZ " Deut 21:18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: 19Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; 20And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. 21And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear."
      If your point is that there are violent commands given in the Koran then at least admit the same goes for the Bible, and the only difference is how litteral people take these outdated & barbaric religious laws.
      Or let the stoning of the rebelious children begin!

      July 23, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
    • Mary I.

      To devanney, Ben Lonetree, and all the others who claim to be true Americans but do not recognize the rights of the American Muslims. – What part of Freedom of Religion do you not get? I believe in the Christian religion, but will stand up for the rights of all Americans to worship how they please. 9-11 was an attack on our country – a country made up of Christians, Jews, Muslims and any other religion an American chooses to follow. I am sure that more than just Christians died in that attack. I say God, Allah (or whichever Supreme Being you believe in) bless the USA.

      July 23, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • Rick

      There is little doubt that those pursuing this mosque's placement intend to provoke. I rarely dissagree with Newt but do so if your description of his position is accurate. What you don't see Muslims doing with their money is support the building of a Palestinian community in Syria or Lebanon. You also don't see them funding Haitian relief. There's is a powerless religion, and Christians need to be reminded that we show our power not only when we defend our country against islamic facists, but also when we tell the world that true freedom and power arrived via the empty tomb. This mosque does not threaten me, our societies worship of the temporal does.

      July 23, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
    • Acaraho

      devanney is so loony that a reply to his post is not even necessary.

      July 23, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
    • gregory V

      I am tired of all of this" be tolerant to Islam" garbage.
      I will go on the recored to say that if we chase every last muslim out of the Western countries by prodding them with pointy sticks I would be there at the sidelines clapping. It's a religion *founded* by violence, that was maintained and that expanded by violence. to hell with islam.
      G

      July 23, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
    • tbirdg

      Common sense would say No to Mosque, but there are those people who would like to relive history!!!
      GOD HELP US ALL

      July 23, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
    • Bill

      I wish Palin and Gingrich would stay the hell out of what happens in New York. If it wasn't for the inept Bush team during the transition and they had paid attention to the nation’s security concerns and briefings they would have prevented 911. So these two neo-fascist carpet baggers just stay the hell out of our state.

      July 23, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
    • tbrnotb

      Ben Lonetree
      If you looked up the word "racist" in the dictionary, I'm sure your picture would be there. You just use 9/11 as an excuse for racism and religious intolerance. You make me ashamed to be an American.

      July 23, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
    • Justin

      Maybe all the liberals who are in defense of the Mosque being built would rather this land be under Sharia Law - They would be the first ones that would be silenced - Their spineless whining would be a thing of the past rather quickly

      It is unfortunate but Islam is anything but a Religion of tolerance and must not be shown any - Plan and simple -

      July 23, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
    • Jayco

      One of the protestors' signs that I liked..."Sensitivity works both ways...build elsewhere!"

      July 23, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
    • AZ

      @ScottK

      The old testament does include the scripture that you quoted.

      But God sent his Son to earth in the flesh, who explained the following.

      Mathew 22:30-40

      Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

      "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

      Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

      If/when we Christians live our faith, it is a wonderful thing.

      July 23, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
    • Andy Freedman

      Ground Zero is supposed to be a memorial for 9/11 victims obviously we have freedom of religion in America so yes Muslims can set up a Mosque however since this is a war not against all Muslims but against governments like the Taliban having a Mosque at Ground Zero weakens the type of emotions you want to allow mourners to be able to feel during the Coldwar we talked about being against the Russians but everyone obviously knew we meant the Russian government not the Russian people so while there were no Russian cultural centers near any coldwar memorials any individual Russian could buy a house in any community they chose to or eat in any restaurant and we would just assume they were here because they were against the Russian government obviously our Civil Rights laws do and should protect all people

      So while any Muslim because we have Federal Civil Rights Laws will and should be allowed into any restaurant,hotel,or apartment building and should be allowed to have a place of worship because this is a memorial to people who were attacked by a Terrorist group Al Queda that only was able to launch an attack because the Taliban allowed them to use their country as a base for an attack THE MOSQUE SHOULD NOT BE NEAR GROUND ZERO we weren't at war with the Russian people,we weren't at war with the idea of people being nice and sharing with eachother,we were at war with a dictatorial form of government so we were nice to Russian people but against there system by the same token we are not against Islam we are against the type of atrocities against women the Taliban commit so we will be nice to all Muslims in Ameirca they have a right to build mosques but we won't have the Mosque near the Ground Zero memorial especially while another state with that ideology Iran we are trying to deal with

      August 14, 2010 at 3:23 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.