Have You Ever Actually Read That Thing?

I saw this headline today:

How Islamic is Islamic State?

And I started gibbering just a little. I admit, I haven't read the full article because, frankly, I don't really care about the answer. It's a stupid question.

But, like those who insist on calling the hijab a cultural artifact when confronted with the grim reality of women who are forced to wear it, many people seem to find the question pertinent.

It disturbs me how much energy is spent debating the issue. Ask yourself: if ISIS really were following the Koran to the letter, would that, in itself, make the murder somehow more acceptable? And if ISIS were not following the Koran to the letter, would that, in itself, make them somehow fairer targets? Much more importantly, why on earth should the contents of the Koran matter in this assessment?

Holy books, in general, are kind of nuts. The Bible, for example, prescribes, in no uncertain terms, the death penalty for homosexuals (it's in Leviticus 20:13. Seriously, have you ever actually read that thing?). With that in mind, consider the following exchange:

Person 1: "I feel like killing some gays."

Person 2: "That seems morally dubious to me."

Person 1: "No, it's not! The Bible says we can do it right here. In fact, it says it's wrong not to kill them!"

Person 2: "Huh. Okay, I'm convinced! Where can we find some big rocks?"

It goes without saying that, whatever their religious affiliation, this is not a conversation you will hear among sane, rational people.

The being said, I imagine that some variant of this conversation does in fact play out in some of the more fringy versions of Christianity. The fact that adherents are technically just following the dictates of the Bible doesn't make them any less crazy. It would be pointless to ask "How Christian is Westboro Baptist Church?" because the answer, quite properly, is: "Very, very Christian - and not Christian at all. It depends on who you ask. And, ultimately, it matters not a bit because they're FUCKING ASSHOLES, Bible or not." Most sane, rational Christians learn to simply ignore the bits of the Bible with which they don't agree, and then go on with their lives. The process, I assume, is similar for sane, rational Jews, Muslims, Hindus - what have you.

So, the people in ISIS are assholes. It doesn't matter how "Islamic" they think they are, or how "Islamic" they really are, or how "Islamic" other people think they are. It doesn't matter if they're ignoring every single line of the Koran, or slavishly following every single prescript. Religious devotion, even genuine religious devotion, is not now, nor has ever been, an excuse for simple assholery. I think the world would be a better place if more people realized this.