By Bryan Caplan
[M]ost moderately religious people, especially here in the West, approach their religious scriptures very differently from how they would read, say, Alice in Wonderland, or this book you’re reading right now. As I write this, I am making a conscious, deliberate effort to be as clear as I possibly can and minimize any potential ambiguity. I know I will not be given the luxury of generous “interpretation” beyond what these words say at face value. I will literally be held to a much higher standard as a writer than God himself. It isn’t uncommon for critics of Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris to quote decontextualized excerpts from their writings to accuse them of being bigots, while also hurling the same accusation at those who don’t adequately “interpret” verses in the Quran that endorse in plain language the beheading of disbelievers or beating of wives. In a 2014 tweet, Reza Aslan gave Harris some unsolicited advice: “If you’re constantly having to explain away horrid things you’ve written, don’t write them in [the first] place.” Note that this is from a man who has partly made a career out of constantly explaining to people why violent passages in the Scripture don’t really mean what they say.