I am sure there are innumerable zealots but I would like to focus on a Muslim gentleman called Dr.Zakir Naik and a Christian writer named Dinesh D’Souza; while both these men are more or less equally despicable for their religious dogma, the former has a more modest aim of altering current perceptions about Islam (often at the cost of grossly misrepresenting the truth) and the latter, the grander ambition of totally repudiating atheism or in other words, making a strong case for God.
Dr.Naik, hails from Bombay and has lived there all his life; Mr.D’Souza on the other hand migrated to the United States from Bombay when he was 16. Sporting the traditional beard and cap of Islam, Dr.Naik is a lean man who is old enough to be taken seriously though far too young to be considered senile. Mr.Dsouza is a not unimpressive looking man who, though older, appears younger than Dr.Naik by a few years owing to the absence of a beard. Both men are impeccably dressed, dusky in complexion and are passionate about their respective religions. Dr.Naik unabashedly wears religion on his sleeve while Mr.D’Souza has the semblance of an academician. As speakers, both men are endowed with tremendous oratorical skills but their approaches to seducing their audiences are essentially different in that Dr.Naik’s speeches are rife with simplistic analogies and inaccuracies of politics and religion while Mr.D’Souza’s debates are sophisticated polemics that make a significant departure from the tiring mumbo jumbo that fanatics usually spill out.
These zealots use different mediums to propagate their views : Dr.Naik is the founder, president and the chief voice of a network called “Peace TV” that is aired throughout the world; Mr.D’Souza is a New York Times best selling author of books like “What is so great about America” and “What is so great about Christianity” that support his conservative stance.
Mr.D’Souza’s systematic approach to laying out the virtues of Christianity, his interpretations of Western Philosophy on religion and his refusal to resort to scriptures to score points might have earned him the admiration of his critics, who mostly hail from intellectual circles and/or are members of the left. Frequently alluding to Nietzsche, Kant, Hume and others, Mr.D’Souza hopes to defeat atheism on its own grounds by exposing its inherent metaphysical assumptions. Though originally from India, his accent is indicative of how long he has been in his adopted homeland, fully embracing its conservative mores. His enemies are the enemies of the political right. He offers a controversial interpretation for the poverty of African Americans and blames 9/11 on leftists. Strong as his arguments may be, under all the sophistry of language, masterful intonation and knowledge is the heart of a person who puts faith before science, religion before humanity. Shrewd enough to be politically correct most of the time, he doesn’t openly support creationism being taught in schools but he is a creationist nevertheless and is opposed to Darwinism.
Dr.Naik, whose quackery apparently extends beyond medicine, offers his nostrums to listeners who are willingly deluded. His target is not the learned scholar or the occasional intellectual but the average citizen who neither knows the art of rhetoric nor the mechanics of argument; to such a person, an out-of-context quote or half-baked research seems impressive enough to qualify as truth. To bolster the drivel he dishes out so eloquently, Dr.Naik operates under a veneer of feigned modesty and false erudition. As a result, the audience experiences a mass epiphany akin to something spiritual and they revere him for the startling answers he offers to age old questions and quarrels such as vegetarianism vs. meat and monogamy vs. polygamy. Although some of his answers may not be entirely ridiculous, they are trivial when compared to the flippant evidence he lays out to “prove” historical riddles and put to rest conspiracy theories; most deceptive of all, when someone from the audience questions him, he reaches into his tool box for the nuts and bolts he needs to tighten his loose arguments, conjuring them up when they don’t exist.
All said and done, having people like these makes life interesting. Dogma aside, these men provide an impetus for atheism to re-assert itself. To give the devils their due, Dr.Naik’s lectures have, on occasion, attacked loose statements like “Not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims”. While he tries to cast Islam in a new light, which is commendable, Dr.Naik takes a dig at other religions, faiths and practices bringing out the fanatic in him. Mr.D’Souza’s speeches on the other hand reveal a superior orator willing to battle it out till the end, using every subterfuge of language and logic known to him. He may not understand string theory but he is confident enough to make you believe he does. Great talkers as they are, it must be remembered that these are also men who would consign the non-believer to hell without thinking for a second.