So says Oklahoma state legislator John Bennett — using logic under which much of Christianity would have not even been a religion for much of its history. I’m delighted that modern Christianity prefers to advance its agenda of global conversion through peaceful means rather than through conquest. But it’s pretty clear that many varieties of Christianity have been spread more forcefully than that at various times, and have been “social[ and] political system[s]” as well as purely theological ones. This didn’t make them “not even a religion” back then, and similar behavior on the part of some streams of Islam doesn’t make Islam “not even a religion” today.

Now I do think that criticism of various religions can be perfectly sound, and is often proper, whether the religion is Christian Science, Mormonism, evangelical Christianity, Catholicisms, Christianity generally, Judaism, Islam or theism generally. Religions are ideological belief systems that often lead many of their adherents to act in particular ways; they may rightly be criticized just as other belief systems may rightly be criticized. (I also think that much criticism of various religions has at times been overstated or ill-founded, and that includes Islam as well as the other religions.) But the first requirement has to be to talk candidly and accurately about what’s actually going on; attempts to deny that Islam is a religion don’t qualify.