It’s not that I’d like to see faith immune to criticism, but I think saying “Let’s tell people what the deal really is” necessitates saying, essentially, “You’re wrong”. I am relatively confident in saying huge numbers of people who would consider themselves reasonable Christians or Muslims or whatever would still be outraged - highly upset, emotional, whatever - if you basically said “Your interpretation of the key tenets of your religion is based on this or that reading of a passage the meaning of which is highly debatable and which multiple experts in such-and-such a discipline think is referring to this or that historical fact, not some miraculous occurrence”. I don’t believe there’s a way to basically start spreading a more “rational” system with which to educate people about faith without essentially taking it to pieces in that sense. I think faith, on some level, is always about “Well, maybe you think that, but that’s not what I believe, because I just don’t want to”. Regardless of whether that way of thinking does good things or bad. I don’t believe non-believers can teach anyone about faith without attacking it, or at the very least without doing something which would be interpreted by millions upon millions of people as attacking it.
I accept that I haven’t studied these things or talked to that many people about them and that I’m a fairly committed cynic, so I’m not going to pretend my take is the be-all and end-all on this topic (no, really, I won’t). But I still instinctively feel that people who reach for “Let’s tell them what religion is really like” (be that “as it is actually practiced” or whatever) probably don’t really appreciate the full implications of what they’re saying, and that ninety-nine times out of a hundred it’s potentially as drastic a response as “Let’s turn the Middle East into a sheet of glass”.
But the point is ISIL have proved that even a dispersed, fragmented network (or even a loose coalition of opportunistic would-be martyrs) is now capable of terrible things on a semi-regular basis, which would have been flatly unimaginable before or even shortly after 9-11. I’m not immune to the lure of military action or ground forces going in and I think the Western world is largely being delusional about Syria - there’s no future for the region with Assad in power, end of story. But I’m also well aware that such a thing probably wouldn’t make things any better in the long run, or at least that the long run would be very long and very grim indeed, no matter what kind of damage you did to ISIL’s physical territory, resources etc.