Category Archives: Islam

Islam Is Not the Liberal Cause You’re Looking For

On Sunday, there was a contest held in Garland, TX featuring cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.  It was attacked by a pair of Muslim terrorists who drove there from Arizona.  Unlike previous attacks over harmless cartoons, however, only the terrorists were killed after they shot at the event’s armed guards.  And unlike previous incidents, this time the West did not unite in solidarity with the cartoonists, like the Je suis Charlie slogan.  Instead, the conversation seems to have revolved more around criticism of the event’s organizer, incendiary blogger and professional protester Pamela Geller.  Perhaps this was partly because the conservative Geller is known for being offensive and provocative, and partly because, thankfully, there were no innocent victims to mourn this time.  But another factor seems to be an inexplicable rush to defend the Muslim faith when Muslims have threatened innocent people.

Conservatives and liberals usually take divergent, knee-jerk positions in the wake of Muslim terrorism, positions which often seem more concerned with contradistinction to their political opponents than with an honest discussion about modern Islam.  Conservatives will tally another notch as proof that Islam is a violent and dangerous religion; they may genuinely believe this, but it may also be motivated by tribal one-upmanship to make their own religion or ideology appear better.  Liberals will often argue that this it is not all Muslims committing terrorism, that either all religions or all religious extremists are equally bad, or that Islam is a peaceful religion.  Unfortunately, these defenses do more to derail the discussion than resolve it.  True, the nearest terrorists had to drive across two states to reach their target, but that kind of determination renders their small numbers almost insignificant; just one terrorist willing to go through such great lengths is more dangerous than all the other religious extremists in the country.  The leftwing condemnation of all religion may equally just be one-upmanship by the nonreligious.  And the question of whether Islam is a religion of peace or not is debatable.  Like every religion, it’s really only as good as the individuals who practice it, so asserting this statement as the starting point of the conversation rather than the conclusion is being simplistically doctrinaire. 

Arguing that Islam is supposed to be peaceful is a pointless distraction to very real violence committed by devout Muslims in the name of Islam.  LIke it or not, Pamela Geller’s point has been proven true: if you mock or criticize Islam, Muslims may try to kill you.  She may be an agitator, but she is not the instigator.  This conflict started years before when some Muslims killed innocent people over cartoons that were not even intended to provoke a violent reaction.  When Muslims behave like other religions and no longer try to silence criticism and mockery, there will be less to ridicule and criticize.  Or at least it will be less appealing to provocateurs.  Until then, both sides are in a perpetual cycle of antagonism, but we should not be misled by fashionable pundits who argue both sides are equally to blame.  They are not.  One side has drawn offensive but harmless pictures, the other side has killed innocent people.  There is no moral equivalency between the two, as the point was made on the Daily Show: “It is not okay to shoot other people because you’re offended by what they draw, even if they drew it to offend you.”

I completely understand the disgust with Geller and her inflammatory methods, I am not going to argue that anybody has to like her.  But I support free speech even when I don’t like the person or the message, because that’s really the only time it matters.  What bothers me, though, is the eagerness with which some liberals are willing to abandon the principles of free expression under the guise of politeness.  You may have heard, “I support free speech, but…” then blaming the organizers for being hateful, offensive, or in some way causing the violence.  After Sunday’s attack, Salon argued that “free speech is not a license to be stupid.”  This couldn’t be more wrong or more illiberal: nobody’s right to speak is subject to anyone else’s evaluation of their intelligence.  The mere insinuation that free speech is licensed in any way is a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept.  “Hate speech” is not a crime in the United States, if it were anybody could restrict any criticism they dislike with the mere accusation that they found it hateful.  Direct incitement to violence or lawless action has been established as the only speech punishable under U.S. law, and even then it must meet rigorous criteria.  Comparisons of Geller’s provocative views to Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” are refuted because the attack demonstrated her warning was not false.

Criticism misdirected at the target rather than the attacker is a disconcerting trend.  A few days after the Texas incident, Salon published an op-ed by Rula Jebreal calling ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali “dangerous.”  Now the article doesn’t mention that the apostate Hirsi Ali has to travel with bodyguards because of her criticism of Islam, including a film she made with Theo van Gogh which resulted in the filmmaker’s death at the hands of an angry Muslim.  To call a peaceful author, activist, and victim of Muslim extremism “dangerous” is not only unreasonable but inexcusable.  Instead of devoting so much attention to attacking harmless critics of their religion, moderate Muslims would do far better outreach if they attacked the extremists who would try to murder them.  If you only attack the critics of your religion while ignoring the extremists of your religion, then you’re not really a moderate, you’re an enabler.  Jebreal’s irresponsible hyperbole is far more dangerous because it has more potential likelihood to incite real violence against Hirsi Ali and her loved ones than Hirsi Ali’s words do to actually harm any Muslims. 

The Left’s overreaction to defend Islam from Rightwing criticism may actually be making liberals less liberal.  There are obvious double standards when liberals freely bash other religions while withholding criticism of Islam for the same or even worse offenses.  Some liberals have retaliated for the offensive Muhammad cartoons by encouraging offensive cartoons of other religious figures.  This should not be confused as a brave stand for free speech, because it’s only attacking religions that they already know will not respond violently.  Pamela Geller may be passive aggressive, but this is just cowardly.  Similar observations on the liberal hypocrisy when it comes to Islam were summarized by Allen Clifton last year:

“It’s a point Bill Maher actually made a few weeks ago.  He said when it comes to religion, liberals often have no problems bashing Christianity.  Yet he often finds many of these same liberals defending Islam and outraged if someone might dare call out radicalism within the Muslim community.”

It’s admirable to stand up for the rights of Muslims to live and practice their faith without discrimination or oppression, as we should for people of any or no religion.  But many liberals seem to have mistaken Islam for a progressive cause, which it is not.  The main battles which have characterized liberalism for the last century–women’s rights, gay rights, and individuality–are all at odds with Islam.  It is not intolerant to acknowledge this fact.

I would be a hypocrite for writing an article critical of the Christian Right’s opposition to same-sex marriage while giving Islam a pass on gay rights.  It would actually be progressive if Muslim countries were merely resisting the right for gays to legally marry, but sadly the majority of Muslim countries still criminalize homosexuality, and in at least 10 countries it is punishable by death.  In any city in the U.S. you can find a gay-affirming mainline church, but finding a gay-affirming mosque anywhere in the world is a challenge, and virtually impossible in the Muslim world.  The gay community justifiably has a lot to criticize Islam for, and these deplorable human rights violations should not be swept away by the honor brigade.

Like anybody, Muslims individually may be more progressive than their professed creed.  Congressman Keith Ellison’s support of gay rights is acknowledged and appreciated, in the same way as the support of Republicans even though their Party’s platform still opposes same-sex marriage.  There certainly are progressive Muslim voices like Irshad Manji, but unfortunately her books are banned even in supposedly moderate Muslim countries like Malaysia.  Liberals should not lose focus in the gap between how we think the world ought to be and how it actually is; the sobering reality is that Islam is presently  far behind liberal ideals.  So much so that it is also behind modern conservatism in its progress.  It doesn’t always have to be this way, other religions have undergone dramatic reforms in their doctrines on slavery, caste, women, and sexuality.  But as outsiders (aka infidels) we don’t get to tell Muslims what their religion is supposed to be, that’s something they have to decide for themselves.  In the meantime, let’s stop pretending it is something that it isn’t.  And let’s rightly condemn violent attackers and not their intended victims.  

Bosch Fawstin's award winning cartoon

Bosch Fawstin’s award winning cartoon

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Islam Never Should Have Been a World Religion

A public beheading in Saudi Arabia

A public beheading in Saudi Arabia

The savage barbarity of the Islamic State, comparable only to the barbarity of other Islamic states like Saudi Arabia, shocks the world.  Critics and apologists of Islam alike are calling for an overdue Reformation to civilize the religion much the same way as Protestantism is seen to have done to Christianity.  But reformers seem unable to bring Islam out of the 7th century, and I would wager this is because Islam is forever locked in place, not just to a point in time, but also to a point on the map.  The biggest problem with Islam is that nothing in its teachings or practices should have justified it becoming a global world religion in the first place.

1.  The world is a circle.

Three to five times a day, Muslims all over the world are supposed to pray facing the Ka’aba in Mecca.  Originally this was just a spiteful way for Muhammad to turn his back on the Christians and Jews who customarily prayed facing Jerusalem in his day, but the further Islam stretched from the Middle East, the less sense this really makes.  Like his contemporaries, Muhammad clearly had no idea the earth is a sphere, and that any line drawn through one point to another eventually connects completely around the world.  So because even facing the opposite direction of Mecca is ultimately still facing Mecca, geometrically speaking, Muslims don’t pray facing a certain point, they just pray in the shortest distance between two points.  Unless they happen to be equidistant from Mecca, in which case they could theoretically pray facing any direction.  His followers have spent centuries developing methods, instruments, and apps to calculate the quibla, even convening a conference of Muslim scientists and scholars to determine how to pray in outer space (which can explain why so many Muslims are prone to believe in faked moon landing conspiracy theories).  It seems obvious that Muslims are just over-thinking something that simply wasn’t thought out in the first place.

2.  The lunar calendar is inaccurate.

All time in Islam is based on the lunar calendar, from the year after the hegira, to the start of Ramadan.  This made sense for desert bedouins without clocks or calendars, but it makes no sense in a modern world with atomic time accuracy and a predictable Gregorian calendar.  The Islamic calendar can never be synced with today’s standardized dates, nor can it accurately forecast years or even months in advance.  Early Muslims had no idea the time of day was different around the world, and that the moon’s phases appear differently in each hemisphere, making the technical start of Ramadan dependent on local observers in Saudi Arabia.

3.  The length of day varies by latitude. 

In the holy month of Ramadan devout Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, which can be a problem for Muslims living closer to the northern and southern poles where “days” can last six months.  Assuming Allah did not intend for his worshippers to starve to death, one must conclude that either Islam was not designed to travel far beyond the Arabian desert, or Muslims were simply not intended to live in regions like Scandinavia.

4.  Nobody speaks Arabic.

The Qur’an was the first book written in Arabic.  If not for the spread of Islam, Arabic would have most likely remained an obscure tribal language spoken only in the Arabian desert.  Muslims now call Arabic the language of heaven and don’t consider translations to be equal to it.  Despite having their holy book locked in Arabic, however, not even most Muslims today actually speak the language (if they can read at all), and non-Muslims have almost no reasons to learn it.  Much has been ridiculed about how humans can be multilingual but the Muslim god can apparently only speak one language.  And conveniently, it’s the same language as the illiterate desert warlord who used his religion for power, profit, and sex.

5.  Mecca is at capacity.

Every year, or at least once in their lives, Muslims who are able to do so are expected to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.  This is a big problem for a city of limited size and a religion of 1.5 billion people and growing.  The Hajj, as the pilgrimage is called, is an annual event and cannot be distributed throughout the year.  Saudi Arabia’s government has tried to manage the inevitable overcrowding by setting arbitrary visa limitations per each country, which gives Saudi clerics remarkable leverage and control over all Islam.  They’ve also restricted access to the holy cities to Muslims only.  Still, some 3,000 people have died in the Hajj in the past 20 years due mostly to overcrowding issues like stampedes in tunnels and bridges, or the dangerous “stoning of the devil” ritual.  The pilgrimage is a relic of a time when the world was thought to be smaller, less populated, and more difficult to travel.  Fortunately for Islam, their religion keeps the majority of them too impoverished to be able to afford the Hajj.  If not for the discovery of fossil fuels, even most Saudis would likely be too poor.  Of course, if a similar boom were to lift other Muslim countries out of poverty, there would be no way the city of Mecca could handle the volume.  In the Islamic fantasy of world conquest, at least the genocidal ISIS seems to readily acknowledge that the earth’s population would have to be drastically reduced if the whole world were to be Muslim.

The goal of expecting Islam to behave like all the civilized world religions is hopeless, Islam will never truly be a world religion in the usual sense.  Expecting Muslims to abandon 7th century barbarism is as futile as expecting them to abandon flat-earth models of direction or the lunar calendar.  And even though Muslims might say they don’t approve of Saudi Arabia’s innumerable crimes against humanity, their criticism stops short when it comes to fulfilling their religious obligations to visit the country or just to pray facing it every day.  To do otherwise would no longer be the same religion, so we shouldn’t be surprised when Arabia’s appendages in the Islamic State resemble that godforsaken desert.  Without the cultural attachments to Arabia, Islam would just be a benign unitarianism, for unitarians can’t as easily justify beheading nonbelievers.  Islam isn’t just a product of its time, it’s a product of its place.  It can no more be taken out of the desert than it can be taken out of the 7th century.

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Free Speech and Islam

Recently, some ads critical of Islam went up on buses in San Francisco, courtesy of controversial blogger Pamela Geller.  Not long after that, it appeared several of these ads had been defaced.  The graffiti artist covered up the message with one of their own, as well as the image of Muslim superhero Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel introduced a year ago by Marvel Comics.  The book’s muslim writer, G. Willow Wilson, approved of the graffiti on twitter.

I first heard about all this through Gawker’s io9 blog, which wasn’t very helpful because it didn’t even give any description of the content that it dismissed as “Islamophobic.”  Since their editors lacked either the journalistic integrity or the courage to print that, I’ll have to do it myself.  Next to a photo of Adolf Hitler with Muslim leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, it reads: “Islamic Jew-hatred: It’s in the Quran. Two-thirds of all US aid goes to Islamic countries. Stop the hate. End all aid to Islamic countries.”

msmarvel

The messages being sent by the vandals were confusing to say the least.  One says, “Stamp out racism”, the honor brigade‘s usual method of shutting out critics of Islam by calling them racists, even though Islam is not a race.  Another reads, “Free speech isn’t a license to spread hate”, the typical Muslim concession to a vague idea of free speech as long it doesn’t protect anything they object to.  Of course, Muslim leaders never seem to be as concerned with stopping their own from saying or doing things that other religions might find offensive.

It’s a threat to free speech whenever a group or individual believes they alone have the authority to determine what criticisms about their ideology can be seen by the public, let alone to enforce that interpretation through criminal acts.  In this case the vandals could have bought their own rival ads, or swayed public opinion through a protest or a boycott.  They could have easily taken a free picture, defaced the ads in photoshop, and then posted it on the internet and that wouldn’t have been illegal.  But regrettably, this exemplifies the disturbing trend of Muslims breaking the law whenever they don’t like something somebody says about their religion.  A few weeks ago, Muslim terrorists killed a dozen innocent people in Paris over a silly cartoon.  The government of Saudi Arabia condemned those terrorists, but then proceeded to flog blogger Raif Badawi the very next week.  And now, a manufactured representative of moderate Islam is being used to shut out another critical message with her creator’s blessing.  While they don’t all resort to physical violence (aside from property damage, of course), all of these from moderate to extremists are nevertheless examples of opposition to free speech by force.  The only discernible difference is not their level of tolerance for opposing speech, just the level of force they’re willing to exert to silence it.  It’s par for the course that a Muslim superhero is the champion of suppressing free speech.

Of course, Kamala Khan doesn’t speak for all Muslims, or even all moderate Muslims, but where are the voices of moderate Islam standing up for all free speech, not just sharia approved speech?  After the Charlie Hebdo attacks Alternet was quick to compile a list of 45 Islamic organizations denouncing the terrorism, yet this list seems less reassuring when put under scrutiny.  For starters, one of the examples (#18) is the brutal Saudi dictatorship which actively suppresses dissent with violence.  Another three are Ahmadi organizations (#’s 2, 7, and 15).  Although Ahmadiyya is the only sect of Islam that totally rejects violence as a matter of doctrine, they are at most only 1% of the worldwide Muslim population and generally considered heretics and persecuted by the greater Muslim majority, to the extent that it’s practically illegal to be an Ahmadi Muslim in several countries.  While their denunciation of violence is greatly appreciated, it not really statistically relevant because we could always count on this 1% to denounce violence, the other 99% of Muslims are the more important question.  It’s rather dishonest of Alternet to have such a small minority disproportionately representative of 6% of their sampling.  Even including Saudi Arabia, if the percentage of extremists truly were as tiny as Muslim apologists claim, then we could optimistically expect more than 90 responses for every Ahmadiyya organization that Alternet can find.  For 1 Ahmadi statement, there should theoretically be 99 statements representing the Ummah, but what we see instead is a huge blind spot of more than half the Muslim population.  This is why it’s important for Muslims everywhere to denounce violence and extremism as loudly and often as possible, because the world really has no clue where the majority stands.

G. Willow Wilson mistakenly believes the graffiti is also free speech, saying on twitter:  “To me, the graffiti is part of the back-and-forth of the free speech conversation. Call and response. Argument, counterargument.”  Some of her supporters have argued the mantra that the response to free speech is more speech, but anybody who can do basic math can see that the ads started with one message and ended with still only a single message.

Unfortunately, many misguided Western liberals have been swayed by the apologist’s “hate speech” argument.  Even if the media didn’t publish the content of the original message, they took their word that it must have been “Islamophobic”.  But while it should have mattered to those defending the censorship, the content really doesn’t matter to those who believe in the principle of freedom of speech.  One doesn’t have to approve of the message, but if you approve of it being suppressed, then you don’t really believe in free speech.  Like it or not, so-called hate speech is still free speech, and the idea of free speech exists for no reason other than to protect speech that somebody doesn’t like.  You’re not really a liberal if you support an oppressive religion silencing free speech.

Faster than you can cry “no true Scotsman!” I will argue that free speech is inseparable from liberty and liberalism–it’s a defining characteristic.  A compromising liberal accepting an ideology’s own limits of what critics can say about it is self-defeating, like a pro-lifer having an abortion or a vegan eating a cheeseburger.  Doing certain things that go completely against a professed ideology can exclude oneself from that identity.  And make no mistake, giving authoritarian religions control back over their own narratives is in effect neutering the progress of the Enlightenment and taking civilization back to the Dark Ages.  While you may freely agree with the Muslims that the criticism in question is incorrect or inappropriate, everybody should be ashamed of these lawless bullying tactics to take away another person’s right to speech.  Muslims will eventually have to start catching up to the 21st century, and Islam will have to stop being both the most easily offended religion in the world and also the most offensive.

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Islam = Antichrist

a church in Mosul with the cross removed by ISIS

a church in Mosul with the cross removed by the Islamic State

Islam is antichrist.  No, this isn’t a fanatical End Times-obsessed piece trying to insert persons or organizations into John Nelson Darby’s dispensationalist eschatology, as seems to be commonplace these days.  I am not an alarmist claiming ISIS is a sign of the end of the world.  My interest in making this claim is not to advance an unprovable prophetic timetable, effectively reducing the Bible to a coded warning that only has meaning to believers already convinced that it predicts a specific eschatology.  This study of doctrinal differences is not intended to suggest Islam is wrong because it is not Christianity, which would merely be an inversion of the Islamic method of claiming Christianity is wrong simply because it is not Islam.  Instead, I’m going to present a rationally-based comparison of what each religion factually teaches to demonstrate that Islam is undeniably antichristian by design.  That is to say, this is not a biased polemic by a non-Muslim attempting to demonize Islam, this can be objectively argued regardless of whether one believes either religion or not.

Some people wondered why in a recent series devoted to the Torah I spent most of the time talking about religions other than Judaism or Christianity.  The reason is that I strongly believe interreligious studies are a highly beneficial but regrettably neglected way to better understand one’s own faith.  Christians often fail to understand how the boundaries of orthodoxy that separate other religions from Christianity differ from the divisions that separate between denominations within Christianity.  As a result, they may incorrectly engage people of other religions within the framework Judeo-Christian thought, failing to make the necessary paradigm shift to understand a completely foreign belief system.  Without realizing it, they may treat Islam as another church, the Qur’an as another Bible, and Muhammad as another prophet.  This can be troublesome because prophets, sacred texts, and theologies are not actually interchangeable like that.  The Bible makes very different claims about its authorship than does the Qur’an (although I will concede too many Christians want the Bible to be a revealed text dictated word-for-word by God similar to what the Qur’an claims, even though the Qur’an itself fails to measure up to that claim), and people tend to believe in different religious teachers for dramatically different reasons.  After all, everyone would more likely gravitate to the same figure if they were all looking for the same thing in a religious teacher, but the truth is Muslims are conditioned to seek a far different personality in Muhammad, just as they are to seek a different personality in Jesus Christ.

Christ

It’s a well-known fact that Islam’s principal theology is the complete denunciation of the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, rejecting the deity and sonship of Christ, the fatherhood of God, and the Trinity.  Of the many examples in the Qur’an:

“O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three” (Trinity); desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.”  An-Nisa 4:171

In Islam, shirk, or equating “partners” beside God, is the greatest sin, and is unforgivable (I can’t resist going off course momentarily to comment on Islam’s horribly flawed moral center which prioritizes subjective theology over objective immorality, such as harming other people.  This tends to result in a tribalistic deontology in which Muslims don’t seem to care much about harming others over petty theological differences).  The explicit rejection of the deity of Christ is embodied in the shahada, the creed Muslims recite to convert to Islam:  “There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.”  To reiterate: one absolutely cannot be a Muslim and believe in the deity of Christ in any sense, simply converting to Islam is a rejection of this distinctly Christian doctrine.

Interestingly, however, Christianity has never really been so totally strict in its adherence to Christ’s divinity or the Trinity.  For centuries this was openly debated among theologians until mostly settled at the Council of Nicea, nevertheless Arianism, Unitarianism, Modalism, and other heresies persisted throughout church history.  At the risk of sounding heretical I would say it has always been possible to be a Christian and not believe in the deity of Christ or the Trinity.  To the many supposed Trinitarians gasping that I might say such heresy is permissible, I like to point out that most of them likely confuse Modalism for Trinitarianism.  Even among professed Trinitarians, accurately understanding this doctrine has never been an absolute requirement.  So while Islamic Unitarianism and Trinitarianism may be mutually exclusive concepts, Christianity has still never been as hostile to Unitarianism to the severity that Islam is toTrinitarianism.

Crucifixion

Unlike in Islam, theology is actually secondary to Christianity.  The Qur’an had nothing else to offer from a (supposedly) singular author centuries removed from the events and eye witnesses he described.  Muhammad’s claims could not have gained traction unless followers were dogmatically required to accept it in its entirety on a theological basis.    Christianity, however, relied on compelling arguments and the testimony of witnesses to back its claims.  One didn’t have to blindly believe in a prophet or a sacred text because for the first decades of Christianity no New Testament even existed; the idea of a written record came about only later, as a form of preservation.  Rather than being driven by theology, they were driven by events, namely the life of Christ.  And the single-most important event in the life of Christ was his death and resurrection.  Christians can possibly get everything else wrong about their religion, as evidenced by the wide range of irreconcilable theology across thousands of denominations.  According to Christ’s own teachings, his followers’ identity was observable by their actions, not by knowledge of a series of creeds.  But the Passion is one definitive belief of which the absence calls into question a group’s Christian identity.  As a matter of course, Islam rejects such a disgraceful death for a prophet of God, and consequently his resurrection:

“And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah .” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.  Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise.”  An-Nisa 4:157-158

Once again we see Islam uncompromisingly set itself at variance with a Christian doctrine, so that one could not be considered a Muslim and still hold that belief.  This ironically puts Islam in an awkward position, because it still holds to the belief of a general resurrection into eternal life either in heaven or hell, yet it has no rational basis for such a belief like Christianity does.  The three theories available for what happens after death are: annihilation, reincarnation, and resurrection.  Annihilation is simply the belief that one’s existence ends when one dies; while it cannot easily be proven, this is admittedly a very logical assumption, which is why it is generally the default position for atheism (it also seems to have been popular in Judaism).  Reincarnation is the belief that one’s existence continues on in another form after death; while popular among eastern religions, it is virtually impossible to prove objectively.  Resurrection is the only available theory which could possibly be proven objectively, all it would need is for somebody to die and rise again.  In fact, it doesn’t actually even need to be a historical event, a belief system that teaches resurrection on the basis of someone hypothetically dying and living again would still be more logical than another which doesn’t.  Before Christianity, Judaism had no real consensus on what happens after death, clearly Islam borrowed its appealing afterlife theory from the Christians, yet the Muslim’s hope in an afterlife rests purely on dogmatic theological claims and not on any reality.

Communion

It’s my theory that Islam was deliberately engineered as a system to suppress competing religions.  Some of these efforts may have been unintentional and only have the coincidental benefit of Islamic supremacy.  Other choices in constructing Islam were harmless and merely intended to make Islam decidedly different from its neighbors.  For instance, the adhan, or Muslim call to prayer, was obviously an innovation to differentiate itself from Christian church bells and Jewish shofars.  Friday prayers were picked because the Jews already had the Sabbath and the Christians had Sunday.  Other choices, however, seem to have an underlying sinister intent.  The Muslim requirement for a divorced woman to consummate a marriage with a new husband before being able to return to her ex-husband is clearly a deliberate albeit nonsensical, if not outright mean-spirited, negation of the Hebrew prohibition against remarrying an ex-spouse after another marriage (Deut. 24:1-4).  It’s likely that the Muslim aversion to dogs is based on little more than an attempt to suppress Zoroastrians, for whom dogs are considered sacred animals.  Similarly, I suspect the Islamic prohibition of alcohol was designed to some extent to try to ban the widespread Christian custom of the Eucharist.  Originally, the alcohol ban was specific to coming to prayer inebriated (An-Nisa 4:43), as it was believed the Christians did by incorporating wine into a religious ritual.  This total rejection of one of the primary symbols of Christianity made it clear that Christian customs, just like the distinct Christian beliefs mentioned above, were unwelcome in the mosque.  In practice, this was far different from Mormons similarly electing to substitute water in place of the sacramental wine within the confines of their own church (although I would also argue to a lesser extent that this substitution still makes Mormonism anti-Christian).  It’s one thing to have uncompromising custom variations in a pluralistic society, it was another thing entirely in the conquest days of Islam when churches were forcibly converted into mosques.  Unlike the early church who felt at home in the synagogue without forcing radical changes on the Jews already there, Islam attempted to co-opt existing religious infrastructures while simultaneously eradicating the traditions of those communities.

Conclusion

As is typical of Islam, tolerance is a one-way street on which Islam expects to receive but gives none in return.  Islam doesn’t just prohibit certain beliefs and customs among its own members, it considers such things a sin for all people, including non-Muslims.  I would venture to say that tolerance as is understood in the West is a non-existent concept in Islam.  This can be demonstrated by Westerners who think they’re having an interfaith dialogue with Muslims when they promote tolerance because “we’re all God’s children”, unaware that they’ve just committed an unpardonable sin in Islam.  Under total Muslim supremacy, not only can a Muslim not believe like a Christian, it is difficult if not impossible for a Christian to believe like a Christian.  To the Muslim mindset, a good Christian is one who doesn’t commit shirk by believing  that Jesus Christ was God or the Son of God, doesn’t believe Jesus was crucified, and doesn’t memorialize his shed blood when they drink wine.  The tolerance that Muhammad extended towards Christians as “people of the book” really applies as long as Christians don’t actually hold orthodox Christian beliefs.  This amounts to zero tolerance, otherwise any religion could say they tolerate others as long as those people believe and behave the way they want them to.  People like to think of Indonesia as a tolerant Muslim country because it allows five religions (Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, and Hinduism), whereas intolerant countries like Saudi Arabia only permit Islam.  But if you don’t have the freedom to believe any of the thousands of religions banned in Indonesia, like Mormonism, Sikhism, Judaism, Jainism, Baha’i, or just plain atheism, then really you have just as much freedom of religion as any non-Muslim in Saudi Arabia.  Freedom of religion only on Islamic terms is not actually freedom.  This is the reason why I say Islam is antichrist, because it forces Muslims and Christians alike to be less Christian.

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Joseph Smith: Reformer?

Joseph Smith is a complicated personality to explain.  Despite numerous inconsistencies, the failure to identify definite ulterior motives for his claims and actions causes many Mormons to accept Joseph Smith’s account of his own life without question.  After all, why would somebody lie about being visited by an angel, or finding and translating a buried testament of Jesus Christ?  On the surface, these claims can seem too fantastic to be made up, and if critics are unable to convincingly present an alternative explanation for Joseph Smith, then the Mormon will never abandon the official church version (even when they know that to be not exactly historically accurate).

My own stance on explaining the complexity of Joseph Smith’s personality is the same as my view on the Book of Mormon itself.   I only need to present evidence of plagiarism or source material that would be unavailable to the book’s purported authors to disprove the Book of Mormon’s authorship claims, I do not have to be able to explain in every minute detail how Joseph Smith came across his source materials and authored his fiction.  Similarly, embarrassments like the Book of Abraham caught Joseph Smith red-handed in his lies, I don’t need to psychoanalyze him to know that this is deception.  Questions of “how” and “why” are irrelevant or secondary at most, all that really needs to be demonstrated is that the book and its author are frauds.

For instance, one likely source for the Book of Mormon that I recently stumbled upon is the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs.  This text is a pseudepigrapha of undetermined Judeo-Christian origin probably finalized in the 2nd century of the Christian Era.  Scholars are undecided on whether it was a Christian document or a Jewish document with later Christian interpolations, but all agree it is a forgery.  Possible influence on the Book of Mormon is loose, but its structure of the Patriarchs writing their testimony on their deathbeds is eerily similar to the last entries in the small plates of Nephi.  Some Mormon apologists have even attempted to cite similarities between the two as proof that the Book of Mormon is an ancient text, apparently oblivious that this argument is essentially saying the Book of Mormon must be real because it resembles other known forgeries.  Of course, the standard Mormon response is to say that even though the Testaments were first translated into English in the 1820’s, Joseph Smith would have been unlikely to have had access to that information.  I counter that it’s impossible to conclude to any degree of certainty whether Joseph Smith could not have known something, but as long as it was a fact published within his lifetime, then it’s not impossible for him to have had some direct or indirect exposure to it.

I admit I can’t prove any solid ties to the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and the Book of Mormon, but I bring it up to point out the flip side of the Mormon defense of Joseph Smith.  Why did this author and others in antiquity and throughout history write books and then attribute them to Biblical figures?  If an inability to explain why Smith would lie forces us to accept his word, then wouldn’t it force us to accept every other pseudepigrapha as well?  I doubt I can fully explain the motivations behind Muhammad, the Bab, Baha’u’llah, or Mirza Ghulam Ahmad either.  But if a Mormon is to give Joseph Smith the benefit of the doubt, then they must be willing to give these other false teachers the benefit as well, or prove without a doubt their falsity.

The Mormon resistance to admitting Joseph Smith as a fake is usually because they could only envision him in that role as a deliberate liar with evil intentions.  This is an unrealistic view that really isn’t typical of the false prophets that have walked the earth; the reality is that most of them have been psychologically complicated personalities known as pious frauds, not very different from Joseph Smith’s profile.  My theory is that self-proclaimed prophets–especially those closely tied to an existing religious tradition–emerge more out of a desire for reform than to deceive; the deception is merely an unavoidable side-effect of their reform methods.  Perhaps out of desperation when traditional reform methods have failed, such as the Bab’s frustration with the state of Islam in Iran.

While religions can often be reformed through conventional means, they also demonstrate a unique phenomenon of charismatic reform.  An example of conventional reform is the Protestant Reformation, begun by Martin Luther.  His 95 Thesis were not intended as a new revelation or scripture, but rather as logical reasoning from within the framework of the accepted canon.  The resulting doctrine of sola scriptura is the apotheosis of rational reform, being a wholesale rejection of arbitrary authority like personal revelation.  On the other hand, the Counter-Reformation exemplified the opposite, weighing its claims, dogmas, and creeds on the ecclesiastical authority of the papacy, an office considered to be infallible by its followers.  While conventional reform is based on logic and reasoning accessible to any human being, charismatic reform is by fiat, and available to only a select body or individuals.  Conventional reform tactics are the prevailing trend in Western civilization, even permeating the secular arena, such as in the way Americans interpret and amend our own Constitution.

While Catholicism embraced charismatic reformists, other religions have built-in defenses against it.  Islam, for instance, strictly prohibits its adherents from claiming any divine revelation after the time of Muhammad.  Although they are often far from rational, juristic rulings or fatwas are really the only acceptable means of advancement available to Muslims.  Conventional reform in Islam, however, has been stunted due to the fact that Muslims consider these majority rulings to be infallible, and therefore irreversible.  Thus after a millennium, Islam was left behind by the modern world, and could advance no further.  But out of the school of one theological reformer Shayk Ahmad would come the Bab, who would break the boundaries his predecessors could not, simply by declaring himself a new prophet.  Overnight, theological innovation and social progress heretofore undreamed of in the Muslim world was effected.  The Bab’s movement would go through a succession crisis after his death, but would emerge as the Baha’i Faith and commence a new wave of women’s rights, racial equality, and religious tolerance.  Almost.  While charismatic reform can be a shortcut to progress, its fatal flaw is that it can usually go no further than the most advanced point of its prophet.  Although Baha’i views on gender equality surpassed those of Muhammad, yet Baha’i women are forever prevented from serving in the highest governing body of the Baha’i Faith, the Universal House of Justice, just because Baha’u’llah failed to envision society becoming even more egalitarian than his own views.  Other rulings, like his ban on homosexuality, have been a legacy of frustration to dissenting Baha’is who could only hope for another charismatic reform after 1,000 years (the soonest that Bahai’s believe a new Manifestation of God would be revealed).

Returning to the subject of Joseph Smith, it must be pointed out that his theology developed in a Post-Revolutionary American Protestant climate that, while receptive to conventional reforms, frustrated many in its slow progress towards equality, especially in the recent failure to outlaw slavery in the Constitution.  Abolitionists were just one of many groups anticipating an overnight advancement.  While Mormonism has earned a reputation for its racist history, Joseph Smith is often unfairly castigated for views held by his successors, when in reality his own opinions were radically progressive for the pre-Civil War period.  I would go so far as to argue that Smith was assassinated not because he was a prophet, but because he was a pro-abolition prophet.  Following the LDS succession crisis, however, the church would be grounded in the racial doctrines of Brigham Young until cancelled out by another revelation in 1978.  Just as Baha’i gender equality remained locked in the revelations of the 19th century, so the LDS church was unable to reform itself through conventional means.  Of course, since Mormons didn’t have the impediment of having to wait another 1,000 years for a new prophet, there’s really no excuse for their lack of progress.

As for theological reforms, the Book of Mormon was not so much an innovation as it was an affirmation of folk-American Christian beliefs.  Smith sided with Protestants on infant baptism and, although he would later recant and try to edit it, provided proof-texts for a flawed Trinitarianism in his first edition. Ultimately, what we see is Joseph Smith attempting to circumvent the debate of conventional reform under the authority of a new divine revelation.  Since the Book of Mormon was the only LDS scripture in print at the time, we could reasonably speculate that Smith could have rationalized it as a necessary fraud if he thought he was merely resolving theological questions in favor of what he believed were in line with God’s views.  But as we’ve already seen, forging sacred texts to settle theological disputes is hardly a new development in history.

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Why Islam Offends the West

It’s no secret that Islam is incompatible with Western values.  Even overlooking the character deficiencies of Islam’s prophet–a mass-murderer, thief, slave-trader, rapist, pedophile, and terrorist–the religion’s values are in conflict with Western sensibilities on a fundamental level.  Interestingly, the non-religious are often offended by Islam for the very same reasons as Christians, even if they don’t acknowledge that this difference in culture is due to Christianity.

Modesty

Follow any internet discussion about the burqa or Muslim headscarves, and somebody will eventually always suggest the Muslim men should cover themselves rather than the women.  This suggestion may not even come from a Christian, but the idea behind it is certainly derived from Western society’s Judeo-Christian background:

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.   Matthew 5:28-29

The burqa and other compulsory head coverings offend Western sensibilities because we’ve taught that men are personally responsibility for their behavior, regardless of the temptation, whether inadvertent or intentional.  In Islam, however, the woman ultimately bears responsibility for causing temptation whether she means to or not.  The only defense of the burqa that has ever gained popularity in the West is if the woman claims to feel empowered by wearing it out of her own free will, but this ultimately misses the whole point about a garment designed more to protect men with little willpower from facing temptation.  These women may explain how being completely covered protects them from  being sexually harassed by passing men on the street, but this is again a problem caused by the Muslim male, not the female.  Western Civilization expects its men to be disciplined, self-controlled, and respectful, to the point of hyperbolic blindness.  There is no reason why the Muslim man should seem helpless to restrain himself from jeering, groping, or raping just because he sees a woman’s face, arms, or legs, when men in the West are perfectly able to behave respectfully and decently.  If Islam is the only reason why self-control is in such short supply among Muslim men, then Islam is conclusively an inferior ideology.

Public Displays of Worship

From public Christmas decorations to prayer in public schools, the West is often offended by religion in public, but this isn’t necessarily exclusive to the anti-religious.  The post-Christian heresies of the modern atheist are still very much rooted in Christian principles, and the disdain for public displays of worship can be traced back to Christ’s teachings on hypocrisy:

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  Matthew 6:6

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”  Matthew 6:16

Whatever the religious persuasion, Westerners tend to view displays of piety with suspicion and mistrust.  We see religion as a personal issue partly because when we see it in public we see it as an ingenuous cry for attention.  Islamic  culture, on the contrary, has no concept of private worship, rather believers are expected to be seen in the community performing salat and not seen eating during Ramadan.  Muslims who develop a “prayer bump” on their foreheads are respected as devout members of the community.  Islam demands public visibility of one’s faith, yet sadly has no safeguards to prevent hypocrisy.

Childhood

Dutch psychologist Nicolai Sennels identifies that Muslims, particularly men, start out with more relaxed freedom in childhood, which is then curtailed as they grow older.  Girls, for instance, do not need to wear burqas, but they do when they reach puberty.  Eventually, even the decision of their marriage is outside of their control when they enter into adulthood.  This is the complete opposite of Western parenting, where children gradually acquire freedoms as they mature.  What Sennels may not have noticed, though, is how these are both related to each culture’s theological beliefs on sin.  Western culture has been shaped by the doctrine of Original Sin, or in simplest terms, the reality-based idea that children are born imperfect with the tendency to do wrong.  Islam, on the other hand, teaches that children are born sinless and acquire sin as they grow older.  This difference in parenting style results in an individual completely at odds with the Western mindset.  When Muslims act infantile, it is the result of an upbringing that raises boys into babies instead of men.

Turning the Other Cheek

Without fail, whenever a harmless cartoon is published or even if a Qur’an is unintentionally burned, it will result in worldwide Islamic protests, riots, and the deaths of non-Muslims.  Even non-Chrstiains can be heard telling Muslims to turn the other cheek when they react with such disproportionate violence, but this is futile because Islam has no such concept.

O you who have believed, prescribed for you is legal retribution for those murdered – the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But whoever overlooks from his brother anything, then there should be a suitable follow-up and payment to him with good conduct. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. But whoever transgresses after that will have a painful punishment.  Surah 2:178

[Fighting in] the sacred month is for [aggression committed in] the sacred month, and for [all] violations is legal retribution. So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is with those who fear Him.  Surah 2:194

And We ordained for them therein a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds is legal retribution. But whoever gives [up his right as] charity, it is an expiation for him. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.  Surah 5:45

And the retribution for an evil act is an evil one like it, but whoever pardons and makes reconciliation – his reward is [due] from Allah . Indeed, He does not like wrongdoers.  Surah 42:40

Retaliation is a legal obligation in Islam, the exception being when the victim opts for monetary compensation instead, the “expiation” and “reconciliation” mentioned above, which is not actually forgiveness.  Even if one accepted the incorrect explanations of an apologist, and disregarded the vast majority of Muslim scholars, that these exceptions are comparable to turning the other cheek, Western values are still in conflict with Muhammad commanding followers to repay evil with evil in the first place.  It’s laughable to imagine Jesus Christ saying “repay evil for evil except when you turn the other cheek”, and this predictably explains just why, if given the choice, Muslims always retaliate with evil instead of forgiving.  Anybody raised to believe that these were both morally equivalent choices would elect the most despicable of the two every time.

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The Muslim Mind Prison

Anyone who’s ever debated with a Pakistani will understand my frustration: it’s like arguing with somebody who doesn’t live in reality.  But it’s not just Pakistan, Muslims all around the world seem to live in a mind prison that contributes to their inability to use reason, think critically, or tolerate non-Muslims.  While not exhaustive by any means, here are some of the ways Muslims end up in this Islamic thought prison:

Muslims Can’t Read

It sounds blunt, but it’s the honest truth: half of all Muslims are illiterate, particularly women.  Not that it matters so much, because most Muslims don’t speak Arabic anyway, which is the only way most of them even learn any of the Qur’an.  Even among those that can read, however, they’re likely to only read one book in their lives (hint: it’s not anything by the Dalai Lama); it’s a well-known fact that the Arab world has translated fewer books in all of history than Spain translated every year.  The point of Muslim illiteracy could be seen as either a blessing or a curse, however, because while a mass of illiterate fanatics is no good, the educated Muslims are the biggest problem.  The majority of terrorists have been well-educated, college graduates, and the imam’s who speak Arabic are more likely to be radical.  Contrary to the popular myth that poverty breeds extremism and education could change the Muslim world, it would almost seem preferable to keep them in ignorance.

Muslims Don’t Know any Non-Muslims

Apologists always like to point out how most of the Muslims in the world aren’t terrorists.  Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration that the majority of Muslims have no reason to be terrorists.  880 million Muslims, or roughly more than half of all Muslims in the world, live in countries that are 90-100% Muslim (not even counting Indonesia’s 200 Million Muslims since they have a “diverse” population of 88% Muslim).  While there’s still no shortage of persecuting minority sects, whether they be Sunni, Shi’a, or the universally reviled peace-loving Ahmadiyya, the majority of Muslims will probably never even see a non-Muslim in their lifetime.  Muslims don’t really know tolerance because they don’t really have to, and the lack of conflict is simply the lack of anybody to persecute.

Muslims Only Know What the Qur’an Says about Other Religions

Going hand in hand with their illiteracy and isolation, Muslims usually only get their information about adherents of other religions from the Qur’an, which is often less-than-flattering and more often incorrect.  Aside from blatant errors like saying Miriam the sister of Moses is Mary the mother of Jesus, that Mary is part of the Trinity (Qur’an 5:116, 4:171), or that the Jews consider Ezra the Son of God, the Qur’an gives a distorted, judgmental view of all other religions, and ignorant Muslims who don’t know any better (how can you when you can’t even buy a Bible in Saudi Arabia?) base their prejudices and hatred on this text that they believe to be infallible simply because they’ve never evaluated its claims.

Islam Encourages Group Think

Even if Muslims wanted to know what other religions actually teach, most of them wouldn’t want to have their views challenged or corrected.  It’s not necessarily out of fear that the Qur’an might be wrong, but simply the peer pressure of agreeing with the herd in every way.  Islam is so totalitarian that Muslims fear being in the dissenting side of any argument, communities try to share all ideas and beliefs in common, not just religious ones.  This is why the Muslim stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict is so universal.  Disagreeing in any way from the prevailing orthodoxy or political opinion makes one an outsider, which compromises one’s trust in the eyes of the community.  The biggest problem with this is that the peer pressure almost always trends radical, and never the other way around.  Entire countries can become extremists overnight in the Arab Spring, and the only way to remain an insider is to join in the passion and violence of the extremists.

Muslims Value Religious Obligation over Morality

A week ago, a Muslim nurse in the UK let his patient die while he prayed in the other room.  It seems no matter how bigoted, oppressive, or intolerant the theocracy in Saudi Arabia becomes, Muslims will never be willing to boycott their obligatory pilgrimage to make a point.  It’s a surprising fact to people in the West, but Islam isn’t about doing the right thing, which is why Muslims so rarely do it.  Given the choice between doing the right thing and doing the Islamic thing, Muslims will always choose the latter (which is often the wrong thing).  Thomas Jefferson showed that one can appreciate the moral teachings of Christ even if one rejected the miracles and religious aspect.  Trying to compile a “Jefferson Qur’an”, on the other hand, would not produce a book anywhere nearly as large or as moral.  When you distill it down to the basic teachings, Islam is a self-centered religion focused primarily on the believer performing religious obligations for their own salvation.  Islam knows nothing about self-less sacrifice or the virtues that make Christianity so universal.  The saddest thing is, most Muslims have no idea how morally deficient the religion of Muhammad actually is, because they’ve never compared any other religion to it.  Islam hasn’t made most of its followers terrorists, but has produced a disturbing number of terrible people.

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