Tag Archives: qur’an

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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Unsaved

A Sunday school song I used to sing in my childhood:

One door and only one,

And yet its sides are two,

I’m on the inside,

On which side are you?

Looking back, I have to wonder the intent behind having children recite this verse over and over.  After all, it’s not a song of praise or worship.  It doesn’t embody any distinctly Christian theology (aside from a nondescript allusion to Jesus as the “door”, which probably went over the heads of most children).  The only purpose it seems to serve is to to establish and reinforce an ingroup and outgroup mentality.

An ingroup is a social group to which a person identifies as a member, whereas an outgroup is one in which they do not identify.  I would say that the clear motive behind a song like this is indoctrinating an ingroup mentality, not a statement of faith or a belief in exclusivity as some might argue.  After all, this song is taught to children of all ages and levels of understanding, by those raised in the church and by first time visitors alike.  Far from evangelism, what it taught children even from before the time they made any personal confession of faith (let alone understood the concept), was to divide the world into two groups: those on the inside, and those on the outside.

Ingroup/outgroup psychology is prevalent in a lot of religions, but it’s noticeably pronounced in the world of Evangelicalism, particularly on the outgroup side.  It has been said that developing a belief in assurance of salvation was the defining moment that distinguished Evangelicals from their Puritan and Protestant forbears.  In fact, some Evangelicals practically make a secondary conversion out of this today.  I can recall going to Baptist youth camps as a teenager, where the attendees were mostly from church groups like me.  The fire and brimstone sermons and altar calls were directed not just to the lost, but also to the faithful, where preachers encouraged the teens to go forward to talk to a counsellor either to pray a standard “sinner’s prayer” to be saved, or receive assurance that they already were saved.  The college hosting the camp would record and report on the number of decisions made, first those who had accepted Jesus as their lord and savior, and second those who had received assurance of their salvation.  In retrospect, it seems almost absurd to me how people who sincerely believed Christianity, attended church regularly, tried to be like Christ, and had made a public confession of faith were made to feel as if they were missing something in their life.  After all, they generally weren’t struggling with any doubt about the truth of their religion, it was the sincerity of their faith that probably caused them to respond; instead what they questioned was their salvation.

You see, to Evangelicals one’s salvation isn’t just an act that occurs when one converts or believes, their salvation is a status if not a status symbol.  Indeed, questioning another’s salvation (or even just being perceived as doing that, such as by calling out an obvious heresy in their theology) can be seen as a supreme insult in Evangelical circles.  They tend to divide the world into the “saved” and the “unsaved”, but not from any reading of Scripture.  The word “saved” appears numerous times in the Bible, of course, but always as a verb, never as a noun or adjective the way Evangelicals use it.  The word “unsaved” never appears at all.  There are certainly many Biblical words that they could choose to refer to non-Christians, such as “lost” or “unbelieving”, but this distinct term persists so prominently in the Evangelical lexicon largely because it serves their outgroup mindset.  “Lost”, for instance, is a difficult word to apply in a predominately Christian society where most of the prospective converts are simply members of other denominations, not other religions.  It’s also hard to use “unbelieving” when they’re trying to seed insecurity among fellow believers.

It’s troubling on many levels how Evangelicals express their soteriology through terms entirely absent from the Christian Scriptures.  In comparison, Islam has the term “kaffir” to refer to non-Muslims, which is used repeatedly in the Qur’an by prophet Muhammad.  Often misunderstood in the West to mean “infidel”, this term more closely resembles a derogatory slur.  Outgroup hostility is undeniably written into the doctrine of Islam, but this need not be the same in Christianity.  In contrast, while Muslims freely use “kaffir” derisively to people’s faces, Evangelicals are more guarded with how they use “unsaved.”  You don’t really see them telling prospective converts that they’re “unsaved”, it seems to be a word limited to insider conversation.  In that sense, it can be borderline cultic, a secret doctrine reserved for the initiated.  And like in an Islamic state that becomes 100% homogenized, wherein the Muslims simply target other sects of Islam for outgroup hostility, similarly Evangelicals in ideological isolation may start to focus on their own co-religionists as the outgroup.

Considering how these same Evangelicals try to be Biblical in almost every other area, it would seem easy for them to avoid the potential problems of this word by simply not using it.  Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.  Just challenging the Evangelical ingroup/outgroup complex can be seen as an attack on the essence of Christianity itself, effectively putting oneself in the outgroup.  Even if you aren’t of the outgroup mindset, suggesting that it’s wrong to Christians who are may ironically be perceived as outgroup hostility towards them.  They may not only be unable to relate to a Christianity without it, it may be so ingrained in their nature that they cannot imagine anybody else not thinking the same way too.  Evangelicalism seems to have become an obsession with classifying people into “saved” or “unsaved” groups, graduating beyond mere assurance of salvation to assurance of damnation (other people’s, that is).

Of course, there are many ways to end up on the outgroup list.  Seemingly inconsequential disagreements, like not believing a six-day, literalist interpretation of Genesis or not thinking the U.S. Constitution has any basis to ban same-sex marriage or marijuana (even if one personally doesn’t approve of either) can cause you to lose your salvation status among your friends.  Historically, it could have been for supporting integration in the Bible belt.  Once you’ve been “outgrouped” by Evangelicals, it can be hard if not impossible to recover your standing among them.  Different rules of engagement are employed when they interact with the “unsaved.”  They may hold beliefs that further alienate the outgroup, such as believing that God doesn’t hear the prayers of the unsaved, or that the unsaved can’t really understand the Bible.  The outgroup mindset has an unfair advantage (in their mind, anyway) in that they can shut you out because they believe you’re going to hell, but if you don’t really believe people are damned for petty political differences, then you can’t even honestly fake it in return, not even to level the playing field (even though they may mistakenly think the field is level anyway because they assume everybody would naturally think that).  Outgroup psychology trumps the universal languages of logic and reason, an outsiders ideas and views are rejected simply because they’re an outsider, like the Republican party’s irrational opposition to the “Muslim, Kenyan, socialist” Obama.

When the outgroup hostility isn’t even based in reality, but on imaginary criteria there’s little that can be done about it.  But if you’re an Evangelical reading this who feels threatened that I criticized a cherished children’s song or knocked the legs out from under your core theology, don’t write me off because you consider me an outsider.  You can think whatever you want about the fate of my soul (which you conveniently never have to prove), but I can still appeal to your desire to live a Biblical faith.  Just stop using the word “unsaved”.  That’s all I ask.  Limit yourself to the terms actually used by Jesus and his followers in the Bible, and you may find your theology naturally changes because of it.  You may then ask yourself whether certain songs or words are used for a theological purpose, or whether it simply serves the outgroup mentality.  Just like me, you may find your outgroup mentality eroded when the words that reinforced it are no longer available to you.  You may risk becoming less Evangelical, but you may gain becoming more Christian.

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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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The Pentateuch, Part 1: Migratory Patterns

I’ve resolved to blog more consistently this year, which means I’m ready to start a series of a textual analysis of the Pentateuch.  Actually, I’m not sure I’m really ready for this, the more I study the Torah the more amateurish I feel about it.  While I’m sure I’ll never be studied enough for my own satisfaction, I do feel confident nevertheless that I’m capable of dispelling some of the common misunderstandings about the writing processes of the Torah.  From my experience, most Christians don’t seem to acknowledge a writing process is indeed involved in the creation of scripture.  But even if they may admit to that, it doesn’t necessarily mean they intellectually understand the ramifications this has for the interpretive process.   Yet Christians both learned and ignorant have high esteem for the Books of Moses, some to the point that they believe it contains a rulebook for the ideal civilization, even if they don’t really follow that in practice.  Hopefully in the next few weeks I can impart some of the theories and conclusions I’ve made from my personal study, and help you see these books in a radically different way.

One interesting feature of the Pentateuch as a whole is that the entire text has a migratory pattern that reflects the internal migration within the narrative.  The ante-deluvian stories share many similarities to Sumerian creation and flood myths like the Epic of Gilgamesh.  After the call of Abraham from Ur, however, the text becomes more apparently self-reliant: there are three interdependent sister-wife narratives within the book of Genesis  (Gen. 12:10-20, Gen. 20, Gen. 26:1-11) and incrementally fewer references to outside source material with each passing patriarch.  By the time we get to Joseph the book has a decided cultural identity, but upon the Exodus traces of multi-culturalism resurface.  The rescue of Moses from the Nile has similarities to exposure narratives of the Assyrian legend of Sargon and others, coincidentally right before this exiled prince would end up in the land of Midian, later to be part of the Assyrian empire.  Returning to Egypt as a prophet, the text shares some similarities with ancient Egyptian stories: in Se-Osiris and the Sealed Letter, an Ethiopian magician turns a sealed roll into a serpent (similar to Aaron’s rod in Ex. 7:9), and also casts a spell of darkness on the land for three days and nights (Ex. 10:22); a lake is parted in the Golden Lotus.

When Moses gives the Law on Sinai, the text itself is in between Egypt and the Promised Land.  The Ten Commandments echo the Negative Confessions from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, while the influence of the surrounding legal systems of Babylon’s Hammurabi, the Hittite Code of the Nesilim, the Persian Avesta, and others is undeniable.  It’s also interesting to note that the Hebrews acquired the punishment of stoning while wandering in the Arabian desert, where this method is still in effect to this day for the same sins, although the Jews seem to have discarded it after settling in the Holy Land.  While the Qur’an was a book of rules written by an authoritarian seeking inspiration in a dark, desert cave with little outside exposure, the Law of Moses is clearly written from observation and experience.  Aside from the more familiar “thou shalt not’s”, it includes a great deal of casuistic legal rulings that demonstrate the experience of a lawgiver who had settled cases himself from morning till night (Ex. 18:13).  Occasionally, contextual narratives are joined to the rulings to give insight into the case process (Lev. 24:10-16, Num. 15:32-36), but other times the reasons are frustratingly lost to the ages, such as the prohibition on boiling a kid goat in its mother’s milk (Ex. 34:26, Deut. 14:21).  Nevertheless, we can see these were not arbitrary rulings dictated by a single-minded tyrant, there is no attempt to hide or disguise the writing process and rely solely on a claim of divine inspiration to demand blind obedience, as the writers of other holy books have done.

The narrative doesn’t just move through time as it progresses forward, it also visibly moves through space.  It has a timestamp and a location stamp that corresponds perfectly to where the text ought to be at a specific time and place.  Parallels to contemporary literature sometimes make the more hardline fundamentalists uncomfortable, and they react either with outright denial or the insistence that the Bible was always the original source that other cultures borrowed.  This obsession with primacy is really just to satisfy the fundamentalist’s psychological need for closure, but they really need not be so threatened at the thought of the Biblical authors borrowing from another source.  That fact certainly discredits the Rabbinic tradition that the five books of Moses were dictated to a single author in their final form except for the last chapter of Deuteronomy, however, anybody who understands the process of how a book is written and edited can reconcile that process with the doctrine of divine inspiration.  A believer who can’t do that simply has a flawed understanding of what divine inspiration actually means.

Rather than disproving the Bible, as the skeptics jump to conclude, the migration of the text is a strong testimony of its authenticity.  This book has indeed travelled through the cultures and periods that it claims.  On the other hand, fraudulent holy books like the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon are easily disproven by how they do neither.  Muhammad’s Qur’an does not have a linear concept of time, and all the Biblical characters simultaneously inhabit a continuous, mythical present.  His book never left the Arabian desert until his followers did.  The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, is more careful to tell a linear story but fails to visit any other culture except the one Joseph Smith imagines; he doesn’t dare attempt to give specific cultural details until his characters have safely stepped outside of the Holy Land, and history.  Even then, the animals and technological advancements he depicts contradict with what we know factually about pre-European America.  The only conclusion available is that both these books are frauds, and no amount of belief in them being divinely inspired can change that.  Quite the opposite, the Bible’s authenticity is reinforced by comparative study, and could be trusted without any belief in its inspiration at all.

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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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