Saturday, August 23, 2014

An important difference between Islam and Christianity

I find a great deal to admire in Islam. However, it seems to be essential to Islam that it aspire to be implemented from the top down through government, and that makes it very difficult for Muslims to buy in on the idea that they ought voluntarily to refrain from using government to pursue their goals, if it is indeed possible.

Remember how Islam was founded. Muhammad had been exiled from Mecca, then conquered by force of arms. The Qu'ran is written as a law-book. The idea of separating religion from state does violence to essence of Islam.

How was Christianity founded? Well, if was founded by people who didn't have political power, so the New Testament provides almost nothing about government except "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." Now after Constantine, Christians did assume political power, and they did use political power to advance the cause of their religion. So, yes, Christians had the Crusades, the attacks on the Albigensians,  the Spanish Inquisition, the Wars of Religion, and the Salem Witch trials. But after the Wars of Religion and the damage that these things did, Christian leaders started to back away from wanting to implementing their religion through government, and there is nothing in this that contradicts the essence of Christianity. Most of the people responsible for getting church and state separated were Christians, not secularists.

Yes, you can be violent on behalf of Christianity. You can also suppress religion violently. But there is nothing in Christianity that requires you to use violence to uphold Christianity, anymore than there is anything in atheism that requires atheists to use the state to suppress theism.

The "religion leads to violence" idea is based on a profound confusion. ANYTHING can lead to violence. But the idea that non-religious people have "nothing to kill or die for" while religious people do have something to kill or die for, is absurd. Some atheists believe that the progress of civilization depends on whether we "outgrow" religion or not. Why would people who believe that eschew the use of force to accomplish so important a goal, if the opportunity presented itself. OK, it doesn't involve anyone's eternal destiny, but the progress or regression of civilization? Important enough, for at least some, to use ridicule and peer pressure on its behalf.

13 comments:

Crude said...

The "religion leads to violence" idea is based on a profound confusion. ANYTHING can lead to violence. But the idea that non-religious people have "nothing to kill or die for" while religious people do have something to kill or die for, is absurd.

It's doubly absurd since historically, pursuit of 'secular interests' due to 'secular desires' is responsible for the absolute lion's share of violence and war historically.

Some atheists believe that the progress of civilization depends on whether we "outgrow" religion or not. Why would people who believe that eschew the use of force to accomplish so important a goal, if the opportunity presented itself. OK, it doesn't involve anyone's eternal destiny, but the progress or regression of civilization? Important enough, for at least some, to use ridicule and peer pressure on its behalf.

Historically, plenty of them have embraced exactly that.

I think this is where you normally see the defense come up of 'Atheism is just the absence of belief! Absence of belief can't encourage any act!' Putting the problems with that aside for a moment ('It also doesn't restrain any desire'), it's pretty trivial to come up with desires and beliefs that would map closely to Cult of Gnu atheism that would, in fact, demand action.

"Anti-theism" or "political/social desires" in the broad sense supply motivation. And it doesn't exactly defend the Gnu-style atheist to say, 'Let's grant for the sake of argument that atheism doesn't have a history of bloodshed and violence. It's mere anti-theism that does.'

Jakub Moravčík said...

Although I am a christian, concerning my conception of God, I find it a little islamist ...

Ilíon said...

VR: "So, yes, Christians had the Crusades, the attacks on the Albigensians, the Spanish Inquisition, the Wars of Religion, and the Salem Witch trials."

"the Crusades" ... which were morally necessary, even if severely flawed in execution

"the attacks on the Albigensians" ... which were not morally necessary, though understandable in context

"the Spanish Inquisition" ... which was in a sort of moral no-man's land, and certainly understandable in context

"the Wars of Religion" ... which was about dynastic ambitions, particularly of the French dynasty, not about "religion"

"the Salem Witch trials" ... which was actually a secular hysteria, and was opposed by prominent Puritan "divines", including Increase and Cotton Mather (whom everyone these days is taught to blame for the craze)

Really! I *do* wish you "liberals" would mature your intellects. And your examples.

Dave Duffy said...

I appreciate the Christian reflex to confess individual or communal sins before saying something straightforward. I am partial toward the crusaders in the same way I am partial toward the nominally Christian U.S. Marines who fought the Empire of Japan. No Christian wants to condone the level of brutality and violence of the crusaders or the Marines. But, at the same time I am thankful when I entered the Service 40 years later, Japan was an ally and not an enemy. In the same way, I am thankful that men with a similar conviction to the crusaders defended Europe from a Muslim invasion.

Not being one to spend much time on “what might have been” I still believe the world would be a better place if the crusaders had prevailed and the land of St. Augustine would have been ostensibly Christian.

Ilíon said...

^ Would that Father Abraham had trusted more and never fathered Ismail.

God had promised Abraham that through him (and through the promised son) all the families of man would be blessed. Apparently, through the not-promised son, all the families of man will be cursed.

Ilíon said...

... or, having sinned in fathering Ishmael, would that he had been a man when Sarah demanded that he drive the boy into the wilderness (that is, murder him by exposure).

Aragorn said...

Yes, you can be violent on behalf of Christianity. You can also suppress religion violently. But there is nothing in Christianity that requires you to use violence to uphold Christianity, anymore than there is anything in atheism that requires atheists to use the state to suppress theism.

I contend that this is another thing that differentiates Islam. Its goal is to place everyone under sharia, with violence, if necessary.

finney said...

This glosses over that there are multiple schools within Islam, and not all of them are concerned with adherence to sunna law.

Victor Reppert said...

I don't suppose Sufis are going to be a threat to assume political power.

Talal Itani said...

From the Quran - Chapter 2

190. And fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not commit aggression; God does not love the aggressors.

191. And kill them wherever you overtake them, and expel them from where they had expelled you. Oppression is more serious than murder. But do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque, unless they fight you there. If they fight you, then kill them. Such is the retribution of the disbelievers.

192. But if they cease, then God is Forgiving and Merciful.

193. And fight them until there is no oppression, and worship becomes devoted to God alone. But if they cease, then let there be no hostility except against the oppressors.

Source http://www.clearquran.com/002.html

Ilíon said...

^ Taqiyya in action

Aragorn said...

Principle of abrogation.

Ilíon said...

Even aside from abrogation, the mere fact that we breathe is "oppression" to Moslems; the mere fact that we are not yet subject to Moslem rule (and oppression) is "aggression" against Islam.

Look at verse 193 -- "And fight them until ... worship becomes devoted to Allah alone"

Even if this section were not abrogated by verses that more openly/directly command constant warefare against non-Moslems, this verse all by itself commands constant warefare against non-Moslems.

And, despite the lessons of 1400 years of history, to say noting of current evente, there will always be ostriches like finney ... and there will always practitioners of taqiyya, like Talala Itani, willing to tell the ostriches to lies they want to hear.