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Post Baha'i Perspective on Jihadist Events
Created by John Eipper on 01/12/15 2:15 PM

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Baha'i Perspective on Jihadist Events (Luciano Dondero, Italy, 01/12/15 2:15 pm)

I have the greatest respect for Vincent Littrell, from whom I have learned a lot, and I sincerely admire his passion and love for his chosen religion. However, I am in absolute disagreement with his ideas. He is of course entitled to explain them at length, but that doesn't place them above criticism.

If in Europe and America we don't have to face fundamentalist Christians (at least most of the time: terrorist acts against abortion clinics tell us a different story), it is because religious ideas have been deemed for centuries a legitimate target of rational criticism--not to mention the fact that the practical advancement of science has expelled "the god of the gaps" from very many "gaps" in our knowledge, precisely.
In particular, Vincent's description of Islam is faulty.  Islam's "holy book," the Quran, is filled with hatred and with explicit calls to exterminate the non-Muslim, as well as heretics and apostates. And the treatment of women is pretty bad--on par with the treatment of animals, which is also bad in and of itself.

Now the Bible (Torah) and the New Testament are not exactly "better," for instance Leviticus is explicit in granting gays a bad ending. And women are supposed to obey "their" men.

But, and this is no small but, there is no real equivalent of the "sharia" in Western countries. Sure, the Catholic church has his "catechism," and in Israel you can only contract a religious marriage; however, if you are secular or gay or an adulteress, you don't get stoned to death in Rome or Jerusalem. You do in Mecca or Teheran or in the ISIS Caliphate, and you did in the Taliban's Afghanistan.

In particular the Muslim population in Europe can't be allowed to implement the most backward and barbaric aspects of their religious beliefs, and certainly nothing that infringes on the civil and democratic rights of "their" women.  Anybody living here, either as a full citizen or as a "guest," must respect our basic laws, whether or not that is "appropriate" with respect to their own religious (or ideological) beliefs.

And nobody should be punished for "insulting" any religion with blasfemous (and occasionally witty) cartoons.

If in France and Germany there are laws prohibiting any negationist talk regarding the Shoah ("Holocaust").  This is actually wrong in my opinion. I think US legislation in this respect is preferable. People should be entitled to say (and publish) whatever they want--I put beyond the pale only screaming "fire" in a crowded cinema--and then be held accountable for any action that they try to implement as a result of their beliefs. For instance, you can be against Israel as much as you want in the abstract--there are even Arab Members of the Knesset who advocate the end of their own country, the country where they live and work and enjoy plenty of freedoms--but if you take a step in the direction of providing intelligence to the country's enemies, well, you should obviously end up in big trouble.

JE comments:  The freedom to curtail the rights of "their" women--this argument strikes my ears as similar to the "property rights" favored by slaveholders.  When confronted with radical Islam, secular progressives are faced with a paradox:  how can you be tolerant of the intolerant?


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  • Baha'i Perspectives on Jihadist Events: Some Questions Answered (Vincent Littrell, USA 01/20/15 3:30 AM)
    This is a combined response to John Eipper, Luciano Dondero and David Duggan.

    When commenting on my post of 12 January, John Eipper asked the following question: "If the Baha'is consider Islam (Judaism and Christianity, too, I presume) as religions of a past era, upon which the 'sun has set,' wouldn't they have to welcome the current religious strife as signs that their prophecy is taking place?"


    My answer is no. Baha'is absolutely don't welcome the current religious strife. Baha'is view humankind as God's most noble creation. Mankind is indeed made in the image of God, and therefore we believe that God wants only greatness for humankind. It is in the Baha'i view unseemly for God's most noble creation to engage in warfare and strife (though allowance is made for war in some circumstances, when it involves defense against aggression). In the Baha'i view, mankind is destined for an unfathomably bright future once it has matured and that maturing process, in the Baha'i view, is occurring. In a 1985 letter to the peoples of the world titled "The Promise of World Peace," the supreme governing institution of the Baha'i Faith, The Universal House of Justice, wrote:


    "We hold firmly the conviction that all human beings have been created 'to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization'; that 'to act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man'; that the virtues that befit human dignity are trustworthiness, forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving kindness towards all peoples. We reaffirm the belief that the 'potentialities inherent in the station of man, the full measure of his destiny on earth, the innate excellence of his reality, must all be manifested in this promised Day of God [Baha'is believe the advent of Baha'u'llah is the beginning of the 'promised Day of God' of past prophecy--VL]. These are the motivations for our unshakeable faith that unity and peace are the attainable goal towards which humanity is striving.


    "At this writing, the expectant voices of Bahá'ís can be heard despite the persecution they still endure in the land in which their faith was born. By their example of steadfast hope, they bear witness to the belief that the imminent realization of this age-old dream of peace is now, by virtue of the transforming effects of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation, invested with the force of divine authority. Thus we convey to you not only a vision in words: we summon the power of deeds of faith and sacrifice; we convey the anxious plea of our co-religionists everywhere for peace and unity. We join with all who are the victims of aggression, all who yearn for an end to conflict and contention, all whose devotion to principles of peace and world order promotes the ennobling purposes for which humanity was called into being by an all-loving Creator.


    "In the earnestness of our desire to impart to you the fervour of our hope and the depth of our confidence, we cite the emphatic promise of Bahá'u'lláh: 'These fruitless strifes, theseruinous wars shall pass away, and the "Most Great Peace" shall come.'" ("The Promise of World Peace," p. 15; http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/uhj/PWP/ )


    John also made the following comment:


    "One thing is clear: Muslims would understandably view this aspect of Baha'i doctrine as a threat to their own beliefs, institutions, and...dare I say culture?"


    Indeed, since the Baha'i Faith emerged in the 19th century, many Christian and Muslim leaders have attacked and excoriated it and Muslims have directly persecuted Baha'is. This is in some part at least because the Baha'i Faith does pose a challenge to religious hierarchies of religions of the past. Baha'u'llah (whom Baha'is believe has revealed the Word of God for today's day and age) has abolished the institutions of clergy. From the Baha'i perspective, everyone is required to independently investigate spiritual reality and the truth for themselves, and thus in a sense everyone in this new religious age is ministering to the needs of family, community and civilization.


    Luciano Dondero respectfully found issue with my position on Islam. He described my view as "faulty." Luciano is of course entitled to his opinion. As a Baha'i, I view the revelation of the Prophet Muhammad as a legitimate and real revelation from God, and that not a scintilla of "hatefulness" can be found in the Qur'an. I have written on the peaceful and tolerant nature of the Qur'an and have already discussed the "sword verses" at length in this Forum, so I see no need to re-write my past arguments. For some of my past commentary on the subject on WAIS, see the links at the end of this post (one of the below links discusses the Nahj al-Balagha, which is held by some to be the most significant treatise outside the Qur'an on Islamic ethics related to governance. The text was very possibly written by the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and his legitimate successor in Shia and Baha'i eyes, Ali ibn Abi Talib).


    I'll make one other point. In a recent post David Duggan referred to Islam as "anti-Christ." Though as a Baha'i I don't agree with that assessment, one Baha'i interpretation of the Bible's Book of the Revelation of John points to what I've heard referred to by Baha'is as "anti-Christ," with the rise of the Umayyad dynasty of Islamic history. Baha'i leader Abdu'l-Baha, whom Baha'is believe was divinely inspired, in his commentary on the Revelation of John, states:


    "'And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.' These signs are an allusion to the dynasty of the Umayyads, who dominated the Muḥammadan religion. Seven heads and seven crowns mean seven countries and dominions over which the Umayyads had power: they were the Roman dominion around Damascus; and the Persian, Arabian and Egyptian dominions, together with the dominion of Africa--that is to say, Tunis, Morocco and Algeria; the dominion of Andalusia, which is now Spain; and the dominion of the Turks of Transoxania. The Umayyads had power over these countries. The ten horns mean the names of the Umayyad rulers--that is, without repetition, there were ten names of rulers, meaning ten names of commanders and chiefs--the first is Abú Súfyán and the last Marván--but several of them bear the same name. So there are two Muáviyá, three Yazíd, two Valíd, and two Marván; but if the names were counted without repetition there would be ten. The Umayyads, of whom the first was Abú Súfyán, Amír of Mecca and chief of the dynasty of the Umayyads, and the last was Marván, destroyed the third part of the holy and saintly people of the lineage of Muḥammad who were like the stars of heaven." (Some Answered Questions, pgs 69, 70 http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/SAQ/saq-13.html )


    My point in posting the above quote is this:


    The Baha'is believe that the events surrounding the succession to the Prophet Muhammad caused a shift in direction for Islam, turning much of it on a path towards "anti-Christ." The events of today, the turbulence, violence, hatred, bloodshed and ignorance to be found in the Muslim world are a direct result of this turn towards "anti-Christ," with the rise of the Umayyads and even earlier. The rise of the Umayyads is a direct result of the events surrounding Muhammad's succession. Some serious scholars point to the controversial "Episode of the Pen and Paper" as a key event that led to great schism in the religion of God and attendant situation of "anti-Christ" (meaning a time of great evil, chaos, ignorance, a turning of mankind away from the intent of the Prophet of God, etc.)


    The Episode of the Pen and Paper is described as thus:


    "When the Prophet's illness became serious, he said, 'Bring me writing materials that I may write for you something, after which you will not be led into error.' Umar said: 'The illness has overwhelmed the Prophet. We have the Book of God and that is enough for us.' Then the people differed about this and spoke many words. And he [the Prophet] said 'Leave me! There ought not be quarreling in my presence.' And Ibn Abbas went out saying: 'The greatest of all calamities is what intervened between the Apostle [Muhammad--VL] and his writing." (Momen, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam, pgs, 15-16)


    From my understanding of the Episode of the Pen and Paper, if it indeed occurred, is one of the most terrible events in the history of the world, because it led to centuries bloodshed and hate in the Muslim world and provides the foundations to the terrible violent sectarianism and extremism we see today.


    To sum up:


    My view is that the current terrible events and continuing problems of the world today, though prophesized in the Baha'i writings and seen by Baha'is as the rolling up of the old world order concurrent with the emergence of the new, these strifes are certainly not welcomed. We Baha'is are not surprised by them, however. I do view Islam as a religion of peace in its original intent; however it certainly is racked with violence now. This because of the terrible events surrounding the succession to Muhammad and the drift towards anti-Christ to be found in much Islamic political and social history.


    Some of my past postings on Islamic tolerance to include the Nahj al-Balagha:


    http://www.waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=60351&objectTypeId=54601&topicId=60




    http://www.waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&o=10173


    http://www.waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=10174&objectTypeId=4424&topicId=1


    JE comments: I hope everyone has read as far as Vincent's summary, which presents tenets of Baha'i belief unknown by most outsiders. I am especially intrigued by the significance Baha'is give to Muhammad's problematic succession. I always recognized it as a theologically important event, akin to the Christian schisms over the years, but not relevant to the strife we see today. I would base my belief on the relative peace enjoyed by Sunnis and Shiites until--when?--35 years ago?

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    • Do the Abrahamic Religions all Worship the Same God? (David Duggan, USA 01/21/15 2:11 AM)
      A few days ago John Eipper inquired, that since the three "Abrahamic" "religions of the book" have a common ancestor (Abraham), whether or not they all worship the same God.

      I hazard to jump in on this topic for at least three reasons: 1) I am not a theologian, nor a student of comparative religions; 2) as a Christian, I have an axe to grind; 3) as a citizen of the United States which has been in a state of hostilities with certain forces of global Islam for the better part of four decades (at least since the 1978 "student" take-over of our Tehran embassy), I have a patriot's stake in being perceived as in the right. Still, so far as I can tell, no one on WAIS has answered this question, and at the risk of far exceeding my area of competence, I will say emphatically that the answer is no: the three religions do not worship the same God.


      As an original matter, of course, if you posit that God--some force, being, intelligence, competence outside of our ability to comprehend--exists, then no matter what we say we will never be able to understand God or explain Him to others who do not believe. There are too many slippage points, too many ways in which our abilities fail and our perceptions deceive us that any discerning and determined opponent of my belief will have a ready rebuttal. Dying children, airplane disasters, a near-perpetual state of war among the ranks of believers all strongly counsel against there being any Divine who is anything but a figment of our imaginations. Yet the desire to believe, the yearning for some force that can explain what happens, has happened and will happen seems universal: it appears to have arisen on all continents and since the dawn of consciousness. A rational observer from outside our planet could reasonably inquire therefore, what is it with roughly a third of these earthlings who believe in an unseen God and not a pantheon of deities? If majority rules, then why haven't the two-thirds of the non-believers in the God of Abraham not imposed their views on this minority?


      These questions, however, do not drive at the different conceptions of the Divine among adherents of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The first point of differentiation has to be in the name ascribed to the Divine. Early in the Pentateuch, in the second chapter of Genesis, the authors draw a distinction between the Creator God, and the Lord God. At once, we see two aspects of the Divine: an impersonal force and a personal overseer. (Mortimer Adler described these as the God of ontological perfection and the God of moral perfection.) "Lord" implies some sort of owed obedience, some sort of accountability, but it is a mutual accountability, as is evident when in exchange for Abraham's righteous belief, the Lord united Himself to Abraham's descendants by taking the form of a burning lamp and passing between the halves of animals cleaved to seal a bargain described in Genesis 15. Later, when God calls Moses to deliver His message of redemption from Pharaoh, He gives Himself the tetragrammaton, YHWH (sometimes Jehovah), Exodus 6, a name by which "was I not known to" Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Many translators say that this means "I am who I am," but it conveys a degree of self-referential authority beyond that of exalted God (Adonai) or Lord (Elohim).


      The Christian God: The Gospels introduce at least two new concepts of the unseen God: 1) God as "Word" (John 1:1), and as Father (Matt. 6:9). The Word, by which God had made himself known to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and the Prophets, is analogous to the breath by which God gave life to Adam (Genesis 2:7). What is Word other than breath wrapped around teeth and tongue, uttered through lips? The Father God may be a demotion from Lord, but like Word, it conveys a sense of immanence, that God, formerly dwelling in light inaccessible, is close to us. The Christian sees this closeness in the person of Jesus Christ, fully God of God, Light of Light, who took our human nature and was the Word Incarnate. He spoke with the authority of the Father, coming not to change the Law (one of the iterations of the Word) but to fulfill it. He did miracles in His Father's name, He bestowed His Father's authority on His disciples, and then He was crucified, died, buried and rose again. Think of it this way: how difficult is it for us Americans, 225 years after the Constitution's adoption, to believe in its promise of a "more perfect Union" envisioned by ancestors who owned slaves, had commercial interests favoring free trade, and probably engaged in all sorts of negative behavior (Gouverneur Morris's mistresses come to mind)? But, if some Divine source of our law came down from Heaven, then was killed for espousing it and rose again from the dead, maybe we'd pay attention.


      Or maybe not. One of Judaism's many criticisms of Christianity and its worship of the co-equal Son is that, well, if the Christian message is true, then why is the world still so screwed up, why hasn't the promised land been entered, why are even Christians killing themselves in the name of Christ (World Wars I and II), not to mention other less-enlightened people (colonialism, indigenous peoples)? We'll stick with what we know, at least secure that St. Paul did not reject our ancestry and affirms our salvation through Jacob (Romans 11). Good argument. But it does not refute my contention that Jews and Christians have a different understanding of God's purpose, plan and demands placed on His adherents. Is this a different God, or a different understanding of the one true God? Or did God change? Theologians can debate those questions, but I do not believe it to be a blaspheme of the God of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to say that God in Christ, together with the Holy Spirit, present a God who bears distinct even different concepts or elements than the God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3).


      Allah. I'll admit that I'm weaker here, but the name Allah derives from the Hebrew Eloah, the singular of Elohim. In a curious twist, though Elohim takes a singular verb, the Arabic Allah dispels any idea of a plurality of deities, and yet Qur'an 50:16 is translated "It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than [his] jugular vein." The Qur'an gives 99 names or descriptors to Allah, some familiar (Compassionate, Merciful), some consistent with Judeo-Christian principles (Ever Forgiving, Eternal). By themselves, these formulations are not inconsistent with the God who called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, nor even with the God who sent His Son. Where the difference lies is in what Allah asks of his followers. In this respect, the Qur'an has no "incorporation clause," by which the antecedent scriptures are considered canonical with the Word revealed to Muhammad. Further, and regardless of the truth of the glib pronouncement that in Christianity God sends His Son to die for man, in Islam Allah tells man to send his son to die for Allah, or whether Qur'an 2:191 gives Muslims the right to kill Jews, can it be seriously denied that in its present iteration, Islam is much less forgiving, much less merciful to the six-sevenths of humanity that rejects Allah than Christianity and Judaism are toward their non-adherents? "Bloodthirsty" is not one of the 99 names given Allah, and yet that seems to be the practice of Islamic worship. Insha'Allah.


      Finally, Vincent Littrell equates the Beast of Revelation 13 et seq. with the Antichrist of two of John's epistles. Scholars differ on whether the epistoler is the same author as the one who received the Revelation, but whether the imagery of an animate force that destroys is also the false prophet foretold by Jesus (Matt. 24:24) is at best a construct. False prophets abound in all religions and Christ urged His believers to be wary regardless of their source.


      JE comments:  David Duggan approaches his controversial thesis with honesty, erudition, and a great deal of introspection.  I'm of the "one God, different interpretations" school when it comes to viewing the Abrahamic religions, but I hope all WAISers will give David's comment a careful read.


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      • Do the Abrahamic Religions all Worship the Same God? (Anthony J Candil, USA 01/21/15 4:14 PM)
        I find fascinating the whole thesis presented by David Duggan (21 January), no doubt one of WAISdom's finest, and I subscribe to it entirely.

        Still, I am also one of "the one God, different interpretations" when coming to viewing the Abrahamic religions. I do, however, think that Islam's God is not the same that the other two. Judaism and Christianity are not so far apart in the end, half of the Book is the same anyway, but Islam is really apart, and an entire different faith.


        So different is Islam that in my understanding it is neither forgiving nor merciful to others but evil and aggressive. Islam certainly divides the world in two: "believers" and "unbelievers," and considers right to kill or annihilate those who don't convert and join Islam.


        Certainly I agree with David and emphatically see that Islam doesn't worship the same God as Christianity and Judaism do.


        My patriot's stake though doesn't allow me to view "the God in which we trust" as the same God on whose name young boys and girls are called to martyrdom, killing not only themselves but many other innocents as well.


        On the other hand, as time goes by I dedicate more time to thinking on the key question of "What's next?" Once I'm 65 already, it becomes more difficult for me to understand God as a force beyond my ability to comprehend and not just as a matter of blind faith or imagination.


        God as we Christians understand Him, should be just mercy, eternal love, forgiveness and compassion. Then why the world is the way it is?


        It comes to my mind Frankie Valli's song, "It is just too good to be true." Certainly as David mentions, there are too many slippage points, too many mistakes or failures not to shake our faith.


        However, can society go on without religion? Can humans go on without a reason to believe? John Lennon said it is easy if we try, but I don't think it will be so easy in the end.


        Mankind needs to believe there is some kind of "afterlife," otherwise chaos will reign and certainly it could be much worse than actually it is.


        A key issue to discuss anyway.


        JE comments: Great reference to John Lennon. A question: Why is an afterlife needed to keep this life free of chaos? (Assuming, for the time being, that there isn't already chaos in this life.)


        For WAISers who are tiring of these lofty theological debates, remember that comparative religion is one of the "three pillars" of WAISdly inquiry--together with history and economics.  The history of God and mammon?



        I would like to stress that I do not view Islam as evil, although evil has been committed in its name.  I'm with Vince LIttrell on this one. 


        In any case, greetings to Anthony Candil.  I thought of Anthony over the weekend, when we saw the film Boyhood, which is getting a great deal of Oscar buzz.  Part of it is set in Austin, Texas, where Anthony lives.  The premise of watching a boy grow up over twelve years is fascinating.  The execution in my view was much less successful:  overly long, a meandering plot, and a brooding central character who is way too philosophical for his years.  But most critics do not agree with my appraisal.

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        • More on the Abrahamic Religions (Tor Guimaraes, USA 01/23/15 3:38 PM)
          It seems as if the logical support for the position regarding "the one god, different interpretations for the Abrahamic religions" is crumbling. This is what I expected.

          First, we have John Eipper commenting on my 22 January post, admitting that his position that "within the theologies of the different Abrahamic religions there is only one God shared by all" has to be moderated by the fact that "looking at religious practice from the outside certainly gives one the opposite opinion." To me talking, theorizing, and philosophizing is relatively "cheap," and what really matters is behavior. That is particularly important, since there is an awful lot of "saying one thing and doing another" among devout religions people of any persuasion.


          Second, my position is also supported by other religious WAISers like Anthony Candil (22 January). While Anthony wrote, "I am also one of 'the one God, different interpretations' when coming to viewing the Abrahamic religions," he immediately contradicted himself by excluding one of the major Abrahamic religions. Anthony wrote, "Islam's God is not the same that the other two."


          Anthony goes on by negatively comparing, unjustifiably in my opinion, Islam to the Judeo/Christian religions. He then asks, "can society go on without religion? Can humans go on without a reason to believe?" I can't or don't want to, but I know many atheists and agnostics who are wonderful people and certainly compare favorably against many religious people of any religious denominations. Last, Anthony writes, "mankind needs to believe there is some kind of afterlife, otherwise chaos will reign and certainly it could be much worse than actually it is." To me there seems to be no evidence of an afterlife and making that up seems only beneficial to those trying to manipulate the gullible.


          JE comments:  The battle lines are drawn, and I don't see how they'll budge.  Shall we now take up an easier topic (!), such as whether or not there's an afterlife?

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          • Monotheism and Polytheism in History (Luciano Dondero, Italy 01/24/15 4:40 AM)
            Based on recent WAIS postings, let me ask a couple of questions: is God white or black, or some other colour? is God a He or a She, or something else entirely?

            These are real issues, insofar as contemporary theologians are concerned, and some of them do debate these topics.


            From my atheistic viewpoint, however, they are simply another expression of a rather obvious fact: man creates god in his own image--and therefore He (it's always a He) is made to speak Hebrew, Latin, Arabic or English, and always has one particular "chosen people" to further His aims.


            At least that's how it goes for monotheistic religions.  But most religions in the world, historically speaking, have been polyhteistic (or animist) ones.


            Most notably, for the influence they had (still have?) on the West, one has to take into account the Greek, Roman and Scandinavian systems of deities. The Egyptian system, while polytheistic, worked differently.


            Insofar as religious tolerance goes, but more in general if we want to identify an ability to show tolerance toward the beliefs of other people, it's self-evident that whatever secularism stands for, it takes a leaf from the book of our polytheistic ancestors.


            The Romans, in particular, started getting a lot worse only when the Empire set in, and with it the notion that the Emperor himself was a divine figure (a bit like a Pharaoh). Therefore this introduced religious persecutions for those, like the Jews and the Christians, who worshiped their own God, and were not prepared to treat the Emperor as a God. But it also paved the way for the future insertion of Christianity into the Imperial system, making it into a state-enforced religion, with all that followed (Crusades, Inquisitions, and so on and so forth).


            This virulent and violent Christianity probably also played a role in crystalizing Islam, as the johnny-come-lately of monotheisms, as a particularly bloodthirsty religion. Most accounts of pre-Crusade Middle East (or of El Andaluz in Spain) paint in actual fact a rather tolerant practice by Muslim rulers, most notably in the treatment of the Jews. To the point where there is an entire branch of them, the Sephardic Jews, who used to live in Northern Africa and in the Middle East, after being expelled from Spain in 1492. They were expelled from Arab countries in the late 1940s and 1950s, after the birth of the state of Israel.


            The Islamic world did even play a crucially positive role, all its "blood and sword" rhetoric notwithstanding, in passing on to the modern world some of the knowledge of the ancients--as many Greek and Latin authors only reached Western Europe by way of Arabic translations. The Humanistic revolution that put an end to the obscurantism of the Middle Ages was nurtured with all that. The big problem is that not very much moved in the opposite direction later on: and thus, no Enlightenment in the Muslim world, or its equivalent thereof (and no "bourgeois democratic revolution," in Marxist parlance).


            It would be interesting to discuss why that was.


            JE comments:  Could we say that polytheism by nature permits greater tolerance?  At least it tolerates greater ambiguity--the possibility of conflicting truths.


            Why was there not "enlightenment" or "bourgeois democratic revolution" in the Muslim world?  This question has come up before on WAIS, but it might be time to revisit it.  Our first question should be whether we are applying too strict a definition of "Enlightenment."  In the West, it equates with modernity and prosperity.  And both of these things (modernity and prosperity) exist in Muslim societies, too.  The third pillar of Enlightenment is a separation of the divine and the secular.  This separation is precisely what Sharia law attempts to eliminate.

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            • Monotheism and Polytheism in History; on a "Chosen People" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/24/15 3:11 PM)
              I am a fan of Luciano Dondero, whose thinking and writing always intrigued me, especially since we start from a markedly different worldview.  For instance, I am a believer and Luciano is an atheist. He is also a wonderful person, which contradicts the idea that only religion can make people better.

              His WAIS post of 24 January is fascinating, especially where he states that we may have inherited religious tolerance from the polytheistic religions of the Greeks and Romans.


              However, I would like to add some personal perspectives. I strongly believe that God cannot have a "chosen people," because this fact is inconceivable with a God Father of all Humanity.


              When history has seen a "chosen people," such as ancient (and present-day?) Israel or, for some, the US now, it is only nationalist propaganda from preachers and politicians.


              About the Crusades, I have an almost Marxist (!) point of view. They were a religious movement only on the surface. In the larger sense, the Crusades were the normal expansion of an expanding mercantile society which needed to control the markets of the Eastern Mediterranean through which expensive merchandise from the Far East was arriving. It was the attempt to recover and dominate territories that were once part of the Eastern Roman Empire which had fallen under the dominance of the Arabs, who themselves were motivated by a thirst of dominance and not out of a desire to peacefully spread the Word of God.


              Luciano stated: "For sure a virulent and violent Christianity probably also played a role in crystalizing Islam." I fully agree, but I will add that even worse were the colonial and the silly wars "to bring democracy."



              Frankly I would not stress too much the Islamic contribution to preserving and transmitting classical works to the Europeans. The monks of Saint Benedict of Nursia (and others) as far back as 543 were saving and copying the manuscripts of the classical Greeks and Romans. By the way, in 883 the Abbey of Montecassino with all its cultural treasures was sacked and burned by the Muslim Saracens. Were they motivated by a thirst for loot or by the word of God?


              Of course, there were also many episodes of killing of Christians because they did not want to change their religion, but this can be also considered a way to insure loyalty to the the ruler.


              For instance, on 14 July 1480, during the conquest of Otranto (Italy) by the conqueror of Constantinople, Mehmed II, 800 men were decapitated because they refused to become Muslim. Here the ruler wanted to create a loyal town as part of his unrealized goal of conquering Italy.


              In the end we need an ecumenical agreement of all religions, by which anyone should be free to worship God as he or she wishes, but always respecting all other believers and their way of worshiping. Let God be the final judge.


              By the way if God exists, I may have the chance to meet Luciano and tell him I was right, but if He does not exist, how can Luciano tell me that he was right?


              JE comments: Eugenio's final paragraph sums up millennia of religious debate. Of course, the WAISly ideal is to admit to the other person that s/he is right.

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      • Do the Abrahamic Religions all Worship the Same God? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 01/22/15 3:13 AM)
        For someone who dismisses himself as not being a theologian, I thought David Duggan's post of 21 January was quite savvy. Once again I feel compelled to point out that to me it is logically impossible to be worshiping the "same god" with such basically different religions, regardless of whether they have a common origin or not. Why would the same god for these religions demand that followers from the others convert to it before salvation? Why would the same god for these religions consider only the followers of one of them to be the chosen people? Do these facts suggest a common god to these religions in any way? Clearly not.

        John Eipper commented that he is of "the 'one God, different interpretations' school when it comes to viewing the Abrahamic religions." I suppose it boils down to semantics and how flexible the interpretations are allowed to be. Conceptually it would be quite a stretch. To me by definition, different religions must be worshiping different gods. From a practical perspective, most of the time people from the "Abrahamic religions" have conflicting beliefs and they do not seem to have much respect for each others preachings.


        JE comments: These comments seem to be missing my point, which is within the theologies of the different Abrahamic religions, there is only one God "shared" by all.  Granted, looking at religious practice from the outside certainly gives one the opposite opinion.

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        • More on the Abrahamic Religions (Enrique Torner, USA 01/23/15 2:39 PM)
          There has been a great deal of discussion on WAIS regarding whether Jews, Muslims, and Christians worship the same god. Nobody so far has defended that there is only one God, and that it is the same god in the three religions. I do.

          I believe there is only one god, as do Jews, and Muslims, and it's the same one. The key word in my statement is one that is absent: "worship." Each believer thinks he/she is worshiping God, the only one. The problem is that the three religions have different interpretations of their god; therefore, each religion believes that only they are worshiping God correctly. However, they are mutually exclusive, so only one can be doing it correctly. So, Christians believe that Muslims and Jews are really not worshiping God, because they are not doing it according to the whole Bible; Muslims believe the same of Jews and Christians because of the Quran; Jews believe only in the Old Testament, so they disagree with Christians about the nature of Jesus, and with Muslims in other areas. The three religions are monotheistic, but Christianity is actually a trinitarian monotheistic religion (God is represented by three persons), while Islam and Judaism are unitarian monotheists (God has only one person).


          My belief has been shared by several popes: Francis, John Paul II, and Gregory VII, to mention a few. The first two invited leaders of the other two religions to go to the Vatican for a shared prayer. President George W. Bush, though not a theologian, also stated that he believes there is only one god, and it's the same of Jews and Muslims. Check these websites for support:


          http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/09/01/do-christians-muslims-and-jews-worship-the-same-god/


          http://www.apologeticsindex.org/670-islam-christians-same-god


          If you think about it logically, if we say that two or more religions do not worship the same god, you are actually stating the existence of several gods, and, therefore, you are declaring yourself polytheistic. However, you can find theologians of the three religions defending that they don't worship the same god, without realizing the logical implication of the statement. An example would be a leader of a Southern Baptist church, who defended it some years ago. However, another Christian theologian disputed it. Read it for yourself:


          http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/april/muslimschristianssamegod.html


          JE comments: I was trying to make the same point as Enrique Torner, when I stressed that within their respective theologies, the three Abrahamic faiths worship the same God.  Now I find out I'm in the company of President Bush!  One observation:  those who subscribe to the "different God" thesis probably believe their counterparts in a rival Abrahamic faith worship a false god.  That at least would save them from accusations of polytheism.

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        • Weighty Theological Questions (Tor Guimaraes, USA 01/25/15 6:13 AM)
          As an extremely religious person, what I find most amazing about organized religions as a discussion topic are the incredible inconsistencies in logic and argumentation. After all the hand waiving that is going on, I need someone to explain to me a few facts. For example, in the Old Testament we have a people chosen by their god (which excludes all other people), so special that their god even allowed/promoted genocide. The New Testament is the antithesis of such a nasty god. It says god wants you to love thy neighbor and turn the other cheek. How can these possibly, under any circumstances be the same god?

          Much further into this logical impossibility is that the people following the New Testament think that their god wants the Old Testament people to be converted to the New Testament or suffer damnation. Obviously, one of these two gods is very wrong and completely contradictory. Which one is it? A third group of people says "there is but one god" and it is theirs; all other gods must be wrong because there is only one possible imagination of god leading to heaven. The various imaginations or interpretations of god are contradictory, therefore, aren't there different gods inspiring these different interpretations. No?


          Another issue that is totally unacceptable to me is humans saying that god created man in his own image, when by the erudite explanations and discussion we are having, no one ever saw god (except for a burning bush, but we don't look like that) and knows nothing about what (s)he looks like. Clearly man must have created gods in their own images or for their own interests and circumstances; thus the multitude of gods and the countless interpretations of what god is.


          Last, John Eipper is correct in contradicting Enrique's Torner statement that "If you think about it logically, if we say that two or more religions do not worship the same god, you are actually stating the existence of several gods, and, therefore, you are declaring yourself polytheistic." Indeed, as John noted, "those who subscribe to the "different God" thesis probably believe their counterparts in a rival Abrahamic faith worship a false god. That at least would save them from accusations of polytheism."


          As far as I am concerned, the only more "scientific religion" is the one where God is the Universe, created itself and tour mission is to use the scientific method to learn about the real God. There should be no room for inventing gods in people's own images, unsubstantiated outlandish superstitions, etc. I rest my case.


          JE comments: Nobody ever said these discussions of faith are logical. To come to Enrique Torner's defense, that is the whole point of faith: to believe in something unseen and unmeasurable, which means it defies logic.  Is Enrique correct?  Tor, with his deist view?  Luciano Dondero's atheism?  Or how about our friend from the Baha'i tradition, Vincent Littrell?  My answer will be "yes."  All of these correspondents, and others, have rested their cases.


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      • More Praise for Duggan (Robert Whealey, USA 01/22/15 3:32 AM)

        I saved David Duggan's posting (21 January) for my own archive.  David is too modest in his introduction when he said that he is no
        religions scholar. I agree with 100% of his four or five definitions of God as YHWH, Elohim, Adonai, Word, and Allah. John called God "Word" and also "Love," which became the theme of C. S. Lewis's book The Four Loves.


        I took a graduate course in "History of History" at the U of Michigan in 1957. I wrote the best essay in a class of four. When I
        die, my daughter may send WAIS a copy for your archive. The essay is still sound, but the footnotes are all out of date,
        because there is much new historical and archeological research on the topic in recent years.


        JE comments: But Robert, you will certainly enjoy many more years of health! Why not share your essay now? We could publish it on the WAIS website.


        I wonder if I ever wrote the best essay during my years at the U of Michigan.  Usually I was middle of the pack, as there were a lot of smart folks there.


        Who wants more David Duggan?  Click here:


        http://waisworld.org/en/wais/publications/books/purchase


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      • Do the Abrahamic Religions all Worship the Same God? (A. J. Cave, USA 01/24/15 4:26 AM)
        Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God?

        In one word: Yes.


        It is a common question that reflects the contentious relationship between these monotheistic religions.


        I don't presume to speak for Muslims, but I think at least those who are a little familiar with the (Noble) Qur'an know of Sura 29:46, translated into English as: "we believe in that which has been sent to us and sent to you. And our God and your God is one," interpreted as Muslims believe in the books (scripture) of the People of the Book (Arabic: ahl_e Kitab or Ketab)--the followers of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament--and have the same God. The ruling Muslim Arabs grudgingly added the Persian Zoroastrians in the "People of the Book" category later, even though they continued to humiliate and persecute them.


        I won't bring up history. But for those who are genuinely interested in understanding the relationship between these religions, a rudimentary knowledge of the bloody historical events that unfolded between the warring Persian and Roman Empires of the 7th century CE is a must.



        Since my interest is historical, I leave the fuller philosophical and theological discussion of Abrahamic religions to others. I recommend Alain de Benoist's paper on "What is Religion" that was circulated a few years back, which discusses the more fundamental topic of religion.


        JE comments:  I'll second A. J. Cave's view and add that my interpretation here, like hers, is historical.  Alain de Benoist's 2009 essay "What is Religion?" can be accessed here.  The embedded link has gone dormant, but the entire text is contained within the post:


        http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=33065&objectTypeId=27315&topicId=1


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        • Monotheism and Polytheism (John Heelan, -UK 01/24/15 3:48 PM)
          I opened A. J. Cave's comment of 24 January with a great deal of hope for historical clarification from a scholar of the ancient Middle East of the original Semitic term "El' for God or any god and the grammatical confusion of "elohim" that can render it as God, god or gods (e.g. YaHWe and the pantheon of Canaanite gods). The distinction seems important in a discussion that examines the existence of one overall God, multiple gods as in Hinduism or "One God with different interpretations."

          Perhaps it will follow later.


          Then in the One God/multiple gods discussion, one needs to examine the origin of the mythology of the multiple Greek gods who often seem to be in conflict with each other. Did this mythology not stem from some eight centuries BCE? Does not the myth say that Zeus became the "Father of the Gods" after slaying the Titans (and his father Cronus)? If he had been all-powerful, there would not have been a need for battle.


          The subject is all very confusing and tends to reflect irrational belief rather than reality. I recommend Karen Armstrong's The History of God (1993) for those interested in the God(s?) of the Abrahamic religions.


          JE comments:  Allow me to put in an enthusiastic plug for Ed Jajko's post of this morning.  I believe John Heelan will find some answers.  Ed addresses the "El/Elohim" matter, and reaches the conclusion that even when grammatically expressed in the plural, it's a singular "royal we."


          http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=90810&objectTypeId=76633&topicId=152


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