Since our life, and our family's welfare is at stake here, this is an extremely important issue. [Post #9]
Yes, I quite agree that it is a extremely important issue and one that more people should be taking an active role in. Although it is a rather broad one with a great many ethical and scientific principles in play.
But I think a salient feature is the scope of free speech and the degree to which our beliefs are to be protected from criticism and mockery by others. Muslims, of course, are trying to promote various blasphemy laws – which I really don’t think are not going to fly at all regardless of how much they huff and puff – and think they are entitled to commit murder and mayhem if people publish cartoons, or wear costumes, criticizing or mocking their religion and prophet.
And relative to the latter, I’ve just finished reading Ibn Warraq’s Why I Am Not a Muslim – echoing Bertrand Russell’s similar tome on Christianity – in which he argues, and rather persuasively, that Islam is inherently and intrinsically antithetical and inimical to the principles of democracy and universal human rights. If that is even half-ways true then the ramifications of that idea are, or should be, rather far-reaching.
children with their fingers on the triggers of some very large guns
A very stupid thing for a parent, of any religion, to do is let their children, or the deviants who entice them, decide what is right and wrong. Being a parent is not being buddies with your children, parents who do that never grew up enough to take the responsibility for children. It's easy to have children, it's hard to be a father.
A very stupid thing for a parent, of any religion, to do is let their children, or the deviants who entice them, decide what is right and wrong. [Post #11]
Quite agree. Part of my reason for arguing that parents shouldn’t have any right to indoctrinate their children in a particular religion – or to allow various “faith-based” schools to do likewise.
It's easy to have children, it's hard to be a father.
Yes, I quite agree – at least to do a good job at it – or at being a mother. I seem to recollect that Obama made some comments along the line of criticizing the black community for the disproportionate number of single parent homes headed by women therein.
Just out of curiosity, you mentioned in #2 about “two rocks that ought to be ground to dust”: which would those be? Literally speaking I see the Black Stone of Islam being one of them, but I can’t see an analogous one for Christianity. Although, metaphorically speaking, I think the Bible and the Quran can easily qualify, at least as far as their literal interpretations go, and may have been what you had in mind. On which I think T.H. Huxley had, as usual, something of some degree of relevance and profundity:
The truth is that the pretension to infallibility, by whomsoever made, has done endless mischief; with impartial malignity it has proved a curse, alike to those who have made it and those who have accepted it; and its most baneful shape is book infallibility. For sacerdotal corporations and schools of philosophy are able, under due compulsion of opinion, to retreat from positions that have become untenable; while the dead hand of a book sets and stiffens, amidst texts and formulae, until it becomes a mere petrifaction, fit only for that function of stumbling block, which it so admirably performs. Wherever bibliolatry has prevailed, bigotry and cruelty have accompanied it. It lies at the root of the deep-seated, sometimes disguised, but never absent, antagonism of all the varieties of ecclesiasticism to the freedom of thought and to the spirit of scientific investigation. For those who look upon ignorance as one of the chief sources of evil; and hold veracity, not merely in act, but in thought, to be the one condition of true progress, whether moral or intellectual, it is clear that the biblical idol must go the way of all other idols. Of infallibility, in all shapes, lay or clerical, it is needful to iterate with more than Catonic pertinacity, Delenda est. —T. H, Huxley, Science and Hebrew Tradition
[Edit & repost #15]
Islam defines merely being non-Muslim as an insult to Islam. [Post #13]
Generally agree with you there – in effect anyway. Seems that all Muslims – at least to the extent that they accept the literal truth of the Quran – are going to be buying into – tacitly or explicitly – its command to “kill all unbelievers” and into its rejection of the Christian Trinity and of any pagan deities – along with an expectation that those people are going to be tortured in hell forever. It really is a particularly savage and barbaric religion.
This is part of what I call "religionism" (the worship of religion itself instead of God).
Not quite sure what you mean by “religionism”, although I’ll agree that many of them seem to be heavy on the idolatry even if that presumes the existence of God to begin with – which seems to be the point in question. But there is sort of a group dynamic, a group-think in play in all or almost all religions – a case of “in-group morality and out-group hostility” that serves to define the groups themselves. Ibn Warraq in his Why I Am Not a Muslim [highly recommended] quotes a number of sources who argue – somewhat credibly I think – that Muhammad simply chose the restriction against eating pork, largely as a method of differentiating his “gang” from the Christian one.
but I can’t see an analogous one for Christianity
I'm not one to bring down any religion but I would gladly bring down a point for their argument. The second rock is not Christian at all. The second one is under the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The only Christian rock that I could think of would be Peter. Jerusalem had been a fighting point for Dark Age Christians but that was just fear of the different. I think we have out grown that argument; most of us at least.
Islam defines merely being non-Muslim as an insult to Islam
While I think that Islam is a danger to thought, you should read the Koran before you make claims like this. They believe that non-Muslims are self deluded and Muslims have the duty to enlighten them using arguments of value. No where in the Koran does it speak of violence except as in return of violence. Even Sura #9 explains that the sword is used to defend not convert. Islamic conversion is a personal thing not what some idiots say in some radical Mosque.
I have underlined the word read because the only real way to experience the Koran is to listen to its recitation. But, you have to be able to understand Arabic for that.
Note on the Koran;
Over the years I have heard recitations of the Koran. While I don't understand what is being said the recitation itself is executed using a melodic voice. There are recordings of recitations on-line.
While I think that Islam is a danger to thought …. [Post #19]
Quite true – big time. Seems that Islam if not the Quran itself heavily rejects Reason in favour of Revelation; probably a big part of the reason why Islamic countries are among the most backward ones in the world. From Why I Am Not A Muslim:
In the words of R. A. Nicholson, "About the middle of the tenth century the reactionary spirit assumed a dogmatic shape in the system of Abu 'l-Hasan al-Ashari, the father of Muhammadan Scholasticism, which is essentially opposed to intellectual freedom and has maintained its petrifying influence almost unimpaired down to the present time." [pg 250]
“Revelation” or intuition may have some utility. But if they are not backed-up with some facts and empirical data they are little more than wild-eyed conjectures at best, and outright delusions at worst.
Nowhere in the Koran does it speak of violence except as in return of violence. Even Sura #9 explains that the sword is used to defend not convert. Islamic conversion is a personal thing not what some idiots say in some radical Mosque.
Not sure that I would agree with you on that point as Islam’s entire history was that its propagation was done with the sword. Did Spain and Algeria and Persia attack Muhammad? Or was it the other way around? And the problem is that there is so much contradictory, and quite odious, claptrap in the Quran:
On the other hand, the Koran also contains praiseworthy, even if not particularly original moral principles – the need for generosity, respect for parents, and so on. But these are outweighed by unworthy principles: intolerance of pagans, the call to violence and murder, the lack of equality for women and non-Muslims, the acceptance of slavery, barbaric punishments, and the contempt for human reason. [pg 170]
Which is probably not surprising, given that Muhammad simply wrote most of it to justify his own biases and personal and political objectives. Here is how Warraq quotes a scholar (Muir) who had extensively studied Islam:
Messages from heaven were freely brought down [by Muhammad] to justify political conduct, in precisely the same manner as to inculcate religious precept. Battles were fought, executions ordered, and territories annexed, under cover of the Almighty's sanction. Nay, even personal indulgences were not only excused but encouraged by the divine approval or command. A special license was produced, allowing the Prophet many wives; the affair with Mary the Coptic bondmaid was justified in a separate sura; and the passion for the wife of his own adopted son and bosom friend was the subject of an inspired message in which the Prophet's scruples were rebuked by God, a divorce permitted, and marriage with the object of his unhallowed desires enjoined. If we say that such "revelations" were believed by Mahomet sincerely to bear the divine sanction, it can only be in a modified and peculiar sense. He surely must be held responsible for that belief; and, in arriving at it, have done violence to his judgement and better principles of his nature. [pgs 346-34]
But the crux of the matter is that it seems a large percentage of Muslims – the Pew Forum talks of close to 90% - believe that it is literally true that Muhammad talked to Allah or Gabriel. And that the Quran is perfect and the “verbatim word of God”. With that type of carte blanche and degree of contradiction anybody can justify just about anything with it. As Russell put it and as Warraq commented:
"One of the most interesting and harmful delusions to which men and nations can be subjected is that of imagining themselves special instruments of the Divine Will," wrote Russell. Unfortunately, both Muhammad and the Muslims suffered from this delusion.
... Islam’s entire history was that its propagation was done with the sword. Did Spain and Algeria and Persia attack Muhammad? Or was it the other way around? And the problem is that there is so much contradictory, and quite odious, claptrap in the Quran: ...
I am not an Islamic jurist nor an Islamic anything. I have read quite a lot about Islam and have read the Koran (English translation) a few times. My approach has been; know my enemy. What I have found out is that Islam and Muslims are not my enemy. My enemy is as it has always been ignorance. The current enemy of western thought are radical Islamists who pervert their religion for political and personal financial gain.
As for the conquest of North Africa, Spain and Persia, Islam moved into the power vacuum left by the retreating civilizations of the Romans. This retreat occurred from the fall of the western empire to the fall of Constantinople in the 15th century. The Islamic world was content with the Eastern Empire until they were attacked during the Crusades.
Most of Muslim education, study, art, science, and engineering was based on Greek studies. They picked up on why Rome was powerful. Rome did not follow the tradition of Greek science while using Greek science to fuel their technology. But, the Muslim world did use Greek scientific traditions. Many of the works of science were retained by Muslim scholars, put into practice, and improved upon by Muslim scientists. The western Renaissance was fueled by the rediscovery of the ancient Greek and Roman texts and translated by the Arabic in Spain by Arab scholars.
It may interest you to know that one of the greatest Islamic centers for education was in a well watered city in what is now southern Mali. That city and university was Timbuktu.
The downfall of such learning and exploration came in the 11th century and the call that God can not be constrained by natural law. That call from Mullahs all over the Islamic world resulted in the same effect on science as Martin Luther's 92 thesis; retrenchment. The Renaissance occurred in Europe but not in the Arab world thus we are where we are today with the Arab world lagging sorrowfully behind. The radicals among them believe that using Islam against the west will even things out in the future.
The clash of cultures exists and will continue. The existing cultures are always shattered by the new, therefore, we must learn to resist the hate and spread western thought and wealth into their intellectual vacuum. We must remember that for one case, Abdus Salam was a Muslim who was a Nobel laureate and partly responsible for the Standard Model of particle physics. We need more like Abbus Salam and fewer like ben Ladin who by the way was a well educated civil engineer. The difference between the two is one used good works to demonstrate Islam while the other spread Islam with the radicals sword.
While I think that Islam is a danger to thought
Hi TFC, not sure why you made this generalization (based on the behavior of some radicals perhaps?), but according to this:
Islam invokes human intellect to investigate the truth of the Quranic teachings with reference to the study of human nature, history and rationality. It arouses the human faculties of reasoning and deduction, not only for the pursuit of religious investigation, but also for the attainment of secular knowledge. Impressed by this outstanding emphasis by the Quran on the quest for knowledge, Professor Dr. Abdus Salam*, the renowned Nobel Laureate was invoked to study the impact of this enlightning attitude on the Muslim thought of the early period. In one of his articles on this subject, he observes:
'According to Dr. Mohammed Aijazul Khatib of Damascus University, nothing could emphasize the importance of sciences more than the remark that "in contrast to 250 verses which are legislative, some 750 verses of the Holy Quran—almost one-eighth of it—exhort the believers to study Nature—to reflect, to make the best use of reason and to make the scientific enterprise an integral part of the community's life". The Holy Prophet of Islam—peace be upon him—said that it was the "bounden duty of every muslim—man and woman—to acquire knowledge".'
I am not an Islamic jurist nor an Islamic anything. I have read quite a lot about Islam and have read the Koran (English translation) a few times. My approach has been; know my enemy. [Post #22]
A sensible philosophy to know one’s enemy. But I wonder whether you have read more than Islamic apologetics; if that is the case then I suggest you might want to read Irshad Manji’s The Trouble With Islam Today and Ibn Warraq’s Why I Am Not a Muslim. The former is available on Manji’s site for free download (at least in Persian and Arabic) while the latter is available online if you search for Scribd and Warraq. But both of those, particularly the latter as it has some 10 or 20 pages of bibliography of various scholars – both Western and Islamic – to back up his arguments, rather conclusively argue if not prove that there is something rotten at the heart of Islam. Whether there are any redeeming features seems decidedly moot.
What I have found out is that Islam and Muslims are not my enemy. My enemy is as it has always been ignorance. The current enemy of western thought are radical Islamists who pervert their religion for political and personal financial gain.
Yes, certainly, I quite agree that ignorance is the central problem. But the problem is essentially that to claim any of those “holy” books are literally true, that there are supernatural events and causations in play, is fundamentally to base one’s life and values on ignorance. Warraq argues rather conclusively that:
In an important article, "Islam and Liberal Democracy," Bernard Lewis explains very well why liberal democracy never developed in Islam. Like many scholars of Islam, Lewis deplores the use of the term "Islamic Fundamentalist" as being inappropriate. I agree. I have already pointed out that, unlike Protestants, who have moved away from the literal interpretation of the Bible, Muslims—all Muslims—still take the Koran literally. Hence, in my view, there is no difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism. Islam is deeply embedded in every Muslim society, and "fundamentalism" is simply the excess of this culture. [pg 185]
As long as Muslims insist on the literal truth of the Quran, that Muhammad talked to Allah, that the Quran is the “revealed word of God”, so long will there be no difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism.
As for the conquest of North Africa, Spain and Persia, Islam moved into the power vacuum left by the retreating civilizations of the Romans.
That’s sort of like arguing that the invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia by Russia, or the invasion of Poland by Hitler were “moving into a power vacuum”.
Perhaps we are seeing only the effects of non-Islamic people who pretend to be Islamic???Or, when using the "Islamic" term, many people are referring to Islamic culture(s) and not the religion?
So, when large groups of so-called "Islamic" (culture) people are rioting and killing infidels over the burning of a book that does not belong to them, then that represents the effects of "non-Islamic" (religion) people?
It should be well known by all Muslims that The Prophet said a true Muslim is one from whose hands and tongue all others are safe. So if you see behavior contrary to that, it is not in line with Islam.
IMHO, it's hard for me to believe that ANY religious person (or culture) is serious about modern science as an objective discipline for obtaining knowledge. The "science" of 1400+ years ago was philosophical in thought without objective methods applied.
According to theoretical physicist Jim Al-Khalili, the modern scientific method was pioneered by Islamic scientist Ibn Al-Haytham (known to the west as “Alhazen”) whose contributions are likened to those of Isaac Newton. Alhazen helped shift the emphasis on abstract theorizing onto systematic and repeatable experimentation, followed by careful criticism of premises and inferences: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_and_science
To take seriously an ancient book (without valid confirmations) and assume a "prophet" is who he (not she!) says he is and that any notion of a "God" is realistic is an insult to science.
Religion and Science need not be thought of as contradictory, but rather complimentary. You may find this speech interesting: Science vs. God
Long time no see here Ax.
But just out of curiosity do you believe that the Quran is entirely the literal word of God? If that is the case how do you square that with its rather hateful and odious attitudes towards women and non-believers?
Here is Warraq on slaves:
“To the Muslims—as to the people of every other civilization known to history—the civilized world meant themselves. They alone possessed enlightenment and the true faith; the outside world was inhabited by infidels and barbarians. Some of these were recognized as possessing some form of religion and a tincture of civilization. The remainder—polytheists and idolaters—were seen primarily as sources of slaves.” [Bernard Lewis; The Arabs in History; pg 42]
The Koran accepts the institution of slavery and recognizes the essential inequality of master and slave (suras 16.77; 30.28). Concubinage is permitted (suras 4.3; 23.6; 33.50-52; 70.30). The Koran also enjoins kindness towards slaves, and the liberation of a slave is considered a pious act. The Prophet himself took many prisoners during his wars against the Arab tribes; those that were not ransomed were reduced to slavery. Under Islam, slaves have no legal rights whatsoever, they are considered as mere "things," the property of their master, who may dispose of them in anyway he chooses—sale, gift, etc. Slaves cannot be guardians or testamentary executors, and what they earn belongs to their owner. A slave cannot give evidence in a court of law. Even conversion to Islam by a non-Muslim slave does not mean that he is automatically liberated. There is no obligation on the part of the owner to free him. [pg 203]
And he quotes a “recent Muslim thinker A. K, Brohi, a former Minister of Law and Religious Affairs in Pakistan who has written on human rights from an Islamic perspective” which manifests an intrinsic “hostility to individual [human] rights”:
Human duties and rights have been vigorously defined and their orderly enforcement is the duty of the whole of organized communities and the task is specifically entrusted to the law enforcement organs of the state. The individual if necessary has to be sacrificed in order that the life of the organism be saved. Collectivity has a special sanctity attached to it in Islam. [In Islam] there are no "human rights" or "freedoms" admissible to man in the sense in which modern man's thought, belief and practice understand them: in essence, the believer owes obligation or duties to God if only because he is called upon to obey the Divine Law and such Human rights as he is made to acknowledge seem to stem from his primary duty to obey God. [pg 184]
And on women:
“Islam is the fundamental cause of the repression of Muslim women and remains the major obstacle to the evolution of their position.” [Ascha, Ghassan; Du Status inferieur de la femme en Islam] Islam has always considered women as creatures inferior in every way: physically, intellectually, and morally. This negative vision is divinely sanctioned in the Koran, corroborated by the hadiths and perpetuated by the commentaries of the theologians, the custodians of Muslim dogma and ignorance. [pg 293]
As long as Muslims insist on the literal truth of the Quran, that Muhammad talked to Allah, that the Quran is the “revealed word of God”, so long will there be no difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism with all of its problematic and odious consequences.
Hi Steers. Yes, I do believe the Qur'an to be the literal word of God, and in no way do I view it to be at odds with human rights.