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Good News October 3, 2011

Posted by Bill in atheism, Christianity, Constitution, critical thinking, Evolution, Religion, Religious Right, Schools, Science, Uncategorized.
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One of my passions is keeping up with creationist (and I include Intelligent Design here) attempts to  change what science is.    They wish to supplant the reason and evidence that is the basis for good science with faith instead – specifically their faith. 

Sometimes, actually often, it can become discouraging looking at how many battles must be fought to ensure our schools continue to teach good science; listening to all the politicians expressing their ignorance of science by expressing doubts about evolution; and seeing all the letters and forum responses from those who let their religion totally blind their ability to reason and fairly judge evidence. 

For example, consider these quotes from various prominent politicians:

“There are clear indications from our people who have amazing intellectual capability that this didn’t happen by accident and a creator put this in place,”

“Now, what was his time frame and how did he create the earth that we know? I’m not going to tell you that I’ve got the answers to that,” Perry said. “I believe that we were created by this all-powerful supreme being and how we got to today versus what we look like thousands of years ago, I think there’s enough holes in the theory of evolution to, you know, say there are some holes in that theory.”  Governor and Presidential candidate Rick Perry

and

“[Schmidt] knew my position: I believed in the evidence for microevolution – that geologic and species change occurs incrementally over time. But I didn’t believe in the theory that human beings – thinking, loving beings – originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea. Or that human beings began as single-celled organisms that developed into monkeys who eventually swung down from trees; I believed we came about through a random process, but were created by God.

“But your dad’s a science teacher,” Schmidt objected.

“Yes.”

“Then you know that science proves evolution,” added Schmidt.

“Parts of evolution,” I said.

“But I believe that God created us and also that He can create an evolutionary process that allows species to change and adapt.”

Schmidt winced and raised his eyebrows. In the dim light, his sunglasses shifted atop his head. I had just dared to mention the C-word: creationism. But I felt I was on solid factual ground.”  From “Going Rogue“ by Sarah Palin, conservative commentator (definitely) and Republican Presidential Candidate (who knows). 

I know that I have quoted Republican and conservatives here for my examples, the reason being is that they have the largest numbers of creationists.  However they do not have the exclusive franchise on creationism. 

According to a 2008 Gallup poll, 38% of Democrats also believe that God created the world and all that is in it only 10,000 years ago.   Independents come in at 40%.  Overall almost 40% of Americans are creationists.

This can be readily seen in the many attempts to sneak the teaching of creationism into our public schools.  Every time we review biology textbooks in Texas creationists try to supplant evolution with creationism or at the very least get both taught as if they are both scientifically valid.  And this is just not a Texas thing.

In 2011 so far there have been at least 11 anti-evolution bills presented in various state legislatures.  This includes the states of New Hampshire (actually had to anti-evolution bills submitted), Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, New Mexico, Alabama, Kentucky,  Texas, and Oklahoma (another with two anti-evolution bills submitted).  Louisiana actually passed an anti-evolution bill and so far it has not been repealed. 

And this doesn’t even consider all the creationist activity happening at the local level – school districts, individual schools or even individual teachers. 

So much determined ignorance is enough to make one discouraged at times. 

But then this comes along – a light piercing the gloom of my discouragement.

Believe it or not my good news came from a Christian radio station.  In fact it came from Ken Ham, the President/CEO and founder of Answers in Genesis.   

He and the host interviewing him were lamenting on the sad state of Christian Colleges.  They went on and on about how good Christian families are sending their children to these colleges expecting them to receive a good Christian education and instead find them being taught things that are totally unbiblical. 

Apparently Mr. Ham had a hunch about this and hired the Beemer’s  American Research Group to do a survey of 90 American Christian colleges associated with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and who require their professors to sign a personal statement of faith.  In addition over 100 more Christian colleges that were associated with a religious denomination were also surveyed.   What he found shocked him and delighted me.

While most of these college said the right words in their literature – the Bible is the inspired word of God, it is foundational, etc. when they probed further they discovered that their definitions and interpretations of these words differed from that of Ken Ham and many conservative Christians. 

What I found very interesting is that these differences are not apparent in the teachings of the New Testament.  On that these colleges and Mr. Ham basically agreed.  However the problem came in when they taught science and taught about Genesis.    The great majority of these Christian colleges taught an old earth and evolution as science – NOT a young earth creationism!

So, while we are still fighting, so far largely successfully, to maintain science standards in our public schools it appears that science has made some significant inroads in unexpected places – conservative Christian colleges.   To me this is great news, on many levels. 

First off it shows that the evidence for evolution and how it works is so overwhelming that even those in what has traditionally been a hostile environment for science have to acknowledge it.  Either that or cease to reason and blind themselves to the evidence.  

They apparantly have realized the truth of what St. Augustine said in his ‘On the Literal Meaning of Genesis”  

“Even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens,… the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.  Now it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsens on these topics;  and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.”

What pleases me even more about this is that it also backs up my contention that evolution and atheism are not synonyms and that one can be a good Christian and still acknowledge the reality of evolution and of how it works. 

To my mind a reasoning, rational Christian should realize that if God exists then the evidence of the world cannot conflict with that of Biblical revelation.  If they do then there is something wrong with either the understanding of how the world works or with the understanding of God’s revelation.  

What this means is that if the facts accumulate to such a degree that it is no longer rational to deny a fact of the world then a good hard look needs to be taken at how God’s revelation is understood.  After all, humans are fallible creatures. 

Rational Christians realize that human fallibility applies not only in regards to knowledge of the world but also to understanding revelation.    The latter possibility never seems to occur to creationists.  

This just highlights the fact that the debate between scientists and creationists is NOT that of the atheism vs. Christianity.  Instead it is between science vs.  non-science.  And it seems that science may be winning. 

Ken Ham published his findings in a book called “Already Compromised”.  I may have to read it just for the good news.

Better Late Than Never February 9, 2011

Posted by frrobins in atheism, Christianity, Memories, Personal, Religion, Schools.
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Like many people, I always think of the perfect comeback long after a discussion has subsided. I’ll usually be driving home, replaying the conversation in my head when the perfect response will come to me. Well, this one came about ten years too late. It’s such a good one that I felt the need to share.

Way back in high school, I was sitting in my physics class, waiting for the bell to ring to signal the start of class. Beside me, one of my peers was reading outloud from a Bible. From her self-righteous bearing I know she was just daring someone to tell her to stop. I didn’t take the bait.

Yet now it occurs to me I should have said, “Hey, can you read Gen 19:30 for me please? It is one of my favorites!”

Yes America, There Are Moderate Muslims September 5, 2010

Posted by Bill in Islam, Muslims, Religion, Terrorism.
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With the controversy over building a Mosque near ground zero the beliefs of Muslims has been much discussed.  Unfortunately much of that discussion has been in the guise of misinformation and error; the result of biases, hatred, and a very human desire to take a complex situation and keep it simple – even if it does not match reality.

 This is my attempt to at least slow the flood of wrong and incomplete information and make people think about what is being said.   Our mainstream media should be focusing on this, but are not.  What follows are things that should be in our mainstream media, but are not.  

 

The Holocaust

From The Jewish Daily Forward:   http://www.forward.com/articles/130013/

Krakow, Poland — It was a perfect summer day at the Dachau concentration camp. The clear skies and pleasant breeze seemed almost offensive. And there, beneath the main monument, a bronze sculpture of writhing bodies intermeshed with barbed wire, was an uncommon sight: a group of Muslims leaders prostrate in prayer.

At the end of the service, prayer leader Muzammil Siddiqi, imam of the Islamic Society of Orange County, California, offered up an additional prayer: “We pray to God that this will not happen to the Jewish people or to any people anymore.”

Siddiqi was one of eight American Muslim leaders on a study tour to Dachau and Auschwitz that was co-sponsored by a German think tank and the Center for Interreligious Understanding, a New Jersey-based interfaith dialogue group.

Mosque Near Ground Zero

From http://www.news9.com/global/story.asp?s=13032103

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma City Muslim group said the religious freedom issue has already been settled, but said sensitivity is needed over whether to build a Mosque near Ground Zero.

The American Muslim Association of Oklahoma took out a full page ad in Monday’s “Oklahoman.” It’s a call to move the project to a mutually agreeable site. Spokesman Saleem Nizami said it’s time for moderate Muslims to speak out. He said the teachings of Islam demand sensitivity.

“It has become an iconic date 9/11 and the twin towers, so there is something related to that and people are becoming emotional. It is our duty to make sure we pacify and move away,” said Nizami.

Despite good intentions and the legal right to build on that spot, the sensitivity teachings of Islam demand a new location.

“We’ve got to take into consideration the sentiments of the people. What difference does it make if it is there or five miles from there? It’s not going to make any difference,” Nizami said. “If the purpose was to get Islam and the West relations going together, this has brought more division actually.”

And Nizami said the reason for that division is extremism on both sides.

“It’s time that people who are practical stood up. It was due a long time ago,” the American Muslim Association of Oklahoma spokesman said.

“With this ad I hope people realize that yes, there are people, who are Muslim, and who are just like anybody else. And who are solid 100 percent U.S. citizens, defending the Constitution, living by the rule of law. They want to make their lives here, they want to be part of this whole country,” Nizami said.

From

  http://bigpeace.com/jmwaller/2010/08/24/more-muslims-speak-out-against-ground-zero-mosque/

 Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf bills his plan for an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero — which the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is expected to vote on tonight — as a platform for interfaith cooperation, dialogue and understanding.

But the plan is obviously provocative and confrontational — and it’s hard to imagine that Rauf didn’t know that long before it became public.

That’s one big reason why American Muslims, like other Americans, should reject the project — particularly if they really want to adhere to traditional Islamic principles. I say that as a Muslim convert since 1997.

Traditional, moderate Islam teaches Muslims living in non-Muslim-majority societies to obey the laws and customs of the country in which they reside. They must avoid conflict with their non-Muslim neighbors whenever possible.

Yet it was no secret that a major Islamic construction project near Ground Zero would offend many New Yorkers; indeed, American Muslims themselves were uneasy about the idea from the beginning. Rauf, while he preaches peace, chose the path of controversy and provocation by originating this mosque project.

Muslim leaders dealing with non-Muslims are also supposed to practice moderation — not only in words, but also in their deeds and associations. Rauf portrays himself as a

spiritual moderate. But he has maintained links with Muslim radicals, including enablers of terror, whom he declines to disavow. These include the Malaysian politician Mahathir Mohamad, who supports Hamas’ Gaza dictatorship.

The imam refuses to identify the prospective financial contributors to his undertaking — so we don’t know if there are any radicals among his donors.

American Muslim leaders, especially Sufis and other moderates who assert that peace may be attained through dialogue, cannot accept any alignment with Hamas or any similar organization.

Nor, for that matter, can Muslim leaders allow any accommodation with the clerical tyranny in Iran or with such extremists as the Saudi Wahhabis, Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is a branch) or Pakistani jihadism. Unfortunately, such groups now heavily influence American Islam.

Muslim radicals may see the argument over the Ground Zero mosque as a test of whether Muslims have equal rights in America.

But Muslims will gain such security through sensitivity to their non-Muslim neighbors and resolute opposition to radicalism, not through defiant posturing or defending extremist activities.

Denouncing Terrorist Acts 

From   http://www.mfsd.org/

Muslims for Secular Democracy (MSD) joins the Jamiatul-ulema-e-Hind (JUHI, an organization with 10 million Indian Muslim clerics as its members), in strongly denouncing all those responsible for the serial bomb blasts in Bangalore (Karnataka state) on Friday and Ahmedabad (Gujarat state) on Saturday. It extends condolence and expresses its solidarity with the innocent victims of this cowardly and inhuman violence in both cities.     

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts in Bangalore, which apparently were deliberately timed for soon after Friday prayers. Meanwhile, through an e-mail sent out minutes before the first blast in Ahmedabad, an as yet unknown entity calling itself the “Indian Mujahideen” has claimed it committed the dastardly deed “in the name of Allah” and in retaliation, among other things, for the killing of Muslims during the Gujarat genocide in 2002.  

Intelligence agencies have yet to establish whether the self-styled Indian Mujihideen is a real entity or a mere cover for the heinous crimes of some terrorists, Muslim or otherwise. For MSD, all forms of terrorism — committed anywhere in the world and irrespective of the cause, ideology or religion used to justify it — are to be unequivocally condemned. However, it applauds the Jamiat’s view that for a Muslim such nasty deeds are doubly reprehensible if committed by any Muslim since Islam categorically prohibits the targeting of innocents under any circumstance, not even in self-defence. The Quran clearly states that the targeting of even a single innocent person as equivalent to the massacre of all humankind. It may be recalled that less than two months ago, the Jamiat had organised a massive rally of half-a-million Muslims in New Delhi to swear allegiance to a fatwa against terrorism issued by the Darul-uloom Deoband.

And

There are no words that can condemn strongly enough the vicious terror attack on Mumbai, its residents and guests from all over the world. The ruthless attack is an attack on the soul of India and Mumbai, a country and people who have always been hospitable to people from all over the world.

We not only condemn this attack. We deeply mourn the loss of our finest policemen, chiefs and constable, who bear the brunt of vicious political vendetta when they carry out their duty.

India needs to stand united in the face of such an attack. Politicians of all hues and political parties with different affiliations must be compelled to implement structural and qualitative police reforms that have been repeatedly recommend by National Police Commission Reports since 1981 until 1989.

Terrorism and violence of all kinds needs to be meticulously dealt with. Our investigative and intelligence wings must be freed of political pressures and compulsions. There must be a depolarized and decommunalized discourse on terror. We need the immediate implementation of reforms in Indian Intelligence and the Indian Police Force.

Fatwas against Terrorism  

http://www.mfsd.org/Fatwas%20for%20peace%20ed.pdf

“As for suicide bombing, Islam forbids suicide, it forbids the taking of one’s own life.  Attacking civilians, women, children, and the elderly by blowing oneself up is absolutely forbidden in Islam.  No excuse can be made for the crimes committed in New York, Spain, and London and anyone who tries to make excuses for these acts is ignorant of Islamic Law (Sharia), and their excuses are a result of extremism and ignorance.”

And

2005: Fatwa, 500 Muslim clerics, UK July 18

‘Suicide bombings vehemently prohibited’

Response to suicide bombers who attacked three London subway trains and a double-decker bus, killing more than 50 people.

More than 500 British Muslim religious leaders and scholars issued a fatwa in response to the London bombs yesterday. Around 50 Muslim religious leaders from the British Muslim Forum (BMF) stood together by the Houses of Parliament to hear the fatwa read out.

Islam condemns the use of violence and the destruction of innocent lives and says suicide bombings are “vehemently prohibited”.

“We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism in the world. We pray for the peace, security and harmony to triumph in multicultural Great Britain.”

The BMF is an umbrella group launched in March 2005 with nearly 300 mosques affiliated to it. The fatwa will be read out in mosques across the country on Friday.

Another public statement, denouncing the suicide bombings, was made by more than 40 Islamic leaders and scholars at a meeting at London’s Islamic CulturalCentre, organised by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

http://www.indcatholicnews.com/fatwa.html

 And

2005: Fatwa, Islamic Commission of Spain, March 11

‘Osama, al Qaeda outside Islam’

Response; on the first anniversary of the bomb blasts (‘Europe’s 9/11) in local train stations in Madrid on March 11, 2004 that killed 191 people and injured 1,500.

According to the Sharia, all who declare halal or allowed what God has declared haram or prohibited, like the killing of innocent people in terrorist attacks, have become Kafir Murtadd Mustahlil, that’s to say an apostate, by trying to make a crime such as the murder of innocents, halal (istihlal); a crime forbidden by the Sacred Koran and the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad.

As long as Osama ben Laden and his organization defend the legality of terrorism and try to base it on the Sacred Koran and the Sunna, they are committing the crime of istihlal and they have become ipso facto apostates (kafir murtadd), who should not be considered Muslim nor be treated as such.

We declare that Osama ben Laden and his organization Al Qaida, responsible for the horrible crimes against the innocents who vilely were assassinated in the terrorist attack of 11 March in Madrid, are outside the parameters of Islam; and the same goes to all who wield the Sacred Koran and The Prophet’s Sunna to commit terrorist acts.

Based on this fatwa, we have requested the national government and Spanish mass media to stop using the words Islam or Islamic to describe these malefactors, given they are not Muslim nor have any relationship with our Ummaor Islamic Community; instead needing to call them Al Qaida terrorists, but without using Islamic as an adjective, since as it has been declared above, they are not legally so.

http://www.webislam.com/?idn=537

 And 

2005: Fatwa, Fiqh Council of North America, July 28

‘Criminals are no martyrs’

Response to the 7/7 bomb blasts in London. 145 Muslim organizations, mosques and imams in USA endorse the fatwa issued by Fiqh Council.

The Fiqh Council of North America wishes to reaffirm Islam’s absolute condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism.

Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombings or any othermethod of attack is haraam – or forbidden – and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not “martyrs.”

The Qur’an, Islam’s revealed text, states: “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32)

Prophet Muhammad said there is no excuse for committing unjust acts: “Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil.”

In the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state:

1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haraam (forbidden) in Islam.

2. It is haraam for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.

3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians.

We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism. We pray for the safety and security of our country, the United States, and its people. We pray for the safetymand security of all inhabitants of our planet. We pray that interfaith harmony and cooperation prevail both in the United States and all around the globe.

 Democracy 

 From http://www.mfsd.org/msddeclaration.htm

 Unfortunately, some from among the Muslims make the job of their adversaries very easy. In India and internationally, those who claim to speak or act in the name of Muslims or Islam, help reinforce the image of Muslims as a community of  ‘fundamentalists’, ‘fanatics’, ‘extremists’, ‘anti-nationals’, a people ‘unprepared for, or incapable of, peaceful coexistence with others’.

 To some extent the media, too, is to be blamed: because of its preference for sensationalism, it plays up the statements of hotheads and muckrakers, while moderate, liberal voices find little mention, if at all. While continuing to consistently challenge the words and deeds of fanatics and extremists, Muslims for Secular Democracy proposes to consistently engage the media on its editorial choice that wittingly or unwittingly contributes towards building a negative image of Muslims.

 For minorities targeted by fascist forces the only guarantee of survival with dignity lies, not in gaining the so-called ‘goodwill of the majority’ as the RSS advises, but in the defense of India’s Constitution that guarantees them fundamental rights as equal citizens.

To defend the Constitution is to uphold the basic values enshrined in them against all sectarian, divisive, communal worldviews: not the sanghis alone. It is not possible to fight Hindu communalism without fighting against Muslim communalism, nor is it possible to fight Muslim communalism without fighting against Hindu communalism, because the different communalisms feed on each other.

 And further in:

By secularism is meant the insistence on a clear separation between religion and politics, between matters of faith and affairs of the state; by secularism is meant clear rejection of the idea of a theocratic state in the modern world.

To be secular is to affirm the universality of that principle, its applicability to all countries, irrespective of who constitutes a minority or majority.

Secularism rejects not only the theocratic state but also a majoritarian state that discriminates between citizens on the basis of religion, race or ethnicity; or, worse still, that pits one section of society against another. The claim that Hindu Rashtra would not be a theocratic state is no good news, because a non-theocratic fascist state can be worse.

 And

Later, it was felt that this, too, is not enough since tolerance implies a relationship between ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’. It was then that the idea emerged that for people of different sects to coexist peacefully, it is essential that matters of faith are separated from affairs of the State, so that the State had no religion. This separation of State/politics and religion was understood to mean not equal respect for all religions — Sarva dharma samabhav as the RSS argues — but the State’s aloofness from religious matters.

To say that the State has no religion does not mean that the State is anti-religion. Nor does it mean that State heads or other State functionaries have to be non-religious or anti-religious, or that they could not go to pray in a church, mosque or temple. Or, to take another example, no religious education was to be permitted in state funded schools. This obviously did not mean that children were prohibited from learning about their religion, but only that it was left to parents and communities to make private, non-State, arrangements for religious education).

And

Since last Saturday, Muslims have joined fellow-Indians in Mumbai city and elsewhere in the country to, condemn the barbaric assault on our metropolis, mourn the loss of precious lives, pay homage to those brave policemen and commandos who laid down their lives in the line of duty and express outrage at the all-too apparent collapse of our entire system of governance. 

Now on Sunday, December 7, 2008 Mumbai’s Muslims will assemble in large numbers in front of the Chatrapati Shivaji Train Terminus (VT) at 3 p.m. to condemn all extremist and terrorist activities in the name of Islam and to denounce extremist Muslim organisations and leaders who have openly declared themselves as enemies of India. Taking the lead from Mumbai, Muslims from Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkota, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bengluru, Chennai and other cities will hold similar demonstrations in their respective cities, same date, same time.  

From the FBI website  http://www.fbi.gov/hq/ood/dcla/baltimore.htm

Imam Yahya Hendi is the Imam of the Islamic Society of Frederick in Frederick, Maryland and the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University. He also serves as a member of the Islamic Jurisprudence Council of North America. He has served as an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University, Fordham University, and Hartford Seminary. Imam Hendi also teaches a very popular course at Georgetown University, “Inter-Religious Encounter.”

Imam Hendi was one of the Muslim leaders who met often with President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the September 11 tragedy. Imam Hendi frequently visits and lectures at churches and synagogues hoping to create positive relationships. In his lectures, he focuses on issues related to gender relations, world peace, political justice, and inter-religious and interfaith issues.

Imam Hendi has appeared on many national and international television and radio shows as an expert on interfaith dialogue and on Islam and Muslims. He has hosted several events to bring various religious and community leaders together. A graduate of the FBI Baltimore Citizens’ Academy, Imam Hendi participated in the grand opening of the Baltimore Division’s new building. In addition, Imam Hendi sponsored a tour of the Baltimore Division for the youth of the Islamic Society of Frederick.

To summarize then, one of the lies being spread is that all the terrorists who committed 9-11 and other atrocities are representative of all of Islam.   These people say that all Muslims are committed to undermining democracy, are willing to kill the innocent and think it justified, are committed to bringing about a strict and harsh version of Sharia Law. 

 A look at the above selections shows this to be false. 

 Further, a little reading of Islamic writings will also reveal differences in interpretation of the Qur’an and its application to life today, including differences in belief in how Sharia law is meant to be applied.   This and the fact that there are many different sects within Islam just as there are within Christianity should all be more than enough that Islam is not a monolithic religious system hell bent on killing all non-Muslims. 

This attempt to make the terrorists representative of all of Islam is not only a lie, but a lie that harms our fight against terrorism. 

First this sort of thinking deprives us of valuable allies – moderate Muslims.   A quick look at history shows that when moderate voices are silenced or rendered powerless then radicals take over.  Russia’s fall into communism is a valuable object lesson in this regards.

Next these arguments play into the terrorist’s hands.  They make a very effective propaganda tool for them; it provides supporting evidence for their claims that America is not really a land of religious freedom but instead a Christian nation intolerant of other religions and beliefs. 

Let me make clear that these people have a right to voice their opinion and I will defend their right to do so.  But just because they have a right to do so does not mean that their words are wise.  They are not.  Instead they are foolish and harmful, but no one ever said only wise speech was protected by our Constitution. 

Both of the above arguments are about how this hateful and wrong rhetoric effects us externally.   However there is a much more dangerous result that might arise is these voices are not answered with the truth. 

Usually this sort of rhetoric is just  a prelude to arguing that Islam should not enjoy the same protections under our Constitution that all other religions have.  That is an internal threat that is far graver than any external damage that might be done.    

Our Constitution and its protection of all it’s citizens rights are what makes the United States such a great country.  It is why so many immigrate here, why so many want to live here, why it has served as an example to so many new democracies.  

The terrorists wish to destroy that greatness.  With their blind arguments and hateful speech those lumping all Muslims as terrorists are helping the terrorists in their efforts. 

Islam encompasses a whole range of beliefs, just as Christianity does.  Many Muslims are our natural allies in the fight against terrorism, but only if we do not turn them against us by turning this into against a religion instead of a war against terrorism.

A Creationist Myth About Science And Evolution May 31, 2010

Posted by Bill in Christianity, Creationism, Evolution, Religion, Religious Right, Science.
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Creationists often point to the fact that science can change.  Using evolutionary science as an example they are always bringing up items such as finding what was thought to be an extinct species still living or finding that land plants existed in the Cambrian period when it had been thought none did or finding that evolution may have occurred in starts and stops instead of a smooth progression as evidence against evolution.   

 Somehow they feel that changes such as these and others show that science cannot be trusted.  That science keeps having to correct itself.   They are blind to the reason why this occurs and why, far from being a sign of weakness, it is one of science’s towering strengths. 

 The reason for this is human knowledge is always incomplete.  We do not know everything and to pretend that we do is both arrogant and foolish.  

 Lets use a logic word puzzle for an example. 

 Suppose that you know that there were four horses in a race and each was wearing a different color.  The question is what horse was wearing which color and in what order did they finish. 

 Given only the information above you couldn’t even begin to guess.  However say that you did some research and found out that the four horses were named Dare Devil, Bitter Twist, After Dinner, and Catch Me. 

 You also found out in your research that the colors they were wearing were blue, red, green, and yellow. 

 We know more but not enough to answer the question with certainty.  We know the names of the horses and the colors that were worn.  We can now speculate on where each horse placed and what color they wore.  And then do the research to see if we were correct.

 Lets say that initially we thought that Catch Me was first and was wearing red.  Next was Bitter Twist wearing yellow, followed by Dare Devil wearing green and After Dinner wearing blue.  

 Now we do a bit more research, looking into newspaper articles, talking to people who were betting on the track that day, talking to jockeys, etc.  And we find out that Catch Me was last. 

 We were wrong on where Catch Me placed.  However does this negate that Catch Me was in the race? 

 No.

 Does this negate that the other three horses were in the race?

 No. 

 Does this negate that each was wearing one of the colors listed?

 No. 

 The basics are still true and are not affected by being wrong on the order.  In fact we are now closer to knowing for sure who place in which spot and what color they wore. 

 In fact our research did verify that Catch Me was indeed wearing red.  So that part was also correct.  We have increased out basic knowledge.  Our total knowledge of the race has increased, although we still do not know with certainty who won the first three spots nor what colors they wore. 

 Next we find a picture of the race taken on the home stretch.  It shows Bitter Twist and After Dinner going nose to nose with Bitter Twist having a very slight lead.  Right on their heels is Dare Devil. 

 Unfortunately the picture is a black and white one so we cannot really discern the colors they wore.  However we make our best guess based on how light and dark the colors were. 

 Based on this evidence we now believe that Bitter Twist won the race and was wearing Green.  Next was After Dinner who was wearing blue.  Third place was Dare Devil wearing yellow.  And of course we already know for sure that Catch Me wearing red came in last. 

 Now while we have some evidence for all of the above the evidence for the first three places is not as certain as that for last place.  And sure enough, after doing even more in depth research we find out that parts of our answer above is wrong. 

 We find out that Bitter Twist stumbled and as a result fell to third place.  We also find out that he was actually wearing blue instead of green. 

 We find out that Dare Devil surged at the very last minute and won the race.  We were correct though in that he wore yellow. 

 Finally we find out that After Dinner, wearing green, actually came in third. 

 Notice how finding out the truth about some of the more speculative parts (because of  current insufficiency of evidence) did not in any way negate those parts that had solid evidence. 

The fact that we were wrong initially on who won the race did not in any way negate the fact that a race occurred, that four horses were in it and that they were wearing different colors.

The fact that we were wrong on the first three places did not in any way negate the above nor did it negate the fact that we were correct on which horse came in last.  And we were correct on some of the colors worn by the horses.

 Science is just like this.  It has a bedrock of well established and amply evidenced theory and facts.  The fact that sometimes it is wrong on some of the speculations based on this bedrock does not negate the bedrock.  

The evidence for evolution occurring is still just as strong as it was before even though scientists believed at one time that there were no land plants during the Cambrian.  Just as being wrong on the order of who won the races did not negate the fact that a race had occurred run by four horses so too land plants in the Cambrian not negate the fact that evolution has and is occurring.

 Further this methodology does not pretend it knows everything and desperately ignore new evidence.  It accommodates it and uses it to increase the bedrock knowledge that science does posses. 

 That is why science keeps gaining in knowledge while those who are so arrogant and foolish as to believe that a book gives them all knowledge lose ground.

The Creation Museum and Science February 27, 2010

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I was recently browsing through You Tube and came across a couple of videos about the Creation Museum.  While watching them I was struck by three items relating to evolution and science.

1)      Creationists have always had a hard time explaining how the different animals wound up where they did after the flood.  How did koalas and kangaroos wind up in Australia.  How did the Gila monster wind up in southwestern North America and Northern Mexico and so forth.  These animals are not good enough swimmers to get from Mt Ararat and there is no land bridge for them to walk all the way there (although in the case of the Gila monster you could postulate that it walked over the Bering Strait land bridge, but given that the Gila monster is a desert animal and that part of our globe is most definitely not a desert this does not seem to be a reasonable postulate).

 However I saw that the Creation Museum had an interesting idea.

 “RAFTING

When the flood destroyed the world’s forests it must have left billions of trees floating for centuries on the ocean.  These log mats served as ready–made rafts for animals to cross oceans.”

 Interesting.  Very interesting. 

 Now the start of good science is generating ideas on how the world came about.  The Creation Museum postulated one here.  However good science does not stop with just ideas about how things might have come about.  Good science goes on then to devise ways to test those ideas against the world to see if they are true. 

 For example, Darwin looked at the distribution of plants that he saw during his travels on the Beagle and began to look for ways such a distribution could have occurred.  Especially that of what at one time must have been newly created and barren volcanic islands.  He thought it might be possible that the seeds floated from the lands already populated with that plant to ones that were not.

 So far this is similar to the Creationist Museum’s efforts to explain the geographical distribution of the species after the flood.  However from this point on there is a huge difference.  Darwin went on to test his idea. 

 From  http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126957.400-darwin-200-planting-the-seeds-of-an-idea.html

 “In March, the BBC TV series Jimmy Doherty in Darwin’s Garden will introduce British viewers to Darwin the experimentalist, as Doherty re-enacts a selection of Darwin’s investigations. Among them are the seawater experiments with which Darwin set out in 1855 to discover whether seawater kills seeds. He feared this question might “appear childish”, but instead it produced intriguing results and unexpectedly profound conclusions.

Darwin wanted to know if it was possible for seeds to survive at sea: if they could, ocean currents might carry them to new lands, thus accounting for the plant distribution he had seen during his Beagle days.

Doherty recreates one of these seed-salting experiments and finds seeds do survive salt. Darwin began with cress, radish, carrots, cabbages, lettuces, celery and onion, at first leaving seeds in salt water for a week before planting out. They all germinated, some more convincingly than others. Only after this success did Darwin try longer periods – such as the month in Doherty’s version. The conclusion is clear: plants that tolerate a month at sea, as many can, could travel the world.”

 Darwin tested his idea.  He went beyond the first step of good science – generating ideas to explain the world – and went to the absolutely necessary second step – testing that idea. 

I have not seen any creationist research on how long dead trees can float.

Do they have any experimental evidence that the global flood they postulate would uproot billions of trees from the ground?   

Do they have any experimental evidence for their idea that dead trees can float for centuries?  

 Do they have any experimental evidence that if they did float for this long that these logs would indeed float to all the contintents from the Mediterranean (I assume this is the starting point since this would be the closest large body of water to Mr Ararat)?

Do they have any evidence on how long it would take such log mats to reach the different parts of the globe?

Do they have any evidence that animals such as the gila monster and the koala and the kangaroo could survive on the logs and oceans for long enough to reach their final destination? 

From what I can tell the answer is no. 

Creationists are good at coming up with ideas (both plausible and, as this one is, implausible).  However they never seem to be able to finish the process off and turn these ideas into actual science.  Instead they seem to inevitably stop short. 

But then I guessed if they finished the process they would have to acknowledge that their ideas have failed.

2)      In another part of the video they showed a sign going over the problem of venom in animals. 

“Though nothing harmed animals before Adam’s sin, venom harms animals in the present.  We do not know exactly how venoms first entered the world. Possibilities include:

Changed use of chemicals (chemicals that once had non-harmful functions at the creation changed to venoms after the Curse).”

What struck me about this is how close this is to evolution.  New structures and features evolved from ones that served a different purpose at the time: the jawbones of  reptiles migrating and changing to become the middle ear of mammels being a good example. 

The only difference, and it is a major one, is the evolution sees this as a result of a natural process occuring over a great deal of time.  Creationists see it as the result of a one time outbreak of God’s anger. 

Perhaps Micheal Behe should consider this sign while thinking about how the flagellum evolved. 

 3)      The final thing that caught my attention was a sign about Noah’s ark and its construction. 

“Building a large door that seals properly is challenging.  Noah could have designed it to seal with a wedge – like fit, but God himself may have solved any waterproofing problems when He shut the Ark door.”

This says volumes about the creationist mind set and why it is not science.  If you come across a difficult problem then use the God did it option instead of keeping on working at it. 

Can you imagine if science had followed that same mindset.  We can’t figure out how disease comes about therefor God did it.  Pray for healing as that is all that can be done. 

Does anyone really want to live without modern medicine. 

In summary I found the my video tour of the Creation Museum a lesson on why Creationism is not science, despite what its all too many believers believe.

–         It does not test its ideas against reality to see if they are true.

–         Even if it did and they failed they could and would use the God did it explanation. 

 Of course I think that most people knew that Creationism is not science.  However it is good to have this idea tested and verified by reality.

Addendum:

As I kept on watching other videos about the Creation Museum I saw a couple of other items that I just could not leave out of this blog. 

Near the entrance of the museum they have a diorama that contrasts the two views of the world – science and religion. It has a dig with two people in it. One of the people is a biologist measuring items, doing calculations, and examining the evidence. The other person is a creationist who is reading the Bible. The clear message is that you do not need evidence, only the Bible to know anything and everything. Any evidence you find must be made to fit the Bible no matter how much you must twist, tear, and distort that evidence.

This fits in well with the second part I noticed. A sign that said “SCIENCE IS HARD, GOD IS EASY”

Finally I loved the one that had WWSD. What Would Satan Do.

The answer. Ask questions.

The more you look at the Creationist Museum the more you see that it is not science. In fact it is the very anti-thesis of science. Which makes the creationists effort to inject their nonscience into schools even more scary.

ACLJ In Africa February 1, 2010

Posted by Bill in atheism, Christianity, Church and State, Current Events, Islam, Muslims, Politics, Religion, Religious Right.
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Just found out that both Kenya and Zimbabwe are drafting new constitutions. From what I have read this is not necessarily a bad thing. However what concerns me is that the American Center For Law and Justice (ACLJ) is apparently going to help both countries out in drafting their new constitutions.

For those who may not know who the ACLJ is, they are a Christian right wing group that loves to take cases challenging the separation of church and state and also suits supporting challenges to evolution. They love all right wing causes from defending torture to stopping healthcare reform. They are exactly the wrong sort of group to provide information on how to write a constitution.

While much of their work may be good – for example their stand against making Sharia Courts a part of the Kenya Constitution – I am afraid that they will write in protections for Christian churches and in particular churches that follow most closely what they believe.   Or at the very least write in protections for views they support. 

At this stage this is more of a strong concern due to their track record on constitutional issues here in America and their strong ties to the Christian right wing. I have not been able to find any specifics on what their exact suggestions in regards to the Constitutions of both countries. I hope my concerns or misplaced but fear they are not.

What would be especially ironic in the case of Kenya would be if the ACLJ helped create a constitution that would allow fundamentalists churches and thoughts to have a greater say in the government. Can you imagine creationists in charge of the museums and science in one of the countries that has provided our clearest fossil evidence of hominid evolution?

I also am concerned about such things as reproductive rights (that includes birth control and is not just a code name for abortion people), gay rights, and religious rights.

As I said I do not have any information on exactly what they are suggesting for the Kenya and Zimbabwe constitutions. And to be honest, given the problems these countries have, the new constitution may still wind up better than what they have despite the ACLJ input.

I do know though that our Constitution was founded without help from Christian organizations or any religious organizations. I know that many of them were against our Constitution at the time of its ratification. And I know why the separation of church and state was instituted in our country.

Given the religious conflicts in Africa between Muslim and Christian that same sort of concern and sensitivity should be present in any attempt to create a new constitution. The ACLJ does not have that sensitivity.

Given the tremendous devastation that AIDS is wreaking in Africa government policies in regards to health and sex need to avoid being limited because of the beliefs of one religion.

The ACLJ does not have that expansive a view.

I only hope that my concerns are misplaced or that their role is limited and that other groups, more moderate, sensitive, and expansive, play a greater role.

Declaring Darwin Day – The Why Not January 31, 2010

Posted by Bill in barack obama, Church and State, Evolution, Religion, Religious Right, Schools, Science, Uncategorized.
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Just recently I found out about a petition circulating to have President Obama declare February 12 Darwin Day. It is an attempt to gain recognition among the general public of the great scientific accomplishments of Charles Darwin and the fundamental place his thoughts, ideas, and theories have in biology today.

 http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/318/t/10503/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=2221

I did not sign it and in fact am arguing against the whole idea.

Let me first state that I am a firm supporter of evolution. I have looked at the evidence and read numerous articles and books from both sides – evolution wins hands down. The fact that organisms have changed and evolved over time is as firm a fact in science as any.

Further Charles Darwin’s theory on how evolutionary change occurs – natural selection – still holds as either the sole or one of the primary mechanisms of evolutionary change.   I also think that Charles Darwin completed the scientific revolution which consisted of changing explanations about how nature works from God did it to natural processes. This had with scientists such as Galileo and Newton in the physical sciences, but finally finished with Darwin taking this view into the life sciences.

There is no doubt that Charles Darwin was one of the greatest and most influential scientists in history.

So why am I not signing the petition and urging others not to sign?

Not because I disagree with what it says but because I believe that this is the wrong way to go about showing the public that evolution is not only good science but a fundemental part of biology. Not only is it the wrong way but I feel it can actually be counter productive.

Currently the only reason creationism is a threat to science is because so many believe and support it. The leaders of the creationist movement (and I am including Intelligent Design which is just a subset of creationism) have managed to organize those numbers into a very effective political machine. It is their mix of religion and politics that is posing a threat to effective teaching of science.

A part of their arguments is that evolution is supported by an atheistic establishment, one that does not want to acknowledge the new “evidences” that show evolution wrong and creationism right (remember the movie Expelled?).

Given that,  imagine how well having the President proclaim Darwin’s Day will play. The creationists, good public realtions swills that they are, will use this as evidence that since evolution could not cut the mustard as a science that the establishment is once again resorting to politics. This petition would only  provide more fuel for their arguments.

My proposal?

 Have President Obama proclaim a Science Day.

A day in which we recognize the achievements and accomplishments of science and scientists such as Newton, Galileo, Einstein, Bohr, and others are recognized and their achievements and influence on our society and world listed and enumerated. And in the company of these giants have Charles Darwin and his Theory of Evolution. Put him in his proper place on a par with Einstein and Newton.

That would be a far better and more effective way to defend evolution than this well intentioned but not well thought out petition.

Tiger Woods and Forgiveness – The Blindness Of Your Prisms January 18, 2010

Posted by Bill in atheism, Christianity, Religion, Uncategorized.
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I know that I am a little behind the times on commenting on this.   Life happens though.  Despite that I still would like to get my two cents worth in.

I just saw this little clip from Fox News with Brit Hume stating that in order for Tiger Woods to recover from the mess he has made of his life that he needs to convert from Buddhism to Christianity.  Only Christianity, apparently, can offer the sort of “redemption and forgiveness’ that Tiger needs to turn his life around and become a “great example to the world.” 

This seems to me to typify some of the unconscious arrogance that many Christians exude.  Actually I need to be fair in that many people of various religions do the same, including atheists.   They look at everything through the prism of their beliefs without even considering whether their prism might not be appropriate for making judgements on others beliefs.   Or whether other ways of viewing the world might have their own ways of dealing with difficulties that are just as effective. 

Since this came up  due to me viewing the clip of Brit Hume lets use Buddhism and Christianity as an example.

In  the traditional Christian you have a fallen humanity.  A humanity trapped and doomed by its sinful nature that needs help in order to be saved.  Humanity needs to be redeemed by God.  Otherwise after death a person is destined for the eternal pain and suffering that his own fallen nature demands.     In this concept you have a God and a life followed by an eternal death.   And you have a waiting judgement on each and every one of us. 

In Buddhism though you have a totally different concept of humanity and the universe.  First off, God is optional.   There may be a God, Gods, or no God.  It really makes no difference.  What you have is the universe, humanity within the universe and how we relate to the universe, to others, and to ourselves.

A second difference is that there no permanent essence of an individual self which survives death.  What this means is that there is no eternal suffering for an individual after death.  There is no heaven for an individual after death.   There is no judgement. 

From http://buddhism.about.com/

In his book What the Buddha Taught (1959), Theravada scholar Walpola Rahula asked,

“If we can understand that in this life we can continue without a permanent, unchanging substance like Self or Soul, why can’t we understand that those forces themselves can continue without a Self or Soul behind them after the non-functioning of the body?

“When this physical body is no more capable of functioning, energies do not die with it, but continue to take some other shape or form, which we call another life. … Physical and mental energies which constitute the so-called being have within themselves the power to take a new form, and grow gradually and gather force to the full.”

Zen teacher John Daido Loori said,

“… the Buddha’s experience was that when you go beyond the skandhas, beyond the aggregates, what remains is nothing. The self is an idea, a mental construct. That is not only the Buddha’s experience, but the experience of each realized Buddhist man and woman from 2,500 years ago to the present day. That being the case, what is it that dies? 

There is no question that when this physical body is no longer capable of functioning, the energies within it, the atoms and molecules it is made up of, don’t die with it. They take on another form, another shape. You can call that another life, but as there is no permanent, unchanging substance, nothing passes from one moment to the next. Quite obviously, nothing permanent or unchanging can pass or transmigrate from one life to the next. Being born and dying continues unbroken but changes every moment.”

From http://buddhism.about.com/od/basicbuddhistteachings/u/basics.htm

The teachers tell us that “me” is a series of thought-moments.  Each thought-moment conditions the next thought-moment.  In the same way, the last thought-moment of one life conditions the first thought-moment of another life, which is the continuation of a series.  “The person who dies here and is reborn elsewhere is neither the same person, nor another, “Walpola Rahula wrote. 

This is not easy to understand, and cannot be fully understood with intellect alone. For this reason, many schools of Buddhism emphasize a meditation practice that enables intimate realization of the illusion of self.

Karma and Rebirth

The force that propels this continuity is karma. Karma is another Asian concept that Westerners (and, for that matter, a lot of Easterners) often misunderstand. Karma is not fate, but simple action and reaction, cause and effect. For a more complete explanation, please see “Karma for Buddhists 101: Introduction to the Buddhist Understanding of Karma.”

Very simply, Buddhism teaches that karma means “volitional action.” Any thought, word or deed conditioned by desire, hate, passion and illusion create karma. When the effects of karma reach across lifetimes, karma brings about rebirth.

The Persistence of Belief in Reincarnation

There is no question that many Buddhists, East and West, continue to believe in individual reincarnation. Parables from the sutras and “teaching aids” like the Tibetan Wheel of Life tend to reinforce this belief.

The Rev. Takashi Tsuji, a Jodo Shinshu priest, wrote about belief in reincarnation:

“It is said that the Buddha left 84,000 teachings; the symbolic figure represents the diverse backgrounds characteristics, tastes, etc. of the people. The Buddha taught according to the mental and spiritual capacity of each individual. For the simple village folks living during the time of the Buddha, the doctrine of reincarnation was a powerful moral lesson. Fear of birth into the animal world must have frightened many people from acting like animals in this life. If we take this teaching literally today we are confused because we cannot understand it rationally.

“…A parable, when taken literally, does not make sense to the modern mind. Therefore we must learn to differentiate the parables and myths from actuality.”

What’s the Point?

People often turn to religion for doctrines that provide simple answers to difficult questions. Buddhism doesn’t work that way. Merely believing in some doctrine about reincarnation or rebirth has no purpose. Buddhism is a practice that enables experiencing illusion as illusion and reality as reality.

The Buddha taught that our delusional belief in “me” causes our many dissatisfactions with life (dukkha). When the illusion is experienced as illusion, we are liberated.”

It is obvious that this is a very different view of the universe and man’s role in it than that of Christianity.  Which means what the Buddhist presribes for dealing with the pains and sorrows of life will be different than that of Christianity’s.

 However that does not mean that they are any less effective.  Any religion that did not offer a satisfactory answer to what are universal human questions and problems would never have become a world religion.   Religion deals with universal human needs after all and if it cannot in some manner meet those needs then it fails and dies.   Keeping this in mind let me point out that Buddhism is older than Christianity. 

And that is where Bret Hume got it wrong – in his assumption that Buddhism cannot offer a way for Tiger Woods to change his life.  He assumes that there is only one way that can occur when in reality there are many ways. 

Now it might seem that I am promoting some sort of New Age idea that all ideas are equal and truth is in the mind of the beholder.  However I am not.  I am making no claim here on the truthfulness of any of these beliefs.  Instead I am pointing out that each religion or view of the world has a way of dealing with troubles and that these ways may be equally effective.

After all the Ptolemiac view of the solar system was effective at predicting the positions of the planets, but it was not as true as the Copernican view.  Effectiveness and truth are related but they are not always the same. 

 

Hate Crime and God’s Judgement January 12, 2010

Posted by Bill in Christianity, Church and State, Current Events, Politics, Religion, Religious Right, Uncategorized.
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Even though the Christian Right and I have several areas of strong disagreements, we do occasionally find ourselves on the same side of an issue.    For example, we both are against Hate Crime laws. 

I am against them because trying to legally judge what sort of ideas and beliefs should be labelled as hateful and what should not creates a small crack in the foundation of freedom of thought and speech.  The really far out ones are fairly easy to judge, but what happens when the views and ideas start to edge more to the grey areas.  Do we really want a precedent for trying to set up limits for those areas?  I don’t think so. 

Awarding a harsher sentence for those whose views we as a nation find hateful in order to recognize the extra harm that these views have done to the emotional and psychological health of the victims also seems wrong headed.  Isn’t being murdered or assaulted enough? 

And does  Johnny being hated and killed because he was gay create that much more psychological and emotional harm than Johnny being killed because George hated his guts?   Hate crimes give the appearance of crimes against some groups being more heinous than crimes against other groups.

What if an atheist is killed because a Christian hates atheists?  Will that be found deserving of being covered under hate crimes? 

What about a Christian being killed by an atheist who hates Christians?   

With hate crime laws we are starting to legally determine which groups are more deserving of protection than others.  Again, not a good idea from my point of view. 

Anyway I really do not mean to make this a post about why I am against hate crime legislation.  Instead I want to comment on those of the Christian Right who are also against hate crime laws. 

Their stand on this issue seems inconsistent with their religious beliefs. 

Christians strive to live up to God’s standards of justice and righteousness (although knowing they cannot attain such perfection).  They believe that society and government should reflect God’s justice and righteousness.  After  all that is the main reason they are against Gay marriage.

However, part of God’s standards though  involve thoughts.  Come judgement day God will judge not only our actions but also our thoughts. 

Matthew 5:28 – But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Now admittedly we are not omniscient as God.  But shouldn’t this mean that the Christian should do the best he or she can within the limits of being human?   

In which case why is the Christian Right against hate crime laws?  Seems almost un-Christian.

Are Muslims Violent Liars? November 12, 2009

Posted by Bill in atheism, Christianity, Church and State, Islam, Muslims, Politics, Religion.
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With the recent shootings of 13 people by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan  there has been a lot of blog activity against Muslims.  Most of them along the lines that Islam is an inherently violent religion and that Muslims are commanded by the Qur’an to lie to unbelievers

Warning, this is an exceeding long blog.  I make no apologies for this for even at its current length it still does not begin to do justice to the question of is Islam inherently dishonest with unbelievers and violent.  I hope that this just makes some of those who think they already know the answer based on readings from certain websites question their certainty and delve deeper into the question using many different resources. 

Lets start by looking at a representative site that promotes this view.  

From   http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Pages/Statement-on-Muslims.htm

 “Yes, there are Muslims who take issue with these aspects of Islamic theology, but it doesn’t change what Islam is.  Don’t confuse the ideology with the individual.  Don’t draw conclusions about Islam based on the Muslims that you know, be they terrorists or humanitarians.  Islam must be understood on the basis of what it is, as presented objectively in the Qur’an, Hadith and Sira (biography of Muhammad).”

And

 “Even if there is no such thing as moderate Islam, it does not mean that there are no moderate Muslims.”

 Thank goodness this site is not as radical as many.  In fact it is a rather moderate example of its type.

“The Muslims that you know are not terrorists.  More than likely, their interests in life are similar to yours and they have the same ambitions for their children.  They should neither be shunned, mistreated, nor disrespected merely because of their religion.  Their property should not be abused, and neither should copies of their sacred book be vandalized.

Prejudging an individual by their group identity (or presumed group identity) is not only unethical, it is blatantly irrational, since group identity reveals absolutely nothing about a person.  Every individual should be judged only on the basis of their own words and deeds. 

Don’t judge Islam by the Muslims that you know, and don’t judge the Muslims that you know by Islam.”

However although it is more moderate it still makes the same assumptions about Muslims that the more radical sites do, that is:

 1)      The Qur’an not only allows lying to unbelievers but encourages it in furtherance of Islam.

 2)      Islam is inherently violent.  Muslims that say it is not either do not know their religion or are not very religious.

 3)      Muslims who disagree with either or both of the above two points are either not good Muslims or are ignorant about their religion. 

 I disagree with all three statements.  And with good reason because none are true.  In the following I will deal with all three.

 Lets deal with the lying claim first.  These sites quote sections from the Qur’an as evidence that their statements are true.  However how accurate a representation are their quotes? 

 This is from http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/011-taqiyya.htm

 The Qur’an:

Qur’an (16:106) – Establishes that there are circumstances that can “compel” a Muslim to tell a lie.

Qur’an (3:28) – This verse tells Muslims not to take those outside the faith as friends, unless it is to “guard themselves.” 

Qur’an (9:3)“…Allah and His Messenger are free from liability to the idolaters…”  The dissolution of oaths with the pagans who remained at Mecca following its capture.  They did nothing wrong, but were evicted anyway.

Qur’an (40:28) – A man is introduced as a believer, but one who must “hide his faith” among those who are not believers.

Qur’an (2:225)“Allah will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts”

Qur’an (66:2)“Allah has already ordained for you, (O men), the dissolution of your oaths”

Qur’an (3:54)“And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers.”  The Arabic word used here for scheme (or plot) is makara, which literally means deceit.  If Allah is deceitful toward unbelievers, then there is little basis for denying that Muslims are allowed to do the same.

 Lets now take at  these verses one by one.  My source for both the Qur’an and commentary is

 http://www.muslim.org/english-quran/quran.htm

 Qur’an 16:106 – Whoso disbelieves in Allah after his belief – not he who is compelled  while his heart is content with the faith, but he who opens his breast for disbelief – on them is the wrath of Allah, and for them is a grievous chastisement. 

 Note that TheReligionOfPeace reference has it wrong.  The reference says this verse details circumstances which “compel” a Muslim to tell a lie.  However this verse says a Muslim may tell a lie if under compulsion.  Here is the commentary of this verse.

 Commentary – “Only very rare circumstances are met with early in the history of Islam in which the converts even under compulsion ever recanted.  For instance, Yasir and Sumayyah, husband and wife, suffered death at the hands of the disbelievers because they would not recant, the latter being put to death most cruelly, her legs being tied to two camels which were made to run in opposite directions.  Their son Ammar, however, was not so resolute.  The cruelest persecutions were inflicted on those slaves who had become converts to Islam.  Muir says: “These were seized and imprisoned, or they were exposed upon the scorching gravel of the valley to the intense glare of the midday sun.  The torment was enhanced by intolerable thirst, until the wretched sufferers scarcely knew what they said.”  Yet even under these trying circumstances, which would have maddened even the most resolute man, there were those among these slave-converts who were as firm as a mountain; as in the case of Bilal, of whom it is recorded that “in the depth of his anguish the persecutors could force out of him but one expression, Ahad! Ahad! (One, One God) (Muir)

 So this verse, far from detailing when a Muslim is compelled to lie, instead allows him to lie if under extreme duress. 

 Qur’an 3:28 – Let not the believers take the disbelievers for friends rather than believers.  And whoever does this has no connection with Allah – except that you guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully.  And Allah cautions you against his retribution.  And to Allah is the eventual coming. 

 Commentary – The Muslims, being in a state of war with the disbelievers, were forbidden to look to their enemies to guard their interests or for help of any kind.  The clear statement made in 60: 8, 9 settles the point beyond all doubt.  “Allah forbids you not respecting those who fight you not for religion, nor drive you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly… Allah forbids you only respecting those who fight you for your religion and drive you forth from your homes, and help (others) in your expulsion, that you make friends with them. 

 In short Muslims can and have been friends with unbelievers.  It is not against the Qur’an.  Now the radical Muslims interpret the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as a holy war of Christianity against Islam and will therefore interpret this verse rather broadly.  However most Muslims do not.

 I will make one more point here.  Just as the Bible has to be looked at holistically to get a proper understanding of what each verse means so too does the Qur’an.  If you treat the Bible the same as this site is doing with the Qur’an then Christianity can be used to justify many atrocities.  It has in the past been used so.

 Qur’an 9:3  – And an announcement from Allah and his Messenger to the people on the day of the greater pilgrimage that Allah is free from liability to the idolaters, and so is his Messenger.  So if you repent, it will be better for you:  and if you turn away, then know that you will not escape Allah.  And announce painful chastisement to those who disbelief.

 It seems the TheReligionofPeace reference did not bother to read the very next verse, shown below.

 Qur’an 9: 4 –  Except those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement, then they have not failed you in anything and have not backed up anyone against you; so fulfill their agreement to the end of their term.  Surely Allah loves those who keep their duty. 

 In other words if they break their word to you then you are not obliged to honor your word to them.  If they keep true to their word then you have to keep true to yours.  How is that different than what we do?  Did we keep to any treaties we made with Japan in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor during WW 2?

 Qur’an 40:28 – And a believing man of Pharaoh’s people, who hid his faith, said:  Will you slay a man because he says, My Lord is Allah, and indeed he has brought you clear arguments from your Lord?  And if he be a liar, on him will be his lie, and if he be truthful, there will befall you some of that which he threatens you with.  Surely Allah guides not one who is prodigal, a liar. 

 This is an instruction for the believer to hide his faith from the non-believers?  Especially with the admonition about Allah not backing a liar.  The Qur’an is telling a story not giving instructions here. 

 Should TheReligionOfPeace site take the time to read the surrounding context they would find that this story is the story of Moses.  This verse relates a conversation that a believer had with the Pharaoh about Moses.  He is arguing with the Pharaoh for Moses. 

 Qur’an 2:225 – Allah will not call you to account for what is vain in your oaths, but he will call you to account for what your hearts have earned.  And Allah is forgiving, forbearing.

 Commentary – By vain oaths are meant unintentional or thoughtless oaths in ordinary conversation, and by what the hearts have earned is meant an oath intentionally taken. 

 In other words if a Muslim swears an oath then he is held accountable for it by Allah. 

 Qur’an 66:2  – So when they have reached their prescribed time, retain them with kindness or dismiss them with kindness, and call to witness two just one from among you, and give upright testimony for Allah.  With that is admonished he who believes in Allah and the latter day.  And whoever keeps his duty to Allah, he ordains a way out for him. 

 This time it seems instead of not reading the next verse TheReligionOfPeace site did not read the verse ahead of it. 

 Qur’an 66:1 – O Prophet, when you divorce women, divorce them for their prescribed period, and calculate the period; and keep your duty to Allah, your Lord.  Turn them not out of their houses – nor should they themselves go forth –  unless they commit an open indecency.  And these are the limits of Allah.  And whoever goes beyond the limits of Allah, he indeed wrongs his own soul.  Thou knowest not that Allah may after that bring about an event. 

 Read in context – something this site is very much not interested in doing – this is talking about marriage and divorce.  I do not fully understand the Qur’an ideas about marriage but apparently there are limits on when divorce is allowed and it is this to which 66:2 is referring to.  From quickly looking at it there are times when you are allowed to divorce and other times you are not allowed to divorce.  Here is the commentary on 66:1 to help give a little more information about marriage.

 Commentary – The prescribed time is ordinarily, according to 2:228, three courses.  But in the case of woman with child, and in certain other cases, the prescribed time is laid down in v. 4 of this chapter.  It should be noted how every direction in connection with the subject of divorce is followed by the injunction “keep your duty to Allah”, throughout this chapter.  The utmost carefulness must be exercised in the matter of divorce.  Divorce is allowed but the right must be used sparingly and under exceptional circumstances. 

 Qur’an 3:54 – And (the Jews) planned and Allah (also) planned.  And Allah is the best of planners. 

 It  think it might be interesting to go on to the next verse so that you can see what this verse is talking about. 

 Qur’an 3:55 – When Allah said:  Oh Jesus, I will cause thee to die and exalt thee in My presence and clear thee of those who disbelieve and make those who follow thee above those who disbelieve to the day of the Resurrection.  Then to Me is your return, so I shall  decide between you concerning that wherein you differ. 

 Commentary – Makr  is explained by R as the turning of another with ingenuity  or skill from that which he aims at, and he considers makr as two sorts, a good one and an evil one.  Therefore the best interpretation of makara (including both sorts) is that adopted by T, viz. he exercised craft, cunning, art or skill in the management or ordering of affairs with excellent consideration or deliberation, and ability to manage according to his own free will (LL)……Allah is here called Khair al-makirin or the Best of Planners, the qualifying word khair being inapplicable to an evil object.   

 Nothing here about deceit.  Instead, as in the Bible, this is stating that God took the evil idea of killing Jesus and turned it into something good and great instead.  

 Taken collectively this shows that you’re TheReligionOfPeace site is quote mining – lifting bits and pieces out of context and using them to paint a false picture. 

 I was going to quote the Qur’an on honesty but this is getting too long and there are some more things I wish to say.  So instead of quoting I will just state that there are many, many verses on the importance of honesty.  I would suggest you spend some time looking them up if interested.   I will however just quote this from Saheeh Al-Bukhari, a hadith of the Sunni Muslims, as representative of those verse.  This hadith is considered one of the six canonical hadiths of the Sunni’s.

 “Truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise.  In addition, a man keeps on telling the truth until he becomes a truthful person.  Falsehood leads to wickedness and evil-doing, and wickedness leads to the (Hell) Fire, and a man may keep on telling lies till he is written before God, as a liar”. (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

 The insidious thing about the claim that the Qur’an promotes lying to the unbelievers is that those sites such as TheReligionOfPeace then blow off anything the more moderate Muslims say in response to terrorism and acts of violence.  When the many moderates in the United States and in the world state that they they abhor what Major Hasan did at Fort Hood and wholeheartedly condemn it these sites then question their sincerity.  Further they then start lashing at out Muslims for not condemning the violence.  Talk about moderate Muslims having the deck stacked against them. 

 Now on to the violence claim.  What I would like to do first is show how Christianity, in the past, has been a violent religion.  And further how verses taken from the Bible can lend support for the claim that Christianity is a violent religion.  

 Now this will sound as if I am trying to paint Christianity as an inherently violent religion.  I am not.  Instead I am trying to show how Christianity, as is Islam today, can be portrayed as such with the use of history and verses from the Bible. 

 Deuteronomy 17:12 (New International Version)

12 The man who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the LORD your God must be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel.

Leviticus 20:27 (New International Version)

27 ” ‘A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.’ ”

Deuteronomy 13:6-17 (New International Version)

6 If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), 8 do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. 9 You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. 10 Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 11 Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again. 12 If you hear it said about one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you to live in 13 that wicked men have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known), 14 then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, 15 you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. Destroy it completely, [a] both its people and its livestock. 16 Gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God. It is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt.

Matthew 5:17 (New International Version)

17″Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Hebrews 10:28-29 (New International Version)

28Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

Mark 7:9-10 (New International Version)

9And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[a] your own traditions! 10For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’[b] and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’[c]

Luke 19:26-27 (New International Version)

26″He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. 27But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.”

Matthew 27:25 (New International Version)

            25All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”

These are some of the verses that can be used to paint Christianity a violent religion.  This is even leaving out the whole book of Joshua, the stoning of rebellious children, and witchcraft.  Now lets look at some of Christian history in regards to violent conversions and enforcement of orthodoxy. 

1) Pogroms against Jews.  From the 11th up to the 15th century there were numerous pogroms against the Jews.  If they did not convert they were burned or otherwise killed. 

 During  just one series of pogroms from 1348 to 1351 over 60 major and 150 minor Jewish communities were wiped out.  A favorite method was to build a house and force all the Jews in the community to enter it and then burn it down. 

I will also mention that a yellow marker on clothing to identify Jews was not a Hitler invention.  From the 13th century until the 18th century Jews were required to wear a yellow badge on their outer clothing. 

 This does not include the more recent pogroms against Jews in Tsarist Russia from the 17th to the 20th centuries. 

 The Biblical justification for this, from  http://www.levitt.com/essays/bloodlibel.html

 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands and said, “I am innocent of the blood of this Just person. You see to it.” And all the people answered and said, “His blood be upon us and on our children.” (Matthew 27:24–25)

 Matthew 27:25 arguably stands out as one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted passages in all of Holy Scripture. Of the proposed interpretations for Matthew 27:25, the anti-Jewish interpretation is the oldest and most frequently cited in the history of the Church. This view says the Jewish people are permanently guilty and condemned in the eyes of God for their murder of Jesus Christ. As such, the cry of “His blood be upon us” means that the Jewish crowd in Jerusalem admitted full guilt for killing the Lord Jesus Christ and thereby invoked God’s curse upon themselves and their descendants until the end of time. This interpretation first surfaced in the writings of the early church fathers in the second century AD. It became universally accepted by the Middle Ages.

2.)    The suppression of Heresies:  During its first 300 years Christians were not in charge of the government.  Pagan Rome was.  Consequently the worse that they could do with heretics – the “false teachers” warned about in the Bible was to expel them from their midst and attach labels to them such as “fools”, “wild dogs”, and “Servants of Satan”.   That changed though as Christians took over the government.

 The first person to be executed for heresy was Priscillian of Avila in 385, 60 years after the First Council of Nicaea.  I will say that this was at the orders of Emperor Magnus Maximus and over the objections of some Bishops.  However Bishops objections did not last. 

 St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430) was the first major proponent of persecution for heresy.  At first he was for peaceful methods of persuasion but by 400 he began to endorse coercion.  He used Matthew 13:24–30 and Luke 14:21–23 as Biblical justification.  Later Protestants would use the same Biblical verses to justify their persecutions. 

 Everyone has heard of the Spanish Inquisitions, but that was actually only one of many.  Linked to the beginnings of the Medieval Inquisition  was the Albigensian Crusade of 1220 to 1229 which was a military campaign initiated by the Catholic Church to stamp out the Cathar Heresy in Languedoc.

 Reportedly the last person to be burned for heresy by the Catholic church was Giordano Bruno, executed in 1600. 

 3)  Do I really need to mention the wars between Catholics and Protestants?   The executions of Catholics by Protestants and of Protestants by Catholics?   Ireland?

 4)  The killing of witches.  Biblical justifications used were Exodus 22:17 and  Deut. 18:10-12,

 5)  The persecution and executions of Baptists, Quakers and other minority groups in the 17th and 18th centuries.  This occurred both in Europe and America.  This persecution is one of the reasons why the Pilgrims left Europe for America.  And then they started the same with other religious groups once they had established themselves here. 

 Should more modern examples be needed – abortion clinic bombers, those protesting at soldiers funerals, those that promote the killing of witches and gays

 Here is a link to an article about Christians in Africa who mutilate and kill their own children because they believe they are witches and “thou shall not suffer a witch to live”.

 http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/dec/09/tracymcveigh.theobserver

 Now I know that most modern Christians would denounce all of the above as not Christian.  However it was at one time.  And many still believe it even today. 

 A religion is what its followers make of it.

 Now there are many followers of Islam who interpret the Qur’an in a violent manner.  However this is not the only way to interpret it and there are many groups and sects that do not.  These more moderate Muslim voices state that what is needed is a holistic understanding of the Qur’an and the times and circumstances it was written in. 

 The circumstances at the time Mohammed was writing the Qur’an were dire.  He and the other Muslims of the time were being persecuted, killed, driven from their homes.  Because of this a great deal of the focus of the Qur’an was on self defense.  It is this that has been hijacked by the radical Muslims to justify their terrorist tactics and this that those on such sites that I have quoted from use to justify their claim that Islam is inherently violent. 

 From  http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/09/0925_TVkoran.html

 “Islamic scholars interviewed by the TV news show National Geographic Today agreed that terrorists such as Usama bin Laden and his supporters are fanatics using Islam to further their own worldly causes.

“In order for them to generate support beyond their small group, they have to latch onto universal symbols, and this is where Islam becomes a target of convenience for them,” says Nyang

People combine pieces of verse from the Koran and use it to justify their actions, says Khouj. “But to understand the full meaning of the verse,” he says, “you have to read the one before it, the one after it, maybe five to six verses to get the full picture.”

The “full picture” of Islam and the Koran, say Khouj and Nyang, is captured by Chapter 5, Verse 32: “[I]f anyone slew a person—unless it be for murder or spreading mischief in the land—it would be as if he slew the whole people. And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”

For most Muslims, the callous and indiscriminate taking of human life violates Allah’s wishes. It defies the Koran’s central message and undermines the peace that Islam promises to deliver to all people.

“Human life in Islam is extremely sacred,” says Khouj. “We’re not talking about just Muslim [life], but human life in general.”

 Which brings us now to the third issue – that of the claims that Muslims who do not interpret the Qur’an in the same manner as the radical Muslims are not good Muslims.  That they are either weak in faith or unknowledgeable about their faith  

Does this mean that those Christians today who do not believe as those who burned the witches and Jews are not good Christians?  Does this mean that they do not understand their beliefs or are weak in faith? 

No.

Again, religion is what its people make of it.  There have been more peaceful strains in Islam all throughout its history.  And even now the more radical, violent version is not the majority view.

At this point I would like to point out that Christianity did not really begin to give up its violent ways until the start of the Enlightenment with its emphasis on reason and more skeptical approach to religion; and its finest accomplishment – the creation of a secular state with the United States. 

While this is somewhat over-simplistic, it has a very large kernel of truth in it too.  And that is what I believe Islam needs now, its version of an enlightenment.  I believe it has the foundations of one. 

I am puzzled by those who claim that Islam only has one interpretation.  There are at least three main sects – Sunni, Shi’a, and Sufi – and many smaller ones.  Even within the main sects there are many different thoughts about what the Qur’an means and how it should be applied to the world.  These different thoughts run the gamut from very conservative to very liberal.  To claim that only one is the definitive one is to claim far too much. 

There is no central authority in Islam.  With no central authority there can be no uniformity of belief and doctrine (rather like Protestant Christianity).  Indeed should you look at their Qur’an’s and the other central writings and compare those of the Sunni, Shi’a, Sufi, and Ahmadiyya you will find differences in meaning and emphasis. 

 In many ways this reminds me of some of the creation/evolution disputes (something I am very involved in). 

 There are creationists who say that no Christian can believe in evolution and that any who do are not Christian.  They are false Christians.  And then there are atheists who also say that evolution and science disproves Christianity.  And they both reinforce their opponents point of view.  They both ignore and do not deal with the fact that there is a way to be both Christian and support evolution and that millions of people and thousands of scientists do so. 

So too with the claim by both radical Islam and many conservative voices when they each state there is only one version of Islam that is true and that all others are false.  They feed each others prejudices and biases and fuel each others hatred and fears.  And they both ignore the fact that they are wrong, there are other options.  And those that follow them are good, faithful, and knowledgeable Muslims. 

To continue to view Islam as inherently and inescapably violent and a religion of liars leaves only one option – and that is a religious war.   Which is what the radical Muslims have said all along that we are engaged in – with some support form conservative Christian comments and sites like the one listed here.   

 I do not believe that this is the true case.  I know that other varieties of Islam are real and not a deception.  I know that Islam is not inherently violent and does not promote lying.  I have provided the start of such evidence that it is here.  However it is only a start. 

 I would recommend to all that they should spend some time and effort seeking out the all the sides of Islam- both in its practice and in its theology, and from both primary as well as secondary sources.