3/04/2006

My Thoughts on Other Religions

At first I was going to write about Islam in particular and my feelings on it. After giving it some thought, it seems to me that it will be more helpful if I explain how I view other religions. Otherwise, anything I write will probably only serve to muddy the waters further. I am sure that at least some readers may feel insulted by what I have to say but please note that is not my intention. I am not being arrogant, only honest.
As a Christian, I believe that there is only one path to God: Jesus Christ. You must believe that He is the Son of God, God in human form. He loved you enough to die for your sins. You must accept His gift of salvation and walk in humility and repentance before Him.
I also believe that all other religions are false.
All of them.
Not one will lead you to God.
Not one.
They may make you a better behaved person, but that is it.
I believe that heaven and hell exist. Some people are going to heaven and others are going to hell. Who is going where is not up to me, but up to God. Since I also believe that the only way to escape hell is through Jesus Christ, it behooves me to tell anyone who doesn't know or doesn't believe that they must change. I am not doing this out of some twisted sense of judgment, arrogance, or dislike for people. I do it out of love for others and out of a sense of obedience to God and gratitude for what He has done for me.
When I write about other religions I do it from a sort of academic view point. I look at all other religions through the lens of my own and consider what is good or useful about the religion, if anything, and what is bad. If I don't understand why a particular religion has a particular belief (as with my questions on the kirpan), then you can expect me to ask about it. If I feel a belief is wrong or harmful, then I will say so. I am not good at being tactful, so usually if I say "Belief X has the following problem" it comes out sounding rude.
I cannot separate my Christian beliefs from myself when I consider other religions. I cannot change my world view, and this extends beyond how I look at religious beliefs. It also includes lifestyles. I do not believe that what's good for me is good for me and what's good for you is good for you. I do believe that what some people think is good for them, is in fact very bad for them. I will always look at other practices through the lens of what I believe and any judgments I come to will be based on that lens.
Considering all that I have just said, it should not surprise anyone that I will occasionally say "Belief X is bad." Any adherents to "Belief X" will naturally feel insulted whenever they read this. Please keep in mind that although I may think your beliefs are wrong, it is more than likely that in person we would get along just fine. Wgile I may take issue with certain beliefs, individuals themselves are usually just fine. Moreover, you will never catch me saying "You are stupid for believing in X." That really would be insulting. There is a big difference between saying someone is wrong and insulting or belittling them for being wrong. The same beliefs that tell me you are wrong also tell me to extend grace.
I hope this has helped to clarify where I am coming from in any religious posts I make.

27 comments:

Omar Soliman said...

Very well. I hasten to say, however, that your absolutist views on Christianity are inherently damaging to the prospect of you having to live alongside non-adherents.

I'll give you my views re: Islam.

You indicate that, in person, you would be able to get along just fine with someone like myself (who is Muslim). Perhaps this raises questions about one's perceived sense of self in the blogosphere: that you would be more inclined to challenge certain presumptions online than in person.

I'm sorry to say that I think your views on religion are still quite Medieval. Many Muslims suffer from this exclusivist approach as well. It goes back to a very important philosophical debate on absolutism vs. relativism. Strict religious adherents have an inclination to believe that their approach is THE approach; that there is ONE concept of morality, ONE concept of the civility, ONE concept of the good, and ONE concept of the truth.

It may suffice for me to put forward a radical proposal: at it's most elementary level, the religion of Muslims is "submission." Surely, as a Christian, you "submit" too. All religious adherents "submit."

One does not need, as a qualifier to being religious, to be strictly opposed to the practice of neighbouring faiths. In the study of law, there is a distinction between substance and form. Substance is real: one God, existence of heaven and hell, belief in the afterlife. WE ALL AGREE ON THIS.

Unfortunately, we have let "form" allow us to become embroiled in internecine conflict and warfare. No, I am not your average pinko who doesn't believe in war...I am realist (and a conservative) who believes that the unnecessary and trivial pursuit of inter-religious arguments and debates on these grounds is always unjustified.

Guess this discussion has evolved somewhat from it's original message...oh well.

Ruth said...

...your absolutist views on Christianity are inherently damaging to the prospect of you having to live alongside non-adherents...
You are incorrect. I spent most of university living and working alongside people who were not Christians. Most of my work life was spent working with non-Christians. It's really easy to do. Also, for my final year project during my undergrad, my partner was a Muslim guy. We were good friends and worked hard together (and got a good grade I might add). Occaisionally we would talk about religion, but there was always the point where we'd have to stop talking because he was not about to convince me any more than I was to convince him.
You indicate that, in person, you would be able to get along just fine with someone like myself (who is Muslim). Perhaps this raises questions about one's perceived sense of self in the blogosphere: that you would be more inclined to challenge certain presumptions online than in person.
Definitely not.
It's true that since I am now a stay at home mom, I have fewer chances to discuss religion with people offline. However, I can assure you that when I was at school and when I worked, I would discuss religion with several people that I knew. Some conversations were smoother than others. When I was at work, I would often get into some very heated debates with these two guys that I worked with, one who was a very liberal Christian (he thought gay marriage was fine) and one guy who was an agnostic. I would be willing to venture that my predisposition to challenge certain beliefs here on my blog stems from my offline behaviour.
You are correct; I am an absolutist. Things are black and white. There are some grey areas of course, but there is less grey than there is black and white. I disagree that this is a medieval way of thinking. As far as I am concerned, it is the honest way. To put it in perspective let me ask a question (you don't have to answer, just think). Muslims do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. He is just a prophet. The Christian view is that Jesus is not only the Son of God, but He is God incarnated as a human being. Who is right? It can't be both of us.
Substance is real: one God, existence of heaven and hell, belief in the afterlife. WE ALL AGREE ON THIS.
Only if by "all" you mean Muslims and Christians. Some religions have multiple gods. Some have no concept of heaven or hell, only reincarnation and nirvana.
...the unnecessary and trivial pursuit of inter-religious arguments and debates on these grounds is always unjustified.
Inter-religious arguments are neither unnecessary or trivial. If you hold to a particular religion, then it probably defines how you view the world. World views are definitely not trivial; they are exceedingly complex. Do I think people should go to war over their religions? Of course not. But what happens when an opposing religion doesn't feel the same as I do?

Jim said...

If the only route to God is through Jesus Christ, then according to your view, the fate of anyone, man, woman, or child, who does not accept Jesus Christ is Hell whether or not the person has even ever heard of Jesus Christ so the vast majority of humanity is fated to eternal damnation. God is therefore not a forgiving deity and hardly deserves worship by conventional measures. Buddha seems rather more benign.

Jesse Gritter Online said...

Omar writes: "Strict religious adherents have an inclination to believe that their approach is THE approach; that there is ONE concept of morality, ONE concept of the civility, ONE concept of the good, and ONE concept of the truth."

But if you make the claim that there's more than one of all the aforementioned, then is that claim itself exclusively true?

Do you see the problem, then, with what you're saying? You're implying that there's more than "ONE concept of the the truth" and yet when you make that claim your assuming that it's true to the exclusion of other competing claims, such as, "there's only one concept of the truth."

It's funny to me when people say that truth is relative and yet do so as if it's abolsutely true. You can't escape absolute truth. You can deny it but you have to assume it in the very denial of it, otherwise your denial isn't true. hehe!

Omar Soliman said...

Jesse,

That is precisely the point! I am trying to convey that, in my sphere as a Muslim, I have my own individual conception of the absolute. Ruth, as a practicing Christian, has her own individual conception of the absolute.

These conceptions of the absolute primarily differ in FORM--not SUBSTANCE. She calls God "Jesus", while I call God "Allah" (which is nothing more than the Arabic word for God--Allah means "the one" in Arabic).

The question for political philosophers was to identify how a society could be created where these (mutually accepting) conceptions of the absolute could co-exist. The answer came in the form of "individual freedoms": that I have certain inalienable freedoms (religious, mobility, etc) and so do you!

What I have trouble with is when people like Ruth go around attempting to justify why certain elements of another person's sense of the absolute truth are problematic. She questions Islam's treatment of women. I say, don't question ISLAM's treatment of women, question MUSLIM's treatment of women.

What I find insulting is the overwhelming ease by which some conservative bloggers attack the faith, and not its adherents. As I have indicated in earlier comments, the faith (Islam) is ever-lasting and is just as relevant today as it was 1400 years ago.

I am definitely not a relativist. I haven't yet studied the concept in better detail to come up with an appropriate solution to the dilemma you describe. However, I can feel content in knowing that the banner of individual freedoms protects me (and Ruth) from having to pronounce on another's sense of the absolute.

This is why both the liberal and conservative members of the Supreme Court of Canada voted unanimously in favour of allowing the Kirpan to be worn in schools. They never questioned the faith itself. Furthermore, in the future, if the kirpan were to be used inappropriately, the faith again would be left alone: it's adherent wouldn't.

Jesse Gritter Online said...

Omar: "I am trying to convey that, in my sphere as a Muslim, I have my own individual conception of the absolute. Ruth, as a practicing Christian, has her own individual conception of the absolute."

But doesn't this prompt the question: whose conception of the absolute is true?

Omar: "These conceptions of the absolute primarily differ in FORM--not SUBSTANCE. She calls God 'Jesus', while I call God 'Allah' (which is nothing more than the Arabic word for God--Allah means 'the one' in Arabic)."

Assuming that your distinction between form and substance is correct, then if the form doesn't correspond to the substance, isn't that problematic? If Jesus says, "No one can come to the Father except by me" and this is absolutely true, then wouldn't the attempt to find another way to God be ridiculous?

Omar: "The question for political philosophers was to identify how a society could be created where these (mutually accepting) conceptions of the absolute could co-exist."

But what about mutually exclusive conceptions?

Omar: "The answer came in the form of 'individual freedoms': that I have certain inalienable freedoms (religious, mobility, etc) and so do you!"

With this I can agree. After all, we're both political conservatives.

Omar: "What I have trouble with is when people like Ruth go around attempting to justify why certain elements of another person's sense of the absolute truth are problematic."

Politically speaking, the freedom to do this ought to be permitted. But Ruth would do this (and so would I, I might add) out of concern for the truth and wanting others to believe the truth. After all, who'd want to believe something that's false?

Peter Thurley said...

Ruth,

Thanks for elucidating the often misunderstood Christian position on exclusivism so clearly. While we may disagree on almost everything else, I know that I could sign my name at the bottom of this post in complete and total agreeance with you. I am glad to be your brother in Christ.

Omar, your comment about political philosophy is well taken. In a society with people of many different cultures, faiths and belief systems, it would serve us well to find a political system that can accomodate all such faiths. It would be even better is such a system made no judgement on religious issues at all. This is not possible, as religion is generally a major part of culture. But that is the trick - to maximize the rights and freedoms that people have, to create a society in which none fear for their lives, while, at the same time, being sensitive to people's beliefs. To somewhat distort Trudeau's famous phrase, the government has no place in the churches of the people.

The big question is whether 'rights and freedoms' is the answer - that is to say, is the belief in 'rights and freedoms' logically, epistemologically and metaphysically justified? There is still lots of work left to be done on that.

Anonymous said...

Omar: "I am trying to convey that, in my sphere as a Muslim, I have my own individual conception of the absolute. Ruth, as a practicing Christian, has her own individual conception of the absolute."

So you each have your own conception of the absolute truth? What you have said is again only a relative truth argument. ABSOLUTE MEANS ABSOLUTE! One of your "conecptions" is wrong. An absolute truth holds for EVERYONE regardless of whether or not they believe it. That's why it's absolute.

2 people that believe mutually exclusive ideas can't both have a different absolute truth. Then it's only a relative truth.

If I believe "A" is absolutely true and you believe "not A" is absolutely true it is logically impossible for us to both be right.

Again, suppose a religion(1) states that all other religions are false. Suppose a different religion(2) states that all religions are true. Then if religion 2 is true it has rendered itself false because religion 1 has said so and is equally valid. If however religion 2 says that religion 1 is wrong to state that all other religions are wrong then again religion 2 contradicts itself because it already stated that all religions are equal.

Omar Soliman said...

I understand your point, dude, but you've failed to comprehend the meaning of the sentence that follows that statement: "These conceptions of the absolute primarily differ in FORM--not SUBSTANCE."

A Christian-Muslim sense of the absolute truth CAN intersect--that is, if we don't get caught up with the banal elements of praxis.

The Koran refers to Jews, Christians and Muslims as "people of the book." As far as I'm concerned, the most rudimentary principles of these faiths are inter-related.

Ruth said...

A Christian-Muslim sense of the absolute truth CAN intersect
Not from the Christian point of view. Christianity does not have a concept similar to the people of the Book. There is only us. Sorry to everyone else. Because we believe that there is only a single way to Heaven, and ALL other beliefs are wrong, we are instructed to go out and preach (witness, teach the Truth, whatever...) to unbelievers.
The question... was to identify how a society could be created where these... conceptions of the absolute could co-exist... I have certain inalienable freedoms... and so do you!
Perhaps this is the crux of the issue. Mutually exclusive religions do exist side by side, and in Canada this happens with relative peace. There is a big difference between witnessing to others about your beliefs and allowing them to practice their own. Eventhough I am not a member of <insert religion here> and eventhough I take issue with <insert religion here> and eventhough I may try to convince others to convert to Christianity, it would be WRONG for me to go about imprisoning people, physically or emotionally harrasing people who don't believe as I do. It was Christians who fought hard (under the Reformation) for this freedom in the first place. What a travesty it would be for us to throw it away.
In light of this then, I think the question to ask is: "Does forbidding a Sikh or all Sikhs from carrying a kirpan constitute harrassment on the basis of their beliefs?" I think the answer is "It depends on the circumstances."
Take for example the time immediately after 9/11. Sikhs were forbidden to carry kirpans onthe plane. Period. There was obvious concern about the well-being of everyone on the plane. Were they being harrassed in this case? I think not. There was more than just the Sikhs to consider. As I said in my post on kirpans, it is my opinion that a large part of the public's discomfort with students carrying ceremonial daggers is due to our general attitude towards weapons. If violence in our schools was not an issue, if people viewed weapons as objects to be respected and used honorably (rather than for randon gang related violence) I suspect the issue of kirpans in the classroom would never have come up in the first place.
But that's not how it is. There are loads of people out there (in fact, I would say the majority) who immediately freak out the moment they hear "weapon."
Two things need to happen. The first is that the Sikh population should take the lead and not have their children carrying their kirpans into the class. Honour is in the individual, not the object. The second thing is that there needs to be a re-education of the public on weapon use as a whole. People should understand the difference between ceremonial weapons and objects that are used merely for taking a life. People should learn respect for how these things are used, and they should respect their differences. Once the public is fully educated, let Sikhs carry their kirpans.
I guarantee that if this were to happen, you would have significantly less concern about a Sikh kid carrying his kirpan.

Omar Soliman said...

"The first is that the Sikh population should take the lead and not have their children carrying their kirpans into the class. Honour is in the individual, not the object."

I'm sorry to point this out, Ruth, but here you go again. How can you so easily question something that, for this particular faith group (the Sikhs), is a fundamental symbolic tenet of their faith? There are very deep and profound justifications to these symbolic elements. If you can't come to sympathize or accept these elements, then your responsibility is to remain within your own sphere of the absolute--and never question other spheres.

There can be no one, dominant sense of what the good must entail. There IS an archetypal element to the good--and that is epitomized in the concept of balance, moderation, or, as the Koran describes it, "the middle way". In this case, I am one to contend that--as your second point states--"there needs to be a re-education of the public on weapon use as a whole."

If you noticed, your first statement vilified the religion, and your second vilified the people. Leave religion alone--it is largely universal in its own right. Instead, focus on the people--who may or may not be practicing their religion to the uttermost.

This goes to my earlier arguments...it's not Islam, it's Mulims--and a very small group of them as well.

We shouldn't be concerned about Sikh's carrying their kirpan--that is, if they are practice Sikhism correctly, which forbids them to use the instrument in any harmful or aggressive manner.

I hope conservatives everywhere can remove themselves from the selfless, dogmatic emphasis on "my-religion-alone."

Ruth said...

If you noticed, your first statement vilified the religion, and your second vilified the people.
Not at all. I am simply proposing what I see as being a possible solution. I suggest that the Sikhs take the lead because any proposals on how to solve problems that arise from religion need to come from members of that religion. Vilifying Sikhs would be me saying "All Sikhs are evil and their religion must be banned because of it." I have not said this.
...your responsibility is to remain within your own sphere of the absolute... There can be no one, dominant sense of what the good must entail.
Not according to Christianity. We believe that there is only one way and that we cannot remain only within our own sphere, but must bring the Truth to others.

Omar Soliman said...

But you HAVE vilified Sikhism! You stated, "Honour is in the individual, not the object." You are providing your own appropriations to long-established traditions--for which you have no intention of respecting as they stand.

For your information, there IS only one way--I am convinced of that in my own sphere as a Muslim. But, as I say, "There can be no one, dominant sense of what the good must entail."

By questioning "the individual, not the object" in Sikhism, you seem to be telling me that EVERYTHING is absolute--even one sense of the good--and that this is embodied exclusively in Christianity.

I can take solace in knowing that your daughter, Ruth, will be raised in an education system that, for all its problems, is at least a little more cognizant of parallel conceptions of the good.

Ruth said...

But you HAVE vilified Sikhism! You stated, "Honour is in the individual, not the object." You are providing your own appropriations to long-established traditions
This goes back to a comment I made in my thoughts on kirpans post. Also, Sikhs do teach that there is honour in the individual. This is part of the reason for wearing a turban. It shows the dignity of the person.
I can take solace in knowing that your daughter, Ruth, will be raised in an education system that, for all its problems, is at least a little more cognizant of parallel conceptions of the good.
Yes or no: are you assuming here that I will be sedning her to public school?

Another question for you: Why are you concerned abuot questioning elements of other religions? Don't you think it's healthy?

Omar Soliman said...

No, I do not think it is healthy. I think that it is a decidedly liberal trait to go around questioning elements of other people's faiths. Partisan conservatives--regardless of their stripe--should hold firm to the Burkean convictions of universal reverence for all the institutions and traditions of our ancestors. If we live by a version of conservatism that defends tradition, but only MY tradition, then we can bid farewell to any sense of plural co-existence.

Unless you are on a religious mission to proseltyize the word of Christ (which I gather this blog is NOT about to do), then it's probably just a good idea to respect the fundamental convictions of other people's faiths.

Omar Soliman said...

Ruth,

I must say this has been a pretty interesting discussion. I hope that, as you and I continue to blog, we will be able to share these ideas again.

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Omar - one's faith (or lack thereof) is a critical component of their worldview. With this faith/lack of, there necessarily comes certain beliefs. My opinion is that beliefs of any type (including religious) need to be questioned. They must be questioned, researched, evaluated, and re-evaluated periodically (some, perhaps, even constantly). A change in one's faith (even if it is just one particular belief within that faith) can drastically change their worldview.

The reason I say this is that I feel we must challenge our beliefs to validate them. We should attempt to rationalize and find a logical basis for each of our beliefs, in pursuit of the truth. Why believe in something that is incorrect or false? And how will you know without questioning and challenging? As new information is discovered or presented, we should rethink what we believe in, to see if it fits into our current worldview, or contradicts it in some way. This is how science (I use the term very broadly here) learns and evolves, ever-increasing and improving the accuracy of the knowledge we have (there are some exceptions, but this is clearly the long-term trend). This exercise serves to strengthen and support one's beliefs, or defeat them in favour of a different (and hopefully more accurate or truthful) belief.

I believe it is not only necessary to question other faiths, but perhaps more importantly, to question your own as objectively as possible. Rhetorical questions: why do you believe what you believe in? What logical bases or foundations exist for your beliefs? A very famous example which supports my argument (i.e. the necessity to question beliefs, especially religious ones) is the persecution of Galileo Galilei by the Catholic Church for his support and belief in a heliocentric (as opposed to geocentric) solar system, which the Church condemned as "formally heretical."

Clearly we know that the Catholic Church in Rome was way off base in the 17th century. Of course, the Church did eventually re-evaluate their beliefs and interpretation of Scripture. This led to the late Pope John Paul II's public apology in 1992 on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for wrongly persecuting Galileo in 1633.

Catholics and non-Catholics alike would (in my opinion) have had every right to question this particular element of the Catholic faith. Be it religious doctrine or religious tradition, I believe they are both fair game for questioning in any faith. For people to adhere to their beliefs so rigorously and unquestioningly can be dangerous both to themselves and to others.

Your statement of "No, I do not think it is healthy [to question elements of other religions]" implies the absolute that it is never healthy. Only a single example would be required to disprove the absolute that you have implied, and I think that the above qualifies.

Apologies for any typos, I'm writing this at 01:45 local time.

-- Herman

Mark said...

My what a can of worms has opened at rootle.

Just throwing in this 1.5 cents: it's not Ruth who initially proffered the one way to the Father line; it was Christ himself. John 14:6,7

Jesus is either a liar, lunatic or Lord.

Omar Soliman said...

"As new information is discovered or presented, we should rethink what we believe in, to see if it fits into our current worldview, or contradicts it in some way."

Herman,

This is a fatal flaw in the way you organize and conduct religion. You erroneously assume that science--as a more superior force--much somehow validate or serve as a force to constantly modernize religion.

I tell you that religion should not have had a stake in questioning and challenging Galileo's observations. Remember now, I come from an Islamic background. Some of the greatest scientific discoveries (especially in the field of astronomy) were made under Islamic societies. Because there is no official "Church" in Islam (there never was a need to have an "interlocuter" between the believer and God), scientific discoveries in Islamic societies were never deemed incompatible with religion.

We never had a "Galileo incident", and to comprehend such scientific persecution was absurd. Many scholars say that the problem with Islam was that it never had its Enlightenment. Other scholars, today, have countered this claim by concluding that, perhaps, Islam never needed one! There was no conflict between science and religion--and there still isn't.

This is part of the dilemma that Muslims (not Islam) have with the idea of present-day modernity. They believe that Christians have so readily allowed modernity (and scientific progress) to morph, twist, change, and tweak the fundamental narratives and elements of their religion.

They are not about to do the same to Islam, and, in fact, the radical reaction has been to retreat to the very fundamental pillars of Islam (and, as in the case of the Taliban, to live a life without science--no electricity, and so on).

As a Muslim, I respect my traditions to the extent that I am not willing to allow the onslaught of modernity to change morph and tweak them so easily. Such is the case with the Sikh, who respects the symbolic kirpan as representing something larger to their faith.

If we are to agree with Ruth and Herman, and continuously challenge these elements, I guarantee you that, within decades, you are slowly dismantling the faith--to the extent that there will be nothing left to worship.

Maybe this is why, only in the west, will you have singers mocking Jesus (their God) on the front cover of Rolling Stones--and absolutely no popular condemnation from his adherents. To me, that's just a big shame and I share the insult that you feel through such depictions.

Ruth said...

No, I do not think it is healthy. I think that it is a decidedly liberal trait to go around questioning elements of other people's faiths...
Really?
See, I would say the opposite is true. It is far more "liberal" to blanketly accept all other religions without questioning elements of them. I also agree with what Herman said about questioning elements of your own beliefs and disagree with your line of thinking that it would somehow unravel a religion. It's important to note that although Herman is using Galileo as his example, it's not exactly true that in this case science is being used to interpret Christianity. The Catholic Church at the time had a view of the physical world that was very much grounded in Plato and Aristotle. They interpreted the verse in Joshua about the sun stopping through this view. It is important to note that the Hebrew words used in this passage (Joshua 10) denote that the sun stopped and it was believed at that time that the sun stopped moving. No one considered that the wording could also mean that the sun stopped shining and the Church used an innaccurate argument to censure Galileo.
There is nothing in the Bible that says science and religion are mutually exclusive. There was no reason for the Church ever to have taken the path it took. I fully expect scientific discoveries to fall in line with my religious beliefs because I believe that God is a God of order and that (as Einstein said) He does not play dice with the Universe.
The idea behind questioning our own beliefs is NOT that we are questioning either God or Christianity. Far from it. Every Christian is instructed to "test the spirits" in order to better understand what is truly from God and what is false. Although we believe that the Bible is the perfect and innerrant Word of God, we know that human beings are flawed. What if someone (say the Pope, just for argument) was suddenly to make a proclamation on salvation let's say, and it was based on a poor understanding of the Word, or worse yet a twisted understanding?
They believe that Christians have so readily allowed modernity (and scientific progress) to morph, twist, change, and tweak the fundamental narratives and elements of their religion.
Touche!
I cannot deny this, although I would say that this is more true of modernity (and the post-modernist movement in particular) than it is of science. How can I answer this effectively?
Ever hear of "name-only Christians?" It's the idea that there are some Christians out there who do not know God, do not have the Holy Spirit in their hearts and don't really believe what they say they do. In the New Testament, Jesus tells a parable of the sheep and the goats (there's a similar one about wheat and tares). The idea is that true Christians and name-only Christians grow side by side in the world. God knows the difference between the two groups and will separate them at the end of the age. On group goes to hell... bet you can't guess which. Christians such as myself are often very frustrated by these false ones. Like me, many are appalled by gay marriage, unreasonable divorce, adultery, prostitution and other sins you might think of. But then we have people who claim to be a part of us saying "Oh, it's ok. Being gay is just fine." It ruins our united front and destroys our credibility. We don't take it lying down, but when we react at all, we are labled by the media as "American-style religious right-wing extremists." Our churches may discipline such members by denying htem communion or excommunicating them, but then we are called "judgemental." It is incerdibly frustrating. Do not be mistaken: the western world (US, Canada, Britain, etc...) is NO LONGER a Christian society. It hasn't been for a very long time. We now live in a secular state. This secular world-view that ridicules and mocks Christianity is a real problem for us. However, the only real tool we have to fight against is pray and the preaching of the Word so that these unbelievers who mock us will hear and perhaps be converted.

Glad you are finding the discussion useful, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Herman wrote: "As new information is discovered or presented, we should rethink what we believe in, to see if it fits into our current worldview, or contradicts it in some way."

Omar wrote: "This is a fatal flaw in the way you organize and conduct religion. You erroneously assume that science--as a more superior force--much somehow validate or serve as a force to constantly modernize religion."

I'm not talking about "modernizing" religion. I also never said that science is "a more superior force" (which is rather redundant). I'm talking about using science as a tool (one among others) to refine our beliefs, and in some cases, correct misinterpretations of physical realities, as well as religious doctrine. The geocentric model proposed by Ptolemy was supported by the Catholic Church of the time. This view of the solar system is incorrect. Without both Catholics and non-Catholics questioning such a belief (both in a religious and non-religious context), the Church and the rest of the world might still believe in and support such a view, continuing to claim that heliocentricity is heresy. I would argue that progress, be it scientific or even philosophical, cannot exist without challenging one's or another's beliefs.

Thought exercise: what IF it could be scientifically proven that Muhammad or Jesus never existed? While I do not believe either will ever happen nor do I even believe it to be possible to happen, would that not change one's faith or worldview?

Omar wrote: "I tell you that religion should not have had a stake in questioning and challenging Galileo's observations."

I think you may have some confusion about my argument. My original argument is that it is definitely healthy to question elements of other religions (and more generally, your own religion, as well as non-religious views). This is what you originally disagreed about with Ruth. With respect to Galileo, what I am saying is that he had the right to question the Church's beliefs about the solar system. While I also believe that the Church had the right to question Galileo's views (strictly speaking, theoretically in an effort to determine the truth), it went about the whole thing in completely the wrong way.

Omar wrote: "Because there is no official 'Church' in Islam (there never was a need to have an "interlocuter" between the believer and God), scientific discoveries in Islamic societies were never deemed incompatible with religion...There was no conflict between science and religion--and there still isn't."

While the Roman Catholic Church has "central governance" (or whatever the term may be) through a hierarchy, many (I won't say all since I don't know for sure) Protestant churches also don't have an "official church" (they also practice the belief that God is a "personal" God). You also mention that science in Islamic societies is not viewed as incompatible with religion. You may believe this, but you do not speak for all Muslims. That's a very gross generalization that I don't think you're authorized to make. Islam has many divisions and sects with differing beliefs (as does Christianity with its numerous denominations). I am no expert in Islam by any means, but even a brief Googling reveals apparent inconsistencies between the Qur'an and currently held scientific views, just as there are apparent inconsistencies between the Bible and science. How can one reconcile these without applying some combination of critical thinking, logical analysis, and faith? To blindly believe without question is inherently dangerous.

Omar wrote: "As a Muslim, I respect my traditions to the extent that I am not willing to allow the onslaught of modernity to change morph and tweak them so easily."

So easily, or not at all? You did imply earlier that it is never healthy to question elements of [other] religions. Can you please clarify to reject or accept this implication? I still maintain that it is healthy, and furthermore, a necessity. Of everything that you believe in your faith, have you never questioned any of it? I don't know if you, as a Muslim, personally believe in a literal 6-day creation or not (Qaf 050.038 (YUSUFALI): "We created the heavens and the earth and all between them in Six Days, nor did any sense of weariness touch Us."). Have you not questioned this? Do you expect other Muslims and non-Muslims not to question this? While this particular matter is not a core tenet of either the Islamic or Christian faith, it still has important ramifications on their worldviews. As such, I believe it is worthwhile to question and think about.

Something else to consider; some religions or cultures hold beliefs or have traditions which can be or are harmful to others. Should we not question and challenge those?

Omar wrote: "If we are to agree with Ruth and Herman, and continuously challenge these elements, I guarantee you that, within decades, you are slowly dismantling the faith--to the extent that there will be nothing left to worship."

I disagree and do not believe we would be dismantling the faith, if challenging were done properly. As I said above, it is a process through which our faith (and non-religious beliefs) can be refined. Misunderstandings and misinterpretations can be resolved if we seek the truth by asking questions. We can even achieve greater insight or revelations into God's glory and power through such an exercise. It can actually be very spiritually fruitful and fulfilling.

Ruth wrote: "It's important to note that although Herman is using Galileo as his example, it's not exactly true that in this case science is being used to interpret Christianity...the Church used an innaccurate argument to censure Galileo."

Correct -- and if the Church's view as taken from Ptolemy had never been questioned, then we might still be the centre of the universe. /tongue-in-cheek
Therefore, I reiterate the importance of questioning one's or another's views, religious or otherwise.

Acts 17:11 (NIV): "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." We should take the example of the Bereans and not accept beliefs at face value. We must examine our beliefs for ourselves and constantly question or challenge them to make sure we are on the right path in our faith, or in our lives.

-- Herman

Anonymous said...

There's something else I'd like to add/ask about.

Omar wrote: "They are not about to do the same to Islam, and, in fact, the radical reaction has been to retreat to the very fundamental pillars of Islam (and, as in the case of the Taliban, to live a life without science--no electricity, and so on)."

The Taliban...living a life without science? Does that even make any sense? I suppose you might mean that they live without technology. Do they really? Virtually no one lives a life that is devoid of technology. Science and technology are tools to help us. It is true that we can be "enslaved" to technology in a way if we take things too far. I think that this is where the Amish lifestyle comes from, in part (but they still use certain forms of technology, and apply the sciences). The Taliban use weapons such as small arms, assault rifles, and various types of explosives, don't they? Are they not under consideration in your claim that the Taliban "live a life without science?"

-- Herman

Omar Soliman said...

Herman/Ruth,

You both raise important points that deserve reasoned clarification on my part. The biggest misconception in your understanding of my comments, however, is this absurd notion that I have somehow taken the position that it is most proper to "blindly believe without question." In my earlier comments, you will notice that I have expounded on a philosophy of religion that is, by its nature, one of virtue and reason. I referenced the Koranic qualifier to several of Islamic commandments: "...for those who understand", "...for those who ponder", "...for those who think."

The text of the Koran itself is replete with verses inviting man to use his intellect, to ponder, to think and to know. This is because, for Muslims, the goal of human life is to discover the Truth which is none other than worshipping God in His Oneness.

Today, both theologians and practitioners of the faith scrutinize and, as a result, are able to expound on a very comprehensive understanding of the faith. (Islamic scholarship is extremely voluminous and rich in this regard.)

You will notice, however, that, throughout all my posts, I have been concerned not with the matter of questioning one's faith, but, instead, with the OVERWHELMING EASE by which someone like Ruth submits to do as such.

In the same post where she decried a very limited scope of knowledge on the Sikh faith--and where her own opinions were informed by a couple of measly Google searches--she was able to find the courage to surmount such a conclusion: "It is unfortunate that the Sikh religion has tied honour, self-respect, affirmation and othodoxy to an item such as a dagger."

In another of my earlier comments, I wrote, "You [Ruth] are providing your own appropriations to long-established traditions--for which you have no intention of respecting as they stand."

UNFORTUNATELY, we westerners have all become experts at this ability to so easily deconstruct and dismantle the elements of faith that we are inevitably destroying the institution of religion altogether. Remember now: the single and most important current in the post-Enlightenment ethos is challenging tradition altogether. It is hard to say, AS CONSERVATIVES, what it is that differentiates us from liberals and socialists, some of whom are just as convinced to institute a form of atheistic socialism on us all.

My point is simple: have a little more respect. Challenge, yes. Question, yes. All religions instruct humans NOT to be "blind"--because when they are blind, they are ignorant, and when they are ignorant, they can never come to an understanding of the Truth.

The very liberal mentality that you both carry towards the preservation of traditionalist/moralist ideals is decidedly un-Burkean, and un-conservative.

That is, unless you are anti-religious libertarian.

Omar Soliman said...

Let me rephrase one paragraph there:

UNFORTUNATELY, we westerners have all become experts at this ability to so easily deconstruct and dismantle the elements of faith that we are inevitably destroying the institution of religion altogether. Remember now: the single and most important current in the post-Enlightenment ethos is challenging tradition altogether. It is hard to say, AS CONSERVATIVES, what it is that differentiates us from liberals and socialists--some of whom are just as convinced to institute a form of atheistic socialism on us all--when we espouse the kind of views that you both champion.

Anonymous said...

Omar wrote: "The biggest misconception in your understanding of my comments, however, is this absurd notion that I have somehow taken the position that it is most proper to "blindly believe without question."

Then at best, you are misleading, if not outright contradictory. If your philosophy of religion is one of reason, then how can you also make the claim that it is unhealthy to question the elements of a religion? You have said that you will not allow modern views to change your religious views. What is that, then, if not unquestioning (what I would call "blind") belief rooted in old (and possibly incorrect) views?

Omar wrote: "The text of the Koran itself is replete with verses inviting man to use his intellect, to ponder, to think and to know."

This is no different from the Bible. So, I am not sure why you oppose the questioning of elements in one or another's faith.

Omar wrote: "You will notice, however, that, throughout all my posts, I have been concerned not with the matter of questioning one's faith, but, instead, with the OVERWHELMING EASE by which someone like Ruth submits to do as such."

I don't think so. You previously wrote: "No, I do not think it is healthy. I think that it is a decidedly liberal trait to go around questioning elements of other people's faiths." Your statement very clearly indicates that you ARE concerned with the matter of questioning one's faith. If this is not what you mean, then I encourage you to write what you mean more clearly and do not leave room for misinterpretation.

Omar wrote: "In the same post where she decried a very limited scope of knowledge on the Sikh faith--and where her own opinions were informed by a couple of measly Google searches--she was able to find the courage to surmount such a conclusion: 'It is unfortunate that the Sikh religion has tied honour, self-respect, affirmation and othodoxy to an item such as a dagger.'"

I think that's unfair. Putting it back into context, Ruth did admit to knowing very little about Sikhism, so her comments were to be taken with a grain of salt. Furthermore, she did explain in a follow-up post that she feels the problem with kirpans and carrying them to school is a symptom of society's attitude toward weapons. I believe this is why she finds the Sikh's religious and cultural connections to a dagger (which can obviously be used as a weapon) so unfortunate.

Omar wrote: "UNFORTUNATELY, we westerners have all become experts at this ability to so easily deconstruct and dismantle the elements of faith that we are inevitably destroying the institution of religion altogether. Remember now: the single and most important current in the post-Enlightenment ethos is challenging tradition altogether."

I find it odd that you can say this in one breath (to criticize the questioning and challenging of traditional beliefs), and in another, criticize Ruth's views on religion, which you perceive to be "medieval" (as opposed to modern, I'd expect you mean). Without questioning and challenging, how would there be any progression of thought? Furthermore: I think this is what you believe, but let me ask you to clarify. Do you believe it is inherently wrong to question or challenge traditions and beliefs because of your conservative views, as you have implied? If so, then I think you are dangerously close to making the logical fallacy of an appeal to tradition.

Omar wrote: "The very liberal mentality that you both carry towards the preservation of traditionalist/moralist ideals is decidedly un-Burkean, and un-conservative."

No, I don't believe it's un-conservative. I'm not going to say that I'm a conservative, nor will I say that I'm not. I'll leave that for you to ponder and deduce, but I am not responsible for your deductions. Burke believed in preserving tradition, but also recognized the need for gradual reform ("an ability to improve"). I support the preservation of traditional and moral views (religious, cultural, or others), but I think it is necessary to occasionally ask ourselves why we uphold them, and provide justification for them. We must know why we have chosen the path we have and believe in the things we do, aside from telling ourselves that it's just the way it has always been.

I will reiterate that I believe it is healthy to question the elements of one or another's faith. Your claim is that this is unhealthy, and this is what I take exception to. More generally, I believe it is healthy to question all our beliefs, including non-religious ones. I challenge you to respond, point-by-point, to the other points I made in my previous posts that refute your views. You have yet to explicitly clarify whether the implication of questioning the elements of a faith never being healthy is correct or not.

-- Herman

P.S. FTR, Blogger has been rather uncooperative in the past day or longer...the server(s) hosting Ruth's blog is or are very slow and returning errors when loading the comments page. I've been trying to post this comment for a few hours now. Other blogs I know of on Blogger seem to be fine, though...

Omar Soliman said...

I seem to be getting the same errors...the servers seem slow.

In any case, Herman, I will most definitely take you up on your challenge--because you have once against mis-interpreted, and, at least one case, flipped the logic behind my earlier posts.

I will write something more comprehensive either tonight, or sometime tomorrow. In the meantime, I must attend to an essay that I am writing for a Politics class at UofT.

Omar Soliman said...

Bah humbug. I wrote a detailed post and it got erased somehow.

I hate when that happens.

I will write something up again soon.

P.S. Sorry for the wait. I was at the Windsor Liberty Seminar this past weekend...

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