Thursday, November 15, 2012

Consistency in the Practice of Religion

Many people argue that Islam is a religion different than any other in terms of its political and worldly aspirations.  In my opinion this is not true.  While there may be some secondary or tertiary level differences between religions in this regard, the primary danger and commonality of all monotheistic creeds are the reliance on faith and the attributing of the Good to whatever some ineffable being decrees.  Those set the method and goal, and eventually dictate that believers attempt to enact the God's will on Earth. Everything else is details.

That said, there is a marked difference between modern day Christians and Muslims.  The majority of the latter take their religion seriously and practice it consistently, while the majority of the former hold a contradictory sets of views: faith mixed with its antithesis, reason (a respect for which marked the glorious Enlightenment).

Unfortunately, as the Enlightenment fades further from the scene, Christians are beginning to practice the more unadulterated version of their religion, with predictable results.  See for instance the literal 6,000-years-since-Creation-believing evangelicals.  Or the prominent public comments on rape and abortion by various Republican candidates.  Or the recent blasphemy ruling in Poland.

Expect a continued devolution to a consistent faith-based practice of Christianity if no one rises to ably defend a secular, pro-reason worldview.  (Obviously I think Ayn Rand has given us one and admirably defended it, but it remains to be seen if enough voices will emerge to use her ideas to substantially influence the culture.)


Anonymous Steve D said...

‘That said; there is a marked difference between modern day Christians and Muslims.’

This is a very interesting question, especially if you consider the reasons for why there might be such a marked difference.

However, it seems to me there was a profound difference between medieval Christians and Muslims as well.

It took Christians at least several hundred years after Christianity began, to set up a true theocracy and then only in the Eastern Empire. It was only hundreds of years later that one was constructed in Western Europe and this only lasted for a couple hundred years. The history of the middle ages in Western Christendom was a constant struggle between the secular (political) leaders and the religious leaders who were seldom one and the same. Popes were often deposed by secular leaders and vice versa. Their holy book laid down clear principles of conduct which differed from Judaism and Islam in terms of not preaching violence (and contained several references suggesting or anticipating the separation of church and state). Their founders (Christ and St. Paul) mostly eschewed violence, at least according to Christian tradition. Christianity was spread in the early days mostly by argument rather than violence. It turned to violence only after it was well established.

On the other hand, Islam was a theocracy almost from the moment it began. It was born and spread by conquest and the forcible conversion of pagans to the faith. In Islamic countries strong political pressure was placed on both Christians and Jews to convert to Islam. Its founders specifically engaged in violent conquest (just look at the history of the early Caliphs). The Caliph was usually simultaneously the religious leader and the emperor and most of their rulers were both political and religious leaders. Islamic pirates ravaged Christian lands in Southern Europe searching for conquest and slaves, traumatizing and essentially ending the ancient world. Their holy book is hard to understand and has contradictory references on the use of violence to spread their religion. There are no such references or even hints in the New Testament.

Another difference is that Christians used force to convert pagans only sporadically and usually to the condemnation of the popes while Muslims did this as a matter of doctrine or on the orders of their religious leaders. A further difference is in their respective definition of the term ‘religious martyr’.

Why did the Christians suffer Muslim holy war for so many years before they responded with one of their own?

The relative attitude towards slavery of Christianity and Islam also illustrate an important difference. Priest railed against slavery from the pulpit and declared it sinful, (although with few exceptions they did not try to ban it). The Koran specifically allows slavery while New Testament declares that all men are equal under God. The Muslims raided nearby lands to procure slaves. Compare this behavior to St. Patrick (A Christian Saint) who was the first known person in all of history to consistently, unequivocally, and throughout his entire adult life oppose slavery on principle. The Christian church was always very uncomfortable with slavery as were several of the Roman emperors and essentially every pope.

So one could argue that religions differ wrt how strongly they demand that their adherents take them seriously and that might be one reason that Muslims usually take their religion more seriously than Christians. However, even though the nature of religion in general demands an eventual theocracy if its taken right to its fundamental philosophical principles, I believe different religions will have specific internal factors which will make differ wrt the intensity, type, time to form and duration of these theocracies.

That said; I do agree with you that devolution into Christian theocracy is the most likely fate of America.

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve D said...

Another reason I forgot to mention is that just as modern Christians have contradictory sets of views: faith mixed with its antithesis, reason ( a holdover from the Enlightenment); so medieval Christians had contradictory sets of views (a holdover from the ancients- even Plato had respect for reason, albeit not properly defined – who placed reason above faith).

This reverence for reason is a legacy that even the one thousand year rule of a powerful monotheistic religion was not able to stamp out. Aristotle doesn’t fall easily, I guess.

However philosophy was never respected in Arabia, which was steeped in religion right from the get go.

1:36 PM  

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