Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Myth of Religious Moderation

For today's blog I would like to direct you to the following two news stories:

Now, the first seems to be forewarning of growing rivalries and tensions within Islam. The second seems to be saying that there are seeds of moderation growing within Islam, that may lead it to become a more truly peaceful religion than it is today.

So, what's the point? Which view do we take seriously? Is Islam inherently dangerous and growing more internally divided as rival fundamental viewpoints wage very active and real war against each other? Or is Islam inherently peaceful, with modern Islam hijacked by a rabble of renegades harnessing the gullible with their political rhetoric?

The answer, I think is to go to the facts. And go to the source. Just as you can look at the bible to see what views Christian moderates are promoting to fundamentalists as the word of God, so too can you go to the Koran to see what views the moderates are promoting to fundamentalists as the word of God.

Well, fact #1 and the elephant in the room is that the only difference between moderates and fundamentalists is how much of their holy book they take to be the unequivocal holy word of almighty God. Moderates cut out the nasty bits. Fundamentalists take it all whole. You could almost say that the moderates are hypocrites in that they purport to follow a religion based on a text which is supposedly mandated by God, yet they have the audacity to say that they know better than their own God which parts are really really God's will and which parts are not. Because of this latent hypocrisy, fundamentalism will always have the potential to rear its ugly head. This is not because they are hijacking an otherwise peaceful religion. Fundamentalist, by definition means one who is adhering to the fundamentals of the religion. As such, the most sincere devotees of a religion must always be fundamentalist. Moderates are, for the most part, moral cowards. They are those who know well enough that the morality encoded in the literal word of their holy book makes absolutely no sense in the modern world, and yet are so terrified of their version of an ethereal boogie-man in the sky that they lack the courage to renounce their faith and set about defending and encoding a modern moral truth.

This is the kicker and it's what will cobble the efforts of anybody who seeks to negotiate their religion into supposedly "passive" forms. As long as the religion honors a text which encodes violence and immorality as ideals, then the religion will always bear the seeds of violence and immorality. So, let's check the sources and see if the Koran, and for that matter the Bible encode violence and immorality.

(Numbers 31:7-18 NLT)

They attacked Midian just as the LORD had commanded Moses, and they killed all the men. All five of the Midianite kings – Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba – died in the battle. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. Then the Israelite army captured the Midianite women and children and seized their cattle and flocks and all their wealth as plunder. They burned all the towns and villages where the Midianites had lived. After they had gathered the plunder and captives, both people and animals, they brought them all to Moses and Eleazar the priest, and to the whole community of Israel, which was camped on the plains of Moab beside the Jordan River, across from Jericho.

Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the people went to meet them outside the camp. But Moses was furious with all the military commanders who had returned from the battle. "Why have you let all the women live?" he demanded. "These are the very ones who followed Balaam's advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the LORD at Mount Peor. They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the LORD's people. Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.

OK, you may say, but that's in a time of war and we all know that war is hell, right? So how about rape about town?

(Deuteronomy 22:23-24 NAB)

If within the city a man comes upon a maiden who is betrothed, and has relations with her, you shall bring them both out of the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the girl because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbors wife.

Well, that seems pretty damn evil to me. But even if we just take that as hardcore justice, let's clarify what God thinks about some other stuff. How about child killing? I think we can all pretty much agree that there is nothing more evil than someone who hurts children willfully.

Make ready to slaughter his sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and posses the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants. (Isaiah 14:21 NAB)

The glory of Israel will fly away like a bird, for your children will die at birth or perish in the womb or never even be conceived. Even if your children do survive to grow up, I will take them from you. It will be a terrible day when I turn away and leave you alone. I have watched Israel become as beautiful and pleasant as Tyre. But now Israel will bring out her children to be slaughtered." O LORD, what should I request for your people? I will ask for wombs that don't give birth and breasts that give no milk. The LORD says, "All their wickedness began at Gilgal; there I began to hate them. I will drive them from my land because of their evil actions. I will love them no more because all their leaders are rebels. The people of Israel are stricken. Their roots are dried up; they will bear no more fruit. And if they give birth, I will slaughter their beloved children." (Hosea 9:11-16 NLT)

"Then I heard the LORD say to the other men, "Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all – old and young, girls and women and little children. But do not touch anyone with the mark. Begin your task right here at the Temple." So they began by killing the seventy leaders. "Defile the Temple!" the LORD commanded. "Fill its courtyards with the bodies of those you kill! Go!" So they went throughout the city and did as they were told." (Ezekiel 9:5-7 NLT)

And at midnight the LORD killed all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn son of the captive in the dungeon. Even the firstborn of their livestock were killed. Pharaoh and his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died. (Exodus 12:29-30 NLT)

If even then you remain hostile toward me and refuse to obey, I will inflict you with seven more disasters for your sins. I will release wild animals that will kill your children and destroy your cattle, so your numbers will dwindle and your roads will be deserted. (Leviticus 26:21-22 NLT)

Anyone who is captured will be run through with a sword. Their little children will be dashed to death right before their eyes. Their homes will be sacked and their wives raped by the attacking hordes. For I will stir up the Medes against Babylon, and no amount of silver or gold will buy them off. The attacking armies will shoot down the young people with arrows. They will have no mercy on helpless babies and will show no compassion for the children. (Isaiah 13:15-18 NLT)

Now, you try and tell me why I should be respectful of a religion in whose holy text--a text they proclaim as the holy word of almighty God--declares that butchering children and raping women is good? Bullshit! You can pick and choose as much as you like, but your very act of denying that these passages express Christianity means that you, yourself have declared that the Bible is not perfect, that it is not the unassailable word of almighty God. You can't have it both ways. And if you believe that the rape of women and slaughter of children is good, then you are a vicious, evil worm of a creature. So admit it, Christianity worships one sick bastard of a deity. Or admit it, you are one sick bastard.

Now that we've dealt with the flower of Christianity, let's take a look at what the pleasant poetry of the Koran has in store for us.

And as for those who are guilty of an indecency from among your women, call to witnesses against them four (witnesses) from among you; then if they bear witness confine them to the houses until death takes them away or Allah opens some way for them.

Well, at least house arrest sure beats stoning. Let's see what else is in there...

Oh, wait a second, what's this?

And when Musa said to his people: O my people! you have surely been unjust to yourselves by taking the calf (for a god), therefore turn to your Creator (penitently), so kill your people, that is best for you with your Creator: so He turned to you (mercifully), for surely He is the Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful.

Oh, and this isn't so friendly:

They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah's way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper.

And this:

You will find others who desire that they should be safe from you and secure from their own people; as often as they are sent back to the mischief they get thrown into it headlong; therefore if they do not withdraw from you, and (do not) offer you peace and restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them; and against these We have a clear authority.

And do not kill any one whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause, and whoever is slain unjustly, We have indeed given to his heir authority, so let him not exceed the just limits in slaying; surely he is aided.

I wonder what qualifies as a "just cause"? Fighting for the glory of Allah?

Say: Have you considered if the chastisement of Allah should overtake you suddenly or openly, will any be destroyed but the unjust people?

I guess that answers that question, doesn't it?

And when We wish to destroy a town, We send Our commandment to the people of it who lead easy lives, but they transgress therein; thus the word proves true against it, so We destroy it with utter destruction.


Then We said: Go you both to the people who rejected Our communications; so We destroyed them with utter destruction.

And some even more destroying with utter destruction goodness:

And to every one We gave examples and every one did We destroy with utter destruction.

Like we need to make it dead, really really dead. Dancing on the dead, dead, hyper-deading dead dead. But, who really has time to sift through all this crap. If you would like, there is a searchable online Koran which is where I got all these lovely quotes. All you need to do is search for things like destroy, kill, etc. In all fairness, there was no mention of rape that I could find, so perhaps the Muslims do have a moral leg up on Christianity after all. But as for being a peaceful religion? No, I don't think so.

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement,

O you who believe! fight those of the
unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).

(And in case you were wondering where I got all the juicy Bible quotes, they're from )

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