The short answer is that it depends on what you mean by “same” and “God” in this case. I’ve seen cases for “no” and for “yes” posted by smarter folks than me since a Wheaton professor got in trouble for implying this was the case. Much of this seems to turn on the understanding of both faiths as being part of the Abrahamic tradition that also includes Judaism. The history of both religions is certainly intertwined and even the similar linguistic roots of “Elohim” and “Allah” are not that difficult to discern.
Let’s put aside all that, for the sake of argument let’s say, no, the monotheistic tradition of Abrahamic religion doesn’t count for anything. There is still a reason to hesitate in saying that Muslims worship a different god. One of the principal New Atheist arguments is that there have been thousands of deities worshipped by humans in recorded history, and most of us don’t believe in most of those gods. The idea is that almost everyone today is an atheist with regard to Odin, Zeus, Osiris, Chemosh, Baal, Ishtar and so on, that the difference between an atheist and (mono)theist is that the atheist disbelieves only one more god than the theist.
One of the better responses is not that everyone doesn’t believe in everyone else’s gods, but rather that the overwhelming majority of humans through history have had a conception of the divine, and that we are not atheists about other gods per se even as reject other conceptions of god(s). This is not to say that we are all universalists or that our distinctions don’t matter – it should be readily apparent today that they do. Rather it means that we disagree sharply about who or what is divine.
Do I have the same conception of god as a Muslim? No. We disagree about who God is and what God wants from us and how we can even know or approach God. I am not a Muslim, I am not going to give up bacon or beer for starters because I do not perceive any injunction against them. But there is still something common in our attempts to approach God, in spite of all our obvious and real differences.
There is also no inverse rule that says that we conversely are not allowed to criticize people for drawing or writing things that we don’t like, free speech includes the right to say that one doesn’t like Charlie Hebdo or that one found those Danish cartoons crude. If that criticism extends though to the idea that Charb and his people somehow “brought this on themselves” or deserved what they got though, you’ve rather missed the point.
Those ideas that are likely to come under some kind of special attack are the ones that are most in need of protection:
It will be cheap and easy for any number of obscure bloggers like me to post or repost those images that might have offended the attackers of Charlie Hebdo, none of us wear the target that someone like Neil MacDonald would speaking his opinions on national TV as a news correspondent (it is for this reason that I tried to be ecumenical in the header I posted here). I would instead challenge those who would defend satire to post images of their own religion or philosophy or values being satirized, to lead by example:
In my mind it is significant that the first victim of the Charlie Hebdo attack was a police officer who was himself a Muslim, and that we do not need any Muslim leader to specifically denounce these kinds of attacks. It is said that Voltaire claimed that he would defend to the death your right to say something he found disagreeable. Whether or not he actually said that, Ahmed Merabet did it. Have some respect for that.
Dr. Craig Keener is unarguably one of the world’s top scholars on the topic of miracles, and he recently delivered a lecture series on the subject that is well worth hearing if you want to get a fraction of his argument from his massive Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. This will be of interest to cessationists, materialists, and those who are neither.
Here are nine possible meanings of the word secular that I have devised from listening and pondering. Can you think of others?
(1) Not divine. That is, something that does not inexorably mediate divine will.
(2) Not clerical. That is, something not an expression of, or not under the administration of, an institution whose purpose is to perform “religious” activity (i.e., religious ritual, as Westerners understand it).
(3) Not eschatological. That is, relating to this age, prior to the perfection of all things, and so in some sense participating in imperfection, either moral or else in some sense ontological (e.g., the mortality of human beings).
(4) Not theist. That is, naturalist/materialist/atheist.
(5) Not mono-religious. That is, not of one particular religion (i.e., an institution may be composed of members who represent a variety of beliefs, and so as a body have no single religion).
(6) Not religious. That is, areligious, or religiously neutral.
(7) Not theocratic. That is, not like whatever countries like Iran are.
(8) Not with reference to religious activity. This would be similar to (2), except it would apply beyond relations to religious institutions, to relations to religious rituals in general. So, all activity that’s not a religious ritual would be “secular” in this sense.
(9) Not compatible with God. So, something in fact anti-divine.
One problem with (2), (5), (6), and (8), is that they rely upon the concept of “religion”, which is itself disputed and ambiguous, and in a Western context usually actually means “something that resembles Christianity”.
The title just about covers it, the following is a video about white converts to Islam in what is perhaps the archetypal bible-believing red state:
The gist of it seems to be that conservative Christian Texans find that Islam fits their conservatism, perhaps even better than their Christianity. Now data is not the plural of anecdote so I don’t know if the producers of this show just found the five or so most eccentric American converts, nonetheless, I’d like to know your thoughts…
Michael Plato teaches film, culture studies and world religions at Seneca College in Toronto, and is a fellow member at New City Baptist Church in the city’s downtown core. Last Spring Mike gave a series of excellent lectures on the history and thought of Mormonism—something that he knows a lot about due to past research interests. Sadly, due to a technical error, those lectures weren’t recorded.
Last weekend Mike gave a second series of lectures to a good crowd of people at New City, this time on neo-paganism, Jungian psychology, astrology, new age spirituality, and witchcraft. It easily matched the high quality of his last series, and I am glad to say that they were recorded. Below are the links, and I would highly recommend them. I would also recommend having Mike speak at your church or campus group. He is thorough, very knowledgeable, and above all he is a great lecturer—very entertaining and engaging!
This is a superb podcast about multiculturalism taken from a lecture by Kenan Malik. It asserts that multicultural policies in Europe are used to divide immigrant groups and, in doing so, they feed extremist groups. Interesting, not sure what I think about it, but it’s certainly worth a listen.
Reasons to Believe is the apologetics ministry of astronomer Hugh Ross, an old earth creationist who is famous for his “day age” view of Genesis 1. RTB has just started a Toronto chapter and I attended their second meeting last night. We are going through the book recently published by Ross called Why the Universe Is the Way It Is (Baker, 2008). I got the book last week and am about 80 pages into it. I have no scientific background, so it is a great introduction to issues in astronomy.
Ross makes an offhanded remark early in the book about what we know about the expansion of the universe and why it contradicts the Buddhist and Hindu notion of a reincarnating universe. He says:
The observational verifications that dark energy [this is what makes the universe expand–IHC] is the predominant component of the universe and, therefore, that the universe will expand at an ever-increasing rate put an effectual end to the oscillating universe model and to the Hindu/Buddhist concept of a reincarnating universe. Accelerating cosmic expansion means that the universe can never contract; therefore it cannot rebound. This fact eliminates the possibility of a renewal, rebirth, or second beginning for the universe.
Hugh Ross, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 39.