Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category

Do Christians And Muslims Worship The Same God?


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.

Êtes-vous Charlie Hebdo?


Thoughts about yesterday:

There is no good reason to massacre cartoonists. For anything they have written or drawn. Ever. You don’t need to be a radical libertarian to espouse this view even.

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.

Texas Muslims

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…

Religion And Truth

Sophists: the original religious pluralists

…if in virtue of its nature all religion includes some kind of cognition and in its doctrine posits the reality of its object, it automatically falls under the heading of truth or untruth. Religion is never the product of feeling or fantasy alone; if that were the case, it would attach only an aesthetic value to its representations. But every religion is convinced of the reality and truth of its representations and cannot exist without this conviction. Accordingly and in fact everyone applies the categories of “true” and “false” to religions. Even the most “presuppositionless” philosopher of religion does not believe in the truth of the gods of the nations, however much he appreciates the religious disposition that comes to expression in it, and speaks, for example, of intellectualism, mythical sentimentalism, moralism, as well as of the pathological phenomena that contrast with sound and vital religion. The religions, accordingly, are far from viewing themselves as indifferent with respect to each other; they do not think they form a graduated series from the lower to the higher, but each in turn presents itself as true over against every other religion as untrue. Frederick the Great may say, and a philosopher of religion may say after him: “In my realm every citizen is free to be saved in his own fashion,” but the religions themselves have a very different view of this matter. And they cannot do otherwise: what one religion posits as true is disregarded by another. If Christ is the one sent by the Father, then Mohammed is not. If the Catholic doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is correct, that of the Reformation is in error. One who thinks and speaks otherwise and calls all religions equally true or equally false, in principle takes the position of the sophists who saw man as the measure of all things. [Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics vol. 1, 249]