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The main truth of Christianity is that God became a man. Islam rejects that truth, and so is a huge step backward. It is an extremely alienated religion.

A step backwards?  According to who? And in what sense?  If you are interested in Gnosticism you must be aware of the similarities between the Christ narrative and older Mithraic rituals.  Perhaps Christianity was a step backwards?

Alienated-same questions again.  The Muslim relationship with God is personal.  All actions are in the service of God: everyday lfe is suffused with the divine.  There is no real equivalent of priests, no intercession by saints; there are no icons, no depictions of the Prophet, no light-up Madonnas...

You seem to have found a personal answer, Alexander, and I respect that.  And I'm willing to admit I may be oversensitive because I work in the Muslim community.  But the fact that the West has fallen into the duallist trap of us (Christians and Jews) vs them (not) in this particular instance isn't an argument for creating an alternative, and equally incorrect, duality.

by Sassafras on Sun Apr 1st, 2007 at 04:46:19 AM EST
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A step backwards?  According to who?

According to reality.

Are you aware that there has been an evolution in Christian thought over the last two thousand years? During the Middle Ages, people had a coherent, unified world view based on the Bible. With the advent of the scientific revolution, it was understood that the Bible doesn't really describe or explain nature, as had been previously believed. With the Protestant Reformation and its aftermath, it was understood that people need to interpret the Bible for themselves, individually, instead of relying upon the Church hierarchy. With the development of critical textual methods at the end of the nineteenth century and more recent historical and archaeological scholarship, it has become possible to understand the Bible not as the word of God, but as the product of a historical process.

After the Bible lost its monopoly on dictating what is true during the Enlightenment, people in the West have lived with a fragmented world view, with science determining how we understand nature and Christianity determining how we understand much of the rest. But since the nineteenth century, this fragmentation has been overcome, and a unified world view is once more possible. Everything is described and understood by science and reason, and this includes religion—and Christianity in particular—itself.

Contrary to Pope Benedict's claims, reason leads to the conclusion that there is no God. The God concept cannot answer fundamental questions like how was the world created or why are we here, because when you introduce the God concept, you get a new question—why is there God—which cannot be answered. But it is very easy to answer the question: Why did people invent the God concept? It was to deal with certain existential problems.

Once the process of what Max Weber called disenchantment becomes complete, the problem arises of what are we to do with Christianity? Do we throw it away into the trash bin? To do that would be destroy a significant part of ourselves. So instead of throwing it away, we construct a rational interpretation of it. That is what I did in the post you were responding to.

Think of it this way. As Arthur C. Clarke pointed out in Childhood's End I think, there are many religions in the world, and they cannot all be right. When you look at Christianity itself, there are many conflicting theologies, only one of which can be right. Now, can we construct a unique theology for which a good case can be made that it is correct? Yes, very easily. There is no God. All theological problems disappear. And Christianity has worked its way to that resolution, with Hegel's interpretation of it, according to which God is the whole that comprises nature and ourselves.

So Christianity turns out to be the true religion. But as I wrote in my previous post, if one considers Spinoza, then one can say that Judaism is true too. In the Buddhist tradition, one speaks of "high" and "low" Buddhism. Perhaps we should start to do the same with Judaism and Christianity as well. According to low Judaism and Christianity, there is a personal God, that is, a God who is a person. According to the high Judaism of Spinoza and the high Christianity of Hegel, God is just ourselves and nature.

If one considers high Judaism and Christianity, Judaism and Christianity line up on one side, and Islam on the other. But if one considers low Judaism and Christianity, it is Christianity that stands by itself. The problem with Islam seems to be that no "high" Islam is possible. That is because of Islam's tenet that humans cannot know God. That tenet prevents Islam from developing an exit strategy from superstition.

You write that "The Muslim relationship with God is personal." That is an absurd claim, because there is no God: there is just ourselves. Muslims worship an idol—Islamic law. By claiming that for Muslims, "all actions are in the service of God", you are in effect denying Muslims' humanity, by taking the position that they are not under the obligation, as all human beings are, to try to rid themselves of ignorance and error.

In this age of rampant religious fundamentalism, it is not enough for liberals and secular humanists to say that their religious beliefs are personal and subjective. The fundamentalists claim that their beliefs are objectively valid. We must do the same.

In the Booman Tribune today, there is a diary which gives the following quotation:

There are two things which can stop this slide into barbarism and death: the conquest of the west by people who believe in something, or the revival of a west which has returned to its moral and intellectual roots. Those are the choices - be conquered by Moslems (who at least believe in something higher than themselves and their personal pleasures), or become Judeo-Christian. Death or conversion, take your pick.

Secular humanism and dwelling on the importance of the separation of church and state are not an adequate response to this sort of rhetoric. To these extremists, to say that there are many equally valid religious belief systems is to not believe in anything, and to reject the Western tradition. The fundamentalists have, fairly successfully, hijacked that tradition. Liberals and secular humanists must get it back and claim it as their own, and I have outlined how to do that here.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns
by Alexander on Sun Apr 1st, 2007 at 04:22:14 PM EST
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