What do I know?
Like most other American Christians, I can’t claim to know much about Islam. I took a two-month class on the religion in college, and learned a bit about it in high school, but other than that, I have had no immersion into the religion, and only see it through the lens of the war.
But let’s focus on what we do know. Muhammad was a normal and pious man, born around 570 C.E., married to an older woman, living his life when the angel Gabriel came to him and ordered him to recite. The Qur’an is the result of this recitation from illiterate Muhammad. The Qur’an is the living word of God, similar to how Christ is the living word to the Christian God. Muslims worship only God, Islam means “submission to God,” and Muhammad was a prophet, just as Abraham, Jesus, and all the Old Testament prophets were.
Out of the Qur’an comes the Five Pillars. They are 1) Confessing faith in one God, 2) Prayer five times a day, 3) Alms-giving, 4) Fasting at Ramadan, and 5) hajj, which is a pilgrimage to Mecca, a historically relevant city to the Muslim faith.
Sunnis follow Muhammad’s example. Shiites follow Muhammad’s example but also, long ago, chose to follow the example of Muhammad’s descendants, like Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law.
Jihad means “struggle.” It is not holy war, but it can be. It puts a name to the inner struggle each Muslim goes through to submit to God rather than follow their own ego.
Muslims believe that humans were created with fitra–a good framework everyone is born with, but that many people forget and get distracted from the true path. This negates the need for a Savior, unlike Christianity, which is a religion based on the saving blood of Christ. All one needs to do to be saved in the Islam faith is to follow the Five Pillars.
Treatment of Women
We look at Muslim women covered head to toe, living under strict rules and say the religion and culture is oppressing them. Muslims look at American women wearing next to nothing on TV and billboards, putting all their worth in their bodies, and say American culture and Christianity are objectifying and oppressing their women. Both sides argue that their women are better off.
These differences will always bother the modern, democratic West as well as the traditional, Islamic East. It overlaps into all the question both religions ask: do we move forward with our ideas and technology, or do we try to go back to the way things were in the Bible or in Muhammad’s time? No text or living example can tell us what to do about stem cell research. The ambiguity in both Christian and Islam doctrine create unanswerable questions and unnegotiable relations between nations.
But we look at the stories of Muslim men killing their sisters because they were raped, or seen with a man who wasn’t part of the family, and we Westerners cannot condone it due to cultural difference. How can two civilizations agree to disagree when innocent people die? It is difficult to know when to intervene with another nation.
Yet, many Muslim women feel hopeful that they will attain more freedoms as time goes by. Only a hundred years ago in the US, women weren’t allowed to vote. How can we rush other cultures to catch up to us?
Violence and Jihad
Another reason Christians and Muslims can’t get along is violence. The unforgettable attacks and counterattacks of the last decade have shown us that people will fight and die for their religion. Christians and Americans question Muslims: how is your religion peaceful when so much war and killing has happened since its beginning?
Muslims turn around and ask us the same thing. Christianity has a history of violence, too. The US has turned to violence to get what it has wanted.
But why did Islam extremists attack us? As Western thought and modernism spread, along with American culture, to almost every nation, Muslims cannot help but see these new ways of thinking and living as imposing on their religious tradition. When we try to make their religious governments into democracies, they don’t see it as a gift of freedom, they see it as an attack on their religion. When the World Trade Centers fell down and fingers were pointed to Al Qaeda, Christians too felt their religion was being attacked. Christians tend to tie up their religious conviction with patriotism, and freedom has become a synonym for the American way of life.
The majority on both sides want peace. But both sides are also called to spread their religion to all nations. Dedicated Muslims and Christians alike will fight for what they believe is right. This is the cause of the clash.
What Can We Do?
We have only dipped into this topic, and have already found material for endless debate. What can we do with this rising issue?
- For now, the best thing to do is to learn as much as we can about Islam. We must stay updated on what is going on in Islamic countries and we must hush our assumptions and listen for awhile.
- Understand and remember that there is fear on both sides. Western culture has become a force, a blind pillar of great evil to many other cultures in the world. Muslims also understand little about us. They fear us as much as we may fear them.
- Find the beauty in Islam. Instead of looking for its faults, look at it for inspiration for your own faith. How do Muslims find happiness? Looking for the positive aspects, we will have more than enough to love about this other culture.
- Talk about it with as many people as possible. Really listen to what other people are saying, and be respectful while still arguing your point. Communication is always the first step, and most of the time, we cannot even manage that. Let’s start the discussion.
Psychologist Darrel Ray, who was raised in a conservative Christian household, conducted an online survey to determine the impact of religion on sexual satisfaction.
Ray set out to confirm whether his own experience- that his sex life vastly improved when he ditched religion- bore out among others. Ray, who authored the book The God Virus: How God Infects Our Lives and Culture, sought out 14,500 people who had once been religious or raised in a religious environment before becoming atheist or agnostic. What Ray discovered is that guilt seems to heavily influence sexual satisfaction in many specific subsets of Christianity.
The survey did not adhere to social science study guidelines, but Ray reported the results as follows:
Those who had been raised Mormon with their strict views about sex, showed the highest rating among those who had sexual guilt with an average score of 8.19 out of 10. Others with similar responses were Jehovah’s Witness, Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist and Baptist.
Catholics, on the other hand, rated their guilt at 6.34 and Lutherans came in at 5.88. Atheists and agnostics were the lowest in guilt at 4.71 and 4.81.
University of Texas at Austin associate professor Mark Regnerus dismissed the survey as biased and said Ray’s methods were “unscientific,” adding:
“It appears that it was a ‘fill it out if you want to’ kind of survey that is not random, not nationally representative, and relies entirely on self-selection,” he said. “In other words, they have data from people who felt like filling out a survey on atheism and sex. As a result, I am not surprised at their findings.”
Regnerus said the results were based on “hearsay or guesswork,” and opined:
“I don’t fault the author for running the survey he did, but it does display research methods which do not meet the standards of most published social science.”
Indeed, the results would have been a bit more interesting even just stacked against responses from religious folk who consider themselves sexually satisfied. Do you agree with Ray’s findings? Does religion or lack thereof significantly affect your view on sex?
Note: Given the propensity of Christians to continually deceive themselves with this argument, I have decided to bring this back to the front of my site. In case you are wondering, I often prefer to use the informal indicative rather than the more formal subjunctive. – May 2005
IF CHRISTIANITY IS TRUE
Wayne Everett Orgar
Over the past few years, one of the most frequent comments I have heard from Christians is paraphrased as follows:
If Christianity is true and I believe, than I have eternal life.
If it is true and I don’t believe, I have eternal punishment.
If it is false and I believe, than I will have only lived a lie.
This is nothing more than Pascal’s wager watered down. Bet on Christianity and you lose nothing.
WRONG! You lose plenty.
First, though, let’s recognize this is only a statement of fear and presents evidence of nothing except the fear of hellfire and brimstone. Supposedly, believing in Christ on faith is the key to salvation. Believing in Christ because it is a safe bet is not faith and disqualifies you from salvation. This is fear, not the courage of one’s conviction.
- This argument provides no evidence for a god or for gods.
- It presents no evidence of an afterlife.
- It presents no evidence for the truth of Christianity or the belief that these practices will bring you that eternal life. You still have no guarantee that being a Christian brings eternal life if there was an afterlife.
- It represents a false dichotomy. The choice is not between Christianity and atheism. It is a choice among atheism, Christianity, and the thousands of other religions that respective believers think will get them eternal life. If eternal life existed, it could belong to only the Hindu.
- If Christianity was false and you believed, you could lose more than a life of lies. If Shintoism were true instead, you would lose eternal life. You better get out there and believe in Shintoism to hedge your bet.
Consider the underlying reasoning behind the argument and it falls apart.
If religion A is true and I believe, than I have eternal life.
If religion A is true and I don’t believe, than I have eternal punishment.
If religion A is not true and I believe, than I will only have lived a lie.
You could use this to justify believing in any religion. Just substitute Islam for religion A. If you use this reasoning to justify believing in Christianity, the moral principle of fairness requires you to allow other religions to use it with equal justification and hope of salvation. Otherwise, you are being hypocritical and you are deceiving yourself.
You could use it to hold conflicting beliefs and be in total self-contradiction. Why would anyone respect this argument?
Now back to my original point. You have plenty to lose with Christianity
- You lose a lot of time and money on religious organizations and icons, time and money that could be better spent on real problems.
- You have to worry about guilt and shame from the imaginary concept of sin. Big brother is watching.
- You have to stand on your head and do verbal gymnastics to “apologize” for ridiculous Bible stories and verses.
- You have to worry about the increasing knowledge of the facts of the universe and try to rectify them with the Bible, written by people who knew nothing about their universe.
- You have to worry about the increasing civil rights of women and other minorities such as homosexuals, atheists, ethnic groups, and other religious groups that are increasing in this country.
- You have to constantly worry about non-believers watching your behavior as Christians and pointing out that you do not behave any better than non-believers.
- You have to worry about your friends and family going to hell for an eternity. If you don’t worry about this, you either don’t truly believe or are a very callous individual.
- You have to worry about breaking arbitrary “rules of men” that were attributed to a supposed deity thousands of years ago.
- You have to worry about those secular humanists (all 20 of them) that have taken over every school, government body, university, media outlet, and ice cream stand in the country.
I could list more. I found no comfort from Christianity. It is not a sure thing and I certainly would not want to bet my life or well being on it.
February 2006 – The stupidist thing a Christian has ever said to me in regard to this is that non-belief in Christianity has consequences and the above is therefore not true. Other religions have no consequences? Tell that to an Islamic believer who insists that Christians will go to hell!