Sunday, June 5, 2011

All Religion is Inherently Flawed

Jesus and I have a similar style, I think.
I know a lot of you are going to disagree with me on this one, but that's okay.  I recently got into a discussion about the history of Islam and Christianity that was fairly interesting, but some points were raised that were a bit troublesome to me.

Now, most historians today who understand the political and economic climate of 1199 Europe and Middle East believe that the Crusades were not really about religion.  When the Pope issued Deus Vult, which in Latin means "God wills it," it is generally thought that religion was not the reason the pope wanted to "liberate," or "reclaim," the Holy Land for the sake of Christianity.  The Muslims had blocked off the trade routes east, and Jerusalem was seen as a huge money-making cultural center.

Plus, the concept of the pilgrimage was a big business back then.  Along the routes of pilgrimage to Jerusalem, owners had their shops to sell provisions to the pilgrims.  It did become unsafe for pilgrims shortly before 1199, but lets not pretend that the Church at the time actually cared about people's spiritual wellbeing.  This was a Church very different from what we have today, very much in the enterprise of making money and maintaining political power and influence.  If Jerusalem ever belonged to anyone, it belonged to the Jews, not the Christians.

So really, it was never "ours," to take, at least not on a religious standpoint.  This is not the point I want to discuss though, it's a notion that somehow, some religions are inherently "better" than others.

Now to a guy like me, that idea sounds pretty damn weird.  How can we say that a certain belief structure about shit we can never, ever know for certain, or even perceive, is better than another?  Lets take the three major Middle Eastern religions for example: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Look at what the Old Testament allows these asshats to do.

Now, although Christianity can be said to be a religion of peace, that doesn't mean that it always has been.  Just as radical Muslims use the Quran to justify their horrors, Christianity has used the bible to do the same.  Take slavery for example.  200+ years of slavery was justified in America using the bible.  And you know what?  They were right if we believe the bible to be true.  Jesus never "abrogated" slavery.  So according to Leviticus, slavery is totally okay as long as you follow the rules.

There are also several verses in the Gospels in which Jesus claims that he's not there to bring peace, but "the sword," and "division."  We can say "oh well he didn't mean that literally," but then that sort of tanks the whole argument against Islam and the Quran.

Why?  Because there are many Muslim scholars out there who do the same thing.  "We can't take the calls to violence literally."  Just as we see the bible as a matter of interpretation, so do many Muslim scholars see the Quran.  And what's funny is that there are tons of fundamentalist Christians today who read those verses and take them to be literally true.  We would say that they're idiots, just as Muslim scholars say that radical Muslims are idiots.

And what about the Jews?  Well, they don't believe the New Testament to be true, so all of the violence God supposedly called for in the OT is still game for them according to the logic of radicalism.  This is the point where we have to realize that religion itself is flawed.  It's filled with tons of contradictions, hateful messages, and straight up logical fallacies.  And you know why?  Because it's a creation of human beings.

God did not create religion: man created it to understand God.  It might be influenced by God in some ways, but when you see all sorts of major world religions claiming to be directly influenced by God, doesn't it make you wonder if they're all somehow full of shit?  Religion deals with spiritual matters, things that we cannot possibly perceive, know for certain, and thus cannot possibly prove.  Religion it a creation of man, the purpose of which is to try to understand the unknowable.

Religion is inherently flawed, so how can we say that one is more flawed than the other, especially when we humans are flawed?  Christians committed great horrors and attrocities on the peoples of the world.  They saw people tortured during the Inquisition, they rounded up all the Jews in Jerusalem into a synagogue and burned it down during the first Crusade, and they enslaved the indigenous peoples of America.  And they did it all because they believed it was commanded by God to do so.

We were lucky that the Reformation and the Renaissance came along.  Had it not been for the ideas spawned during those periods, we'd probably still be stuck in the Middle Ages like so many Middle Eastern countries.


Harrison said...

The Torah, Bible, and Koran all came from God and the Pope says he's God's representative on Earth so not sure how we can say religion was invented by Man to understand God.

Regarding slavery and the Bible, the connection is definitely there but if some Christians used it as a justification for owning blacks they ignored the key point of the Bible that slave owning was not concerning someone's race but their religion:

Also, the versus point out that male Hebrews were to be freed after 7 years.

So for American slave owners the Bible doesn't support their claims for owning slaves based upon race or not freeing the men after 7 years.

I think when people are discussing violence and Islam they are pointing to the calls for killing Infidels or forcing them to pay money so as not to be killed. That's pretty black-and-white unlike the Bible's passages regarding slaves.

The other key difference is with the doctrine of abrogation in the Koran.

Jack Camwell said...

Because religion existed even before those texts came about. The Middle Eastern monotheists would say that the relgious texts that predate the Bible and Quran were not divinely inspired. People were trying to understand the supernatural long before the bible came about, so religion is an invention of man for the purpose of understanding that which man cannot possibly understand.

And although you might be right about slavery and the bible (non Hebrews were only supposed to be manumitted on the Jubilee every 50 years), that didn't stop people from using the fact that the Bible condones slavery, regardless of the rules.

And at the time that the Torah was written, they didn't see themselves as just a religious sect. Judaism was a way of life, it was a particular culture. They weren't the chosen religion of God, they were the chosen PEOPLE of God. Other peoples, non-Jews, were inherently inferior. I imagine that's where the "race" thing came from in terms of justifying slavery.

And yes, many Christians justified slavery because the "savages" were not Christian. THey thought that by enslaving them and force converting them that they were doing them a favor.

David Bryan Davis's "Inhuman Bondage," is a really good read on the history of slavery and the justifications people used for it.

Harrison said...

Well, people can justify anything. The human mind is very good at that. If we look collectively at all belief systems throughout human history then yes, I agree with you that they are "inventions."

Jack Camwell said...

"people can justify anything." That's a good point to raise, and that was more or less the point I was driving at.

A professor of mine once said that "the dangerous thing about education and intelligence is that they allow us to justify just about anything, even the most horrifying behavior."

Damien said...

I like your item and agree with the points within it. In fact I am rather tired of those that rather jump to conclusions because of their own inablility to think and let others (with motives) make it for them.

As for the comments here, I disagree with Harrison in particular about the Koran in which I think the comments are still assuming certain points are in black & white, when they are not.

As for "command and instruction", the OT has in fact more bloodshed, rules and calls to death than the Koran.

The only difference is the reality that those whom interpret them to justify thier own brutality is present and real today and thus they get the attention.

The cold facts still remain that the list of great massacres of recent times were not by Muslims - Srebrenica, Rawanda, Holocaust, Stalin's purges, China's revolution, the Rape of Nanking etc.

Even the First Crusade called forth by Urban II gave the mostly Germanic armies a chance to kill tens of thousands of Jews before they left Europe.

It is not religion that is the cause of all great evil, in fact the three great faiths are a call to the way of peace and humanity, it is the great evil of man that uses and abuses any and every tool available to him that is important to man - his faith primarily along with power and lust.

D Charles QC
(a Catholic)

Jack Camwell said...

Thanks for stopping by friend =)

In terms of the pre-Crusades Jew-slaughters, Peter the Hermit comes to mind.

I particularly agree with your last point about religion not being the cause of great evil. An atheist once told me "Religion poisons everything, including people." I retorted "PEOPLE poison everything, including religion."

There are too many Muslim scholars who reject the literal interpretation of the Quran for us to say that Islam itself is a religion of violence.

We also have to remember that the Quran is not organized chronologically. So to say that the later stuff abrogates the earlier stuff as it is presented I think is a bit silly.

Damien said...

I live in Gibraltar, between Spain and Morocco and I am a barrister with license to practice both in Southern Spain and the enclaves attached to Africa. Many of my clients are in fact Moroccan Muslims. I say this because I always talk about religion and faith with them and after nine years I get pretty much a picture from their perspective.

To them the Koran is kept in its order because that way it is untouched because that was how it was given. Rather than putting into some form of order, it is instead read as if it was three entities and thus the order is not so important. The three entities being "a history and events of the time", a set of "examples" to learn from and lastly "the Message".

In many ways it is similar to the Torah and as Muslims claim that is the continuing extension from Judaism and Christianity it is also thus a reconfirmation to them of the OT and the NT and quite clearly they claim it is a return to the basics - the Torah.

In the end it is the topic of how you view those three elements and does one use examples of historical events as being "the examples" or "the message" and as one very senior Imam of the Spanish Enclave of Ceuta told me, the real issue with Islam comes down to two facts only and all the problems stems from them:
1. In Islam it is supposed to be haram (forbidden) to call another Muslim an unbeliever or a "bad Muslim". From the 1970s - the Iranian Revolution, that changed and now it happens all the time. Wahhabists and Salafists are telling other Muslims to be like them.
2. That the Koran is supposed to be the holy book not the haddiths but somehow it has become the opposite and there are many variations of haddiths but the Koran is still the same - why is that?

I like those two points and I reflect on that, yes it is the basis behind all the problems and when I say that to Muslims I meet, they actually consider it and agree.

As a Catholic I consider it to be perhaps the problem within the Church as well - what was the basic message and have we created a new one around it and do we talk about the Church more than of Jesus and have we forgotten God? Do we concentrate way to much on telling each other how to be a good Christian rather than looking at ourselves?


Jack Camwell said...

Damien, you're after my own heart. The perspective you've brought is very interesting, and it's definitely not one that I've thought of before.

I whole-heartedly agree with your stance on the idea that Christianity has strayed from personal development in one's faith and has devolved in this sort of "I'm a better Christian thatn you," mentality.

Self-examination is something that is disappearing from the Christian faith, probably because Socratic self-examination forces us to stare into the darkness and doubt that is in many of us. It's much easier to tell someone else that they're not good enough than to admit that we may be less than we strive to be.

I am humbled that you would choose to comment here. I look forward to future input =)

weak agnostic fully automated luxury communist said...

"It is not religion that is the cause of all great evil." Not wholly, I agree; but a contributing factor to some? I'd guess that to possibly be more accurate. For many, I'd agree that there behavior would not change and they are poisoning religion. If religion wasn't the reason, something else would be for the same behavior, but, as well, for many I would think that if you take away their current perception of religion, the terrible behavior of killing, hate, judgment, etc. would lessen or maybe even stop all together. The latter group may have no intrinsic desire for this behavior but, through manipulation of there perception of religion (propbably by the former group) they may be swayed into these actions in pursuit, what they inaccurately think, to fulfill their religious duties.

Just a guess. I really have no way of proving it. Let me know what you think.