Sunday, September 24, 2006
The nature of Islam and religion in general
One of the most important questions of today is whether or not Islam is truly a religion of peace. I will certainly not dispute the fact that the jihadists who spread mayhem and terror around the world are a minority of Muslims. We would be in pretty bad shape if a majority of Muslims were terrorists, given there are between 1.2 and 1.8 billion Muslims in the world. However, we also would be in much better shape if Muslims spoke out in greater numbers against violence and extremism. Is Islam as a faith a violent faith? I say it is - but with the following qualification - that all of the major religions are NOT religions of peace. I do not think man is a peaceful animal. We are all, after all, animals. And it is up to us to reign in our animalistic instincts and choose reason. Religion is inherently unreasonable, and inherently anti-reason. There are therefore inherently violent aspects to all of the major religions of the world, and the only forms of religion that are peaceful (or at least do not breed hatred and division) are the secularized versions of the major faiths. There are seldom few truly religious people of ANY faith that actually are tolerant towards gays, minorities, women, other faiths, etc. This is just a sad fact. The difference between Islam and Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism, is that there is a worldwide movement backwards in time, towards Islamic Fundamentalism, and away from secularism, backed in part by Iranian and Saudi oil dollars. Islamic Fundamentalism is inherently violent, intolerant, and hateful. There are many reasons why the Islamic Fundamentalists are gaining so much control, and there is also, in contrast to the other major faiths, a much larger (and documented) amount of antisemitism among Muslim populations. I have come to the conclusion that it is politically correct hogwash to say that Islam is a 'religion of peace.' However, it is also a dangerous lie to say that Islam is an inferior faith, that it has to be violent, that all Muslims are terrorists, or that they even think a certain way. I would never say that, nor would I think that. However, it is also a sad truth that trying to engage in a dialogue about the nature of Islam is a dangerous thing - it is easy to get labeled 'Islamophobic,' and even more than that, it is easy to get death threats. A free and easy exchange of ideas is hard to come by. Regardless, I want it to be known that I know that, regardless of what I think about Islam, Muslims can be some of the most peaceful and law abiding citizens of the world. Some of the most truly decent people in the world are Muslim. Furthermore, the Quran can be interpreted in modern and peaceful ways. There is no doubt about it. But none of this means that Islam is a 'religion of peace.' Finally, I do not call Judaism or Christianity or Hinduism religions of peace, so why should I call Islam a religion of peace? For me to call Islam a religion a religion of peace would then cause me to elevate my opinion of Islam above all other religions. I see no reason why Islam should get such a distinctive label as a 'religion of peace.' As a side note: an interesting discussion about the nature of Islam and Islamic history may be found in the comments to this post. EDIT: One last thing for clarity's sake...I am not saying that atheists are going to necessarily be peaceful people. I view humanity as constantly struggling against violent instincts. Stalin was an atheist, lest we forget. However, that form of atheism was akin to its own religion - forced atheism and forced NONTHOUGHT. I want it to be clear that while I believe atheism should be encouraged, I am wholly against forcing any doctrine on anyone. The need to force one's opinion on another is one of the most dangerous and violent tendencies in the human condition. It also has been the basis of incredible amounts of religious-based persecution.