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Monotheism is a "much ado about nothing"

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in response to reader comment: Islam, the beautiful religion

Submitted by Prashant (United States), Jun 26, 2011 at 00:43

Dear Dr Pipes:

I admire monotheism as a sufficient doctrine for spirituality. By that I mean that a person's spiritual needs can be satisfied if he follows monotheism (monotheism is sufficient). But I still think that monotheism is not necessary. I will elaborate. First, let me explain how a lot of people equate idolatory and polytheism and get confused about them both. Idolatory is different from polythiesm. And obsessive opposition to either (as done in Islam) is counter productive (to the best of my knowledge, Islam encourages intellectual inquiries into issues and so I will be forgiven for calling Islamic beliefs as counter productive).

Idolatory is the act of attaching a symbol to the God and using that symbol as a part of your worship. Opposition to idolatory does not stand to reason. If the supreme God can have a name why can't He have a shape? If a person can use the world A-L-L-A-H as a way to establish a connection with the Supreme why can't he use a statue as a medium to make the same connection? And, further, when Allah can have a lot of human assigned and interpreted names, why can't He have many human assigned and interpreted shapes. So I think assigning shapes to God is as harmless as assigning names to Him and obsessive opposition to idolatory is counter productive (think the destruction of bamiyan buddha statues in afghanistan as obsessive and counter productive). Opposition to idolatory is impractical also. Respecting objects as sacred is natural for human beings. In every religion of the world devine importance is assigned to different objects. Quran, just a physical object, is called holy and revered. Absolutely strict monotheism must believe that any attachment of a physical object with God is wrong. Mecca is considered a holy place while it is just another object. In real terms there is no difference in the rituals that happen in Mecca and worshiping idols as done in many eastern religions. Supporting one and calling the other a sin is hypocricy.

Polythiesm is a more difficult concept and is more in contradiction to pure-monotheism than idolatory. While Islamic God is completely separated form this world (He has never come to this world and will never come to this world), the polytheistic beliefs say that God can take a shape of His choice any time He wants and any place he wants. This belief says that we must see the devine presence of God in everything around us. No one among us can know the exact nature of the devine. Ancient Hindu and Greek philosophers and many subsequent Christian philosophers asked and tried to answer questions about the nature of the devine but failed to get an answer. I, as a Hindu, find it a lot more pragmatic to acknowledge some divine presence in every object than to deny God the ability to take any form at all. This pragmatism allows me to respect all objects and, in particular, respect even the symbols of Islam. .

So to come back to Omar Naushad's 'Islam's the beautiful religion', I contend that only the one that does beautiful actions is beautiful.

Submitting....

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