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Reason and belief

Reader comment on item: Turkey's Erdoğan Gambles and Loses
in response to reader comment: In Defense of Daniel Pipes and Pope Francis

Submitted by Thomas Hennigan (United States), Apr 12, 2016 at 08:10

I understand that Islam wishes to dominate,"submit" the whole of humanity to itself. Now, if this is the case, I cannot understand the notion that no one who doesn't believe in its teachings of can possibly understand its canonical scriptures. It is unreasonable to expect a human being who is defined by Aristotle as a "rational animal" to accept a belief system which by definiton he cannot understand. Yes, in Christianity, St. Augustine states regarding the doctrine of the Trinity "if you comprehend, then it is not God" ("si comprehendis, non est Deus). However, he made a tremendous effort at explaining it in a long book, De Trinitate, precisely becasue it is unreasonable to expect anyone to believe what is contrary to reason. Of course, Augustine meant that he cannot "comprehend" the Trinity,in as much one cannot totally grasp and understand it, but up to a certain point yes. Augustine understood that if God did reveal something to humans about his nature, it had to be to some degree comprensible to them. Besdies, in many ways Islam is extremely politiical, and therefore the mind demands an understanding of its propositions.

You have a false notion of the so called Dark and Middle Ages. These terms were intented by people in the 15thh and 16th centuries who had little understanding of that long period in Western history. If there were Dark Ages, it was due to the fact that the Germanic tribes were not civilized and it took centuries for them to be so civilized .and The Catholic Church was the main protagonist of this whole process. However, kings like Theodoric in the sixth century were very interested in maintaining for the most part all that was positive in the classical civilization. The most civilized part of the classical world, the Eastern Mediterranean was brutally attacked by muslim invaders and a third of the territory populated by Christians was conquered by muslims (or Sarecens or Hagarines, or however they were originally called). .

I understand that Islam is what is written in the Qu'ran, the Sira of Mahommad and the Hadiths. If you consider that no one who is not a muslim can understand them, then there is no argument to be had. In any case, the discussion about Islam is not about the character of behaviour of individual muslims, as certainly many if not most of them are decent people, and it is nobody's business to judge and condemn the subjective behavior and conscience of others. However, I submit, that Islamic doctrine can and should be judged and discussed.

I reject this statement as false: "So your comparison of Jesus to Muhammad is merely an expression of your religious belief". Jesus is a historical figure who can and should be examined with rational criteria which are applied by historical research, and this has been done and is perfectly legitimate. So in the case of Mahommad. The official Islamic sources give us a huge amount of information about almost every aspect of Mahommad's life, if the hadiths are to be considered trustworthy. What we know about Jesus is readily available in the gospels. Why can we not subject both to rational investigation and why can we not compare what we know about both. This is not a matter of belief. Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but that is something which is not available to us by means of rational historical research,but his existence and many aspects of his life are. Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist, that the bread and wine is transformed into his body and blood. This is not something that can be rationally demonsratred, just like the Trinity cannot. However, it is not unreasonable to believe these teachings, We don't expect others to accept them either, as they are not available reason alone. The application of the historica/critical method to Biblical texts has been very positive and it is necessary to continue the study the Historical Jesus. These methods have been refined over the past two centuries so that they have produced many good fruits. This is not the case with Islam.

You say that Jesus is a prophet for Islam, Yes, but the Qur'an's version of Jesus has little in common with the portrait of him given in the gospels. It denies that he died on the cross, a belief which it probably got from early Christian gnostics of the second century. More than six hundred years after the events, it accused Christians of having twisted their Scripures. The Qur'an states that Jesus will to judge all, but he will first destroy all crosses, meaning he will destroy Christianity. In reality the Islamic Jesus has almost nothing in common with the Jesus of the New Testament, just as the Hebrew prophets as presented in the Qur'an have almost nothing in common with what the Hebrew Scriptures tell us about them. The quoranic version of Moses, the Hebrew prophets and Jesus are mere caricatures of the Biblical figures What sources does Islam have to prove hundreds of years later that its portrait of the Hebrew Prophets and Jesus is the correct on and that the Bible is wrong? As far as I know, it is a matter "gratis affirmatur, gratis negatur" (gratuitous affirmations). It has no proof.

It is one thing to be tolerant and understanding of other and their faith, as most of them were born into it and it is part of their life. That doesn't mean that one cannot apply critical thinking to the particular faith of others, as St. Thomas Aquinas well stated that all human thought and behaviour must be governed by reason. Of course, many believers are not capable of submitting their beliefs to rational examination, or don't see any need for that. Islam is not only a private system of beliefs which is tollerant of the beliefs of others. The Qur'an orders muslims to fight unbelievers (kaffir), to "strike them in the neck" etc. So, it is something which affects the rest of humanity and the everyone else has a right to know what it teaches. Of course, not all muslims are very knowledgeable about what it actually teaches, just like many Christians don't know much about what Jesus taught. According to research done by the Pew Institute a large percentage of muslims who live in Western countries want to impose sharia on the rest of the populaltion. Surely the rest of us ought to know what sharia is about, that Islam considers that all law has to be to derived from divine revelation expressed in the Qur'an. You say that I cannot even know Islam or judge is sources, but it wants to submit me to its law which is based on the Qur'an. This kind of law is diametrically opposed to the Christian or Western notion of law, expressed by St, Thomas Aquinas, based to a great extent on Aristotle as "nothing other than a certain dictate of reason (rationis ordinatio) for the common good, made by him who has the care of the community and promulgated." ST. IaIIae, Q.90, art.4". If Islam wants to impose sharia, considered to be deriived from Allah's s revelation granted to Mahommad on the rest of us, and a good percentage of muslims seem to want that, then we ought to know what sharia is and what it would imply for us.

As for tolerance and the Enlightenment. I agree that many positive things came from the Enlightenment period, but so did the Reign of Terror and the Massacre of Vendeé also was also fruit of the application of Enlightenment ideology which gave us the French Revolution.

I reject your identifiication of the teachings of Islam that ae found in the canonical Islamic sources and what 1.6 million muslims think and belieive and how they live. I see no reason why a critical analysis the teachings of Islam can be dubbed as "islamophobia", hate speech or lack of tolerance towards these millions of muslims. Islam is an ideology, which is totalitarian, meaning it is political, social, economic, and religious. I have no problem with the religious aspects of Islam, how they pray, how they celebrate Rammadam, how they make their pilgrimage to Mecca is their business and doesn't impinge on the rest of us. That unless they begin to comandeer the streets and block traffic to do their prayers, as they do in Paris. . This is not just religious, it is also political. . However, that is not all that Islam is., I reiterte that since it wants to impose its laws on the rest of us, then it must be discussed, not in its specifically religious aspects, but inasmuch as it impinges on the freedom of the rest of us.

"And it is the Tolerance which Pope Francis exhibits towards Muslims which you somehow misconstrue in you observation here" I reject this also, as you seem to imply that I don't have any tolerance for Muslims, which is false. I distinguish between individual muslims and as a follower of Jesus Christ, I am obliged to practiice universal charity, love of neighbor. What I dispute is the politiical doctrine of Islam. I have analyzed what Pope Francis has said and written regarding Islam and I consider that he doesn't seem to understand it. He seems not to have taken into account what is in the above mentioned Islamic canonical sources. Of course, the Qurán contains very palatable verses which can be accepted by anyone else, such as they one which states that "there is no compulsion in religion". It seems that Mahommad's contempoaries realized that there were contradictions in his teachings and in response to them he introduced the doctrine of "abrogation", according to which verses revealed later cancel those previously revealed. Most of the verses about killing kaffir are considered later verses, revealed when he was a war lord in Medina, whilst the others were mostly revealed when he was a preacher of his new religion in Mecca.

I agree with and accept the Pope's attitude of respect and tolerance towards muslims and his efforts at dialogue with Islamic authorities. Every human being deserves respect and to be listened to. However, this is not an easy task, as the representatives of Islam seem to think that dialogue involves accepting their theses or presuppositions. I think real dialogue is needed and it should take on board the militant and aggressive side of Islam. I also think that Pope Benedict was correct when he stated: "The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.[5] ...: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality" (http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2006/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060912_university-regensburg.html). , For the good of humanity we could hope that reasonable dialogue would produde some good results. If as you state, we "nonbelievers" cannot understand or interpret Islamic texts, how can such dialogue take place?

What is Mr. Pipe's definition of "Islamism" as distinct from Islam? Does he consider that those who perpetrate terrorist attacks in the name of Allah, are somehow hijacking Islam,which is essentially peaceful?. If that is the case, then the burden of proof is on him, as it is plain to anyone both from the history of Islam and the Qur'an itself that it was propagated throughout its some 1350 years of existence mainly by means of the sword. Isn't Mahommad considered "the perfect model of human conduct"? It is not necessary to go into any details about his behavior. Aren't ISIS warriors and others basisng their actions on the example of Mahommad? .

Yes, Christian Emperors such as Charlemagne and Justinian forced people to be baptized, but what they did is totally contrary to the teaching of Jesus. The same cannot be said about Islam. Does Mr. Pipes know of any school of Islamic theology or jurisprudence which rejects the aspects of Islam which mandate violence against non muslims? My understanding is that only very few and marginal voices within Islam are interested in reforming it so as to sanitize it by eliminating these unsavory aspects of it. Some of these have been killed. Unfortunately, the reform movements within Islam have brought about Wahibism and other radical versions of it? Why would this be?


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