NOTE: If this is your first time here, it is very important to keep in mind that many of the ideas expressed in this blog represent older versions of myself, and not necessarily my current self. After all, we evolve, and sometimes change our minds. In the meantime, enjoy lurking around, and watch the video trailer for my upcoming book here.

Morality Does Not Come from Holy Books. It Comes from Us. Here’s Why My Friends. :)

by Drima on August 2, 2009

Yup, I know what the passionately religious amongst you are probably thinking. “How dare he! Blasphemy! Arrogance! Somebody should teach this damn heretic a lesson.”

Well, not so fast. :)

Because my statement doesn’t necessarily deny the existence of God or belief in Him.

Have a glass of cold water, hear me out first, and I’d be more than happy to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Holy Books: Awww Verses Vs Yikes Verses

Holy books and sacred texts like the Bible, the Hadith collections and even the Quran contain commandments and stories that can either make you go Awww, or Yikes!

That is if you read those verses and sections literally.

Now, I’m not going to get into examples in details. You can explore different verses on your own if you like. The resources are plentiful and online.

Still, let’s get into this matter briefly.

Taking the Quran for instance, you have many, many beautiful verses encouraging good deeds such as being kind to orphans,  giving charity, and so on aka, Awww verses.

You also have a number of verses that can be morally repulsive and scientifically retarded when read and understood literally.

The same goes for the Bible.

Leviticus anyone?

“Don’t read those verses literally you dumbass! You need to interpret them correctly!”

Ok, fair enough.

In fact, that’s exactly the type of thinking I held on to and valued, and from a functional perspective, it’s actually a good thing, but it doesn’t mean it leads to truth, and in many cases, it needs some serious mental gymnastics.

Interpretation and Cherry Picking

Anyone who’s actually read the Bible or the Quran knows that there are plenty of verses that will make any sane or moral person today go yikes!

Stoning people to death? Killing non-believers?

Hitting your wife to discipline her?

Ah, well here comes the “beauty” of interpretation and cherry picking.

Demonstrating the Problem With
the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Let’s take an imaginary character and call him Ahmad.

Ahmad is a Palestinian Muslim kid whose parents got killed in an Israeli bombing raid on Gaza. He grows up with rage in his heart and contempt for Jews.

As time passes, Ahmad finds himself influenced by Quranic verses and stories in Islam that characterize Jews as infidels, and Islam’s sworn-enemies.

At the age of 28, Ahmad ends his life by blowing up himself at an Israeli checkpoint.

On the other hand, you have another imaginary character called Muhammad.

Muhammad is a Palestinian father who lost his children in an Israeli bombing raid on Gaza. He continues living his life still believing in peace and brotherhood with his Jewish neighbors.

In many ways, he’s just like the honorable Palestinian Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish.

As time passes, Muhammad finds strength and inspiration from the Quran, and continues to focus on the verses which encourage kindness and tolerance towards Jews and Christians, referred to in the Quran numerous times as “the people of the book.”

Now…

The truth is obvious from the examples above which aren’t really all that imaginary.

In both cases, Ahmad and Muhammad did not derive their morality from the Quran.

Their ethical intuitions came from within themselves.

Their ethical intutions directed their attention to verses they chose to focus on and be inspired by, whether knowingly or uknowingly.

Their ethical intuitions influenced their choice of interpretation.

And hence, their morals did not come from the Quran itself.

Their morals ultimately came from within themselves thanks to their own ethical intuitions about what’s right and wrong, and were influenced by their near social context.

And in case you’re still clinging on to the idea that our morality comes from Holy Books, here’s another example that demonstrates otherwise.

Demonstrating the Problem With Wife
“Beating” as “Instructed” In the Quran

This one requires no writing.

Just watch this fun, hilarious video that clearly shows a serious heinous problem in some parts of the Muslim world.

Observe how Mr. Chauvinist appeals to the authority of the Quran and his traditionalist (and sadly widespread) understanding of the “wife beating” verse.

Ah, interpretation, interpretation.

I mean seriously, on whose authority does one decide which verses to take literally, and which to take as metaphor?

Like I said, morality does not come from Holy Books themselves.

Metaphorical interpretation becomes a necessity and the process of choosing the morally right interpretation comes down to the individual’s ethical intuitions on which interpretation seems right, and which one seems wrong.

Wife beating? Yikes! That’s just wrong. Probably metaphorical. God is loving and merciful. He can’t support this type of lunacy.

Wife beating? Yeah, beat the crap out of her. Some women need discipline, and discipline is important. Without it, you will just have immoral anarchy and disobedience. God doesn’t like disobedience.

Oh, and guess what?

I didn’t make up those two responses to the wife beating question.

Those are roughly the responses I got from two pious Muslim friends I personally know, who both appeal to the interpretation of the Quran they believe is right… out of their own ethical intuitions.

See what I mean? :(

Now, If Morality Comes from Within Us
and Our Own Ethical Intuitions…

… then that begs the question… where did we come from?

Jesus? The Big Bang? Allah? Evolution?

Baba Ganoush?

Zeus? Osiris?

Xenu?

Leave your answer in the comments section below now.

I’m dying to hear it. ;)



Click on the Cover Below & Learn More About My Upcoming Book


{ 103 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Muhammad Osman 08.02.09 at 8:41 am

Well I personally believe that the evolution theory makes more sense than the rest. I don’t necessarily agree with all the details of Darwin’s theory but it does chime with the scientifically-proved fact that all other species in the universe have somehow evolved from other ones.

I agree that ethics do come from within us rather than “holy” texts. Nobody needs religion to teach him/her that stealing is wrong, harming other people is wrong; these things could be known by instinct and are usually taught to you by your parents before you even know what religion is. However, we need to address the following question. How did the versus that encourage hatred gain the upper hand and become predominant amongst ordinary Muslims?

I think answering this question first necessitates that we quit sweet-talking Muslims. Let’s face it, there is a contradiction in Quran between the verses that encourage tolerance and those that encourage hatred. That’s why Muslim clerics figured they could just cover it up and deceive their blindly-believing fellow Muslims by inventing what they refer to as الناسخ و المنسوخ, thus claiming supremacy for the versus of hatred over the versus of tolerance.

Islam had originated in a violent and primitive Bedouin culture where all sorts maltreatment of women and all means of persecuting dissidents were common practice. Islam is, unfortunately, still stuck in that past. It did not do so by itself of course, it’s the clergy that has been making sure it does not move on so they can sustain their influence on people. Clergy is the biggest enemy of Islam and as long as it has the control, Islam will continue to appear more and more perverse.

Peace

2 Drima 08.02.09 at 8:48 am

Damn, MO, I think you nicely laid it down. :)

And you nailed the messy الناسخ و المنسوخ issue. (for non-Arabic speakers, this is about having later verses on Jihad override earlier ones on tolerance and peace).

Couldn’t agree more.

Except I’m not so sure about all aspects of evolution, and to be frank, I’m still learning more about the subject.

Ya zool, just out of curiosity, are you in Sudan? And how did your beliefs evolve to what they are today.

Shaklak kutta 3ayish fee amreeka walla london, walla shno ya man?

I think it’s fascinating to just meet another Sudanese with your type of ideas (even if it’s online). Not easy to come by, and quite comforting I must say.

Glad to have you here.

Ahlan wasahlan!

3 ahmed 08.02.09 at 8:51 am

I have to admit that you are good judge of yourself. Yes! to me and many muslims around the world you are an arrogant and your post is blasphemous. But I dont believe in the “…teaching lesson…” part, because as you already knew that Shariah (Islamic rules) do not apply over a retarted person :)

You tried to use your sick brain to wrap your Blasphemy, pretending that you are very smart and intellectual, but you were failed to cover your ill & retarted brain’s teachings.

What you are afraid of? I mean who cares if you openly throw trash of your brain? Come on, there are whole lot of people, throwing trash over Islam, not just in this era but since the day one.

Get out of your room, leave the internet world for a while and try your best to convince just 5 muslims with your ill brain, and observe the results. I bet you would not be able to convince just a single guy out there in real world!!

4 Drima 08.02.09 at 9:16 am

ahmed, thanks for your comment.

Please Google the definition of ad hominem and tell me what you find. ;)

If you have something substantial to say against my ideas, then do so by all means. Argue against them and convince me that I’m wrong.

I’d be more than happy to listen. But it seems like you have nothing useful to say.

Me? Retarded? Oh yeah, totally. Thanks! :)

“Come on, there are whole lot of people, throwing trash over Islam, not just in this era but since the day one.”

Erm, okay.

Let’s have more blind faith I guess.

Should be fun. No need to question the notion that we derive our morality from Holy Books. Yeah, no need at all, because that would be like “throwing trash over Islam” right?

Raaaight.

5 Zoxuf 08.02.09 at 9:42 am

Where did we come from?

The evidence seems to point towards evolution from naturally formed self replicating molecules. As far as the origin of the universe goes, there isn’t really enough information to say one way or another. It may not even make sense to ask such a question.

You might find this video on the subject interesting.

6 Nasser 08.02.09 at 9:50 am

Sorry pal, morality, or whatever you like to call knowing the difference between right and wrong (also according to your own definition) has a start in religion. You can see that in manifestations of differnt views on the same subject ie alcohol use is abuse for others !
I do agree that clergy everywhere push their own agendas on blind-faith followers and that intepretations depend on what the follower wants to see. I don’t agree that we should let others translate whatw e should believe either, yourself included. There are no contradictions inherent in the Quran as Jews and Christians have been called many names when they were enemies of Islam and then tolerance came up as the right way to live when enmity was resolved using negotiations. Present day Christians don’t have much of a problem with Muslims and the opposite goes too. Jews are mostly tolerated except when they are Zionists, then they get a clearly unwelcome reception which is understandable.
What I am trying to get at is that to know the difference between right and wrong takes religion not only your inherent goodness or badness. Is alcohol drinking good or bad? May I charge profit on money-lending? Is prostitution OK? May I walk around naked in the street? All these questions are answered through your religious beliefs or lack thereof and your translation (literal or otherwise) of these beliefs.

7 ahmed 08.02.09 at 10:03 am

@Drima
Basically, what you are trying to do is, using fancy words and placing bells and whistles to your post, convincing people that there are doubts in The Quran, you aided your post using word Bible, so that readder perceive that ‘oh wow, this man from Sudan, thinks out of the box and totally un-biased’.

Come’on, there is whole internet filled with trash like this. And you are no different.

8 Nobody 08.02.09 at 10:10 am

I think the problem stems from a certain contradiction inherent in human thinking or maybe human nature. Technically speaking, you can’t do things that don’t make sense. This is how we are educated. So we need to provide explanations for our actions. Ethics, as far as I can see, is a deeply ingrained human need and trait. In fact, I remember reading about one researcher recently that claimed just this. It’s a bit similar to the deep linguistic structures of Chomsky. This man claimed that there are call them deep moral structures. Newborns posses them from birth. You need a certain trigger to activate them of course, human babies don’t lean language if there is no human around, but the structures are there from the beginning and they comply with certain rules that hardwired into human brain, or soul.

Now the thing about religion is just this. It’s a tool to rationalize people’s ethical instincts. Very few people dare to go forward just on intuition alone. They need to have some intellectual system supporting what they do. But it’s plain obvious that while people a kind of legitimize their ethical instincts by religion, they are basically coming to it looking for something they already know. And this predefines their interpretations

9 Muhammad Osman 08.02.09 at 10:22 am

Shukran Ya Drima. I meant to tell you that your blog is awesome dude. It makes us, liberal Sudanese, as few as we are, very proud. Keep it up ya man.

I am a journalist and yes, I do live in Khartoum as I have been almost my entire life. I lived for a short while in Saudi Arabia though. You can imagine how horrible that was. I also travel on regular basis to Nairobi, Kenya, for work.

My beliefs have a long a story, just like yours I presume. I hope that someday we will be able to catch up in person. I take it that you live abroad, pls feel free to let me know if you returned to our homeland.

Ps: I have signed up to receive copies of the Dirty Muslim Blogging. I have to say that the first copy is impressive. I have passed it on to all my friends. Keep enlightening us ya man.
Peace
MO

10 Zoxuf 08.02.09 at 10:54 am

@Nasser

I’m of the view that morality comes from our ability to feel empathy. A religious morality based on fear and blind obedience always seemed a little hollow to me.

@ahmed

If you want your comments to be taken seriously try attacking the arguments and not the person posting them.

11 ET 08.02.09 at 11:46 am

Thank you, very interesting post.
I’m wondering about the bottom line, that is “morality does not come from Holy Books themselves. Metaphorical interpretation becomes a necessity and the process of choosing the morally right interpretation comes down to the individual’s ethical intuitions on which interpretation seems right, and which one seems wrong.”
If morality doesn’t come from Holy Books, and we have to metaphorically interpret large parts of them in order to make them compatible with our own sense of morality, and the reality of the modern world, what is the use of the Holy Books? If we don’t use the Scriptures as a law book (as literalists do), and our sense of morality doesn’t come from them, why bother clinging to those books? What DO they give you?

12 Bacon Eating Atheist Jew 08.02.09 at 12:02 pm

Drima, if you don’t understand fully about evolution and what science knows, I suggest watching Potholer54′s Made Easy series on Youtube.

There is no debate amongst scientists whether common descent (evolution) took place or not. It is fact.

As for morality, as social animals we have evolved two big things which cause us to seem moral most of the time, empathy and guilt. Also, society also has an affect on what rules go in certain areas.

But it is empathy and guilt that allow us to appear to go by the social contract most of the time. These are good things because they prevent us from raping, killing, and stealing as a rule. Not pissing off those in your immediate society help us make it procreation and the innate feeling towards others, like holding the door open for old ladies, help us ensure that the next generation will make it.

If we were born to rape, kill, and murder, we wouldn’t be here today.

As for not needing a bible, you are right. The bibles, for the most part just put our innate behaviors on paper. Many things that would make us feel guilty, or cause harm to others (which our empathy has issues with) made it to the 10 commandments for example.

Chimps behave morally if observed in their societies usually. I don’t think any nature show has captured a chimp reading a bible:)

13 Andrew Brehm 08.02.09 at 12:29 pm

Ahmad is a Palestinian Muslim kid whose parents got killed in an Israeli bombing raid on Gaza. He grows up with rage in his heart and contempt for Jews.

I don’t know where hatred comes from, but I know it doesn’t come from actual events. Nobody hates because of what the hated person did.

Look at Germany. Jews were hated in the 1930s and 1940s and Jews had done NOTHING to Germany. But during World War 2 the Americans and British bombed Germany into the middle ages. Yet hatred for America and Britain by comparison almost didn’t exist after the war (it only came back in the late 1960s). In fact West-Germany was very loyal to the US during the early Cold War.

My (German) family lost a house to the bombing raids. But they never hated the Americans for it.

Hatred comes from somewhere, usually from ignorance, but it does not come from what the targets of the hatred really did.

No Palestinian Arab hates Israel because Israel bombs people who attack Israel, including Palestinian Arabs. Palestinian Arabs hate Israel because they are ignorant and are taught hatred by corrupt leaders, an Arab world who wants them to remain ignorant and hateful, and western anti-Semites who try to make the world a better place by encouraging hatred for Jews and Israel.

Think of all the things Arab states (and Arab terrorist groups) did and tried to do to Israel. But most Israelis do not hate Arabs. (If they did, there would be much fewer Arabs around these days, in the region.)

Soviet-Russia built a wall around my home city (of West-Berlin). Leaving and entering the city required a wait of several hours in the car and driving through East-Germany on specially-designated roads. And even that was only possible after the 1970s. Before that it was worth. And before that the city was blocked and supported through the air (by, ironically, the Americans and British; thank G-d Berliners didn’t hate them and refused their help).

The Russians blocked the city, built a minefield around it, divided streets and families between the two parts of the city and the city and the countryside. They blocked waterways and restricted air routes. They controlled the lives of the citizens of East-Germany. They were everything that Israel is to Palestinian Arabs (except they stopped bombing Germany after 1946 and since Germans never attacked the Russians afterwards, they never had to). They were everything that Israel is and worse (and for the same reason).

But do I hate Russians now?

My weekly Russian lessons start in 7 minutes. I am not a good student. They are private lessons. I like Russian culture, Russian literature, and Russian food. Some of it overlaps with Ashkenazi (Jewish) culture/literature/food, of course. But not all.

My point is that whatever Russians did to me and my country and home town has absolutely nothing to do with how I feel about Russians and Russia. I just don’t hate.

And guess what, whenever I feel doubt about it and want to hate, once a year I am told how to behave when in doubt. By the Hebrew Bible.

So I don’t know where morality comes from, perhaps from within, but certainly not from real events.

14 Nobody 08.02.09 at 12:40 pm

Chimps behave morally if observed in their societies usually. I don’t think any nature show has captured a chimp reading a bible:)

But humans were and quite often so. In fact, some of the research done recently concentrated precisely on the question if religion has an evolutionary value. And some perfectly secular people were very positive about this thesis.

15 lynne 08.02.09 at 2:24 pm

MO, I agree with you. There are these huge contradictions in the Bible, too, a book which has had rewritings, lost text, chapters thrown out due to their being incoherent, etc. I think it is the same with all ancient religions.
I believe in evolution. I just wish that in the process of our evolving, all brains could have evolved a more rational, compassionate character. I agree with Drima that our morality does indeed come from within.
Drima, fantastic post: thought-provoking, relevant, interesting!

16 Howie 08.02.09 at 2:50 pm

Drima…

I will get back at you later…but all said and done…it is the “cherry-picking” issue that always jumps out at me. I notice that when people “get religion” in the long run…they usually do several external things (grow a beard, dress differently, get into rituals) and usually get real wound up about sexual behavior. Other than that, I often do not see much change in their behavior…if they were greedy and money-hungry…they pretty much remain that way…and they always seem to find support for it in the Holy Books.

But, morality still comes from God…choice comes from people. Don’t murder, don’t bear false witness, help orphans and widows and the poor. I believe there are universal God-given moral truths…but then most of us fiddle with to rationalize our behavior…that is..IF we are “believers”.

Overall…I am pretty disappointed in many if not most religious people.

17 Andrew Brehm 08.02.09 at 5:01 pm

Howie,

“Religion is a smart man’s admission that he cannot know everything. Religious fundamentalism is a stupid man’s admission that he thinks he knows enough.”
– Moshe Wilkinson

In other words, religion does not change who you are. But who you are changes what you use religion for.

18 deb 08.02.09 at 5:28 pm

That guy needs a light beating. I can help. After a week or so, he should get the idea.

19 Howie 08.02.09 at 9:44 pm

AB…

That is my WHOLE problem…

If you are a turd and you find God…then you should become a better person…I have seen that happen…and I have seen religion make people better folk..

But overall…most of what I see is the cherry picking to rationalize the stuff of religion that folks don’t want to do.

Look..in my neck of the woods…everybody tends to be a middle-class to upper middle class “Christian”.

One of Jesus’ main tenants to a genuine Christian is “to sell all you have, give to the needy and follow me”.

Yeah…right. Most of these Christians around my neck of the woods…they belong to mega-churches that must run into the zillions, with 20′ TV’s and blah blah and blah blah. They drive nice cars and…yes…lots of pick-up trucks (no they are not battered with gun racks in the back, more like $5,000.00 sets of tires and wheels).

But they probably are anti-abortion (after they had their’s) and don’t believe in pre-marital sex…that is fully predictable. But they tend to love money…I mean…you know where I am taking this.

20 Drima 08.03.09 at 1:54 am

Salam Nasser,

“Sorry pal, morality, or whatever you like to call knowing the difference between right and wrong (also according to your own definition) has a start in religion”

I don’t necessarily disagree on that. To say it has a start in religion is something I actually partially agree with.

So I don’t fully reject your claim. But to say, that morality has a start in holy books themselves is what I reject.

I can see why you would have a problem with accepting my argument fully.

Problem is, it opens up the door to moral relativism. If everyone gets to decide what’s right and wrong their own way, then how can we really know what’s truly right or truly wrong.

Well, there *is* a way to have morality that is pretty much universal.

MYSTICISM! And as weird as that sounds, I can elaborate later. But if you’re really interested to know quickly, then read The Marriage of Sense and Soul by Ken Wilber.

That book changed my life, and will probably open your eyes to a very unique way of looking at this issue from a perspective that is neither religious nor atheistic.

Salam ya ahmed,

Thanks for a more reasonable comment.

Well, I’m not sure which fancy words you’re referring to, but all I’m doing is raising what I believe to be an important question.

Believe me, and I sincerely mean this, if you have a way of solving the issue of metaphorical interpretation, its necessity and which imam’s interpretation to pick objectively, then do let me know.

I’m actually actively looking for any religious scholar who can provide satisfactory explanations and answers to this problem.

Just look at the example of the Palestinian Ahmad and Muhammad above. How do you solve that? What about the wife “beating” verse. Who gets to decide who’s right and who’s wrong? Is the morality really coming from the religious texts themselves?

ahmed, I can respect your passionate defense of something you greatly value and love. I have no issues with that. Just give me some good answers, as that is all I’m looking for.

I’m not looking to trash talk any religion. I have no intention of attacking stuff like this for fun and to feel good about myself.

While I am aware that my views are pretty heretical, I don’t hate Islam. In fact, I value many things about it, and will defend it where necessary.

What I staunchly oppose is the dogmatism encouraged by its so-called scholars, the majority of whom sadly seem to be a bunch of pretty shitty power-hungry monkeys.

I simply have questions and problems that I’d like to find solutions for. So if you can point me to something that helps, do so.

Hope that clarifies.

Thanks! :)

Muhammad Osman,

Journalist huh? Nice! Please do shoot me an email if you’re not using your real email when commenting.

Thanks for your kind words, and for passing copies of my ebooklet around. Guess it’s time to probably release the second installment. Writing can be a time-consuming pain ya zool!

Zoxuf,

I will soon be video-logging about this book and a bunch of others, but for now I highly highly recommend it to you.

The Marriage of Sense and Soul by Ken Wilber, arguably one of the most amazing and profound philosophical thinkers alive today.

Been heavily immersed in his work lately which has finally led me to find answers to profound troublesome questions.

ET,

Precisely! But I wouldn’t say discard the books. No, they still provide value and meaning, and wisdom. All I propose is that we stop revering them so dogmatically as if our morality came from them. We need more critical inquiry.

Bacon Eating Atheist Jew,

Potholer54’s Made Easy huh? Okay, will check it out. Although given your blog posts, I’m not sure if an approach to life from a hard-core perspective based on evolution is going to be appealing to me, plus I’ve still got more to learn on this subject which I only began accepting partially rather recently.

Andrew Brehm,

Well, you’ve got a good point, but when the verses that get pushed in your face are the ones that encourage hatred, chances are you will probably buy into them.

Hamas is a bitch.

Nobody

Dude…

“the question if religion has an evolutionary value. And some perfectly secular people were very positive about this thesis.”

Precisely! Even Daniel Dennet is in that camp.

lynne

Thanks for your kind words! :)

Howie

My man, we’ve talked about this issue numerous times, and I totally get where you’re come from.

Do yourself a fever, and go and get a copy of The Marriage of Sense and Soul by Ken Wilber.

You’ll probably gain lots of value from it. It’s not religious, not atheist, and not New Age pseudo-science either. It’s just… very Ken Wilber, otherwise knowns as Integral.

My dear deb,

Kick his balls if you can! :P

21 reader 08.03.09 at 7:59 am

There is a stipulation that only islamic scholars can provide you with an interpretation of islam, thus your own interpretations, though quite cute, are essentially invalid.

22 Nobody 08.03.09 at 8:36 am

Drima 08.03.09 at 1:54 am

Nobody

Dude…

“the question if religion has an evolutionary value. And some perfectly secular people were very positive about this thesis.”

Precisely! Even Daniel Dennet is in that camp.

The last time I remember reading anything about this was the Economist when a perfectly secular scientist said that from a purely evolutionary point of view secularism starts looking as a kind of temporary maladaptation. The Economist itself is no longer into secularist triumphalism because they know the numbers.

23 bambam 08.03.09 at 9:27 am

Well I tend to prefer the seperation of ethics; forced by society and mob rules, morality; ethics borne out of divinity, and instincts; triggers in us that allow us to survive.
While instincts are in place they are few and far between when applied to ethics, and evolutionary psychology helps delve into some of the reasons why we are bias to those who look like us and why we don’t condone stealing from those like us.
Beyond that everything is taught and morality and ethics are not borne from within but they are based on personal judgment and experience after exposure.
Ethics can never be an a priori for a very simple reason i think, we are all born vulgar, ignorant, and xenophobic barbarians we just learn to suppress those instincts and act more civilized …. or not.

to Andrew Brehm I dedicate to you a quote by mason cooley “Cynicism is full of naive disappointments.” and thats the case with your arguments … you are project on your self what injustice and hate feel like when you are naive and ignorant about those situations. become more of a cynic

24 Don Cox 08.03.09 at 9:50 am

“Except I’m not so sure about all aspects of evolution, and to be frank, I’m still learning more about the subject.”

Biologists are still learning about evolution, too. It is an enormous subject and does require some background in maths to grasp modern theories. Darwin made major advances, but 95% of what you find in a modern textbook was unknown to him, including the whole of genetics. (Faraday was a comparable figure in physics.)

That was a very good post, and I think you are right. My feeling is that we are by nature social mammals, like meerkats or hunting dogs, and our moral instincts come from that. It would be absurd to deny our nature, like pretending to have no legs.

But we seem to use our basic instincts as motive power for something more advanced: the instinct to tolerate others in a person’s group can expand to a toleration of all human beings, and also of other living creatures. (Some people actually prefer horses or tigers to humans!)

25 Don Cox 08.03.09 at 10:22 am

“Don’t murder, don’t bear false witness, help orphans and widows and the poor. I believe there are universal God-given moral truths”

But people were doing all this in Ur, Babylon or Egypt, long before the idea of a single God came into anyone’s mind.
I am certain that people had moral standards even in the stone age, although their tolerance did not extend to members of the neighboring tribes.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is about applying morals to the “others”. This is quite a step forward. There is no sign of it in, for example, the Book of Joshua – nor in Hamas-style attitudes today.

It seems to emerge in Jewish thought in the last century BC. Possibly as part of the interaction between Jewish and Greek thought which is the main theme of the “New Testament”.

The Quran seems to me to inherit the confusion of this transitional period. Hence the contradictory verses.

26 arataster 08.03.09 at 12:14 pm

Good post, I agree that interpretation is a very weak basis as far as determining moral laws goes. For one, who decides which interpretation is more correct than the others? Like you said, people accept the version which appeals to their situation and frame of mind the most. Which in turn just gives rise to sectarianism.

Another thing that irks me is that if God really wanted The Quran (for instance) to act as a guide for determining moral laws, would he really make it so ambiguous and cryptic that one would find it difficult to dissect through to its real meaning? A “Code of life” should be less obscure and more straightforward to enable its teachings to be understood by all, I think.

27 Bacon Eating Atheist Jew 08.03.09 at 3:51 pm

Drima, I know my worldview is not appealing to everyone. But it is just about dealing with the facts, not denying any evidence, and not adding to the facts and their implications.

As for the Potholer54 made easy series, please watch it. It only deals with the facts about science, the universe and how and why evolution is fact. It is an excellent series.
You’ll learn a lot, and I can see you are a willing learner.

28 Andrew Brehm 08.03.09 at 4:22 pm

you are project on your self what injustice and hate feel like when you are naive and ignorant about those situations. become more of a cynic

http://web.mac.com/ajbrehm/Home/Blog/Entries/2008/11/2_Sulaimaniya_-_Part_1.html

Naive? Perhaps. Ignorant of what hate means? Hardly.

29 Craig 08.03.09 at 6:37 pm

Personally, I think this whole discussion misses the point. Humans have always felt a need to have a “higher authority” than man to fall back on. People easily go astray, especially when the times are tough. And what is somebody to do, if their leaders are telling them something is “right”, but it “feels” wrong to them? If everyone has their own personal morality and nothing else, then what recourse do they have? On what basis will they go against their leaders? How much support would they have in that, if they did try it? And I’m not so sure people instinctively “get” the difference between right and wrong. Look how popular baby killing mass murderers are in some parts of the world. Slaughtering the innocent is apparently not only acceptable, but it is noble, if it is done in a cause people support. Personal morality goes out the window when emotions start running high. Especially powerful emotions, like hate.

30 bambam 08.04.09 at 8:08 am

Sorry if I was a bit harsh on ya, but let me rephrase what i meant (btw it applies to me and not just you)
Experience what hate looks like or where it happens doesn’t equate to experiencing hate, you have to lose every safe heaven you have and then you have to lose the safe haven of retreating to a peaceful place in your mind. Once you lose that hatred would start gripping your heart and in my humble opinion you would experience genuine hate.
beyond that and as long as you can retreat to a place and regather your thoughts you can experience true hate. or so my youthful inexperience mind thinks.
Craig “People easily go astray, especially when the times are tough.” Thats as far from the true as possible, actually it’s the opposite and the religious resurgence during the great depression is one example of many … .actually case in point regarding how morality is the product of social pressure and is dictate by society is … YOU

31 Craig 08.04.09 at 8:41 am

bambam, I didn’t really understand your meaning so I won’t reply other than to say it’s pretty arrogant to assume somebody else doesn’t understand hate, without knowing anything about them.

32 Andrew Brehm 08.04.09 at 8:52 am

Experience what hate looks like or where it happens doesn’t equate to experiencing hate, you have to lose every safe heaven you have and then you have to lose the safe haven of retreating to a peaceful place in your mind.

Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened to Germany at the end of WW2. Nevertheless, we did not, after WW2, and do not hate Americans or Russians.

There is absolutely nothing that Israel did to Palestinian Arabs that Russia didn’t do to Germans. In fact Russia did worse. I only experienced the occupation, the security checkpoints, and the constant threat of war. But the generation before mine experienced everything.

Boy, did we (Germans) learn our lesson about starting wars. But the hatred was before the war, not after being taught the lesson. Hatred always comes before war, never after. The idea that what people actually do to each other causes hatred is a myth. It sounds logical and rational and that’s where one should notice that something is wrong. Hatred is not rational.

American Indians do not, as far as I know, hate “the white man”. But the white man hated American Indians.

33 Sheema 08.04.09 at 11:54 am

A note on evolution:

It’s real, it’s a continuous process, and it happens even as we speak. It’s basically a very simple process of natural selection: individuals with certain genetic traits get wiped out due to their incompatibility with certain environmental factors. They miss out on the chance to pass on those genetic traits to the next generation, so after awhile the population ceases to display those traits. However, a change in the environment can then influence a reverse in the other direction. And so it goes…

Trust me, you can see the results within your lifetime ya Drima. Even more so now that the process is being accelerated by the effects of climate change.

34 Suzanne 08.04.09 at 1:27 pm

Drima….
I find your Israel samples weird

“”The First Component: Religion: According to Islam, the Jewish religion was invalidated by the birth of Christianity, which in turn was invalidated by the arrival of Islam. This concept was set down in the Koran: “Surely the true religion with Allah is Islam” (Chapter 3, Verse 19). Thus Allah does not recognize any other religion besides Islam. Islam – according to its own perception – brought the message of truth to the world, after the Jews and Christians changed and distorted the word of Allah given to them. In light of their conduct, Allah removed their religious role and theological message and passed it to the Muslims, who are the sole “believers.” Thus, Islam’s basic approach is not that it came to the world to exist alongside other religions as equal among equals, but to replace them.

“A conclusion from this is that Judaism as a religion has lost its significance and role in the world. If so, how could one establish a Jewish state? And how could one claim that land can be holy to Judaism after this religion has been declared null and void? And since when do Jews – members of a meaningless religion – have the right to a state in any land, after they betrayed Allah and refused to accept Din al-Haqq “the religion of truth,” Islam? In practice, Islam recognized the Jews as “people of the Book” and not as infidels, although on condition that they live under Islamic rule as “dhimmis” – protégés of Islam, and “pay the Jizya (per capita tax) with willing submission.” (Koran Chapter 9, Verse 29). However, once they conquered land, and killed and deported Muslims, they lost the privileges granted to them by the “Pact of Omar.”

“Therefore, Israel’s demand that Islam recognize it as a state for the Jewish People contradicts the most basic tenets of Islam, which view Judaism as null and void. Israel’s demand actually requires Islam to recognize Judaism as a legitimate religion even though God himself stated in the Koran that “whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, will never be accepted” (Chapter 3, Verse 85).”
http://www.rightsidenews.com/200907295718/global-terrorism/a-jewish-and-non-legitimate-state.html

35 Muhammad Osman 08.04.09 at 1:59 pm

Suzanne,

I honestly can’t see your point ! You said that you find Drima’s Israel smaples “weird” but you did not explain, at least in my view, how is that.

Are you trying to say that for Muslims to cohabit with Jews is against “the basic tenets” of Islam? Could you please elaborate further.

Thanks,
MO

36 Andrew Brehm 08.04.09 at 2:00 pm

Given that the Quran lists both Christianity and Judaism as true religions (although less true than Islam itself), I find it weird that anybody would argue that Islam views Judaism as “null and void”.

And the end of Judaism, the religion, would hardly invalidate any claims of the people of Israel to the land of Israel. In fact the Quran itself speaks of that right, and it doesn’t say that Allah took the right away. (That He did was a later invention. And that’s always good enough for self-proclaimed Muslims.)

Islam means submission, submission to the god of Israel. Allah is the god of Israel, always has been, always will be, and He will never break His promise and forsake His people. Any Muslim who believes in a god who breaks promises and allows his people to die believes in an imperfect god.

Allah occasionally allows pagans to invade Israel, but I don’t think the Quran spoke of more than two exiles.

Good luck to all who try to fight G-d. You’ll need it.

37 Suzanne 08.04.09 at 2:57 pm

@Muhammed Osman,
No wonder you don’t understand what I’m saying there as a sentence is missing. Add this:

“I believe this would have been a better example of an approach you might agree or disagree on:
[text]“

38 bambam 08.04.09 at 3:37 pm

hmm individuals can hate … but trying to subscribe an emotion to a group of people, which is what you are doing to the germans and palestinians can never be done. rationally at least. As for the germans not having an ounce of hate in them you only need to look at were the radicalization of the right wingnuts of europe is strongest and correlate it (i might say its causation) with what you said.
craig my friend i wasn’t looking for a reply but u gave me one non the less, thanks …

The jews in islam part actually islam recognizes the other two as progressions, so one does overtake the other. It is mentioned in the quran in several places how they lost their position as the chosen people of god and mentions how the religion of islam is the precursor to all religions (no time to provide the sources … )

so yeah any status for the jews …. it pretty clearly states in the quran that it has been revoked hence i guess god changed his mind about them or he just didn’t know that it would work out that way from what he said

39 The King 08.04.09 at 6:41 pm

Most of the Muslims have to learn to be like this author. Don’t follow things that you have doubts because others follow them. Use your mind right and you will come to a real sense with others. I hope you understand what i mean. peace!

40 Marie Claude 08.05.09 at 2:00 am

bacon eating atheist Jew has it :

“as social animals we have evolved two big things which cause us to seem moral most of the time, empathy and guilt. Also, society also has an affect on what rules go in certain areas.

But it is empathy and guilt that allow us to appear to go by the social contract most of the time”.

empathy made that the humans as animals could survive, took care of the weaks , breed generations

guilty is what we could also give to an individual for staying in the group and not harming it.

if you have an animal, and that you want it to respect your rules, when it does make a thing you don’t want allow it to do, (ie a weewee) you just have to voice at your pet, and it gets a guilty face, and it soon will make all its possible to avoid being scolded

41 Don Cox 08.05.09 at 8:22 am

“individuals with certain genetic traits get wiped out due to their incompatibility with certain environmental factors. ”

It isn’t that simple. The point of shuffling the genes in each generation (typically in a sexual process) is to allow selection to act on variants of individual genes rather than on whole organisms. The whole organisms do not “die out” – they reproduce themselves more or less successfully, depending on which variants of which genes they have.

Statistics is important here. Selection isn’t a cut-and-dried live or die effect.

42 Sheema 08.05.09 at 8:36 am

Hi Don,

I was whittling it down for the non science-oriented crowd. Of course it’s not that simple, and you have to take into account lots of other factors such as mutations and genetic drift etc., which to some extent do affect fitness and survival, and then of course once human-induced factors come into play it all starts going even more haywire.

43 Andrew Brehm 08.05.09 at 8:39 am

As for the germans not having an ounce of hate in them you only need to look at were the radicalization of the right wingnuts of europe is strongest and correlate it

I didn’t say they don’t have an ounze of hate in them. I said they generally didn’t (back then) hate the Americans. (And Germans blowing up American schools in retaliation for the occupation was rare. I have never heard of any such incidents.)

There are right-wing (and left-wing) nuts in Germany who hate America (and Jews), and they do associate themselves with the PLO and Hamas.

But GENERALLY Germany has not been known for a hotbed of anti-Americanism during the Cold War. And Germany’s ties to Russia are certainly not an example of hatred for the country.

so yeah any status for the jews …. it pretty clearly states in the quran that it has been revoked hence i guess god changed his mind about them or he just didn’t know that it would work out that way from what he said

Where in the Quran does it say that? I remember it says that the children of Israel lose the protection of Allah when they go astray. I believe that too. The Quran does refer to previous such events. It strongly implies that Israel’s enemies are the equivalents of the pagan Assyrians and Romans who can only win if Israel goes astray.

But hoping that Israel will go astray, associating with the pagans, or believing that Allah will break His promise seems very un-Islamic to me.

44 bambam 08.05.09 at 12:36 pm

[4:46] Among those who are Jewish, some distort the words beyond the truth, and they say, “We hear, but we disobey,” and “Your words are falling on deaf ears,” and “Raa’ena (be our shepherd),” as they twist their tongues to mock the religion. Had they said, “We hear, and we obey,” and “We hear you,” and “Unzurna (watch over us),” it would have been better for them, and more righteous. Instead, they have incurred condemnation from GOD due to their disbelief. Consequently, the majority of them cannot believe.
[4:47] O you who received the scripture, you shall believe in what we reveal herein, confirming what you have, before we banish certain faces to exile, or condemn them as we condemned those who desecrated the Sabbath. GOD’s command is done.

Thats just one of many but it exemplifies what i mentioned

45 Andrew Brehm 08.05.09 at 1:45 pm

Thats just one of many but it exemplifies what i mentioned

I don’t understand. I too believe that “among those who are Jewish” there are “some” who “distort the words beyond the truth”. And yes, they probably incurred condemnation from G-d. The Quran doesn’t tell us anything new here.

And 4:47 does not say anything much either. Of course those who received the scripture should believe in what it says. That’s the whole point of it. And much of what the Quran says I do believe.

46 Suzanne 08.05.09 at 4:19 pm

with reference to 4:47:

that makes me wonder why muslims are not having shabbat on saturdays.

47 Andrew Brehm 08.05.09 at 6:05 pm

that makes me wonder why muslims are not having shabbat on saturdays.

They do. Saturday is also called Yom Shabbath (“Yaum Sabth’) in Arabic. They just don’t observe Shabbath like the Jews do. Why would they?

48 bambam 08.06.09 at 7:12 am

3:85 “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islâm, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers ”

I included 4:47 because there it tells those who received the scriptures (jews, christians, and sabians) should believe in what is being revealed herein, i.e. the quran, and let the story of sabath be a lesson to you of what happens when you go against my commandments.

as for sabbath it was just a reference to the story, not a commandment to follow it and what andrew said is true, sabt is from sabbath in arabic meaning calm and rest

49 Craig 08.06.09 at 11:50 am

bambam, is it your mission to show how intolerant Islam is? I thought the discussion was on morality?

50 Craig 08.06.09 at 11:55 am

Andrew, is it you that I’ve seen saying Islam is closer to Judaism than Christianity does? How much have you studied the Quran? Are you familiar with the Muslim version of the End Times?

51 Craig 08.06.09 at 12:03 pm

I ask, because in the Muslim version of the End Times, Jesus returns as a Muslim and leads the Muslims against the Jews and their leader, who is the anti-Christ. And, the Jews are destroyed.

Belief in that is a requirement for anyone to consider themselves a Muslim. It isn’t optional.

52 Suzanne 08.06.09 at 5:39 pm

@Craig, Jesus as a self-hating Jew. Who could ever tell? ;)

53 Suzanne 08.06.09 at 5:41 pm

@bambam, I don’t get it. Why – if something bad will happen if you do not follow a commandment – would you not follow it? I mean,… muslims read about jews not following up to a certain commandment in the Quran and it is explained that they got punished for that. Why would you then, as a muslim, not follow that particular commandment as well?

54 Don Cox 08.06.09 at 7:26 pm

Sheema – I’m sure we agree. The reason I objected to your simplified description is that, put like that, the principle of natural selection can be used as an excuse for killing off “defective” people, as was done by the Nazis. The moral implications of evolution can be a minefield.

55 Sheema 08.07.09 at 2:21 am

Don, sorry – when I wrote that I wasn’t actually thinking about humans. I was talking from the perspective of wildlife conservation, so was thinking more about the implications of human activity on conservation genetics. Different thought process…

56 wanumba 08.08.09 at 3:25 pm

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the poor in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5: The Beatitudes

57 lost soul 08.09.09 at 3:35 am

if one is a born a muslim, believes in allah or a greater being, but doesn’t believe in islam as the chosen religion. is one a muslim?
i ask this question because i believe allah/god/greater being but the quran is hard to follow yet believe. do i believe in a merciful god that will forgive me or a god that will unleash his wrath upon me for all the sins i’ve committed?

58 Andrew Brehm 08.09.09 at 6:14 pm

in the Muslim version of the End Times, Jesus returns as a Muslim and leads the Muslims against the Jews and their leader, who is the anti-Christ. And, the Jews are destroyed.

Where did you find that?

I heard about Gog and Magog and that some self-proclaimed Muslims associate associate Zionists with them for some reason. (It is difficult to see why as the Quran does not say that Zionists, i.e. Jews who follow Allah’s command to live in the holy land are evil. I think some many self-proclaimed Muslims make up their religion as they go along.)

Muslims do believe that Jesus was the Messiah and will come back. But that’s very different from Christian belief that Jesus is G-d and more similar to Jewish belief that the Messiah has yet to come. (Islam and Judaism disagree about who the Messiah is but agree on the basic nature of the Messiah.)

59 Andrew Brehm 08.09.09 at 6:15 pm

Grand. The end of blockquote tag didn’t work…

My reply started at “Where did you find that”.

60 Craig 08.10.09 at 9:18 am

Andrew,

My reply started at “Where did you find that”.

It’s not in any one place in the Quran, Andrew. It’s a bit scattered and you have to put together the pieces. I went through the effort once but I didn’t take notes, and I don’t have the time to do it again! You can find some of it here:

http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/quran/018.qmt.html

http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/quran/021.qmt.html

But really, any reasonably good Muslim should be able to explain it better than I can. Note that Sunnis and Shia have a difference of opinion about the role of the Mahdi.

Belief in the last day is the 5th article of faith in Islam. And you will find it in many verses in the Quran, that Muslims must believe in Allah AND the last day. I’m not really sure why.

61 Suzanne 08.10.09 at 10:22 am

Why wouldn’t there be a last day as there was also a beginning?

It is not hard to believe that there will be a last day, but it is hard to believe that there will never be a last day. :)

62 Andrew Brehm 08.11.09 at 12:16 pm

“Belief in the last day is the 5th article of faith in Islam.”

I wasn’t doubting that, I wanted to know where you found the story about Muslims fighting the Jews (rather than Gog and Magog) at the end.

63 Craig 08.11.09 at 10:27 pm

Andrew have you tried Google? :)

I researched all the end of days stuff (Quran and Hadiths) from Islam and compared them to Christian beliefs on the matter, and was surprised to find them almost completely the same, except inverted. It took about a week of my free time to track everything down! I’m not going to go through it again just to address a side issue on Drima’s blog post. I’m sorry I brought it up. I’m just curious why you feel Islam and Judaism have so much in common, when a bit of research can easily show you it isn’t so.

64 Andrew Brehm 08.12.09 at 8:36 am

“Andrew have you tried Google?”

Yes, nothing is worse than Google when it comes to questions on Islam. I find no end of Christian and Islamophobic propaganda sites selling their prejudices as facts about Islam and Wahabi and Khomeiniist heretics selling their fanaticism as Allah’s religion of peace.

“I’m just curious why you feel Islam and Judaism have so much in common, when a bit of research can easily show you it isn’t so.”

The reason is that I did my bit of research long ago. I also weeded out the useless sources and talked to Muslims in Israel and Iraq. (Muslim immigrants in Europe are often useless when it comes to Islam.)

The result is Islam and Judaism are really quite similar.

65 hamidoush 08.12.09 at 3:30 pm

Drima,
After a long hiatus from this blog.. aside from the beautification project your undertook to keep your site slick, hip and “in’, I must confess that the discussions about religion have not change much.

Andrew is still quoting people and writing in snipets to make few points.

While everybody seem to be doing their own partial research and from what they learned directly, I still find some of the claims interestings yet they do not respond to the issue in at hand. This is partailly your fault Drima, because you do not define the parameters of the discussion. You need to do so in order to avoid reading people comments that fly over other comments. Sometimes it is trully a dialogue between deaf people. People needs to know the difference between claim of facts, claim of value and claim of policy.

For example Andrew’s last sentence is very ineteresting: …”The result is (that)Islam and Judaism are really quite similar..”

I know that Andrew thinks he is making a factual claim. But it not. It is a claim of value. Their similarity is ONLY in the beleif in one deity. The rest is historical blunder. And the word “quite” in similar is perhaps what contradict his statement.

66 Andrew Brehm 08.12.09 at 4:31 pm

“Andrew is still quoting people and writing in snipets to make few points.”

Which needs pointing out since Andrew is the only one who does that in blog comments.

“I know that Andrew thinks he is making a factual claim. But it not. It is a claim of value. Their similarity is ONLY in the belief in one deity.”

In other words, you disagree with me and found a fancier way of saying it.

We have had discussions here on Drima’s blog about the similarities of Islam and Judaism in the past. I am not going to repeat everything that was said just so that I can pass the examination of those who are not happy with just my opinion.

But if you are wondering about the similarities you can look into the “one god” thing. This is already where Christianity is totally different, as their god is not one but three. (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity share a belief in the last day. This is also shared by Zoroastrianism.)

Coincidentally, I wrote about this very issue a few days ago on my blog:

http://web.mac.com/ajbrehm/Home/Shabbos_Blog/Entries/2009/7/27_One.html

67 Don Cox 08.13.09 at 8:57 am

The Christian God is one God, not three. It is one God which has been experienced by mankind in three different ways.

There have been many arguments about the details, but no Christian has ever said there are three separate Gods.

68 Andrew Brehm 08.13.09 at 10:17 am

“The Christian God is one God, not three. It is one God which has been experienced by mankind in three different ways.”

Why three? Why not four or five or two?

In Judaism and Islam G-d is ONE. The Trinity denies that G-d is one and claims that He is three.

If Christians are worried about the Trinity being misunderstood, they are free to give it up.

69 Andrew Brehm 08.13.09 at 11:10 am

Anyway, we have moved away from the original subject of this blog entry and discussion.

Where does morality come from?

I say that hatred comes from ignorance and an individual’s decision to take the easy way out. I have noticed that anti-Semitism is strongest where there are the fewest Jews.

In Israel, where Arabs meet Jews every day, Arabs are less likely to be anti-Semites than in Saudi-Arabia and Egypt, which are both essentially Jew-free.

In Iraq I was told that Arabs in the south are more likely to hate Jews than Arabs in the north or Kurds. And it was the north of Iraq where Jews used to live. Iraqis from the south never met Jews.

Of all western countries Sweden is the most prominent anti-Semitic place, and Sweden also has one of the smallest numbers of Jews.

I assume that morality, like hatred, comes from our own decisions. It has nothing to do with reality.

70 Not Your Mama 08.14.09 at 4:32 pm

Survival instinct is the #1 key. People will opt for behaviors that they deem more likely to ensure their own survival, that of their family, their social group/tribe/culture and their nation. Generally in that order.

#2 the fear factor. The greater the fear (of engulfment, assimilation, etc) the greater the tendency towards violence.

#3 never discount the potential destructiveness of amorphous rage.

Add ingredients, mix and serve whatever flavor of religion you get out of that.

71 Andrew Brehm 08.14.09 at 9:23 pm

#1 Survival instinct

I think we can dismiss this. 60 years of losing wars against Israel would have taught the Arabs by now that attacking Jews is not a survival trait when the Jews are stronger.

# Fear factor

I don’t know about that. I myself tend to become more violent when I perceive a weakness in the enemy. When I perceive my own weakness, I become less violent.

# Amorphous rage

Perhaps.

72 Craig 08.15.09 at 7:12 am

The reason is that I did my bit of research long ago. I also weeded out the useless sources and talked to Muslims in Israel and Iraq. (Muslim immigrants in Europe are often useless when it comes to Islam.)

Well, there’s your problem right there! You should have used Google like I suggested, and read the translations of the Quran and the Hadiths for yourself! Of course whenever you ask somebody about their religion, they attempt to present it in the best possible light based on what they know of YOUR religion. I bet you even do that, when you explain Judaism to people who aren’t Jewish, right? :)

73 Craig 08.15.09 at 7:17 am

This is already where Christianity is totally different, as their god is not one but three.

Andrew, I’ve corrected you about that before. I have no wish to continually repeating my corrections, just because you choose to keep making false claims. Your understanding of the concepts behind the trinity are deeply flawed, and I suggest you leave it be rather than going out of your way to go off topic and cause offense.

74 Tsedek 08.15.09 at 11:01 am

Their morals ultimately came from within themselves thanks to their own ethical intuitions about what’s right and wrong, and were influenced by their near social context.
—————->>

SudaneseThinker (after so many comments here I doubt you will read this but I hope) – with the above statement you hit the nail on the head. Religions are there to lead the way giving every option to develop oneself into one direction or the other (being a good human being or bad). Indeed goodness and love of God (who is said to have created human beings in His own reflection) shows from within and not from what “books” tell, because they don’t tell anything. They just hand us the choice….

75 Andrew Brehm 08.15.09 at 12:29 pm

Craig,

I did read the Quran.

And I never said that Christians believe in three gods. Nevertheless the Trinity contradicts the fundamental Jewish and Islamic belief that G-d is one. I don’t see what’s offensive about pointing out that difference between Judaism and Islam on the one hand and Christianity on the other.

I also think that having a god in the flesh and picturing him is dangerously close to idolatry.

76 Craig 08.16.09 at 9:13 am

I don’t see what’s offensive about…

Seriously? You just kicked Christians out of the “monotheism” club and called us idolaters to boot, and you don’t see what’s offensive about that? :D

Give it a rest, Andrew. I find your deliberate obtuseness about Christianity a bit amusing, but others might not.

And if you come back at me with more semantic arguments that “prove” your ridiculous opinion is valid, I’m not going to reply. I suggest you stick to discussing your own religion, instead of mis-characterizing everyone else’s. A lot of people have gotten killed for engaging in that kind of patently offensive behavior over the centuries.

77 Nobody 08.16.09 at 9:43 am

That Islam is closer to Judaism than Christianity is a view of Judaism itself. Jews are permitted to pray in mosques but not in churches. Judaism considers Islam as a truly monotheistic religion. Christianity is denied such favors because of trinity, images and such stuff. When it comes to the practicing side, the similarity is obvious. Judaism and Islam are structured in a similar way. It’s a kind of hybrid between religion and jurispridence. Both preoccupy themselves with the minutest details up to how people should wipe their asses off. In terms of peace and co-existence, however, nothing follows from this. In these matters, similarity often tends to exacerbate rivalries and competition.

78 Don Cox 08.16.09 at 2:10 pm

“I say that hatred comes from ignorance”

I think it comes from a basic human instinct which makes us see any humans from other tribal or family groups as enemies. Some ant species have the same instinct: they will attack any ants of the same species from a different nest.

One of the main features of human history is a steady increase in the size of what people see as “us” – currently in most cases it is the whole of a nation state, but for many it is some smaller group.

I suspect that tribal conflict was a big driving force in the evolution of intelligence. Warfare needs tactics, strategy, planning, division of labour, and language.

79 Don Cox 08.16.09 at 2:27 pm

“In Judaism and Islam G-d is ONE. The Trinity denies that G-d is one and claims that He is three.”

The Christian God is one and is not directly perceptible by man.

Man’s experiences of God come in various forms, three of which are believed by Christians to be of supreme importance.

Yes, one could easily construct a theology with more than three components, but realise that these are components of the human experience, not of God itself.

(I am assuming that when you type “G-d” you mean “God” – whatever that means – and not “Gad” or “Gid”.)

80 Andrew Brehm 08.17.09 at 9:22 am

Craig, feel free to be as offended as you like.

But do note that I didn’t attack you personally.

Anyway, As Nobody explained Islam and Judaism have a lot in common whereas Christianity is seen, by Judaism, as problematic in those regards.

I disagree with Nobody on the dividing aspect of similarities though. I usually find that I get along really well with Muslims, especially here in a Christian country, because we have so much in common. It starts with dietary laws (I appreciate that my Iraqi butcher sells turkey Salami) and is also apparent in attitudes towards prayers and community.

81 Nobody 08.17.09 at 3:12 pm

Frankly, I don’t understand why people should be offended by such stuff at all. I am not a religious person, but were I a practicing Christian I think the last thing I would have cared about is what Judaism thinks about this.

And anyway, there is a whole bunch of misunderstandings and a lot of confusion here very obvious from the comments by say the same Don Cox. Judaism’s definition of idolatry is first of all operational, it’s practical. Judaism does not care so much for philosophy. Christians can believe in trinity or whatever. It finally all comes down to how they practice their religion. For Judaism monotheism is a practical thing. It means that people engage God directly without mediation of images and symbols.

Judaism does not believe that Muhammad is a prophet either. But Muslim views on this matter are absolutely irrelevant in this regard since they don’t affect in any way the way in which Islam envisions communication between Allah and believers. Islam is recognized as a monotheistic religion by Judiasm not because of what Muslims believe in but because of what they do.

82 Andrew Brehm 08.17.09 at 3:43 pm

Nobody,

I agree completely.

Incidentally, there is a perhaps interesting detail about prophets. I understand that Judaism defines a prophet as someone who speaks for G-d and has heard G-d’s voice.

In Islam a prophet is similar, but Islam, like Christianity for different reasons, includes as prophets those who have not actually heard G-d’s voice but got messages from angels. I don’t know if Muhammed ever claimed to have heard G-d’s voice directly or whether he got everything from angels. If the latter, he might well be a prophet by Muslim definition but not by Jewish definition and the matter is settled. (Personally, I don’t know whom angels talk to.)

In Christianity, I think, a prophet is someone inspired by G-d through the “Holy Spirit” (the second or third guy in the trinity), which also includes a few people who have never heard G-d’s voice (like Daniel). Whether that would always cover essentially the same people as Islam’s definition I cannot say. (The reason Christians don’t believe in Muhammed as a prophet is a question of faith, not a question of definition of titles.)

Personally, I believe in the prophets of Judaism and recognise that other prophets, sent to other peoples, do exist. I think Zoroaster was one of them, and I think Muhammed might just as well really have received messages from angels (but not from G-d directly).

83 Sheema 08.18.09 at 5:05 am

On the matter of similarities between Judaism and Islam, as someone who was raised as a Muslim I would have to agree with Andrew and Nobody.

I remember when I was studying in the UK, it wasn’t always easy to come by halal meat so all the Malaysian students would buy their beef/chicken/ lamb from Marks & Spencer, because it was Jewish-owned (at least that’s what I was told), and everyone just assumed that the meat there would be kosher.

84 Nobody 08.18.09 at 8:08 am

Andew

The nature of Muhammad prophecies does not have so much bearing on the issue at hand. At least as far as Judaism’s view of Islam goes, all non Jews, as you know, should follow seven Noahide commandments which include among others very strict practical montheism and sexual hygiene the style of Niddah. Incidentally on these two as well as on the others, Islam comes out absolutely clean which is not the case with the Christians. That’s why as long as practicing Muslims don’t bomb cafes and buses, they satisfy all the requirements expected in Judaism of non Jews. What Muslims do besides this in their spare time, whether they believe that Muhammad is a prophet or that the Earth has a shape of a suitcase, is not that relevant from the Judaism’s point of view.

85 Nobody 08.18.09 at 8:09 am

The similarity of course goes beyond this, but in terms of how Judaism sees Islam, it’s like this.

86 Craig 08.19.09 at 9:07 am

Frankly, I don’t understand why people should be offended by such stuff at all.

You think you have permission to decide what other people should or should not find offensive? If people tell you they find something offensive, stop doing it?

Andrew, stop doing it. I’m sure you know Christians find such comments about Christianity offensive. Stop doing it. It’s immoral. We are talking about morality here, right? Is it moral behavior to deliberately cause offense, just for the fun of it? Stop doing it. Easy, right?

87 Andrew Brehm 08.19.09 at 9:20 am

Craig,

You might be surprised to learn that any comments about the Trinity being monotheistic is offensive to Jews and Muslims too, just like claiming that it isn’t is offensive to Christians.

There are two ways out here:

1. We agree with one of the two views. (Feel free to come to our side if you wish.)

2. We stop being offended by other people’s beliefs.

I chose way number 2 a long time ago. Perhaps it is time that you do too. Instead of complaining about my belief being incompatible with yours and being offended that it is, try to accept that we BOTH disagree about EACH OTHER’s religion and either offend each other or ignore those differences.

Frankly, I have noticed on the Internet that Christians always assume that their own beliefs are the guidelines for what everybody else should accept as the basis from which one is allowed to deviate. You have no idea how offensive a statue of Jesus on a cross is to Jews. Yet if you did, I doubt you would stop making them.

I guess the lesson here is that it is as offensive to me if you claim that the Trinity is monotheistic as it is to you when I claim that it isn’t. You have to learn how to deal with the fact that other people simply might not hold the same beliefs as you.

88 Nobody 08.19.09 at 9:43 am

Craig 08.19.09 at 9:07 am
Frankly, I don’t understand why people should be offended by such stuff at all.

You think you have permission to decide what other people should or should not find offensive? If people tell you they find something offensive, stop doing it?

I don’t need any such permission and neither I should consider other people’s sensitivities if these sensitivities are unreasonable. In fact, I usually don’t give a shit about other people’s sensitivities whether they are reasonable or not. Anyway, the issue of the similarity between Judaism and Islam or Judaism’s views on monotheism cannot be offensive because it’s nothing personal. Andrew has a theory of his own, but I was only stating the facts without getting judgmental. Incidentally, I encountered you comments on other blogs too and you don’t look like a person who strains himself to avoid hurting other people’s sensitivities. This is ok as far as I am concerned, but I don’t understand why at the same time you demand preferential treatment for yourself.

89 Don Cox 08.22.09 at 8:24 pm

“You have no idea how offensive a statue of Jesus on a cross is to Jews. ”

A statue showing a Jewish preacher being executed by Romans should be no more offensive to Jews than to anyone else. Crucifixion was not the method of execution used by the Jews.

I think it is best to see these models as an archetype of all the millions of people who have been wrongfully executed over the centuries. A crucifix can stand for those who have been killed by the Iranian regime this year, as much as for all those who died at the hands of the Romans.

90 Andrew Brehm 08.24.09 at 9:13 am

“A statue showing a Jewish preacher being executed by Romans should be no more offensive to Jews than to anyone else.”

That’s not what the status represents.

It’s what actually happened, but Christian churches do not display a statue of Jesus because he was a Jewish preacher killed by the Romans. They display the statue because they think he is the son of G-d (and/or G-d Himself).

And statues of divine beings are offensive to Jews (and Muslims).

91 Don Cox 08.25.09 at 10:25 am

“And statues of divine beings are offensive to Jews (and Muslims).”

Even statues of people they are certain were not divine? This really amounts to the existence of any other religion being offensive – as no doubt it is. Tough.

92 Andrew Brehm 08.25.09 at 10:46 am

I don’t believe Jesus is divine.

But Christians tell me that he is G-d. Something about the Trinity.

The result is that they have a statue of G-d in the form of a young bearded friendly-looking dead man.

I am fine with that, for them.

93 JJ 10.18.09 at 12:09 pm

Hello Drima,
This is a late response to your article about the morality of religious books. FYI information, I am a European married to a wonderful Sudanese lady, Sharifa. BTW are there any non-wonderful Sudanese ladies? As you can guess I was forced to convert to Islam to marry her. Well I was forced and not forced. I converted voluntarily on a personal level but was forced on an administrative level. So in the Sudanese legal system I am a muslim and according to the sudanese law I have a virtual death sentence above my head because I left Islam 3 years ago. So far for my personal story. Your article tries to prove that all religious books can be interpreted in a good and a bad way. There is some truth in it, though I have a hard time seeing how the gospels could inpire violence. The misleading part of your exposé is that you give the impression that Islam is only based on the Quran and this is false. The Quran can indeed be interpreted in various ways, but the problem of Islam is the Hadith and the biographies of Muhammad. You know that the Sahih Hadith are an integral part of Islamic doctrine and many hadith are both horrible and indispensable to give the Quran any sense. The Hadith indeed says that 4.34 the wife beating verse actually means what it says, namely that you have to beat your wife if nothing else works to “guide” her. The Hadith says that yes Jihad is fighting and killing to both defend and spread Islam. The Hadith gives examples of the application of verse 5.33 that says that the ones who make war against Allah and his Messenger have to be killed. Making war against Muhammad includes criticizing him and you know that Muhammad had his critics killed. I left Islam after reading the Sira by Ibn Ishaq that gives the context of the Quran and that paints a horrible picture of Muhammad. After reading the Sira, the Quran and the Hadith started to make sense to me or rather non-sense. I wonder how anybody can remain a muslim after reading a book that is used by Muslim professors to teach about islamic history.
Dear Drima, how can you follow a man who said badala deenahu faqtaluhu, whoever changes his religion kill him. You are wrong in at least 2 of your thoughts: (1) the Islam of the so-called extremists is not a deviation but it is exactly the same as what al azhar scholars write in their books. (2) Islam is not only the Quran but includes the hadith without which the Quran makes no sense at all.

94 Afaf 11.26.09 at 10:03 pm

By way of coincidence I found your blog and was excited to read the works of such a questioning mind. After reading this entry here I felt the urge to write my own response. I’m not really an Islamic scholar, rather I’m a student of science, but the amount of readings I did about Islam and my own practice gives me enough knowledge to respond to your little piece of reflection. My primary problem with the ethical model you proposed is its extreme impracticality. Now since your model relies on purely subjective methods of evaluating what is right and what is wrong, it will obviously lead to a spectrum of moral identities and moral desicions, a phenomenon that you mentioned in you’re example about the two Palestinians. Moral codes are specifically set to encounter these phenomena and prevent them from happening in the first place. Islam being the perfect religion from Allah ( according to my own personal beliefs that is ) will obviously avoid this error. The ayat and sowar of Quran are definitely not open to personal interpretation as you made it seem like, but in fact their interpretations are based on other Islamic evidence which is mainly Hadith. This is best depicted by the fact that there is a whole entire branch of Islamic studies devoted only to interpreting the ayat of Quran in the right way ( Elm Tafseer AlQoran). This branch of Islamic studies has been existent ever since the time of the prophet himself and continues to exist until now. Hadith constitutes an important pool from which this branch takes its interpretations and information. The goal of this branch is to provide the average muslim with a moral code that is clear enough to be practiced in everyday life without relying heavily on subjective evaluations and personal common sense. You’ll have to excuse me here, but the ethical model you just introduced almost made me laugh because such a system will never work in a society made up of different personalities and different subjective evaluation references. .The second thing I wanted to address is the fact that your view of islam seems to me as way too abstract. When referring to some other contemporary faith systems, an abstract perspective can be applied but when it comes to Islam this doesn’t work any more. Islamic Scholars have been working for years and years to build a system based on the two primary recourses of Islam ( Quran and Hadith). And when you want to discuss issues of Islam it only seems reasonable to me that you first take a look at how Islamic scholars dealt with them and then either build your ideas based on their systems or introduce to us a new system. A new system of course has to address very basic issues at the beginning before attempting to resolve the more complicated problems. At the end I just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading your pieces and I wish you all good in your future. My apologies if this was far too long.

95 Abdel hameed Muhamad Sadiq 03.07.10 at 9:35 pm

Islam was,is and will be a catalyst for fundamental change because it is a comprehensive religion of virtues.

96 Andrew Brehm 03.09.10 at 10:28 am

Name three virtues of Islam that are not being promoted by other religions as well.

97 Observe5 05.09.10 at 9:13 pm

This was quite good…I mean morals and the guidelines of right and wrong may have been documented by spirituality and religious text but how an individual chooses to lead their own life comes from a greater picking of life circumstances. What we read and how it is internalized is different in every person but that makes us all that more unique. i am a Muslim male, father , husband , and so on but find no offense to different opinions and thoughts. Faith and spiritual is internalized different, even amongst those who follow the same. We aren’t clones…or are we suppose to be?

98 John Kennard 10.23.10 at 3:42 pm

Morality arises in the first place from putting ourselves in others’ shoes, and acting accordingly.

Moral philosophy arises in the first place from considering the implications of the existence of morality, both moral necessities, those things which must be in order for morality to be, and moral consequences, those things which must be since morality is.

Most “moralities” take as fundamental things which are not only secondary but even contradictory to the reality of morality.

Such as “omnipotence”.

Such “moralities” must be imposed by fraud and force.

See my little pure moralist primer (free) for more:

http://www.lulu.com/items/volume_64/6606000/6606353/10/print/6606353.pdf

99 Hillary 12.31.10 at 7:19 am

You have an approach that is tactful, and well worded. I can’t say on any religious end I’d be offended reading this. I am not too religious myself, but if anything, this article shows how strong we are as human beings, and not as followers of a religion doing as we are told(implying fear or reward being the driving motivation to do so). What I’ve noticed is, religion is sometimes the scapegoat for reasons WHY people act poorly and do hateful things, that is never good, and it proves on the other end, people interpret religion as a reason to act upstanding. The latter is what religion was designed for, but as a species we take the liberties to hoist the contingencies of our actions on a ‘higher power.’ I liked this article a lot. My other favorite of yours is ‘everything happens for a reason.’

100 Peace 01.23.12 at 12:57 am

It depends on one’s understanding of the concept of God, which makes one interpret and understand existence in its entirety, physically and [spiritually] in a digestible form, if I may put it in this context. Now the question is, which one does Morality come under? Does spirituality exist? If does, what is it? It would be interesting to hear from atheist and religious perspectives…… Please give it a go!

101 Peace 01.23.12 at 1:08 am

Everything in existence in this Universe is made to serve a purpose, and that is called a worship theologically speaking. And we are all made for a purpose in this life like every other substance. The difference is we as human are given a bit of freedom and flexibility to play with, which is regarded Godly, because nothing else in existence that has the privilege of the God given freedom, hence only God is true freedom. And once we find our purpose and adhered to it, we are worshipping God. Good and bad are structural part of existence, and if only one is blessed enough “lucky” to be able to choose his/her side.

102 dean 05.05.12 at 5:37 pm

Allah did not say, interest Quran, to beat our wives when needed. The word in the Quran, wadribohonna, means when woman disobey the man stop treating her like a wife by not sleeping with her and not say much to her, but the man still has to support her, food and cloth. The man can bring elders from both of their families to resolve the problem with the wife

103 dean 05.05.12 at 5:39 pm

The Quran is very clear about how a man sho.uld treat his wife. Many verses in the Quran are misunderstood.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>