God is weak — or, should I say, Muslims worry about Allah’s strength

Longtime readers know that one of my favorite book series is C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. In the Narnia series, my favorite book has come to be The Last Battle — which is the Biblical end of the world, Narnia style. Within that book, my favorite scenes take place after the Apocalypse, when the saved are in the Narnia version of Heaven.

When the heroes and heroines of past books arrive in their Heaven, they find there a Calormene. Caloremenes are Narnian’s arch enemies (and, interesting, given that the book was written in the 1950s, are clearly modeled on Muslims out of the Arabian nights). They reject Aslan (the Jesus figure) and instead worship Tash, an evil figure who is clearly meant to be the equivalent of Satan.

The Calormene’s presence in Heaven is, therefore, unexpected. It turns out, however, that the Calormene is an exceptionally honorable character who believes in Tash because he was raised to, but whose values are clearly in line with Aslan’s. Accordingly, when he arrives in Heaven, Aslan welcomes him, assuring him that all of his good acts by-passed Tash and were accorded directly to Aslan — hence his place in Heaven.

Lewis’ point, of course, is that God focuses on man’s acts and is readily able to separate the wheat from the chaff. True religions encourage good behavior, but it is up to God in the afterlife to determine whether any individual actually “got it right” in terms of moral choices. God also has sufficient self-assurance to accept that some might not appear to accord him the proper respect on earth, because God looks at deep acts and beliefs, not superficial behaviors.

This is a long warm up for a story out of Saudi Arabia, in which the Saudi religious courts have once again taken it upon themselves, in the most brutal fashion, to do the sorting on God’s behalf (h/t LGF):

A Saudi Arabian court on Thursday ratified the conviction of Turkish barber Sabri Bogday, who was sentenced to beheading in Saudi Arabia on charges of “cursing the name of God.”

Bogday has been in jail for 13 months in Saudi Arabia after a quarrel with a neighbor near his barber shop. Bogday was accused of cursing the name of God.

Every time I read articles such as this one, I can’t help but think that Muslims hold their God in very low esteem. If there is an Allah, I don’t intend this to be an insult of what Allah actually is. Instead, I’m just looking at human activities relative to their belief in Allah’s existence.

Amongst serious Islamists, while they pay lip service to Allah’s overwhelming power and beneficence, their behavior speaks of a divine being that has a very low insult threshold (they treat Allah as very insecure), and who demands that man enact the most heinous punishments on other men in this life (imply that, in their eyes, Allah is pretty powerless in the next life, since he must rely on man to do the sorting in this one). This kind of radical Islamic behavior really seems inconsistent with an omniscient, powerful God. Instead, Islamists, by their acts, paint Allah as a hypersensitive, low-intellect wimp — which must be, I think, the most heinous act of disrespect it’s possible to render unto God.

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  1. Mike Devx says

    This reminds me of a line from Michael Yon’s excellent book ‘Moment Of Truth In Iraq’, concerning one of the many, many brutalities of Al Qaeda by which they lost the war to us:

    “Men who refused to grow beards were beaten, as were women for the “sexually suggestive” behavior of carrying tomatoes and cucumbers in the same bag.”

    Mr. Yon also notes that once we won control of a neighborhood from Al Qaeda, our soldiers immediately began to work, setting up food delivery, garbage service, power, police, medical services.

    When Al Qaeda took over a neighborhood, they immediately began to simply enforce these strange morality laws, and provided ZERO in the community services I mentioned above. They lounged around – when not enforcing morality. They used heavy drugs. They raped women and boys.

    Ah, Moral Relativism! All Cultures Are Equal! All Movements Are Equal! There is no difference between Al Qaeda and the USA. We are no better than them. “Civilization” is a worthless concept.

  2. Mike Devx says

    I ran across an interesting article I’d like to share at length. Could its points be true?

    Is Islam in Global Flux?
    Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman

    We tend to think of people being conservative about leaving the faith of their childhood. However, there have been times in history that a religion gained – or lost – large numbers. Apparently Islam is in such a period of growth, but at the same time experiencing an exodus of the disgruntled.

    During the later years of the Roman Empire, millions of people abandoned the polytheistic state religion and converted to new competing religions: Mithraism, Judaism, and the young Jewish cult of Christianity. This free marketplace of religion ended with the accession of Emperor Constantine, who mandated Christianity as the only tolerated faith and all others to be persecuted.

    Islam began as a small cult that succeeded beyond all expectations because the powerful empires of the day (Persia and Byzantium) were weakened by long, expensive conflict. The Arabs unexpectedly swept over formerly Roman Christian and Jewish North Africa and forced mass conversion. The same was true for the conquest of Persia and across Central Asia, where the Zoroastrians, Buddhists, and Hindus were persecuted.

    After a thousand-year monopoly, the conversion of masses of people from the Catholic Church to dissenting sects (Protestants) was the consequence of political ferment in Europe and the advent of the printing press, which broke the monopoly of Catholic learning.

    For the modern Western world, over a 400-year period, religion has lost the arm of state compulsion. Most of us today are free to believe, not believe, or shop around for a faith that suits us. We certainly do this in the United States; religion is a marketplace.

    But what of Islam, which advertises itself as the world’s fastest-growing faith? It may well be that it is also entering into a phase of losing followers disgusted with its current phase of militant fundamentalism and bigotry. This defection is particularly brave in countries with Muslim governments that execute defectors (apostates). The following are some numbers on this phenomenon, provided by Andrew Walden, editor of the Hawai`i Free Press in Hilo, Hawaii (andrewwalden@email.com).

    Italian ex-Muslim Magdi Allam’s very public baptism by Pope Benedict on Easter Sunday made headlines. According to Walden, he is not an anomaly. He says that Muslims are leaving Islam in droves. The baptism of Allam was an act of defiance in the face of Islamic threats, among them threats by Osama bin Laden.

    In Africa, Islam used to represent Africa’s main religion and there were 30 African languages written in Arabic script. The number of Muslims in Africa has diminished to 316 million (out of a population of almost 1 billion), half of whom are Arabs in North Africa. (See Ahmad al-Qataani, Interviewed by al-Jazeera in 2006.)

    In Iran as many as 1 million people have surreptitiously converted to Evangelical Christianity in the last five years, according to Pastor Hormoz Shariat (Google him), who claims to have converted 50,000 of them through his U.S.-based Farsi-language satellite ministry. The Iranian parliament is debating the death penalty for conversion.

    In Iraq, a similar phenomenon is growing. The March 4th New York Times reports: “After almost five years of war, many young people in Iraq, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach.”

    In southern Russia the same pattern is emerging. According to Roman Silantyev, executive secretary of the Inter-religious Council in Russia, two million Muslims converted to Christianity and as many as 100,000 have converted to Christianity in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan.

    In Kashmir, victim of Islamist war, evangelicals report thousands of sub-rosa converts. An Indian newspaper headline reads: “Urban Muslim Youth Out to Junk Faith.”

    Palestinians, after decades of terrorist rule, are being quietly converted, holding in-home services to avoid detection. Says one evangelist: “I’ve been working among these people for thirty years, and I promise you I’ve never seen anything like this.”

    The London Times estimates 15% of Muslims living in Western Europe have left Islam — 200,000 in the UK alone. Those who leave often face harassment, threats, and attack, but they are leaving.

    This seems to be another era of religious defections in the face of very ugly religious warfare. We have been there before.

  3. Ymarsakar says

    People worry about Allah’s strength because they can’t improve their own strength of mind, spirit, or body.

    This seems to be another era of religious defections in the face of very ugly religious warfare. We have been there before.

    And just like before, the “religious war” is 70-80% about political power not religious doctrine. Because when you have political power, then the religious doctrine starts becoming “really” important.

  4. Ymarsakar says

    His world is not the real world.

    The world can be changed by individuals and people who strive to change it with will, guts, and luck.

    In that sense, if his world is not the real world, it can be made into the real world. If he succedes, of course. He may not, he may fail due to lack of resources or some other factor. But the possibility is there. In fact, the probability is there given the history of Ghenghis Khan and Atilla the Hun. They, historically, united fractious tribes and clans in a Union that currently didn’t exist in their world. It didn’t exist until Atilla made it exist, that is.

    Human beings have been blessed with intelligence and the power to create with that intelligence. Thus the world can be changed through the creative and destructive power of the human mind.

    What human beings lack is wisdom, though.

    Truth that is not based on reality is not truth at all.

    In the epistemological sense, which concerns itself with the theory of knowledge, and thus truth, you would be right, Don. However, there are more than one theory of knowledge in epistemology. Helen’s theory of epistemology is just as valid as your theory of knowledge. The reason why is because helen’s theory of knowledge comes from “knowing things are true” by “claiming they are true”. In objective reality, if enough people claim something to be true, it will be true, not because of whim but because of basic human sociological factors and mass behavior.

    Your theory of knowledge talks about truth as a basic recognition of fundamental reality or things independent of human perspective. A tree exists and has a certain quality and when a human being recognizes that tree and its qualities, that human being has acquired truth and knowledge.

    However, let’s say somebody said the tree was going to die and we shouldn’t be near it or waste valuable water on it. You would say the tree is healthy and that the person stating that the tree will die is lying or speaking false things. However, if the “tree is going to die” person convinces enough people not to water the tree, then he creates reality out of his words. He has created a self-fullfilling prophecy, because now the tree will die due to a lack of water. This is not just convincing a group of people to believe that red is green or some such mass psychosis deal. This is creating reality and modifying it. The same reality that you recognize as the fundamental bedrock for truth.

    In that sense, helen’s theory of epistemology is just as valid as yours Don, but not in the same way and of course, not on the same level of Ethics or Metaphysics.

    I think it’s called faith-based thinking. No rational needed.

    Because of what I have written here, I cannot agree with Sadie. It is not “faith based thinking” since faith based thinking does not intend to create self-fullfilling prophecies. Meaning, getting people to worship a god and to recognize its existence does not in fact make that god real. Not on the metaphysical sense. Perhaps we lack the tools or cognition to recognize spiritual existence on that plane of reality, but lack it we do.

    Helen’s view of things is that we create scarcity simply by existing or having a certain kind of thinking about privilege. I do not think many people claim that God exists because people believe in God.

    That may in fact be true, but we can’t verify it. And if we can’t verify it, then we can’t say whether faith based beliefs are the same as helen’s style of cognition.

    I’m not offended by Helen on a personal level, but I find her positions offensive, especially in light of the fact that she blames others inherit racism or ignorance as the reason she cannot defend those positions adequately.

    To Spiff,

    Her positions may be disagreeable to you and may offend your sense of things, but if your sense of things could encompass how and why helen has such positions, you wouldn’t be offended. Because can you be offended by the presence of air, human self-interest, human fallibility, engineering disasters due to unknown unknowns, and electrical shocks? No, cause those things are natural and must be accepted for we cannot get rid of them entirely or even before/after the fact. But should we feel the same way about incompetence, individual corruption we can stop and address, and poor shoddy workmanship and ethics? We should feel offended by such and angered: angered enough to do something about them. Helen’s position or some such is not in my power to change. It may not even be in anyone’s power to change except helen’s herself. So there’s no benefit to expending energy being offended by her positions because those positions are just a fact of life. Not a fact of life that they are true, but a fact of life that people will go on believing such things come hell or high water. Only a catastrophic war like the Civil War + WWII put together might change a few individual minds, assuming anybody is alive. One reason why I study war, since it offers the best opportunity to correct fundamental flaws in human cognition.

    If I have an emotion reaction concerning helen’s views, it would not derive from my sense of values being offended but would be more similar to Don’s reaction of sadness, and pity in myself.

    This is a long warm up for a story out of Saudi Arabia, in which the Saudi religious courts have once again taken it upon themselves, in the most brutal fashion, to do the sorting on God’s behalf (h/t LGF):

    Well, technically speaking, Book, they are just sending him to God sooner so that God may make a judgment. And of course, when God makes that judgment, the all powerful Allah will send a sign to the Saudi Religious courts about their verdict.

    Right?

    Allah is pretty powerless in the next life, since he must rely on man to do the sorting in this one).

    It is even worse in a sense. Often Muslims believe they are the Sword of Allah and are direct manifestations of Allah’s Divine Will. If you thought religious fundamentalists were bad, start thinking about demi-godlings converting by the sword of fanaticism.

  5. Ymarsakar says

    Whoops, forgot to clear my notepad when I started typing the reply. You can delete the last comment since this was my reply.

    This is a long warm up for a story out of Saudi Arabia, in which the Saudi religious courts have once again taken it upon themselves, in the most brutal fashion, to do the sorting on God’s behalf (h/t LGF):

    Well, technically speaking, Book, they are just sending him to God sooner so that God may make a judgment. And of course, when God makes that judgment, the all powerful Allah will send a sign to the Saudi Religious courts about their verdict.

    Right?

    Allah is pretty powerless in the next life, since he must rely on man to do the sorting in this one).

    It is even worse in a sense. Often Muslims believe they are the Sword of Allah and are direct manifestations of Allah’s Divine Will. If you thought religious fundamentalists were bad, start thinking about demi-godlings converting by the sword of fanaticism.

  6. says

    Hello Bookworm,

    I think you’ve put your finger on the crux of the matter, but I don’t think most Westerners “get it” about Islam.

    We in the West is so influenced, so ingrained into our very being by Christian values that it is extremely difficult to understand something as alien as Islam. In the Christian West, which continues on to this day even in secularists (however unwilling they are to admit it), we believe that external actions doesn’t mean a thing if it doesn’t reach your heart. Where the heart and actions divert, we are quick to pounce and declare the man, “Hypocrite!” When we debate, persuade and convince, we are appealing to another man’s intellect, his heart and his willing assent.

    None of this applies in Islam. None of it.

    In Islam, it is all about outward, external actions. What you believe in your heart is beside the point to Islam. The point is whether or not you submit and conform your actions to accord with the Koran.

    Allow me to posit it another way. If you follow the “do’s” and “do not’s” of Islam, you will go to heaven. If what you believe in your heart doesn’t matter, you can easily claim yourself a pious peace-loving man in front of the camera and out in the streets, come home and beat your wife to death. You will attend the “Death to America” rallies every Friday because that what the imams say you should do. Whether you believe it or not doesn’t matter. What does matter is whether or not you join the rally.

    In Christianity, a man converts through his heart and soul and mind. It is a true complete conversion from the inside out. In Islam, you are saved by conforming your behavior to the Koran. And if you believe that you can save others by forcing them at sword point to conform to the Islam (submit), then you would have saved a soul from eternal damnation. And should they not submit and conform, it would be better for them to die than to influence others to go in hell for eternity.

    You see, Bookworm, their acts don’t simply imply the impotence of their God. It denotes their religious fervor to save the souls of others. No amount of heinous killings, no amount of murders and genocide is enough. They intend to save our souls whether we like it or not. And if not, they intend to end our influence on the rest of the world through one way or another.

  7. Mike Devx says

    Thomas says,
    “In Islam, it is all about outward, external actions. What you believe in your heart is beside the point to Islam. The point is whether or not you submit and conform your actions to accord with the Koran.
    Allow me to posit it another way. If you follow the “do’s” and “do not’s” of Islam, you will go to heaven.”

    Thomas, isn’t it true, though that the manner of submission, and the way you conform your actions to accord with the Koran, is ALWAYS dependent on which imam, or which kind of Islamic leadership, is in power?

    I mean, Al Qaeda was beating women in Bakubah for carrying tomatoes and cucumbers in the same bag. The Iraqi Muslims welcomed them initially – and the USA lost, lost, lost… then Al Qaeda, by their thug/gang behavior, turned them into our allies again.

    Doesn’t it always depend on who is in charge at the top, whether we’re talking about Islam or any other type of dictatorship?

  8. Ymarsakar says

    The Iraqi Muslims, with the exception of some Shia individuals and the Kurdish tribes, weren’t our allies to begin with. They only became our allies when they saw a mutual interest in working with us; in this case, that mutual interest was simple survival.

    The US could shout about “freedom” and “liberty” all we wanted, but the Arabs would never really understand what we are talking about until they saw the actions of our enemies.

    The Arabs’ immediate reaction to when we said “you are free” differed based upon which Arab you are speaking to. For the Kurds, that meant free from Saddam and perhaps free from external interference in their political matters. For the Shia, it meant free from the Sunnis and Sunni rule. For the Sunnis, it meant free from electricity being shunted to Baghdad and various other perks Saddam gave out. For the Sunnis, “freedom” also meant “free to be killed by the Shia” “free to lose power” free to starve.

    Until the Iraqis saw who our enemies were and how they acted, “freedom” had no objective meaning to them. Just as liberty has no objective meaning to many Americans.

  9. Danny Lemieux says

    One of the fundamental problems we have here in the U.S. is that so many people cannot comprehend that others don’t necessarily think like them. It is even more difficult for atheists to comprehend the minds of religious people.

    You can point out examples such as this to a Liberal until you are blue in the face and they still won’t get it.

    C.S. Lewis’ view, incidentally, is one that distinguishes the doctrinal understanding of Anglican/Episcopalians and many Catholics (and Mormons, I believe) from the more fundamentalist Christian denominations. For the former, our understanding is that Jesus, by his crucifixion, opened the gates of heaven to everyone, not just Christians. Whether we go through the gates, however, remains a matter of personal choice, a choice formed in large part by how we lead our lives (read C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce”).

    For the latter, you must “earn” your way into heaven by both confessing your faith in Jesus Christ and by how rigorously you follow the rules laid-out in both Old and New Testaments. Personally, as an Episcopalian, I don’t consider myself or anybody else to be smart enough to sort through who’s right on this question, so I just muddle along the best that I can on the basis of my own understandings. Let’s see what ex-Preacherman has to say in response. Suffice to say, we believe that Heaven is open to good Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc as well.

    To the point of your post, though, traditional Islam is similar to some of the more traditional forms of Christianity (e.g., Calvinism) as they were practiced in the Middle Ages, where people could be harshly punished (even killed) for breaking the “rules”. A fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity as practiced today, of course, is that Christians are prone to use persuasion, rather than the sword, to help others appreciate their point of view. Very importantly, unlike the Koran, the use of violence to promote the faith was never justified in the New Testament – quite the opposite. So, our Bible doesn’t give cover for us to use violence against non-believers.

    Christian faith doesn’t make people “good”, it only makes us better by wanting to be and do good. Over thousands of years, I believe that Christians and Jews have been able drawn from our faith to become better people and to create better Judeo-Christian societies as a result. Perhaps this, too, will happen to Islam in time. Some recent reports suggest that we may be seeing the beginning of such an evolution in the Islamic world, not only through Christian conversion but through many Muslims secretly reexamining their own faith and finding it wanting. Perhaps what we have done in the Middle East will spark a reformation of Islam. Let’s hope so. http://www.bloggernews.net/114732
    .

  10. says

    Mike,

    You asked:

    Thomas, isn’t it true, though that the manner of submission, and the way you conform your actions to accord with the Koran, is ALWAYS dependent on which imam, or which kind of Islamic leadership, is in power?

    Yes, the manner would probably be different per imam, but I was alluding to a world view and metaphysical reality of Islam rather than the particular flavors it would come in with each imam. It is different from the run of the mill dictatorship because dictatorships usual don’t provide the promise of heaven and hell in their ideological raison d’etre.

    It is different from dictatorships because Islam’s practitioners enthusiastically impose their worldview on to others as an article of faith, not just for political power. It is understood that in the most horrible of totalitarian dictatorships here in th West (Soviets, Nazis), even they try to capture the heart as well as the mind. Note how the Soviets never ceased to propagandize and persuade and appeal to emotion with the phrase, “Workers of the world unite!” The Nazis tried to capture German pride and nationalism and persuade the German people that they were the victims of the Versailles treaty, and they have to recapture their birthright.

    Islam does not persuade and try to capture the hearts and minds of the people. People do what their imams and their Koran says and earn heaven through absolute conformity or are put to the sword. This is an ALIEN mentality to us, and I find it very difficult to even explain it to others because we are so imbued in the Christian Western culture.

    Imagine stories or movies you’ve seen when a woman or a man is kidnapped. The person kidnapped does everything the criminal says though giving him no quarter insider his heart. We know watching this movie that he does this because has to and his heart hasn’t given the criminal an inch, and we applaud such courage and resistance.

    From the viewpoint of Islam, Islam is perfectly content with the kidnapee’s reaction. He has submitted in deed. His soul is now saved. It matters not one iota that the kidnapee’s heart doesn’t assent to any of Islam’s beliefs. This is why Muslims push for Sharia law. It would impose the Islamic order and save everyone’s souls.

    As 1984, Orwell’s book, points out, the end goal of that kind of dictatorship is to take over the heart of men. He will believe that 2 plus 2 is 5. Islam couldn’t care less what you believe as long as you do what they say.

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