Thursday, 21 April 2005

It Ain't Necessarily So

As the George Gershwin song goes,
It ain't necessarily so
It ain't necessarily so
The t'ings dat yo' li'ble
To read in de Bible,
It ain't necessarily so.
Oddly enough, his first example, David slaying the Giant, Goliath of Gath, isn't particularly unlikely. That someone of gigantic statuture - 6ft 3in would qualify at the time - might be a Phillistine General, and Lord of Gath (then a Phillistine fief), is quire plausible. Based upon the known accuracy of much of the Hebrew Histories, military historians take this story at face value, and more probably true than not. But I digress.

Over at Tim Blair's place, I wrote an extensive comment about Islam. So extensive I've decided it's worth it's own post. Here 'tis.

Quick summary for a background of Islam, leaving potloads out.

  1. There's the Koran (The Direct Word of God, it says so on the label).
  2. There's the hadiths (sort of like the new testament), traditions of what Mohammed(pbuh) is supposed to have said and done.
  3. There's no central structure, it's not even as organised as the Southern Baptist Conference - which ranges from the relatively sane and sensible (who just want to ban Rock'n'Roll and dancing of any kind as "immoral") to the Snake Handlers and Arch-Fundamentalist Flat Earthers.
  1. There are huge arguments over which hadiths are "reliable", and which are bogus. Pick the right subset, you can make Islam into almost anything you want, from BLOOD BLOOD BLOOD to pacifist mysticism. Which one is taught at the local Mosque sometimes changes with every new Imam.
  2. As in the Torah and Bible, there's lots of contradictory and evil stuff in the Koran. There's even a huge branch of Islamic Scholarship that does nothing but figure out which bits are superceded by which other bits.
For example of Torah evil, see
Exodus 21:7-11
Deuteronomy 17:2-5
(A good source for the original in Hebrew and a literal translation is here)

Jews don't go around stoning to death all proven unbelievers, nor selling their daughters, whatever the situation might have been 3000 years ago. No, not even the Ultra-Ultra-Ultra Orthodox "stone anyone travelling by Car on a Saturday" types that infest tiny parts of Israel.

And what about Matthew 10:34-36 ? So much for family values.

I'm not criticising Judaism, nor Christianity. The vast majority of Jews and Christians don't go around killing kids who smart-mouth their parents ( Leviticus 20:9 ). Both Judaism and Christianity are, in the main, sane. Some parts of the Bible/Torah are emphasised, some so totally ignored that few adherents are aware of their existence, or consider that they have any relevance if they know about them.

The tiny minority that take every word absolutely literally (as opposed to the much larger but still minority group who say they do) are usually put in mental hospitals, sometimes before, sometimes after they put the baby in the oven to "cast out demons" etc.

The trouble is, the same can't be said of Islam. There's a sizeable minority, rather than one in a million, it's more like one in a hundred, who go around actually slaughtering the unbelievers, engaging in slavery etc etc. And a much larger proportion who, while never thinking of doing such a thing themselves, can't bring themselves to condemn those barbarities too much, because of what the Koran and Hadiths say.

Should anyone stand up at an execution of an adulteress by stoning in Iran today, and say "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone", the authorities are likely to have them executed too, on some trumped-up charge or other. There's precedent. It's just that some religions have outgrown this stuff, and a long time ago.

What's really sad is that in some ways, Islam has gone backwards. Had anyone dropped in to 14th century Tehran, vs 14th century Rome, it's unlikely they'd predict correctly who the more tolerant of the two would be in 2005.

So for those who say the problem is inherent in Islam, I say the problem is no more inherent there than in Christianity pr Judaism. Of the three, Judaism is historically the best in practice, but the worst in theory. Christianity is the best in theory, but there's little things like the 30 years war (17th century, Catholic vs Protestant, depopulated much of Germany, slaughter and rapine rampant) and Tai-Ping rebellion (19th century Chinese Christian Loony Sect Goes REALLY Nuts, Kills 30-50 million) that argue that until the 20th century, they were the worst.

Then there's the little matter of the Shoah. Most guards at the Death Camps either came from a Christian background, or even considered themselves Christian. The same with Stalin's Gulags. But as Stalinism and Nazism were both rather down against Christianity, I'll leave the "until the 20th century" cavil unchanged.

The trouble with universally condemning Islam is that first you must ignore or be unwilling to see that most Muslims are just people. Like most Arch-Baptist "Rock'n'Roll is Mortal Sin" Hellfire-And-Damnation "Creation Science" types are just people, some of them quite good people. Often more loyal, charitable, hard-working, honourable and honest than those less pious around them. Sometimes just hypocrites.

You and I may think they're terminally wrong, but as they don't go around actually bombing abortion clinics and beating up gays (however much they may remain silent when asked to uniquivocally condemn these activities), you shouldn't be in fear of them. Unless they get in power. Most Muslims are no worse than the "Moral Majority", they have the same vices and the same virtues.

The trouble with defending Islam is that the number of Arch-Baptist "Rock'n'Roll is Mortal Sin" etc etc etc types is small worldwide, and the number who bomb abortion clinics so tiny as to be worth massive media attention.

Most Islamic countries, if they became democracies, would be no worse than they'd be if Anti-Evolutionist Literal-Word-Of-The-Bible-Belter Fundamentalist Christians were in charge, and where the majority of the population agreed wholeheartedly with them. Churchgoing, Godfearing, Closed-Minded and Repressive.

But there are entire countries where Islamic versions of the Homicidal Maniac fringe are numbered in the millions, or where they control the government, or have tremendous political clout. Sometimes all three.

You may now say "And that's supposed to *comfort* me????" Hey, I calls 'em how I sees 'em. It's the way things are.

1 comment:

taspundit said...

(Crossposted at Tim Blair's blog. Slightly earlier version, but mostly the same.)


I just read your article. In general, good, but there are a few things that you should clarify:

[quote]1. "What's really sad is that in some ways, Islam has gone backwards. Had anyone dropped in to 14th century Tehran, vs 14th century Rome, it's unlikely they'd predict correctly who the more tolerant of the two would be in 2005."[/quote]


[quote]2. "So for those who say the problem is inherent in Islam, I say the problem is no more inherent there than in Christianity pr Judaism. Of the three, Judaism is historically the best in practice, but the worst in theory."[/quote]

Some refs for this? *Deep Breath*...No doubt I will probably get called a racist and all other names under the sun, but I would argue that in practice there is a lot of blood on Jewish hands. Jews were very well represented amongst the founders of communism in Russia and in the implementation of the Ukrainian holocaust. (As the victims of many pogroms in Ukrainian history, they were particularly well suited to exact some vengeance.) Up to 5 million from the Ukrainian holocaust alone, not counting other Communist gulags. All in all, not a bad effort for a little group of 23 million or so!
[url=]See here.[/url]

And I know it's cool to bash the Palistinians, but Israel certainly wasn't a barren desert when Ben Gurion terrorised his way to the establishment of an Israeli state.

By the same token, I would not call Judaism the worst in theory, either (from the persepective of an unbeliever). Certainly not compared to Islam. As far as I know, there is no common theme in the Talmud that specifies how to go about converting goyim, making them pay jizya, or killing them.

By codifying man's essential genocidal nature in a religion that applies to large groups, Islam has spread like wildfire given the head start both Judaism and Christianity had. If I was Mohommad or even a Muslim this would give me a massive hardon, but I'm not. I happen to enjoy the freedom and technology that living in the West brings.

[quote]3. "Pick the right subset, you can make Islam into almost anything you want, from BLOOD BLOOD BLOOD to pacifist mysticism."[/quote]

As far as I've seen, most evidence points to BLOOD BLOOD BLOOD. You know software development, you should follow this logic as a fundamentalist (good Muslim) would:

1. Qur'an is the word of Allah.
Sura (chapter) 39:1 we read: “This Book is revealed by God, the Mighty, the Wise One.” Sura 55:1 says, “It is the Merciful [God] who has taught the Koran”

2. A Muslim must obey Allah.
Qur’an 47:33 “Believers, obey Allah, and obey the Messenger. Do not falter; become faint-hearted, or weak-kneed, crying for peace.”

3. You have no obligations to non-Muslims (which is why CAIR and MM can afford to say somewhat placating stuff in English - they don't mean it.)

Qur’an 9:3 "Allah and His Messenger dissolve (treaty) obligations with the Pagans"

4. Convert non-Muslims, make them pay a tax and subjugate them (jizya, dhimmitude), or kill them (preferably by lopping off their heads).
Covered extensively here, there are approx 350-400 lines from Qur'an on fighting, jihad, terrorism, war, martyrs/mercenaries and Muslim militants alone:

To pick a random infidel slaying quote from the Qur'an (word of Allah), this will suffice (and looking at the surrounding verses, certainly not out of context):
Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them).
And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do.

In addition, there are 3000 quotes of a similar nature they have researched on Islam.
It's a little more than the solitary sword quote in Matthew 10...

[quote]4. "And what about Matthew 10:34-36 ? So much for family values."[/quote]

Which, if you read the whole chapter, is a little more innocuous. Basically Jesus wanted his diciples to act like Jevova's witnesses do today - proseletyzing everyone, everywhere, including family. He didn't say to kill anyone.

Thus, the three verses you quote seem to me to be out of context. (No doubt you can construe something else to do your work if as a Christian you wish to commit genocide; however you need to do a bit more digging to make a good case of it. And I'm not even sure if there IS a defensible Christian case for genocide against unbelievers as there is in Islam.)

[url= 10&version1=31]Source here:[/url]

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[b]drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

Which brings me to the more evil of your Torah quotes (from the perspective of a non-believer), Deuteronomy quote 17:2-5:

[quote]5. "2If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God, in transgressing his covenant...[/quote]

etc, etc, this basically says that all Jews that turn pagan (transgressing the covenant) shall be stoned to death. Which is hardly a command to go killing the out-group ala Islam.

If anyone's made it this far, I think that Christianity is an interesting case. Read John Hartung's [url=]Love Thy Neighbour[/url]. I really need to go and re-read the new Testament, but Hartung makes a good case that Christ set about with a goal of reforming Judaism. Chances are eventually his religion would have become a bloody religion of conquest much like Islam, but first he needed to unite the Jewish people. Unfortunately he pissed off the wrong people and got put on a cross before he had a united army to command. What then happened is that his religion got spread to the pagans, a religion that was relatively out-group friendly for the times.