Friday, December 01, 2006

Swearing in on the Koran: Dennis Prager from TownHall.com

America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on
By Dennis Prager
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran.

He should not be allowed to do so -- not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.

A Palestinian woman holds the Koran during a Hamas rally against Israeli troops operation in northern Gaza strip November 3, 2006. Israeli troops shot and killed two Palestinian women acting as human shields between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen during a clash at a Gaza mosque on Friday, witnesses said, before the gunmen escaped. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA)

First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism --my culture trumps America's culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

Devotees of multiculturalism and political correctness who do not see how damaging to the fabric of American civilization it is to allow Ellison to choose his own book need only imagine a racist elected to Congress. Would they allow him to choose Hitler's "Mein Kampf," the Nazis' bible, for his oath? And if not, why not? On what grounds will those defending Ellison's right to choose his favorite book deny that same right to a racist who is elected to public office?

Of course, Ellison's defenders argue that Ellison is merely being honest; since he believes in the Koran and not in the Bible, he should be allowed, even encouraged, to put his hand on the book he believes in. But for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they do not believe in the New Testament, and the many secular elected officials have not believed in the Old Testament either. Yet those secular officials did not demand to take their oaths of office on, say, the collected works of Voltaire or on a volume of New York Times editorials, writings far more significant to some liberal members of Congress than the Bible. Nor has one Mormon official demanded to put his hand on the Book of Mormon. And it is hard to imagine a scientologist being allowed to take his oath of office on a copy of "Dianetics" by L. Ron Hubbard.

So why are we allowing Keith Ellison to do what no other member of Congress has ever done -- choose his own most revered book for his oath?

The answer is obvious -- Ellison is a Muslim. And whoever decides these matters, not to mention virtually every editorial page in America, is not going to offend a Muslim. In fact, many of these people argue it will be a good thing because Muslims around the world will see what an open society America is and how much Americans honor Muslims and the Koran.

This argument appeals to all those who believe that one of the greatest goals of America is to be loved by the world, and especially by Muslims because then fewer Muslims will hate us (and therefore fewer will bomb us).

But these naive people do not appreciate that America will not change the attitude of a single American-hating Muslim by allowing Ellison to substitute the Koran for the Bible. In fact, the opposite is more likely: Ellison's doing so will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones, as Islamists, rightly or wrongly, see the first sign of the realization of their greatest goal -- the Islamicization of America.

When all elected officials take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization. If Keith Ellison is allowed to change that, he will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11. It is hard to believe that this is the legacy most Muslim Americans want to bequeath to America. But if it is, it is not only Europe that is in trouble.

Dennis Prager is a radio show host, contributing columinst for Townhall.com, and author of 4 books including Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual.

46 comments:

Tom Hinkle said...

Gee, who died and made Dennis Prager the arbiter of all that is American? He is wrong on some of his so-called facts...

(the following is from the "Minnesota Monitor" written by Robin Marty):

In our country's history, four presidents have been inaugurated without swearing an oath on the Bible. Franklin Pierce was affirmed, and swore no oath, Rutherford Hayes initially had a private ceremony with no Bible before his public ceremony, Theodore Roosevelt had no Bible at his ceremony, and Lyndon Johnson used a missal during his first term.
Despite Prager's insistence that "for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they do not believe in the New Testament," it is clear that he is wrong. Linda Lingle, Governor of Hawaii, took the oath of office on a Torah in 2001. Madeleine Kunin, a Jewish Immigrant and Governor of Vermont "rested her left hand on a stack of old prayer books that had belonged to her mother, grandparents, and great grandfather" as "a physical expression of the weight of Jewish history."

And in North Carolina, the Notary Public has a written code for swearing in:


"A person taking an oath should place one hand on the Holy Scriptures. This book will vary depending on the person's religious beliefs: Christians should use the New Testament or the Bible; Jews, the Torah or the Old Testament; Moslems, the Koran; Hindus, the Bhagavad-Gita; etc."
Perhaps Prager would be best benefited if he spent less time writing columns, and more re-reading Article VI of the Constitution:


The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) made headlines earlier this month when she could not find a Hebrew Bible for her swearing in; she refused the Christian Bible proffered by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and eventually borrowed one from Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.).

Tom said...

As Mr. Hinkle has pointed out, Prager's post is historically misinformed. Neither the constitution nor "America" has made a decision on which book is to be sworn on when one becomes a member of Congress. Maybe Prager thinks it's his call?

Regardless, his main thesis seems borderline bizarre to me: does he really think that the primary reason for allowing Ellison to use the Koran as the book used in the photo-op pledge (to be distinguished from the actual ceremony done in mass where the new congress men and women raise their right hands rather than place them on the Bible or any other book) is to pacify potential terrorists? I'd like Ellsion to be able to use the Koran if he wants, and I don't care what any potentially-radicalized Muslim in Afganistan thinks about it. We live in a pluralistic society, one in which freedom of religion is fundamental. That he chooses the holy text of one of the non-Christian monotheistic religions seems perfectly in keeping with what I thought our country was all about. Apparently, Prager and I have a different understanding of what freedom of religion comes to.

Furthermore, can Prager really be serious when he writes that if Ellison is allowed to take his photo-op with his hand on the Koran "he will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11"?

As for this American Christian, I think it matters not a whit what book Ellison or any other new member of Congress places his or her hand on. As Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them." I'll rather be represented in Congress by a devout Muslim who wants his or her hand on the Koran when he or she poses for the press and who believes our society should be just and should protect the interests of the poor, than I would want to be represented by a Christian who is more concerned about the interests of business than he or she is the "least of these" or who would want to restrict our political leaders to those who could, in could conscience, swear on the Bible.

What would do damage to the values of our civilization is if misinformed idealogues like Prager were to have their way, and freedom of religion were to be so compromised.

Douglas Groothuis said...

All those examples involve either no books or the Hebrew Bible or prayer books, which had a Christian orientation (I take it).

The Koran is another universe of discourse entirely. It is antithetical to the Constitution of the United States. A congressman cannot be sworn in on the Koran and pledge to uphold the Constitution and be logically consistent. Islam is opposed to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and to a Consitutional Republic in general. Look at the Muslim nations; look at history; look at the Koran.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Tom:

I hate to say this, but you are fundamentally misinformed about the very nature of Islam. Swearing on the Koran opens a very dark door for America.

Please read Mark Gabriel, Islam and Terrorism. He was a Muslim professor of Islamic history in Egypt before converting. He memorized the entire Koran, many Hadith, and knows Islamic history better than most Muslims. Knowing that bloody history was part of why he left Islam, in fact.

Muslims divine the world into Islam and the infidels. Allah is to rule all of it eventually; democracy is not an option. Theocracy is the model. Muslims are setting up sharia law in parts of Europe already.

If a Muslim wants to use his religion to overturn the Consitution, how can that be supported by the Consitution (First Amendment)?

For an overall assessment of Islam in geopolitical affairs, read Mark Steyn, "America Alone."

Tom said...

Doug:

I'll have a look at the book you recommend. Thanks for the suggestion.

Be that as it may, I have friends who are Muslims who believe in secular democracy. Maybe your view is that they don't read the Koran correctly. I don't know enough about Islamic scholarship to make a decision about which of you is correct.

But let me say this: I agree that if a Muslim (or a Christian or a Jew) can't in good conscience swear to defend the Constitution of the United States then he or she shouldn't run for Congress. But if a Muslim (or Christian or Jew) can in good conscience swear to defend the Constitution (even if that conscience turns out to be inconsistent with the way that some read the scriptures of his or her religion) then it seems to me to matter rather little upon which book he or she puts his or her hand during the unofficial swearing in ceremony. And, after all, that was the issue that Prager was so concerned about.

You ask: "If a Muslim wants to use his religion to overturn the Consitution, how can that be supported by the Consitution (First Amendment)?" If a Muslim wants to both serve in the House of Representatives and yet overturn the Constitution, then he or she shouldn't be allowed to serve. But note that what would make that person unworthy of serving isn't his or her religious affiliation but only his or her desire to overturn the Constitution. And even Prager didn't dare suggest that Ellison would want to do that.

Santos said...

The only ones for which an orthodox muslim has less respect than non-muslims, is for non-muslims that relativize their own beliefs. Like in the case of all bullies, they see that as a sign of weakness. Many orthodox muslims have bragged that they are willing to die (or kill) for the "profet Jesus" which is something, they claim, most christians are not willing to do.

Orthodox muslim (not the "cultural version") are looking for the establishment of their kingdom here on earth. They are making great progress in Europe and, quite frankly, "open-minded" christians (which seem to feel guilty if they hold a consistent position for more than a year)are helping them reach their goal in the US as well.

Kevin Winters said...

What a load of cow dung!

"A Palestinian woman holds the Koran during a Hamas rally against Israeli troops operation in northern Gaza strip November 3, 2006."

Yes, and preachers did the same thing (with the Bible) in relation to blacks before and during the civil rights movement, for justification for the Crusades, etc. So what?

"First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism --my culture trumps America's culture."

And, apparently, it is not an act of hubris for Americans to do the same thing? The Constitution is the driving document of American government, not the Bible. Yes, the Bible influenced the development of the Constitution (even with the understanding that most of the signers were deists), but so did the works of many philosophers. I see no Constitutional limits on the use or non-use of the Bible, especially when the Bible itself tells us not swear by anything (Matthew 5:3-37).

"it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book"

"America" does not hold any book to be "its holiest." America is a land of religious freedom, not a land of religious freedom as long as that freedom is understood in the terms of the Bible. I swear, we are no longer in a democracy: we are in a democracy where disagreeing with my ideology is un-American, where you don't want freedom unless you are a card-carrying, Bible believing, Republican!! We aren't free, we're only free if we agree with you (talk about hubris).

"Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible."

Where is he getting this information? Has he put out a survey to see what "America" thinks or is he simply using this facile rhetoric to get people to agree with him? I for one, as a full-blooded American, say give him his Koran! Presenting myself as a single contrary case is sufficient to overthrow Prager's assertion, and I'm sure more could be found.

"In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible."

Yes, but we will publish cartoons mocking the Koran, Muslims, hippies, gays, congressmen, priests and preachers, etc. Who is this ubiquitous "we" that Prager is referring to?

"But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath."

And where, exactly, has "America" made this decision?

"Devotees of multiculturalism and political correctness who do not see how damaging to the fabric of American civilization it is to allow Ellison to choose his own book need only imagine a racist elected to Congress. Would they allow him to choose Hitler's "Mein Kampf," the Nazis' bible, for his oath?"

Oh, this is good: not only does he use the slippery slope fallacy, but he also includes the Naziist fallacy as well! Wow, that takes talent. In addition to Tom's statements, see here, here, here, and many more can be found.

While I would love to take more time to show the one-sided and ill-thought out nature of Prager's other remarks, I have other things to do.

Sir Fab said...

Assuming that Rep. Ellison, whom I don't really know enough to judge, got where he did by using his brain, he is one step ahead of Dennis Prager already: What good would it to for someone to swear by a book that one does not believe in? The oath to protect the constitution should (and does not have) any tie to the personal belief of the person taking the oath. Once again, this nation is not (yet) a theocracy, much as some would like to turn it into one. Allegiance to the constitution supersedes even one's allegiance to any supernatural entity.
Examples of bigoted intolerance like Prager's would be laughable, if they were not also dangerous.

Brian said...

Eugene Volokh has a column on this issue here, which may provide some more food for thought.

John Stockwell said...

Douglas Groothuis wrote:
All those examples involve either no books or the Hebrew Bible or prayer books, which had a Christian orientation (I take it).

The Koran is another universe of discourse entirely. It is antithetical to the Constitution of the United States. A congressman cannot be sworn in on the Koran and pledge to uphold the Constitution and be logically consistent. Islam is opposed to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and to a Consitutional Republic in general. Look at the Muslim nations; look at history; look at the Koran.


We could say the same sorts of things about the Bible. For millenia the notion of the divine right of kings, the justification of all manner of racism, conquest, and slavery were firmly suportable by appeal to the authority of the Bible.

To this day good Christians, who are also allegedly freedom loving supporters of the US Constitution, routinely refer to Christ as their "king", themselves as "servants", and somehow long to be in a heaven that seems to me to be something more like the personality cult of a fascist dictator, one who is infintely powerful, and who will allegedly be condemning a large portion of humanity to either annihilation or infinite torment, depending on your flavor of belief.

Those who desire the injection of Christian religious practice into public life may now actually understand what raises the hackles of those vocal atheists who complain about "In God We Trust" on our money (what ever happened to our real motto of "E Pluribus Unum"?), and "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, as well as Nativity scenes and all of the usual
stuff. The atheists are asked to grit their teeth and just bear it.

Our remedy for this situation with oaths, is to ask the oath taker "do you swear or affirm". Does it matter what book the person swears or affirms on? No. It could be the Necronomicon or the Burpee's Seed Catalog for all we should care. If we object to a particular religious text in favor of another, such as the Bible, we are violating our notion of not establishing a state religion. Well, you will just have to grit your teeth and bear it, and be happy that you live in a nation where such discourse is possible.

Fletcher said...

In Islam, there is no freedom of religion (it's Islam or nothing) and no freedom of speech (challenge Islam and be severely punished), and women are severely oppressed (you all know that!). Also, the Qu'ran teaches that all of those who are not Muslim must be converted, and by force if necessary. If they do not submit, they are to be killed. This is true for the individual and for the nation. I know this doesn't sound "nice" and might not come across as being politically correct, but it is the truth, be that the ugly truth or not.

This is why it is often said (by those who understand Islam objectively) that the only true, obedient Muslims are in fact the militant terrorists. They are truly living out what Mohammed revealed to them. Sure, many Muslims are moderate and in fact do not follow, adhere to, or believe many of these harsh Qu'ranic teachings - and rightfully so. That doesn't change what Islam really is though, that only tells us that people are intuitively more reasonable than what Islam wants them to be. This is good.

In knowing these things, it is quite apparent that Islamic values are totally counter-American and counter-democracy, and that is eaxctly why I agree that someone being sworn into Congress should not swear in on the Qu'ran. I surely would not want an Islamic Congress calling the shots in the US! I would move to another free country if that became the case!

The book "Islam and Terrorism" will reveal a lot to those of you who do not understand Islam very well. The author, as Dr. G wrote, knows as much about Islam as there is to know pretty much. He got a Ph D in Islamic Studies at the most revered Islamic university in the world, and had the entire Qu'ran memorized by the time he was twelve. If you think I am misrepresenting Islam, read this book, that also quotes the Qu'ran extensively on these issues.

dhyams said...

Having neither the time nor the inclination to pursue the answer to my question, I pose it here. Isn't Mr. Ellison a muslim of the Nation of Islam stripe? If so, is there any particular doctrinal issue within that peculiar version of Islam that should be addressed when considering the role of his faith in the service of this country?

Sir Fab said...

This thread shows exactly why allegiance to the Constitution comes before the allegiance to any supernatural entity. In a pluralistic society, it is the Constitution, not any religious book or creed, that serves as the supreme rulebook for civilized coexistence.

Obviously, a representative cannot and will not shed his beliefs the moment he is elected. But if he chooses to serve the country, he does so with the knowledge that it is his supreme obligation to abide by the rules set in the Consitution over and beyond whatever his personal beliefs maybe.

That is how I try to explain to Christians (and any religiously affiliated individuals) that it is wrong to try and shape the laws of the nation based on a particular and more or less transient set of beliefs. Perhaps one hundred years from now, when there are 200 Muslim congressmen in this country instead of one alone, Christians will start recognizing the obviousness of the need for the separation of Church and State.

FTracy3 said...

Prager is more concerned with the tradition then he is with the religious beliefs of the individual swearing in. He argues that America got its values largely from the Bible and is a traditionally Judeo Christian Values nation (as opposed to a Jewish or Christian nation--again he's talking about values, not religious beliefs).
He finds it self-centered to reject that tradition and opening it up to whatever book one holds important (after all, when I was a teenager i thought The Happy Hooker was an important book).
He does, however, say he would have no problem with the Koran being used as long as the person swearing in also allowed the Bible to be there as a recognititon of its importance in our history.
I can see why he's pissed people off, but I think they're upset because they misread his intention. He's not being anti-Islam, he's being pro-tradition and having some kind of shared basis for the values that shape our society.
I don't agree with him 100% but the piling on of the media and others has made me try to take an honest look at what he's trying to say, and I think it has some merit.

John Stockwell said...

Fletcher said...

In Islam, there is no freedom of religion (it's Islam or nothing) and no freedom of speech (challenge Islam and be severely punished),....


I have snipped the rest, as Mr. Fletcher has simply parrotted his posts from those of others.

There isn't any freedom of religion in Christianity, either. In fact, only in Buddhism are individuals encouraged to continue practicing their birth religion.

In the United States it is our committment to a secular culture and our notion that no religion should be established as a state religion, combined with our notions of Federalism, and the checks and balances of government that makes our system work.

Christianity in the US has yielded somewhat to this, partially due to the fragmentation of Christianity into many sects. We can only hope that our culture will foster similar fragmentation in other religions the come to our shores.

Fletcher said...

Stockwell:

I am not "parroting" other posts. I am describing what I have learned about Islam in my studies.

You go on to compare Christianity to Islam, which is flawed in that Islam is not *just* a religion. Islam is religion, government, and culture. It is all consuming.

Yes, Christianity claims exclusivity within its' truth claims, but the law of noncontradiction tells us that it would not make sense to claim otherwise. All religions claim exclusivity, don't they? You write of Buddhism: Buddhism teachs that the world is illusory, and that the universe itself is an enternal illusion without a beginning, and with no God. And yet, you say Buddhism encourages people to practice their "birth religion?" These is logically inconsistent to teach something that totally contradicts that which you are then encouraging the adherents to also hold to.

The reason for my post was to show why I would not want someone who believes Islamic teachings are true, and who might impose those types of values while in office.

Let's stick to the arguments about Islam: 1) Its' origins are from violence and spread by the sword 2) oppresses women 3) does not allow, governmentally (not just theologically) a person to believe in any other religion and 4) does not allow for people to critique Islamic truth claims.

Would you contest any of these?

Our government does not have any of these issues, thank goodness.

John Stockwell said...

Fletcher wrote:
...

Yes, Christianity claims exclusivity within its' truth claims, but the law of noncontradiction tells us that it would not make sense to claim otherwise.

All religions claim exclusivity, don't they? You write of Buddhism: Buddhism teachs that the world is illusory, and that the universe itself is an enternal illusion without a beginning, and with no God. And yet, you say Buddhism encourages people to practice their "birth religion?" These is logically inconsistent to teach something that totally contradicts that which you are then encouraging the adherents to also hold to.


The practice of Buddhism is not the memorization of dogma or the surrender to supernatual forces, or the supplication to deities, but is the cultivation of one's mental state through meditation and by adherence to a system of ethical behavior, one which is consistent with most religions.

In Buddhist tradition it is taken that the innumerable religious traditions spring from a single law, and that is the law taught by the Buddha. So, ultimately when the illusion is penetrated, there is no contradiction. It follows that to attack the relgion of another is an attack on your own religion. (You can find the Lotus Sutra and other relevant texts on the internet if you are so inclined.)



The reason for my post was to show why I would not want someone who believes Islamic teachings are true, and who might impose those types of values while in office.

Let's stick to the arguments about Islam: 1) Its' origins are from violence and spread by the sword 2) oppresses women 3) does not allow, governmentally (not just theologically) a person to believe in any other religion and 4) does not allow for people to critique Islamic truth claims.

Would you contest any of these?

I would contest the relevance of it. (I think that you are merely engaging in religious bigotry.)

The brand of Islam that is practiced by Keith Ellison (ie. Nation of Islam) has its origins as a response against racism.
It is not clear to me that this community would embrace the hadith and the sharia.
Indeed, we could use a few more splinterings of Islam like this.

I would agree that theocracy of any variety is undesirable and un-American.

For example, to believe that these are the "end times" seems to me to be a very dangerous mindset. How many of those people would not mind a nuclear war starting, becuase they think that Jesus will come back and fix everything?



Our government does not have any of these issues, thank goodness.


I would say that we should thank the Founding Fathers for seeing the wisdom of not establishing a state religion. There are always forces within our society who seek to undo this. We have a much greater threat from the "US is a Christian Nation" crowd than we do from muslims.

Indeed, what do you think of Mitt Romney who is Mormon. Do you have any discomfort with a Mormon president? Would you mind if he swore his oaths on a Book of Mormon?

Fletcher said...

Stockwell Wrote: "Indeed, what do you think of Mitt Romney who is Mormon. Do you have any discomfort with a Mormon president? Would you mind if he swore his oaths on a Book of Mormon?"

You probably won't like my answer, but that's OK: Personally I would not be comfortable with a cult member, such as a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness, being our President. It would indicate that our President is succeptible to making highly consequential and at the same time irrational decisions based on his subjective feelings and persuasion rather than his rational mind. I'm sure you feel the same way about a Christian President, but Mormonism is a highly irrational and indefensible belief system by comparison. Look into it.

... and, you're still missing my point. Islam is ALL consuming, there is no separation of church and state, and this comes directly from the Qu'ran. The Qu'ran, Islam, teaches the spread of Islam by blood, oppresses women, and oppresses choice and rational thinking. I am not comfortable with that and I am sure you aren't either. So for someone to be sworn in to a seat in the US Senate on a book that promulgates such teachings is really kind of scary! Hopefully he is a moderate Muslim and not a real, Qu'ran following Muslim.

dhyams said...

Perhaps this dialogue could benefit from Prager's response to his critics:

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/DennisPrager/2006/12/05/a_response_to_my_many_critics_-_and_a_solution

Kevin Winters said...

Fletcher,

"Mormonism is a highly irrational and indefensible belief system by comparison."

So no intelligent person, who is capable of effectively using their rational faculties, can be Mormon? In other words, simply by virtue of their religious affiliation we can adequately surmise that if someone is a Mormon then they are irrational and prone to depending on so-called "subjective" feelings?

Kevin Winters said...

Fletcher,

"Islam...oppresses choice and rational thinking"

And yet when the Christian world was reveling in dogmaticism and killing "heretics," Islam was actively preserving and discussing philosophical texts from classical antiquity. Without Islam's respect for thought, Christianity would not have been able to again take up these questions in the Renaissance, which questioning was part and parcel to setting the grounds for the Reformation. You owe more to Islam for your current understanding of "reason" than your vitriolic statements imply, nor is Islam so simplistic as you seem to imply.

You are reducing a rich historic religion to sound bites, as if there is no other way to see that religion except through zealotous eyes. I guess we should feel sorry for the millions of Muslims out there who, while dilligently studying the Koran for years and years, seem to miss what you see as so obvious from, what, reading a book or two? Give me a break!

Such is a downfall of the all too common Evangelical (and, admittedly, most other groups) apologetic movement: zeal before knowledge. Someone reads a few books on topics like so-called "postmodernism" and "Islam," but apparently don't care enough to really delve into the primary sources, the history behind the issues, and the subtle nuances in the thought worlds they are critiquing. No, much easier to reduce them to slogans--relativism, subjectivism, irrationalism--than to actually take them seriously. It's much easier to demonize a religion when one things that no "rational" person (using the term "rational" in an unclarified sense) would accept its claims.

Ray said...

And yet when the Christian world was reveling in dogmaticism and killing "heretics," Islam was actively preserving and discussing philosophical texts from classical antiquity. Without Islam's respect for thought, Christianity would not have been able to again take up these questions in the Renaissance, which questioning was part and parcel to setting the grounds for the Reformation.

Yes, that explains why Muslim countries are so tolerant, democratic and enlightened.

Oh, sorry, awkward.

Not to mention that a mere 10,000 books have been translated into Arabic in the last millenium.

Fletcher said...

Winters: "So no intelligent person, who is capable of effectively using their rational faculties, can be Mormon? In other words, simply by virtue of their religious affiliation we can adequately surmise that if someone is a Mormon then they are irrational and prone to depending on so-called "subjective" feelings?"

Kevin, the thing about Mormonism is that it is clearly false, fictional. If one studies this objectively and examines the evidence, you'll find it overwhelming. The Mormon responses to these refutations are severely lacking, and they must resort to their feelings, their so-called "burning in the bosom" to know that Mormonism is true.

I don't really care if this *seems* intolerant, because it is true. Sometimes the truth stings and is unpopular, but that doesn't dectract from its' truthfulness.

Obviously there are intelligent Mormons in the world, but they cannot hold themselves intellectually accountable for their worldview/religion objectively and still say, with a straight face, that Mormonism is true. They can try, and I've heard this many times (debates, discussions, books, etc.), and it always fails miserably. Most people don't take the time to perform such an examination. I propose that if the Mormon could do this, they would find Mormonism false. These precise arguments are the very reason so many turn from Mormonism to the true gospel.

Many more turn TO Mormonism because they are looking for something to fill that void in their lives. They are, as the song goes, "looking for love in all the wrong places", unfortunately.

Fletcher said...

Winters: "You are reducing a rich historic religion to sound bites, as if there is no other way to see that religion except through zealotous eyes. I guess we should feel sorry for the millions of Muslims out there who, while dilligently studying the Koran for years and years, seem to miss what you see as so obvious from, what, reading a book or two? Give me a break!"

Would you feel better if I read 50 books on this subject, or studied it for a lifetime? Or, what if I learned about Islam from a guy who has made a lifelong study of it, does that help?

The fact that Islam has a "rich history" doesn't mean that it is ethical, moral, or "OK". The Ku Klux Klan also has a rich history, and there is a rich history of women in India being burned to death when their husbands die - but guess what? Both of these examples support beliefs that are objectively wrong.

I am not throwing rocks at Muslims as people, I have no right and wouldn't dare. I am certain that there are many Muslims worldwide who are "nicer" than myself. It is not about assailing individuals. Can't you see past that?

Kevin Winters said...

Found the following and thought I'd share it, due to the issues at hand here.

http://www.uga.edu/islam/jihad.html

Kevin Winters said...

Another interesting link that has academic works on Islam and violence/politics: http://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/islambib_001.htm

Tim said...

While we're sharing links on Islam, here's one that collects relevant news items across the web.

Tim said...

Since Kevin is interested in the question of whether the Koran enjoins violence or not, I'd like to say for the record that there is at least one case of a Muslim cleric who has consistently proclaimed a non-violent Islam and has practiced what he preaches.

The result?

1. He converted to Christianity.
2. He is being held in a 1x2 meter cell in a desert jail on the road to Alexandria, in violation of Egyptian law.

Read all about it.

Fletcher said...

Tim,

I think this would be the case in most, if not all truly Islamic countries for a thinking, open-minded Muslim. If they really studied the Qu'ran, they would find it thematically violent, forceful, oppressive, and intolerant. Sure, earlier Surahs have "peace and love" types of teachings, but remember, in the Qu'ran, later Surahs supercede earlier ones, as the apparent later revelations from the angel Gabriel to Mohammed did in fact change over time. Things like the fact that jihad warriors were guaranteed salvation, virgin servants in paradise, etc. Mohammed was losing allegiance and motivation from his troops, so this new "revelation" was just what he needed to motivate his guys so they could loot and pillage all the more!

Imagine a bunch of sweaty, tired, early Militant Muslims out in the desert, getting tired of Mohammed taking a huge chunk of the loot for himself all of the time, and they weren't getting their fair share. This new revelation is great for them. It's like "Let's go boys!! We're guaranteed paradise and virgins now cos' Mohammed said so, cos' the angel Gabriel gave him a new revelation! Let's go KILL People of the Book (Jews and Christians) if they won't convert!"

This is how Islam started, like it or not, PC or not, it's historically true. When the pope brought this up, the reaction was threats of violence, only proving the point. Why not present a good counterargument refuting this point if it is not true?

It is illegal, in truly Islamic countries, to convert to another religion, and they are especially harsh on you when you convert to Christianity. In some areas the penalty is outright DEATH, in others, imprisonment and torture.

John Stockwell said...


Fletcher wrote:
You probably won't like my answer, but that's OK: Personally I would not be comfortable with a cult member, such as a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness, being our President. It would indicate that our President is succeptible to making highly consequential and at the same time irrational decisions based on his subjective feelings and persuasion rather than his rational mind.


Really. They said that John F. Kennedy was not suitable to be President because, as a Catholic, he would be talking marching orders from the Pope. I suppose you would be of that opinion also?



I'm sure you feel the same way about a Christian President, ...


Absolutely not! Especially considering that most of our leaders have been Christians of some variety. Please note, I am also politically to the right of center. I voted for the current President both times, or rather against his opposition.

Indeed, the only political figure that I have been uncomfortable with regarding his religion was James Watt, Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Interior, because he expressed his belief that we were in the end times, with the implication that protecting the environment was no biggie.

I don't like religious organizations meddling in public policy (Focus on the Family is one).

And, yes, if a person believes in their religion "too much" then likely that indicates that they have a screw loose. That is separate from the religion they espouse. If a person makes irrational statements, then we likely will not vote for them.


but Mormonism is a highly irrational and indefensible belief system by comparison. Look into it.


Any religion is "a highly irrational and indefensible belief system" if you believe in it too much.

.. and, you're still missing my point. Islam is ALL consuming, there is no separation of church and state, and this comes directly from the Qu'ran. The Qu'ran, Islam, teaches the spread of Islam by blood, oppresses women, and oppresses choice and rational thinking. I am not comfortable with that and I am sure you aren't either. So for someone to be sworn in to a seat in the US Senate on a book that promulgates such teachings is really kind of scary! Hopefully he is a moderate Muslim and not a real, Qu'ran following Muslim


Any religion that becomes entwined in the affairs of state has the same potential. Yes, indeed, Islamic theocracies are bad. Theocracy of any variety is a bad system of government!

However, this has nothing to do with Keith Ellison. The good people of Minnesota elected him to serve in the US Congress, and he should not be subjected to a religious litmus test as a result. If he deviates from the wishes of his constitutents, then they have the option to vote him out office in two years.

Tim said...

John,

You wrote:

Any religion is "a highly irrational and indefensible belief system" if you believe in it too much.

I'm not sure what believing in it "too much" has to do with the matter. But let that pass. Surely by now you've realized that this blog is frequented by people who believe not only that Christianity is true but that its truth is supported by public, neutral, objective evidence, and that in this respect it is strikingly different from Hinduism, Islam, et al.

You're entitled to a contrary opinion. But the very fact that the worst anyone here will do is to try to reason with you about it should be a clue that your parallel between Christianity and Islam on "freedom of religion" is wide of the mark.

I'm curious about your antipathy toward Focus on the Family. Here is a group of Americans. They have various beliefs you do not share, and they are organized with others who do share them to promote public policies that reflect them. Ain't democracy grand?

Kevin Winters said...

Fletcher,

"If they really studied the Qu'ran, they would find it thematically violent, forceful, oppressive, and intolerant."

And yet we have over a hundred articles and books in the second link that I provided that argue quite to the contrary. So, who do I believe: Fletcher or the Arabic scholars? The kicker, of course, is that Fletcher can hide behind the "really," for no one, not even someone who has extensively studied the Qu'ran in Arabic and who is intimately familiar with the history and development of Islamic thought, could be "really" informed unless they agree with him. Convenient, no?

In case you missed it, here's the link again:

http://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/islambib_001.htm

I also found the following to be informative:

http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr82.pdf

Kevin Winters said...

Tim,

And there are also those of us who find the supposed "public, neutral, objective evidence" to be lacking (and anything but "neutral" or so-called "objective"), and yet believe. Yes, you will try to "reason" with us--those who do not believe and those who believe but do not find your 'reasons' convincing--but so can a Muslim. Just as there are those Christians who are militant (either through battle or words) and don't "reason," so there are also Muslims who do likewise. I refer yet again to the many many articles in my second link. I wonder how many zealous Christians who decry Islam's inherntly militant character have read even a handful of those works. "Objective"? Hardly...

Fletcher said...

Kevin,

Why is it, do you think, that Militant Islamic terrorists do the things that they do? indiscriminate killings of innocents at the cost of their own lives almost daily?

Why? Is it an accident? A simple misunderstanding? Something they are just confused about?

I recently heard Rosie O'Donnell say that "fundamental Christians are just as dangerous as Fundamental Muslims", and do you know what the response of the crowd was? Fervent applause! Are these people even thinking for one second?

When is the last time you heard a Christian sermon or teaching about killing non-Christians, or when is the last time you heard of a Christian strapping bombs to themselves, or otherwise committing mass murder in the name of Christianity according to its' teachings?

Tim said...

Kevin,

It's not my fault if you don't believe in public, neutral, objective evidence. After all, you're enamored of postmodernism. That does rather put a damper on the possibilities of rational persuasion.

I can't speak for Fletcher, but I've read some Muslim apologetics. The sources you cited aren't really apologetic works except in the sense that they're trying to downplay some of the stronger language of the Koran. There are, after all, the nice, non-violent Suras like 52:45-48, 73:10-11, and 109:6 ("Can't we all get along?"). Then there are the less attractive passages like Sura 5:36-38.

The guiding principle of interpretation, according to the Koran itself, is that the latter revelation supercedes the former (Sura 2:106; 13:39; 16:101). Unfortunately, the kinder, gentler passages are pretty much uniformly the earlier ones, and Sura 9:5 is widely regarded as superceding over 100 earlier verses regarding jihad.

Those who prefer the Islam of Mecca to the Islam of Medina will always be able to quote profusely from the earlier Suras. I do not doubt that many of them are sincere. But it is incredibly naive to think that the latter is a minority position or that it finds no basis in the interpretation of the Koran. And people like John Esposito -- whose work is featured on one of your links -- are living proof that militant Islam, like Communism in the heyday of the Cold War, will always find useful idiots when it needs them.

Kevin Winters said...

Tim,

Then why the broad generalizations about Islam being "violent"? There are, as you say, various interpretations, yet we have Groothuis and Fletcher both saying unequivocally that Islam is a destructive religion. Again, "objective"? I think not.

Yet in all this we are also forgetting not only the mass murders, but the decreed killing of, for example, homosexuals in the Bible (one that some today have taken as a current command), or even killing one's disobedient child, by God's command! How many people have killed their children because they felt they have been called like Abraham to sacrifice them? The same selective readings can occur with the Bible, perhaps not as easily, but they are certainly there.

All that I'm asking is that the silly generalizations stop! Also, that the hubris of those who just happen to have read a few books have in dictating what others believe or what is "really" there, as if everyone else but them (many of whom have read more) is intellectually wanting if they don't agree.

Now, for your comment on my so-called enamored relation to so-called "postmodernism," my problem is not with justification per se, but with the philosophically naive approach that so much of philosophy has taken. We throw around words like "objective" and "subjective" but we have no clue what we are saying. "Oh," one responds, "we all know what we are talking about when we use that word--it's what's in the mind and what's mind-independent. We don't need to be explicit on it." But even these terms, "mind" and "mind-independent," are unclear. So-called analytic thought exalts clear formulations, yet they have yet to give a decent account of these terms. We speak of "consciousness," yet even in the last 30 years of work in consciousness studies we are still no closer to understanding it. Again, it is not justification or evidence that I have problems with, but the naive basis on which it is understood. I've been getting into this in our discussion at With All Your Mind.

Fletcher said...

Again,

How do you explain the activites and motivations of Islamic terrorists? Why are women oppressed in Islamic cultures? Why are people that deconvert from Muslim, especially if they convert to Christianity, killed, tortured, jailed, or at the very least disowned?

Islam teaches that all nations must be converted to Islam, by force if necessary. That is the goal. I can quote Qu'ranic writings on this post if anyone would care to read them. We'll just let the Qu'ran speak for itself. You can then "interpret" the meaning for yourselves.

Like I said before, this is not a critique of Muslim people, it is not personal at all. It is a critique of Islam itself. There are big time problems with Islam. I believe we are currently in a world war against terrorism, strictly because of what the Qu'ran teaches... and it's only going to get worse.

Tim said...

Kevin,

You write:

[M]y problem is not with justification per se, but with the philosophically naive approach that so much of philosophy has taken. We throw around words like "objective" and "subjective" but we have no clue what we are saying. "Oh," one responds, "we all know what we are talking about when we use that word--it's what's in the mind and what's mind-independent. We don't need to be explicit on it." But even these terms, "mind" and "mind-independent," are unclear.

It's always hard to get past the linguistic barrier on a problem like this. For example, I didn't intend "objective" in quite the sense you specify.

Maybe the most profitable thing would be for you to point out some examples of good reasoning that can give us some sense of what you think is lacking in Christian apologetics. If you're uncomfortable calling even the scholarship you highlight "objective," let us know that, too. Then we'll have a better sense of what you're talking about.

Kevin Winters said...

Tim,

I would love a sustained discussion of "objective" and "objectivity" as I personally find it to be one of the most overused and least understood term in contemporary philosophy/culture. If you could suggest an appropriate forum in which we can discuss this term (as the term is important for my general rejection of classical proofs for God's existence or the historical veracity of scripture; not that I don't accept the latter, merely that I find the arguments lacking), I would be more than happy to oblige.

Kevin Winters said...

P.S. I would even love to have Groothuis participate in said discussion, as he has argued in a few venues that "objectivity" is necessary for Christian truth. I would like to know how he understands his use of that term.

Tim said...

Here's a link of possible interest regarding Islam and nonviolence:

Somalia Official Issues Beheading Threat

Let's all remember that Ahmad Al Akhras, the Vice-Chairman of CAIR, called the takeover of Somalia by Muslim militants a positive change.

Tim said...

Kevin,

How about if you start by giving us an example of, say, a well-justified historical belief. You say you have no problem with justification and evidence per se, so I'm sure you must have something in mind as an example. Show us some work that you consider to be done well, some evidence that you take to justify a historical conclusion. This will help to get the discussion off the ground.

John Stockwell said...

Tim wrote:


John Stockwell wrote:
Any religion is "a highly irrational and indefensible belief system" if you believe in it too much.


I'm not sure what believing in it "too much" has to do with the matter. But let that pass. Surely by now you've realized that this blog is frequented by people who believe not only that Christianity is true but that its truth is supported by public, neutral, objective evidence, and that in this respect it is strikingly different from Hinduism, Islam, et al.


Basically there are people in the Christian community who believe that `not a jot or a tittel" of the Bible deviates from being the unerring word of God. A person who believes that in the extreme might want to revise the criminal code code in alignment with everything in Deuteronomy. Wanting to do that, would be "believing too much".

As to the notion that Christianity is logical, and all other religions are not is a flawed application of Aristotelian logic can be made to demonstrate just about anything that you want it to by metaphysically loading the propositions. This is evident by the disproportionate appearance of syllogisms in these types of arguments. In the much leaner and meaner application of logic in mathematics the syllogism rarely makes an appearance.

So, in short, I believe that many of those
"logical" Christians fail to recognize that they are largely assuming what they want to prove.

Tim continues:

You're entitled to a contrary opinion. But the very fact that the worst anyone here will do is to try to reason with you about it should be a clue that your parallel between Christianity and Islam on "freedom of religion" is wide of the mark.


This has nothing to do with Christianity, but with the fact that our western society has weakend the hold of religion by separating it from secular activities, which include the notion of the study of philosophy as a topic distinct and separate from religion.

There is little or no discussion of, or appeal to, logical argumentation in the Biblical context. (In spite of the phrase "let us reason together" there isn't a lot of reasoning going on in the Bible.)
The notion that logical discourse is of value is something our society inherited from the Greeks. It is pagan, through and
through. Remember that the ancient Greek philosophers considered rational discourse as a transcendental metaphysical activity.

Tim:
I'm curious about your antipathy toward Focus on the Family. Here is a group of Americans. They have various beliefs you do not share, and they are organized with others who do share them to promote public policies that reflect them. Ain't democracy grand?


Focus on the Family is a tax exempt religious organization, which, by law, should not be engaging in political activism, yet somehow is. They should either pay taxes or be shut down.

Tim said...

John,

I'd say that someone who wants to revise the US penal code to correspond to Deuteronomy has a misunderstanding of scripture.

You write:

As to the notion that Christianity is logical, and all other religions are not is a flawed application of Aristotelian logic can be made to demonstrate just about anything that you want it to by metaphysically loading the propositions. This is evident by the disproportionate appearance of syllogisms in these types of arguments. In the much leaner and meaner application of logic in mathematics the syllogism rarely makes an appearance.

I don't follow you here, probably because you have something specific in mind that I can't espy in your comments. (Could it be scholastic-style proofs for God's existence?) In the best apologetic writings of the past four centuries -- and going back to Luke, for that matter -- you'll find a very different sort of approach that doesn't seem to fall under your characterization at all.

I teach symbolic logic, so I'm sympathetic to the observation that the older syllogistic logic is fundamentally limited. But it's worth noting that the old Aristotelian syllogisms are still valid under translation into modern logic provided that the existential import in universal propositions doesn't get lost in translation.

You write:

There is little or no discussion of, or appeal to, logical argumentation in the Biblical context. (In spite of the phrase "let us reason together" there isn't a lot of reasoning going on in the Bible.)

I'll grant that it isn't the Principia Mathematica or even the Meno, but this seems like a significant overstatement.

Finally, you write:

Focus on the Family is a tax exempt religious organization, which, by law, should not be engaging in political activism, yet somehow is. They should either pay taxes or be shut down.

As I understand it, the law does not forbid tax exempt religious organizations from engaging in political activism provided that the direct endorsement of particular candidates is not the primary purpose of the organization and amounts to no more than a specified percentage of their activity. (Off the top of my head I do not remember exactly what the percentage is, but it is fairly modest.) This extends to churches, which are (contrary to the outrage expressed by some both on the left and on the right) permitted to engage in a limited amount of actual endorsement of candidates.

Focus on the Family has an enormous output of literature, radio broadcasts, and other activities. If they're keeping their direct advocacy within the specified boundaries, then as far as I can see they're within the law.

It's another question, of course, whether the law should permit such advocacy by tax-exempt groups. But that wasn't your gripe.

Ed Darrell said...

It's interesting that there is so much support for Prager's view, though his view is contrary to U.S. law and contrary to U.S. history.

Once more, failure to understand the issues and easy acceptance -- and apparent endorsement -- of factual error leads the entire discussion astray.

Congressmen are not sworn in on any book. Prager appears to have lost his judgment.

By the way, Jefferson anticipated such situations. In his Autobiography Jefferson recalled the situation of the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the precursor to the Constitution and federal Bill of Rights. Jefferson noted:
Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
(see Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Modern Library, p. 46)

If one must choose between Prager and Jefferson, it should be an easy choice.

Ashraf Most said...

As a Muslim and a Naturalized American who has studied and passed my naturalization exam I can tell you that Islam and Quran do not contradict the US Constitution. Muslims have the right not to swear on a book they do not believe in. If a Muslim American does not believe in the US Constitution he/she should not be a US citizen. Unless the US constitution changes and requires all citizens to believe in the Bible then no one should be forced to swear on it. If they do then the whole swearing ceremony is fake. You do not want congressmen to swear on something just to be members. Let us be frank about it. If Muslims are not desired, force us to convert, kick us out and forbid any born citizen from converting to Islam.
As for relying on what a convert has claimed to have read the Quran and concluding it being a blood thirsty book, you should read the book yourself. You should read the book and compare it to the Old Testament to put it into context. I found a lot of blood in the Old Testament, much more than can be found in the Quran, yet I do not consider the bible to be a book of terror. History tells us that under Islamic rule tolerance to other religions was the norm, unlike the history of Europe, the Inquisition and the Crusaders.

Ashraf