Sunday, December 04, 2005

A Brief Note on Islam

Following up on my omission of Islam as "intellectually respectable", I thought I ought to explain my reasoning.

Religious beliefs, in order to be attractive, ought to satisfy four conditions: firstly, that they accurately reflect what we intrinsically know about human nature, the good and the beautiful. Secondly, the source and derivation of revelation must be plausible. Thirdly, religious tenets ought to be internally consistent. Lastly, religious tenets ought to be consistent with what we know of the natural world.

When I refer to "intellectually respectable" religious beliefs, I am referring to the last three criteria. The first, while of primary importance, isn't a subject on which differences are easily parsed in the public square.

The difficulty with Islam as intellectually sustainable is primarily with the historical circumstances surrounding its founding. So, what are these problems?

1. Islam, like so many other false religions, is a "sole prophet" religion. This is precisely the form of religion that either a purposeful liar or a hallucinatory mystic will found, and it is, aside from indigenous or mythic religions, the most common means by which a religion is born.

2. Muhammed's "revelations", rather than expanding on previous revelations or providing a new interpretation, substantially revised the religious traditions he drew upon. Thus the chosen people of the Old Covenant helpfully become the Arabs rather than the Jews, and Jesus is quoted rejecting the Trinity. This appropriation with alteration is a common theme with religious sects and syncretic movements.

3. Muhammed, like many religious leaders used his position for sexual advancement. Joseph Smith took many wives (The particular number is uncertain). David Koresh fathered children with girls as young as 12 or 13. Mohammed bettered both, violating his own Koranic injunction to have no more than four wives: he had at least nine at one time. He married his favourite wife, Aisha, when she was six and consummated the marriage when she was nine.

4. Islam spread by the sword. Rather than being reliant on its own strength as a message, Islam was imposed in many areas by military force, starting in Muhammed's lifetime and typifying its spread.

In short, Islam fits the exact type of a false revelation: a single, self-identified prophet, revising previous religious traditions, who uses his leadership role to amass sexual favours and earthly power. How Islam is believable is a mystery to me.


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