Saturday, April 13, 2013

Letter #8 - Monotheism, Judaism and Islam

It has been awhile since I wrote a letter and I have owed you my letter on the other two Abrahamic religions for some time now.  As you know, those two religions are Islam and Judaism (Judaism being the oldest of the Abrahamic religions, formed approximately 500-600 BCE with historical ‘written’ origins stretching back to Hebrew writings from approx. 2000 BCE) while Islam (600 CE) exists as the youngest of the three religions.  The religion of Christianity, being the middle creation, stands as the most different in nature and ideologies from the other two.

The similarities and positive attributes of monotheism are large in scope, and there can be no question that both Judaism and Islam, unlike Christianity, are monotheistic religions in structural ideologies.  The key positive attributes of monotheism is the undivided worship of one God, an unseen creator or creation force that encourages collective servitude, collective morality, and collective worship under one entity, unknown and unseen to humanity.  The ideology alone suggests moral structure, collective efforts, and brotherhood under one creator and as one creation.  Monotheism discourages the often experienced division which man-made religions (and greed) tend to have on humanity, whether worldwide or within man-made nation-state borders, that cause destructive conflict in the name of multiple Gods.  It should be noted here that man, in natural form, has even succeeded in dividing up monotheism and causing conflict among themselves when there was no necessity for division (other than greed or power).  These man-made divisions can be seen in all three Abrahamic religions to some extent, but a main example of this division in Monotheism is the Sunni-Shite division in Islam: a division that was originally caused over the political election of a caliph (leader) following the death of the prophet Muhammad in 632 CE.  The split was based between Muslims holding the view that the next leader should be a follower of the traditions of Muhammad’s teachings and those holding the view that the next leader should be a direct blood relative/descendant of the prophet Muhammad.

Many modern Christians have been so heavily indoctrinated to avoid even learning (a basic understanding) about other religions, especially Islam, that the average American Christian today does not even understand that the word “Allah” is actually the word “God” in the Arabic language instead of some vastly different alien God possessing different attributes that oppose the God described in the Torah and New Testament.  The Quran actually teaches about the same God and the same prophets that are written about in the Torah, Old Testament, and the Quran even teaches the same accounts of Jesus (only as a prophet), yet over the last decade we have seen highly covered media events of Christian Americans burning, defecating on, and immorally disrespecting this book, likely out of ignorance during a decade where national sentiment was inorganically shaped through media towards Islam-phobia in conjunction with foreign government regime disposal, military occupation, and replacement puppet regime building in Iraq and Afghanistan.  To burn, befoul or defecate on a book that contains the same accounts of Old Testament bible prophets that are held sacred by both Christians and Jews, what does that say about a Christian’s reverence for Christianity or any other religious moral structure of a human being who behaves in such a foul manner?

Looking deeper into Torah and Quran scriptures we find that the similarities between Islam and Judaism stretch beyond basic monotheism. The books both share accounts of Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, Noah, Jacob, Esau, Lot, and the Hebrew Tribes.  The accounts are basically the same in content, only different in format as the Old Testament is a chronological history while the Quran uses these accounts with repeated moral lessons.  A major difference centers on the status of Jesus, whom Muslims consider a prophet and the Jews consider neither prophet nor God (as Christians believe Jesus was either God in human form or God’s son or a manifestation of God – are all of the above).  Since the time of Jesus was after the creation of the Torah, he is not mentioned in the Torah nor the later Old Testament (although Christians will certainly attempt to associate vague prophetic passages to prove the divinity of Jesus); while Jesus is heavily quoted and taught about in the Quran almost 600 years after his alleged crucifixion.  Again, the main difference in these two scriptural formats are that the Old Testament Torah (and afterwards) is a chronological history of the Hebrew people and the establishment of the Kingdom of Judah, while the Quran is a collection of surahs that, using the accounts of the Old Testament prophets, repeatedly teaches various lessons of monotheism, the encouragement of zakat (providing for the poor), the prohibition of polytheism, the admonition of excess pride and excessive religion, and many other moral lessons.  As your historical study will show you, the Quran collection was written over different periods of war and peace on the Arabic peninsula, and this is the reason why you will find teachings that contain passages on violent fighting in the name of God and others that teach living in peace with Christians and Jews.  Sadly, those who slander Islam concentrate on the war-time surahs in order to attack Islam while at the same time Islamic (political) extremists often use the same passages to justify violence against foreign occupation and, in worse cases, against civilian populations.

Differences and Discrepancies

The brief overview of the two monotheistic religions of Judaism and Islam would seem to show two religions that could easily be the same religion, so what is the difference and why does such animosity exist between the two?  The answer is simple: Judaism is a monotheistic religion based on an ethnic monopoly on monotheism and based on the covenant between the Hebrew-Jewish people, referred to as the chosen people of God, and God.  There is an ethnic barrier around Judaism, as Judaism is about a specific ethnic group (spread throughout the Earth) and the ideological theology of that religion centers on that specific ethnic group.  If a person is not racially-ethnically Jewish, they are gentile.  There have been many modern gentiles that have ‘converted’ to Judaism, but they are not ethnically Jewish and never will be.  These converts, often wealthy, will never be fully accepted by the Orthodox or many of the other demographics of the ethnic religion.  A gentile born into the world may be born under any religion and eventually can convert to a different religion while a Jewish person that is born into this world is born both into an ethnic race ‘and’ a religion based on that ethnic race.  As I have told you many times, I respect all sections of humanity and have no hate for any specific section of our human family while at the same time I demand my human right to be able to analyze any form of religion, political occurrence, or history.  I tell you this once again because there are those in this world that often use political and social smear tactics, accusations of anti-Semitism, against anyone who rationally and honestly speaks on topics such as the Jewish religion or the modern nation-state of Israel (and does not paint these entities in a positive light, whether falsely or honestly).  This tactic, which stems from what the great Jewish academic Dr. Norman Finkelstein terms the Holocaust Industry, has become very tired and nearly exhausted (especially in educated circles).  The anti-Semitism smear tactic is specifically used to defend the modern nation-state of Israel in areas of irrational U.S. foreign aid funding (under massive U.S. debt), Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians, land confiscations and home demolitions, illegal settlements, and the Israeli government’s exemption from the non-proliferation treaty.  If you criticize this government, even with facts and rational arguments, the counter-result is usually smear tactic accusations of anti-Semitism.  Yet, it is important to distinguish tactful political criticism of a nation-state government from blind hateful speech against individual civilian ethnic groups.  These acts are not the same.  History is filled with many atrocities and injustices, and each group must understand and accept the responsibility for their ancestral and current historical actions, and the ramifications of those actions, in order for the collective human race to move forward in positive manner.  It is very important to analyze history to the best of our ability.  God gave each of us the ability for critical thought and the use of that ability, and when conducted justly and with clear eyes the application of critical thought is not a hateful act even though the lessons learned are often painful.

Gender discrimination is evident in both Judaism and Islam.  In Orthodox Judaism, there is the current discrimination issue of women praying out at the Western wall.  Is this a World Jewish issue or an Israeli issue?  In Islam, Woman and men are segregated during prayer.  I can understand the Islamic view of gender segregation during prayer due to the physical (animal) nature of man.  Women are beautiful, and stir physical elements within man, that are distracting (from the path of spiritual/moral discipline towards the diversion of more physical base desires) and that distraction deters from inner reflection and outward prayer to God.  This is the physical weakness of man, even though through continuous mental and spiritual discipline men can overcome the majority of base physical desires.  This is one faucet of fasting as it mentally disciplines a person to control and master one of the most basic physical needs, although excess in areas of this exercise is dangerous and unhealthy.  While I understand Islamic gender segregation during prayer, I would also support an occasional joint prayer between men and women in order to exercise and promote joint collective humanity.  In Islam, as it should be in all cultures, the modesty of a woman is a very important element.  Depending on faction or geographic region, the requirements of this modesty varies greatly: from the free choice of the proud Muslima in the U.S. to the strong Afghan women clothed in heavy black material from head to toe, and to the stylishly modest young Muslima of Saudi Arabia, with their bright colored silk head scarfs and stylish materials that cover arms and legs.  Can there ever be moderation in modesty?  As I once studied an older Afghan Muslim woman dressed in heavy wool garb carrying basket in the unbearably hot Afghan desert, I personally thought to myself that this mandated modesty was physically too much.  In similar manner, I have contemplated the loose dress of the American female, sadly noticing that our women, and especially American girls as young as puberty, run about public places barely dressed; a contemplation which consistently brings strong concerns as to the large amount of sexual assaults and rapes that take place in the United States.  The mass producers of popular culture and fashion styles call these scanty clothes: the newest style.  Is there a co-relation between immorality and these inorganic popular culture fashion styles, along with a lack of spiritual and physical discipline in American culture?  Personally, I believe female modesty of dress is very important to the overall structure of a healthy society, as females are the mothers of the Earth and their bodies are the temple through which life is created.  Women are not lesser than men in any form, and in reality the woman could be considered the most important gender within humanity.  Without the woman, the man (and humanity collectively) has no chance to develop or survive.  It can be argued and questioned whether Western culture, or more specifically the creators of inorganic popular culture, created the ‘Women’s Liberation’ movement as a required social evolution, or purposely designed to splinter the basic family structure and to hinder collective family advancement.  I would have to assume the answer lays somewhere in the middle.

A last thought concerning women in Islam is on the Quranic teachings of taking more than one wife.  This is often a point that is attacked in the West when Christian Zionists or xenophobic voices slander Islam.  Once again we must return to the historical point that several of the Quran surahs were produced during times of war, and in many of these early peninsula conflicts we find small numbers of Muslims greatly outnumbered on the battlefield against the Christian and Jewish tribes that were attempting to extinguish the new religious movement.  The taking of more than one wife in Islam was originally a community effort to provide support to the widows and orphans of fallen Muslims on the battlefield, not a pleasure-based motive as is perceived by modern Western Christian culture.  Although, what once may have been a noble effort for collective protection and provision, has certainly been tarnished over the centuries of history by various Muslim leaders and communities around the globe. Concerning this, I can only refer to the concept of cultural relativity and attempt to study the phenomenon in unbiased manner. 

An Orthodox Muslim would respond to my contemplations on Islam with the argument that it does not matter what my thoughts are, that all Islamic regulations are God’s divine law passed down through the last prophet (the gentile prophet).  We now arrive at the meat of the problem with the religion of Islam, which is overall a good religion with very positive moral elements.

Muslims believe that every word Muhammad spoke in the surahs were directly from God (Translated Allah in Arabic, the language spoken where Islam originated), a belief shared in some extent or another by members of all man-made religions.  Therefore, any attempted modifications made to cultural or social elements viewed as outdated norms and values from a 21st century Western perspective, such as excessive mandated dress codes, the taking of more than one wife, the restriction of music, and so forth are met with resistance and rejection leaving the most important moral pillars of monotheistic Islam guised as a religion wrapped in 7th century Arabic culture because:

A) Any modification would be going against the words of God divinely passed through the last prophet.

B) Any modification would challenge the assumption or belief that every word spoken by Muhammad was divinely issued by God (Allah).  Therefore, while the pillars of Islam are morally positive, we are still faced with 7th century Islamic mandated rules on women’s dress and music that discourage 21st century Americans from investigating the more important moral values of monotheism, zakat, the proper treatment of parents, the importance of modesty and humility, brotherhood and prayer (inner self-reflection), and most importantly improved collective morality.

Again, the Muslim will respond to my statements that these things are unalterable, because they were divinely revealed through the last prophet, and that I can follow the rules or burn in Jahannam (hell fire).  My daughters, I believe no organized religion to be 100% divinely revealed, and quite frankly believe that all human beings have the God-given ability to bring positive change to human society without the human conjured requirement of physical divine intervention from a creator outside of nature (a perfection created by that creator).  A creator that has created the many magnificent heavens and the marvelous earth, and all the mysteries and science in between, clearly does not error.  I hold the belief that divine positive revelation can develop naturally within man through spiritual contemplation, prayer, education and reflection.  The quantitate rules of natural science does not need to be stretched or bent in order for positive divine revelation to develop through humanity (God’s creation).

I have previously critically analyzed the discrepancies of Christianity and have pointed out the ethnic monopoly (to exclude the majority of humanity, which is gentile).  People take offense to criticism of their religion (because most humans are emotionally invested in their indoctrination, and many are quite obsessed with their individualism and emotionally need to believe in an continued existence in an afterlife), but as a father whom God has blessed with beautiful and intelligent daughters and has also blessed with the ability for critical thought and analysis, I would be a parental failure not to share my personal views based on my studies on each of these influential religions. 

The main instability that lacks verification with the Islamic ideology that the prophet Muhammad was divinely given each surah by God (Allah), and thus these laws can never be changed or adapted to modernity, centers on the New Testament, and the fact that Saul/Paul authored over half of the New Testament while the synoptic Gospel accounts of Jesus (and those gospels accounts of Jesus that were not included in church canon) have unverified authorship.  How can a rational person believe in the divinity of writings and declare them directly issued from God, when there is no evidence of the human author who spoke or wrote the words?  We already know that human beings are susceptible to lower base desires and error.  Many Christians, Muslims and Jews believe in evil spirits and demonic possessions, but do not pause to question the authorship of the Torah, Old Testament, New Testament or Gospels.  Is this rational?

At this point we have two considerations concerning the references to Jesus in The Quran, which offers the question on whether everything taught by Muhammad with divinely issued from God (Allah) from outside nature:

1) The possibility that both Saul/Paul and Muhammad were both divinely instructed by God on the accounts of the New Testament.  This would seem to be a problem because Saul’s alleged vision came from Jesus, while Muhammad’s instruction came from Gabriel and God with the teachings that Jesus was only a prophet, not God’s only son or God in human format.

2) The possibility that Muhammad was familiar with the teachings of Judaism and Christianity.  Judaism and Pauline Christianity had strong economic-political influence on the peninsula of Arabia where Islam formed.  I am unable to believe in the validity of Saul/Paul’s self-proclaimed vision on the road to Damascus, as I require more than a self-proclaimed vision of Jesus (who I already rationally accept as a great human teacher) by Saul; and I hold the view that Saul purposely created Pauline Christianity for the gentiles in order to maintain the ethnic monopoly on monotheism.  At the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was a great center of trade at the center of commerce between Egypt, the European Roman Empire and the East.  Many gentiles were becoming interested in monotheism at this time (Egypt and Europe were polytheistic in nature), and the revolution of Jesus’ teachings greatly enhanced the regional gentile interest in monotheistic Judaism even.  Let’s face it, being reputed as a special ethnic group favored by God has its economic and political incentives.  If the more populous gentiles were allowed to take over majority membership of the Judaic religion through mass conversion, what would the result be?  The monopoly would be dissolved.  I am unable to validate the New Testament and consider it created by political design.   

Muhammad’s first wife, Khadijah, was the daughter of a great trader in Arabia and often traveled with her father, trading with the Jewish and Christian tribes where she could not have avoided learning to some extent the Christian and Jewish religions.  I hold the belief that it was Khadijah that taught or familiarized the prophet Muhammad with the core values and beliefs of Judaism and Christianity, and that Muhammad, through natural revelation, developed the positive ideology of submitting to one God, the great moral lessons repeated in the Quran, the moral cleaning of the Arabic peninsula, and the morally pure early structure of Islam.  Therefore, despite viewing Muhammad’s teachings as excellent, if I believe that a portion of the basic teachings of Islam are based on Saul’s writings, I am unable to accredit the Quran as completely divine (outside of positive natural inspiration).

3) An alternate pro-Muhammad consideration could possibility that the divine revelation revealed to Muhammad was pure, and corrected the inconsistencies and corruptions of Saul’s writings which placed an emphasis on Jesus’ divinity for the gentiles to worship.  There is no question that Muhammad’s teachings took the religion of Islam back to the roots of Hebrew monotheism, and left Christianity the oddity of the Abrahamic religions.

My daughters, religion plays a very strong role in humanity and international politics.  I encourage you to study deeply into these religions from a rational and detached position in order to better understand the human element, to develop self-reflection, and to be able to predict and understand the views and actions of humanity.