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There Is No Islam, Only Islams:

In a sense this is restating the obvious, but sometimes the obvious is worth restating. Like all big religions, Islam not only has multiple well-defined subdenominations, but also varies greatly from time to time, place to place, and ultimately person to person. All of us know this about the religions we're most familiar with, such as Christianity and Judaism.

Is Christianity "a religion of peace"? Well, that depends on which Christians you're talking about, where they live, when they live, and what their personal temperaments are. Theological inquiries and quotations from the sacred texts will tell you very little about it. (The text and broad tradition of the religion likely influence practitioners' behavior in some degrees, but the result is very far from determinate, as the variety of Christian thought and, more importantly, Christian action, tells us.) There is no Christianity, only Christianities practiced by particular Christians and groups of Christians. Likewise for other religions. This doesn't make their warlike subgroups any less warlike, but it should make us skeptical of generalities about billion-member (or even million-member or likely multi-thousand-member) religions. Max Boot, who knows a lot about international matters, points this out in much more detail. Here are the first few paragraphs:

Given the monstrous crimes perpetrated in the name of Allah, it is easy to despair about the future of the Muslim world. Nonstop news about bombings, beheadings and general bedlam will no doubt lead more and more Westerners to conclude that we are at war with an entire civilization.

In reality, Islam has no fixed identity. Like other religions, it is based on vague generalities whose application varies widely across time and place. A thousand years ago, the Muslim world was a center of learning while Europe was mired in the Dark Ages. Today, the positions are nearly reversed. But there are many different rooms in Dar al-Islam (literally, "house of submission"), and no two are alike.

He goes on to give examples from Malaysia and Qatar; I can't speak with confidence about those, except to say that I'm confident he knows much more about those matters than I do. But his broad point is entirely right.

dunno:
Having cultural relativism be explained to you by a Libertarian is like having the birds and the bees explained by your parish priest. No matter how good a job he does, or how right or wrong he is, you are under the impression that at a deep level, he doesn't get it, and you would prefer to recieve the explanation from someone whose deep-seated beliefs don't make the notion sound so icky.
3.8.2006 1:14pm
spectator:
See, and that's why I don't get all those people who say Islam needs a Reformation. Islam already has the general form of Christian Protestantism: one holy book and hundreds of competing interpretations. If Islam needs anything from Christianity, it's not another Luther, it's a Pope!
3.8.2006 1:20pm
Humble Law Student:
Max Boot's point is very fair. A "problem" with Islam is that the Quran and the Hadiths especially contain many verses that can be construed to support the fundamentalist's idea of jihad - taking it away from its more traditional meaning of an inner struggle. These ambiguities provide cover for the extremist interpretations of their sacred text. I once observed a debate at my undergrad school between a moderate Muslim and one, shall I say, sympathetic to Islamic extremism. For every verse that preached peace to the "believers of the book" there was another verse that advocated and justified armed struggle against them. I'm no expert, but to a layman such as myself, the debate doesn't seem winnable in one direction or another - really strictly on the text of the Islamic holy books and the history of the religion.

To throw in a bit of ethnocentrism, I think a saving grace for Christianity is that it is quite hard to justify acts of violence on the text of the Bible - particularly because the New Testament replaces much contained in the OT. Granted, the history of Christianity is filled with religious wars and the like, but it is extremely hard to justify them on NT Biblical grounds.

Not so for Islam, and therein lies the problemm.
3.8.2006 1:23pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Eugene, how can a religion whose very name means 'submission' regard freedom, except as an occasion of sin?
3.8.2006 1:23pm
Joel B. (mail):
There is no Christianity, only Christianities practiced by particular Christians and groups of Christians.

That's an interesting interpretation, but ultimately as a practiciner of the law you have to recognize it is incorrect. It's almost like saying (especially for these religions with written laws and texts regarding their interpretations). There is no Constitution, only interpretations of the constitution practiced by particular Americans, and groups of Americans. Or like saying there is no Law, only the practice of law by various lawyers and groups of lawyers. I sure hope that's not right.
3.8.2006 1:39pm
poster child (mail):
I've often thought that the big problem with Islam is that, while not being necessarily or inherently warlike, it takes the universality of Christianity while rejecting Christianity's pacifism. (Unlike Judaism, which does not require its adherents to practice pacifism but also expressly rejects its own universal applicability.) As an earlier commentor noted, Christianity has not always been quietist, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is difficult to justify (at least) offensive warfare on the basis of Christian theology. Islam's problem is that it explicitly makes worldwide conversion its goal without setting forth unambiguous restraints on the means to achieve it.
3.8.2006 1:46pm
Houston Lawyer:
I have no doubt about the accuracy of Max Boot's point. However, the next question is "so what?" I haven't seen any indication that the peaceful followers of Islam have any inclination to do something about their more warlike brethren.

We are fairly clear on our side that we will distinguish between the peaceful and the hell bent. It would be nice if the peaceful followers of Islam would try to give us credit for that.
3.8.2006 1:50pm
Taimyoboi:

"Like other religions, it is based on vague generalities whose application varies widely across time and place."


I think the question that Mr. Boot overlooks, is how those vague generalities influence the individual sects of any one religion.

Especially for Christianity, Islam and Judaism. All claim to derive inspiration and authority from their respective texts, which don't change, even if the sects do. The question is how liberally the sects are willing to interpret their texts.

As Humble Law Student indicated, I suspect it's important to look at the claims in the text to understand what kinds of inspiration/authority those sects will make the focus of their worship.

Like a drift term in a random walk model, it can influence the direction in which a sect trends.
3.8.2006 1:50pm
Christopher M (mail):
PersonFromPorlock--

Eugene, how can a religion whose very name means 'submission' regard freedom, except as an occasion of sin?

See Prof. Volokh's earlier point about etymology vs. meaning.
3.8.2006 1:51pm
Fishbane (mail):
To throw in a bit of ethnocentrism, I think a saving grace for Christianity is that it is quite hard to justify acts of violence on the text of the Bible - particularly because the New Testament replaces much contained in the OT.

...And yet it still happens every day, even today.

Which is one aspect of the larger point Eugene was making.
3.8.2006 1:53pm
Joel B. (mail):
And yet it still happens every day, even today.

Uh huh... in the same vein I suppose the USA (and every other country) is lawless, because "and yet lawbreaking still happens every day, even today."
3.8.2006 2:05pm
Singh Coeur:
Houston Lawyer: We are fairly clear on our side that we will distinguish between the peaceful and the hell bent. It would be nice if the peaceful followers of Islam would try to give us credit for that.

So you expect the peaceful to give credit to the warlike for killing only the warlike members of their group? Why should they be comfortable that our warlike element is so different from theirs?

Anyone think that the Sikhs are the most libertarian of religions?
3.8.2006 2:10pm
SKlein:
Houston Lawyer--the "so what" is that if Islam is inherently illiberal and immoderate, then the Islamicists are correct that the goal of the West is to destroy Islam. Stated differently, if Boot is correct, it is not futile to work toward a resolution other than apocalyptic confrontation, even if the route to a better outcome is not clear.
3.8.2006 2:14pm
Joshua (www):
Prof. Volokh wrote:
Like all big religions, Islam not only has multiple well-defined subdenominations, but also varies greatly from time to time, place to place, and ultimately person to person.
It seems to me that the reasons Americans have so much trouble grasping this boil down to one fact: Certain flavors of Islam (Wahhabism is one but by no means the only example) are more, how shall I put it, well-connected and ambitious than others. Those are the flavors that have won over, and are now heavily financed by, many of the Middle East's monarchs and oil barons, and thus have the means to proselytize worldwide. More to the point, those are the flavors that claim, most aggressively, to be the One True Flavor of Islam (TM), that would like to wipe out the other flavors (and thereby render this whole discussion moot), and who hold Muslims of other flavors to be no more worthy of life than you, me or even the Joooooooooz.

Since these are the flavors of Islam that tend to make the headlines (to the all-but complete exclusion of other flavors), it's no surprise at all that many, if not most non-Muslim Westerners would take them at their word that they represent the true, core character of all of Islam. Since those headlines usually concern terrorism or other less-than-savory aspects of their beliefs, it's also no surprise that many non-Muslim Westerners would also conclude that this "true, core character of Islam" is incompatible with the Western way of life.
3.8.2006 2:21pm
Taimyoboi:
"...And yet it still happens every day, even today."

Fishbane,

Somehow I don't think the latter part of that statement stands up to scrutiny.

Perhaps citing examples would go a longer way than simple rhetorical statements.
3.8.2006 2:27pm
secular person (mail):
Yes, there are many flavors of each ethical monotheism, but there is a hard kernal of difference between Islam and Christianity that can't easily be erased: the Prophet came to power at the point of a sword and those scriptures emphasize that fact, while Jesus died humiliated, powerless and rejected, and those scriptures emphasize that fact.
3.8.2006 2:30pm
Brandonks (mail) (www):
That there is diversity within the Islamic world is self-evident. The salient point is to examine the predominate trends, and identify which are gaining the most traction. Even a cursory examination would have to conclude that Jihadist philosophies and militancy have been the major change in the last 30 years, and that the movement is accelerating in most Muslim populations.

The Path of Jihad
3.8.2006 2:31pm
Broncos:

There is no Christianity, only Christianities practiced by particular Christians and groups of Christians.

That's an interesting interpretation, but ultimately as a practiciner of the law you have to recognize it is incorrect. It's almost like saying (especially for these religions with written laws and texts regarding their interpretations). There is no Constitution, only interpretations of the constitution practiced by particular Americans, and groups of Americans.


Christianity struggles to reconcile the universality of theology and the existing multitude of interpretations; I've come to think that the two aren't necessarily incompatible.

When I was young I was taught that "taking the Lord's name in vain" meant that I shouldn't say "God-damn." When I grew older, I was taught that it was a prohibition against essentially making God a co-signer to your contracts. The best meaning, I think, might be the simplest: Don't put words in God's mouth. And that, I think, is what a fallible human does when he insists that his interpretation of the revealed word of God is the only correct one. It isn't a question of tolerance, it is a question of humility.

This is backed up, I think, by a passage from Luke (12:51-59) during the Sermon on the Plain, where Jesus implores people to exercise individual conscience, and to allow others to do so: (sorry for the long quote)


51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

54 He said to the crowd: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?

57 "Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."
3.8.2006 2:31pm
Joel B. (mail):
Broncos-

I readily agree that in Christianity there is a fair amount of latitude in interpretation. But I think we should be able to agree that some interpretations are out of bounds. That some interpretations are out of bounds does allow us to consider the relative peaceability of the religions.

Regarding an interpretation as to say how much of the mosiac law was fulfilled (dietary, levitical, etc.) in Christ, and how much still remains is something that could definately get into long debate on interpretation. But the fact that some things are given wider latitude, doesn't mean that somethings are not fairly hemmed in.
3.8.2006 2:49pm
DK:
Dunno and Joel B. are right.

I'm not entirely sure from the post if Eugene realizes that his statement explicitly rejects some core beliefs of both Christianity and Islam, which both make the unity of all believers in God a central part of their theology. If there is no Islam, only many "Islams", why go to Mecca? Why not create your own Islam and just take a pilgrimage to your local spa? Mecca is all about unity; the Christian sacraments such as mass and baptism are also all about the unity in the "communion of all believers."

For example, part of my beliefs as a Christian is that _I AM_ responsible and connected to such crimes as the Crusades, the Inquisition, Anti-Semitism, inadequate Christian responses to slavery and the Holocaust, etc. These crimes were not committed by other "Christianities" that don't involve me; they were committed in the name of my religion, and while I don't believe in self-flagellation or slavery reparations, I do feel that I have a serious responsibility to monitor the darker parts of Christian belief to make sure that my church and I don't repeat old mistakes. There definitely are tendencies in my religion which can lead to abuses, and constructing a good Christian life or theology requires taking those abuses seriously.

IMHO, no one will ever succeed in creating new, peaceful "Islams" separate from the old. But I think the chances are quite good that scholars and believers who take the unity of all Islam seriously will eventually take responsibility and defeat the jihadi extremists once and for all.

p.s. I just find this "no Christianity, only many Christianities" phrase really annoys me. But it's the academic-jargony sound of the phrase, not the theological content, which I find so annoying.
3.8.2006 2:51pm
SLS 1L:
It's good to hear someone talking sense about Islam, Professor. The people deciding that Islam is not a religion of peace based on some warlike passages in the Qu'ran are like atheists who argue Christianity is evil based only on the places where the Bible condones rape, slavery, and murder while ignoring all the stuff about peace and love.
3.8.2006 3:08pm
Taimyoboi:
SLS 1L:

A cursory examination shows that probably more than ninety percent of the quotes listed are from the Old Testament.

One of the only ones I saw from the New Testament was this:

"Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them."

Hardly condoning slavery; reads more like telling a Christian slave that his calling is to abide by his faith no matter what his position.

Now, I'm not an expert on the Old Testament, but as I understand it most passages refer to specific tribes and sects that were only present in the past. Last I checked there weren't too many Hittites running around.

I think most would agree that in terms of continuing influence, there is a difference between declaring war against all unbelievers and declaring war against a specific tribe that no longer exists.
3.8.2006 3:20pm
Taimyoboi:
Oops. I was a tad o'er hasty in reading your post, SLS 1L.

Excuse the misread.
3.8.2006 3:21pm
Justin (mail):
::takes a look at the water::

No, I'm good.

::goes back to arguing with DK over what is a Democrat::
3.8.2006 3:24pm
Bill (mail):
Exactly. It's even more important to note though that many or most Muslims (or Christians, etc.) are not sure which Islam they are a part of. There seems to be an alarming trend toward younger Muslims turning to doctrines that would seek to reinvent social orders that do not fit the modern world very well. More importantly, these doctrines won't lead to improving on modern liberal society's defects but (on the contrary) will more often justify fruitless violence or wicked oppression.

But (1) millions of Muslims are making choices about where their beliefs fit in. In addition, (2) there is a dangerous human characteristic to identify very strongly with a group and view it as in dire struggle with an enemy that is vilifying you.

These two facts together show why its crucial to be diplomatic about treatment of Islam in Western media. Granted, the embassy burners have made up their minds. And when they say, "Disgrace the Prophet and we'll kill you," that is a threat to which we must stand resolutely opposed.

But the non-committed Muslims trying to work out their salvation, so to speak, are not making a "threat" of the form: "Respect our religion or we'll become extremists." They are, however, suceptible to being manipulated by those who trying to radicalize them.

The real villians here, of course, are the governments and media in the Muslim world who vilify others to distract the population from their tyrany. But that does not mean that the West should respond to that by saying: "We should just say whatever we feel like because the extremists just want to destroy us anyway."
3.8.2006 3:40pm
DK:
One more thing: in my previous post, I want to be clear I don't want to imply Islam is any more violent than Christianity. IMHO all religions have a tendency towards violence, largely because all humans have a tendency towards violence, but also due to the nature of religion (for example, an afterlife by definition makes death less bad). Max Boot and his fellow neocons would be wise to learn the difficulty of changing human nature, and to have a greater appreciation of the staying power of religious belief.
3.8.2006 3:50pm
Broncos:
btw, Magoo (if you're reading this): I think this post was for you. All is well, you can return.
3.8.2006 4:03pm
Taimyoboi:
"but also due to the nature of religion (for example, an afterlife by definition makes death less bad)."

Certainly though, if one religion says that one route to an afterlife is to commit violence, and another says that to obtain an afterlife one must refrain from violence, all else equal, you'd probably see more violence in the former than the latter. No?
3.8.2006 4:05pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
So how exactly did you stumble across that page, SLS1L? Forgive me if I don't exactly put on the same level as the scholarship regarding Islam and violence.
3.8.2006 4:14pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Super, super post by Bill.
3.8.2006 4:23pm
SLS 1L:
Dan - I did a google search for and that's what popped up. Many of those quotes are really horrible (as is, doubtlessly, the page author's grasp of interpretive theology). But to what scholarship are you referring? I've never seen an Arabist or
3.8.2006 4:34pm
SLS 1L:
Sorry about the gap in the comment there. Here's the second paragraph of the comment:

But to what scholarship are you referring? I'm thinking of the claim that Islam is incompatible with peace, which I've encountered on the Internet over and over and over. I've never heard of a scholarly expert in the field (an Arabist or a scholar of Islam in a religion department) making such a claim. I'd be interesting in seeing the research you're referring to.
3.8.2006 4:41pm
Dan28 (mail):
As someone who was raised Quaker, it's odd to hear so many people claim that Christianity is a pacifist religion. Sure, pacifist Christian sects have always existed, but we've always been in a tiny fringe minority.

Christianity was founded by Jesus and Paul, but turned into a major world religion by Constantine. In Islam, Paul, Jesus and Constantine are embodied in the same basic person, Muhammad. Protestant Christians defend the purity of their faith by condemning Constantine and embracing only Jesus/Paul. But does that distinction really make any sense? Is a religion better because it had a pure beginning, before it was corrupted by politics, as opposed to being political from the very beginning?

Also Taimyoboi, I'm not convinced that your position, that Islam proscribes violence while Christianity procribes non-violence, is accurate. I am not an expert on the Qu'ran, but from what I've read the basic requirements for the afterlife are extremely similar to Christianity. Certainly, the five pillars of Islam (belief, fasting, prayer, charity, the hajj) are perfectly consistant with Christianity. Isolated passages, taken out of context by non-believers, are not reliable to interpret Islamic belief. As SLS 1L pointed out, passages out of context can equally show the Bible to encourage violence.
3.8.2006 4:43pm
Dan28 (mail):
I think the reason that today, Christians seem to be less aggressive than Muslims has little to do with the content of Christian belief and much more to do with the social and political needs of modern Christians. Most Christians live in stable nation-states with strong national identities. In those contexts, aggressive religious movements are a threat to social order and fill no realistic need. In contrast, most Muslim countries lack strong unifying identities. Colonialism linked people together in arbitrary states without significant historic roots. Arab nationalism has largely failed to unite people around flags or dictators. Human beings long for order, and in the absence of other identities to provide order, will look to religion to answer that most fundamental political question: who are 'we'? ("We are the believers" say the clerics). Legally enforced religions clothing or moral codes become a way of expressing that unity. It's not justified, but it is understandable that Islamic countries have evolved in this direction.
3.8.2006 5:06pm
Humble Law Student:
Dan28,

If you were raised a Quaker, then I believe as part of your religious instruction you should have been taught about the two "covenants." The Old Testament was the first covenant which God gave to only the Jews. The New Testament is the new covenant which God gave to everyone - it also replaces the OT.

Jesus never advocates violence; on the contrary, he is bit too pacifist for my tastes. As far as I am aware, all of the verses that advocate violence are in the OT and therefore irrelevant as far as Christian doctrine is concerned. To use legal terminology, you could say the OT is persuasive, while the NT is mandatory authority. Instruction contained within the OT can help inform one's understanding of the NT, but where there is a religious conflict, the NT is controlling authority.

The verses within the Quran and Hadiths (sayings of the Prophet) don't have the same old covenant/ new covenant distinction as far as I am aware. Although, some Muslims do make distinctions between their holy texts that are supposed to have come from before historical date (I forget exactly which, but I believe it is based on Mohammed's change from mere prophet to conqueror).
3.8.2006 5:15pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I notice that Christians like to push the Old Testament aside, saying it has been replaced by the New. So, those old favorite teachings like stoning folks for picking up sticks on the sabbath are conventietly ignored. Also ignored is the order from God to kill kids who curse their parents.

This is to Christianity's credit. Imagine deciding the fate of the family in which the kid curses his parents for making him gather firewood on the sabbath.

But the same latitude is never given to Muslims regarding the Quran. Many Westerners demand that each and every passage of the Quran applies today and forever.
3.8.2006 5:28pm
Taimyoboi:
Dan28,

I don't think the relevant question is how non-believers view a faith, but how believers do.

And in that respect, I think there is a fair argument to be made that the language in the Qu'ran is stronger than in the New Testament. The important point being not that

As an aside, I think there is an important distinction to be made between the Bible as a whole and the New Testament, which SLS 1L's page didn't do. His page contained passages predominantly from the Old Testament, which Christian's do not use as their primary source of authority.

Nevertheless, the Qu'ran does call Muslims to wage jihad against idolaters, and force Jews and Christians to either convert, or live with the penalty of an unbeliever's tax.

I think there are very few passages where Jesus ever said anything to such effect--the overriding theme, as far as I recall, was something to the effect of turn the other cheek and love your neighbor as yourself.
3.8.2006 5:47pm
The Human Fund (mail):
I don't know enough about the Quran or Islam to say for sure, but I would guess that one major difference between the Bible and the Quran is that the Bible was written over a period of centuries. Thus, a Christian may say that one part of the Bible was only to be taken literally in a specific time and place (e.g., the nation of Israel thousands of years ago), and has since been abrogated by a later portion of the Bible. This is argument is made stronger by the fact that there are portions of the New Testament which explicitly nullify portions of the Old Testament. Examples that come to mind are Peter being told by God in Acts that he could eat even foods that the Old Testament calls unclean and Paul's letter to the Galatians in which he says that circumcision is not necessary. I'm not sure a Muslim would be able to make such a claim for the Quran.
3.8.2006 5:58pm
Dan28 (mail):

I don't think the relevant question is how non-believers view a faith, but how believers do.


I agree. So why write anything else? You are obviously not a believer in Islam, so your view of the Qu'ran is of no relevance or meaning whatsoever. What arrogance to say that the "Qu'ran does call Muslims to wage jihad against idolators". You have no idea what passage you are even citing, much less what that passage means in context, much less what that means in terms of the overall structure of the Qu'ran.
3.8.2006 6:11pm
Taimyoboi:
It may well be arrogant for me to presume to understand what the Qu'ran calls its believers to do.

But what is the word you use to describe a believer who cites those passages as justification for suicide bombings or flying into towers?

You can use the cover that this may or may not be true of all Muslims, but with hot spots in at least 9 countries, that starts to look like a pretty long list that I think warrants a more thorough explanation.
3.8.2006 6:47pm
SLS 1L:
Dan:
You have no idea what passage you are even citing, much less what that passage means in context, much less what that means in terms of the overall structure of the Qu'ran.
I'd agree, and add that we should remember that religious believers and theologians can be just as creative with canonical texts as judges can be with constitutions and statutes. Little prevents believers from "interpreting" away any passage whose plain meaning they dislike. They may be wrong as a theological matter, but the "correct" interpretation by itself tells us little about what believers actually believe or practice, just as the "correct" interpretation of the Constitution doesn't tell us what the Supreme Court will do.
3.8.2006 7:10pm
bluecollarguy:
It seems the Dark Ages myth is about as hard to kill as the Lemon Test. I hope Max understands international relations a bit better than he does history.

However, I agree with his thesis if his thesis is that we are not at war with Islam, we are at war with Islamofascists. For a successful end to that war it would behoove us to coax as many Muslims as possible into the international marketplace. Liberty and security is a balancing act. I happen to think that President Bush is correct vis a vis the UAE ports deal but I also happen to think that he's on the losing end of that debate.
3.8.2006 7:31pm
jvarisco:
I think to clarify, Prof. Volokh is not suggesting that Muslims (or Christians), think that there is more than one Islam; only that in reality not all Muslims agree on what Islam means. Each islam believes it is correct, and that the rest are wrong - but in reality, many different interpretations exist. You may think the Mormons or the Unitarians are not Christians, but they do think that they are, and they base their beliefs on the same foundation.


Christianity is a pacifist religion? How about the crusades? The thirty years war? The inquisition? There is quite a bit in the bible to support violence, as there is in the Quran.

Islam means submission not to other people, but to a deity. Is that not what Christianity or any religion professes? Putting the divine good above all else?

Taimyoboi) That's one interpretation of Christianity. One that was not very popular for much of European history. Religious freedom is a very new, and very secular, idea. And the tax that you mention was hardly a terrible injustice; at least in the Ottoman empire, it also involved not being included in the draft - Muslims did not have to pay, but they could get conscripted.

What justification did the Jews use in 1944 when they attacked British soldiers before the Nazis were even defeated? Is Judaism also inherently warlike too then? Suicide bombers have a political goal, and are simply using the only method they see to achieve it.
3.8.2006 7:58pm
Jeremy Pierce (mail) (www):
Jesus clearly teaches that you shouldn't stand up for your rights at least in certain contexts. If someone takes your coat, offer your shirt. If a Roman soldier forces you to carry his gear for a mile, go two miles. Turn the other cheek if someone slaps you. He doesn't clearly endorse absolute pacifism, however. Nothing he says contradicts the view that individuals have an obligation to defend others, particularly the defenseless. Nothing he says contradicts the view that governments have an obligation to protect their people or even the view that governments have an obligation to protect those outside their country. There's even one strong indication within the NT in the other direction. Paul states quite plainly in Romans 13 that the government is God's appointed agent for enforcing justice, and he specifically mentions the sword as the means of enforcing justice. He clearly didn't believe that the Roman empire always acted justly, because he himself suffered at the hands of Roman persecutors of Christianity, but he still believed it to be the government's obligation to carry out such a role. That makes an absolute pacifism very hard to motivate from the Christian scriptures.

I have to second the motion that Eugene's post contradicts the Christian teaching that all genuine Christians are one in Christ. There's a metaphysical reality, as Paul sees it, to being in Christ, and some people are in Christ and others not. He speaks in places of being (spiritually speaking) in heaven with Christ, gathered around the throne of God. That's an all-or-nothing thing, and it's true of all people genuinely in Christ. There's one Christianity. Now this is not true of everyone who claims to be a Christian. He calls the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they are really in the faith. He speaks of only those who persevere as ultimately gaining the prize at the end. Jesus speaks of those who call him "Lord, Lord" but whom he does not know. So the standard Christian take on this is that many have acted in Jesus' name without being Christians at all, though they take the name. Some who are genuinely Christians have not represented the one body of Christian believers that spiritually speaking is united with Christ.

I think Christians can accept all that, though, and still treat Eugene's language as merely sociological and the word 'Christian' as a much looser term than the NT authors would want of it. So what he says doesn't have to be denied. I think it's important to note how Christianity would view it, though.
3.8.2006 8:45pm
Lev:
Elliot123 (mail):


I notice that Christians like to push the Old Testament aside, saying it has been replaced by the New. So, those old favorite teachings like stoning folks for picking up sticks on the sabbath are conventietly ignored. Also ignored is the order from God to kill kids who curse their parents. This is to Christianity's credit. Imagine deciding the fate of the family in which the kid curses his parents for making him gather firewood on the sabbath. But the same latitude is never given to Muslims regarding the Quran. Many Westerners demand that each and every passage of the Quran applies today and forever.


The New Testament is to the Old Testament as the ________________ is to the Koran.
3.9.2006 12:57am
Lev:
Maybe the difference between Christians and Muslims is that Christians have finally gotten tired of trying to exterminate each other and everyone else, and the Muslims haven't.
3.9.2006 12:59am
SG:
Elliot123:

I don't believe that "Many Westerners demand that each and every passage of the Quran applies today and forever". To the contrary, I think most westerners would love to see a Quranic interpretation that repudiates the violent passages of the Quran. The problem is that non-Muslims don't have any standing to change the way Muslims interpret their religion and there doesn't seem to be any prominent Islamic movement that is reinterpreting the Quran in a manner to read out those violent parts.

Since some Muslims obviously are practicing the violent parts of their religion, if Muslims wish not to be associated with the violent sects, it's their duty to actively disassociate themselves.

BTW, Did anyone read the article? Was the author being sarcastic? Malaysia has vigilante squads roaming the streets punishing teenagers for sins, but it's OK because the government will arrest them? Newspapers were closed for publishing cartoons? Muslims have to obey Sharia, but non-Muslims are exempt? This is the Islamic world's leading edge of tolerance and human rights? Oh yeah, there's Qatar, but it's "further behind on the road to democracy" road relative to Malaysia. Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I certainly feel better now.
3.9.2006 2:57am
Bezuhov (mail):
"OT and therefore irrelevant as far as Christian doctrine is concerned."

Um, no.

Not even close.

This is third grade theology, at best.

The NT is meaningless without the OT. If you don't believe me, ask Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul.
3.9.2006 3:22am
great unknown (mail):
re: jvarisco's comment

What justification did the Jews use in 1944 when they attacked British soldiers before the Nazis were even defeated? Is Judaism also inherently warlike too then? Suicide bombers have a political goal, and are simply using the only method they see to achieve it.

The Jewish reaction to the terrorist groups attacking the British was universal (>99.9%) condemnation and revulsion. This is easily confirmed by research into the statements by every official and semi-official Jewish organization of the time. Furthermore, the Jewish community of the time expended enormous effort in attempting to arrest said terrorists or at least harass them into ineffectuallity, including passing information to the British. The total number of terrorists at any one time was trivial, even in relative terms.
Institutionalized terrorism never existed.
3.9.2006 7:54am
Taimyoboi:
"...Religious freedom is a very new, and very secular, idea."

There are a number of other statements in your post that I don't think bear historical scrutiny (principally the crusades and the 30 Years War), but let me assess this one.

This is actually quite contrary to history, as least as far as the United States is concerned. The idea that motivated the founding fathers to grant religious freedom was derived from religion.

I believe the story goes something like this: they believed that each and every man was endowed with inalienable rights by their Creator, not least of which was the right of every man to give thanks to their Creator in the manner they saw most fit. As a result, they could not very well mandate certain forms of worship since that would be contrary to an individual's God granted rights.
3.9.2006 9:59am
Joshua (www):
I think to clarify, Prof. Volokh is not suggesting that Muslims (or Christians), think that there is more than one Islam; only that in reality not all Muslims agree on what Islam means. Each islam believes it is correct, and that the rest are wrong - but in reality, many different interpretations exist. You may think the Mormons or the Unitarians are not Christians, but they do think that they are, and they base their beliefs on the same foundation.
That sounds about right. Of course, any time you have competing visions of a religion's true nature, eventually one or a few of them will emerge as the dominant ones, in strength of influence if not in sheer numbers of adherents. The dilemma we have is that with Islam, the strict, violent and geopolitically ambitious visions of the faith are emerging as the dominant ones, with no sign of that trend even slowing down, much less stopping.

However, I agree with his thesis if his thesis is that we are not at war with Islam, we are at war with Islamofascists.
Sadly, this distinction probably will cease to matter once the West finally reaches the conclusion that Islamic supremacists threaten their civilization to the point where all-out war is necessary to preserve it.

In WWII our fight was with the Nazi regime, not the German people. However, it was obvious to the Allies from the start that waging war against the former would inevitably involve killing a large number of the latter, and putting the rest through hell. I'll submit that not only is this also the case with Islam, but that it's become an axiom that can be applied to any war against a despotic or totalitarian power.
Since some Muslims obviously are practicing the violent parts of their religion, if Muslims wish not to be associated with the violent sects, it's their duty to actively disassociate themselves.
The trouble with that, of course, is that to do so amounts to becoming an apostate and risking death at the hands of the violent types (or in the West, at the very least, being outcast and ostracized by the violent types' fellow travelers like CAIR).
3.9.2006 11:24am
CJColucci (mail):
Any religion means, in the long run, what its adherents are willing to accept that it means. "Correctness" is not a meaningful concept, except in the context of correctly describing what a religion's adherents say and do. No religion has an inherent character separate from the deeds and words of its adherents merely because it claims to have a holy book.
A while back, I read the Koran for myself. Much of it was quite surprising to me, and I was able to cobble together a very nice religion out of it that I might, if pressed, be willing to adhere to. If pressed, I could argue for this home-made Islam by citing chapter and verse. But it did not resemble any form of Islam that I knew anything about. Maybe some day, some form of Islam will take hold that resembles my nice version. (It has many practical advantages that Muslims may some day appreciate.) But that will be for Muslims to decide, not for me to urge.
3.9.2006 12:49pm
SG:


Since some Muslims obviously are practicing the violent parts of their religion, if Muslims wish not to be associated with the violent sects, it's their duty to actively disassociate themselves.



The trouble with that, of course, is that to do so amounts to becoming an apostate and risking death at the hands of the violent types (or in the West, at the very least, being outcast and ostracized by the violent types' fellow travelers like CAIR).


Yup. A Muslim has be pretty radical to be a moderate.
3.9.2006 3:35pm
jvarisco:
Taimyoboi) The United States is itself a very new country. Christianity existed for over a thousand years before it was created. For much of its early history, it was much less tolerant than Islam has been. You are taking one relatively recent interpretation of Christianity. Also, take a look at some of the original laws in the colonies. What about Mary Dyer? Religious freedom was hardly present even over here pre-independence.
3.9.2006 3:56pm
Alaska Jack (mail):
BlueCollarGuy -

What did you mean by this:


It seems the Dark Ages myth is about as hard to kill as the Lemon Test. I hope Max understands international relations a bit better than he does history.


Not an attack -- just curious.

- AJ
3.9.2006 4:18pm
Alaska Jack (mail):
Bezuhov -


"OT and therefore irrelevant as far as Christian doctrine is concerned."

Um, no.

Not even close.

This is third grade theology, at best.

The NT is meaningless without the OT. If you don't believe me, ask Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul.


This is mystifying. Does an understanding of the OT help inform understanding the new? Of course. But the NT by itself is perhaps the most meaningful, profound work of any kind in human history (OK, let's say *one* of the most profound to show due respect to non-Western traditions). To say it is "meaningless" without the OT is to willfully overlook the hundreds of millions of people who have had their lives profoundly influenced by it, and yet who derive little or nothing from the OT.

By the way, is there any more tiresome internet cliche than the "Um, no"? If I've ever used it in the past, please accept my profound apologies.

- Alaska Jack
3.9.2006 4:25pm
SLS 1L:
Alaska Jack: See, e.g.:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Matthew 5:17 (NIV). The NT does not make the OT a dead letter. If that belief were as widespread as you seem to think, we wouldn't see so many instances of Christians quoting Leviticus's admonitions against homosexuality, Christians putting up the Ten Commandments (what's the point if they're no longer good law?), etc.

I have to disagree with you about the "most meaningful, profound work in human history" point, but that just goes to show that you're a Christian and I'm not.
3.9.2006 5:17pm
Alaska Jack (mail):
SLS 1L -

You're talking past me a little here. I didn't suggest the NT makes the OT a dead letter. I simply pointed out that calling the NT "meaningless" without the OT is absurd. Can we agree that these are two different things? Surely many have read the NT on its own and found it deeply meaningful?

As to your second point, hmm, I suppose one could disagree with my characterization of the NT as "profound" -- OK, sloppy on my part, but if you don't find the NT, of all things, at least "profound" then you set your profundity bar pretty high! -- but surely the impact it's had on global culture requires more than an assertion of meaninglessness? I mean, I personally would hesitate to call the works of the Buddha and Confucious "meaningless," despite the fact that I am not an adherent of their tenets.

Finally, while I would like to consider myself a Christian, I'm afraid I'm not a very good one. I haven't even read the texts we're talking about. My point was a very, very narrow one.

Respectfully,

- AJ
3.9.2006 7:09pm
SLS 1L:
Alaska Jack - sorry about the misinterpretation.
3.9.2006 7:38pm