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What the Koran Says Vs. What an Individual Muslim Is Likely To Do:

Commenter Cato, on the oaths thread, insists that Carthage must be destroyed, and also writes:

What if your religious book upon which an oath is taken requires the oath taker to lie, at least in certain cases?

Certain pundits maintain that the Koran REQUIRES Muslims to lie to non-Muslims about their intentions, particularly the intention of imposing sharia law.

I can't speak to the relevant text of the Koran, or to what certain pundits mantain. But say that the Koran does indeed say so in the text.

The fact is that many ancient religious writings seem to on their face mandate various things that we'd find quite troubling, and that most modern adherents of the religion would find quite troubling. Consider Leviticus, which says that the following (among others) "shall be surely put to death": "[E]very one that curseth his father or his mother"; adulterers; male homosexuals; and "he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD." Should we disqualify Jews, as well as Christians who purport to still see the Old Testament as largely authoritative, from high government office, on the grounds that they seem committed to massive violations of the First and Eighth Amendments?

Of course not, because we in fact know that even quite devout Jews and Christians don't really read these provisions as in fact mandating the putting to death of people who do the prohibited things. They may have textual reasons for their beliefs or extratextual. But in any case, our experience tells us that looking in isolation at particular passages in a person's holy books -- or considering the practices of extremists who ostensibly belong to the same faith as the person -- gives us little information about the person's actual lived beliefs, and what the person is actually likely to do. It seems to me quite likely that precisely the same is true about Muslims.

If you have reason to think that a particular person is especially likely to lie, that's of course reason to doubt his word, or to vote against him. But looking at some passage in the Koran doesn't tell us much about this.

Ramza:
Speaking as an athiest who has to deal with Fundamentalist Christians and thus on occasion have argued with them, they say that certain parts of Levitcus and the rest of the Mosiac Code no longer binds to Christians due to Jesus comming. Jesus created a new rule set and thus not all (but some of Levitcus applies). The stuff that applies is the stuff decided upon at the Council of Jerusalem in AD49 or 50 (can't remember). This story and the debate is then retold in Acts 15
11.29.2006 4:41pm
A.S.:
I don't think EV's comparison to other "ancient religious writings" that "seem to on their face mandate various things that we'd find quite troubling" quite works in this instance.

What's the purpose of swearing on a book? To make it more likely that the swearer will keep his word, right? (To me, that's asinine - why would anyone keep their word because they swear on a book? But let's assume it to be true.) Presuambly there must be something in the text of the book that makes it more likely that the person would keep his word - some kind of invocation to be truthful. But if it is NOT the case - if the text actually contains an invocation to lie rather to be truthful - then what is the purpose of swearing on the book? There can be none.

Let's take an extreme example. Let's say there's a book entitled "How to Lie", which contains a myriad of ways to lie and how to get away with lying. Would it make sense to have someone swear on that book? I don't think so.

To me, you can only want to have someone swear on a book if the text of the book tells a reader to be truthful. To the extent that's not true with the Koran, people shouldn't swear on the Koran.
11.29.2006 4:49pm
Bobbie (mail):
The point of swearing on the bible has nothing to do with the fact that the book itself tells you not to lie. Instead, it's supposed to remind the person of the seriousness of the task before him or her: whether it be testifying in court or swearing to defend the constitution.

I would be interested to know if Muslims interpt the Koran to require lying in certain situations. Regardless, I suppose they're no different than Christians: simply re-interpert the most odious parts of their ancient holy books in a manner as to not be so odious.

Finally, if a Christian's response to EV's post is that the Old Testament no longer counts, does that mean they'll stop quoting it to condemn homosexuality?
11.29.2006 4:55pm
AC666:
> The fact is that many ancient religious writings seem to on
> their face mandate various things that we'd find quite
> troubling, and that most modern adherents of the religion
> would find quite troubling.

Perhaps, so one needs to do a little more homework and find
out what modern adherents and their teachers are actually
saying; how different camps resolve their interpretational
disputes.
11.29.2006 5:00pm
Gordo:
I suspect that "Cato" may be a visitor from Little Green Footballs, where a past poster used to end all of his (or her?) posts with the sign off "Mecca delenda est."
11.29.2006 5:04pm
Steve:
Presuambly there must be something in the text of the book that makes it more likely that the person would keep his word - some kind of invocation to be truthful.

You don't think it could be just, say, the fact that the book is regarded as holy? If I swore to something "on my mother's grave," would you point out that there is nothing in the text of her epitaph that exhorts me to be truthful?
11.29.2006 5:05pm
jallgor (mail):
I think the distinction (as I understand it) is that the Islamic teachings that supposedly state that it is ok to lie to a non muslim in certain situations is an interpretation of the Koran that is still very much a part of the Islamic dogma today. I am not saying that is an accurate view of Islamic teaching but the pundits I have read maintain that it is. So I think the debate, if there is one, should center around that issue. What are muslims being taught today about what is right and wrong according to the Koran?
11.29.2006 5:06pm
jasmindad:
I think it doesn't matter even if one takes an oath on a book titled "How to Lie" as his sacred book. Legally, that does not absolve the person from perjury or malfeasance in office -- he is still obligated to tell the truth or uphold the duties of his office. Historically, the purpose of making a person swear on his holy book is to increase the chances that he would come face to face with his conscience and moral obligations and thus increase the chances of his telling the truth or uphold his duties. But if he is determined to lie, not least because his holy book tells him to, he would lie anyway, whether or not he is allowed to swear on "How to Lie" or forced to swear on the Bible. On the other hand if indeed there is a holy book for a person that is different from the Bible, then forcing the person to swear on the Bible reduces the chances of his telling the truth. The bottom line is that in terms of the odds that a person will tell the truth, at best we are better off by letting him swear on any book that is holy to him, and at worst no worse off.
11.29.2006 5:09pm
Dan Hamilton:
What you seem to be missing is that there is a Difference between the BiBle and the Koran.

The Bible is a bunch of books written by many people over a LONG period of time. Translated from different languages. Therefore interperting the text IS required. As is the possibilty that some passages are not as absolute as others.

The Koran is the written words of Mohammed.

To compare the two you would have to select out the Words of Jesus from the Bible and put them in a Book.

Look at it in this way and the view is VERY different.

If Mohammed is telling his followers to lie to the infidals so that the road to the victory of Islam will be easier then expecting Moslems to tell the truth to infidals would be foolish.

If Jesus said what is in Leviticus it would carry a far greater weight and would have been followed.

You must compare apples and apples. The Bible and the Koran is apples and oranges. The "Words of Jesus" and the Koran would be apples and apples.
11.29.2006 5:22pm
Georgiana (mail):
The point of swearing on the Bible was similar to not permitting suicides' burial in sacred ground. Acts in this life were important in the next (immortal) life. In swearing to tell the truth, you bound yourself in this world and the next. At least that was the idea and the hope that the fear of eternal punishment would help you keep your pledge. (And I'm sure the Vatican has court documents showing cases in which people succesfully argued their way out of such oaths). I doubt few of us would see this amount of meaning in a pledge today.

Indeed, the point is to swear by something you consider so valuable you won't break your word. And for a Muslim, the Koran might be a better document than the Bible.

Let's face it, if you want to foreswear yourself, or you plan to lie, you'll figure a way to reconcile it with your beliefs, even if you've sworn on your mother's grave.

Besides, we allow testimony from atheists in court don't we? I doubt swearing on a Bible will commit them to tell a greater or more enduring truth.
11.29.2006 5:55pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Speaking as an athiest who has to deal with Fundamentalist Christians and thus on occasion have argued with them, they say that certain parts of Levitcus and the rest of the Mosiac Code no longer binds to Christians due to Jesus comming.
There's a reason for that.

The Law of Moses has two components: the symbolic (the sacrificial system and the various laws symbolizing Israel's separateness from the world) and the moral. With Jesus serving as the ultimate sacrifice and Christians commanded to go out into the world to make disciples, slaughtering heifers and keeping the kosher laws serve no function in Christianity. The rest of the law serves as a guide for what's wrong - worshiping idols, stealing, rejecting parental authority, etc.

However, we need to remember that the Biblical commands to instigate certain punishments for certain offenses were powers delegated to a specific government, one that ceased to exist as of the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. Our medieval ancestors committed heresy (not to mention theft) when they assumed theocratic powers not delegated to them.
11.29.2006 6:00pm
Georgiana (mail):
One should also keep in mind that even the Bible isn't the same set of books among all Christians, who do not share a common canonical list nor a common interpretation of the texts.

And as a side note, Jews were once reputed by outsiders to be oath-breakers based on misinterpretations of the Kol Nidre, which is the kind of error EV implicitly cautions us against in assuming how ancient texts are interpreted.

As jasmindad points out, it really doesn't matter which set of scriptures you swear upon or what they say or how someone might interpret them, as a matter of law, you still cannot commit malfeasance.
11.29.2006 6:10pm
JB:
Taking holy books literally, IMHO, is a bad idea. So is trusting people who take them literally, for precisely this reason.

I have Muslim friends I'd trust to Gehenna and back, even though I'm an unbeliever, but if I knew I was dealing with someone who took the Qur'an literally, I'm be much less trusting.

Furthermore, the Qur'an, more than any other holy book I know except maybe the Old Testament, deals with issues of daily life in incredible detail. That, combined with the tendency of holy books to be open to interpretation, and the existence of Hadith, means that a Muslim is more likely to be able to find BS scriptural justification for any particular action. (Christians are more likely to find a weasely way of showing that their action isn't forbidden, but a harder time showing that it's specifically enjoined).
11.29.2006 6:30pm
Cheburashka (mail):
The "Islam-requires-muslims-to-lie-to-non-muslims" thing isn't straight out of the Koran. It comes from the writings of one of the major sunni imams--ibn Tamiyya, I want to say, but I don't recall for certain.

Also, its really a gross mistake--a huge one--to say that the Koran doesn't require interpretation. Hermeneutics is required merely to read it, because its written out of chronological order but latter texts are held to abrogate earlier ones they contradict.

And its a huge mistake to think of the Koran is the Islamic holy book. The bulk of contemporary Muslim rules come out of the hadiths rather than the Koran.

Further, sharia was generated through a set of highly formalized rules for textual interpretation known as itjihad, which operates on the Koran and hadiths together. For example, the Koran bars muslims from drinking wine; sharia, by the process of itjihad, extended that ban to the drinking of alcohol or ingestion of narcotics in general.
11.29.2006 6:39pm
Seamus (mail):
Is there *anyone* (other than some Kantians and Catholics) who doesn't believe it's moral to lie under certain circumstances? For example, when the Gestapo comes to your house and asks you if you're harboring Jews in your basement (assuming that in fact you are)?
11.29.2006 6:53pm
Rachel (mail):
You're confusing two entirely separate ideas. A Jewish Court, properly constituted and ruling in the Kingdom of Israel is mandated by the Bible to execute homosexuals, Sabbath breakers, etc. However, Leviticus does not mandate that Jews in America vote for the US government to execute homosexuals. The Old Testament says pretty much nothing about the duties of voters in a non-Jewish country (or voting in general). Therefore, there is nothing to prevent an Orthodox Jew from being libertarian in America.
11.29.2006 7:56pm
Ramza:
Alan K. Henderson


There's a reason for that.

The Law of Moses has two components: the symbolic (the sacrificial system and the various laws symbolizing Israel's separateness from the world) and the moral...etc

I am familiar with that I was born and raised in the Catholic Church even if I don't follow there beliefs anymore (but you had no way of knowing that.) The question is that verse (Acts 15) is supposed to tell Christians which which Mosiac laws are still in effect

but that we write unto them, that they abstain from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from what is strangled, and from blood. (American standard version Acts 15:20

The original Greek word is Porneia (πορνεία) can be translated in many different was fornication (the ASV and NSRV), NIV has it sexual immorality, Young has it as whoredome, NAB has it as unlawful marriage. What the big deal with this specific Greek word? Well insert something as divisive as homosexuality into the mix and the precise definition of something as "sexual immorality" vs "fornication" vs "unlawful marriage" is a big deal. Of course these bible literalist/fundamentalist often don't know ancient Greek or Hebrew and how homosexuality in Leviticus wasn't considered under the Greek word Porneia (πορνεία) it was considered under the Greek word Bdelygma(Βδελυγμα) which in turn is the Greek translation of תּוֹעֵבָה, (to'ba, also anglicized as toevah or to'ebah). Toevah means ritually impure. Porneia (πορνεία) and Bdelygma(Βδελυγμα) meant two very different things.

Now if they are talking about homosexuality and not just sexual immorality, Christian Fundamentalist/Literalists would counter/respond with what Paul wrote in Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1. Of course there are problems with those verses specifically the Greek words usually translated to homosexuality, malakos(μαλακός) in non biblical writings means “soft or effeminate” but due to how common the word was it had several other meanings it could mean “loose lust or sexually promiscuous” The other greek word of importance is arsenokoitēs (ἀρσενοκοίτης) a greek word that never existed before being used by Paul. What Paul meant in these passage is a huge but recent debate between scholars.

Just a heads up, I do not pretend to know Koiné Greek or Ancient Hebrew or even the modern derivatives just repeating what I have read from other scholars.

I will now stop for I have completely gotten off topic from Volokh’s original point.
11.29.2006 7:59pm
Ray G (mail) (www):
"The fact is that many ancient religious writings seem to on their face mandate various things that we'd find quite troubling, and that most modern adherents of the religion would find quite troubling."

Except that so many "modern" adherents of Islam practice their religion in such an ancient fashion, that Eugene's tired argument is entirely out of context. Sure, the Hebrew scriptures say this or that, Christians used to do this and the other thing, but none of that is really relevant to today's situations unless one is attempting to show how civilized other faiths are as compared to Islam in that they, Islam, still practice their ancient and brutal ways.
11.29.2006 8:14pm
Andy (mail):
This reminds me of the old charge that Jews should not be allowed to testify because they absolve themselves of all oaths to God a year in advance every Yom Kippur during the Kol Nidre. In short, it's religious bigotry masquerading as some kind of lame sociology.
11.29.2006 8:50pm
John Jenkins (mail):
I was really hoping Cato had said Carthago delenda est. EV is such a tease.

I can't believe this is actually an issue anywhere. Let the man swear on what he wants to. He's a politician. He's obviously lying anyway.
11.29.2006 9:57pm
Robert Corr (mail):
Dan Hamilton writes that the Koran is the written word of Mahammed. That's not true. His words were memorised by his followers, and then recorded in bits and pieces. Later, they were compiled. There were many different versions until eventually a standard version was adopted. Some historians believe that some of the text was developed after Mahammed's death. All in all, it's quite similar to the Gospels.
11.29.2006 10:25pm
Ray G (mail) (www):
Let the man swear on what he wants to. He's a politician. He's obviously lying anyway.

Money quote right there.
11.29.2006 11:13pm
hayesms73 (mail):
EV: I think you make a good point, but as a student of theology (as well as of law) I think a caveat is in order. One difference between most Jews and Christians on the one hand and most Muslims on the other is their respective understandings of how they believe God inspired the writing of their holy texts. For instance, the Gospel of Luke begins with a relatively modest claim to infallibilty, with the author stating his intention "to write an orderly account" so that the reader (Theophilus or God-Lover) might "know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed."

Passages such as these make it possible for many Christians to view the Bible as a "true" narrative that is not necessarily infallible from a factual standpoint in the way that we would expect a modern biography to be. In addition, many biblical writers (e.g., St. Paul) openly speak about their ignorance of certain matters, while Jesus in the Gospel of John promises that the Holy Spirit will teach the disciples new things as it leads them to all truth.

I'm not sure that the Koran can be approached with these kinds of interpretive and exegetical strategies, at least not if one takes its claims for itself at face value. The primary difference is that, unlike the Bible, the Koran has one author (Mohammed) who himself claimed to have received the revelations contained in the text directly from the angel Gabriel. It is thus harder for orthodox Muslims to admit any errors in the Koran or to consider the possibility of any future theological developments that depart from the text.
11.29.2006 11:16pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
This is a very simple question to answer. It all depends on a candidate's individual level of relogiosity. If the candidate (like, for example, John Ashcroft) would put his religious text above the Constitution and laws which he is swearing to uphold such that his or her religious dogma controls in a conflict with the Constitution/laws, the person is per se conflicted and per se disqualified from holding the respective office/position. This is not a religious test, it is a requirement of the secular society in which we live, and more specifically, the First Amendment.

Extremely religious people simply can not hold office in America. By "extremely religious" I specifically mean those who feel God's law is above Man's law and they will only enforce or apply Man's law insofar as it does not conflict with God's law. Become a priest, not a politician.
11.29.2006 11:34pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Speaking as an athiest who has to deal with Fundamentalist Christians and thus on occasion have argued with them, they say that certain parts of Levitcus and the rest of the Mosiac Code no longer binds to Christians due to Jesus comming.

As I pointed out to a moslem, christianity does have a certain advantage when it comes to adaptation. The Old Testament lays out a long list of rules. The New Testament has Christ saying that only rules are love God and your neighbor. So if you like the Old Testament rule, you can say it was never expressly overruled. If you don't, you can say the Christ's instruction overrode it. You can consider the ten commandments as binding, and still enjoy lobster, and feel no obligation to kill off members of Wicca. The lobster is not your neighbor, and killing witches is inconsistent with love for humanity.

Not unlike reading caselaw, when you get down to it. Lobsters are clearly distinguishable!
11.29.2006 11:40pm
Lev:

The Koran is the written words of Mohammed.


I think that isn't correct, at least according to Moslems. The Koran, as I understand they believe it, is God's words relayed through the Messenger Mohammed. The Hadith's and other stuff may have been Mohammed's words, or Mohammed's words as relayed or made up by other people, and commentary and interpretation, but the Koran itself is God speaking.

That is, as I understand it, why Salmon Rushdie's Satanic Verses made such a stir - he was blaspheming by saying Mohammed himself made up the Koran.

So if the Koran says it is ok to lie, especially to nonMoslems, and especially to advance the true religion's control over the world, it is God saying it is ok.

And that is quite a bit different that a person having "bad moral character."
11.29.2006 11:57pm
Ray G (mail) (www):
The New Testament specifically says that Christ came to fulfill the law. Long story short, the NT is void of any commandments to kill the sinner or unbeliever, void of any laws at all as we would normally think of them, religious or otherwise.

As for the OT, or Hebrew scriptures, those laws dealt with a people still living in a tribal culture and living by their own rules. Rules that were not at all brutal or extreme when compared to the world around them.

Which brings us to Islam. They are currently living in a culturally primitive world, still largely made up of tribal culture, and so to their faith is equally primitive, and brutal.
11.30.2006 12:19am
Mac (mail):
Seamus (mail):
Is there *anyone* (other than some Kantians and Catholics) who doesn't believe it's moral to lie under certain circumstances? For example, when the Gestapo comes to your house and asks you if you're harboring Jews in your basement (assuming that in fact you are)?

This is a most disturbing comment. It apears that bigotry is alive and well. You can't really object to Prager and then have a statement like this come out of your mind.
11.30.2006 12:51am
Mac (mail):
This is not a religious test, it is a requirement of the secular society in which we live, and more specifically, the First Amendment.

Extremely religious people simply can not hold office in America. By "extremely religious" I specifically mean those who feel God's law is above Man's law and they will only enforce or apply Man's law insofar as it does not conflict with God's law. Become a priest, not a politician

Amazing. A nation founded by people seeking religious freedom has now come full circle and we are to have a religious litmus test for who can serve in office.

Among many other problems with that idea, and they should be obvious, who, pray tell, is to say that the "secular" person will put the Constitution above his belief system? It is this person who scares me the most in that we have the Constitution to protect us from the imposition of religious beliefs upon us, but what is going to protect us from the secularists beliefs?

There is precious little science or fact based behavior these days. We have the Environmentalists who don't act on science but push their agenda with all the ferver of the most religious and believe a tree has as much right to live as a human, ditto the Animal rights folks. The global warming folks scream if any scientist, no matter how respected, wants to question the data and dares to suggest that the sky is NOT falling. There are the health fanatics who WILL dictate what you can and can't eat Ieven though every scientific study seems to contratdict the last one) and pass legislation "for your own good".

All of the above and there are many more whose basic attitude seems to be, "You do what I say and follow my beliefs or you are going to Hell!" Or going to get fat, or going to destroy the earth or the forrests or whatever. I see a whole lot of folks trying to ram their beliefs down people's throats and most of them today are not religious.

So I will ask again, who or what is going to protect us from the beliefs of the Secularists?
11.30.2006 1:15am
Mac (mail):
Sorry. First two paragraps of last post should have been in quotation marks attributed to Bruce M. Everytime I don't preview, I screw up. You would think I would learn.
11.30.2006 1:19am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Extremely religious people simply can not hold office in America. By "extremely religious" I specifically mean those who feel God's law is above Man's law and they will only enforce or apply Man's law insofar as it does not conflict with God's law.
That would rule out, for starters, most of the nation's early politicians - including the Deists.

Technically, since government policy must seek to place what is moral over the whims of Man, and since theists believe morality comes from God, it's impossible for anyone who truly believes in God to not "enforce or apply Man's law insofar as it does not conflict with God's law."

Some may agree with BruceM's statement on the basis of an example such as this, regarding Christianity: the Bible condemns some act such as sorcery (Rev. 22:15), so one who places God's law above Man's law must, to be consistent, seek to criminalize that act. This logic is faulty because abstaining from sorcery (which the Bible calls for) is not the equivalent of forcing others into such abstinence (which the Bible prescribes only for an extinct theocracy).

The consistent "God's law first" Christian would certainly rule that whatever is wrong for the individual to do (steal, murder, conjure, seduce pages, worship idols) is wrong for the government to do. Such a person is a bigger problem for welfare hawks than for Wiccans, given that conservatives equate redistribution with theft.
11.30.2006 1:38am
Informed:
The unpleasant fact is that violent jihad warfare - including lying to gain advantage - against unbelievers is not a heretical doctrine held by a tiny minority of extremists, but a constant element of mainstream Islamic theology. Islam is preoccupied with legal questions; indeed, Islamic law contains instructions for the minutest detail of individual behavior. It also contains unmistakable affirmations of the centrality of jihad warfare against unbelievers. This is true of all four principal schools of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence, the Maliki, Hanafi, Hanbali, and Shafi'i, to which the great majority of Muslims worldwide belong. These schools formulated laws centuries ago regarding the importance of jihad and the ways in which it was to be practiced; however, that doesn't mean that these laws are ancient history and have been superseded by more recent rulings. It is a commonly accepted principal in the Islamic world that the "gates of ijtihad," or free inquiry into the Qur'an and Islamic tradition in order to discuss Allah's rulings, have been closed for centuries. In other words, Islamic teaching on principal matters has long been settled and is not to be called into question.
Therefore, barring a general reopening of the "gates of ijtihad," which seems extremely unlikely, these rulings will remain normative for mainstream Muslims.
Alternatively, Christianity and Judaism have strayed from the literal meaning of the passages in the Bible extolling violence (of which there are few, compared to over 100 in Islam); as such, the meanings are not set in stone.
11.30.2006 6:01am
Barbar:
Right. The only reason we don't see violent jihad warfare every day in America is that THERE ARE ZERO MUSLIMS IN AMERICA. Because if they were here, that's what they'd be doing.
11.30.2006 8:11am
Informed:

Right. The only reason we don't see violent jihad warfare every day in America is that THERE ARE ZERO MUSLIMS IN AMERICA. Because if they were here, that's what they'd be doing.


The fact that warfare against unbelievers is not a twisting of Islam, but is repeatedly affirmed in the Qur'an, the Hadith, the example of Muhammad, and the rulings of every school of Islamic jurisprudence, does not make every Muslim a terrorist.
There are several principal reasons for this. One is that because the Qur'an is in difficult, classical Arabic, and must be read and recited during Muslim prayers in that language only, a surprisingly large number of those who identify themselves as Muslims have scant acquaintance with what it actually says. Another reason is that many Muslims are unwilling to give up the lives they have built in order to pursue Jihad. While their theological foundation is weak, it is true that many Muslims are heroically laboring to create a viable moderate Islam that will allow them to coexist peacefully with their non-Muslim neighbors. They are to be commended, but make no mistake: this moderate Islam does not exist to any significant extent in the world today. Where Muslims do coexist peacefully with non-Muslims, as in Central Asia and elsewhere, it is not because the teachings of jihad have been reformed or rejected; they have simply been ignored, and history teaches us that they can be remembered at any time.
11.30.2006 8:37am
T-Web:
Interesting discussion as to the status of the Koran in Islam. I've long wondered if the parallels we draw between Islam and Christianity are incorrect in this regard.

It's typically thought that the Koran is the Islamic analog to the bible, and Mohammed to Jesus.

I don't know if that's accurate, though. In Christianity, Christ is the logos, the actualization of God in the world. In Islam, the actualization of God is the Koran, the direct and literal word of God. Hence the extreme reverence Moslems have for the Koran--to the point that some have argued against it's translation into other languages.

This being this case, isn't the better analogy that Mohammed is the John the Baptist of Islam (the prophet who predicts the coming of the logos) and that the Koran is analogous to Jesus?

It's an imperfect analogy, of course. It ignores the role that each played as people and founders of their religions and the fact that the Koran, like the bilble, is a book. Still, I think it's an interesting (if not better) way to think of the theological significance of Mohammed and the Koran.

Anyone have any thoughts?
11.30.2006 9:54am
T-Web:
"... to the point that some have argued against its translation into other languages."

It's not even 9 a.m. and I've already made my dumb mistake of the day.
11.30.2006 10:03am
Ramza:
A translated copy of the Koran is no longer seen as a copy of the Koran. Meaning is loss with the change of languages, and Muslims see arabic as a holy language. Additionally the multiple meanings of words warp with time, and some obvious definitions several centuries ago become forgotten with time due to becoming archaic. Most translations of the Koran have the orginial arabic on one pages, with the other language such as English on the opposing page.

Unfortunately this was never done with the Hebrew and Greek texts of the bible, additionally these works are a millennia older. Thus alot was lost. Even from a non religious standpoint this is significant for the various books of the bible are both great artifacts of culture and ancient literature
11.30.2006 10:36am
Seamus (mail):

This is a most disturbing comment. It apears that bigotry is alive and well. You can't really object to Prager and then have a statement like this come out of your mind.



Pardon me? What exactly is the bigotry you think I am displaying? Am I bigoted against Kantians? Catholics? Jews? Nazis? Or against those who would protect Jews against Nazis by lying?

And let's move to the more important question: Am I in fact *wrong* in believing that most people would like to the Gestapo under those circumstances? (Note that I said nothing about whether anyone was right or wrong to lie under those circumstances.)
11.30.2006 10:39am
Seamus (mail):
Correction: *lie* to the Gestapo.
11.30.2006 10:42am
Barbar:
The fact that warfare against unbelievers is not a twisting of Islam, but is repeatedly affirmed in the Qur'an, the Hadith, the example of Muhammad, and the rulings of every school of Islamic jurisprudence, does not make every Muslim a terrorist.

Right, it only makes them all potential terrorists who have not yet realized who they truly are. I will join you in commending them for so far containing themselves, a truly heroic effort.
11.30.2006 10:53am
Informed:

Right, it only makes them all potential terrorists who have not yet realized who they truly are. I will join you in commending them for so far containing themselves, a truly heroic effort.


Perhaps you should conduct some research instead of falling back on defensive sarcasm. Just because reality conflicts with your multiculturist ideals doesn't make it any less true.
11.30.2006 11:07am
Mitch Wayne (mail):
If we need the office holder to swear or affirm they will defend the US Constitution, why not have them do so with their hand on the document?
11.30.2006 11:45am
Mac (mail):
Seamus (mail):
Is there *anyone* (other than some Kantians and Catholics) who doesn't believe it's moral to lie under certain circumstances? For example, when the Gestapo comes to your house and asks you if you're harboring Jews in your basement (assuming that in fact you are)?
Pardon me? What exactly is the bigotry you think I am displaying?

Your statement, "Is there anyone (other than some Kantians and Catholics)... suggests that Catholics are so stupid, rigid, etc. (just fill in the negative adjective) they would find it more moral to tell the truth to the Gestapo and turn over the Jew than to lie to the Gestapo. There is no Catholic who would believe that as a matter of Catholic doctrine and for you to suggest this is pure bigotry, in my opinion.

Do you also believe that the nuns wear habits (or used to) to cover their horns?
11.30.2006 11:53am
Seamus (mail):
Mac:

I *am* a Catholic, and I am correctly reporting Catholic moral teaching, which is that one may never lie outright, although one may employ a broad mental reservation.

To quote the Catholic Encyclopedia, "St. Augustine, however, took the opposite side, and wrote two short treatises to prove that it is never lawful to tell a lie. His doctrine on this point has generally been followed in the Western Church, and it has been defended as the common opinion by the Schoolmen and by modern divines. . . . Innocent III gives expression in one of his decretals to this interpretation, when he says that Holy Scripture forbids us to lie even to save a man's life."

What's more, my example of lying to the Gestapo is nothing more than an updating of a moral question that St. Augustine (among others) directly addressed: "St. Augustine held that the naked truth must be told whatever the consequences may be. He directs that in difficult cases silence should be observed if possible. If silence would be equivalent to giving a sick man unwelcome news that would kill him, it is better, he says, that the body of the sick man should perish rather than the soul of the liar. Besides this one, he puts another case which became classical in the schools. If a man is hid in your house, and his life is sought by murderers, and they come and ask you whether he is in the house, you may say that you know where he is, but will not tell: you may not deny that he is there."

While the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that "The good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet LANGUAGE," and that "No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it," it nowhere countenances the telling of an actual lie under any circumstances.

This is consistent with Catholic teaching about the intrinsic immorality of certain acts, and the Church's rejection of the idea that the good consequences of such an act can ever make it morally justifiable. As John Henry Cardinal Newman pointed out, the Church "holds that it were better for sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions who are upon it to die of starvation in extremest agony, so far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, though it harmed no one, or steal one poor farthing without excuse."

The statement that it is immoral to lie to the Gestapo to save Jews is simply an application of the same principle by which many Catholics hold that it was immoral to drop the Bomb on Hiroshima, deliberately intending the deaths of noncombatants, even if doing so would have saved millions of lives (even those of other--or the same--Japanese noncombatants).
11.30.2006 12:22pm
Barbar:
Just because reality conflicts with your multiculturist ideals doesn't make it any less true.

I know what the Koran says and the various debates about how it should be interpreted; unlike you, I'm just not particularly worried by it, and not particularly inclined to otherize Muslims out of fear. Let's focus on reality: how many Americans have set off bombs in the US in the last 15 years, and what was the the nature of their holy books?

(Random thought experiment: global warming is not caused by pollution and what not, but by a certain kind of bomb, the Global Warming Bomb, currently being developed by Muslims in the Middle East. Draw all the parallels regarding uncertainty of existence/magnitude of effects, etc. Under what circumstances would it be appropriate to have an "alarmist" view of the Global Warming Bomb?)
11.30.2006 12:24pm
Seamus (mail):
Mac:

And by the way, I didn't see you disagreeing with my statement as applied to Kantians. I presume it's because you know full well that Kant expressly took the position that one may not lie to a murderer even to save the man you are protecting in your house. Do you believe that Kant was "so stupid, rigid, etc. (just fill in the negative adjective)"? I'll agree that he may have been rigid, and he may even have been wrong, but only a stupid man would call Kant stupid.
11.30.2006 12:28pm
Informed:


I know what the Koran says and the various debates about how it should be interpreted; unlike you, I'm just not particularly worried by it, and not particularly inclined to otherize Muslims out of fear. Let's focus on reality: how many Americans have set off bombs in the US in the last 15 years, and what was the the nature of their holy books?

(Random thought experiment: global warming is not caused by pollution and what not, but by a certain kind of bomb, the Global Warming Bomb, currently being developed by Muslims in the Middle East. Draw all the parallels regarding uncertainty of existence/magnitude of effects, etc. Under what circumstances would it be appropriate to have an "alarmist" view of the Global Warming Bomb?)


I'll bite. The largest domestic terrorist attack carried out in the last 15 years was the Oklahoma City bombing, which was not religiously motivated. The Unabomber also was not religiously motivated. Small bombings, carried out by Christian extremists such as Eric Rudolph (3 dead) and John Salvi (2 dead), which is what you are referring to, no?, are deeply disingenuous to point to as comparison with Islam because such views in Christianity are at the very fringe of society, while in Islam they are common and mainstream.

Your random thought experiment is a poor one; why not call an apple an apple, and ask when is it appropriate to confront Iran over their developing nuclear weapons, or the increasing call for Sharia throughout non-Muslim lands? The answer is this: the longer we wait, the worse off we will be.
11.30.2006 1:03pm
Barbar:
No, I just wanted to know about what all the American jihadists in our midst were doing during the recent time period. I guess not much, but once they learn about their own religion that is bound to change...

My thought experiment was not to suggest that we don't "confront" Iran about its nuclear weapons (on the contrary, we should threaten them with invasion uh hold on that's another discussion) but to suggest that if we thought of climate change as being inflicted by "outsiders" rather than self-inflicted we'd have a very different view of what hysterical alarmism means, that's all...
11.30.2006 3:40pm
Mac (mail):
Seamus,
You have cut and pasted form the Catholic Encyclopedia to support your view, not to clarify Catholic teaching and doctrine. Here is the rest of the story.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia;

According to the common Catholic teaching it is never allowable to tell a lie, not even to save human life. A lie is something intrinsically evil, and as evil may not be done that good may come of it, we are never allowed to tell a lie. However, we are also under an obligation to keep secrets faithfully, and sometimes the easiest way of fulfilling that duty is to say what is false, or to tell a lie. Writers of all creeds and of none, both ancient and modern, have frankly accepted this position. They admit the doctrine of the lie of necessity, and maintain that when there is a conflict between justice and veracity it is justice that should prevail. The common Catholic teaching has formulated the theory of mental reservation as a means by which the claims of both justice and veracity can be satisfied.

The Doctrine of Wide Mental Reservation

The doctrine was broached tentatively and with great diffidence by St. Raymund of Pennafort, the first writer on casuistry. In his "Summa" (1235) St. Raymund quotes the saying of St. Augustine that a man must not slay his own soul by lying in order to preserve the life of another, and that it would be a most perilous doctrine to admit that we may do a less evil to prevent another doing a greater. And most doctors teach this, he says, though he allows that others teach that a lie should be told when a man's life is at stake. Then he adds:

I believe, as at present advised, that when one is asked by murderers bent on taking the life of someone hiding in the house whether he is in, no answer should be given; and if this betrays him, his death will be imputable to the murderers, not to the other's silence. Or he may use an equivocal expression, and say 'He is not at home,' or something like that. And this can be defended by a great number of instances found in the Old Testament. Or he may say simply that he is not there, and if his conscience tells him that he ought to say that, then he will not speak against his conscience, nor will he sin. Nor is St. Augustine really opposed to any of these methods.
Such expressions as "He is not at home" were called equivocations, or amphibologies, and when there was good reason for using them their lawfulness was admitted by all. If the person inquired for was really at home, but did not wish to see the visitor, the meaning of the phrase "He is not at home" was restricted by the mind of the speaker to this sense, "He is not at home for you, or to see you." Hence equivocations and amphibologies came to be called mental restrictions or reservations. It was commonly admitted that an equivocal expression need not necessarily be used when the words of the speaker receive a special meaning from the circumstances in which he is placed, or from the position which he holds. Thus, if a confessor is asked about sins made known to him in confession, he should answer "I do not know," and such words as those when used by a priest mean "I do not know apart from confession," or "I do not know as man," or "I have no knowledge of the matter which I can communicate."
All Catholic writers were, and are, agreed that when there is good reason, such expressions as the above may be made use of, and that they are not lies. Those who hear them may understand them in a sense which is not true, but their self-deception may be permitted by the speaker for a good reason. If there is no good reason to the contrary, veracity requires all to speak frankly and openly in such a way as to be understood by those who are addressed. A sin is committed if mental reservations are used without just cause, or in cases when the questioner has a right to the naked truth.

There is much more under the heading of Mental Reservation. The totality of the Doctrine is the opposite of what you imply.

I think 10 wacks on the knuckles is in order for you.
I did not mention Kantians as I have never met one. Have you?
11.30.2006 3:46pm
Mark F. (mail):
Jesus H. Christ, Catholics can be ridiculous. That fact that you would even have to think for more than a few seconds as to whether it is alright to lie in some circumstances is absurd. And while I'm Catholic bashing, your official sexuality "morality" stinks as well.
11.30.2006 4:13pm
Informed:

My thought experiment was not to suggest that we don't "confront" Iran about its nuclear weapons (on the contrary, we should threaten them with invasion uh hold on that's another discussion) but to suggest that if we thought of climate change as being inflicted by "outsiders" rather than self-inflicted we'd have a very different view of what hysterical alarmism means, that's all...


Ah, and so it finally comes out - the moral "white man inflicting his views on the rest of the world" apologetic stance that is critically undermining the war on militant Islam. It doesn't surprise me - the two fundamental moral tenants of the Left, which you subscribe to, are proportionality and moral relativism - the view that no one is right, and if something happens to you, you must have brought it on yourself and are obligated to, at most, respond in kind. This reactionary stance smacks of a lack of moral backing and true, honest research.

Let me give you an example - the Crusades. They are Exhibit A for the case that the current strife between the Muslim world and the Western, post-Christian civilization is ultimately the responsibility of the West, which has provoked, exploited, and brutalized Muslims ever since the first Frankish warriors entered Jerusalem. This view is common and widespread. However, the truth is a far different story. For the Crusades were fundamentally a reaction to the spread of Islam into Christian lands - namely the Byzantine empire - by force, which was set in motion 450 years before the first Crusade. Pope Urban II, who called for the first Crusade at the Council of Clermont in 1095, called for a defensive action - one that was long overdue. As he explained, he was calling for the Crusade because without any defensive action, "the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked" by the Turks and other Muslim forces. He says nothing about conversion or conquest. "The Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, which is called the Arm of St. George. They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire." Ultimately, even though the Crusades failed, they bought Europe even breathing room for Islamic expansion northward to eventually peter out (because the Mongols invaded Arabia from the East).
Let me be clear: the United States and the West have not brought Islamic aggression upon itself. Such thoughts undermine the moral imperative we have to defend freedom and democracy from Islamo-fascism and Sharia.
11.30.2006 4:42pm
markm (mail):

Is there *anyone* (other than some Kantians and Catholics) who doesn't believe it's moral to lie under certain circumstances? For example, when the Gestapo comes to your house and asks you if you're harboring Jews in your basement (assuming that in fact you are)?

It depends on whether the Catholic got a good Jesuit education. If so, he'll be able to think of a dozen ways of making the Gestapo think he said "no" without actually lying.

Maybe that's another negative stereotype of Catholicism, but in my experience it's true, and I do admire the ability of the Jesuits to argue their way around the rigid dogma of their faith whenever it gets in the way of doing what's right.

I don't know if a Kantian would stoop to such tactics. Of course, he could discuss whether a Jew existed in his basement in such terms that the Gestapo agent not only couldn't understand if the Jew existed, but would also be doubting whether the house he saw in front of him existed - but that agent might decide to solve both questions by tearing the house apart until it didn't exist and there was nowhere a Jew could be hiding.
11.30.2006 4:54pm
Thales (mail) (www):
How do you know the comment was by Cato the Elder and not Cato the Younger?
11.30.2006 5:36pm
Seamus (mail):
Mac:

May I assume that you withdraw your grossly offensive accusation of anti-Catholic bigotry, and concede that I was seriously trying to set forth Catholic moral teaching?

If you read the Catholic Encyclopedia closely, you will see that strict (not broad) mental reservations were "condemned as lies by the Holy See on 2 March, 1679" and that "Since that time they have been rejected as unlawful by all Catholic writers." It is an employment of broad (not strict) mental reservation for a doorman to say, for example, "the master is not at home," when it is understood that there is a convention by which this may mean "the master is not at home to you." I don't believe you can stretch the concept so far as to cover lying to the police (even the Secret State Police) to save Jews you are harboring. The latter example is a lot closer to the case discussed by St. Augustine, in which he specifically said you could *not* lie to save someone from a murderer, than it is to polite formalities about who is or is not "at home."

All this is, of course tangential to my main point, which is that almost everyone today believes it's OK to lie under some circumstances. If you argue that Catholics can, consistent with Catholic moral teaching, lie to the Gestapo about the Jews in your basement, you can only do so by defining their misstatement as something other than a lie. It shouldn't be too hard for a Muslim seeking to deceive a kufr to similarly recharacterize his deceptive statement.
11.30.2006 5:56pm
Seamus (mail):

Jesus H. Christ, Catholics can be ridiculous. That fact that you would even have to think for more than a few seconds as to whether it is alright to lie in some circumstances is absurd.



So you agree that it's OK to lie under some circumstances? The Muslims, it has been claimed, do so as well. You may argue with them about where the line between permissible and impermissible lying belongs, but that would be like George Bernard Shaw's haggling with his dinner companion over her price.
11.30.2006 6:02pm
Seamus (mail):

Maybe that's another negative stereotype of Catholicism, but in my experience it's true, and I do admire the ability of the Jesuits to argue their way around the rigid dogma of their faith whenever it gets in the way of doing what's right.



Chesterton once pointed out that Jesuits got a bad rap for coming up with elaborate moral justifications for what amounted to lying. In fact, according to Chesterton, everyone but the Jesuits (and their fellow Catholics) just went ahead and lied with clean consciences whenever they thought it appropriate. (Mark F above might be a good example.) The Jesuits and other Catholics, on the other hand, were the only ones trying in a serious way never to lie, hence the development of the "jesuitical" teachings about mental reservation.
11.30.2006 6:07pm
Lev:

The fact that warfare against unbelievers is not a twisting of Islam, but is repeatedly affirmed in the Qur'an, the Hadith, the example of Muhammad, and the rulings of every school of Islamic jurisprudence, does not make every Muslim a terrorist.
There are several principal reasons for this.


I have been reading a bit about this. It seems that jihad, warfare against unbelievers is a very good thing for Moslems to do. It gains them great merit, even if they don't die while doing it. It is, if not required, highly recommended for the faithful.

It seems the "obligation" to engage jihad against unbelievers is also in part a collective obligation of the entire community, but an obligation that can be satisfied by "enough" members of the community engaging in jihad so that the remainder may go about their daily lives, and, of course, supporting the jihadists.
11.30.2006 10:46pm
Brian Macker (mail) (www):
I've read the Qur'an and seen the passages that discuss lying in context. There is nothing sinister about these surahs. Just allows lying about your religious beliefs if your life is in danger and such. Nothing wrong with that.

I'm not known for going easy on Islam but in this case it's a bogus claim.
11.30.2006 10:58pm
Barbar:
Ah, and so it finally comes out - the moral "white man inflicting his views on the rest of the world" apologetic stance that is critically undermining the war on militant Islam.

WTF are you talking about? I'm comparing two threats and pointing out that people's reactions seem to be more dependent on WHO is responsible for the threat, rather than the actual extent of the threat. If there is a 10% chance of catastrophic climate change, that's too unlikely to commit any resources to worry about; if there's a 10% chance that terrorists will set off a bomb in an American city, then we should spend trillions of dollars on various projects. Making this observation apparently critically undermines the war on militant Islam. And if I think that worrying about the silent jihadists in our midst is like worrying about inscrutable Orientals and cosmopolitan Jews... well, once again the Big Manly War on Terror is going to curl into a little ball and wet itself because it is being critically undermined. I am to blame.
12.1.2006 5:19am
Informed:

So you agree that it's OK to lie under some circumstances? The Muslims, it has been claimed, do so as well. You may argue with them about where the line between permissible and impermissible lying belongs, but that would be like George Bernard Shaw's haggling with his dinner companion over her price.


This is, of course, a blatantly ridiculous statement. Christianity may allow people to lie in order to protect others, but Islam counsels a far different rule: "War is deceit." Religious deception (practiced on hapless unbelievers) is taught by the Qur'an itself, telling Muslims: "Let not the believers take for friends or helpers unbelievers rather than believers. If any do that, that ye may guard yourselves from them" (Qur'an 3:28). In other words, don't make friends with unbelievers except to "guard yourselves from them": Pretend to be their friends so you can strengthen yourself against them. The distinguished Qur'anic commentator Ibn Kathir explains that, in this verse, "Allah prohibited His believing servants from becoming supporters of the disbelievers, or to take them as comrades with whom they develop friendships, rather than the believers." However, exempted from this ruloe were "those believers who in some areas or times fear for their safety from the disbelievers. In this case, such believers are allowed to show friendship to the disbelivers outwardly, but never inwardly."

Jihadists today have spoken of the usefulness of deceptive practices. Remember that the next time you see a Muslim spokesman on television professing his friendship with non-Muslim Americans and his loyalty to the United States. Of course, he may be telling the truth - but he may not be telling the whole truth or he may be just lying.


I've read the Qur'an and seen the passages that discuss lying in context. There is nothing sinister about these surahs. Just allows lying about your religious beliefs if your life is in danger and such. Nothing wrong with that.

I'm not known for going easy on Islam but in this case it's a bogus claim.


When Shi'ite Muslims were persecuted by Sunnis, they developed the doctrine of taqiyya, or concealment: They could lie about what they believed, denying aspects of their faith that were offensive to Sunnis. Closely related to this is the doctrine of kitman, or mental reservation, which is telling the truth, but not the whole truth, with an intention to mislead. Although these doctrines are commonly associated with Shi'ites, Sunnis have also practiced them throughout Islamic history, because of their Qur'anic foundation. Ibn Kathir, who was no Shi'ite, explains that "the scholars agree that if a person is forced into disbelief, it is permissible for him to either go along with them in the interests of self-preservation, or to refuse."

But what constitutes force in this case? Ibn Kathir seems to envision only physical force, but force can take many forms. Might Islamic spokesmen in this country feel constrained to downplay or deny aspects of their religion that unbelievers might find unpalatable?
12.1.2006 5:31am
Mac (mail):
Seamus,

May I assume that you withdraw your grossly offensive accusation of anti-Catholic bigotry, and concede that I was seriously trying to set forth Catholic moral teaching?

Ok, Ok Ok. I withdraw it. However, you are infuriating. You know perfectly well that Catholic Doctrine does not teach that you must turn over the Jew in order to not lie to the Gestapo.

Mark F.
And while I'm Catholic bashing, your official sexuality "morality" stinks as well.

What are you talking about and how does Catholic "official sexuality morality", as you put it, differ from most other Christian sexuality moralities?
12.1.2006 3:08pm
Colin (mail):
Ok, Ok Ok. I withdraw it. However, you are infuriating. You know perfectly well that Catholic Doctrine does not teach that you must turn over the Jew in order to not lie to the Gestapo.

Forgive me for butting in, but did he ever actually suggest that? I've been following the exchange out of curiousity, and Seamus's point seems to me to be that the hypothetical Catholic may not lie to the Gestapo, but certainly need not turn over a refugee. He presented a very topical Augustine quotation: "If a man is hid in your house, and his life is sought by murderers, and they come and ask you whether he is in the house, you may say that you know where he is, but will not tell: you may not deny that he is there."

(I assume, and would like to know if this is incorrect, that Augustine would also allow the actor to remain silent; this seems to be borne out by the material Seamus presented just below his Augustine excerpt.)

I am not qualified to criticize either of your positions vis Catholicism, but I think that you are badly misrepresenting Seamus's.
12.1.2006 3:22pm
Mac (mail):
Colin,

Welcome. My beef with Seamus is that he is selectively quoting and in so doing is misrepresenting Catholic Doctrine. Regardless of what Augustine or anyone else wrote, Catholic Doctrine is as follows:

I believe, as at present advised, that when one is asked by murderers bent on taking the life of someone hiding in the house whether he is in, no answer should be given; and if this betrays him, his death will be imputable to the murderers, not to the other's silence. Or he may use an equivocal expression, and say 'He is not at home,' or something like that. And this can be defended by a great number of instances found in the Old Testament. Or he may say simply that he is not there, and if his conscience tells him that he ought to say that, then he will not speak against his conscience, nor will he sin. Nor is St. Augustine really opposed to any of these methods.

All Catholic writers were, and are, agreed that when there is good reason, such expressions as the above may be made use of, and that they are not lies. I have taken this directly from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

The entire quote is in my post above.

I think, if you read this, it is very clear that the Church does not teach that one should turn a man over to murderers in order to avoid a lie.

What do yu think?
12.1.2006 4:43pm
Colin (mail):
I think, if you read this, it is very clear that the Church does not teach that one should turn a man over to murderers in order to avoid a lie.

I think that Seamus agrees with this statement. I could be wrong, but I just don't see anywhere in this thread that he's said otherwise. The gist of his argument--and Augustine's--is that it is immoral to say "I don't know where Anne Frank is" when that is untrue, and that it is only moral to say "I know where Anne Frank is, but I will not tell you." (And also, probably, to say nothing at all.) Nothing that I've read here supports your assertion that Seamus argues that a good Catholic would turn the refugee over to the Gestapo. It seems to me, rather, that he and Augustine would both condemn that action.

I don't care for Augustine's prescription against lying in this hypothetical; I think it is immoral. I think that it is straightforward and honest, though. The Jesuit equivocations, which seem to be redefining "lie" to escape difficult quandaries, seems very unhelpful to me.

I keep saying "seems" because I want to stress that I'm approaching these arguments from a position of little to no knowledge. I don't condemn the Jesuit position, because I don't think for an instant that I have a sufficient understanding of it. I merely mean to say that, as presented here, that Augustine's formulation is the more stable, straightforward, honest, and rigorous one. I think that if applied it would result in terrible immoralities, but that's a separate argument. And please bear in mind that I'm making off-the-cuff observations, and am aware of my own lack of familiarity with these arguments.

My initial point, and the only one I'm willing to stick to, is that you were too fast and loose characterizing Seamus's position. I don't think that he argued, as you imply, that "you must turn over the Jew in order to not lie to the Gestapo."

Thanks for your responses. I find the discussion interesting, and will probably do some further reading over the weekend. How useful/authoritative is this Catholic Encyclopedia?
12.1.2006 5:58pm
Randy R. (mail):
John Henry Cardinal Newman pointed out, the Church "holds that it were better for sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions who are upon it to die of starvation in extremest agony, so far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, though it harmed no one, or steal one poor farthing without excuse."

Which of course is a statement only a truly insane man would make. To tell a lie to save a life -- that's a no brainer. And if you were the person lying the basement, you would be praying that the man of the house lies to save yourself.

But why stop there? Shouldn't the cardinal be concerned about the soul of the Nazi? AFter all, he IS evil, and wants to kill the jew. Killing the jew would certainly be more of a stain upon his soul, than the telling of a lie would be on the homeowner's soul. Yet, if the homeowner tells a lie, it prevent the Nazi from commiting a far greater sin. Faced with the certainly that one sin will be committed, would it not be better to commit the lesser sin?

And what of it? All you have to do to remove the sin is confess it and to the proper acts of contrition. Problem -- and moral dilemma -- solved! You see, with the Catholics, you can always have your cake and eat it too. Actually, to be fair, that's probably true of most religions....
12.2.2006 1:19am
Randy R. (mail):
Of course, from a socialogical perspective, it's very very interesting how the debate is framed. Notice how you and I get to stroke our beards as we contemplate whether it is morally correct, or correct with the church whether it's okay to lie to save the life of someone else.

Notice it's about the life of someone else.

Let us reframe the question, shall we? The Nazis knock on your door and ask you, are you a (fill in the blank), yes or no? You know that the Nazis are pursposely killing all (fill in the blanks) by slowly torturing them under unbearable circumstnaces. You are a (fill in the blank). Your choice is limited to yes or no. Saying no would be a lie. Saying yes would be the truth.

Should you lie? But no. Of course not! That would be an evil far greater than telling the truth, no matter how difficult the circumstances! So of course, all our faithful catholics here cheerfully submit themselves to the hideous torture so that their eternal soul remains clean. If they lie, they suffer even more unbearable torture in the afterlife. So their choice is to suffer in this life, or suffer in the next, for no good reason.

And then the coup de grace: They tell us that God is always good and just, and that he loves us, especially his faithful followers. That's a love and goodness I can live without, thank you very much!
12.2.2006 1:34am
Mac (mail):
Seamus,

I hope you have read Randy R's comment. See the damage you have done? See how you have misrepresented Catholic Doctrine?
12.2.2006 3:31am
Mac (mail):


Randy R. and Colin anxd Seamus

"Should you lie? But no. Of course not! That would be an evil far greater than telling the truth, no matter how difficult the circumstances! So of course, all our faithful catholics here cheerfully submit themselves to the hideous torture so that their eternal soul remains clean. If they lie, they suffer even more unbearable torture in the afterlife. So their choice is to suffer in this life, or suffer in the next, for no good reason.

And then the coup de grace: They tell us that God is always good and just, and that he loves us, especially his faithful followers. That's a love and goodness I can live without, thank you very"

No one person defines Catholic Doctrine, including Czrdinal Newman. Randy, If you are a seeler of the truth, read what I wrote is official Catholic Doctrine. The Catholic Encclopedia is quite definitive. (Note to Colin) on Catholic teaching.
To all of you who may be folowing this post, where do you think our current law comes from? It comes from lawyers and theologians, both Catholic and Jewish and Protestant. It was not created in a secular vacuum. It is interesting if you go to the Ctholic Encyclopedia to read what Seamus is talking about in terms of "Strict mental reservtion" and realize how this appliees to our current laws on perjury. (Note to Markk F.)
12.2.2006 3:47am
Mac (mail):
Oh my, it is late at night. I am not even going to try to correct my errors in my previous post. I will just apologize for them and hope I will be forgiven.
12.2.2006 3:50am
Mac (mail):
Colin,

think that Seamus agrees with this statement. I could be wrong, but I just don't see anywhere in this thread that he's said otherwise. The gist of his argument--and Augustine's--is that it is immoral to say "I don't know where Anne Frank is" when that is untrue, and that it is only moral to say "I know where Anne Frank is, but I will not tell you." (And also, probably, to say nothing at all.)

Colin,

It is not alright for a Catholic to turn over any person to a murderer. Seamus in NOT right. You may not know, but there are many writers, but only the Pope determines what is official Catholic doctrine. What Augustine said is not official Catholic Doctrine. The Catholic Encyclopedia is. It does not agree with Seamus. Hence, my beef with Seamus.
12.2.2006 4:01am
Mac (mail):
Randy,

And what of it? All you have to do to remove the sin is confess it and to the proper acts of contrition. Problem -- and moral dilemma -- solved! You see, with the Catholics, you can always have your cake and eat it too. Actually, to be fair, that's probably true of most religions....


Randy, you do not know what you are talking about. As is usual for someone with no intellectual basis in a subject, you oversimplify. Mark F. thinks the whole discussion is ridiculous and you think it is too, too simple. Do you really think that an institution that can study perjury and lying in this depth is really going to let anyone off as easy as you think just by going to confession?
12.2.2006 4:09am
Mac (mail):
Mark F.

If you think Catholics are bad, you should try asking a Rabbi what the Jewish teaching on lying is. I tried to debate a Rabbi once on an issue. There was no way I could win. Don't argue wirh an expert on splitting hairs was what I learned. They have had several thousand years more than Christians to refine and codify law.

By the way, where do you think modern secular law in the West comes from? Why do you think it is against the law to perjure oneself in court? Our entire legal system is based upon Judeo-Christian ethics and laws worked out by Jewish and Christian religions through the ages.
12.2.2006 4:20am
Randy R. (mail):
"I hope you have read Randy R's comment. See the damage you have done? See how you have misrepresented Catholic Doctrine?"

My point, of course, is that any god that forces you into such moral dilemmas is a cruel, sick and twisted god, lacking in any sort of compassion. Such a god is hardly worth worshipping. But if that's the type of god you like, who am I to interfere? And believe me, I've had this position long before the blog ever existed.

"Do you really think that an institution that can study perjury and lying in this depth is really going to let anyone off as easy as you think just by going to confession?"

Yes, I do. I was brought up as a Catholic, and was taught that you must confesses your sins to absolve them. Sure, I was taught that you can't think that you can commit a sin and then 'get out of it' by merely confessing. But that's nonetheless how it works. And if it doesn't work that way, then what's the point of confessing?

Notice how no one has actually addressed the merits of my argument, but merely waived them away as 'not knowing what I talk about.' And incidently, I feel the same way about Islam.
12.2.2006 9:56am
Randy R. (mail):
These 'moral issues' have real world consequences of course. Bishops of the Catholic church in Africa, for instance, have actually said that dying a slow painful death from AIDS is *preferable* to using condoms! That this god that worship really thinks that using a condom during sex is far worse that dying a premature death, leaving children as orphans, eliminating an entire generation of people, and crippling a nation. This is what comes of 'family values' and other such sophistry.

Here's MY family value: Any parent who is not willing to lie to save the life of their child isn't fit to be a parent. If I were god, I would sooner condemn the parent who willingly and knowingly fails to protect their child than the one who doesn't. And every sane parent I know of agrees with that, regardless of what the church may try to teach them.

Growing up Catholic, I used to ask these sorts of questions. But I too was told that men (always men) who were far more holy and smarter than I have thought about these issues, and decided it that way. So I am not to question their conclusions.

Well, that might be an answer sufficient for the cowed populace of a dictator, but not for a normal human being, as far as I'm concerned. And it certainly isn't sufficient when the conclusion leads to insanity. The things that ought not to be questioned are *precisely* the things that ought to be. It's the only way we can truly improve our society. And frankly, that's just what Jesus did in his own time.

Hence this dialogue.
12.2.2006 1:11pm
Mac (mail):
Randy,

It is too bad you did not have the Jesuits. You would not have been told not to question. I think you are blaming God for an awful lot of stuff that is man's fault, not His. God managed quite nicely with just 10 Commandments and the Son of God managed to sum it up in 2.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

If laws and splitting hairs are all God's fault, then why do we have so many secular laws? I suspect that the lawyers through the ages are to blame rather than God.

What is your alternative philosophy? If it feels good, do it? I know that's not it. However, if you tried to sum it up, you would not be able to do it without showing that religion has greatly influenced your thinking.
I know how you feel, Randy. Give it a rest for awhile. The Catholic Church has done and continues to do a great deal of good in the world. It is not a perfect institution and never will be as long as humans are involved. Humans are not perfect. Remember, it was the Church that kept knowledge alive in the Dark Ages, It was the Church who approved the study of the human body through disection thus moving science forward as never before and layinng the foundation for modern medicine, just to name a few.

I don't know if you ever read Jewish World Today (JWR Today) on the web. I have found the discussions of the Rabbi's fascinating. It provides me with an understanding of the beginning of the story with Christianity being the end of the story, if you will. It provides context and also shows how long man has been working at sorting stuff out.
As I stated above, the Jews have been working at this a lot longer than we have. So much of what you are angry about is Man trying to fit all conduct into a framework. We seem to have a tremendous need for this. I would challenge you to come up with one idea that has not been derived from religion. The Judeo-Christian tradition has been a part of our culture and civilization for so long, there is no way for us in the West to think independently of it. And, I'll take it over Islam any day.

The best of luck to you, Randy. You are a thinker and that is tough. Don't be angry with me. My Catholic exxperience was different than yours. The priests and nuns I had insisted on critical thinking. I came to terms with Catholocism, in my own way, eventually. I object to Catholic bashing the same as I object to Morman bashing or Jewish bashing or gay, etc. It is wrong to criticize a person beecause of what they are. It is even more wrong to state, as one writer did and I have heard many others say the same thing, that if you are religious, you should not be allowed to hold publlic office. Sorry. That is discrimination and that is wrong. Good luck, Randy.
12.2.2006 3:20pm
Randy R. (mail):
Oh, I have no problem at all with god. My problem is with people and religion. We can argue about the church's past history -- sometimes it helped science along, but other times it hindered it, sometimes it did good things, and many times it did bad things. But here is not a place for that debate.

A better debate is what harm is the church doing today? The catholic church consistently opposes the use of condoms, even though they have been proven to save lives and prevent unwanted pregnancies. And the church is always at the forefront of discrimination against gay people -- they regularly fight any sort of gay rights laws, or anti-discrimination laws. Rarely, however, do I ever see the church prodding politicians on issues of poverty.

But those aren't the big problems, only symptoms of a much bigger problem, which is that it is extremely arrogant for ANY person to claim to know god's intentions, and then thinking that he knows them, tries to force them upon everyone else.

Look, some people are morning people, some are night owls. How ridiculous it would be to say that god prefers all people to be morning persons, so we must all, for the sake of morality, become morning people. Yet, this is what the church insists. By example they teach that all women are inferior leaders to men, that no person can be gay, that we must all recite the same prayers without deviation. It is that sort of religion I object to.

By all means, have your religion. And serve in public office -- it's your right. It's also the right of a muslim person as well. But although religion can be good, it can also be very very bad -- history teaches us that. So it isn't the religion itself that does the harm, but people.

And that also means that people can be good or bad even without religion, which means that people can be good without it. I'm not an atheist, but I know quite a few. ONe can be spiritual, but not religious, which is best how I describe myself.

As for all ideas coming from religion? I hardly think so. One need only study the Analects of Confusious, the myths of the American Indian, folk tales from Europe to learn good behavior, and how to treat others, and most of these had not been influenced by the judeo-christian ideas that you suggest.

I have a friend who is a minister, and sometimes he likes to preach that there is something dreadfully wrong with the notion that we should each other as we treat ourselves. Why? People most people treat themselves very badly! And so they treat others as badly as well. Some people really hate themselves, and that's very sad. But you can tell, because they are treat everyone else very badly as well.

Shostakovich, the Russian composer, once stated that it is much more difficult to save one person that to save the entire world. Perhaps the Pope, James Dobson, George Bush, and all people who want to reform everyone else should spend more time trying to save themselves, or at most just one other person, rather than the world, and we would all be much better off.

But thanks for you comments!
12.3.2006 12:41am
Mac (mail):
Randy,

"As for all ideas coming from religion? I hardly think so. One need only study the Analects of Confusious, the myths of the American Indian, folk tales from Europe to learn good behavior, and how to treat others, and most of these had not been influenced by the judeo-christian ideas that you suggest."


I was not just referring only to Judeo-Christian religion. The American Indians based their culture on their interpretation of God ie their religion. I'm also not aware of any folk tale from Europe pre-Christianity. I could just be ignorant on the subject, though.

"And the church is always at the forefront of discrimination against gay people -- they regularly fight any sort of gay rights laws, or anti-discrimination laws. Rarely, however, do I ever see the church prodding politicians on issues of poverty. "

Randy, don't confuse opposition to gay marriage to discrimination or dislike of gays. This is really unfair to the Church and to other people who think it is better for society to retain marriage for a man and a woman. That is another debate. The Church had and has many gay priests and had no prohibition against gays being priests. And, that got them into the biggest scandal ever, the sex abuse scandal. With very few exceptions, it was gay priests molesting little boys. The lack of an agressive, open response to the problem is when the Church got into MY bad graces. I am stilll struggling to forgive. But, I'm not there yet. Keeping even that in perspective, though the percentage of priests involved in this scandal is still far less than the % of pedophiles in the general population or clergy of other denominations for that matter.

Also, you are not perusing Catholic publications and literature if you think the Church is not prodding politicians and others on poverty. Many of them are downright Socialists bordering on Communists, and these are main stream publications. Read the Catholic Bishop's statements. They make me mad every time another one comes out after their annual conference. Also, don't forget Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul Society and on and on. These organizations do a whole lot of good and no, you are not asked your religion when you come through the door. As a former social worker, esp. when I worked in emergency services, the Catholic Churches were the only ones I could always go to to get food and money with no questions asked, unlike many other churches and organizations. If they had it, they gave it. St. Vincent de Paul has a very active program here where I live to help the homeless and anyone else in need as does Catholic Charitiess and other organizations. If you ever took a look at these organizations, I think you would be amazed at the number of them and the good they do. This goes on in most every parish in the country. Now, do I think they spend too much money on buildings? Yes, But, so does damn near every other aid agency, For years aid to Africa was funneled through the Church as that was the only way to insure that the money got to the poor and did not end up in Swiss or Sweedish bank accounts of corupt politicians. Just this August, I was at Kalipapa in Hi., the home of the lepers. Until Father Damien came along, the lepers had an incredibly difficult and very short life. He was a more amazing man than I ever realized.

Bottom line, you and I probably agree on far more than we disagree. I just caution care and balance in evaluating the Church and keeping things in a historical perspective. Mankind becoming "civilized" is a process. The Church, while far from perfect, has contributed one hell of a lot to that process.

Personally, I rather think we would all be better off if we emulated the B'hai (spelling?) faith. They believe God is the hub of the wheel and the spokes are the different paths to God, all equal, Needless to say, they have a rather hard time of it in Iran, which is where the B'hai's I know are from.
"Perhaps the Pope, James Dobson, George Bush, and all people who want to reform everyone else should spend more time trying to save themselves, or at most just one other person, rather than the world, and we would all be much better off."

Pope John Paul did a remarkable amount of good and I think there is an excellent argument that he was the one who was most instrumental in bringing down the Iron Curtain. Gorbechev says letting the Pope go to Poland was the biggest mistake he ever made. There appears to be something in man that likes to tell others what to do and how to believe. However, this is not limited to the religious nor to the religious right. Actually, the secular Left and Far Left scare me a lot more.
Enjoyed the discussion with you. Thank you.
12.3.2006 8:48pm
Colin (mail):
Mac,

I apologize for not replying sooner - this thread slipped my mind.

It is not alright for a Catholic to turn over any person to a murderer. Seamus in NOT right.

I’m not sure that you understood my posts or Seamus's. I do not believe that Seamus ever argued that a Catholic should turn any person over to a murderer, or even that it would better to do so than to lie. I believe that he (and Augustine) said that both of those things would be wrong. The gist of his claim seems to be that it is only truly moral to (A) admit to knowledge of the fugitive’s whereabouts, but openly refuse to share that knowledge, or (B) (probably, I'm unclear on this point) to simply refuse to answer the question at all.
12.4.2006 1:03pm