Thursday, May 03, 2007

Cheers to the Religion of Peace

Is anyone* really convinced that Islam is a religion of peace?

I'll tell you someone who isn't: Ismail Radwan, the spokesman for Hamas.

For a healthy dose of reality-laced satire, go here. (If the high-brow approach suits you, read this.)

By the way, does anyone else laugh at Eleanora Giddings-Ivory's suggestion that we remove religious language from political dialogue, saying that we should instead talk about peace and justice? After all, she spends most of her time telling us that we should make peace and justice our moral and religious priorities (and not those side issues like abortion and homosexual activis...I mean civil rights.).

*[I mean anybody outside of Iran and these thirteen "religious leaders" (yes! Thirteen - a landslide)]

9 comments:

Aric Clark said...

Is anybody convinced that Islam is a religion of peace? You mean besides most living Muslims who go about their lives just like the rest of the world trying to scrape out a living?

Besides the president of the US? http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010917-11.html

Besides countless voices in the Church?

Besides me?

Or perhaps it would be better to turn the question around? Does anyone actually believe that Christianity is a religion of peace?

One Christian President after another in this country has continued to spend more money on Bombs and foreign wars than on every other national expense combined.

Christian judges and juries in this country imprison and execute more people than they do in China, Saudi Arabia, Iran or anywhere else.

Indeed, Christianity has an ugly ugly record of glorifying violence, promoting war, supporting or ignoring holocaust and genocide, and even indulging in sectarian violence against fellow Christians.

Go to Northern Ireland and ask them if they think Christianity is a religion of Peace. Go to Spain and ask them if the profoundly Catholic Basque separatists are adhering to a religion of peace. Go to Iraq and ask them how peaceful American Christians seem.

Drawing caricatures of people different from ourselves is the first step to dehumanizing them enough that we won't feel bad when we take our religion of peace and use it to launch cluster bombs into residential neighborhoods.

Chris said...

Aric,

Glad to see you agreeing with the President on the pressing issues of our day.

I appreciated your ipse dixit attack on Christianity. As I've stated in my "About Me" section, you are free to "say what you will, but back it up." Do you have any facts to present as evidence that the Christian religion (at least in the last century) has promoted violence as an expression of religious conviction?

(Yes, I'm aware that there are pockets of violence and perversions in our camp such as the white supremacists. But are there any large scale movements? Any that are based on a literal, prima facie reading of the NT?)

Presbyman said...

Aric said:

One Christian President after another in this country has continued to spend more money on Bombs and foreign wars than on every other national expense combined.

That has not been true since about 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War. Today, the federal government spends less than 4% of GDP on the military, which is a small proportion of what is spent on various domestic programs.

On occasions when the government has devoted most of its spending on the military, it had arguably good reason to do so: remember World War Two and Korea?

In any case, it is a daunting task to carry over Christian values into the realm of state action. We can do so only imperfectly. That's what Luther thought, and I think he was on to something.

Doug Hagler said...

presbyman, I have to ask, where do you get the 4% number? I've never, ever seen anything that low cited anywhere in years of looking at national spending priorities. I've never seen it in any analysis of fiscal spending from the government or from outside of it.

Here's a citation of how our government spends almost as much as the entire world combined:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/spending.htm

Here's a number that's bigger than worldwide military expenditure combined for 2002:

http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1253

Though I'm sure you'll disagree with these people, they cite their sources, and lay it out pretty clearly in a pie-chart of expenditure:

http://www.warresisters.org/piechart.htm

Even if you take the federal government's own estimate, it's about 20% of our national budget.

will spotts said...

Presbyman specified GDP. His statistic is correct - if anything it is slightly high (3.95% v 4%). China spent 2.9% - 3% of its GDP. Russia spent 5.1% of its GDP for the same purpose.

In the US this accounts for about a fifth of US spending. The original statement that US military spending was greater than all other expenses is clearly untrue - by a large margin.

Aric Clark said...

Will and Presbyman:

You are correct. I was mistaken in my assertion and overstated my case.

My point was a long succession of Christian Presidents have not felt compelled by their faith to avoid spending extraordinary amounts of money on the military. There have been few Christian societies which have had the courage to live out our faith peacefully.

Aric Clark said...

Chris,

You said:

Do you have any facts to present as evidence that the Christian religion (at least in the last century) has promoted violence as an expression of religious conviction? (Yes, I'm aware that there are pockets of violence and perversions in our camp such as the white supremacists. But are there any large scale movements? Any that are based on a literal, prima facie reading of the NT?)

Interesting you would want to restrict it to the last century. Surely the Christian Religion doesn't begin and end in the last century. Answering the question of whether Christianity is a religion of peace surely ought to be done over the course of its entire history. Is there any logical reason to exclude the crusades, the inquisition, witch trials, the reconquista, manifest destiny, the incomienda, etc... etc...? All of these were widespread Christian movements that promoted violence as an expression of religious conviction. Most were based on a prima facie reading of scripture.

However, since you've inexplicably asked to restrict it to the last century what about the examples I already provided: Sectarian violence in Ireland & Catholic Basque separatists. To those we can add Armenian suicide bombers in Turkey, Albanian insurgents in Yugoslavia, and many others.

You might respond that these are political rather than religious situations, but then you are being awful selective by arguing that when an Islamic person uses their faith to justify violence over political issues it is about Religion and when a Christian person uses their faith to justify violence over political issues it is about Politics.

The fact of the matter is almost all the violence in the last century has been justified on religious grounds. Again and again the present administration has appealed to God and scripture to support wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

How can a religion be both about peace and in support of war? It must be one or the other. Either Christianity is a peaceful religion and then it is being abused by people for their own ends, OR it is actually a violent warlike religion masquerading as peaceful.

The same is true of Islam. From the many muslims I know (I studied with an Imam in Turkey) I understand Islam to be a religion of peace. That does not mean it is not abused, much the way Christianity is abused to justify horrendous acts.

Chris said...

Aric,

Each "Christian" case you mentioned is one that splits along the fault of ethnic background. You provide no proof of appeals to their faith as the reason (or even the backwards-looking justification) of their action.

Your statement about the last century is fallacious to the extreme. The major conflicts of the last 100 years have been about politico-economic ideology (Communism, Nazism, Nationalism) - not about Religion. The only place you see people fighting about religion is in the Middle East. And in every case, the Islamofascists are the aggressors.

If I'm wrong, point me to a source.

will spotts said...

Aric - I was probably nit-picking. (My response was more to the response to Presbyman - just that technically, he appeared to be correct.) I do understand your point.

Two issues come to mind. One is the difficulty in responding to a particular philosophy that I regard as very negative. Specifically, a desire for coercion of belief and the spread of religion by force. I'm not sure how to refer to this - I clearly recognize that "Christians" have been down this road - to our shame; and that many Muslims do not share the view that I am opposing. It would, to me, be dishonest and unwise, however to deny the existence of that view, and the fairly wide degree to which it is actually held.

Second, I would make a distinction in that I believe Christians were violating Christianity to pursue that path - even though it has historically been the rule rather than the exception. We are condemend by our own teachings -- conversion by the sword, by deceit, by compulsion doesn't seem at all compatible with the teachings of Jesus. At the same time, I'm not sure the same is true in Islam - at least in the Koran. Yes, many Muslims have re-interpreted this belief, but I don't know that one could make a case that those who didn't weren't legitimately following Islam.