Monday, May 30, 2011

Religious people need to read more

Muslims in Malaysia were enraged when Christians in their country - fellow Malaysians - used the Arabic word for the God of Abraham, Allah, as... well, as the word for the God of Abraham, the same one both groups worship. Apparently they wanted them to make up a new word?

And some Christians in Australia have become enraged by a billboard there that says "Jesus is a Prophet of Islam," even though, indeed, Jesus is in the Koran, with lots of other Bible characters: Noah, Moses, and, ofcourse, Abraham, (did I mention that Allah is the Arabic word of the God of Abraham?).

I'm bemused by these outrages. It means these people don't really understand their own religions. Of course, it's not the first time I've encountered this: growing up in Protestant congregations in the Bible belt, I had various Christians tell me that Catholics or Mormons didn't worship the same God as Baptists. Yet I never heard anyone say that English-speaking Jews needed to stop calling the God of Abraham God (though I frequently heard that Jews were going to hell).

In case you don't want to slog through both the Bible and the Koran - as I have - here's a summary of the characters that are in both books, like it or not:

Biblical Names
for the Prophets,
(in English)

















John the Baptist


Koranic Names
for the Prophets
(English versions of Arabic)



















That's the way it is, folks! You don't have to like it, but you can't say it's not true! Same folks are in both books!

I'm not much bothered by most people's belief in an invisible magic friend, particularly when they don't try to force me or anyone else to worship such. But I am bothered by religious people who deny language and history. There is NO getting around that the Arabic word for the God of Abraham is Allah. That's a fact. And there is NO getting around that Jesus is recognized by Muslims as a prophet of the God of Abraham. That's a fact.

My challenge to you believers of the God of Abraham out there, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim: get to know your own religious history. You get to keep thinking that your version of your religion is the right one, you get to keep thinking you and other adherents to your religion are the really special ones, but you have to stop this nonsense of trying to change other people's language or trying to say what's written in their religious book isn't actually in their religious book. You can say other religions are wrong, are sinful, are misguided, that they pray wrong, etc., but you may not say that something that is written isn't actually written.

In a Pew survey regarding religious knowledge of Americans back in September 2010, religious people in the USA displayed little knowledge of world religions - but more provocatively, Americans did not even know much about their own religions. For example, 45 percent of Catholics incorrectly answered a question about Catholicism and Communion. Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

Those who scored highest on this survey were, in fact, Atheists and Agnostics. The next-highest scoring groups were Jews and Mormons.

It's not just American Christians, Australian Christians and Malaysian Muslims that are ignorant of their own dogma (and, apparently, about language): go to a primarily-Islamic country, and you will hear Muslims talk about things they think are in the Koran that are not actually in the Koran.

In reporting the results of the Pew survey, The New York Times' Laurie Goodstein quoted the president of American Atheists:
I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people," Mr. Silverman said. "Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That's how you make atheists.
Yes, I've read the Bible. Twice from cover to cover, Old Testament through New Testament, and oh-so-many-times reading just this or that verse, section or chapter. And I've also read the Koran. The latter was MUCH less violent than the former, but that's another blog...

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