Part 1 of Religion — The Most Harmful Agency on the Planet?

Part 1 of Religion — The Most Harmful Agency on the Planet?

David Langness
David Langness

Editorial note: We’d like to welcome guest blogger David Langness and his nine part series that takes a look as religion’s rap as the most harmful agency on the planet. David is the host of Bahaiteachings.org and is a member of the Bahá’í community in my old stomping ground up in Nevada County, California. So, without further ado … take it, David!

oOo

My friend the historian and I had a long discussion about religion the other day.  When he learned about my belief in the Baha’i Faith, he challenged me by saying “I think religion has been responsible for most of the problems of humanity throughout history.”

It shocked him when I agreed.

I told him that Baha’u’llah, the Prophet and Founder of the Baha’i Faith, spoke out strongly against all outmoded, dogmatic and debased forms of religion.  In fact, Baha’u’llah blamed the corrupt leaders of religion for the chaos and confusion in the world, and for the suffering of the Prophets of God:

Leaders of religion, in every age, have hindered their people from attaining the shores of eternal salvation, inasmuch as they held the reins of authority in their mighty grasp. Some for the lust of leadership, others through want of knowledge and understanding, have been the cause of the deprivation of the people. By their sanction and authority, every Prophet of God hath drunk from the chalice of sacrifice, and winged His flight unto the heights of glory. What unspeakable cruelties they that have occupied the seats of authority and learning have inflicted upon the true Monarchs of the world, those Gems of divine virtue! Content with a transitory dominion, they have deprived themselves of an everlasting sovereignty. — The Book of Certitude, p. 14.

After our discussion, I think my friend understood that Baha’is have a nuanced, scientific and factual view of the history of religion.  We believe, I explained to him, in the pure, altruistic beginnings of all the great religions.  We believe that the original teachings of the Prophets and Founders of the world’s great Faiths have formed the chief instrument for the establishment of moral character, order and harmony in the world.  But Baha’is also understand that the clergy, who took power and possession of the minds of the people, slowly altered and adulterated the purity of those original teachings, replacing them with dogmas and superstitions and using their positions to advance their own interests.  Religion gradually declined and became corrupt, warlike and dead, devoid of its original ideals, inspiration and intent.

mannequin_figure_5121_largeIn every cycle of religious revelation this pattern of gradual decline and revelatory renewal has taken place.  As in all things, the new replaces the old. True religion, when it appears in the world, brings love and unity to humanity.  But as the Baha’i writings clearly say, when that original intent is corrupted by religious “leaders,” religion can become “the most harmful agency on this planet”:

True religion is the basis of divine civilization. Material civilization is like unto the body; divine civilization is like unto the spirit. A body without the spirit is dead, although it may be clothed in the utmost beauty and comeliness.

In short, by religion we mean those necessary bonds which have power to unify. This has ever been the essence of the religion of God. This is the eternal bestowal of God! This is the object of divine teachings and laws! This is the light of the everlasting life! Alas! A thousand times alas! that this solid foundation is abandoned and forgotten and the leaders of religions have fabricated a set of superstitions and rituals which are at complete variance with the underlying thought. As these man-made ideas differ from each other they cause dissension which breeds strife and ends in war and bloodshed; the blood of innocent people is spilled, their possessions are pillaged and their children become captives and orphans.

Thus religion which was destined to become the cause of friendship has become the cause of enmity. Religion, which was meant to be sweet honey, is changed into bitter poison. Religion, the function of which was to illumine humanity, has become the factor of obscuration and gloom. Religion, which was to confer the consciousness of everlasting life, has become the fiendish instrument of death. As long as these superstitions are in the hands and these nets of dissimulation and hypocrisy in the fingers, religion will be the most harmful agency on this planet. These superannuated traditions, which are inherited unto the present day, must be abandoned, and thus free from past superstitions we must investigate the original intention. The basis on which they have fabricated the superstructures will be seen to be one, and that one, absolute reality; and as reality is indivisible, complete unity and amity will be instituted and the true religion of God will become unveiled in all its beauty and sublimity in the assemblage of the world. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, pp. 161-162.

Next:  Atheists Say Religion Causes Ignorance and Hatred

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33 thoughts on “Part 1 of Religion — The Most Harmful Agency on the Planet?

  1. The Baha’i Faith could one day become similarly harmful and corrupt, as is for example most of Islam today, and as Christianity was especially in medieval times. After all, all religion is in the hands of imperfect sinful people, none of us is perfect, always loving and patient, never angry or impatient. Even of us who are mainly good people.

  2. You are so right, Tom. Every faith has to face that specter of corruption and spiritual decline. We human beings have egos, and those egos can be destructive, not only to our personal sense of faith but to our Faiths themselves. The Baha’i Faith tries to guard against these potential downfalls by electing its leadership democratically; by relying on a Covenant that protects against schism and sectarianism; and by focusing on unity and the good of all humanity as ultimate goals. Also, the Baha’i Faith freely states that it isn’t the last new religion the world will see, which indicates to me that the inevitable historical cycle of birth, growth and decline we’ve seen perpetuated in the past religions will continue. I try to address this important question in subsequent essays in the series, so keep reading for more discussion…. Thanks.

    1. David, do the criticism actually deal with decline or what the religious figures and their religious texts mandate?

      Take Islam and Sharia for example and it similarity to Bahai law, all aspects of life are under the purview of a combined religious law system of church state union. Theocracy is based on the claims of God. Democracy is based on the claims of people. This obviously makes the two systems incompatible. In the OIC, sharia covers all laws, both personal status and criminal procedure. Religion has sole jurisprudence over dress code, diet, economics, politics, marriage, sexuality, etiquette, theology, hygiene, and the military. It enforces it through the state. Religious texts like the Quran, Sirat, and Hadith can never be overruled for any reason and must be followed. Democracy and the separation of church and state are ignorance, unbelief, apostasy, blasphemy, and atheism. Human made laws as well as constitutions as well as legalizing sin are both prohibited. Apostasy and blasphemy are punished by death. All of thus originates from Muhammad, Quran, Sirat, and Hadith. So according to you Islam was born in a state of corruption and spiritual decline always. Blasphemy, gambling, non marital sex, mischief, sedition, theft, highway robbery, apostasy, and drinking alcohol are punished death, amputation, and whipping depending on each one.

      1. SKG, in what way do you think Baha’i law is similar to Sharia? Which of the myriad specific forms of Sharia do you compare it to?

        No wiki entries, please. I’d like to get at your personal understanding of both Sharia law and Baha’i law.

        The Baha’i Faith, I should note, is (as far as I can determine) a unique melding of theocracy and democracy. In fact, that aspect of the Faith is one of the things that drew me to it—the fact that its administrative order:

        – is not a clergy and therefore lacks the interpretive element of clergy.
        – is elected without campaigning, partisanship, or electioneering.
        – is elected based on spiritual virtues, not wealth, prestige, or lobbying.
        – is not answerable to a constituency.
        – is composed of individuals who have no individual authority at all, even within the consultative process of the Assembly or House of Justice
        – was designed by the Prophet Himself, and erected by His appointed successors.
        – is created to be both dynamic and evolutionary.

        The Baha’i Faith (no less than any other Faith) was created as an organic entity with evolution assumed. It is the human mind that often has difficulty with change and that likes things to stay as they were in the good old days.

        By the way, the things that different versions of Sharia law make punishable are not from Muhammad. The Qur’an does not make apostasy punishable by death, though some imams teach that (and others don’t). Even atheism was something that Muhammad took a fairly neutral attitude toward, basically saying “You worship what you worship and I’ll worship what I worship.” What passes as Sharia law differs from one mosque to another because in Islam there is no central authority and different imams extrapolate different meanings from the holy text (and from Hadith). Some of them have returned to draconian ideas (especially about women) that were held before Muhammad’s time and which He did a great deal to change. He gave women human rights in a place and time and among people who were not even agreed that women were people, strictly speaking. I know many Muslims who believe that the time for Sharia law has passed and will never return, and others to whom Sharia law is a reasonable desire to have Islamic principles of justice apply in matters of business and community. For example, to have Muslim burials carried out as the Muslim community wishes.

        This is no different than a Christian community wishing their marriages to be solemnized by a minister, or Bahá’ís wishing their marriages to be performed without any clergy at all.

        I know it’s popular and politically correct to dump on Islam these days, but it’s necessary to distinguish between sectarian extrapolation and what Muhammad taught—between Hadith and the Qu’ran. The Qur’an is a collection of Muhammad’s revelations. That is, He was speaking as the Apostle of God. Hadith is a variety of collections of His alleged sayings outside of that state. In other words, hearsay. There are, I believe, seven collections of Hadith and they are not considered to be equally trustworthy. Sirat is an expression of an idea shared by a number of faiths (unsurprisingly) of a guided path, a narrow gate. That is, that being a believer (or a true human being) is not easy. Jesus and Muhammad both speak of the key to that narrow gate. In the case of Christ, it is to treat others as we would be treated, in the case of Muhammad, to humbly practice kindness in our behavior toward other people … oh, wait, that’s basically the same thing, isn’t it?

        We humans are the ones that insist that a formula must obtain, I think, and who find it hard to not keep a running score in what we think is a zero sum game.

        1. Maya, I want talking about Sirat as the bridge to Heaven, but as the biorgrhy of Muhammad.

          Sirat Rasul Allah (سيرة رسول الله Life of the Messenger of Allah) is the Arabic term used for the biographies of Prophet Muhammad. Together the sirat and the hadith constitute the sunnah (way‎/example) of the prophet which is an integral part of Islam, forming the basis of many Islamic practices and laws, including the Five Pillars.

          Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Yasār (more commonly known simply as Ibn Ishaq)(704-770 AD) was an Arab Muslim historian from Medina, responsible for the Sirat Rasul Allah, a collection of hadith that is arranged in chronological order, forming the earliest and most accurate biography of Muhammad. This, along with the Qur’an and hadith, are sometimes referred to as the Trilogy of Islam, as all major doctrines are found within these three texts.

          Ishaq’s work has survived through that of his editors, most notably Ibn Hisham and Ibn Jarir al-Tabari. According to Islamic scholar Fred Donner at the University of Chicago, the material in ibn Hisham’s and al-Tabari’s recensions are “virtually the same”.[1]However, some material found in al-Tabari are not preserved by ibn Hisham. For example, al-Tabari includes the episode of the Satanic Verses, while ibn Hisham does not.

          Although it is disliked by a minority of Muslims who are embarrassed even by its censored telling of Muhammad’s life, the majority of Islamic scholars, past and present, approve of Ibn Ishaq’s sira, and those of Ibn Hisham, Tabari, and Ibn Saa’d.

          1. Maya, you said “I know it’s popular and politically correct to dump on Islam these days, but it’s necessary to distinguish between sectarian extrapolation and what Muhammad taught—between Hadith and the Qu’ran. The Qur’an is a collection of Muhammad’s revelations. That is, He was speaking as the Apostle of God. Hadith is a variety of collections of His alleged sayings outside of that state. In other words, hearsay. There are, I believe, seven collections of Hadith and they are not considered to be equally trustworthy. Sirat is an expression of an idea shared by a number of faiths (unsurprisingly) of a guided path, a narrow gate. That is, that being a believer (or a true human being) is not easy. Jesus and Muhammad both speak of the key to that narrow gate. In the case of Christ, it is to treat others as we would be treated, in the case of Muhammad, to humbly practice kindness in our behavior toward other people … oh, wait, that’s basically the same thing, isn’t it?”

            I posted the Wikipaste because you didn’t know the Sirat was the biography of Muhammad. It contains the infamous Satanic Verses incident as well as others.

            I also found a translation of the Sirat into English.
            http://www.schnellmann.org/Robert_Spencer_The_Truth_About_Muhammad.pdf

            The point is that a lot of Quran, Hadith, and Sirat contradict your claim was all that Muhammad taught was to humbly practice kindness. Especially infamous verses of the Quran like 9:5, 22:39, 4:76, 63:8, 3:139, 3:169-171, 61:9, 58:21, etc. None of the Quran, Hadith, and Sirat actually serve as good models of kindness towards apostates, non Muslims, women, homosexuals, etc. These four groups have been persecuted since the time of Muhammad.

            Also, the verse of the Quran you use to say Muhammad was neutral on atheism and other religions is an abrogated verse.

            http://wikiislam.net/wiki/List_of_Abrogations_in_the_Qur%27an

            But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
            Qur’an 9:5

            This is the verse of the sword and justification for offensive jihad as a tool of forced conversion. All good verses of the Quran are abrogated from that one verse. The link just lists them all. It’s just referred to as the Verse of the Sword in the article to save typing. It’s tells Muslims to fight infidels until they repent of their infidelity to Allah and convert to Islam by practicing the five pillars. Only salat and zakat are explicitly mentioned in the verse.

            And who forsakes the religion of Ibrahim but he who makes himself a fool, and most certainly We chose him in this world, and in the hereafter he is most surely among the righteous. 2:130

            Indeed We see the turning of your face to heaven, so We shall surely turn you to a qiblah which you shall like; turn then your face towards the Sacred Mosque, and wherever you are, turn your face towards it, and those who have been given the Book most surely know that it is the truth from their Lord; and Allah is not at all heedless of what they do. 2:144

            Except those who repent and amend and make manifest (the truth), these it is to whom I turn (mercifully); and I am the Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful. 2:160

            The month of Ramazan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks. 2:185

            Divorce may be (pronounced) twice, then keep (them) in good fellowship or let (them) go with kindness; and it is not lawful for you to take any part of what you have given them, unless both fear that they cannot keep within the limits of Allah; then if you fear that they cannot keep within the limits of Allah, there is no blame on them for what she gives up to become free thereby. These are the limits of Allah, so do not exceed them and whoever exceeds the limits of Allah these it is that are the unjust. 2:229

            So if he divorces her she shall not be lawful to him afterwards until she marries another husband; then if he divorces her there is no blame on them both if they return to each other (by marriage), if they think that they can keep within the limits of Allah, and these are the limits of Allah which He makes clear for a people who know. 2:230

            And those of you who die and leave wives behind, (make) a bequest in favor of their wives of maintenance for a year without turning (them) out, then if they themselves go away, there is no blame on you for what they do of lawful deeds by themselves, and Allah is Mighty, Wise. 2:240

            Allah does not impose upon any soul a duty but to the extent of its ability; for it is (the benefit of) what it has earned and upon it (the evil of) what it has wrought: Our Lord! do not punish us if we forget or make a mistake; Our Lord! do not lay on us a burden as Thou didst lay on those before us, Our Lord do not impose upon us that which we have not the strength to bear; and pardon us and grant us protection and have mercy on us, Thou art our Patron, so help us against the unbelieving people. 2:286

            And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers. 3:85

            Men shall have a portion of what the parents and the near relatives leave, and women shall have a portion of what the parents and the near relatives leave, whether there is little or much of it; a stated portion. 4:7

            Allah enjoins you concerning your children: The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females; then if they are more than two females, they shall have two-thirds of what the deceased has left, and if there is one, she shall have the half; and as for his parents, each of them shall have the sixth of what he has left if he has a child, but if he has no child and (only) his two parents inherit him, then his mother shall have the third; but if he has brothers, then his mother shall have the sixth after (the payment of) a bequest he may have bequeathed or a debt; your parents and your children, you know not which of them is the nearer to you in usefulness; this is an ordinance from Allah: Surely Allah is Knowing, Wise. 4:11

            Allah doth wish to lighten your (difficulties): For man was created Weak (in flesh). 4:32

            O you who believe! do not go near prayer when you are Intoxicated until you know (well) what you say, nor when you are under an obligation to perform a bath– unless (you are) travelling on the road– until you have washed yourselves; and if you are sick, or on a journey, or one of you come from the privy or you have touched the women, and you cannot find water, betake yourselves to pure earth, then wipe your faces and your hands; surely Allah is Pardoning, Forgiving. 4:43

            And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell to abide therein. 4:93

            This day (all) the good things are allowed to you; and the food of those who have been given the Book is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them; and the chaste from among the believing women and the chaste from among those who have been given the Book before you (are lawful for you); when you have given them their dowries, taking (them) in marriage, not fornicating nor taking them for paramours in secret; and whoever denies faith, his work indeed is of no account, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers. 5:5

            And We prescribed to them in it that life is for life, and eye for eye, and nose for nose, and ear for ear, and tooth for tooth, and (that there is) reprisal in wounds; but he who foregoes it, it shall be an expiation for him; and whoever did not judge by what Allah revealed, those are they that are the unjust. 5:45

            O you who believe! intoxicants and games of chance and (sacrificing to) stones set up and (dividing by) arrows are only an uncleanness, the Shaitan’s work; shun it therefore that you may be successful. 5:90

            Therefore if you overtake them in fighting, then scatter by (making an example of) them those who are in their rear, that they may be mindful. 8:57

            For the present Allah has made light your burden, and He knows that there is weakness in you; so if there are a hundred patient ones of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a thousand they shall overcome two thousand by Allah’s permission, and Allah is with the patient. 8:66

            (This is a declaration of) immunity by Allah and His Messenger towards those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement. 9:1

            Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection. 9:29

            Surely the number of months with Allah is twelve months in Allah’s ordinance since the day when He created the heavens and the earth, of these four being sacred; that is the right reckoning; therefore be not unjust to yourselves regarding them, and fight the polytheists all together as they fight you all together; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil). 9:36

            Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. 9:60

            Ask forgiveness for them or do not ask forgiveness for them; even if you ask forgiveness for them seventy times, Allah will not forgive them; this is because they disbelieve in Allah and His Messenger, and Allah does not guide the transgressing people. 9:80

            And of the dwellers of the desert are those who believe in Allah and the latter day and take what they spend to be (means of) the nearness of Allah and the Messenger’s prayers; surely it shall be means of nearness for them; Allah will make them enter into His mercy; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. 9:99

            Take alms out of their property, you would cleanse them and purify them thereby, and pray for them; surely your prayer is a relief to them; and Allah is Hearing, Knowing. 9:103

            It is not (fit) for the Prophet and those who believe that they should ask forgiveness for the polytheists, even though they should be near relatives, after it has become clear to them that they are inmates of the flaming fire. 9:113

            And it does not beseem the believers that they should go forth all together; why should not then a company from every party from among them go forth that they may apply themselves to obtain understanding in religion, and that they may warn their people when they come back to them that they may be cautious? 9:122

            Whoever desires this present life, We hasten to him therein what We please for whomsoever We desire, then We assign to him the hell; he shall enter it despised, driven away. 17:18

            And do not kill any one whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause, and whoever is slain unjustly, We have indeed given to his heir authority, so let him not exceed the just limits in slaying; surely he is aided. 17:33

            Unless they repent thereafter and mend (their conduct); for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. 24:5

            …their solitary evidence (can be received) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that they are solemnly telling the truth;… 24:6

            And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves if they tell a lie. … 24:7

            And the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth. 24:9

            It is no fault on your part to enter houses not used for living in, which serve some (other) use for you: And Allah has knowledge of what ye reveal and what ye conceal. 24:29

            Marry those among you who are single, or the virtuous ones among yourselves, male or female: if they are in poverty, Allah will give them means out of His grace:… 24:32

            But when the children among you come of age, let them (also) ask for permission, as do those senior to them (in age): Thus does Allah make clear His Signs to you: for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. 24:59

            Such elderly women as are past the prospect of marriage,- there is no blame on them if they lay aside their (outer) garments, provided they make not a wanton display of their beauty:… 24:60

            Unless he repents, believes, and works righteous deeds, for Allah will change the evil of such persons into good, … 25:70

            Except those who believe, work righteousness, engage much in the remembrance of Allah, and defend themselves only after they are unjustly attacked. … 26:227

            O Prophet! surely We have made lawful to you your wives whom you have given their dowries, and those whom your right hand possesses out of those whom Allah has given to you as prisoners of war, and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts, and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who fled with you; and a believing woman if she gave herself to the Prophet, if the Prophet desired to marry her– specially for you, not for the (rest of) believers; We know what We have ordained for them concerning their wives and those whom their right hands possess in order that no blame may attach to you; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. 33:50

            Say: “No reward do I ask of you: it is (all) in your interest: my reward is only due from Allah:… 34:47

            Those who sustain the Throne (of Allah) and those around it Sing Glory and Praise to their Lord; believe in Him; and implore Forgiveness for those who believe: “Our Lord! Thy Reach is over all things, in Mercy and Knowledge. Forgive, then, those who turn in Repentance, and follow Thy Path; and preserve them from the Penalty of the Blazing Fire! 40:7

            But indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs. 42:43

            Behold, ye are those invited to spend (of your substance) in the Way of Allah: … 47:38

            Verily We have granted thee a manifest Victory: 48:1

            That Allah may forgive thee thy faults of the past and those to follow; fulfil His favour to thee; and guide thee on the Straight Way; 48:2

            And that Allah may help thee with powerful help. 48:3

            It is He Who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the Believers, that they may add faith to their faith;- for to Allah belong the Forces of the heavens and the earth; and Allah is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom;- 48:4

            That He may admit the men and women who believe, to Gardens beneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein for aye, and remove their ills from them;- and that is, in the sight of Allah, the highest achievement (for man),- 48:5

            And that He may punish the Hypocrites, men and women, and the Polytheists men and women, who imagine an evil opinion of Allah. On them is a round of Evil: the Wrath of Allah is on them: He has cursed them and got Hell ready for them: and evil is it for a destination. 48:6

            And continue to remind, for surely the reminder profits the believers. 51:55

            And those who believe and whose families follow them in Faith,- to them shall We join their families: Nor shall We deprive them (of the fruit) of aught of their works: (Yet) is each individual in pledge for his deeds. 52:21

            A (goodly) number from those of old, 56:39

            And a (goodly) number from those of later times. 56:40

            Is it that ye are afraid of spending sums in charity before your private consultation (with him)? If, then, ye do not so, and Allah forgives you, then (at least) establish regular prayer; practise regular charity; and obey Allah and His Messenger. … 58:13

            Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong. 60:9

            … send them not back to the Unbelievers. … 60:10

            Therefore be careful of (your duty to) Allah as much as you can, and hear and obey and spend, it is better for your souls; and whoever is saved from the greediness of his soul, these it is that are the successful. 64:16

            Stand (to prayer) by night, but not all night,- 73:2

            Half of it,- or a little less, 73:3

            Or a little more; … 73:4

            But ye will not, except as Allah wills; for Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom. 76:30

            But ye shall not will except as Allah wills,- the Cherisher of the Worlds. 81:29

            By degrees shall We teach thee to declare (the Message), so thou shalt not forget, 87:6

            Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds,… 103:3

            Abrogated verses are examples of Allah and Muhammad changing their minds. The abrogated verses represents an earlier opinion or position of their while the latter contradicts it and therefore nullifies it. Suras can be categorized into four sections: Early Meccan, Middle Meccan, Late Meccan, and Medinan. The Quran isn’t in chronological order, but you can find chronological orderings of Suras online easily.

            Most abrogated verses were abrogated by the Verse of the Sword, but some were abrogated by the other abrogating verses. The Quran contains lots of verses that are abrogated. Verses that say alcohol is okay to drink and that people should pray to Jerusalem are the most famous of the abrogated verses.

        2. Maya, there is no real historical argument to say Muhammad didn’t teach any of the things found in Hadith or biographies (Sirat Rasul Allah).

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Muhammad

          The Hadith and the biographies are the sources used to say he did teach the various things that make up Sharia. Also, Hadith have various ratings. Hadith studies is a science. You have to look up whether they are classified as authentic or not. I looked it up the referenced Hadith of the website I used are authentic.

          The historicity of Muhammad is debate able. Some authors such in the book Hagarism think Muhammad was a mythological figure.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_movements_within_Islam

          Even Muslims who disagree with Sharia recognize its historicity as dating back to Muhammad.

          John Esposito explains that some Muslims justify these punishments in general terms because they punish crimes that are “against God and a threat to the moral fabric of the Muslim community.” He observes that Islamic law provides strict regulations regarding evidence in cases involving these crimes, and that false accusations are seriously punished. Esposito also observes that Muslim reformers have argued that “these punishment were appropriate within the historical and social contexts in which they originated but are inappropriate today and that the underlying religious principles and values need to find new expression in modernizing societies.”

          William Montgomery Watt believes that “such penalties may have been suitable for the age in which Muhammad lived. However, as societies have since progressed and become more peaceful and ordered, they are not suitable any longer.” Gerhard Endress, professor of Islamic Studies at Ruhr University, states that at the time of advent of Islam, several social reforms happened in which a new system of marriage and family, including legal restrictions such as restriction of the practice of polygamy, was built up. Endress says that “it was only by this provision (backed up by severe punishment for adultery), that the family, the core of any sedentary society could be placed on a firm footing.”

          Commenting on the verses related to amputation of the limbs of thieves, Maududi writes that “here and at other places the Qur’an merely declares that sodomy is such a heinous sin… that it is the duty of the Islamic State to eradicate this crime and… punish those who are guilty of it.”

          There is a movement among some modern liberal Muslims to “re-interpret Islamic verses about ancient punishments,” in the words of Professor Ali A. Mazrui. He states that the punishments laid down fourteen centuries ago “had to be truly severe enough to be a deterrent” in their day, but “since then God has taught us more about crime, its causes, the methods of its investigation, the limits of guilt, and the much wider range of possible punishments.”

          However, with liberal movements in Islam expressing concerns about hadith validity, a major component of how Islamic law is created, questions have arisen about administering certain punishments. Incompatibilities with human rights in the way Islamic law is practised in many countries has led Tariq Ramadan to call for an international moratorium on the punishments of hudud laws until greater scholarly consensus can be reached.

          It has also been argued that the Hudud portion of Sharia is incompatible with humanist or Western understanding of human rights. For example a Washington Times editorial called Pakistan’s Hudood ordinance:

          a set of laws passed in 1979 in response to pressure from hardline Islamic political groups that odiously punished rape victims while making it difficult to convict the perpetrators.

          1. Hi Stephen:

            I must admit that I don’t see where you are going with all of this material. Do you have point of view you are trying to develop? Something that you are trying to learn? Are you thinking of joining us a Baha’i?

            Stephen

          2. Stephen (hope our same names don’t lead to confusion),

            1. I was countrpointing the allegation that Hadith and Sira were made up and of no historical value and thus Sharia sharing the same fate. I also gave a list of abrogating verses of the Quran because Maya used an abrogated verse of the Quran.

            2. I was hoping to learn that under no circumstance would a future society adopt religious law over civil law or common law or switch from being secular state to having a state religion because of the Bahai Faith. Will all societies who are currently liberal democracies be able to stay liberal democracies? Liberal democracy is a form of government in which representative democracy operates under the principles of liberalism, i.e. protecting the rights of minorities and, especially, the individual. Religious law by contrast operates under illiberal principles, i.e. not protecting and even disrespecting the rights of minorities and individuals. Animals, authors, children, consumers, fathers, fetuses, humans, natives, kings, LGBT, men, minorities, mothers, plants, students, women, workers, youth, and the disabled are all group with rights. The fact religious law can’t be changed is a problem for democratic change. To say a law can’t be repealed isn’t democracy.

            3. I’d ask the Baha’is at a Unitarian Universalist church as the first step, then after talking to them maybe ask here as a second step.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarian_Universalism#Organizations
            It’s just like me asking the Buddhist about Buddhism, or the Christians about Christianity, or the Pagans about Paganism, or the Humanists about Humanism, or the Atheists about Atheism, or the Agnostics about Agnosticism, or the Pantheists about Pantheism, or the Deists about Deism, or the Jews about Judaism, etc. I would rather ask people in real life about a religion as a first step rather than people online. My only current ties to the HUU and/or UUBF have been occasional donations. My ties to the UUA has been donations as well, but with the addition of receiving newsletters from the COTLF rather than physically going somewhere in real life. I have been donating to several of the secularist organizations I found on Wikipedia as well. It’s complicated is the easiest summary. Ethical Culture Humanist Unitarian would also be a good current summary as well.

          3. Hi Stephen:

            Thanks! Starts to become interesting.

            Are you interested in Islam? Many in the west aren’t and the new atheists seem to detest it mightily without knowing anything about it.

            Civil law can be pretty nasty. I’m not sure why you assume its going to be better than religious law. Do you like persecution of Jews or of religious people? Well, civil law can be pretty effective at implementing those. Liberal democrats – especially American liberal democrats – in the 18th and 19th century didn’t seem to care one whit about alleviating slavery, rather they were happy to allow it. It took the religious folk to make a big issue about it and get the view it was unacceptable accepted. So, I sincerely doubt the veracity of a view that holds that liberal law is good and religious law is bad. And of course, this view doesn’t take into account the diverse aspects of current and previous historical circumstances. Oh, and of course, religion law can be easily changed and often is.

            I doubt if you find very many Baha’is at a Unitarian Universalist Church, in part because they believe in all the religions and Unitarianism is from Europe and approaches the issue from a Christianish background. But, mainly Baha’is are Baha’is. So Maya and I are good people to ask about Baha’is. But we ask you to think about our answers and engage with us, not Wikipedia.

            Stephen

          4. Stephen, you’re confusing an conflating the two again. Unitarian Universalism is not to be confused with Christian Unitarianism and Christian Universalism. Unitarian Universalism is mainly American and dated back to the 1960s. Christian Unitarians don’t like being lumped in with the UUs or what I can tell from their blogs and websites. Actually, you’ll find more Humanists (and other such non religious), Buddhists, and Pagans than Christian isn’t any UU church.

            Unitarianism by itself can mean:

            1 Nontrinitarianism, a generic name for a Christian point of view that rejects the Trinity doctrine.
            2 Unitarianism, (1565-present) a specific liberal Christian theological movement known for its rejection of the doctrines of the Trinity, original sin, predestination, and biblical inerrancy.
            3 A liberal religion, also known as Unitarian Universalism, first established in 1961 and characterized by its support for a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning”.
            4 Biblical Unitarianism, a fundamentalist non-Trinitarian movement (flourished c.1876-1929).
            5 Druze, a monotheistic ethnoreligious community, found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan, and referred to as unitarianism in some contexts.

            I was using definition number 3 obviously by saying Unitarian Universalism which is sometimes called UUism, Unitarianism, etc. You responded by basing your answer on definition 2 instead. “Unitarianism is from Europe and approaches the issue from a Christianish background” is only true of definition 2 and not 3. Those are two separate Unitarianisms. There are five separate Unitarianisms listed above, but were focusing on two.

            http://www.icuu.net/membergroups/index.html

            There are affiliate groups in various countries of the ICUU.

            Back to Islam, I have read writings by critics of Islam and other writings, but am not really personally that interested in it. I tend to prefer writings by ex Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ibn Warraq mostly.

            I also find the summary of the history of slavery half true. The existence of free states in America showed people didn’t want slavery in their states. It was just they were initially legally bound to wait for free states to gain a 3/4 supermajority to amend the Constitution. There were liberal democrats on both sides of the issue as well as religious people on both sides of the issue. There were abolitionists who were both liberal democrats as well as religious and Confederates who were both religious as well as liberal democrats. For example, you can find a lot of Confederate references to the Bible on the Religious Tolerance page on the history of slavery.

            Quotations by learned men from the 19th century:

            “[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation…it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts.” Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.

            “There is not one verse in the Bible inhibiting slavery, but many regulating it. It is not then, we conclude, immoral.” Rev. Alexander Campbell

            “The right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example.” Rev. R. Furman, D.D., Baptist, of South Carolina

            “The hope of civilization itself hangs on the defeat of Negro suffrage.” A statement by a prominent 19th-century southern Presbyterian pastor, cited by Rev. Jack Rogers, moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

            “The doom of Ham has been branded on the form and features of his African descendants. The hand of fate has united his color and destiny. Man cannot separate what God hath joined.” United States Senator James Henry Hammond.

            The last quote is a reference to the curse of Ham.

          5. The disagreement doesn’t come from history, per se, but from Scripture and the Sunnah. In order to determine what Muhammad may or may not have taught, context is necessary. How did He live? What was His character? What was the substance of His revelation?

            When it comes to scripture, the Qur’an is the first place to look, of course. The practices of some Muslim groups and, indeed, Hadith, are in conflict with what is revealed in the Qur’an … and the Gospels and the Torah, which are considered by Muhammad to also be part of the continuum of the Faith of God.

            There are several ways you can approach scripture when attempting to extract meaning and instruction from it. You might pick through the verses and choose the ones you like or you might try to reconcile them as if they were all equal in importance, or you might accept the hierarchy suggested by the Revealer of the verses. For example, you might observe that all of the Manifestations of God placed a high premium on love and the practice of kindness. To Krishna, it was “the sum of duty”, to Buddha “an eternal commandment”, to Christ “the Law and the prophets”, to Muhammad, a believer devoid of kindness “belies religion”. If, in Hadith, I find verses that “belie religion” because they encourage cruelty or prejudice or aggression, I have the verses of the Qur’an and my own rational faculties to tell me that they are inconsistent with Muhammad’s revelation and are unlikely to be something He actually said.

            As Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them.”

          6. Maya, even if you throw out all things other than the Quran problems are still left.

            http://www.wikiislam.net/wiki/Qur%27an_Only_Islam_-_Why_it_is_Not_Possible

            Islam without the Hadith and Sunnah of Muhammad is like Buddhism without the Buddha or Christianity without the Christ; it is not possible. Therefore, all of the controversial hadiths mentioned here have to be accepted by Muslims as a part of the history of Islam, just like the Qur’an. Moreover, even if this Qur’an-only approach were to be somehow accepted by the mainstream, we are still left with the problem that the Qur’an itself permits:
            Hatred of Homosexuals
            Lying
            Pedophilia
            Polygamy
            Racism
            Religious discrimination
            Slavery and Rape
            Terrorism
            Violence against women

            If two men among you are guilty of lewdness, punish them both. If they repent and amend, Leave them alone; for Allah is Oft-returning, Most Merciful.
            Qur’an 4:16

            We also (sent) Lut: He said to his people: “Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practise your lusts on men in preference to women : ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds. And his people gave no answer but this: they said, “Drive them out of your city: these are indeed men who want to be clean and pure!” But we saved him and his family, except his wife: she was of those who legged behind. And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): Then see what was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime!
            Qur’an 7:80

            … EDITED FOR LENGTH BY MODERATOR …

            And when those who disbelieve plot against thee (O Muhammad) to wound thee fatally, or to kill thee or to drive thee forth; they plot, but Allah (also) plotteth; and Allah is the best of plotters.
            Qur’an 8:30

            And if they would betray thee, they betrayed Allah before, and He gave (thee) power over them. Allah is Knower, Wise.
            Qur’an 8:71

            Those who disbelieve say: If only a portent were sent down upon him from his Lord! Say: Lo! Allah sendeth whom He will astray, and guideth unto Himself all who turn (unto Him),
            Qur’an 13:27

            There were the believers sorely tried, and shaken with a mighty shock. And when the hypocrites, and those in whose hearts is a disease, were saying: Allah and His messenger promised us naught but delusion. And when a party of them said: O folk of Yathrib! There is no stand (possible) for you, therefor turn back. And certain of them (even) sought permission of the Prophet, saying: Our homes lie open (to the enemy). And they lay not open. They but wished to flee. If the enemy had entered from all sides and they had been exhorted to treachery, they would have committed it, and would have hesitated thereupon but little.
            Qur’an 33:11-12

            … EDITED FOR LENGTH BY MODERATOR …

            All quotes are Abdullah Yusuf Ali translations.

          7. I’m not sure that the quotes you chose support your contention about what the Qur’an allows. I don’t, for example, see pedophilia as being supported in any of the quote you cited and in the case of what you take for racism or religious prejudice, the quote themselves contain the context in which the verses can be understood. Muhammad is not issuing a blanket condemnation of all Jews or the Jewish faith, or Christians and their faith. He views (as is evidence by other passages of the Qur’an) those faiths as earlier forms of Islam. What He is speaking about in the passages you cited is a particular group of Jews who—as one of your cited verses clearly says—betrayed the Prophet and the nascent Muslim community.

            Did you read these passages carefully? Even where the sin of individuals or groups is discussed, the mention of punishment (drive them out of your cities, in this case) is countered by a call for repentance and amendment after which they were to be left alone. In other cases—such as the situation with the Jews and other enemies who were, again, trying to destroy the Muslim community—a cessation of hostilities was to be met with a resumption of brotherly friendship.

            We also “cast out” people who commit sins against the community. We segregate them from the population in prisons. May I assume you feel this is wrong in some way?

            Regarding polygamy: at the time Muhammad came men in the pagan community took as many wives and concubines as they wished. Muhammad ruled out concubinage and limited the number of wives to four IF the man could treat them with absolute equality. In the passage you cite, He says this isn’t really possible. I think this is illustrative of the way Manifestations of God teach such that an individual’s capacity to understand the spiritual reality underlying the law comes into play. Those capable of grasping what He was saying came to the conclusion that he mean one should have only one wife. Those who, for whatever reason, didn’t catch that nuance, would have to content themselves with four. And here is where it gets even more interesting. Because Muhammad gave women human rights to inherit, and own property (among other things) and insisted that a man had to take care of any woman to which he was or had been married (he couldn’t just toss her out or kill her), He created a situation in which men in the society could not shirk their fiscal responsibility to the women of their household. This made it more expensive to keep multiple wives and their children. Even divorcing a woman (which became harder to do) did not free a man of this responsibility.

            Did Muhammad allow polygamy? Yes. Why is that a problem? This was over a thousand years ago in a far, far different culture than the one we live in. To hold people of that age to even the sketchy standards of this one is … well, why would you do that?

          8. I’d say in light of the Hadith, the separation from the community resembles concentration camps and gulags rather than actual prisons.

            http://www.wikiislam.net/wiki/Qur%27an_Only_Islam_-_Why_it_is_Not_Possible#Conclusion

            I’d recommend reading the whole ten links.

            http://www.wikiislam.net/wiki/Qur%27an,_Hadith_and_Scholars

            1. Homosexuality
            2. Muhammad, Lying, and Deception (three articles each on two of them)
            3. Pedophilia in the Quran
            4. Polygamy in Islam
            5. Islamic Antisemitism
            6. Dhimmitude
            7. Rape and Al-‘Azl (two articles)
            8. The Ultimate Message of the Quran
            9. Wife Beating in Islam

            Those other passages praising Jews and Christians are abrogated verses if you read the Quran in chronological order.

          9. Stephen, they’re not abrogated verses. Rather the verses of Muhammad that deal with physical battle against the Jews refer, specifically, to the Jews of Yathrib, who had betrayed the Muslim community and attempted to annihilate it. Muhammad’s injunction to fight was balanced by His insistence that if those the Muslims were fighting ceased hostilities, the Muslims were to immediately stop fighting and re-establish relations.

            Why does this seem so damning? Even in this day and age, a group of people who are under siege or attack might be expected or allowed to fight back and Muhammad and His people existed in a much harsher, wilder world than the one most of us live in. Again, this seems to me a form of Presentism, as if Muhammad, Islam and Muslims ought to be judged by today’s standards of civilization or religious evolution.

            Ironically, one of the questions I field about the persecuted Bahá’í community in Iran is “why don’t they fight back?” They don’t fight back against religious persecution because Bahá’u’lláh commanded them not to respond to violence with violence for the sake of religion.

          10. One area I’d like to address because it’s raised frequently is the repeated reference to Muhammad’s alleged pedophilia. The standard that is being used by the anti-Islamic wiki entries you reference is a modern one—the DSM-IV-TR, which is, itself, not without controversy. I’d remind you that homosexuality was only recently removed from the DSM. So I’m not sure everyone considers it the gold standard.

            More importantly, this standard is being applied to a culture that existed over 1000 years ago. Or rather it is being misapplied. For one thing, marriages of persons that young often had nothing to do with sexual urges and everything to do with family alliances, financial considerations and, in the case of young girls, protection from predation or penury when a father or elder brother was slain. Girls enter puberty and are capable of bearing children at that age and given the hardships and shortened lifespans and child-bearing years 1000 years ago and (even more recently) a woman stood a better chance of producing live children if she had them in the full flower of youth.

            There is also this: marriage persons we think of as children today was (and still is) a widespread practice among Jews, Christians and people who followed regional traditions. It predated Islam and has been practiced in later non-Islamic cultures. Girls as young as 13 have been married right here in the US with their parents’ permission. Edgar Alan Poe married his 13 year old cousin. Did anyone suggest William Shakespeare was promoting pedophilia in Romeo and Juliette because his protagonists were barely into their teens?

            The marriage of the very young teen is ignored by just about every commentator I’ve read—except when it happens within Islam. Then, suddenly, and inexplicably, it’s a problem that requires condemnation by standards that are only standards in modern, urban, western cultures.

          11. http://www.wikiislam.net/wiki/Contradictions_in_the_Qur%27an

            I should also add the contradictions of the Quran.

            O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk.
            Qur’an 5:51

            Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters), until they believe: A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allures you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he allures you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the Fire. But Allah beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His Signs clear to mankind: That they may celebrate His praise.
            Qur’an 2:221

            And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).”
            Qur’an 29:46

            Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
            Qur’an 9:29

            I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them
            Qur’an 8:12

            Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the last day, nor hold that which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger [Muhammad], nor acknowledge the religion of truth [Islam], from among the people of the book [Jews and Christians] until they pay the Jezia [special taxes paid by the Jews and
            Qur’an 9:29

            http://www.wikiislam.net/wiki/List_of_Killings_Ordered_or_Supported_by_Muhammad

            The list of killings Muhammad order gives more examples.

  3. Hi, Stephen,

    Nice to virtually meet you, and thanks for your many questions. I wish I had the time to answer them all, but my work prevents me, unfortunately.

    However, I will reply briefly to your description of the most harshly-governed Sharia-law states by saying that not all Islamic countries are theocracies — in fact, there are many notable Islamic parliamentary democracies: Turkey, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, and a country I’ve spent a significant amount of time in, Albania; to name just a few. Those countries do not utilize Sharia law, instead relying on the democratic process to make and enforce their laws.

    And one quick clarification: I do not believe, as you suggested in your post, that “Islam was born in a state of corruption and spiritual decline always” — far from it. In fact, I believe that Islam, at its inception and for subsequent centuries, helped civilize, unify and educate the entire Arabian peninsula, which had been known previously for its savagery and lawlessness. Islam established the world’s first great universities, invented modern mathematics, exalted learning, and gave, through its widening influence, the impetus to the West to come out of the Dark Ages and enter the Reformation and the Renaissance. Its noble contributions to humanity are legion.

    That is also the position, as far as I can tell, of Dr. Charles Kimball in his book When Religion Becomes Evil, which serves as the launchpad for my series of articles on the subject. I would commend to you the reading of the book, which respectfully addresses the diversity of religion as it discusses the reasons and the historical underpinnings of its decline.

    Best,

    David

    1. David, actually Wiki Islam has an article disproving 20 inventions attributed to Islam, but actually predate Islam.

      http://wikiislam.net/wiki/How_Islamic_Inventors_Did_Not_Change_The_World

      Algebra may have been named after a book by al-Khwarizmi titled Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah, but the origins of algebra itself can be traced to the ancient Babylonians who were able to do calculations in an algorithmic fashion. Having something named after what popularised or refined it by no means makes it the inventor, and by doing so you would have to discount the works of mathematician Diophantus of Alexandria (200 and 214 AD–284 and 298 AD) who authored a series of books called “Arithmetica” and is commonly referred to as “the father of algebra”.

      Paul Vallely begrudgingly admits that the system of numbering in use all round the world is ‘probably’ Indian in origin, yet the title of the supposed Islamic invention still remains “The system of numbering”. The first known use of numbers dates back to around 30,000 BC, but it is universally accepted that the system of numbering we use today (the digits 0 to 9) was invented in India. The reason why they are referred to as “Arabic” numerals in the West is due to them being introduced to the Europeans through the Arabs, who in the same way had earlier received them from the Hindus. Likewise, the Arabs themselves commonly refer to them as “Hindu numerals”.

      The use of zero as a number is found in many ancient Indian texts. The concept of negative numbers was recognised between 100–50 BC by the Chinese. Greek and Indian mathematicians studied the theory of rational numbers. (The best known of these works is Euclid’s Elements, dated 300 BC. Euclid is also often referred to as the “Father of Geometry”.) The earliest use of irrational numbers is in the Indian Sulba Sutras (800–500 BC). The first results concerning transcendental numbers were made by Johann Heinrich Lambert in 1761. The earliest known conception of mathematical infinity appears in the Hindu text Yajur Veda (1,400 and 1,000 BC). The earliest reference to square roots of negative numbers were made by Greek mathematician and inventor Heron of Alexandria (10–70 AD). Prime numbers have been studied throughout recorded history. The mathematical branch of Trigonometry has been studied by the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, but it was the ancient Greeks who proved theorems that are equivalent to modern trigonometric formulae. And finally, the earliest known algorithms were developed by ancient Babylonians (1600 BC).

      As for al-Kindi, while he is thought to be the earliest to describe frequency analysis, the technique itself may not have been discovered by al-Kindi as claimed. Nobody knows who actually discovered/invented/realized that the frequencies of letters could be used to break ciphers, and cryptology itself can be traced back to the time of Julius Caesar.

      Back to sharia and law. Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen are either theocratic monarchies or theocratic republics. Indonesia, Nigeria, and United Arab Emirates are on a sub national level them. For them Aceh in Indonesia, Northern Nigeria, and most Emirates of the United Arab Emirates (excluding Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah). Among these Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, and Pakistan are the theocratic republics. I have no data on Norther Cyprus, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic aka Western Sahara, and Somaliland.

      There is a Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam as an Islamic alternative to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights because human rights aren’t that compatible with Islam.

      Back to Iran, there are movements for Secular government via three exiled governments of the Qajar dynasty, Pahlavi dynasty, and National Resistance. There is currently no means short of a massive revolution to bring any one of these three governments to power.

      1. SKG, no one is claiming that the Muslim scholars created unique ideas or art forms or technologies out of thin air. Even Leonardo DaVinci stood on the shoulders of prior scholars. Rather the claim is that that they extrapolated, systematized, added to, and wrote about them in ways that contributed to greatly to our understanding and made them foundational to modern sciences and maths. So much so that the works of these men were used in Western educational institutions for hundreds of years.

        Second, did you not recognize the wiki article for what it is—a biased criticism of Islam? It is not a scholarly article; it is a polemic. The title “Islamic Inventors Did Not Change the World” sort of gives that away. I recommend a collection of essays entitled Galileo Goes to Jail which are summarized in an earlier set of blogs on this site.

        This isn’t a zero sum game, Stephen. The Christians (or Greeks or Chinese) don’t lose if the Muslims are acknowledged as having contributed greatly to our understanding of how the world works. Are you trying to say that their work was of no effect? Or that—given the subject of David’s blog—that their effect was harmful to mankind?

        1. Maya, is its scholarly and not biased it just presents Islam uncensored.

          http://wikiislam.net/wiki/Qur%27an,_Hadith_and_Scholars

          Most of the website is just quotations from Quran, Hadith, and Scholars. Various topics of Islamic theology, Muhammad, women, jihad, non Muslims, and various others are covered. The texts are the origins of the various issues rather than just sectarian extrapolation as you claim. If you look at the quotes, it obvious that the Hadith and the rest of the texts are the issue rather than just Muslims pulling things out of thin air.

          1. Actually the website is not based on knowlegdable scholars stephen, many scholars and their works that this website uses are written much later after the Prophet Mohammed. I’m sorry to say this but the author of this website relies only on western orientalists sources(which does not mean it is more perfect than islam tradition) in order to lie about Islam, I have gone through this website myself in the past when I found out Maya is right the whole time that this website is biased and full of propaganda. They use sources from fallible scholars whos interpretations are just pure fanatics and who have never met the Prophet but make it look like as if they had when they haven’t.

            Since you reluctantly rely on wikiislam as your only source in order to debunk religions and its scriptures (by the way, there are people who refuse to acknowledge what sources or website they are actually using), I recommend you go to academics, or read books. Wikiislam is nothing but anti intellectual website in order to cast doubts into Muslims.

            I suggest you go to ”religionofpeace.org” or “com”. Believe me, all the sources you found on wikiislam can also be found there too.
            See it for yourself.

          2. I concur. I encourage everyone, Stephen Kent Gray, included (or maybe especially) not to rely on wiki entries for scholarship. They may be a good place to accumulate sources or citations, but they are not reliable sources of factual information. If you’re going to use “scholarship” by sources with strong anti-Islamic agendas, then hadn’t you ought to balance it by also gleaning information from pro-Islamic sources such as Quilliam Foundation, CAIR, or ING?

            When I was investigating the Bahá’í Faith, my mother and the minister of my church insisted I should listen to them and their sources (such authors as Reverend Walter Martin and Eric van Baalen). I asked my minister a simple question: If you were a Jew living in the time of Jesus, and someone came and asked where they should go to learn more about Him, would you send them to a rabbi or to one of Christ’s disciples? Where do you think they’d get the most open-minded information?

            Of course, he would send them to a rabbi, because in this situation he represents the orthodoxy, but because he is a Christian, he understood that the orthodoxy has an agenda. As it happened, I read Reverend Martin’s books, and Reverend van Baalen’s and others who preached against the Bahá’í Faith. Ironically, I found the answers to all of their challenges in the Bible, itself.

            The best evidence against the contentions of the anti-Islam movement is in the Qur’an.

          3. Maya, I did read the Qur’an. And it did persuade me that Islam is the wrong religion, that the Qur’an can’t be the word of God, if God even exists. And that is in spite of the fact that the Qur’an is not the most open-minded source for info on Islam, but is biased in favor of Islam, just like the Jewish Bible is biased in favor of Judaism and the New Testament is biased in favor of Christianity. Such sources are not even-handed analyses of any of these religions.

  4. Thanks, Maya, for your excellent points.

    I would just add that in the Baha’i Faith, there is no Oral Law as in Judaism, no Tradition of the Church as in Christianity, no Hadith as in Islam. All of those post-Prophet interpretative traditions have added to the subsequent decline and corruption of their respective faiths, IMHO. That’s actually the point I think you’re making, Stephen, and if it is, I agree completely.

    Love to all,

    David

    1. Yes, David, but religion eventually takes on the belief that society should punish sins before or alongside God punishing sin. Sin, except the sins that every society has a legitimate reason to prohibit like theft or murder or arson, should be completely legal and not punished by society. People always have this moralistic problem with legislating their morality which leads to the recents culture wars America and other places have been having.

      Also, Wikipedia does have an article on Bahai law.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahá%27%C3%AD_laws

      Why would any liberal representative democracy regardless of when or how many Baha’is are in it make Bahai laws law in their societies just because it’s are religious law?

      Shoghi Effendi also stated that certain other laws, such as criminal laws, that are dependent upon the existence of a predominantly Bahá’í society would only be applicable in a possible future Bahá’í society. He also stated that if the laws were in conflict with the civil law of the country where a Bahá’í lives the laws could not be practiced.

      What will future Bahai societies be like anyway given the implicit recognition that they will have religious law? The laws aren’t binding as of the present. The future is always an iffy matter.

  5. Stephen, the messages were getting cramped in that other area.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_legal_systems

    America is a country that has common law, not civil law. Louisiana is a weird exception. Also, religious law or Sharia is the countries one the map from Mauritania to Bangladesh.

    Religious law isn’t that changeable. Look at how resistant to any changes to even letting women ride bikes or drive cars Saudi Arabia is. Look at Yemen trying to outlaw child marriage. There was a huge protest with people holding up Qurans telling parliament saying that they wanted chilled marriage to stay legal because since Muhammad practice child marriage it should always be legal.

    Ex Muslims Ayaan Hirsi Ali lived in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Kenya while she was Muslim. She moved to the Netherlands and America later. I forgot when an where she stopped being a Muslim. She wrote The Son Factory, The Caged Virgin, Infidel, and Nomad. There was lots of biographical details of her life in her books, but I can’t remember that much on the spot. She founded the AHA Foundation also which is charitable non profit. Ibn Warraq was born in pre partition India which is now Pakistan. He later moved to the United Kingdom. Bio details are sparse due to his secret identity.

    It would be interesting to see if a Spiritual Assembly or House of Justice repeals of nullifies any of the laws of the Aqdas since you say religious law can be changed. Others says religious law can’t be changed for a thousand years. Legal and logical positivism says they can and should nullify and repeal as they see fit, but divine law is associated with unchangeability. I have yet to see or hear or read about such a thing occurring. Though I have heard about the current non application of most laws. Some say they may never be put into application.

    Most societies have abandoned using religious law by the small number of countries that use it for example.

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/bahai.htm

    Spiritual Assemblies do write their government like you would expect a lobbying group to do. It was during the 90’s or 00’s when the UK SA sent letter to the govt and education officials, but I can’t find the whole letter only excerpts.

    Also, I never said liberal democracy was perfect. It’s one of the least bad systems. My views are actually similar to Hans Herman Hope and his book Democracy: The God The Failed. We support monarchism. Constitutional monarchism that is.

    Back to the issue or religion and law, secular societies don’t prohibit people from bringing up religious considerations, but people know to refrain from doing to except extreme religious candidates like Christian Democrats. People are expected to make reasonable and rational rather than religious considerations to the law making process. I like Belgium and France in this regards better than America. In America, people can bring religious considerations into law making without the culture casting them as religious nut-jobs except maybe on MSNBC.

    I have the letter found online.

    The National Spiritual Assembly, as the elected administrative body for the Bahá’í Faith in the United Kingdom, is concerned at some aspects of the sexual education of schoolchildren in this country.

    Bahá’ís believe that the sexual impulse is a God-given one, and the source of great joy and fulfilment if expressed in the intended way. The appropriate circumstance for this is within marriage, the legally, socially, and spiritually sanctioned union of two adults of the opposite sex. Other expressions are neither valid nor to be encouraged.

    We recognise that this ideal, of chastity before marriage and fidelity within it, is unfashionable. However it is taught by the world’s great religions, and is part of the basis of a stable and civilised society. Its rejection is in part a cause and in part an effect of the stresses, strain, and devaluation of people, that is occurring in the present-day world.

    The moral and sexual education of children cannot be taken separately, and must be based upon heterosexuality, fidelity, and the family unit.

    Bahá’ís reject the idea that homosexuality is something to be regarded as normal and its practice merely a valid lifestyle alternative. While it is wrong to condemn homosexuals as people, the sexual practice of homosexuality is no more an acceptable activity than is heterosexual activity outside marriage.

    We are concerned that homosexuality is being taught as if it were normal, and even more so when this is done to children of a vulnerable and readily-influenced age. We also abhor the introduction of loaded words such as “homophobia” and “heterosexism” to try to convey the idea that rejection of homosexuality is as prejudiced and discriminatory as racism, sexism, and other biases and intolerances which society is so painfully outgrowing. These words are designed to cow those opposed to the promotion of homosexuality by generating an atmosphere in which any disagreement is automatically represented as due to blind prejudice and bigotry.

    Bahá’ís feel that there is so much common ground between the teachings of the world’s faiths on this important subject that there should be no difficulty about their standing together against the values being promoted by the forces of secularism in our society.

    The part of all the world’s great religions has already been refuted online. It was written and given the the UK govt back in 1996. Obviously ignored by the govt considering current events.

    Their statement that the world’s great religions teach that sexual activity must be confined to a man and a woman married to each other is not accurate:

    Islam’s Sharia Law permits one man to be married to up to four women.
    Some Mormon denominations actively promote polygyny — the marriage of one man to multiple women.

    The Old Testament describes eight marriage/family styles involving men with female wives, concubines, prisoners of war, and slaves.

    In addition, liberal wings of many religions promote or condone other sexual practices. Some accept pre-marital sex between loving committed couples. Some promote or condone masturbation for health reasons among males, and to help youths understand their sexual functioning.

    I can add more to that last one. Who really is to say there is one Jewish or one Christian position on this or any issue? Or a single Hindu (only Hindutva Hindu nationalists have taken the conservative side) or Buddhist (generally a Theravada versus Mahayana divide) one? Or even a single Islamic one (though only Liberal/Progressive Muslims dissent from a vast consensus)? Christians, Jews, Unitarian Universalists, Contemporary Modern Neo Pagans, Buddhists, Ethical Culturists, Humanists, Eckists, Raëlians, Hindus, etc in whole, denominationally, or individually have taken a liberal position. Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Muslims, Sikhs, etc have taken a conservative side as well. Humanism refers both to religious (Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism) as well as secular versions (Secular humanism).

    Stephen, you can also look up my debate with Maya on what Jesus and Krishna and other taught on what this regards. I said the texts didn’t clearly support the traditionalist conservative approach. Maya kept on insisting on reading culture and tradition into the text despite everyone knowing not to do so. You can look up varying reading of the Bible passages and other texts in this regards on the Religious Tolerance and Wikipedia sites.

    Back to Unitarian Universalist churches, Unless an American lives in a big city urban area metropolis, their choice of houses of worship generally get limited to Jewish synagouge, Christian church, or maybe Muslim mosque if lucky enough to have one in their area. That puts a lot of areas without a whole variety of places of worship. Unitarian Universalist churches are the de facto house of worship for all none of the above whtehter Buddhist, Pagan, Hindu, Humanist, Atheist, Agnostic, Pantheist, Deist, or whatever else. The one nearest me which is a couple cities over but not that far from me does make the newspaper ocassionally. The last time it did so was because the Pagans had this really big Samhain celebration. Other Wheel of the Year events are noteworthy as well. The also have Zendo practice weekly as well by the Buddhists on Saturdays. Association Sundays are the main event for everyone, but there are specific holiday and other regular events like I just mentioned.

    More quotes

    “Ye are all the leaves of one tree, and the fruits of one branch.” Baha’u’llah (“glory of God”) the founder of the Baha’i faith.

    “If love and agreement are manifest in a single family, that family will advance, become illumined and spiritual.” Abdu’l-Bahá, the first interpreter of Baha’i teachings.

    “If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division it were better to be without it…” Abdu’l-Bahá.

    If religious beliefs and opinions are found contrary to the standards of science, they are mere superstitions and imaginations; for the antithesis of knowledge is ignorance, and the child of ignorance is superstition. Unquestionably there must be agreement between true religion and science. If a question be found contrary to reason, faith and belief in it are impossible, and there is no outcome but wavering and vacillation. Abdu’l-Bahá.

  6. There is a new show on the History Channel (H2 technically) called Bible Rules. It’s about how people lived in Biblical Israel. It showcases the issues of Biblical law.

    The Ten Commandments are mostly limited to the realm of religion now, but were all state as well. Now, most are limited to church rather than being legally binding on people.

    1st [1a] Commandment (forbid other gods): Church only
    2nd [1b] Commandment (forbid idols): Church only
    3rd [2] Commandment (forbid God’s name in vain): Church only
    4th [3] Commandment (keeping Sabbath): Church only
    5th [4] Commandment (honoring parents): Church only
    6th [5] Commandment (forbid murder): Both church and state
    7th [6] Commandment (forbid adultery): Church only (assuming full consent of those who committed the adultery; otherwise state prosecution for rape)
    8th [7] Commandment (forbid theft): Both church and state
    9th [8] Commandment (forbid false witness): Both church and state (but only civil enforcement for defamation unless perjury or fraud occurs)
    10th [9/10] Commandment (forbid coveting neighbor’s wife [9] and property [10]): Church only (unless it rises to the legal threshold of harassment) I do find my interpretation of covetousness becoming harassment sometimes to be a stretch, but it is the only way I could find covetousness to even remotely become a crime in society now.
    Not all specific crimes that the state can enforce are addressed directly. For example, kidnapping would be part of the eighth [seventh] commandment.

    Catholic numbering is used with Protestant numbering in brackets. In Jewish and Christian societies, the above is the case. In Islamic societies all of them are enforced by law depending on factors of degrees of Islam and state fusion.

    People are okay with morality being a private issue, but public monuments and even legislating them are different things entirely. Religious law is okay as long as it stay church only and not state as well with the exceptions of the above examples of things the state legitimately should legislate on like theft/kidnapping and murder as well as fraud/perjury. Interesting note, the Hebrew word used in the eight [seventh] commandment means to steal people (kidnapping) rather than to steal things.

    Bahai law as another example is currently church only, but vague on whether or not in the future will be state as well.

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