Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Middle Finger

Just another of my sententious truisms: There are five world religions. Christianity (yee-haw!), Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. I will brook no quibble, that Judaism and Hinduism are not world religions (Judaism seeks no converts and Hinduism is primarily a national religion, like Shinto – and if so, why exclude Confucianism?). Just shut up and play along. Each of these systems has had, at various periods in its history, secular power. That such power has been abused, in each instance, is beyond debate. (Buddhism? Has there never been a Buddhist army?) So what?

Come on. Which one of these things is not like the others?

Judaism and Islam have a powerful commonality. Both were, um, developed by their respective prophets, Moses and Mohammad, as theocracies – as systems of social governance. But with Judaism, the system improvised by the rabbis has long since supplanted the sacrificial plan outlined in the Torah. Okay, blahblahblah, get to the point.

Islam thinks it needs to rule the world. It was invented by a conqueror during the glory days of his expansion, and he imagined that it must always be so. Egypt was a Christian land ... conquered by Islam. Syria was a Christian land ... invaded by Islam. Asia Minor ("Turkey") was a Christian land ... taken over by Islam. Well, bully for Islam, of course – survival of the fittest and all that. But when the Temple of Solomon was razed and lawful sacrifice became impossible, the Jews adapted, and made a sacrifice of their good works. (Hope that works out for you, fellas.) When Islam lost its Caliphate, well, they’re planning on just getting another one.

Whenever a religion thinks it needs to be a government, nightmare follows. The Aztecs. Not so horrifying, the Puritans in Massachusetts – much more decent than ignorant opinion would have it (thanks, Mencken), but The Scarlet Letter wasn’t an entirely unfair portrait. And what’s this thing about burning women with PMS at the stake? – I think I heard something like that. The Roman Catholic Church – I have no problem with it, but when it thought it was a government ... well, the Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis Sanctum Officium did have its excesses. In the last century, Nazism and Communism exemplify the problem: absolute systems, with all the answers, which claim to know the meaning of history. Noted for an excess of enthusiasm, with regard to genocide.

Which brings us, again, to Islam. Islam needs to be a government. It divides the world into two parts, Dar al-Islam, and Dar al-Harb -- the House of Submission, and the House of War. (Hmm. Now let me ponder upon the matter ... where do I fit, in this scheme?) That Islam has been quiescent, in this essential, for the past few centuries, reflects no change in philosophy, but only its failure to master modern technology. Oil has provided a remedy to that backwardness, and now Islam is poised to regain its footing and resume its advance.

Europe was a Christian land ...



paul asjes said...

maybe this is a tangent but...

i have come to the conclusion that there are only 2 religions. religions of the self, and the Religion of the One True God.

the first is all about Man, we, i, can do, or try to do. "Be a good person. Do the best you can, and it will all work out in the End." or something. it is the religion we are all born with. this relion has had secular power all the time.

the other is a religion of realizing that "i am dust" : all that I am, all that is worthy in me is because of God. it is a focus on what God has done, and his love for us, and his desire for us to Honor him.

this cannot have secular governmental power in this world really, i feel.

"There is no massing of men with God. When he speaks of gathered men, it is as a spiritual body, not as a mass." -George MacDonald

the 2nd religion is between each person and God.

The religion of the One True God involves love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. [Galatians 5]

Jack H said...

Surprising. I thought I'd written about this. There are only two religions. The religion that says "you can be good enough," and the religion that says "you can't be good enough." I'm sure I've written about this. Let me look.

[an interlude of soothing music]

Why yes, here it is, in "The Lessons of Eden: the two religions" - the first chapter of my *The Serpent in Babel*:


What was the "correct" religion by which God was to be worshipped? Well, first we must understand what is meant by ‘religion’. In the broadest sense, religion is man's attempt to make himself acceptable to God. What image or symbol to face; what prayers to say, and how often, facing what direction and in what position; which mountain to climb; what animal to kill, and how; what incense to burn, and when; what hat or robe to wear; what hairdo to have; which foods to eat, which to refrain from, which buns or crackers to use in one's sacraments; what dance, what song, which intoxicant, which ointment, which paint — these are the obvious accoutrements of religion.

On a deeper level, however, these are mere forms. More substantively, ‘religion’ deals with the relationship that an individual has with either his idea of God, or with the actual God Himself. In the end, false religion is the worship of the god of one's own imagination. Worship of the actual God of the universe is what is termed real ‘salvation’. This worship, this religion, is not forms and rituals and set prayers and rote practices. It is a relationship, between Father and adopted children, between Friend and friends.

Those who are confirmed in their hostility to the Bible are fond of saying that all roads lead to God, or that all religions worship the same God, just under different names. To this, I agree: all religions lead to the same place, and all gods truly are the same god. I agree, with one exception: the God of the Bible speaks not of all roads, but of the narrow road; He speaks of the many gods, as His enemies. And this, finally, brings us to the development and diffusion of false religion, from its very beginnings, into historic times.

We will spend considerable time, now, exploring the religion of Satan, which is all religions but one. We will study it because of its monumental effect upon history. We will see that false religions, no matter the details of a particular manifestation, have one thing in common: You are good enough. Do these things, say these words, eat this or refrain from that . . . and God will be so impressed with your wonderfulness that you'll get the goodies of Heaven, whatever they may be. Whether the celestial whores in the Moslem heaven, or the myriad wives and personal deification in Mormon heaven, or the non-existence, the escaping from the wheel of reincarnation, of Buddhist and Hindu heaven — in all these cases, the reward is based on the merit of the person. The deity, here, is an adding machine, who calculates your worth and dispenses your pay. This deity is a vending machine, into which you feed your good works, and then select your treat.

In absolute contrast to this, the religion of the Bible says that you are not good enough, and never can be. “All your righteousness is as filthy rags” (Is 64:6). “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. None seek after God, no not one. All have gone astray and follow after their own way” (Rom 3:10-12). People hear this and think, "How grim, how negative!" But such a response ignores the rest of the message. You cannot be good enough, but God is good enough. You cannot live the perfect life, but Jesus did, and you can ally yourself with Him.

Of course good works are expected, but these play no part whatsoever in one's salvation — they are the expected outcome of one's salvation. Works cannot save you, but if you are saved, you should do good works, as is explicitly stated in Eph 2:8-10: “For by grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, but by the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works . . .” There is, of course, much to be said on this, but the point here is that only the Bible teaches this message — all other religions require personal merit from their followers before they can be ‘saved’.


And I go on, but there it is. Uh ... no ... it's not a tangent. Fits wonderfully with the line, "when the Temple of Solomon was razed and lawful sacrifice became impossible, the Jews adapted, and made a sacrifice of their good works. (Hope that works out for you, fellas.)" ;-)