People-Of-The-Book-Unite?

People Of The Book, Unite?

I just had one of those odd insights that happens from time to time. You soak up information from a million places, then some little item causes a “CLICK” and disparate parts get connected…

One

One is the Muslim phrase “People of The Book”. It is used to reference all believers in the basic Word of God from the “original” Bible. That is: Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Side Bar on Muslims and The Bible

FWIW, I finally found out why, if Muslims believe in Jesus and The Bible, they ban Bibles. The assertion is that the present Christian Bible is not the one that Mohammed held in his hand, and has been corrupted. There is some foundation for this in that most likely The Book of Mohammed was a Coptic version, not one washed through the Nicene review process. A process that left The Apocrypha as a thorn in the side of Catholic / Protestant relationships for generations. Why Muslims don’t pick a copy of the bible they DO believe is correct, is a topic for another day… but basically they hold that it is irretrievably lost, despite the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hammadi library showing the modern version is pretty well intact. That the Catholics have what appear to be “idols” in their church “confirms” to Muslims that all Christians are not true believers and have been mislead by a corrupted Bible – even though the idol worship prohibition is clearly still in the text of The Bible and it is more about interpretation of what those images are at the front of the church than it is about The Bible… Also FWIW, IFF I had to “pick one” Bible closest to the original of Mohhamed, it would be the Peshitta text that is still in the original Aramaic and never was washed through Greek or Latin. But even then, the differences are mostly trivial and few.

Two

Another was a story about Obama as the worlds greatest gun salesman. Seems sales are up 35%+ on the Democratic control of congress (66% for Baretta). Folks voting with their wallets while they can… “Clinging to their guns and religion.”

Three

Finally, an interview with students at Notre Dame protesting the awarding of an honorary degree to Obama and his speaking at their graduation (seeing as he does not support a Catholic set of beliefs in things such as abortion being a sin and “gay marriage” prohibited by The Bible.)

Clinging to their religion, at least inside their own religious school…

Click!

At that moment, I had several images in my brain at once. (I suspect that mild synesthesia plays a part in “borderline Asperger’s” and “the flash” effects – though a particular kind of image/thought synesthesia. The rest of this posting was “thought” in what seemed like a second or two of images, then starts the slow translation into words and linear representation…) At any rate, the “flash” was of nuns habits and muslim women in the hijab, of rednecks “clinging to their guns and religion” and Muslims “clinging to their guns and religion” and of Jews in Israel “clinging to their guns and religion”, of Muslim Religious Leaders in an authoritarian power structure and Catholic Bishops (and the Pope) in an authoritarian power structure. Of devout Orthodox Jews in plain modest dress, of devout Amish in plain modest dress, of devout Muslims in plain modest dress. And the question formed:

If they were not so busy fighting each other, but instead recognized their similarities, who would lose?

And the answer was that the communists, the secular socialists, and the secular capitalist governments of the world would lose. Whether this is a bad thing or a good thing depends on which side you are on, religious or not. But this stimulated a second question: “My enemy’s enemy is my friend”, so at what point do these religious groups become “friends” against the secular movement? (The Muslims have a particular problem here in that the Koran repeatedly admonishes Muslims to never take Jews or Christians as friends, though it does allow for alliances of convenience, so a coalition could still form and be in conformance to the rules. Their vehement hatred of Jews, though, is almost certainly an insurmountable barrier at this time.)

Speculation Then Followed

And that led to the final step:

Is the secular movement aware of this and promoting division between The People Of The Book in order to advance the secular agenda? I don’t mind having a good fight against my enemies, but I very much resent someone providing an artificial enemy to me, for their own ends…

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”
(a foundation belief of my world view).

So is it just stupidity that these three groups have been fighting each other for 1000 years and continue to do so today? Were the geographic divisions assigned to the Muslim world post World War(s) accidental, or a deliberate attempt to cause strife between Shia and Sunni? Was the creation of Israel an innocent attempt to correct a 2000 year old wrong (and psychological payback for The Holocaust)? Or was it a way to assure 1000 years of religious strife? Was the support of the Muslim side by the secular west in the Yugoslav break up based on a sense of justice, or a desire to keep hatred alive between the Christians and Muslims of the area?

For hundreds of years the division between Catholics and Protestants led to murderous wars in Europe. For example, the Catholics have images of Christ and Mary near the altar. Protestants hold that this is against the explicit Word of The Bible. That I need to explain this ‘conflict’ to most Americans speaks volumes about the convergence of the Catholic and Protestant worlds; but at one time this “idol worship” by Catholics led to much war and persecution. I have talked with Muslims who still find this to be “idol worship”, yet they were oddly unaware that this same issue united them with the historical position of Protestants. They painted all Christians with the same brush. There is a similar congruence of beliefs over the presence of The Pope as the only legitimate interpreter of The Word vs the Protestant and Muslim style of “read the text yourself” – with some guidance from a fellow traveler a bit further along. (At one time, the Catholic Church mandated the death penalty for anyone who was not an ordained priest and dared to read The Bible themselves… we’ve come a long way.)

If Protestants and Catholics can “agree to disagree” over an issue that had led to churches being burned, “idols” being broken (“iconoclast” has an interesting history- look it up…), death for possession and reading The Bible, and countries going to war: Could not The People Of The Book “agree to disagree” if pushed too far by secular beliefs?

If Jews can live at peace in countries dominated by the same Catholic Church that brought us The Inquisition: Could not The People Of The Book live together in peace if pushed too far by the secular agenda?

Would that be a good thing?

I don’t know. But it’s an interesting question…

My History and Biases

My biases? I’m a “sort of a Christian” in that I was raised in a Christian environment. Mom was Church of England – but having no such church in America, I was raised in an odd mix of Southern Baptist, Methodist, an occasional bit of Lutheran, and visits to the Presbyterian and Mormon churches. About age 14, an Episcopalian Church was built and we went there for a few years. Dad was raised Catholic, but with an Amish mom. By his actions he passed on some of the Amish ideals. A good friend was Catholic too, so from time to time I went to the Catholic church. Both my father and my mother (who converted to Catholicism when I was about 25) were buried with Catholic services at the Catholic church – and I spoke from the front of the church at both services.

Why such a mixed background? Mom didn’t drive until I was about 8. We walked to the nearest church, whatever that was… I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading the Koran and researching the older copies of the bible even to the point of reading some bits of the Latin Catholic originals and getting books on the Dead Sea Scrolls and Hammadi texts. Probably stimulated by the early awareness that my Protestant Bible was missing some bits that the Catholic Bible had in it along with The Book Of Mormon having lots of interesting books in it beyond those in my Bible, and wondering why… It is an interesting pastime for purely human interest reasons. In a way, I belong to all of them, and none of them, at the same time.

Over the years I’ve accumulated a few Jewish relatives and several Jewish friends. I would say I’ve had a couple of Muslim friends, but that would put them in jeopardy with their sacred text, so lets just say that I “get along well” with Muslims. In the end, what do I believe? I don’t know if The Book is true, but I do know that it contains much wisdom and history and is generally helpful; though much evil has been done in its name. I’ll die soon enough and I’ll find out the truth then. Until then, I pick no sides, but wish we could “just get along”… and appreciate the wisdom from the past, however and by whomever preserved.

And now I’m wondering just how much “getting along” could be advanced by outside pressures, and how much is prevented by outside pressures…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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10 Responses to People-Of-The-Book-Unite?

  1. JLKrueger says:

    E.M.,
    Great post. I got curious and “followed you home” from Anthony’s site.

    The one bit though about Muslims not able to have Christian or Jewish friends is one of the most misquoted passages in the Qur’an, by Muslims and others alike. I think it is an outhgrowth of the radicalized Islam that has taken root in the world.

    I’ve lived in Muslim countries for most of the last seven years and when I engage my Muslim friends in religious discussion and we get to this question, they look at me like I’ve got three heads. They are usually quite adamant that it is inconceivable that a religion that is supposed to be founded on peace could have such a prohibition.

    Actually, I’ve found that sentiment (that there is nothing wrong with Muslims having non-Muslim friends) strongest here in Afghanistan, where I’ve lived for the last year. This tolerance is so well-pronounced that you can buy Christmas trees in Kabul during the Christmas season (complete with lights). You can also get yard statuary of Mary, either alone or with infant, just like many Irish Catholic families have in their yards. It’s almost sureal.

    I honestly believe you hit on something though. If the “Big Three” ever come to realize that they have more in common than they have in difference, the secularists will be in big trouble!

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    @JLKrueger:

    I too have noticed a large tendency of “average Muslims” to just be regular folks first, worried about the exact details of the Koran later… Surprisingly like most all the Catholics, Jews, Baptists, etc. that I’ve known! The generalization I’d make is that most folks think their religion is good and stands for good things and think they ought to read their book “some day” but never quite get through it… Then there are the radicals (in any religion) who go way over the edge. Oh well, human nature I guess…

    At any rate, I’ve read the part that says not to take Jews and Christians to be friends and I’ve had Muslim friends. I’ve also read the parts of the bible that tell you to stone folks for certain offenses and to, for example, not eat pork. Yet a lot of Christians still eat pork and very few promote stoning! All I can figure is most people like the idea of being strictly religious far more than the reality.

  3. Jeff Alberts says:

    Two

    Another was a story about Obama as the worlds greatest gun salesman. Seems sales are up 35%+ on the Democratic control of congress (66% for Baretta). Folks voting with their wallets while they can… “Clinging to their guns and religion.”

    I cling to my guns, but have no use for religion. I prefer better-written fairy tales.

  4. EM – I need to divert my conscious for a few hours, so was going through some of your back-catalogue. This one seems sparse on comments. I was brought up Church of England, but see very little substantial differences between any of the “People of the Book”. They disagree on the name they call their God, yet since they all insist there is just one, then they are disagreeing purely over the name used. A lot of the basic rules are the same, with some special ones for different climates. In hot countries, it is dangerous to eat pork since it rots quickly, and also diseases in pigs are easily transmitted to humans. The stricture against pork was therefore an observation that people who did tended to die more often. Likewise the head-to-toe coverings for women – it makes sense when you’ve got men coming in from a few months in the desert and the sight of half-naked women (other men’s wives or daughters) could lead to sexual advances and thus conflict. By avoiding this type of unnecessary conflict, the peoples who kept to these rules would out-perform those who didn’t.

    Richard Dawkins has said that religion is not scientifically valid, and that natural selection is all that occurs. Since religions have been a constant of our civilisations, I’d argue that they must therefore have survival value (and that Dawkins is therefore wrong in his assertions). The societies that were not religious died out, and we can see some of this in the Russian history where religion was officially banned by the State. Now, of course, that era is over and we find that it still survived after all. Maybe a belief that, whatever you try to hide, someone (above?) will know all your actions and judge you on them has the effect of making you kind to others. This obviously has survival value for society as a whole, since most of our civilisation depends on co-operation with a degree of trust and shared values.

    While the major religions are divided by a squabble over which books to use and which interpretation to follow, it doesn’t seem that the organisations could really come together and act in unison. There would also be the little fight over who takes the lead – the Pope, an Ayatollah, the Chief Rabbi or a Hindu? In the end, it seems to me to boil down to which end of the egg do you open first – the big one or the little one? We need another Gulliver.

  5. p.g.sharrow says:

    There is no chief Ayatollah, Rabbi or Hindu. The Papacy was the creation of the Roman empire, Religious freedom can not work with a chief leader.
    Prophecies say that we are near the end of the line of Popes and that the 12th Amon walks with Jesus. Christians quite fighting each other when they got tired of the blood, as has many other religions. Muslims are going through this phase now, soon they will be exhausted.
    Just buy more popcorn, this will soon be over. pg

  6. pg – I’m pretty sure there is at least a chief Rabbi, unless the BBC news was wrong about him meeting the Pope. The point I was making however was that there would be quite a political problem in choosing the leader of the new all-in-one faith, and it would almost certainly have a leader of some sort. Human make-up seems to demand that a leader emerges, since people want to follow someone – it’s easier than making up your own mind on what is right or wrong.

    “Religious freedom can not work with a chief leader” – well, I’m not really expecting religious freedom, either. My experience with various churches is that they expect you to swallow the creed whole, and not carp about the bits that don’t make sense.

    The best I hope for is that the various religions start to see that there is more connecting them than is dividing them, and thus to allow tolerance to grow. Tolerance, in essence, means that people have to accept that they can’t be right about everything, and that other people may have an idea closer to the truth. What was written down many years ago may have been right for the people at that time, but there may be a better way for our time and place, if we don’t discard it as “against The Book”.

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Simon:

    What gets comments varies. Often the better written postings get fewer comments as there is less to argue about. Angry ‘rock tossing’ postings get more comments than “can’t we all be friends?” postings. Sometimes it just depends on what is in the news…

    Religion does have “survival value”, generally. But there is also a “survival of the most survival promoting”. There have periodically been sects that advocated celibacy. Oddly, they all die out after a generation or two ;-)

    When a pacifist religion runs into an aggressive dominating one, the pacifist one dies out.

    Etc.

    @Jeff Alberts:

    I’m more or less agnostic, but with a religious bent (go figure). But in fact the Christian Dogma has pretty good survival value. It’s a pretty good guideline for life. There are a lot of preserved bits of “folk wisdom” buried in the rules / guidelines.

    Besides, some of the stories are pretty good…

    @P.G.Sharrow:

    There’s a couple of other Popes too… Eastern Orthodox has one. Coptic has one… I think that the Ethiopian Church has one too. Pick your Pope ;-)

    @Simon:

    There is some movement that way on the Christian side. There is now a common approved Bible for Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox. Ran into it at the local Bible Store. (Yes, we have a very large store full of nothing but Bibles and religious stuff. I’d guess about 20 meters by 30 meters.) There have also been talks between the Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox about a rapprochement. Probably take a few more decades at minimum. Still haggling over who’s the head Pope…

  8. adolfogiurfa says:

    Read The Nag Hammadi Library:
    http://khazarzar.skeptik.net/books/nhl.pdf
    Summarizing, according to these gospels, the teachings of Jesus said that “Gnosis” (knowledge) was possible to man, and left Mary Magdalene as his representative and leader, some guys like Peter et Al. didn´t like it and saw their opportunity to make a good business out of it (not for nothing they were jews) and founded The Church, where “Gnosis” it is not possible to men and “salvation” was possible ONLY through the intercession (conveniently “tipped”, of course) of the Church “Officials”… That´s the story, so you got to believe in what they called “dogmas”, etc., etc.
    From then on, officials and academicians always teach that “knowledge” it is only possible through “consensus” and approved by them “creed”.
    Now….(buy more popcorn right now) we are crossing a certain point in the displacement of the Earth, Sun and planets, through the local Galaxy where we can receive/perceive much more clearly the energy/information from the “Source” at the center of it, that is why the ancients called these times, the times of the APOCALYPSE:
    An apocalypse (Greek: ἀποκάλυψις apokálypsis; “lifting of the veil” or “revelation”) is a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception, i.e. the veil to be lifted
    So, you see, this is gonna be quite INCONVENIENT for the Official Politics, the Official Churches and The Official Academy. Now you can discern WHY things are happening like they do, NOW.
    May God bless these INTERESTING TIMES :-)

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    @Adolfo:

    I’ve got a copy of the Nag Hamadi on the shelf here… It’s interesting. I generally agree with the interpretation of the schism between Orthodox and Gnostic sects; but watch the anti-Semitic anti-Jewish remarks, OK? Need I remind you have have a Jewish Uncle and a bunch of Jewish cousins? I’ve known a lot of Jews and they are no worse than anyone else. (Frankly, I’ve met less moral and more greedy folks from many other religions, and the Jews at least feel guilty about it. ;-)

    BTW, it was largely the Romans that, after adopting Christianity, pushed for the central power and dogma from the top down thing; not Jews. It was the Romans who banned Gnosticism and persecuted the Copts. Etc. If you want to toss rocks at someone for being Central Authority oriented and prone to demanding tribute; look no further than Rome and Constantinople. Romans ( Latins) and Greeks. To be blunt: Pick up a mirror. The Jews mostly just called them all heretics and admonished the Jewish Christians to get back to the Temple.

    I’ve read most of books of the Bible and while there’s some that’s written by the Apostles that is contrary to Gnosticism, it’s not that much. There’s still a lot that is concordant with it. It is mostly later re-interpretations of their writing (Post Constantine and post Rome / Council of Nicea ) when the Catholics become less gender neutral, central authority driven, and money oriented. Again, no Jews need apply… We’re talking 300 years AD at that point and the Christians involved had little connection to the Jewish people or culture.

    So please take off the blinders of prejudice and just read the books as they are written. OK?

    With that said:

    In general I agree more with the Gnostic ideas and the Gnostic writings. IMHO the Council of Nicea did a whoaful wrong to Christianity. One from which it has never fully recovered. They put a distinctive Central Control Authoritarian Male stamp on the church that has lasted nearly 2 millenia. On that I think we agree. But it was Romans who did it. At Nicea.

  10. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M: Anyway it was a good marketing :-)

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