Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

What's wrong with Islam?

I am on record as thinking that all religion is pretty stupid. The idea that there is some god, or collection of gods, out there who built this world just for us and had reasons for everything he/she/they did is a very attractive one, but it is also antithetical to reason. Let's take Judaism. Which is more likely, that a God named Yahweh built this world in seven days according to the story of the Tanakh and passed on the true knowledge of how the world was made and works to a select group of followers whose descendants now number 10 million, while the rest of humanity struggles in darkness or a corruption of the original myth...OR that 5000 years ago a tribe of people (The Hebrews) collected their mythology and that of other tribes into a book, and not having modern science to give them another way to view the world used this book to explain all the inexplicable things they encounters in their environment and to bond themselves together into a cohesive cultural group that has lasted to this day? It's not even a contest. Is it a coincidence that the vast majority of religious rules and restrictions are consistent with those someone would invent if he wanted to increase the popularity and power of a specific religion? Could be, but I doubt it. If you look at, say, the ten commandments, they are all rules that serve either to A) Reinforce the power of Judaism or B) Help construct a functional, long-lasting society. The same with the rest of the rules in the bible. Don't eat shellfish or pig? Two foods that were likely to spoil and carry disease in a pre-refrigeration desert environment. Keep your head covered at all times? A good way to reinforce Jewish identity constantly, making sure people don't stray from the flock. Do not take the name of the lord in vain? By imbuing a name with special properties you make it seem more powerful and imposing.

You can do the same sort of analysis for virtually every religion. They all exist to perpetuate certain power structures and rules for a (more or less) functional society. They were created by humans to explain the world and to codify certain power structures. God was built in the image of his creator, man.

So what's specifically wrong with Islam?

Well if the Tanakh is the product of a tribe of people built over several thousand years, and the gospels are the result of a man's friends writing posthumous accounts of his teachings and life, the Qu'ran is the work of a madman.

It is clear that the Jewish holy book was not written by a single person at a single point in time, but rather assembled (How and when is up for both secular and religious debate.) The Christian tradition ascribes authorship to its various works, but not divine authorship. If there is conflict in the Gospels it is because different writers chose to emphasize different aspects of Jesus' personality and teachings. The Qu'ran, on the other hand, is supposed to be the direct words of God dictated to his final prophet Mohammad. Mohammad (at least supposedly) wrote the whole thing and presented it to his followers as is. The closest they came to input was to create the Hadith, stories about the life of...Mohammad, which are used to figure out stuff not directly in the Qu'ran.

This means that if Judaism is pseudo-democratic (After all when a work is assembled over a period of time longer than any one person can live it is necessarily controlled by a variety of authors, and when it is built up by a tribe it is bound to represent that tribe's political and philosophical opinions in some way or form) and the bible is like a caucus of Jesus' friends and early followers, the Qu'Ran is a dictatorial book. It exists to feed the ego and pleasure of a single person. This one person is presented as perfection. While the view of Jesus we get are his best aspects (After all if he got mad one day and kicked a leper it's not like his buddies are going to write that down) and the views of the Jewish patriarchs are complicated and at times even judgmental (Moses was a bad boy and because of it he never got to go to Israel.) Mohammad is, of course perfection. All his foibles and weirdness are embedded in the religion because there's no countervailing force. So if he was warlike and bloody minded, well that's the way people should be. And if he married a prepubescent girl and started having sex with her before she was even 10 (Which he did) well if the perfect prophet of God did it how could there be anything wrong with that?

In a lot of ways Mohammad resembles an ancient L. Ron Hubbard, building a religion for his personal gain and pleasure, and then letting it pass on to others after he died. He spouted whatever he felt like at a given time, sometimes warlike sometimes peaceful, sometimes reasonable (lots of useful social laws, like any religion), sometimes kind of nutty (I flew on a winged horse to...whatwhat?) The Qu'ran lacks the 'wisdom of the crowds' aspect that most other religions have because it was created by one person (Though it was probably edited afterwards, and he may have had collaborators, it is at least a cohesive work in a way that the Bible is not)

What does this all mean? Just that at its basis Islam is less varied and less broad in perspective than collaborative religions, and that makes it more dangerous. It is a singular vision of its own perfection and power, exhorting its followers to arrogance and self-certitude, and proclaiming its own absolute perfection. Does this mean that Muslims are inherently dangerous? Not necessarily. I mean Christians did a pretty good job of butchering people during the crusades, but eventually stopped that for political and cultural reasons. The same will probably happen to the dangerous strains of fundamentalist Islam. People will always interpret 'holy books' in such a way as to fit their chosen lifestyle, and education reduces religious influence. But it does mean that the Qu'Ran is probably more effective as a means of war propaganda than either the old or new testaments, and that its followers have a more coherent and focused plan than those who follow compound philosophy.

It also makes it, in my opinion, much less interesting as a text. But that's a different story.
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