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May-30-2010 19:11printcomments

A Western Perspective on Islam

Understanding the connections between modern philosophy and the Qur’an, as well as recognition of the true meaning of Islam, are essential to understanding the modern world.

Islam
Images courtesy: trcs.wikispaces.com, preterhuman.net, visualstatistics.net and nvcc.edu

(EUGENE, Ore.) - As a westerner, raised in the Christian religion, I have only an external view of Islam. My perspective on Islam is only a personal interpretation, influenced by literary research, and not a religious or spiritual belief based on participation in a religious community. It is important to make clear here that I am not ascribing anything to Islam, or making any claim whatsoever as to what Muslims believe. In addition, it is important to point out that a written translation of the Qur’an is by nature an interpretive work. For this reason, I would stress that my views here are only opinions on the interpretations of others; they are in no way meant to be authoritative statements as to the actual meanings of the Qur’an. I am only sharing my own personal perspective, which I feel may be useful to other people with a similar background to my own, and may be useful to Muslims in understanding how someone from the Western Christian background views their religion. Having been raised, first on Christianity, and then on academic philosophy, my first instinct in studying the Qur’an was to approach it through the academic framework of rational inquiry, in the same way that I would approach a work by an academic philosopher. If the Qur’an is viewed in the same light as any other philosophical treatise, it can be assessed in this perspective on the basis of the rational arguments made in it. Once again, let me state that this is only a theoretical juxtaposition, and I am in no way saying that the Qur’an is merely a philosophical treatise. The Qur’an would seem to invite this mode of analysis, as it contains many exhortations for the listener to “use their reason.” Like modern Western philosophy, which came along centuries after the Qu’ran spread to Europe, the Qur’an, as I interpret it, lays out a religion that is wholly in accord with reason. Reason and rationality do not preclude the existence of the unknown, nor do they imply that human beings are capable of understanding the reason for existence or the nature of existence. However, with the use of limited rational capabilities, it is possible to discard some ideas as being false, and it is possible to establish with relative certainty that other ideas are true. The core philosophical claim made by monotheistic religions, and to the best of my understanding made in the Qur’an, is as follows: There is only one existence. Existence in its entirety, which is beyond conception, is what is called Allah, or in Western Christianity God. The logical argument for this proposition is very simple: if there is existence, there must be an entirety to existence, even if it is beyond the limits of human conception. Allah or God is a word for the entirety of existence.

The Qur’an, interpreted as a philosophy of devotion to truth, lays out a series of reasoned arguments that debunk every claim made by religious charlatans, political tyrants, and common con artists of every stripe.
In modern philosophy, Descartes adopts this argument in his arguments for the existence of God, and offers his famous argument of “I think therefore I am” as a proof of existence itself, which by logical extension proves the existence of a universal God. Once again, it is important to emphasize that God is only a word for the entirety of existence. Benedict Spinoza, who was well educated in Jewish philosophical traditions, expounded on the philosophy of monotheism in much greater detail that Descartes. Spinoza offered more elaborate proofs for a single unitary existence. To this he added explanations of free will, good and evil, and human psychology that fit within the framework of unitary existence. David Hume was another modern Western Philosopher whose work shows some connection to the Qur’an. In The History of Natural Religion, Hume repeats arguments and illustrations that are found in the Qur’an, while also giving prominence to ancient Greek philosophical writings that are consistent with monotheistic philosophy. Writings by individuals such as Hume must be understood in the context of a society where atheism and heresy were still capital crimes and the political/religious order was violently hostile to any challenge to their unwarranted authority. Consequently, in Hume you will only find truth buried under many layers of subterfuge. I point out the connection between modern philosophy in Europe and the spread of the Qu’ran because this is a purposefully forgotten part of European history. The Catholic Church, while based on the same religion as Judaism and Islam, has been shaped from the beginning by its role as the official state religion of the Roman Empire. Christianity, as codified by the early Romany Catholic Church, was a religion that made the Roman Emperor a God, and everyone else his slaves. It is important to point out that the Roman Catholic Church, at its founding as the state religion of the Roman Empire, is an entirely different thing that the modern Catholic Church. This is ancient history, almost two millennia passed by, and the modern Catholic Church is only superficially related to the ancient institution from which it is descended. The Roman Catholic Church has evolved over time, especially since the degeneration of the Roman Empire, but the basic institutional framework has remained roughly the same. Roman Emperors have been replaced by Holy Roman Emperors who have been replaced by Popes, but the idea of an infallible human pontiff has remained the same. If you have any doubts, simply look at your calendar, which sets aside months for the worship of the Roman gods Janus, Mars, and Juno, alongside the “gods” of the “divine” Julii family. Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus foremost amongst them. By contrast, Islam, by my understanding, is a religion based wholly on devotion, worship, and submission to Allah. Taking Allah to be a word for existence or reality, the religion of Islam can be understood in one sense as devotion to, submission to, or pursuit of truth. To take this a step further, the core monotheistic claim is that existence is all there is (a truism), there is nothing outside of existence, and consequently all life is contained within this existence. The only true knowledge is the understanding of existence. Christianity, as constructed by the ancient Romans and down throughout European history, was diametrically opposed to Islam in the same way that it is diametrically opposed to modern philosophy based on reason. Even though Christianity is based in part on the same monotheistic philosophy as Islam, this is an entirely different matter than the practice of Christianity by State religions over the course of European history. Reason and rationality do not allow for worshipping human gods, worshipping idols, believing in fake miracles, paying taxes to thieving priests, and engaging in pointless rituals. The Qur’an, interpreted as a philosophy of devotion to truth, lays out a series of reasoned arguments that debunk every claim made by religious charlatans, political tyrants, and common con artists of every stripe. Consequently, the Qur’an and Islam would have been from the start a grave threat to the Roman Catholic Church and other state religions in Europe that were used as political organizations to repress and exploit their followers with a false religion. Christianity, as constructed by the Romans, is diametrically opposed to Islam in the same way that it is diametrically opposed to modern philosophy based on reason. Even though Christianity is based in part on the same monotheistic philosophy as Islam, this is an entirely different matter than the practice of the Roman Catholic Church.
The opulence of some and abject poverty of others provide the continual “proofs” of superiority that hierarchical societies need in order to function. In a similar vein, ignorance, spiritual poverty, and the reduction of human beings to abject and barbarous conditions provide similar false proofs of the superiority of some over others.
Reason and rationality do not allow for the superstitious idiocy of worshipping human gods, worshipping idols, believing in fake miracles, paying taxes to thieving priests, and engaging in pointless rituals. The Qur’an, interpreted as a philosophy of devotion to truth, lays out a series of reasoned arguments that debunk every claim made by religious charlatans, political tyrants, and common con artists of every stripe. Consequently, the Qur’an and Islam would have been from the start a grave threat to the Roman Catholic Church, which was designed as a political organization to repress and exploit its slaves with a false religion. The decline of the Roman Catholic Church in political power has gone hand-in-hand with the rise in power of other institutions that have copied the institutional form of the Roman Catholic Church, while shifting the seat of power from Rome to more opportune locales. The creation of the Church of England can be seen as a naked power grab by the British monarchy and aristocracy. They copied the institutional form and ideology of the Catholics outright, and simply stopped paying taxes to Rome. Many modern institutions are based on the institutional structure of the Roman Catholic Church, although the ideologies of these quasi-religious organizations have been subject to some transformation over time. What all of these organizations have in common is the elevation of human beings to “god-like” status, which is achieved by the creation of dictatorial hierarchical institutions. The elevation of some necessarily implies the degradation of others, and consequently all of these hierarchical institutions are based on slavery. Poverty and degradation, both physical and spiritual, are necessary in hierarchical slave societies. The opulence of some and abject poverty of others provide the continual “proofs” of superiority that hierarchical societies need in order to function. In a similar vein, ignorance, spiritual poverty, and the reduction of human beings to abject and barbarous conditions provide similar false proofs of the superiority of some over others. Just as the Roman Catholic Church was hostile to Islam, and hostile to modern philosophy, so are its ideological descendents, the hierarchical institutions that are degenerated copies of it. The belief that we are all part of a single unified existence precludes the inherent superiority of any human being over another. It precludes false distinctions based upon false claims of property rights. It precludes false distinctions based upon heredity, or any other basis. When Jesus says, as do many others, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” the truth of this maxim is that the other is you. The other is a part of the same existence as you are, and what you do to them, you do to yourself. Harm others, harm yourself. Help others, help yourself. This is not a do-gooder fairy tale. It is a literal description of the true nature of reality and existence. One of the most important messages of the Qur’an, and all monotheistic religions, is the rejection of violence and conflict, and especially aggressive violence and the instigation of conflict. Aggression is viewed as anathema in monotheism, because violence against others is literally believed to be violence against the self. If there is only one unitary existence, then conflict and violence must be by one division against another. In monotheism conflict is believed to arise from ignorance of the true nature of reality. It is believed that something cannot be in conflict with itself, and consequently, if there is only one unitary existence, there can be no conflict within it. Conflict can only exist as an illusion born of ignorance of the true nature of reality. Peace and unity are among the highest goals of Islam. Islam being devotion to truth, and the ultimate truth being that there is only one unitary existence, which by definition must be free from any conflict within itself. In my interpretation, Islam is wholly consistent with both Christianity and modern Western philosophy. I interpret Islam as being nothing more than devotion and subservience to truth, Allah being the only truth. No valid philosophy or religion can be based on falsehood, so there is no possibility of any true philosophy or religion being in conflict with Islam. Individuals and institutions steeped in ignorance are forever hostile to truth, which threatens their very existence. The ancient Roman Catholic Church and its ideological descendents have always been hostile to truth, and by extension must be hostile to Islam, which is nothing more than devotion to truth. Understanding the connections between modern philosophy and the Qur’an, as well as recognition of the true meaning of Islam, are essential to understanding the modern world. Unless you understand that anyone who claims that Islam is a religion of terror and violence is an intentional liar, who is in fact spreading their own agenda of terror and violence against those who believe only in peace and unity, you cannot understand the modern world. Unless you understand that a “clash of civilizations” or a “war against Islam” is really a war against truth, you cannot understand the modern world. These propaganda phrases are absurd Orwellian constructions that invert reality and are designed only to hopelessly confuse those who believe in them. Anyone “fighting against Islam” is also fighting against the entire accumulation of knowledge in Western Civilization itself. Especially in the United States, a country founded on reason and respect for “nature’s God,” this condition represents a complete rejection of our own intellectual heritage. Thomas Jefferson, the greatest statesman out of the founding fathers, owned and studied the Qu’ran, which he donated to the Library of Congress upon his death. If you want the truth, then do as Thomas Jefferson did, and read the Qur’an for yourself with an open and unprejudiced mind. Read the teachings of Christ, as related in the Bible, with an open and unprejudiced mind. Ask yourself whether or not these teaching confirm each other. Do both consistently promote peace and non-violence? Do both consistently criticize those who wallow in ostentatious wealth? Do both consistently advocate charity? Do both consistently advocate justice? Do both consistently criticize hierarchies, organized religious institutions, and priesthoods? Do both stress forgiveness of wrongdoing? Do both stress eternal life? Do both stress the subservience of human beings to the natural order? Now, ask yourself how these teachings compare to the conduct, laws, and regulations promoted by modern governmental and corporate institutions. Notice a disparity? In this disparity the true nature of a “War on Islam” can be observed. Islam is nothing more than truth, and consequently, a War on Islam is a war against all truth, including the truth in Christianity, the truth in modern philosophy, and the truth in our own national heritage. =================================== Salem-News.com Business/Economy Reporter Ersun Warncke is a native Oregonian. He has a degree in Economics from Portland State University and studied Law at University of Oregon. At a young age, his career spans a wide variety of fields, from fast food, to union labor, to computer programming. He has published works concerning economics, business, government, and media on blogs for several years. He currently works as an independent software designer specializing in web based applications, open source software, and peer-to-peer (P2P) applications. Ersun describes his writing as being "in the language of the boardroom from the perspective of the shop floor." He adds that "he has no education in journalism other than reading Hunter S. Thompson." But along with life comes the real experience that indeed creates quality writers. Right now, every detail that can help the general public get ahead in life financially, is of paramount importance. You can write to Ersun at: warncke@comcast.net




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jimmy June 3, 2010 8:38 am (Pacific time)

"Peace and unity are among the highest goals of Islam" - Well, you got the unity part right... go take a look at how Islam treats non-beleivers and then tell me it about peace - from what I ready, we "non-beleivers" have three choices - Convert, Fight, or Die. How is that peaceful?


Josh Akers May 30, 2010 7:57 pm (Pacific time)

That IS why they're pissed off isn't it? Regardless of the decision we're going to have a hospital load of new veterans coming home soon with mental illnesses. Or that's what OPB seems to conclude.

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