Monday, August 21, 2006

You Intolerant Fundy!

On another blog I was accused of intolerance. This stemmed from an argument in which I took the position that the God of Christianity is not the god of Islam. It wasn't a very deep discussion--I simply made a trivial point along the lines of:
  • If a Christian saw Jesus, he would say: "there stands God."
  • If a Moslem saw Jesus, he would say: "there stands a man."
Of course, the same would apply to Judaism as well. If one religion's god is viewed as a man by another, then it seems fairly obvious that they do not worship the same God.

In reality, of course, things are a bit more complicated. Even within Christianity different viewpoints describe God's attributes differently--for example his sovereignty. Given that the gods of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are all described as the "God of Abraham", then there is a case to be made that they are the same God. On the other hand, given that only the Christian god is a triune god, and given that the gods of all three have established vastly different and opposing redemptive histories and sovereign plans of salvation, I think the case is much stronger that they are not the same god.

Then I made a similar point about Mohammed:
  • If a Moslem saw Mohammed, he would say: "there stands a true prophet."
  • If a Christian saw Mohammed, he would say: "there stands a false prophet, a charlatan."
It was this comment that resulted in the charge of intolerance, and the assertion that some Moslems reading the blog might not be too happy about it.

I'm guessing the word "charlatan" was deemed particularly offensive--but it seems to me that a false prophet is necessarily a charlatan--unless he is delusional--which I doubt is more pc. Nevertheless I admit that in this way of making my point I omitted a third possibility: Mohammed might have been a true prophet (a man of God), a false prophet (a charlatan) or an honest but delusional man (mentally ill).

Describing this as intolerant makes my head spin. I would think that a thinking Moslem reading my comment would not be offended, he would disagree. He would, I imagine, reason this way: "this guy is a Christian, so of course he thinks Mohammed was a false prophet, otherwise he'd be a Moslem for crying out loud."

He wouldn't be offended; he'd just think I was wrong.

Similarly, why would a Jew be offended by the Christian claim that the only way to salvation is through Christ? Wouldn't a thinking Jew expect Christians to hold to such a belief? Wouldn't he say to me "I understand why you, as a Christian, believe that--but I have to tell you it is just plain wrong."

And reversing the situation, should I be offended if a Jew or a Moslem or a Jehovah's Witness calls me a polytheist for affirming the Trinity? Of course not! That is exactly the charge (among others) that they should make, given what they believe.

I don't know if any Moslems were actually offended; I know only that at least one non-Moslem was offended on their behalf. Maybe he was right--maybe many would be offended, people do offend easily.

Anyway, I asked the person whose sensibilities were placed under extreme duress by my comment to tell me what his viewpoint regarding Mohammed was:
  1. Mohammed was a true prophet, and I am a Moslem (sensible).
  2. Mohammed was a false prophet (or delusional), and so I am not a Moslem (sensible).
  3. Mohammed was a true prophet, but I am not a Moslem (dumb).
  4. Mohammed was a false prophet (or delusional), but I choose to be a Moslem anyway (dumber).
I don't think this represents a false dilemma, but maybe it does. It seems to me, given that this person is not a Moslem; he must chose (2) or (3). That is, he must choose between the position he labeled as intolerant (2) and one that is clearly fatuous (3).

He declined to answer my question, and instead just called me more names. That was apparently much more satisfying and is, after all, the Panda's Thumb way.

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