Saturday, November 07, 2009

Francis Collins, The Language of God, and the Islamic Faith (Some Old Homework)

It is not difficult to identify examples where the church has promoted actions that fly in the face of principles its own faith should have sustained. The Beatitudes spoken by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount were ignored as the Christian church carried out violent Crusades in the Middle Ages and pursued a series of inquisitions afterward. While the prophet Muhammad never himself used violence in responding to persecutors, Islamic jihads, dating to the earliest of his followers and including present-day violent attacks such as that of September 11, 2001, have created the false impression that the Islamic faith is intrinsically violent. Even followers of supposedly nonviolent faiths such as Hinduism and Buddhism occasionally engage in violent confrontation, as is currently occurring in Sri Lanka.[1]

b. Faith in God is harmful, since “throughout history terrible things have been done in the name of religion” (p. 39).

Another favorite of the skeptic. Here Collins drops the ball in my opinion. I will critique two aspects of his work: i. his understanding of Islam, and ii. His understanding of comparative crimes.

i. Collins is getting out of his genre a bit. If I met him I would probably hand him two books by Robert Spencer. Quickly, before I quote Spencer. Muhammad personally ordered (and partook in) the slitting of 900 throats of men, women, and children. Jesus, when Peter cut off the Roman soldiers ear, told Peter to put the sword away and healed the soldiers ear.

The nine founders among the eleven living religions in the world had characters which attracted many devoted followers during their own lifetime, and still larger numbers during the centuries of subsequent history. They were humble in certain respects, yet they were also confident of a great re­ligious mission. Two of the nine, Mahavira and Buddha, were men so strongminded and self-reliant that, according to the records, they displayed no need of any divine help, though they both taught the inexorable cosmic law of Karma. They are not reported as having possessed any consciousness of a supreme personal deity. Yet they have been strangely deified by their followers. Indeed, they themselves have been wor­shipped, even with multitudinous idols.

All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of searching for religious light. Confucius, late in life, confessed his own sense of shortcomings and his desire for further improvement in knowledge and character. All the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character; some of them altered their prac­tical policies under change of circumstances.

Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent God-consciousness, a consistent character himself, and a con­sistent program for his religion. The most remarkable and valuable aspect of the personality of Jesus Christ is the com­prehensiveness and universal availability of his character, as well as its own loftiness, consistency, and sinlessness.[2]

Not to mention that just saying the Crusades were wrong is almost juvenile. Robert Spencer talks a bit about the lead up to Christendom finally responding -- rightly at first, woefully latter.

The Third Crusade (1188-1192). This crusade was proclaimed by Pope Gregory VIII in the wake of Saladin’s capture of Jerusalem and destruction of the Crusader forces of Hattin in 1187. This venture failed to retake Jerusalem, but it did strengthen Outremer, the crusader state that stretched along the coast of the Levant.[3]

The almost Political Correct myth is that the crusades were an unprovoked attack by Europe against the Islamic world.[4] I can see with quoting Tillich and Bonhoeffer, although worthy men to quote, they are typically favorites of the religious left. Robert Schuller and Desmond Tutu on the back of the cover of Collins first edition are also dead give a ways. So PC thought is entrenched in Collins general outlook on religion and life. Continuing:

The conquest of Jerusalem in 638 stood as the beginning of centuries of Muslim aggression, and Christians in the Holy Land faced an escalating spiral of persecution. A few examples: Early in the eighth century, sixty Christian pilgrims from Amorium were crucified; around the same time, the Muslim governor of Caesarea seized a group of pilgrims from Iconium and had them all executed as spies – except for a small number who converted to Islam; and Muslims demanded money from pilgrims, threatening to ransack the Church of the Resurrection if they didn’t pay. Later in the eighth century, a Muslim ruler banned displays of the cross in Jerusalem. He also increased the anti-religious tax (jizya) that Christians had to pay and forbade Christians to engage in religious instruction to others, even their own children.

Brutal subordinations and violence became the rules of the day for Christians in the Holy Land. In 772, the caliph al-Mansur ordered the hands of Christians and Jews in Jerusalem to be stamped with a distinctive symbol. Conversions to Christianity were dealt with particularly harshly. In 789, Muslims beheaded a monk who had converted from Islam and plundered the Bethlehem monastery of Saint Theodosius, killing many more monks. Other monasteries in the region suffered the same fate. Early in the ninth century, the persecutions grew so severe that large numbers of Christians fled to Constantinople and other Christians cities. More persecutions in 923 saw additional churches destroyed, and in 937, Muslims went on a Palm Sunday rampage in Jerusalem, plundering and destroying the Church of Calvary and the Church of the Resurrection.[5]

One person (my pastor) said to paint a picture of the crusaders in a single year in history is like showing photos and video of Hitler hugging children and receiving flowers from them and then showing photos and video of the Allies attacking the German army. It completely forgets what Hitler and Germany had done prior.

Compiled from myself and online sources and is from a debate I had with a Muslim:

Sahih Bukhari is a collection of sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), also known as the sunnah. The reports of the Prophet's sayings and deeds are called ahadith. Bukhari lived a couple of centuries after the Prophet's death and worked extremely hard to collect his ahadith. Each report in his collection was checked for compatibility with the Qur'an, and the veracity of the chain of reporters had to be painstakingly established. Bukhari's collection is recognized by the overwhelming majority of the Muslim world to be one of the most authentic collections of the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh).

Bukhari (full name Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Ismail bin Ibrahim bin al-Mughira al-Ja'fai) was born in 194 A.H. and died in 256 A.H. His collection of hadith is considered second to none. He spent sixteen years compiling it, and ended up with 2,602 hadith (9,082 with repetition). His criteria for acceptance into the collection were amongst the most stringent of all the scholars of ahadith.

It is important to realize, however, that Bukhari's collection is not complete: there are other scholars who worked as Bukhari did and collected other authentic reports. Okay, CSH1 said very explicitly that the Qur’an does not condone such actions – e.g., murder… right. It is murder we are talking of? Correct? Let’s see if the understanding of the Qur’an and the Hadith point to murder, first the Hadith.

· Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn 'Abbas, who said, "Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, 'Don't punish (anybody) with Allah's Punishment.' No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, 'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.'"

Volume 4, Book 52, Number 260, Narrated Ikrima. Also, see Volume 9, Book 84, Number 64, Narrated 'Ali.

Narrated 'Ali:

· Whenever I tell you a narration from Allah's Apostle, by Allah, I would rather fall down from the sky than ascribe a false statement to him, but if I tell you something between me and you (not a Hadith) then it was indeed a trick (i.e., I may say things just to cheat my enemy). No doubt I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "During the last days there will appear some young foolish people who will say the best words but their faith will not go beyond their throats (i.e. they will have no faith) and will go out from (leave) their religion as an arrow goes out of the game. So, where-ever you find them, kill them, for who-ever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection."

Volume 9, Book 84, Number 64:

Now mind you, this is the Hadith that allows one person to kill another. And this isn’t just something said in the far past, it is being practiced today in every Muslim state. And the killing aspect of jihad is so widely understood (rather than the “spiritual struggle” that is often spoon fed us) that persons are easily recruited for such a “struggle.” A sermon was preached in 2000 by Saudi sheikh Nassar Muhammad Al-Ahmad at the Al-Nour mosque in Al-Khobar… he declared: “There is no solution to this problem, and to any to which the infedel enemy is party, except by waving the banner of Jihad…. The sites holy to Muslims will be regained only by Jihad for the sake of Allah…. When true Islamic is declared, the balance of power will shift…. What freightens the Westmore than anything else in the word ‘Jihad,’ because they understand what it means.”

This isn’t the onlyMuslim understanding of jihad, but its well enough established in Islam to enable these radicals to recruit and mobilize Muslims in Egypt, Palestine, Pakistan, Turkey, Nigeria, the Philippines, Indonesia, and around the world.

In fact, not only does the Hadith, and all early clerics interpret jihad this way, since the inception of Islam (A.D. 600’ish), jihad has only meant this all the way to A.D. 1683. In 1914 jihad was again declared, and since then, it has meant only violence when the imams and clerics speak of it.

The Qur’an states:

· IV.89: They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah's way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper.

· II.161: Surely those who disbelieve and die while they are disbelievers, these it is on whom is the curse of Allah and the angels and men all;

· IX. 5-6: Kill those who join other gods with God wherever you may find them.

While many try to sugar coat this as not meaning to kill, a plain reading does imply that the Qur’an, thousands of Muslim professors, clerics, and imams understand it to mean violence, as well as the testimony of 1,400[+] years and millions of Muslims world-wide.

It would be nice for Islam to transform from it’s A.D. 600 interpretation of the Qur’an, America can no longer wait for those guys who decapitated one man to get their hands on nuclear or chemical weapons and decapitate a city.

The Quran is Prescriptive in its announcements, the Bible is Descriptive.

ii. While somewhat good on this topic, I have learned to respond to this in a more effective way. One should ask, “If religion is being rejected for the crimes it has committed, then non-faith (atheism), should be rejected all the more:

The Bible does not teach the horrible practices that some have committed in its name. It is true that it's possible that religion can produce evil, and generally when we look closer at the details it produces evil because the individual people [Christians] are actually living in rejection of the tenets of Christianity and a rejection of the God that they are supposed to be following. So it [religion] can produce evil, but the historical fact is that outright rejection of God and institutionalizing of atheism (non-religious practices) actually does produce evil on incredible levels. We're talking about tens of millions of people as a result of the rejection of God. For example: the Inquisitions, Crusades, Salem Witch Trials killed about anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 persons combined (World Book Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia Americana), and the church is liable for the unjustified murder of about (taking the high number here) 300,000-women over about a 300 year period. A blight on Christianity? Certainly. Something wrong? Dismally wrong. A tragedy? Of course. Millions and millions of people killed? No. The numbers are tragic, but pale in comparison to the statistics of what non-religious criminals have committed); the Chinese regime of Mao Tse Tung, 60 million [+] dead (1945-1965), Stalin and Khrushchev, 66 million dead (USSR 1917-1959), Khmer Rouge (Cambodia 1975-1979) and Pol Pot, one-third of the populations dead, etc, etc. The difference here is that these non-God movements are merely living out their worldview, the struggle for power, survival of the fittest and all that, no evolutionary/naturalistic natural law is being violated in other words (as non-theists reduce everything to natural law -- materialism). However, and this is key, when people have misused the Christian religion for personal gain, they are in direct violation to what Christ taught, as well as Natural Law.[6]

Dinesh D’Souza goes a long to point this disparity out when he debates Christopher Hitchens. After Hitchens made a his patented argument about evils Christianity had done (who Moral Law he was using seems odd... he expects everyone in the audience to agree with him that there can be moral atrocities without a God), D’souza said this:

  • That’s why the atheist regimes killed more people in one week than the inquisition could kill in three centuries.

If religion is rejected, why not non-religion?

[1] Francis S. Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (New York, NY: Free Press, 2006), 41.

[2] Robert Hume, The World’s Living Religions (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959), 285-286.

[3] Robert Spencer, The Politically Correct Guide to Islam and the Crusades (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2005), 147-148.

[4] Ibid., 122.

[5] Ibid., 122-123.

[6] Adapted and condensed from Gregory Koukl, “The Real Murderers: Atheism or Christianity?” Stand to Reason, found at:


(Last accessed 9-9-09).