Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Relationship Between Holy Documents and Religious Believers

Bryan Preston at Hot Air has an excellent post up that examines how religious people, specifically Christians and Muslims, relate to their scriptures. You can't really pass casual judgments about the violence or non-violence of a religion based upon cherry-picked quotations from various verses or suras because not all are considered binding, nor are all of equal weighting, nor all understandable through a surface-level reading.

Now I think that Islam is a pretty violent religion, but arguing for that position from the Koran is pretty flimsy, as most holy documents -- the Bible included -- contain vast areas of verbiage that are either ignored, abrogated and/or wacko. There's no point delving into the theological minutiae of jihad or exegeting the Koran because as Jonah Goldberg once wrote:

I've written before that in the realm of public policy, theology doesn't matter nearly as much as morality and behavior. You can believe that murder is wrong because it depletes the ozone layer for all we care -- so long as you believe murder is wrong. The differences between, say, Greek Orthodox Christians and Quakers are fascinating, rich, storied, and significant. But in the public square they do not matter one bit so long as Greek Orthodox Christians and Quakers alike abide by the law and our common sense of morality. If one group wants to burn incense and the other wants to make oatmeal, nobody cares. So long as each group leaves the other alone.

So, to a certain extent, I couldn't care less if Islam is, on paper, factually, textually, objectively, and in all other academic senses a religion of war and bigotry -- so long as actual Muslims are decent and upstanding people. And, similarly, the fact that Christianity is a religion of love and compassion would be equally meaningless if Christians spent their days poking me with red-hot metal thingies -- out of love and compassion no doubt -- in order to get me to convert. Sure, I might take note of Christian hypocrisy while I waited for Torquemada to bust out his scrotal tongs, but, truth be told, scoring debating points wouldn't be at the forefront of my agenda.

When it comes to public policy, I just don't care what Muslims believe. I only care what they do.

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