Posts belonging to Category Religion

Newsweek: Is God Real?

Newsweek’s April 9, 2007 religion feature by Jon Meacham is entitled: Is God Real? The article is a follow-up to Newsweek’s recent religious poll and the discussion/debate Newsweek hosted between Christian pastor Rick Warren and atheistic author Sam Harrison on the same question.

Meacham describes the two debate participants as follows:

Warren believes in the God of Abraham as revealed by Scripture, tradition and reason; Jesus is Warren’s personal savior and was, Warren argues, who he said he was: the Son of God. Harris, naturally, takes a different view. “I no more believe in the Biblical God than I believe in Zeus, Isis, Thor and the thousands of other dead gods that lie buried in the mass grave we call ‘mythology’,” Harris says. “I doubt them all equally and for the same reason: lack of evidence.”

Newsweek religion contributor Rabbi Marc Gellman adds his own thoughts to the subject in his April 5, 2007 article, “Problems and Mysteries.” I got a chuckle out of Gellman’s closing words. After commenting on his own Jewish faith, Rick Warren’s Christian faith, and Sam Harris’ lack of faith, Gellman signs off with these three greetings:

Happy Passover to my Jewish readers.
Happy Easter to Rick and all my Christian friends.
And to Sam Harris, happy springtime.

Is God real? This is the most basic question of faith, and one that must be addressed in order to come to God. Hebrews 11:6 says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Without God there is no meaning to life. Without Christ there is no hope of resurrection and life beyond the grave. There is just “happy springtime.” Springtime is nice, but it cannot compare with Easter. May you know the reality of God and his love for you in Christ this Easter season.

The Looming Tower – Who Are the Real Muslims?

Stephen Prothero, chair of the Department of Religion at Boston University, offers this thought provoking review over at Books and Culture of Lawrence Wright’s new book, The Looming Tower: Al Queda and the Road to 9/11.

In the review Prothero raises the question: who gets to define Islam? It is a difficult question to answer because not even all Muslims agree.

The root meaning of the term Islam is submission, and classically a Muslim is anyone who submits to God by uttering with faith, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” Over time, however, many Muslims have developed far more stringent qualifications for the category of real Muslim. Some Sunni Muslims see all Shiite Muslims as pretenders to the true faith. Some Shiites view Sunnis likewise. And some Muslims have even stricter qualifications for their fellow travelers. Members of al-Qaeda, for example, believe that any so-called Muslim who holds views about Islam different from their own is not a real Muslim.

He goes on to discuss the Islamic concept of takfir – the act of proclaiming apostate those Muslims who disagree with your position on Islam.

To understand why this line of thought matters, it is important to note that the Qur’an plainly forbids the killing of other Muslims. As Wright discusses, the Qur’an does not shrink from war with idolaters. “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them,” it reads, and “fight those who do not believe in God.” Yet the Islamic tradition, including its four main schools of jurisprudence, also says that women and children must be spared in combat, and that Muslims must not target fellow Muslims for death. Commit the latter crime and you will spend eternity in hell.

In the World Trade Center, of course, many Muslims were murdered. The killings of Muslims in suicide bombings by al-Qaeda operatives and their imitators in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to mount. And it is the notion of takfir that has made all this possible.

It is a fascinating review that gives the reader a glimpse into the many faceted world of Islam. And of course at the end of the review, the chilling question remains: Who gets to define Islam for the rest of the world?

News and Notes – 3/10/2007

Captain America is dead. I am not sure what the political ramifications are of this, but Marvel Comics killed off Captain America in the most recent (and I’m guessing final) issue of Captain America. I am not a comic book reader. Is this the first time a super hero has been killed off?

No cake for Osama. Osama Bin Laden turns 50 today, but he won’t be celebrating. According to Sharia Law, birthdays are forbidden in Islam. They are considered an example of “Western contamination.”