Every time I hear atheists (or liberal Christians) say things like "Why pick on Islam? Christianity's just as bad! Look at the GOD HATES FAGS church! Look at the abortion clinic bombers!" I cringe at the false equivalency.
I'm fairly knowledgeable about religions, and I've read quite a bit about Islam in particular. But discussing Islam can be tricky. To be clear, I've known Muslims IRL, and I've never once felt unsafe or uncomfortable around them. Muslims in America are as nice as anyone. The idea that they should be disrespected, abused, or banned from the US is grotesque to me.
So I do NOT hate Muslims. I do, however, hate ISLAM. I believe it's a uniquely dangerous religion. (It's particularly dangerous to Muslims themselves! But that fact doesn't endear me to those who would brand me a "hater.")
Don't get me wrong: There's much to condemn in Christianity...from the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, to the Salem Witch Trials, to hatred for gays by today's Religious Right. But there are significant theological differences between Christianity and Islam that make Islam dangerous in ways Christianity is not.
Here are 3 big ones:
ORIGINS & INTERPRETATIONS
← The Bible is a collection of 60+ books, written over thousands of years, by dozens of authors, in multiple languages and cultures, and compiled by councils over centuries.
These writings are symbolic, allegorical and historical. They reveal different stages of theology throughout history, starting with the human-like, non-omniscient God in the Garden of Eden.
When most Christians call the Bible “God's Word," they mean it was INSPIRED by God. God influenced the authors, but they still used their own words and thoughts.
→ The Qur'an was essentially written by Allah, who recited it word-by-word to Mohammad through the Archangel Gabriel, over about 23 years. According to tradition, Mohammad was illiterate so the text could not have reflected his personal views.
After his death, Muhammad's friends helped with compilation, but the Qur'an is "God's Word" in in a more direct way than is the Bible. Muslims also regard the Hadith (sayings of Mohammad) and Sunnah (examples from his life) as sacred sources, but these revolve around one person from one era, in contrast to the Bible.
The amount of "wiggle room" in interpretation that can be applied in Islam is much, much less than within Christianity.
VIOLENCE IN SCRIPTURE
← In the Bible, most of the violence is DEscriptive: it DESCRIBES past wars or future events, whether literally or symbolically.
Penalties such as stoning in the Old Testament are expressly forbidden in the New Testament. God warns that HE will punish sinners and nonbelievers, in some instances with hellfire. But the New Testament God does not prescribe physical punishments, nor order believers to torture or kill nonbelievers on his behalf.
The central figure in Christianity is Jesus, a poor, celebate, itinerant teacher who preached a radical pacifism.
→ In the Qur'an, Hadith and Surah, most of the violence is PREscriptive: Allah directly commands Muslims to torture and kill non-Muslims. In some verses, Allah demands that any of his followers who would not kill their enemies to be treated as nonbelievers. Allah lays out obligatory punishments like stonings and lashings.
The central figure of Islam is Mohammed, a celebrated warrior with multiple wives and concubines, who had led battles and slain hundreds.
← For centuries in Europe, the Roman Catholic Church and the State were one in the same. But this hasn't been true for most Orthodox or Protestant churches, and the emphasis in Christian theology is on a heavenly kingdom.
So-called "enemies" of the church have been put to death, but execution for simple disbelief isn't prescribed in the Bible. Most Christians believe it's vital that members make a free choice to belong.
→ For centuries in the Middle East, expressly Muslim nations have existed, because the Qur'an, Hadith and Sharia
implicitly provide guidelines for government hierarchy and structure, finance, and family and criminal law. "The church and state" is not separate in Islam.
In Islam, if either parent is Muslim, a baby is Muslim; many Muslim nations automatically count any baby born there as Muslim. While some denominations of Christianity warn of punishment in the afterlife, Islam is the only world religion today that calls for criminal punishment for those who leave it.
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As I established earlier, most Muslims in the US (or anywhere) live their day-to-day lives pretty much as others do. But the differences in theology I've outlined make radicalization more likely in Islam, and help explain some of the human rights abuses that are particularly "Islamic."
Interestingly, while Islam prizes charity between Muslims, there is no "Golden Rule" or value in loving one's enemy as there is in Christianity and most other religions. Many, many Muslims have stepped up to promote tolerance and peace, but they have little theological mandate to do so. Even the verse, "There is no compulsion in religion," this has been "aborgated."
As for Christian wars and tortures, the fact is that now, Islam has them beat.