Islam is a Dangerous Religion?

The Christian Post published an article entitled  ‘Islam Is a Dangerous Religion,’ Most American Pastors Say using data provided by Lifeway Research.  See also this article by Ed Stetzer entitled Protestant Pastors and Islam.

Just for the record, I don’t think Islam is a dangerous religion.  Wrong yes, dangerous no.

I believe that religion (for the most part) produces good results.  Pious Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindu’s, Sikh’s behave better on the whole than non-religious people.  This is not a dig against atheists or agnostics or secular humanists, rather it is a simple observation about the power of religion to make people behave better.  I think that this is popular opinion as demonstrated by parents who turn to religion as a help in raising their children.  They don’t necessarily see it as important for themselves, but they need help constraining and directing their kids and religion helps them accomplish that.

Religion has also great potential for abuse, as does every human institution.  “Human” being the key term.  Humanity is the crucible for evil.  This doesn’t disprove any particular religious claim, it too is simply an observation.  Islam is no exception,  as a human institution, ie humans are involved can be a motivation for bad human behavior either on a personal or corporate level, it can be dangerous.

My father is an immigrant.  His family escaped the Soviet Union in the early 30’s.  As they traveled from the Soviet Union into Iran (then known as Persia).  As they entered the country they encountered some Kurd’s who stole what little food they had, raped one of the women in the party.  Now the Kurd’s can be Muslim, but can also profess Christianity.  Don’t know if these robber/rapists were Muslims or Christians – but I do know that if you talked to a devout Muslim or devout Christian, they would disavow this behavior.

Further down the road they encountered a lone horseman who passed them on the road.  As they traveled further down the road they saw that he had stopped and was resting under a tree.  When they approached he signaled that they should stop and come over to him.  Fear gripped them;  what would he do to them?  As they came to the tree they saw that he had spread a rug and on the rug were raisins and bread and water.  He motioned for them to eat.  When they had finished – he rode off.  This Iranian man was most likely a Muslim.

When they arrived at the town they were greeted by many villagers who held out bread to them and bowed.  These people were most likely Muslims.

Persia/Iran is one of the most ancient civilizations in our world.  Their contributions in the areas of philosophy, literature, art, mathematics, astronomy and medicine cannot be underestimated.  They were not always Muslim, and even while they have been Muslim, they have not always been ruled by Islamic fundamentalists.  To characterize all Iranians/Muslims based on the behavior of the fundamentalists in charge is not a sound approach.  I don’t like the Ayatollah Khamenei or Khomeini and I abhor current  President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  Not a few Iranians would agree, wholeheartedly.  Many are simply products of their environment and are helpless to instigate or initiate any sort of change.  They are simply living day to day, surviving, living, loving, raising families and pursuing dreams.

Please don’t misread this post as a defense of Islam.  It isn’t.

Islam is not a dangerous religion, humans are dangerous.

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  • Roy

    Well said. Here’s an interesting follow-up question…do Muslims worship the same God that we do? We say that Jews worship the same God, but do Muslims?

    I ask because a friend (who you know of) is coming out with a book claiming that they do. He’s a bit naive in thinking that his claim won’t create a controversy.

  • stevebag

    If you are going to say that we worship the same God as Jews who do not follow Jesus it would be difficult to argue that Muslims worship a different God.

    All three religions believe that there is only one God, he created the heavens and the earth. All three religions believe that this God (the God of the OT) engaged with Moses, Abraham etc. On this level it is hard to make the statement we are talking about different gods. We are talking about the same events, historical figures and the spiritual being in the midst of those events and figures.

    Typically the rub comes with Jesus and the concept of the trinity. If we identify Jesus as God/accept a triune definition and the Jews and Muslims do not, there is your answer. But with this criterion what applies to one must apply to the other. So we must say Jews and Muslims worship a different God.

    It seems that the discussion may center on language, specifically the language: “same God”. It is often used in countering Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and we use the same criterion: bad definition of Jesus, then you worship or have a different Jesus. But in reality we are talking about the same historical figure, we are disagreeing about his nature.

    Logically, as monotheists we believe in only one God, therefore there is no such thing as “other gods”, therefore the statement amongst montheists: we don’t worship the same God is nonsensical.

    If we are content with a more general view of “God” then I guess you could say we worship the same God, but have radically different definitions of the nature of this one God. Then the issue becomes with a substandard definition, does God accept the worship of the deformed definer?

  • Roy

    Miroslav Volf just submitted his book “”Allah: A Christian Response” to his publishers. The title alone has generated a lot of heat for Miroslav, and nobody has even read the book yet. The book is going to explore the identity of Allah in Christian terms, and it’s my understanding that Miroslav concludes we worship the same God. Should be interesting to see how this plays out …

  • mom

    I opened this genuinely hoping to read something worthwhile and I got stuck at the point where you had written that religious folks generally behaved better than non-religious folks.

    I understand the sentiment, but really?

    The power of religion doesn’t make people behave. I suppose you could argue the fear of God, but don’t protestant religions believe that their God is a forgiving god? I have seen some atrocities at the hands of some very well veiled “christians,” specifically ones from our local church. I sincerely doubt they’re taking their religion into account when they’re behaving so poorly outside the 4 walls of the church.

    Otherwise love the blog 🙂

  • stevebag

    Hey mom,
    Thanks for reading and commenting and complimenting…I didn’t recognize you though, what did you do with your very heavy Russian accent?

    My argument is not that there are guarantees, or that all religious people behave well all the time, but I really don’t think the point is arguable. Maybe they are not as good as they should be but they are better than they would be without religion. Just like any other social constraint, whether it is law, peer pressure, community standards etc., people conform to authority and seek the approval of authority. There are exceptions, but remove religion as a constraint and things won’t get better.

    I have witnessed time and time again the improvement in behavior on the part of many people in over 25 years of ministry. People who have had their lives changed, for the better and had it not been for the church, they would be lost. I have witnessed behavior changes based on some in our congregation holding others accountable and calling them to account for their behavior, language etc. I have witnessed the opposite as well; people disregarding the tenets of their beliefs and it is shameful. But they struggle with their behavior in a way they wouldn’t had they not been part of the church.

    Even though we believe that God is a forgiving God, we don’t believe that God is fooled by hypocrisy or insincerity on the part of the sinner. He is not a dupe. There are pretty dire warnings to those “who go on sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment.”