“This is what Allah says… ‘Now go and strike the Infidel and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” Surah 27:63
“Happy is he who repays the infidel for what they have done to us – he who seizes their infants and dashes them against the rocks.” – Surah 34:12
“So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, ‘Get up; let’s go.’ But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.” – Surah 135:27
“A Wife, must submit to her husband as to Allah.” – Surah 5:22
“When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.” – Surah 21: 7-8
That is clearly truly vile stuff and rather obvious proof that all Muslims are wicked evil people … right?
Ask yourself this. Knowing that you now know that the above verses are in the Qur’an, how do you now feel about the book?
Perhaps you have actually read the Qur’an and are already familiar with those verses.
OK, I have a confession to make, I cheated. None of these verses actually exist in the Qur’an at all. Instead I took a few bible verses and simply injected the word “Allah” instead of the word “God” and injected the word “infidel” in to make it sound Islamic. Here are those original bible verses …
“This is what the Lord Almighty says… ‘Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” 1 Samuel 15:3
“Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” – Psalm 137:9
“So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, ‘Get up; let’s go.’ But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.” Judges 19:25-28
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” – Ephesians 5:22
“When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.” – Exodus 21: 7-8
So my point is this. You can take almost any religious text and quote-mine it for whatever agenda you might have. For example you can pick out all the nice stuff, discard the rather obviously not-so-nice bits, and claim it is like no other book and is uniquely divine. Alternatively, you can pluck out the not-so-nice stuff and hold it up as “evidence” that all those that revere the text are obnoxious evil bastards.
The truth is that we live in a world where humans are generally born into a culture that has a specific religious tradition. Associated with it will be a religious text that generally nobody tends to actually read or be familiar with. If some do become aware of some of the dubious bits, then they will rationalise it. Perhaps they will tell themselves that it was the word that was needed at that time but does not apply now, or perhaps they might conclude that they simply don’t understand it correctly, or that it has not been translated correctly?
Why don’t we see it for what it actually is saying?
Basically because we have invested a lot of time and emotion in the culturally inherited belief. To preserve that belief and not upset others around us by displaying doubt, we rationalise away such thoughts.
The books themselves reflect their actual origins and so they will contain not only nice noble stuff, but will also articulate some truly obnoxious stuff. The core problem is the idea that they are the ultimate and literal source of truth and guidance because they were divinely inspired in some manner. Once you accept that idea then you are in a position where, when faced with a choice between tradition or basic human decency, tradition will dominate for emotional reasons.
Humans resists such literalism and do often reject the divine literal truth hypothesis by simply reading the obnoxious bits as metaphors, and not directives to be followed to the letter. This has generally been the road followed to tame the fundamentalist modality that once dominated Christianity and is also the same road that many strands of Islamic thinking are walking to achieve the same ends.
Much of our history has been a struggle between such literalist traditions and cultural insights into a better way. For example, take the concept of slavery. It was once culturally acceptable and part of the normal fabric of society, hence such religious texts reflect that and are generally pro-slavery. Read either the Qur’an or the Bible cover to cover and you will discover that there is not a single word that suggests that slavery is not moral. Now that is interesting, because today slavery is almost universally regarded as morally wrong. It still exists, but is not considered decent or right.
The bondage the bible talks about is now viewed as a form a spiritual slavery and not a literal slavery, and so our far better morality can and does prevail.
I’m really not kidding about those texts being pro-slavery.
In the Bible we find explicit instructions on whom you may enslave, and also explicit instructions on how to correctly beat your slave (Apparently it is OK as long as your slave is still alive a few days after the beating). If the bible is your book, then your immediate thought will be, “Ah but that is the Old Testament, we now have the New Testament”. But let’s not forget that the New Testament is also pro-slavery. Paul specifically directed Christian slaves to obey their masters, and did not even once drop a hint that the concert of slavery was wrong.
In the Qur’an we also find explicit instructions on whom you may enslave. If you are familiar with it then you will know that traditional Islamic law covers the topic at great length. If the Qur’an is your book, then the immediate thought will be that Islam greatly improved things for slaves and made it all a lot better. But you need to consider that the Qur’an is still supposedly the final ultimate word on the topic and yet endorses the concept and does not identify it as morally wrong as we do today.
- If indeed these religious texts are the ultimate source of morality, are truly divine, and yet are also completely silent on the topic of slavery being morally wrong, then how exactly did we as a species come to the conclusion that slavery is wrong?
- If indeed slavery is morally wrong (Hint: yes it is, and I truly and very earnestly hope that you did not need that hint), then you need to be aware that you are already rejecting the moral stance taken by all these religious texts on that topic. It is not just you, almost everybody alive today does. So how did that happen, how is it possible for us to have embraced a moral conclusion that is far superior to all these religious texts?
- How is it possible for your religious text to be the ultimate unquestioned source of moral guidance, yet you personally hold a superior morality?