"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What Irritated Me About Aslan's Statement

So yesterday I wrote about the last chapter of No God but God and ended the post with this irritating piece from it.

"It must be understood that a respect for human rights, like pluralism, is a process that develops naturally within a democracy.  Bear in mind that for approximately two hundred of America's two hundred fifty years of existence, black American citizens were considered legally inferior to whites.  Finally, neither human rights nor pluralism is the result of secularization, they are its root cause."



AND a question.


Any guesses why this bothers me so much?

Amber was the only one interested or brave enough or read far enough to see the question to try to figure out my thinking (thanks much, Amber) and her comment was most excellent!  I truly enjoy the way she thinks!  Amber did nail the phrase that is especially troubling to me though it's not for the reason she gave.

A Muslim friend has asked before if I wanted a Christian nation for only (mostly) Christians to which I likely surprised him by saying no.  I think I've shared my reasons for this before.  Whose interpretation of Christianity will we follow?  Terry Jones' Christianity is quite different from Mother Teresa's.  While one was in the spotlight for his selfish stupidity, the other was known for serving and loving "the least of these" as Jesus did while he walked the earth.

Jesus never promoted Christendom. He never urged his followers to oppose the oppressors even though he lived during the Roman occupation of Palestine.  As far as we know, he never preached a rise-up-and-drive-these-oppressors-into-the-sea message. Jesus knew society changed from within.  And he came with a message bent on changing hearts and lives and thus changing society for the better! 

Besides how can we shine the light of Jesus to a dark world if we are all holed up in our Christian Caliphate with our borders sealed to all the unbelievers? 

You see the ridiculousness of this notion, I hope.

This is what Amber correctly chose as the offending phrase:


"Finally, neither human rights nor pluralism is the result of secularization, they are its root cause."

First let me point out that Reza Aslan makes a point of explaining the difference in a secular country and a secularizing country.  Turkey, he said, was a secular country.  The United States, on the other hand, despite what is taught in children's history books these days (his words, not mine though I agree) has its moral foundation in Judeo-Christian principles.  However, we have become increasingly more secularizing from those principles as time passes.  I took that to mean we've been leaving the Judeo-Christian framework behind for a more pluralistic one.  Maybe I totally didn't explain that well, but hopefully you get the gist of what Aslan meant.

So the problem I had with this statement is that it is so incredibly sad to me that leaving biblical values in the dust is seen as improving society. Why is it only through secularizing our nation that black people became full citizens with equal rights to their white counterparts instead of property of their masters? Why is it only through secularizing that women won the right to vote and were freed from that antiquated notion that they were only good for staying home to keep house and have lots of babies?  What is wrong with the Bible that it kept us mistreating people for so long?

Now, I hardly will admit that secularizing the nation has made things truly better. (Unless one would argue that the US will improve more as we continue secularizing...I think not.) Yes, black people and women have more rights than they did a hundred years ago, but I will never admit that my country is better now than it was before.  Rampant promiscuity (and no shame in it!), over 70% of black children are born without married parents, drug and alcohol abuse, rape, murder, gangs, split households due to divorce and affairs and pornography and killing our unborn children even when they are partially born.  Do you know people used to not even lock their doors in some areas of the country because crime was so low? I hardly think society today is a wonderful improvement that our walking away from God has bequeathed us.

You know what I think? 

I think we do have some rights now that we didn't have before.  And on behalf of all the women in the world who have struggled and are continuing to struggle so they can stop being treated like the property of the men in their lives, I AM VERY GRATEFUL!  And I am thankful that no longer do we own people in the wicked way some Southern Americans did years ago.  Thank God we have progressed past that! 

However I'm not convinced entirely that it was the Bible's or our Judeo-Christian values' fault for this.  I think it is the fault of men and women who - in their own selfish, fallible ways - read what they wanted into the Bible. Instead of seeing loving your neighbor as yourself, the greatest among you is the servant of all and love your wife as Christ loved the church (hellllooooo, He DIED for the Church!), they read "Servants, obey your masters" and "women, submit to your husbands."  Same old stuff Aslan complained that the Ulama of Islam was doing to his religion!

People will justify their selfishness and make it more palatable by appealing to their interpretations, their cherrypicking of verses instead of reading the Bible as a whole and trying to understand what God desires.

Really, how hard it is to understand "the greatest among you serves others" and "deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me" from Jesus?  But how HARD is it to deny ourselves and take up crosses and truly follow Christ?   Much easier to apply those verses which justify your sinfulness against others, isn't it?

So what all this teaches me:  whether we are supposedly living under the moral framework of Judeo-Christian values or the secularizing process of a nation quickly saying "no thanks" to God in favor of the rationalization of man, society has major problems.  It might be the racism, oppression and sexism of the former or the immorality, broken families and addictions of the latter.  Both show me one thing:

All have sinned and fallen short of God's glorious standard.  (Rom. 3:23)

There is none that does good. Not even one.  (Rom. 3:10)

So past, present and future, the story of America demonstrates a great need which can only be solved when we realize our need for God!  Not a return to men using God's word to oppress others. But truly letting God change our hearts and lives so that, in turn, society will be changed for the better.   I believe our country -- full of division, anger, scandals (and that's just talking politics) is proof to the world that we cannot save ourselves.

Our military can't save us. Our politicians can't save us. Our churches can't save us. Our rational minds and secularizing process can't save us.


 11 I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. (Isaiah 43)


I think God summed it up pretty well.

39 comments:

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

Someone gave me a link to this interesting article related to this subject: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/dec/08/religion-society-gregory-paul

Susanne said...

Thanks, Sarah! That was interesting indeed! I am pondering some thoughts about it. I appreciate you passing it along to me.

Amber said...

Interesting. I think we view secularization as progress because we've proven that we are incapable of governing our societies according to religious law without abusing other peoples. It's not written into the religions themselves, for the most part, but like you said, we will find ways to make it that way because that's just how people are. Give us a loophole, and we'll jump straight through it.

We've improved in many ways, but we've also made things worse in others. Abortion is one big, easy example.

*pokes you* It wasn't just the South that had slaves, sweetie. We hardly invented it, though our economy was based on it far more than the North. And just getting rid of slavery didn't do away with the attitudes that it encouraged and reflected between peoples of different races. Racism is alive and well today all over the country and the world. You can't just make laws, you have to change the people. And that's what takes time and that's what can go wrong.

I don't argue your general point. I agree that humanity has more than proven and continues to prove that we need God. But I believe that the government must be secular to preserve our rights and our freedoms - *people* must individually be religious and Godfearing.

Joni said...

Susie, as always you write though provoking posts.

I too am frustrated by the idea that LEAVING our Judeo-Christian values is what enables human rights advances.

But at the same time, I am wondering what ARE our human rights and what are our socio-political ones? For example, the Bible doesn't explicitly say that women should vote. It does say that women should be respected and certainly there plenty of Biblical examples of women being treated as valuable. But of course the Bible doesn't address 'voting' - as voting wasn't a part of the way their government was set up. So I think it's hard determine how the Bible feels about such a thing. I do know however that I resent when people apply the Bible directly to things that it DOESN'T say just so that they can support their view.

I *do* think that Christians should be the FIRST ones to champion the rights of other people and to RESPECT their right to choose. The Bible IS clear that God has given us the freedom to choose our own path - for good or bad. So if I want to be an atheist, I am allowed to make that choice, and to live with it's consequences. It is an "oxymoron" for the Christian to support the right of the atheist to NOT believe? And I would be the first to say that the treatment of blacks in this country has been horrendous, esp when perpetrated by people who are Christians. I think I told you that I recently reread "To Kill a Mockingbird". I adore that book. Atticus and Mrs Maudie are such wonderful examples of TRUE Christian character. They respect the person - black or white or poor or.... There is still segregation in that story but in his way Atticus takes a stand for the rights of them all.

This is probably the reason that I struggle with the way that the "Christian Right" handles the people who want equal rights for gays and lesbians. How can we as Christians can expect NON BELIEVERS to do what Christians do? I do think it's the wrong choice, but I think that because I am a Christian who believes what the Bible says. But i also believe that a nation is better run when on biblical values, But at what point to Biblical values become "forcing" other people to do what we do? I don't know the answer - i am just thinking out load.

Nevertheless, the answer you came to is right - for all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. How fallen I am! How short I come in light of his perfection and glory! Thank you Jesus for being perfect and allowing me to covered by you! Amen and Amen!

Joni said...

I am writing a second post here so I can click the "follow" this post.:)

Joni said...

Amber said "You can't just make laws, you have to change the people. And that's what takes time and that's what can go wrong." Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! That is exactly right. We cannot force change from without - it always has to come from within.

Susanne said...

Joni, read the article Sarah left above if you get a chance. It's the same one I left on Facebook a few minutes ago. What do you think of it?

Amber, feel free to share your thoughts on that if you are interested.

I'll be back later to reply to your comments. I gotta mow the grass now. :)

Thank you both!

Amber said...

I'll be back later to reply to your comments. I gotta mow the grass now. :)

I say this in all seriousness: Mowing the lawn is man's work!

Tell Andrew to get out there and mow! ;p

*off to check out the article*

Suroor said...

I loved this post! Can't tell you how much I agree with you. I have always said that why Europe is so low on morality is because there isn't enough religion there and people don't go to the church anymore.

But two questions:

1. I didn't get this - "the greatest among you is the servant of all and love your wife as Christ loved the church (hellllooooo, He DIED for the Church!)"

What do you mean by Church? Did Jesus believe in the Church when he was alive?

2. "they read "Servants, obey your masters" and "women, submit to your husbands.""

Isn't it the basic problem that these things *are* there in the Bible? We can bend over backwards to try and understand this in other ways but that it exists and so it allows people to choose to read and act upon these injunctions. How do we balance - "love your wife" with "submit to your husbands"?

Amber said...

Answering in Susanne's place, only not really. So mostly just butting in! :)

What do you mean by Church? Did Jesus believe in the Church when he was alive?

The 'church' here would be Christians, the followers of Jesus. So yes, Christ believed in the 'church' when He was alive. Not in the exact way we might picture it now, with the open buildings, etc. - though I'd say He believed in the Church meaning the Orthodox Church and Susanne would disagree, I think, and state that He only meant the body of believers and not an institution, per say.

Isn't it the basic problem that these things *are* there in the Bible? We can bend over backwards to try and understand this in other ways but that it exists and so it allows people to choose to read and act upon these injunctions. How do we balance - "love your wife" with "submit to your husbands"?

I think it's less a problem that they are in the Bible than it is the understanding of them. In this case Christ instructs men to love their wives as He loved the Church. He died for the Church - He gave His life, His everything. His love is a selfless, sacrificial love. Men tend to focus only on the first half of the instructions, which is the wives, submit to your husbands bit. I think, understood properly in the context of the mutual love and respect that Christians are supposed to have for one another let alone their spouses it's not a problem. People, left to their own devices, will misunderstand what they read in the Bible because they don't (typically) take the time to actually study and understand not just what's on the page, but the context and the history and what has been taught by the Church from the beginning.

sanil said...

I could be wrong, but that's not how I understood Aslan's statement...I thought he was saying the reverse. Secularization doesn't cause human rights, a concern for human rights leads to secularization. I don't think that's because living by secular values is better for everyone, but because when you care about others' rights, you realize it isn't right to govern everyone by a religion not everyone follows. Especially when, as you said, there are different interpretations of religion, and so even people who do follow that religion might not share those values.

I haven't gotten far in this book yet. Does that explanation fit or does the rest of the text around it seem to say secularism makes us more moral?

Lat said...

What an interesting discussion going on! I really don't know what to say of the human affairs plagueing the world.I hold a pessimistic outlook.And that's why like Suroor,sounding like a broken record :D,I keep reiterating the fact that only God's Grace can save us! And that's why I agree with your statement,
I believe our country -- full of division, anger, scandals (and that's just talking politics) is proof to the world that we cannot save ourselves.

"Our military can't save us. Our politicians can't save us. Our churches can't save us. Our rational minds and secularizing process can't save us."

As for your 1st qoute from Azlan about black Americans,the Minister Mentor,Mr Lee was talking about the special place of indegenious Malays of my country and cited the US,1776 declaration that said"...'all men are equal' but blacks were not given the right to vote until a century later." So the declaration was more of an inspiration than an ideology.

Indonesian Islam was,in some ways and still is pluralistic.But democracy was not the only reason.In fact democracy to me played the lesser role(if you were to see the early governments,they were not considered to be demcratic) than the peaceful nature of the people and acceptance of other races.The view that the change comes from the within the people is true.

Hijabis On Ranting Tour. said...

nice post-i agree i dont think its the fault of religion because i dont think that the bible encouraged slavery or opression , i think as times have you know changed and people have become more educated society changed as a whole , i dont think the free for all nothing is shameful or morally wrong which sometimes comes with secularisation is a good thing-but then there are some good points too (btw i dnt think christian countries practicing christianityy esp if they have a common christian like i dont know sect they follow-like catholicism would stop christians from enlightening the "dark world" i dont think calphate systems are all that wrong at all
ok
peace
love
naz
x

Susanne said...

Amber, yeah I know the South wasn't the only slave owners, but usually when I read on blogs about those evil slave owners people mention the American South as if we were the only and most evil ones. And since I hate when people don't take responsibility for their own people's faults, I figured I'd better "man up" and take the fall. Despite the fact I never owned a person in my life. :-)

Thanks for explaining why you think others believing secularizing is good. Makes sense based on the whole whose-interpretation-of-religion-do-we-follow argument that we've discussed. Yes, we like those loopholes, don't we? I don't see Jesus making a case for Setting Up My Kingdom on Earth so I figure the "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" commandment is the one he wanted us to follow.

"*people* must individually be religious and Godfearing. " -- yes, that's what I believe. I guess I didn't explain myself well if you got the impression I wanted a Christian nation. :-P Change begins from within. We cannot legislate people into being moral and good and sweet. (As your example of racism attitudes proves.) I think the more you legislate and lord over people they more they want to rebel. :)

I appreciate your great comments!

Susanne said...

Joni, thanks for what you added. I always appreciate you joining in on the discussions! I think as people change individually that will reflect in society. We don't all of a sudden make people bow to our wishes and biblical values (can we FORCE those things on them and still be following Jesus?), but we can vote according to our values. I think there is a struggle for the balance between voting our values vs. forcing them (by law) on other people who don't share the same values. I think when our agendas become more important to us than showing the love of Christ then we need to reevaluate our priorities.

Are we building Christendom or are we wanting people to know Jesus? Is it better to have our Christian "rights" and values reflected in our country at the expense of all the nonChristians being turned off from Jesus based on our behavior? I think the political right has often taken the build the nation campaign too far in that they are more concerned with THEIR rights, THEIR values, THEIR interpretations being the politics of the day. They come across little concerned for people needing what Jesus had to offer. I'm not saying I don't understand them to a great degree because, of course, we want our children to have a society that reflects what we say we value and not have an antigod agenda thrown into their faces. But I wonder if we are doing more harm than good by the way we fight back politically. Did Jesus want us to fight politically?

I can't help but remember the verse from Chronicles about people who are called by God's name,humbling themselves, seeking His face, turning from their wicked ways and THEN God hearing from heaven and healing their land. Of course He said this to Israel, but does the principle apply to God's people today? We all want our land "fixed," but do you think we are taking the "easy" way out by trying to change our land politically instead of humbling ourselves, seeking God and turning from our wicked ways? It seems for many it is easier to force others through politics than it is to change ourselves. Hmmm.

I enjoyed your comment. Thanks so much for dropping by!

Susanne said...

Amber, LOL! Well, Andrew was working so I didn't mind mowing. I actually like driving around the yard on that machine! I feel powerful! ;-)

Thanks for what you added about Suroor's questions! I like reading your POV on those topics. I agree with most of what you said.

Btw, did you have an opinion about the findings on that link Sarah provided? Or did you dismiss that as rubbish? Just curious. :)

Susanne said...

Suroor, glad you enjoyed the post.

I think of the Church as the global body of believers in Jesus. Kind of like the Ummah of Islam (the global community of Muslims.) I do not think of it as an institution, but as you can see from Amber, not all share this same opinion. :)

Yes, those verses are in the Bible, but as I wrote in the post, people often cherry pick the verses THEY want to highlight sometimes taking them out of context in order to support their misogynistic or racist ideas. Instead of "slaves, obey your masters" .. what if the slave owners focused on Jesus saying "the one who serves is the GREATEST in God's kingdom"?

Would the slave owners be hit upside their heads with the idea that God actually saw their SLAVES as 'better' somehow? The fact is people in those days often sold themselves to people in order to be provided for. Sometimes it was to pay a debt. Sometimes they earned their freedom after a period of agreed upon service. Some chose to stay as bondservants because they wanted their owners to continue providing for them and, I guess, their masters were decent folks. I don't know that the American institution of slavery - where you were literally property of your owners with no rights - was the same as they had when Paul penned those words. Let's say that it was the worst kind, I still believe Paul (and Peter's) words were an encouragement to all that no matter your station in life serve others, do your work (whatever) with diligence as if you were doing it for God. Paul said elsewhere that he learned in whatever condition in life he was in to be content and I think he wanted us whether we were slave, free man, rich, poor, male or female to serve where God put us in this life. Paul wasn't necessarily out to throw over societal institutions of the day. He wasn't out to build Christendom (as my post talked about), but change individual lives and hearts by the power of Jesus Christ. He knew society changed only when people who make up society changed first because really isn't society a reflection of the individual people living in that society?

Not sure how I got off on that rabbit trail....but yes those verses are there, but like I said in my post, you can read the whole of the Bible and get a wider view. Not only does the NT say for wives to submit to their husbands, but it also said both should submit to each other. Why is this never brought up? It also teaches in honor prefer one another, put others ahead of ourselves, love people as we love ourselves, husbands should love their wives and nourish and cherish them just like Christ loved the Church (body of believers.) So just picking out phrases that you like without reading the surrounding verses is often those loopholes people need to justify their mistreatment of others.

" How do we balance - "love your wife" with "submit to your husbands"? "

Maybe by realizing when someone loves us the way Jesus loves the Church, he will want the best for that person and not demand his way over her (force her to have sex whenever he feels like it regardless of her feelings, divorce her on a whim, take other wives because he has sexual needs she cannot meet -- a man who is acting like Christ doesn't seek to satisfy HIS needs at the expense of his wife. Paul was very strong in promoting honor others before you honor yourself.)


I enjoyed your comment - thanks for the interesting feedback!

Susanne said...

Sanil, you are right in what you said. While writing this post, I actually read and reread that line to see that he is saying

human rights and pluralism leads to secularizing

instead of

secularizing leads to human rights and pluralism.

You seemed to understand it correctly.

I still found it irritating that religious people find ways to hurt others when they SHOULD be the most kind and merciful and loving towards others. And I wanted to make my case that secularizing the country, IMO, hasn't really made it superior. Some might disagree but with the way so many people I know are hurting right now, I just can't agree that we are better off now than we were years ago. In some aspects, of course. Overall ... I'm not convinced.

But that's just MY opinion. You may LOVE how society is so free and different now. I'm sure many do.

Thanks for what you added. Of course what you said is right. And, no, I don't think Aslan tries to make a case for that really. I was just bothered NOT by HIM, but by the fact that religious people hurt others. I know the title of the post is misleading as it seems I have a bone to pick with Reza Aslan which, in fact, I DO NOT! :-)

Thanks for your comment!

Susanne said...

Lat, thanks for sharing about Indonesian Muslims. I enjoyed your example! Glad you agree that only God's grace will save us. Maybe I am too pessimistic, but I don't see much else working presently.

Yes, all men were created equal....as long as they were white. Crazy, huh? This is why I said what I did on your post yesterday about light-skinned people. It seems to be a curse sometimes!

I appreciate your feedback!




Naz, thanks for what you added. I always enjoy reading your perspective.


Thanks, everyone, for your feedback! I enjoyed the various opinions! :-)

Amber said...

Susanne,

yeah I know the South wasn't the only slave owners, but usually when I read on blogs about those evil slave owners people mention the American South as if we were the only and most evil ones. And since I hate when people don't take responsibility for their own people's faults, I figured I'd better "man up" and take the fall. Despite the fact I never owned a person in my life. :-)

Oh, I know you know. That's why I poked you! I get what you're saying, but just because other people lack a basic grasp of history doesn't excuse you playing to their delusions. :) Owning up to our people's faults would be admitting that Americans (North, South, East and West) owned slaves. Not singling out the South as though we were the only ones. That's actually just letting Northerners delude themselves. :p

I think we could make a good case of the devil's nickname actually being 'Lord of Loopholes'! We're always looking for that way out of the hard parts!

I don't see Jesus making a case for Setting Up My Kingdom on Earth so I figure the "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" commandment is the one he wanted us to follow.

Yep. I totally agree with you there.

I guess I didn't explain myself well if you got the impression I wanted a Christian nation. :-P

Hah. No, I didn't get that impression from you. Did you get the impression that I did? I was arguing against the idea that we need to impose religious laws in order to be moral - not that you thought we needed to do that.

Heh. This is actually an argument I've had in the house. Really it's because I hate yard work - I insist that it's the man's job to do all that sweaty stuff! And have to flee from the wasps nests that get disturbed. Of course, I still wind up out there every weekend, weeding or stumping or whatever. *pouts* I actually learned how to drive on a riding mower!

Btw, did you have an opinion about the findings on that link Sarah provided? Or did you dismiss that as rubbish? Just curious. :)

I sort of skimmed it and plan on reading it thoroughly today. Are you going to do a post on it? Anyway, from the skim, my first (and incredibly paranoid perhaps) thought was that perhaps life is easier in the world for secular countries - ones where fewer and fewer people have faith - because the devil is the prince of this world, so you get along better in his world when you give up on God? But then I realized how crazy that sounded, even in my own head. :)

I do not think of it as an institution, but as you can see from Amber, not all share this same opinion. :)

I really think institution is the wrong word, even though I used it first! :) The Church is the Body of Christ, but since I believe He did, in fact, leave behind Him a Church, and actual entity and a home for the believers...it's like the Church is alive, and I'm not finding the right words to describe it. Sorry.

Susanne said...

Well, Amber, we already know the Northerners are deluded in thinking they actually WON that War of Northern Aggression. Ha! ;) LOL @ Lord of the Loopholes - love that!!! :-D

Ah, I understand re: mowing. Funny! :) I prefer mowing to cleaning bathrooms, but I totally get that it's not everyone's favorite chore especially when it's dusty due to lack of rain here for a month! Argh!

Anyway.

No, I hadn't planned on doing a post on that link, but YOU can if you want. I actually think your point is very interesting! I've also thought of the verse that says "these people worship me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Americans often SOUND religious. They may even attend church,but SO WHAT? Does going to church make you a good person? Your perspective may sound crazy, but it also seems something worthwhile to ponder! I'm glad you mentioned that. And I'll be waiting for your post on that. :-D

Thanks for further describing your thoughts on the Church. Maybe it's the Body of Christ with an instruction book and Tradition to guide us along the way?

I appreciate your follow-up comment. Lots of good stuff! Now I'll leave with a smile as I think of those deluded Yankees! ;)

Amber said...

Susanne,

Well, Amber, we already know the Northerners are deluded in thinking they actually WON that War of Northern Aggression. Ha! ;)

They are very deluded. It's kind of sad...;)

Nah, I didn't plan on doing a post either. It's an interesting article, but it's really just one study, by one person so conclusions can't be reached from it anyway. I think it probably is a factor that other countries have taken much of the concern and pressure off of their people - we do turn to God more easily when the world around us is not fair. But you have to question what eroded those peoples faiths before that? Because people who truly have faith have it in good and bad times. It's like you said, plenty of people appear religious but aren't really.

I really think we have to wait and pass judgment on the study's conclusions until there are more study's along the same lines from different groups.

Though the conclusion drawn does fit into a thought I've had off and on, which is that humanity (assuming that the atheists/agnostics are right and that there either is no God or at least not one personally invested in us) will eventually evolve out of the need for God as we grasp more and more the way the universe works and accept that one does not necessarily have to be religious to be moral. Because that's one point I do firmly agree on - I have known plenty of extremely good, upright people who had no need for God. People who were better by far than many of the 'religious' people I've known. I think bad people will be bad no matter what they pay lip service to, and good people will be good.

Now I'll leave with a smile as I think of those deluded Yankees! ;)

They're Yankees when they come to visit, and Damn Yankees when they won't go home! :)

Joni said...

it actually makes more sense to me when put as "human rights leads to secularization" - I do agree with that. I very much agree with that. That is exactly what I see happening in this nation who that "rights" for all people's sexuality choices (all relationship types given equality to marriage of one man one woman). I agree that the push for that leads us away from government built on religious values.

sanil said...

Oh, I see what you were going for now. Thanks for clarifying! :)

Hm. I think secularizing the country was a good thing, obviously. It works out better for me. But I think just that one aspect is better for it. I do not think secularizing the country makes us better people or that people should not be religious and live according to that religion...as long as I don't have to and the religion doesn't become law (or de facto normative "law").

sarah said...

I agree with Joni's last comment but what is Aslan trying to say? Is he saying that religion and human rights are incompatible and that it is only when people move away from religion that human rights come into being. I couldn't disagree more.

I have always thought the Jesus taught love, kindness, forgiveness etc and strove for societal peace. He is not known to have persecuted any race or religon and as he was the Messiah for the Jews he must have taken some notions fron his Jewish roots. Also, I believe that Muhammad instilled rights into a society which were absent and made law for many what was only available for a few.

Yes, all societies are moving away from religion and freedom is the new god. In the name of freedom people can say and do what they like with practically no limit. It's shocking the things on tv today in the mornings that are so not suitable for younger viewers. When I see 10 year old discussing their physical relationships and can see clearly that their sense of self wworth is tied up in their boyfriend I have to question whether this freedom is good for them. When so many families are broken and blood relations are not kept close then I feel that society is loosing rather than gaining. Usually I am in the monority when I say these things but now I have noticed more and more parents reacting against these freedoms.

So many now question the internet for example and the way in which children need to be protected from it. Even Micheal Douglas spoke about his fear of exposing his kids to certain things via the internet and he is not exactly a puritan!

Maybe there is some hope for a reversal of these values to something where there is respect for elders and for values but they are not enforced with harshness and oppression.

Susanne said...

Amber, about the Yankees -- so true! ;-D *Especially* when they stay here and then insist WE have the accents! Ha, ha!

"Though the conclusion drawn does fit into a thought I've had off and on, which is that humanity ... will eventually evolve out of the need for God as we grasp more and more the way the universe works and accept that one does not necessarily have to be religious to be moral."

So you think people have erroneously thought in the past that they needed God in order to be moral?


"Because that's one point I do firmly agree on - I have known plenty of extremely good, upright people who had no need for God. People who were better by far than many of the 'religious' people I've known. I think bad people will be bad no matter what they pay lip service to, and good people will be good."

While I totally agree that there are very kind and 'good' people who have little or no use for God and some awful religious people, I'm curious why you think some people are good and some are bad. Evolution? Their choices? I guess, too, Jesus' words about there being none good except God comes to mind. But I'm assuming you are going by our society's standard of 'goodness' rather than God's. Great topic and an interesting one as well. Thanks for delving into that a bit on this post! Enjoyed it!

Susanne said...

Joni, I'm glad that makes more sense to you now. Leave it to Sanil to make sense of it all! :)


Sanil, exactly! You always make excellent points - thank you!! (And have a wonderful birthday on Sunday! 25,right? :-D )

Susanne said...

sarah, I agree that it's shocking what freedom has given us. I can never find the quote when I need it, but I recall one of the US's founders saying that our form of gov't and life would only work for a moral and upright people. So when you take the societal downward spiral plus add the freedom we enjoy, you DO get a lot of shocking things! Freedom works in a good way when people are responsible and when they are kind and guided by a sense of "how will this action of mine affect others? what would God think of this? what would my mom say about this?" So while I love freedom, I do think it can be exploited. And as society has increasingly gotten angrier and bent on hurting others with insults, you can see what has resulted.

No, I don't think Aslan was saying "religion and human rights are incompatible and that it is only when people move away from religion that human rights come into being." He was arguing for a moral pluralistic society and not letting the religious leaders have political power such as his home country of Iran. He preferred them offering moral support, but not political. Your examples of Jesus and Muhammad seem to fit that criteria.

Thanks much for what you added! Great stuff!

Sarah said...

But removing individual freedom - by eliminating the opportunity for doing wrong things - also robs people of the opportunity to be trustworthy. And without the opportunity to be trustworthy, people will not believe they are, or can be, trustworthy and moral... and so they won't be. People live up to what is expected of them.

This is why men behave more respectfully in cultures where women don't shroud themselves in veils, for example.

Susanne said...

Sarah, I like what you said and it sounds good on the surface, but this --

"People live up to what is expected of them.

This is why men behave more respectfully in cultures where women don't shroud themselves in veils, for example."


I think we agree that women cover more in religious Muslim societies. And don't you think Allah expects a LOT from those men? Lower your gaze, no sex until marriage, blah, blah,blah. Islam is all about rules and regulations so those guys have plenty of expectations. Yet they still behave like animals among women sometimes. Not all, of course. I went to Syria and was treated VERY respectfully. But Syria - while it has religious Muslims -- is secular government wise and not every Muslim is required to cover there like in KSA or Iran.

So I totally get your point, but I don't understand why these men who have great expectations by their God, don't realize pinching and fondling women is a definite no-no. Would they honestly do this if their God was standing right there beside them watching how they treat people?

Thanks for what you added. I'd love to hear any additional thoughts on this topic - thank you!

Sarah said...

"...don't you think Allah expects a LOT from those men? Lower your gaze, no sex until marriage, blah, blah,blah."

It seems like that, but in some Muslim cultures there are all these mechanisms in place to (theoretically) ensure that men behave themselves. There's no need to lower your gaze if there's nothing of a woman to be seen. There's no need to try to abstain from sex if you are never in the same room as a woman you might want to have sex with. So the emphasis is not on self-motivated morality but on externally-controlled behaviour. So it's as if Allah doesn't expect you to have self-control.

I would argue that this is a feature of Islam that goes back to Islam's origins. I believe Muhammad did institute the strict veiling rules and I personally think his fear of his own lust (e.g. with seeing Zainab in partial undress) might have motivated it.

Remember the Grand Inquisitor, Susanne! - people are weak, sinful, and rebellious, and that freedom Jesus wanted to give them is a dangerous thing! It was Jesus that expected too much of them, not Muhammad! (all tongue in cheek of course :P)

Even just a simple thing like the way so many Muslim men demand to have their wife's passwords for blogs and Facebook and things. I think it's all part of the culture of zero trust. The trouble is, how do you know it isn't the case that your wife is behaving appropriately just because she knows you're spying on her? There is always that doubt and so the lack of trust can never go away.

"I don't understand why these men who have great expectations by their God, don't realize pinching and fondling women is a definite no-no. Would they honestly do this if their God was standing right there beside them watching how they treat people?"

I don't get it either. I guess it is either denial (we all don't think through every single decision we make, sometimes we just do as we're accustomed), or maybe they think they can expiate such sins by fasting certain days or doing hajj or umra.

Susanne said...

Sarah, I'm enjoying this new train of thought you introduced to this thread. :) I always enjoy speculating on people and why they do what they do. You have brought up some very thought-provoking points especially the part about their being "mechanisms in place to (theoretically) ensure that men behave themselves." And this -- "So the emphasis is not on self-motivated morality but on externally-controlled behaviour. So it's as if Allah doesn't expect you to have self-control."

*thinking*

That's SO interesting! And really true...hmmm. This is why KSA has a police force to ensure you are moral and virtuous perhaps. I like your arguments about this really being something Muhammad instituted because of his own problems with lust. He saw how vulnerable HE was and wanted to make sure no one lusted after his own wives and thus the precedent was set. Maybe. Just speculating.

Ahhhh, I'd forgotten about the Grand Inquisitor and that dangerous freedom! ;) That made me smile. :-D Well, Jesus DOES expect a lot, but he promises to help so there is that. :)

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"I don't understand why these men who have great expectations by their God, don't realize pinching and fondling women is a definite no-no. Would they honestly do this if their God was standing right there beside them watching how they treat people?"

I don't get it either. I guess it is either denial (we all don't think through every single decision we make, sometimes we just do as we're accustomed), or maybe they think they can expiate such sins by fasting certain days or doing hajj or umra.



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Yes, those are good possibilities. Another thing I thought of ... they simply DON'T really think Allah cares. Maybe because a truly God-fearing person *would* realize his actions are wrong and he would never do something so shameful, whereas, a person who maybe goes through the motions of being a Muslim BUT doesn't really have his heart set on the things of God will not find it wrong to fondle women, rape his maid, mistreat his family. He just does whatever HE wants to do because he finds it pleasurable, normal or fitting at the time. And I should say this goes for Christians as well because there are MANY things I doubt we'd be doing to others if Jesus were standing right beside us. Sobering thought.

Thanks for adding this interesting twist. :)

Sarah said...

"This is why KSA has a police force to ensure you are moral and virtuous perhaps."

Exactly ;o)

"He saw how vulnerable HE was and wanted to make sure no one lusted after his own wives and thus the precedent was set. Maybe. Just speculating."

Yes, those were the same lines I was speculating along!

I think Jesus expected a lot because he thought we could do better than legalistic nit-picking. I think he basically said, never mind that the law of Moses says you can do this this and this, what does your heart tell you is *right*? He pushed people to take moral responsibility - that is freedom, isn't it? And if I'm right that we tend to live up to what's expected of us, I think it's fantastic that Jesus expected a lot.

sarah k said...

Sarah, I don't think your assessment is correct. The prophet was married at 25 (quite old at the time) to a 40 year old widow with children. If he was so lustful why did he chose her? He was from a good family and had an income but he married an older mother.

He was always faithful to her and wept for her years after her death even when he had several wives. His loyalty to her memory is well recorded. So I just dont buy that he was so lustful because in the prime of his sexual development he did not mary a young or impressionable girl; he chose a mature woman.

Also, may of his wives were widows or dicorcees or slaves. If lust was his main factor in marrrying more than one then they would have all been ypung virgins.

I agree with your points about society building frameworks to aid the implimentation of laws of segregation and abstinance but that is only to help the socirty be more moral.

If society as a whole upholds a set of moral values of course people will always disobey or go against them but when the framework remains not corrupt (and I dont say the religious police are uncorrupt in KSA) then the instances of such immorality remain fewer.

The UK is a good example. 100 yeears ago illegitimate children were regarded as shameful even though there were many now because the society and law has removed the stigma the number has increased.

Susanne said...

Sarah, good point about taking moral responsibility! Liked that!

Susanne said...

sarah k, I understand your point of view on illegitimate children. Very true. However, don't you think it would be even better if people did the right thing because they wanted to please God rather than because society was essentially forcing them to act a certain way? It's like when ladies leave Saudi Arabia and instantly the abayas come off in the airplanes. Do you think they were covering for GOD or for society when they do such things? I'd rather do something good and right because it's the right thing to do. NOT because I fear a swat from the religious police or a frown from my father who disapproves of me.

Is God's opinion more important or society's?

Thanks for your comments, all!

Lat said...

Well not all muslim societies are like KSA! They seem to oversee a lot on the fear factor than love.So far I've not read any hadiths of any religious police during the prophet's lifetime.But perhaps it came about after his demise.

God's opinions and pleasing Him should be our main criteria for living a morally upright life.I don't like the kind of roles the religious police play esp in KSA.Very intrusive and I agree with blogger Sarah,I think,about the superficial care of the outward appearance and not on self-motivation.That's my views too.But I've also seen pious muslim men who are self-motivated to behave and think highly of women.Perhaps this was possible because there's no religious police here :)

The different cultural backgrounds of muslim societies portrays the different outlook on God and women. We are all not the same! :)

Susanne said...

Lat, thanks for what you added. It seems in reality KSA is not the best example of Islam. It only thinks it is. But since when does having holy places within your land make the people holy? It's not like the magic of Mecca is going to rub off on the people and make them all good and righteous. It doesn't work that way!

Thanks for your comment!