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07 October 2002

Because I'm feeling so goldarn lazy today, I'll just link to my comments in a c*rc*mc*s**n thread over on LGF earlier this morning. Oh, and while I was hanging out over there, some joker posts this in reaction to the Rev. Jerry ''Gasball'' Falwell, who'd had some mean things to say about poor Muhammad:

He said that Muhammad was a man of violence (and G-Dub is ... ? Except when he's AWOL from National Guard duty, of course) and Jesus and Moses were men of peace.

The spirit moved in me and I replied; my comments are expanded as follows:

Dude, I don't have to contrast Muhammad with Jesus or Moses or anyone else to assess his moral character. If you would bother to read the bloody Quran, as I have, you'd come independently to the conclusion that Muhammad was a shit of a man -- a xenophobic opportunist and not much of a philosophical thinker, either. Possibly he was a brilliant poet, though since I don't know Arabic I can't judge whether the Quran truly sounds surpassingly beautiful in the original or not. I'll take the sensuous love poetry of a Persian poet like Omar Khayyam over Quranic words-of-wisdom posturing any day, however.

Before any Christian and Jewish readers start cheerleading, let me say that I also find the New Testament and the Tanakh to be extremely mixed bags, in terms of literary merit and moral persuasiveness. Also, I'm skeptical about the very historicity of Jesus -- I think the Gospel character by that name might be a patchwork stitched together from two components: the first being a (sometimes very admirable, sometimes kooky) historic Jewish teacher who originated various portions of the "Jesus said" quotes in the Gospels; and the second part being a pre-existing mythical archetype.

As to Moses and Abraham and David, I'm agnostic as to whether they actually existed as real individuals, or if they were mythical heroic figures intended to stand for entire generations of Jews, much like Virgil created Aeneas for the Romans. (It's likely in some cases that both sides are true -- i.e., that Moses and Abraham et al. were gifted individual thinkers who were subsequently credited with all manner of unlikely feats.)

To me, it doesn't really matter whether the founders of religions were or were not persons of good character, or whether they existed at all. And it also doesn't matter what the Holy Books say. What does matter, a lot, is how modern believers interpret the books -- do they see the nasty oppressive xenophobic stuff as non-inspired prejudices of the ancient cultures that produced them, or is ''slay the infidels and ye verily, stone the disobedient child'' considered to be binding even unto this generation?

All that said, I'd rather break bread with someone who admires the possibly non-existent but nonetheless kindhearted Jesus than with someone who gets off on the (definitely historic) tales of Muhammad slaughtering kaffir. Likewise for Moses and the gentle, ahistorical Muhammad of liberal Muslims.

Update: The guy responded to me as follows:

Moreover, Falwell's assessment is an explicit comparison with the supposedly peaceful tactics of Moses and the preaching of Jesus. So do you really agree with him?

I saw his ante and raised him as follows:

Dude, read my post again. The historic Muhammad could've been a pacifist who walked around in a robe letting the birdies alight on his fingers, and the historic Jesus and Moses could've been, respectively, a child molester and a serial killer. Or they could all be imaginary, like the Invisible Pink Unicorn (PBUH) who created the Universe.




What does matter are the character traits that today's believers attribute to their heroes.

Some Christians see Jesus as a sort of benevolent dad to the entire world, regardless of professed faith; I like such Christians a lot.

Other Christians who've seen too many action movies imagine Jesus -- the co-creator of the fuckin' Universe, mind -- as a crazed, self-obsessed monarch who callously allows Hindu children to burn in Hell because when they said ''I love God and His creation,'' they mispronounced ''God'' as VISH-noo; who has a particular fetish for seeing that only certain among his helpless creations get to occupy certain patches of land on one little planet; who vomits at the thought of one man giving another a BJ. I do not get along well with Christians in this category, because it's difficult to respect anyone who shows me such a peculiarly drawn picture of the most perfect being imaginable.

You can substitute in Jews and Muslims and the same applies, except that among Jews and Christians, the ones who truly believe in a gentle, loving God now make up a significant portion of the faithful -- while in Islam as it exists today, the really depraved assholes who approvingly quiver at the stories of Muhammad slaughtering infidels on the battlefield and slaying apostates seem to be disproportionately represented. Insha'allah, the ratio will change someday.

posted by Throbert | 10/07/2002 04:57:00 PM |
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