It’s Not God’s Fault

Reza-AslanReza Aslan, Iranian-American writer, scholar of religious studies and professor of creative writing at the University of California has been bumping his gums about God. You can see the interview here.

It seems like he is trying to distance God from the bad stuff that happens in his name. So let’s have a look at what he has to say.

People don’t learn their values from religious teachings, according to Reza Aslan. During an appearance Wednesday night on The Daily Show, the religious scholar argued the situation was reversed — people infused scripture with their own personal values.

So right off the bat, he’s saying that religion isn’t a guide for morality. Instead, morality comes from somewhere else and is a guide to religion?

Eh? How does that work?

“There is obviously a serious problem with religious violence, and particularly with Islam and in the Middle East, but if you’re going to blame religion for violence in the name of religion, then you have to credit religion for every act of compassion in the name of religion, you have to credit religion for every act of love in the name of religion, and that’s not what people usually think. They focus very much on the negative.”

As it happens I do blame religion for religious violence.  After all, the clue is in the name, “Religious Violence” and I’ll grant that the obverse is true so I will agree that I credit religion with every act of religious love.

But, that doesn’t excuse the violence and atrocities carried out in the name of God, or Allah, or Vishnu, Anansi, Thor, Zeus or any of the other mythological deity figures.  It’s like saying The Boston Strangler killed loads of innocent people, but he was a loving family man, so that’s okay then.  The two do not cancel each other out.  The bad shit happened and is still happening.  And I see no way of excusing it in any way, shape or form.

“Part of the problem is that there is this misconception that people derive their values from their scriptures. The truth is it is more often the case that people insert their values into their scriptures. I mean, otherwise, every Christian who read the Bible would read it exactly the same way. In this country, not 200 years ago, both slave owners and abolitionists not only used the same Bible to justify their viewpoints, they used the same verses to do so. That’s the thing about scripture, it’s power comes from its malleability. You can read it in any way you want to.”

imagesHere we go.  The sheer ambiguity of the Bible and the Qu’Ran makes it possible to justify any viewpoint, even those that directly contradict each other… From the same source document!

Surely, if the words of the Bible and Qu’Ran come directly from an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and omni-benevolent being then there should by definition be absolutely no ambiguity whatsoever.

Could it be then, that these words don’t come from God (or gods) but from Man instead?  Carefully crafted to enable a few power hungry individuals to control the masses for their own nefarious ends?  Call me an old cynic if you must, but that is most certainly the view I take of it all.

“If you are a violent misogynist, you will find plenty in the Koran or in the Bible to justify your viewpoint. If you’re a peaceful feminist, you will find just as much in those scriptures to justify your viewpoint.”

I agree about the violent misogynists getting a clear message from these holy books, but I would love to see passages that support peaceful feminism.  Especially if you consider that women are treated as chattels almost all the way through.

And if they’re not, then their part is downplayed, if they are even named at all.  Check out some of the ‘begat’ lists… See many women named in them?

imagesOne particular character in the Bible stands out, and that’s Mary Magdalene.  Especially beloved of Jesus and party to his ‘secret revelations’.  She was clearly an important figure in the story of Jesus, and some say she was a powerful noblewoman of great importance in Galilee.

And then all of a sudden… She wasn’t.  She was a common prostitute saved by the Big J from a life of debauchery and yuckiness.

Way to go, Religion! That’s how you appeal to feminists.

“The point is that without interpretation scripture is just words on a page, it requires somebody to read it, to encounter it for it to have any kind of meaning, and obviously in that transaction you are bringing yourself, your views, your politics, your social ideas into the text. How you read scripture has everything to do with who you are. God did not make you a bigot, you’re just a bigot.”

imgresSo it’s all in the interpretation.  It’s all how somebody explains it to you.  The words themselves have no real value or meaning until somebody tells you what their true message is.  Just a shame that the interpreters always seem to have their own agenda.  And isn’t it funny how the interpreters always seem to be the ones at the top of the pile, not at the bottom where all the rolling shit ends up.

And if I may, surely following the words of your god, if it actually is the word of your god, then shouldn’t the message he imparts supersede any politics and social ideas you subscribe to?

If not, then what is the point of his holy words existing anyway?  Seeing as they clearly aren’t the guide to spirituality and morality that theists would have you believe.

“We need to resist saying ISIS has nothing to do with Islam or that violence in the name of religion has nothing to do with religion. Of course it has to do with religion. If ISIS calls itself Muslim, we should probably take them seriously.”

Erm… Haven’t you just directly contradicted yourself?

First of all you say that God(s) isn’t to blame for the bad shit that goes down in his name and religion shouldn’t be held accountable for religious violence.  But now you say religion is accountable for religious violence?

Make your mind up!

“I’m OK with you saying ISIS is Muslim as long as you realize that the tens of thousands of people that they kill are also Muslim, and the tens of thousands of people fighting them are also Muslims. So if ISIS is Muslim, and their victims are Muslim, and the people fighting them are Muslim — that doesn’t really say anything all that interesting about Islam itself.”

I’m not really sure what point you are trying to make here?  It’s okay for a religion to carry out acts of religious violence if the only targets are those of that same religion?

And another thing.  I disagree that it says nothing interesting about Islam.  It says that Islam is a brutal, violent and hateful ideology that really doesn’t care who gets maimed or killed as long as somebody gets maimed or killed.

Religion is a dangerous, destructive and disgusting thing.  The sooner we get rid of it the better.

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