16A002 Dear Muslim, by Jim Davies, 1/27/2016
Welcome to this Christian land! Glad you got away from the death and chaos of your own. This is to suggest a couple of ways you might find useful in getting to understand your new environment.
First off, "Christian land" or country isn't correct. America (or Germany, Norway or wherever you ended up) isn't one, and in fact there's no such thing; because "Christian" is a term that can be applied only to individuals, not collections or aggregates of people. Anyone can become a Christian, or not, but it's done by decision or choice, not by heritage or birth. That's one of the large differences between Islam and Christianity, which is important to understand.
It's true that Christian traditions prevail here in America and that Christianity has the most adherents, but as a nation America is not allied with any particular faith; it says so expressly, in its founding document, the US Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
The shambles you just escaped resulted from government action: warfare, which is waged always by governments (or by those trying to become governments.) The US government played a large part, by messing with the Middle East, but Muslim governments also used violence, often against other Muslims, as in the Sunni-Shia conflicts. The trouble there is that in Muslim lands the border between State and Mosque is very thin; there is little or no separation, as there is supposed to be here between State and Church, as above. So it's easy to attribute religious motives to the killers, even though they are really State employees.
You're here now, though, and while you're here why not take a good look at the religion that prevails around you? That's something hard to do - prohibited, perhaps - back home. Focus on how its actual religious beliefs compare with your own.
I suggest you compare Islam and Christianity in two ways: first, check which seems to you the "best" one, according to your own understanding of religion, but second, check also whether either of them makes sense.
If I understand correctly, someone born a Muslim is instructed to believe that there is a God, called Allah, and that there is no other God; hence, there is only one God. Islam is monotheistic. Right so far? From sources like this I also understand that Allah is generally displeased with human conduct and that in order to obtain his favor the good Muslim must perform a number of duties on a regular basis; regular prayer, charity, fasting and pilgrimage. Again, I hope we're still on the same page.
But what if doing those good things isn't enough? If Allah is morally perfect, imperfect human beings have an awful lot of ground to make up. He's said to be "merciful", but how far does his mercy stretch? This is a dilemma, is it not? - and it's one you share with many religions, including Judaism. Jews look for a Messiah to solve that problem and save them, but what savior can Muslims anticipate?
In Christianity, that massive mismatch is resolved: God, although certainly singular, is said to have intervened in the person of his son and made a full and final sacrifice for sin. Anyone trusting in that sacrifice is forgiven. He is the savior (the Messiah, whom the Jews missed.)
That's a thumbnail sketch of Christian theology. Doesn't that deal look worth investigating? You can find a bit more in my e-book Which Church (if any)?
So much for a brief comparison of your religion and the one prevalent in your new land. You're free to check it out, nobody here can stop you. If you're convinced there is a God, Christianity stacks up pretty well. You might decide to change.
However, there's another dimension to this: is there, really, a God? In this country anyone is free to consider such radical questions, and not to be punished for the conclusions he reaches. When we do, we look for evidence and reason, for and against the proposition.
Further, before any such evidence can be assessed, it's necessary to define one's terms. It's impossible rationally to believe in anything or anyone, until one understands what is being discussed. Isn't that so? Then how, exactly, is "God" to be defined?
Reverse the spelling of that word, and it's quite easy. A "d-o-g" can be defined in very great detail, as much as is required; a simple one would be that it is an intelligent and often affectionate mammal, with a tail at the back and a leg at each of four corners. But how is "g-o-d" to be defined? I've never seen such a definition. Have you?
The Bible, and perhaps the Q'ran, records what the writers said God did and said, as if He were some kind of super-human; they say he is holy and merciful and all-powerful and all-knowing, etc etc, so giving Him attributes, but they never say what He is, how He is defined. The Bible doesn't even offer proof of His existence; it merely asserts that existence and even ridicules those who deny it! Does the Q'ran provide such a definition, and such proof?
If not, perhaps you're willing to consider that there is no god, and so that religion is all futile. And if you're with me that far, there's one other religion I encourage you to discard: the religious (and so, irrational) belief that government is necessary.
In my fourth paragraph above, I noted that the horrors of warfare, which you recently escaped, always come from governments. Governments kill far more people than ordinary murderers. They also steal far more wealth than ordinary thieves. They create chaos, in whatever they do. "Necessary"? - they are as much needed as holes in the head; a point emphasized in A Modern Fairy Tale.
Government and other religions go hand in hand; they support one another. Here, Christian preachers tell followers to be good citizens, to vote and pay taxes and support soldiers (so exempting government from the Commandments not to steal or kill) while government exempts churches from taxation and most interference in their affairs; each portrays the other as far more worthy of respect than it deserves. In Muslim countries, I understand the synergy is even closer.
So during your stay, dear Muslim, take the opportunity to open your mind wide, to the possibility that the world views most prevalent are all seriously defective, and that a vastly better alternative can be enjoyed: the freedom alternative.