What is Chrislam?
In Arthur Clarke’s 1993 novel Hammer of God there is a religion called “Chrislam” which is based on Islam and Christianity.
Today the word “Chrislam” is used as a pejorative term by some people in the Christian community to refer to other Christian preachers who are reading the Quran in their churches, or who are offering a welcoming atmosphere to Muslims. It also refers to the blending of all world religions into one super religion.
In some parts of Africa, a small number of people have purposely blended Christianity and Islam together in order to get along with their neighbors. (R&E)
Syncretism of World Religions
I think it is inevitable for the world’s religions to blend together into one religion (assuming humanity doesn’t blow itself up first). Every religion that exists is a result of syncretism. In Islam, for instance, praying five times a day was practiced widely in many Pre-Islamic middle eastern cultures (such as by the Zorastrians). The Kaaba was a shrine to pagan idols. Islam is a blend of Christianity, Judaism and Middle Eastern pagan practices.
Christianity is also a syncretic faith. The trinity of God was a popular concept in Celtic paganism and the Hindu religion before the existence of Christianity. And the Egyptian God Osiris is similar to Jesus, in that he dies, goes to the underworld, and then is reborn to save humanity from their sins.
So as the people of today’s world come together and share ideas, it is inevitable that these ideas will start to blend together. This is not a bad thing. This is a healthy thing. Because if people don’t merge their religions and cultures, they will exist in opposition to one another. And then they will spend their time fighting each other when there are greater threats to humanity that require people to cooperate with each other.
However, I don’t think you can just mix and match whatever you want and make a Build a Bear religion.
“We cannot invent our own values, because we cannot merely impose what we believe on our souls. This was Carl Jung’s great discovery.” – Jordan Peterson
I think people need to study all the world religions, think critically about the long-term truths that have allowed human civilizations to survive and flourish, and to follow something that follows those long-term truths. I don’t think Chrislam would be a new religion, I think it would be a manifestation of the worlds’ ancient truths into a singular path. A path that is simple, easy and uncomplicated.
How to Find What is True and What is Not True?
What is true and what is not true? Truth is what works. Truth is what has allowed human beings to survive and even thrive for thousands of years. Ultimately, truth is a set of laws that have stood the test of time.
Nature is a bastion of truth, because nature is a system that has lasted billions of years, it is a grim arbiter of life and death that punishes the weak and rewards the strong.
However, before people get too excited about such Nietzschean ethics, it is actually to peoples’ benefit to cooperate with one another and to see each other as members of a shared tribe. This is why religions such as Christianity and Islam have been so successful. There is a message about unity, the sanctity of human life and that all humans are brothers and sisters of a singular family.
In Christianity and Islam there is also a message about helping the lowest members of a society, which is necessary because if you do not help the lowest people, they will eventually get fed up and overthrow the system in pursuit of a better one.
This is pretty much what happened at the beginning of the twentieth century. Gilded Age Capitalism had become so extreme that ideas like Communism and National Socialism became attractive. People became willing to kill and commit cruel atrocities in pursuit of over thowing what they saw as a criminal system. This did not work, because Communism and National Socialism ended up being even worse ideologies. However, does that mean the prevailing ideology of today is correct?
So what is the predominant ideology of today? If you look to the universities, the education system, and the media, which hold themselves up as the arbiter of knowledge and truth, you get post-modernism, an idea that is defined by an attitude of skepticism, irony, and a rejection and deconstruction of meta-narratives. From this comes the idea that there is no clear truth, that anything can be true, and that tolerance of all truths is the ultimate value (particularly those that are under-represented).
But if all things are true, and the mainstream values that have propped up Western Civilization are apparently questionable, this introduces a great deal of nihilism. When there is no clear, definable truth, life is chaos. It has no meaning. It has no point. So why keep going?
It has been the purpose of the great philosophies and religions throughout history to answer the question of ultimate meaning. Today’s values have very short term roots in history. And it is said that a tree with shallow roots will be blown away by the storm.
Does Mankind Need Religion?
I’ll admit, I don’t think I have all the answers. And I think there are certainly people out there who have found ways to live meaningful lives without religion, or merely by following a philosophy.
But in my opinion, a religion is something that provides a path for people to conquer their lower self (their Id, their base animal instincts and desires) in pursuit of their higher self (their superego, their connection to the universe and each other, God consciousness). Religion also gives people a sense of meaning, which is vital to conquering the chaos and confusion that is the suffering of life.
In today’s Post-Modern age, it is believed that people can choose their own values. Or that everything is true and the tolerance of all ideas (particularly those that are under-represented) is the highest value. Yet when there is nothing that is objectively true or good, this leads to despair.
I think there are objective truths out there. I think these are the truths represented in the different religions and philosophies of the world. And I know these things are true because they helped humanity build civilizations that lasted hundreds if not thousands of years. For those who simply want to characterize the past as a patriarchal struggle for power, they do not appreciate the fact that life for our ancestors was rough. It was a brutal struggle for survival where our ancestors had to witness a large number of their children die, and were vulnerable to disease, war, famine and the harsh elements of the natural world. Systems of behavior and value were put into place to help people survive and even triumph over the harsh trials of life. In modern times with modern conveniences, it’s easy to judge our ancestors more harshly than they deserve.
However, I think there are also some aspects of how religion is practiced today that are no longer serving people, or are creating more problems than they’re solving.
So I think in the future, when people create Chrislam, it will incorporate that which is true (from the previous religions), and perhaps leave out that which isn’t true, or no longer helps people.
The Merger of Islam and Christianity?
Christianity and Islam are the world’s two largest religions. So it makes sense that if there was a global world super religion, it would contain elements of both Christianity and Islam, along with the other prominent faiths, such as Buddhism and Hinduism.
Yet there are those who say that this is impossible for a very logical reason.
Islam and Christianity contain contradictory ideas.
Christians believe that Jesus is God.
Muslims do not.
Christians believe that Jesus was crucified and was so benevolent that he suffered to save us from our sins.
Muslims think that God saved Jesus from crucifixion, because God is so benevolent he would not allow something so cruel to happen to a good man.
How can there be any compromise on these contradictory ideas?
Leaving Christianity for Islam?
If some Christians decide that Jesus is not God, but merely a wise teacher, then one could argue: Shouldn’t these Christians who don’t believe in the divinity of Christ simply become Muslims, since Jesus is merely a messenger/prophet in Islam?
Here is the problem with that argument. While Jesus (or the Prophet Isa in Islam) is indeed an important figure in the religion if Islam, it is my observation that the main personality and archetype in the religion of Islam (as it is practiced today by the mainstream Muslims) is the Prophet Mohammad, not Jesus. Whereas in Christianity, Jesus is the central archetype.
Now in reference to Islamic archetypes, the Prophet Mohammad was very careful to make sure that people didn’t end up worshiping him as a god. Which is why it became forbidden to draw pictures of the Prophet Mohammad.
The Quran also has some material to fly in the face of my argument that Mohammad is the central Islamic archetype. It says all the prophets are equal.
We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers” [2:285]
Yet despite the equal status of the prophets, Mohammad’s life and personality has become the “light” through which the Quran is understood and filtered.
Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel, who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them. So they who have believed in him, honored him, supported him and followed the light which was sent down with him – it is those who will be the successful. [7:157]
For a majority (like 90-some-percent) of the world’s Muslims, the key foundations of the faith are the Quran, the Sunnah (which contains the deeds, sayings and lifestyle of the Prophet Mohammad), and the Hadith literature (a compilation of stories and saying of the Prophet Mohammad and his companions). So in practice, the Prophet Mohammad IS the key archetype in Islam of perfect human behavior.
As someone who lived with a Muslim family for three years, and who has been to the mosque a couple times, I am familiar with the idea that Muslims want to follow “the Sunnah” of the prophet, meaning, they want to mimic his lifestyle so that they can best embody the teachings of the Quran itself and draw closer to God. So obviously the life and practices of the Prophet Mohammad are of top importance to followers of Islam, and I would say more so than the life and practices of Jesus (The Prophet Isa).
There are also Quranists, people who just follow the Quran, and not the Sunnah and Hadiths. Though Quranists are a very small minority of the Muslim population. Some Quranists argue that the Prophet Mohammad himself is not supposed to be so important, but it is his message, his recitation that is of chief importance. Indeed much of the details of the Prophet Mohammad’s life come from the Sunnah and the Hadith literature, not the Quran. However, the Quran itself does mention some details about the Prophet Mohammad’s life, such as the fact that God doesn’t want Mohammad’s dinner guests to linger too long. [33:53]. The fact that Jesus (The Prophet Isa) is mentioned by name in the Quran five times as much as The Prophet Mohammad may make some think that Jesus (The Prophet Isa) is supposed to be more important. And yet a reading of the Quran makes it seem to me that Mohammad is still the light through which Islam is to be understood because he is delivering the final uncorrupted message, and the addition of the Sunnah and the Hadith literature to the Islamic religion adds an extra focus on Mohammad and his life in order to understand that light.
There is some support for the Quranist argument that the Sunnah and Hadith Literature shouldn’t be a part of Islam (or not be taken as religious scripture) because the Quran itself says that it should not be reformed, or added on to.
These are the verses of Allah which We recite to you in truth. Then in what statement after Allah and His verses will they believe? [45:6]
I think there is a theologically sound argument from the Quranists that reform and addition should not be allowed after the Quran, because these things are forbidden by the Quran, which presents itself as a perfect and complete book. So we are simply left with the message of the Prophet Mohammad and not much of his life or personality. It is even said that in the early days of Islam, there was a ban on Hadith.
Abu-Dhahabi reports: The Caliph Abu-Bakr compiled a work, in which there were 500 traditions of the Prophet, and handed it over to his daughter ‘Aishah. The next morning, he took it back from her and destroyed it, saying: “I wrote what I understood; it is possible however that there should be certain things in it which did not correspond textually with what the Prophet had uttered.”
As to Umar, we learn on the authority of Ma’mar ibn Rashid, that during his caliphate, Umar once consulted the companions of the Prophet on the subject of codifying the Hadith. Everybody seconded the idea. Yet Umar continued to hesitate and pray to God for a whole month for guidance and enlightenment. Ultimately, he decided not to undertake the task, and said: “Former peoples neglected the Divine Books and concentrated only on the conduct of the prophets; I do not want to set up the possibility of confusion between the Divine Qur’an and the Prophet’s Hadith.” [Introduction to Islam. Kuwait. 1977. pp. 34–35. ]
Does Islam Give People Archetypes?
So if it is true that the personality of Mohammad was not supposed to be as important as his message, this introduces a fundamental problem when it comes to basic human psychology. Human beings require archetypes through which to understand things. It is why we have concepts like “Mother Nature,” “Father Time” and “Old Man Winter.” It was the belief of Carl Jung that humans construct archetypes through which to understand God and access their higher selves.
Jung wrote “the soul must contain in itself the faculty of relation to God, i.e. a correspondence, otherwise a connection could never come about. The correspondence is, in psychological terms, the archetype of a God-image.” (Psychology and Alchemy)
Could it have been the Prophet Mohammad’s intention for Jesus (the Prophet Isa) and his mother Mary to be these key archetypes since he discussed them so frequently? I do not know. But that is an interesting possibility.
I do know, however, that the early Muslim community tried to avoid providing archetypes for God, as such a thing would run dangerously close to encouraging the sin of shirk, the biggest sin in Islam, which is associating partners with God. And yet as Carl Jung knew well (several centuries later) people require archetypes through which to access spiritual truth. So finally, after people continued to circulate stories about Mohammad despite the ban on Hadith, Mohammad (many years after his death) was allowed to be a mortal archetype through which to understand Godly behavior. And then the Hadith literature and the Sunnah were eventually incorporated into the canon of mainstream Islamic practice.
The Problem of Following Mohammad as an Archetype of Perfect Religious Behavior
Should the Prophet Mohammad, founder of the Islamic religion, be the archetype through which all human beings model their behavior for all time?
Most of what we know about Prophet Mohammad comes from the Islamic literature, which derives from the companions and family members of the Prophet Mohammad, handed down a through chain of narrations.
According to these sources, the Prophet Mohammad was an honest man who sought to solve many of the problems of his time: tribal warfare, poverty, corruption. He brought people together, he advocated feeding the poor, helping orphans, helping widows and freeing slaves.
However, is he a perfect man for people to follow for all time?
Some of the behavior of the Prophet Mohammad (according to accurate Hadith and the Sunnah) seems morally problematic to me. Not only as an example for all time, but even for his time. And this is information that was compiled by people who deeply revered him, so it is doubtful that it was exaggerated to slander him.
It is not my interest to slander the Prophet Mohammad because there are enough sources on the internet that do so. I simply invite people to read accurate Hadiths (such as Bukhari) and the work of Ibn Ishaq, who was Mohammad’s first biographer (and a Muslim). And I invite people to think critically about whether the character depicted in these sources is a model of perfect moral behavior for all time. For some of the sources that say less than savory things about the Prophet Mohammad, people will say, “This is unreliable,” “This is a weak hadith.” Indeed, many mainstream Muslims do actually believe that not all Bukhari hadiths can be trusted. But then you have to ask, Why are there so many stories about the Prophet Mohammad in these sources compiled by people who revered and loved him that the modern person could find morally questionable? Hadith wasn’t compiled by his enemies after all. His biography wasn’t written by an enemy, but a practicing Muslim.
The reality is that there are things described about him that weren’t problematic behavior back in Dark Age Arabia. For instance, in the biography of Ibn Ishaq, Mohammad tortures a Jewish man to find the location of his gold. Maybe this story is true. Maybe it was made up by Arabs who hated Jews and liked the idea of their prophet torturing one. Or some Muslims would even say such a story was fabricated by the Jews to make Mohammad look bad. But once again, if such a thing seemed bad at the time, Mohammad’s Muslim biographer wouldn’t have put the story into his text.
There are also hadiths in Bukhari that discuss Mohammad torturing people or issuing cruel and inhumane punishments. Some say he did this so God could rebuke him. Some say that harsh punishments were necessary to keep Arabia’s Mad Max society under control back then. Some say that these are weak hadiths that were made up. But clearly this behavior was not problematic at the time, because Muslim scholars who revered Mohammad were the ones putting these collections of hadith together.
So if some of the Bukhari hadiths are true and others are not, then how do you decide what truly represents the character of Mohammad? That which you want to be true? Isn’t it equally possible that some horrible person in the Islamic State could decide that they want the torture hadiths to be true? Maybe you could decide that the Arab society was just so corrupt that they ruined the real reputation of whoever Mohammad was. But then that means that we don’t really have an archetype or personality through which to understand Mohammad’s teachings.
It is my personal analysis that while Mohammad might have been a man doing what he needed to do in his time to get certain things done, he was not a perfect man, and not an example for all time.
Is Islam Perfect?
First of all, I’m going to say that it is my belief that ALL religions eventually get corrupted by the power structures of their time for the purpose of maintaining and expanding empire. It’s just the nature of human beings. We corrupt everything we touch. Look at the beautiful natural world and how we have perverted and destroyed that. If we can corrupt God’s creation, can’t we do the same with God’s word?
The argument among Muslims is that the Quran is a perfect book preserved by God against corruption, a book of rules for all humanity for all time. I wonder why God had the power to preserve the Quran, but not his other revelations.
There are some arguments that verses were left out of the Quran.
Some sources maintain that Umar (a companion of the Prophet and Second Caliph) decided not to put the verses about adultery into the Quran for fear that people would think he was fabricating the Quran.
Other sources maintain that Aisha stated there were verses about breast feeding or adultery that were eaten by a sheep.
This comes from the Hadith literature. However, mainstream Muslim opinions argue that these are weak hadiths.
Now before I get into my own personal gripes with the Quran (or maybe the way it is interpreted), I will say that there is much beauty in the Quran. It presents an awe inspiring and powerful vision of God. It offers advice and wisdom for getting through life’s struggles. That advice is mainly for a person to submit themselves to God, which is a much wiser course of action than the modern person may realize, because what this means is conquering the lower self (our base and animal desires/the Id) in order to submit to the higher self (which is the consciousness of the universe itself and the connectivity to all things, the Super Ego).
My personal gripe with the Quran is that much of the legal code prescribed by the Quran may be a good book of laws for 7th century Arabia, but would it be good for modern times?
The Quran prescribes chopping off the hands of thieves. [5:38-39]
Crucifying those who spread violence and mischief in the land. [5:33]
And the taking of sex slaves as spoils of war. Islamqa
The Hadith literature has put restrictions on these things, making the burden of proof so high that enforcement is unlikely. But even after these restrictions, there are still circumstances in which they may be practiced.
The world was horrified at the Islamic State taking sex slaves. And indeed, according to Quranic law, they did this incorrectly, because they took female captives from people who did not attack them (The Yezidis). However, the taking of sex slaves IS allowed from kaafir (non-muslim) groups that attack the Muslims. So, for example, by this logic, if a female U.S. marine fought against the Islamic State, there are some arguments that could be made that her sexual enslavement would be permissible by the laws set out in the Quran.
Indeed, even Islamqa, a Muslim website, agrees that sex slavery is allowed provided that the woman was taken from a kaafir group that attacked the Muslims.
The world was also horrified by the Islamic State crucifying people. The Islamic State may have gone about it the wrong way. However, if we were going by what the Quran says, this could be interpreted as a legal punishment for those who violently oppose the Muslims and cause mischief (or terrorism) in the land.
So I will submit that while the Quran offers an awesome (in the biblical sense of the word) and inspiring vision of God, I can not see its legal code as a set of laws “for all time.” And I’ve even heard some theories that the first Muslims thought they were in the final days, and were genuinely surprised when time went on after the death of Mohammad, which might explain the Apostasy Wars that happened so soon after his death. This would also explain much of the finality of Islam. “Mohammad is the final prophet,” “This is the final book of laws,” etc. etc. This would also explain why Mohammad didn’t choose an heir for his legacy, which has lead to 1400 years of fighting among Sunnis and Shias.
Mohammad was a religious figurehead AND a lawgiver. So it is logical that the laws he gave were mixed up in his religious message and put into the Quran. But are following his laws that he created for a very specific time and place really necessary to following the religious principals he outlined? I am not so sure.
Those who believe in the Quran indeed accept that it is a perfect book sent by God.
But those who find flaws in the Quran maintain that it must be completely made up, and have nothing of God in it.
What about a third interpretation? Could it be possible that the Prophet Mohammad did indeed receive a message of divine inspiration, but that message became altered and re-purposed for political purposes (as do all religions)?
Was Mohammad himself corrupted by his own power? Or was the memory of Mohammad corrupted by the people around him?
Qur’an verse 69:44-46 says that if Muhammad invents false revelations, Allah would sever his aorta.
Interestingly, in a hadith, Aisha narrated:
The Prophet (ﷺ) in his ailment in which he died, used to say, “O `Aisha! I still feel the pain caused by the food I ate at Khaibar, and at this time, I feel as if my aorta (أَبْهَرِي, abhar-ee) is being cut (انْقِطَاعَ, utqitaa’a) from that poison.” Sahih Bukhari 5:59:713 (4428)
Bukhari is said to be authentic hadith, but perhaps this particular hadith is weak, or perhaps this argument is a stretch. I’ll leave that up to you.
Truth in Islam?
So was Mohammad a divinely inspired prophet whose message became corrupted by the very corrupt society that he lived in? There are many definitions of God, but even from an atheistic perspective, maybe he had some inspiration about what was needed to create a good society amidst Arabia’s corruption. He spent much time meditating in a cave, dwelling on God and seeking answers. And when he first received his revelation, his reaction was utter terror, which is what prophets in the Old Testament felt as well. And I myself have had spiritual experiences that I would also describe as terrifying, which is why Mohammad’s reaction made me more likely to believe that he was actually having a spiritual experience.
After receiving his revelations, it is said Mohammad endured much abuse in order to spread his message. The Quraysh (the ruling tribe over Mecca) apparently offered him riches, and power, and beautiful women if he stopped spreading his message. But he turned down this offer and continued to preach. Then he was threatened with violence. The fact that he refused luxury/power/ease and stood up to death threats, as well as watching his own companions die, tells me that he sincerely believed what he was preaching. Which means he was either insane, or truly did receive a divine revelation from God.
So is there something of the divine in Islam? Despite its flaws, there are compelling spiritual truths in the Quran. And if Islam truly were a completely fake religion, then why do 1.8 billion people follow it today? Why did this religion help facilitate Arabia out of the Dark Ages into a Golden Age? Why did it last 1400 years?
Some critics of Islam will say “because it enforced itself via the sword.” Perhaps it did. Yet brutality on its own is not enough to make people follow something, or to make a society function. Religion is a manifestation and dramatization of the truths in the subconscious mind, as is Islam. So you can’t just say that Islam is completely false. For example, an idea like Communism is categorically false, because it resulted in the deaths of 100 million people and lasted a mere 70 years in Soviet Russia before collapsing. It only had the brutality, and little actual truth. Communism with its rejection of natural hierarchies does not represent anything true about human nature.
But Islam, with its message of following a straight and simple path of submission to an all powerful God by conquering the lower self (via fasting, prayer, charity and abstaining from worldly desire) in pursuit of the higher self does present a message with some truth behind it. And it sought to create a straight and simple path to God by getting rid of polytheism, false idols and unnecessary rituals.
The problem is that this message of Godly submission has been mixed up with the potentially problematic personality of Mohammad (or at least problematic stories about Mohammad), a 7th century Arabian legal code, and the many many many many rules of Hadith. Don’t make art with people in it. Don’t listen to musical instruments. Pray with your fingers pointing this way instead of that. Drink camel urine. Is all that really necessary? Especially when the Quran says, “Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.” (2:185)
Or “O children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer, eat and drink but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not wasters. Say: ‘who has forbidden the beautiful gifts of Allah which He has produced for His servants and the things clean and pure which He has provided for sustenance.” (7:31-32)
You could go with the Quranist solution and reject Hadith, but then you’re still left with an 7th century legal code that permits wife beating, amputation, sex slavery and crucifixion. It’s actually the Hadith literature that made these things more merciful in terms of implementation.
So if you believe in the Quran AND Hadith. You have to accept a whole series of contradictions. If you only believe in Quran, then you still have to accept further contradictions that are actually cleared up by Hadith. It’s all very confusing and inspires a lot of cognitive dissonance, which makes it so you can’t think for yourself, which might be what the Umayyad and Abbasid rulers ultimately wanted when they used Islam as a political tool to maintain and expand empire into Persian and Byzantine lands.
So what do I believe was Mohammad’s original message?
Perhaps his purpose was to clear up the problems of Christianity
This is obviously mere conjecture based on my study of historical and religious texts, because I do not have a time machine. It is my theory that Mohammad’s initial purpose was to be the update patch to Christianity. Mohammad was surrounded by and interacted with many Christians in his life (including his father-in-law). And as I mentioned earlier, Jesus (the Prophet Isa) is mentioned five times as much in the Quran as Mohammad. And Jesus, not Mohammad, is believed by Muslims to be the Messiah that will return to Earth to defeat the Anti-Christ in the final days. If Jesus is the ultimate good, and the Anti-Christ is the ultimate evil, then shouldn’t people follow Jesus as the chief archetype of goodness? Why follow Mohammad?
And what was Mohammad’s key message to fix Christianity? That Jesus Christ was not a god, but rather a faithful servant of the one true and eternal God, and an example to mankind of how to follow God. Jesus taught people many good values. Treat other people as you yourself want to be treated. Don’t judge others lest ye be judged. Be quick to forgive. An eye for an eye makes us blind. These may have been articulated 2,000 years ago,yet these values have stood the test of time. So they are true.
The example of the Mother Mary in the Quran is also a positive archetype for people to follow. She was a pious woman who received sustenance from God (because of her devout nature and belief) and she ultimately suffered alone to bring Jesus into the world (her story is different in the Quran than the bible). She suffered alone because motherhood is often suffering alone to create something positive in the world.
The non-divine nature of Christ was potentially already the view of many of the Christians who lived in the Arabian peninsula.
Historian Hans Joachim Schoeps observes that the Christianity Muhammad was likely to have encountered on the Arabian peninsula “was not the state religion of Byzantium but a schismatic Christianity characterized by Ebionite and Monophysite views.” (Hans Joachim Schoeps, Jewish Christianity (Philadelphia: 1969), p. 137. )
“Thus we have a paradox of world-historical proportions, viz., the fact that Jewish Christianity indeed disappeared within the Christian church, but was preserved in Islam and thereby extended some of its basic ideas even to our own day. According to Islamic doctrine, the Ebionite combination of Moses and Jesus found its fulfillment in Muhammad.” (Hans Joachim Schoeps, Jewish Christianity (Philadelphia: 1969), p. 140. )
Indeed I myself grew up in a household with a Christian mother and a Buddhist father. I went to a Catholic church with my mom until I was 13 years old, when I realized that Christianity didn’t make any sense. Why would God (who is omnipotent and omniscient) give everyone original sin, and then kill himself in a brutal and painful way in order to absolve us of this sin? So we are supposed to be saved through Jesus’s sacrifice, but how does that stop us from sinning? And why should we owe an eternal debt to someone for doing something we never asked them to do? And indeed many people who believed in Jesus’s sacrifice still sin anyways. Also, why is Jesus trinitarian? Why is Jesus his own son? If he’s our heavenly father, why don’t we have an Earthly mother? Why are we responsible for the sins of Adam and Eve? Etc. etc. The contradictions go on and on and on, which makes it pretty clear why Christianity is such a faith based religion. Because if you gave it too much analysis, it might fall apart. I eventually couldn’t accept these contradictions, so I could no longer call myself a Christian. I think this is why as the West modernizes, many free thinking and critically thinking people leave Christianity. Because of all the logical inconsistencies.
When I started doing the research, I realized many early Christians either didn’t believe in the divinity of Christ, or they believed that he wasn’t divine until the end of his life when he was crucified, which paralleled Roman views that their emperors gained divinity at the end of their lives. Views of Christ’s divinity changed over time, until the Nicene Creed was established in 325 AD, which established that Jesus was ALWAYS divine.
I think the Catholic Church developed and embraced the message of people owing Jesus a great debt, so then by proxy, people would owe the Catholic Church a great debt. And instead of pleasing God through good deeds and sacrifice in one’s own life, mindless submission to the church became critical in order to achieve heaven.
The Protestants later tried to correct this problem. But even in Protestant Christianity, much of the focus is on believing Jesus is God and letting him die for your sins.
I tried other religions than Christianity, but ultimately they didn’t fit for me. I couldn’t believe in multiple gods, because then it made things confusing. And when I did pray to multiple Gods, I felt like I wasn’t actually reaching the divine. I suppose I always believed in one single supreme force of divinity that wasn’t male or female, but just was like…the force. Though I think it’s important to study the pagan religions of the past in order to learn important archetypes about the human experience. Perhaps what we think are pagan gods were actually prophets.
Eventually I came to Islam, but then I ran into the problems I mentioned above.
I also tried being an agnostic and just doing what I wanted, but then I ran into nihilism and existentialist angst. Life became meaningless. I’m not saying that all agnostics or atheists feel this way. But it’s just to me, it seemed logical that there was a God, or at least consciousness to the universe that connected all things, as God is described in the Bhagavad Gita.
And when I started to read that even some of the smartest people believe this life could be a simulation, people like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, I started to realize that maybe it is possible that life is a simulated “test” of sorts. And the being running this test “God?” could potentially place us into a heaven or hell simulation afterwards based on our behavior. Or perhaps we create heaven or hell on Earth with our behavior.
So I wanted to connect to this God figure. To serve this God, so that I may escape the suffering of life in the Dunya (this temporary world that is life).
I should also mention that I got cancer in my late twenties, and went through the most aggressive chemotherapy regimen there is for breast cancer, which only intensified my desire to know God and live a life that would allow me to reach God and transcend suffering. (Let me tell you vomiting for 8 days straight until you start vomiting blood is not fun.)
It was during my cancer treatment that I started to practice Islam to find some relief from my suffering. Indeed the words of people like Shaykh Hamza Yusuf were encouraging. I started reading the Quran and praying five times daily. Yet the interesting thing is that when I started doing these things, I had very clear visions of Jesus on the cross. I even asked him, “Should I just be a Christian then?” But in these visions, Jesus simply told me “keep reading.”
I had a dream that I went to the mosque, and the women there asked me to make a garment that would cover one of the uglier, fatter women at the mosque. At first I refused. I told the ladies I wasn’t capable of it. But they told me I was capable of more than I realized. So I made a salmon pink garment and this concealed her ugliness and made her beautiful.
Perhaps the dream meant that I would find a way to live by the principals of Islam that would cover the bloated and ugly aspects that have consumed the religion, replacing them with peace and wisdom. And maybe it’s just a coincidence that the salmon color is associated with fish, which are associated for Christ. But perhaps this highlights the importance of following the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Jungian archetype of goodness. So perhaps it is best to follow his example in order to establish a Heaven on Earth instead of Hell.
Indeed the Quran refers to Jesus as a “holy spirit,” as “the word of God.” And the Bible calls him “the way.”
As soon as I realized that I could follow Jesus without thinking of him as a god, I actually felt closer to him. I loathed the idea that Christians could just be “saved” by him instead of saving themselves. And I’ve known many Christians who engage in bad behavior because they think being saved by Jesus is enough to get them to Heaven (and that their acts aren’t important). But now I personally understand Jesus as a mortal, but wise teacher who wants me to save myself through living by his example.
So perhaps one can get their example of moral human behavior from Jesus in the Gospels, their understanding of God’s unity and oneness from the Quran, the idea of God as a super consciousness through which we are all part from the Bhagavad Gita, and ideals of mindfulness, meditation and letting go of desire from Buddhism.
I also do feel the spiritual energy from nature, and believe in the importance of going out into nature to find spiritual truth, since Nature is a system that has stood the test of time (billions of years), and reveals many important truths for mankind (because we all come from nature). I believe human beings need to do more to be compassionate to animals and protect life on Earth. The Earth as a spiritual being is our mother, and if we don’t respect her, she will crush us.
I feel like God revealed to us many religions so that we may learn from them all. And he lets them become corrupted so we are forced to think for ourselves instead of having an easy answer. It is through struggle and challenge that wisdom and heroism are found, not ease.
In Egyptian mythology, it was the goddess Isis who rescued her husband Osiris from the underworld by finding and putting together the scattered pieces of his soul. And she was a goddess of wisdom. So perhaps this is what God wants for us. He doesn’t want us to blindly follow a particular scripture, but to use our wisdom and knowledge to analyze deeply all that he has given us, and to use our own free will and inner goodness to put the pieces together and find the right answer. What better way to test a being’s goodness in a simulation, than test their ability to understand, decipher and put together a message of goodness (rather than blindly accepting some rote answer like a student sneaking in a cheat sheet)?
We can never truly understand God (because God is far too superior and complex.) But we can try. I believe that God wants us to embrace science, so we can understand his universe. He wants us to explore space,and merge ourselves with AI, so we can transcend and better understand his creation. And most of all, he wants us to think for ourselves (or else he would not have given us free will and a brain).
Some might read this and say, Okay just become Bahá’í. They believe in the unity of all religions. However, their view of God is vague, because they claim there are many representations of God that are all true. This is confusing. I think it would be better if a religion had a central archetype through which to understand Godly behavior (Christ). Bahá’í also claims that men and women are equal, and yet women are not allowed to serve on the Universal House of Justice. Quoting `Abdu’l-Bahā (head of the Bahá’í faith from 1892-1921), Iranian critics claim he saw women as inferior to men. (Basiti, Moradi & Akhoondali 2014, pp. 324-325.) And while Bahá’í claims to support science, there are inconsistencies between the Bahá’í scripture and modern scientific knowledge. Prominent among them are references by `Abdu’l-Bahá that humans evolved over a long period, but were never animals. On Human Origins a Bahá’í Perspective. So, these inconsistencies lead me to believe that this path isn’t the culmination of truth.
Some might say, Be a Unitarian Universalist. There are many things about the UU church that I like, and I actually am a Unitarian Universalist. But the thing about Unitarian Universalism is that it’s ultimately a philosophy rather than a religion. After all, you can be a Unitarian AND a Christian. Or a Unitarian AND a Buddhist. So on and so forth.
Some might say, Go with Ahmadiyya Islam. Ahmadiyya Muslims have the unique belief among Muslims that the Prophet Mohammad was not the final prophet, and that the Prophet Isa returned to the Earth in the form of an Indian man named Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in the 19th century. But my problem with them is that they purport to be the ultimate representation of Islam, while simultaneously promoting ideologies that contradict the very core of Islamic canon, and they even have their own version of the Quran that fudges the original translation. Their founder has also made anti-semitic statements and promotes the importance of the person of Mohammad over the person of Jesus Christ (when even Mohammad himself didn’t do that). I even read something by the founder that said something like, “original sin comes from Eve,” even though that contradicts core tenants of the Quran. So, even though I think the Ahmadiyya community might have good intentions, I find their teachings to be intellectually dishonest.
The Futility of Reform – The Need for New Ideologies
I doubt that Islam can be reformed because even the Quran says that it cannot be reformed. The best case scenario is you get a situation like the Islamic Golden Age where many people had a more nuanced and metaphorical approach to the source material than today.
And as I mentioned with Christianity, there are many philosophical and logical inconsistencies.
There are many people who are simply leaving religion altogether because there is no clear, or authentic, or honest religion available that would be a good replacement/improvement to these ideologies, or that gives people instructions for how to improve their lives in modern times.
People say that Islam is the fastest growing religion because Muslims have more children. But the fastest growing religion is actually “No religion.” The religious nones are the fastest growing ideological group world wide. (Hack Spirit)
If people feel that Atheism/Agnosticism genuinely improves their lives, than that’s great.
But if people want to put together a religious system that can connect themselves to God (the universe, their higher self, the Superego, etc.) while manifesting the world’s great philosophical truths, I invite them to consider a simple and short collection of ideas.
Some ideas for good Chrislam rules if someone decides to make a Chrislam religion.
- Treat others as you yourself want to be treated. (Jesus’s golden rule)
- Follow the archetypal example of Jesus Christ and the Mother Mary. Christ is a culmination of the ideal male archetype over thousands of years, which fulfills Odin and Osiris , which shows that the ultimate male virtue is to be willing to give one’s life for a greater purpose. Mary is the culmination of the ultimate female archetype, in that she has the power to create life. Mary (from the Quran) and Jesus are also examples of strong, self sufficient individuals. Men can learn from Mary and women can learn from Jesus.
- Think for your self. God gave us free will for a reason.
- Tell the truth, or at least, don’t lie. When you are honest all the time, you will start to be more honest with yourself, and it will be easier to clarify what is generally right and wrong.
- Follow a straight and simple path to God. Worship the one God and force of creation. Even pagan religions of the past had a singular, supreme God who ruled over the other Gods. Jesus, Mary and Gaia (the being that is the Earth) can be venerated, but not worshiped as Gods. However, the Gods and Goddesses of the past can serve as instrumental archetypes of human behavior.
- Study all religious scripture to better understand God (particularly Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu works). Why would God reveal his wisdom to one group of people but not another? It’s more likely that he revealed different pieces of his message so that we may come together and learn from one another.
- Pray, fast, meditate and donate to charity in order to draw closer to God.
- Don’t make complicated overbearing rituals or rules. Like Occam’s Razor, simplicity is often the best solution.
- Leaders and messengers of the religion should NOT be permitted to make ANY money off of it. (Rather they should all be volunteers, so the religion doesn’t become about money). If the religion does somehow acquire money, it should ALL go to charity. If the people must build a church, it should serve other purposes rather than merely being a religious building (i.e. a community center that shelters the homeless, feeds the hungry, and teaches the uneducated important life skills).
- No enforced celibacy among clergy. This leads to sexual perversion.
And just keep it that simple.
Don’t make some religious hierarchy that dominates peoples’ lives and make them unable to think for themselves. Don’t make some institution that drains people of their money and turns followers into mindless slaves (like Scientology). Don’t make some cult that demands absolute obedience and control over peoples’ lives to the point where they are crushed. Let people leave the religion if they want to. Don’t invent complex rituals that make people worship dogma instead of God. The truth doesn’t need to enforce itself to be true. The truth is self evident, and when something is true and beneficial to peoples’ lives, they will flock to it.
I hope this is helpful to whoever ended up reading this.