Atheists often object to christianity and other religions because they believe that if a all powerful and all good God existed he would not allow such suffering in the world. I contend that not only does the Christian model do more to explain the suffering in the world than Atheism, but it also explains suffering better than any other religious view, and here is why: we all desire that the suffering on earth is not only some day taken away and gotten rid of of, but also that there is some purpose or reason for that suffering.
A recent poll by CBS has shown that a large majority of democrats, 66%, believe that Christianity is just as violent as Islam. Among Independants 53% believed Christianity was just as violent and 25% of Republicans.
So one must ask, what makes so many Americans, 50% of them in total, believe that Islam and Christianity promote or contain the same level of violence? Here are a few of the reasons I believe that most people have come to that conclusion, and the reasons I believe that they are wrong to think so.
When people think of violence and religion, I think there is one thing that immediately pops into our minds, the crusades. No doubt both Muslims and Christians performed some horrible atrocities during this time, there is a reason modern history calls it the Dark Ages. But there is a few things that we should keep in mind in light of this horrible time in history.
First, who started it? Often times I think we are told in our history classes that Christians were the instigators of the Crusades. Muslims were living peacefully for years and then Christians decided to take what was never theirs to begin with. That’s not how it happened. Let’s remember that Christianity started in Jerusalem after Jesus death in 33A.D., Christianity rather literally and nonviolently took over the Roman Empire long before Muhammad appears on the scene in 594A.D. Muhammads predecessor Abu Bakr then attacked Jerusalem in 636A.D. So who started the Crusades? The Muslims.
Along that note, we can see Christians can view the crusades as trying to gain back land that was taken from them.
Second, it can easily be understood that it was the Christians who stopped the crusades, because in our modern era it was Islam who had control of Jerusalem when we gave Israel its sovereignty after WWII. If the Christians hadn’t stopped the crusades would never have stopped.
Furthermore, we no longer have Christians declaring Holy Wars and using their religion as justification. Within Islam we still have a small minority of Muslims declaring Jihad using Islam as their justification. I agree these Muslims do represent a minority of Muslims but that minority still consists of millions of people.
I must concede that perhaps these millions have twisted the words of the Quran to support what they believe. Religions are often used to justify the very things they were designed to be against. In that case it seems to make sense to look at the founders of Christianity and of Islam when talking of whether one is more violent than the other. Muhammad, was a clearly a military leader. He lead and participated in violent raids of merchants and after founding Islam went to war against the armies of Mecca on several occasions and approved of the slaughtering of Jews whom he believed deceived him in one of those battles. Jesus on the other hand told his followers to love and pray for their enemies. And died by the violence he never instigated.
The same can be said of their followers. The immediate leaders of Islam after Muhammad were violent warring leaders, case in point, Abu Bakr who attacked Jerusalem. The immediate followers of Jesus promoted peace and died as martyrs.
So is Christianity as violent as Islam? Lets look at the topics thus far:
- Islam started the crusades
- Christianity ended the crusades
- A large number (though a minority) of Muslims still believe in violent Holy Wars or Jihad
- Muhammad as founder of Islam was violent, while Jesus as the founder of Christianity promoted peace.
- The followers of Muhammad promoted Islam thru violence, the followers of Jesus promoted Christianity by dying for their convictions.
So are both religions equally violent? You decide.
This last weekend I was at an open house at the local Mosque here in Fort Collins. I was encouraged to see that there were many visitors who, like myself, clearly weren’t part of the Mosque ourselves. I think it is important that we are able to dialogue, communicate and fellowship with those who don’t believe in the same things that we do.
As the open house winded down I found that I was in a minority even among the visitors that day. They had a panel answering questions and dialoguing about interfaith relations when the Jewish leader that was a part of the panel dropped this bomb: “to say there is only one way to God is limiting to God.”
I was a little surprised by the comment. Not so much by the comment as much as I didn’t expect it to come from the Rabbi in the group. I more expected that the Universalist reverend on the panel to say a statement like that rather than the Rabbi. But it still had me thinking ‘Am I limiting God when I say that there is only one way to God?”
In short my answer to this as I think about is ‘no’. The fundamental thing that I think a statement like this is misunderstanding is that we decide the ways to God. When I say that I believe that there is only one way to God it isn’t because I’ve made it that way, it’s because God made it that way. I don’t say there is only one way to God because I want to limit God or that I believe God could only make one way, I say it because my understanding is that God has only made it that way.
When Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” it seems pretty clear that there is only one way. So am I limiting God? No. I am saying simply what God has said.
Could God have made it another way? My understanding of theology seems to say no, which is another subject entirely, but for the sake of argument let’s just say that God could have allowed more than one way to Him. If God could have made another way and yet as He says in John 14:6, he has only made one way to him, am I limiting God? No, I am not. God is limiting God. There is only one way to God. He has made that clear. It wasn’t my choice. I would even like to say that there is more than one way to God, but if that isn’t true I am not going to say it to make others feel better.
I often think that someone who says ‘we are limiting God by saying there is only one way to him’ are saying it because it doesn’t feel good. And they are right. I wish it was another way. But if a friend of mine wants to cross the highway where it isn’t safe and there is only one safe place to cross the highway do I let him cross where he wants to because he will feel good about it? Absolutely not! I could care less what makes him feel good, I would rather have him alive than happy and then dead, because I didn’t speak the truth because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
Frank Turek Explores why the radical change of Muhammed’s immediate followers is not equal to the radical change of Jesus immediate followers:
I’ve recently been researching Jehovah Witnesses. I’ve attended the local Kingdom Hall, read a number of the Watch Tower Publications, and debated a Jehovah Witness online. It’s been fun. If you know me at all, you know that I really enjoy these sort of tensions and conversations.
The most important thing I have come to realize about Jehovah’s Witness is that they don’t believe that Jesus is God. In fact they don’t believe in the trinity at all. This is of course a huge break away from Orthodox Christianity. So I thought I would take some time to show one reason why such a view is unbiblical.
Most of you are well aware that Jehovah’s Witneses are not the only people that believe Jesus is not God. In fact, it’s a pretty common belief that Jesus is not God these days. Whether an atheist, a Jehovah Witness, aMormons, or even a Muslim, many people believe Jesus is not God. So what does scripture teach? One passage in particular seems to make it abundantly clear.
In John 20 we see Jesus appear to Thomas after the resurrection. Thomas had declared that he would not believe unless he felt Jesus wounds and saw Jesus himself. When Jesus appears and tells Thomas to feel his wounds Thomas says to Jesus, “my Lord and my God”.
Thomas is very clearly calling Jesus God! It’s possible that Thomas is somehow wrong in his exclamation here, but Jesus’ reply makes it clear that he has no problem with what Thomas has said. Instead of condemning or correcting Thomas for calling him God, Jesus says ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’
Rather then correcting, Jesus confirms Thomas’ statement by saying those who believe what Thomas has proclaimed without seeing, as Thomas has seen, will be blessed.
Some would like to argue that Jesus makes no actual claim to deity here. To some extent this is true, Jesus does say ‘I am God’. But an understanding of the strict monotheism of Judaism would show that Jesus should have condemned such a statement and He didn’t. In fact he encourages Thomas for calling him God. Clearly Jesus did not disagree with what was being said.
Others claim that Thomas was not speaking to Jesus but actually to God, but the context makes it clear, ‘Thomas said to him (Jesus), my Lord and my God’. John is being explicitly clear that Thomas is addressing Jesus.
There is only way to interpret the passage within the context, Thomas is calling Jesus God and Jesus is confirming that Thomas is speaking the truth. So is Jesus God? This scripture certainly is saying so.