“Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

As a result of our on-going fight with ISIS, the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, and hateful, uniformed statements by Donald Trump, the amount of anger toward Muslims has increased. Mostly, it’s based on religious differences combined with gross misunderstanding. For example, a post has begun circulating on Facebook asking “Can a good Muslim be a good American?”

You may as well ask, “Can a good Christian be a good American?”

In fact, the same question could be asked of a follower of any faith. After all, virtually every system of faith has its share of fundamentalists who are prone to terroristic acts. Indeed, the Ku Klux Klan has long operated under the veil (or, more properly, the hood) of Christianity.

Disregarding recent research that shows atheists act more ethically and “morally” than those who profess to be religious, let’s examine the claims made by the Facebook author in the text of the post:

The post claims that a Muslim cannot be a good American because no other religion is accepted by His Allah except Islam (Quran, 2:256). If that’s the case, what about Exodus 34:14 of the Christian Bible? It reads: “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

The Facebook post claims that allegiance to Islam forbids Muslims from making friends with Christians or Jews. Since all three religions stem from Abraham, this is patently absurd. Moreover, some of history’s most tolerant rulers were Muslim.

The post claims that Muslims must “must submit to the mullahs (spiritual leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and destruction of America, the great Satan.” Such beliefs are only taught in the most radical madrasas – most of them based on Wahabism, an extreme and virulent form of Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia. It is this form of Islam that is the basis of ISIS. It should be noted that there are equally intolerant forms of Christianity and Judaism. But Americans don’t treat all Christians and Jews in the same way we currently treat Muslims.

The post claims that Muslim men are “instructed to marry four women and beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him (Quran 4:34).” There are also passages in the Bible and the Torah, which if taken literally, permit or encourage equally troubling and socially-unacceptable behavior, such as slavery. For example, Exodus 21:7 states, “If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do.” And Exodus 31:15 orders those who work on the Sabbath to be stoned. Leviticus 19:28 bans tattoos. And Leviticus 19:19 bans the wearing of garments made of fabric blends.

The Facebook post claims that a Muslim “cannot accept the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the Bible to be corrupt.” First, the Constitution was not based on Biblical principles any more than it was based on Quranic principles. It was based on reason. Second, the Quran declares the Bible to be a true revelation of God and demands faith in the Bible (Sura 2:40-42,126,136,285; 3:3,71,93; 4:47,136; 5:47-51, 69,71-72; 6:91; 10:37,94; 21:7; 29:45,46; 35:31; 46:11). Third, Muslims accept Jesus as a prophet. However, Christians do not acknowledge the Prophet Muhammad.

Finally, the post claims that democracy and Islam cannot co-exist, since every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic. It is true that some Muslim governments are theocracies. But many have at least some form of democracy, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, and Turkey. Further, recent history has seen many authoritarian Christian nations such as Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. And one could reasonably argue that Israel is not a true democracy, as it denies rights to Palestinians and claims to be a Jewish state.

The point is, no one benefits by making false claims about race and religion; making generalizations about large groups of people; or denying respect to others. As Rodney King said during the 1992 riots over his treatment by police, “Can’t we all just get along?”

The Great Debate.

On Tuesday, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” debated Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Museum…you know, the place featuring dioramas of Adam and Eve sharing the Earth with dinosaurs.

I give credit to Ham. Not only did he pay Nye’s substantial speaking fee for the event. He risked exposing his supporters to a dose of reality. Nevertheless, I doubt Nye changed any minds. That’s the problem with trying to debate the faithful…they accept things based on faith and ignore anything that would contradict their beliefs, including actual scientific evidence based on centuries of observations and objective data.

For example, Ham and his followers believe the Earth is 6,000 years old based on the book of Genesis in the Bible. Ham says that the Bible trumps scientific research. “I find there’s only one infallible dating method,” said Ham. “It’s a witness who was there, who knows everything and told us, and that’s from the word of God.”

Ham fails to consider that the Bible is a written account of Judeo-Christian traditions and that it’s not necessarily any more accurate than the creationist accounts of other tribes – accounts such as the Chinese belief that humans came from a cosmic egg; the Tibetan belief that humans are the offspring of a monkey and a great demoness; the Egyptian belief that all creatures were created on a potter’s wheel; the Mayan belief that humans were created from wood; the ancient Greek belief that humans are the progeny of the Earth and the sky; the Hopi belief that man emerged from a hole in the Earth; and the Navajo belief that the first woman was created by blue and yellow clouds and the first man was created by black and white clouds.

All of these deserve as much credibility as the Judeo-Christian account. Moreover, unlike Ham, many civilizations believe the Earth is far older than 6,000 years. Indeed, Hindus believe that the Universe is 4,320,000,000 years old, a figure that more closely aligns with the dating of modern science.

But other traditions and science don’t matter to people like Ham. Ham believes the Judeo-Christian creation story is the only one that matters. He believes that the Bible was not written by man. He believes it is the actual word of God and anyone who contradicts anything in the Bible is simply wrong. It’s a matter of faith. The only one who could possibly convince him to accept the evidence supplied by historians, geologists, anthropologists, astrophysicists and archeaologists is God.

And the Judeo-Christian God hasn’t yet authored a sequel to the Bible.