Some time ago, I attended a lecture at my college. And it was optional. So that should give me some clout eh? A good student attends optional lectures. I attended optional lectures. Therefore I am a good student. Hah! Ahhhhhhhhh...logic jokes.... :)
This lecture was very soon after the 9/11 attacks and was a discussion of Islam and Christianity. It was very well attended! Most of it was not so much argumentation oriented as it was an exposition. Most of it was simply a talk about what Muslims believed in a new age where this has tremendous importance! One of the things that was noted is that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the three major Monotheistic religions of the world.
At one point in the lecture, the professor of Philosophy decided that he would do more than talk about the truth that was agreed upon. He decided to introduce his professional opinion. That is, he claimed that since Judaism, Christianity and Islam were so similar, they should just settle the differences and worship together.
This angered me a great deal. The fact that he was a professor of philosophy seemed to give weight to whatever he said, but yet, it also reduced the likelihood of he and I having much common ground (as a joke, philosophy to me seems like the study of arrogantly misapplying logic to things that possibly cannot be understood in an attempt to create belief systems which will only be unraveled after your death ...that and to have conversations in coffee shops no one else can understand). I did not have an issue with his opinion. He has a right to an opinion and if I got angry everytime someone disagreed with me, I would be angry all the time. No, the problem was that he had proclaimed from "on high" as it were "As a professor of Philosophy, I can tell you. These people worship the same God, they should worship together."
This article is an attempt to tackle this assertion.
I would assert that there are only two possible beliefs in this regard. Yahweh and Allah are the same idea* or NOT (Yahweh and Allah are the same idea). This will be important later. I am attempting to show NOT (Yahweh and Allah are the same idea). There's another way to phrase it that is nastier. "The Bible is the True word of God" and NOT("The Bible is the True word of God"). This one is messier as it leaves the burden of proof on me and I don't think i can do it justice in one article as there are books and books written on the subject on both sides.
*(Why "idea?" A few reasons. Allah has not been proven to exist, thus to qualify him as a "being" is pushing on the reader something that is not agreed upon. We have the same problem with Yahweh, the God of the Bible. Indeed, this problem only splinters off beyond where I can see since we have not agreed upon definitions for these beings or ideas...nor will we be able to. Not only can we not show that Allah = Yahweh, we cannot even agree upon whether your Allah is the same as someone else's. If you understand this paragraph you already understand a bit of the ludicrous nature of the statement I am attempting to deny.)
The issue on the surface
Let us be clear. There are similarities between the (Pardon the sloppiness!) Koranical idea of Allah and the Biblical idea of Yahweh. Each book claims that its God is the only God, that its people are the People of God. Each book shows that man is corrupt and doomed to destruction. Each provides a path for redemption. Each provides rules for living. Many of these rules are the same. There are those who believe that Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, and followers of Judaism should admit that they worship the same God and they should worship together. It is obvious that the idea is not to show that Allah = the Yahweh of the Old Testament = The Yahweh of the Old and New Testaments. The idea is to show that they are similar enough. That is the crux of the matter. Let us note here that this statement is in the affirmative therefore this position has the burden of proof. The professor at the lecture provided no proof. Indeed he cannot because we lack definitions and such definitions are probably impossible to agree upon if you subscribe to Unordained's view of the Perception of truth. If you have done logic, you know that without definitions, nothing can be proven. If I wish to prove that all integers are either even or odd, proving such is impossible if you and I cannot agree as to what an integer is! Now, certainly the professor has his ideas as to what Allah and Yahweh represent. I'm pretty sure to him they represent man coping with an uncertain world or some such. Before you stop reading this paragraph please understand the idea behind it. To prove or even show that Allah and Yahweh are the same, one must define these ideas / beings in such a way that all in the dialog are satisfied. This is very very difficult; indeed, Baptists and Lutherans disagree vehemently on many important issues in this regard...even those within the Baptist denomination cannot agree upon the tenants of Calvinism. These beliefs splinter off far beyond where we can see them or talk about them; each individual probably has a different conception and these conceptions are difficult to discuss because the nature of God is so complex. The point of this paragraph is to assert that the burden of proof has not been met and probably cannot be met. I would further assert that even if the burden of proof was mine, proving that two things are not equal is not difficult; one must merely find a way in which they are not equal. The set of integers is not equal to the set of reals. Proving this is easy. 1/2 is a real (it is in the set of real numbers). It is not an integer (it is not in the set of integers). QED. Similarly, Allah and Yahweh provide two different methods of wrath avoidance; clearly these religions are not identical. For lots of fun, lets prove that Islam is different from Mormonism. Mormonism at higher levels if I recall correctly believes that God is from the planet Kolob. Islam believes that this statement is funny but untrue.
Digging Deeper: the problem of Splintering
You and I differ as to what we believe is True regarding the Bible; I'm sure of it. Somewhere, somehow, we will find a place where we disagree. Heck, I'm a Calvinist who has found reasons to believe God may simulatenously hate and love some people. Can we worship together?
That's where this will become an opinion issue. Purpose. There are those who want to make religion a group of people who distribute food and clothing to the poor and council people and give them hope (pretty lies) in a hopeless, violent world. There are those who want to make the focus of every church protesting abortions. Some take the purpose of my religion from the Bible, some take it from unvalidated personal axioms (God would never do that!!! I would know...He and I go way back!), some take it from an Anthropology class they took in college. For some, for me to worship with a Muslim, to listen to a priest talk about what we can agree upon as Muslims and Christians...that's beautiful cooperation between people who belong to groups that have killed each other in the past. There's room for that. But, that is not the purpose of Christ's church. The abstract view leads one to see only similarities. Such a person denies the importance of the details, perhaps calling them trivial. To trivialize the details of my religion is to trivialize most of my religion.
If you believe that God exists, that he punishes sin and that he has provided a way of salvation, than you believe much like I do...much like an Islamic person does as well. Yet, we have not agreed upon critical issues such as "How has God revealed Himself?", "Can a person know that is has avoided wrath?", "What is Sin?", "What is the Way of Salvation?", "How should a follower of God act?", "What is the nature of God?", "Was Jesus God?" etc.
If you don't understand the importance of these details don't pretend to understand my religion. And certainly don't demand in that self-righteous tone that we settle our differences and worship together in the spirit of tolerance and acceptance (two great words that have nothing to do with each other). You may understand facts describing my religion in the same way an Anthropologist understands the primative polytheistic religion of the Greeks. That doesn't mean you believe them or hold them dear.
Indeed, there is a similarity between Islam and Christianity that I forgot to mention.
We both find this assertion to be vile and insulting. To say that my religion is equivalent to Islam is nothing more than oversimplified, politically correct philosophistry. I love that word. :)
What Can we Say? (Optional fuzzy wuzzy ending)
Tolerance is such a great word. Most would think that if a Muslim walked into the room, he would have less in common with me than your average Joe Atheist. After all, there have been wars and killing! That is probably untrue. If we have any desire to establish a dialog and save each other, then we could have a very respectful and fun conversation. I envy how devoted many Muslims are! I envy that in the past, Muslims often treated Christians and Jews better than Christians treated Muslims and Jews...believing us to be almost misguided brothers. So, we can tolerate each other without swallowing each other's "misunderstandings" hook line and sinker. The end of the matter is "Don't murder people" and "treat others like you would want them to treat you."