With ISIS and the ongoing fighting in the Middle East, I thought it would be interesting to explore the religious side of the topic. There are many contributing factors, so I’m not saying religion is the only cause, but it is part of it. Let’s start with some basics.
Religious beliefs can be divided into three categories. Polytheism, monotheism, and general spirituality. Polytheism is the belief in multiple gods. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were polytheists. Then came monotheism. The “major three” (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are monotheists. Then you have general spirituality, where people might believe in a “cosmic power” or “karma’ or whatever.
Monotheists almost all believe in the same god. Especially the major three. Yup. Islam believes in the same god as Christians. Didn’t know that? Well in the bible, Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. According to the story, Abraham and his wife Sarah were unable to have children, so Abraham had sex with Sarah’s handmaiden, Hagar. Ishmael was born from Hagar. Yahweh told Abraham that he would make the descendants of Ishmael a great nation. Years later, Sarah became pregnant wish Isaac.
Sarah became jealous of Ishmael so she made Abraham get rid of Hagar and Ishmael. They fled to what is now Israel. Ishmael married an Egyptian, and they, with their children, ruled from Assyria to Egypt. According to Islamic tradition, the Arab people are descendants of Ishmael. Muslims also believe that Muhammad was a descendant of Ishmael.
So here’s the timeline. The Jews believe in one god, named Yahweh. Then the Christians come, and follow Jesus, who they believe is the son of Yahweh. Then Islam comes and follow Muhammad, who calls Yahweh, Allah.
If they believe in the same god, why is there so much fighting? Well, it’s because they each have different ways they worship their god. And they are convinced theirs is the only correct method. Just like there are different Christian Sects.
What about Sunni and Shia? They disagree on who should have been the leader of Islam after Muhammad died. That’s it. The Sunni believe that only elected leaders could be the Caliph. The Shia believed that only descendants of Ali could be the Caliph because they were chosen by god. That’s what all the infighting is about. It reminds me of when the Greek Orthodox church separated from the Catholic Church over statues.
The Taliban and ISIS both want to restore the Caliphate. ISIS recently announced that the Caliphate had returned. Islam was at it’s strongest and most influential when it was ruled by a Caliph, so it makes sense that they’d like to unify, and instead of having separate countries, have one empire. Oddly enough, Iran apposes this. I think they just don’t want to give up power.
Then you have the question of Jerusalem. Both Jews and Muslims believe that god gave that land to them. In 1948, massive amounts of Jews came from all over the world and “refounded” Israel, pushing the Palestinians out of the way. Most of the Arab world sees this as an attack, and want Palestine restored. Jews think it’s their birthright. Muslims think it’s theirs.
Again, I’m not saying religion is the sole cause of violence here, but it is a contributing factor. And it’s all based on unsubstantiated beliefs of ancient illiterate iron age people.