Can the Christian and Muslim Both Be Right?

In yesterday’s Religious Tolerance: Lack of Conviction, or World’s Only Hope? I asserted that ultimately the only hope for mankind is if everyone who fervently believes in their religion “adheres to their belief the idea that just because something is right for them doesn’t mean it must be right for everyone else.”

This idea—that the Christian must admit that the Muslim is every bit as happy and spiritually fulfilled in his faith as he is in his (and visa-versa)—is typically anathema to both the Christian and the Muslim.

To both, there is only one true God. To both, anyone who believes in any God but their God is tragically deluded, and destined for an eternity in hell.

“Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life!” cries the Christian.

“No God but Allah!” cries the Muslim.

And between the two, history cries.

A commenter on yesterday’s post wrote, “It seems to me it is impossible for both the Muslim and Christian to be correct.” A child could see that’s true. And so the adult must admit that if some way isn’t found for that not to remain true—if people of faith persist in believing that people of different faiths are wrong, and so in dire need of correction—then nothing will change, and the history of humanity will remain its future.

Except we don’t fight the way we used to, with sticks and rocks. We’re so much better at killing now.

We have a choice. Either religious people find, within the tenets of their religion, every last reason to have true, deep, and lasting respect for the religion of others, or those of us who are religious acknowledge that our failure to do so guarantees that eventually the whole race of us will probably kill each other off (insofar as people fight over nothing with the fury they do religion). This isn’t a value judgment; and it’s certainly not a compromise of my own deeply-held Christian faith. It’s simply a fact. We either get all the way okay with people believing other than we do, or we all (out of, insanely, our love for the eternal well-being of those who believe differently from us) perish.

One world, or no world. That’s pretty much our choice. Didn’t used to be, because we didn’t used to kill as efficiently as we do now.

See Iran building its bomb. See us at war in the Middle East.

See the future of all mankind, written on the wall in crimson red.

In the search for how we can truly be at peace with others not being Christian, we Christians might begin with the commandment Christ himself called the greatest, most comprehensive law of all: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://jem-musings.blogspot.com/ Jeannie

    Very well said.

  • http://jerrisblog.blogspot.com Jerri Harrington

    The problem does not lie in our belief in Jesus as Lord. The radical Muslims are not fighting us because we won't tolerate their beliefs….they are fighting us because they believe in Jihad. They believe they will have achieve a greater reward if they die for their faith. We are fighting the Taliban because they drove planes into our buildings, and possible because of oil. We are not nobly standing up for Christ as a nation….or at least our national defense is not. Individuals in the military may be fighting for our right to worship God and Jesus as He would have us do. But John, there is no room for PC when we are presenting the gospel to the world. It would be cruel NOT to proclaim,

    "There is no other Name on earth by which man can be saved except Jesus Christ, the Righteous!"

    There are very brave Muslims, who believe that radical Jihadists are wrong, who join forces with US troops and go back into the thick of the war…on our side. We do share a belief in God, the Creator. Where we differ is in belief in the diety of Christ and the saving power of His blood. That has been a stumbling block to men and women since the ressurrection. It's not a matter of not loving people or tolerating them–it's a matter of wanting to see them free of their sins, and that only happens through the blood of Jesus. And I believe that Jesus calls to them and provides ways for them to believe in Him…I iknow of some amazing stories!

    How we share that is crucial. And we are not the judges….only God is. But compassion and love demands that we share Jesus with anyone who is seeking Him. In Him, Jerri

  • dana111

    We can, and should, proclaim "There is no other Name on earth by which man can be saved except Jesus Christ." However, we must understand that if Muslims hold on as fervently to their faith as we do to ours, they can, and should proclaim to us that "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is His Prophet." All John is saying, I think, is that we MUST understand that Muslims, Jews, Buddhist, Sikhs, Spiritist, Native Americans, Wiccans, Hindus, etc, experience their faiths as strongly and as honestly as we experience ours. A failure to understand this and a willingness to actively undermine the faith of others will ultimately result in warfare because, as John stated, humans fight for nothing as passionately and as violently as we fight for our religious faith.

  • http://jem-musings.blogspot.com/ Jeannie

    I wish the blood of Jesus would free people of their sins. However, Christians sin all the time – as well as everybody else. The best the blood of Jesus does is wash our sins.

  • Geoffrey Miller

    "insofar as people fight over nothing with the fury they do religion"

    Not so. This is a very common myth believed by almost everyone except those with a hobby or career in studying military history.

    http://irrationalatheist.com/files/TheIrrationalA

    Scroll to page 97 and start reading from there.

  • Geoffrey Miller

    Also, we must recall the crusades were primarily defensive push-backs against Muslim conquests. The entire Middle East was Christian before Islamic kingdoms rose up and started killing and conquering everything in sight, reducing Jews and Christians to second class citizens, conscripting their children by force into the army where they were programmed to become super-fanatics to increase the strength of Dar Islam's already mighty forces.

    Heck, the Muslim forces were already just three hundred miles away from Paris, ravaging the French countryside, before it was suggested the West fight back and try to regain lands which had always belonged to it and liberate people who were reduced, really, to slavery.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    To Geoffrey's first comment: Ah, the sweeping proclamation of the intellectually arrogant. I majored in history, and have read little else for thirty years. I stick by my assertion. (And if by way of showing your brains you're going to choose text to quote, you might want to choose something that doesn't start with the sort of absurdity that starts the one you've chosen here. "Because [Sam] Harris is a careless writer, lurching from baseless assertion to errant conclusion with all the elegance of a drunken orangutan …" is a ridiculously sophomoric thing to say.

    To Geoffrey's second comment: Didn't you just make my original point?

  • http://megaloi.blogspot.com Redlefty

    John, my brother, you may have to add a subtitle to your subtitle:

    *Trying Crosswalk's patience since 2008

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Har! It'd be 2007, actually. And I haven't been posting these latest ones there at all.

  • http://megaloi.blogspot.com Redlefty

    Weird, I actually went into Crosswalk's archives and couldn't find anything older than 2008 of yours on the site. Maybe that was during your dark period and they delisted it?

    I'm sure it's not my lack of computer/search skills. I mean just an hour ago I found a picture of a bear holding a rifle while riding a shark.

    So one of us is wrong, dangit. Either you're a liar and haven't been on Crosswalk since 2007, or I'm an idiot on the computer. We can't both be right. Someone must perish.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore
  • http://megaloi.blogspot.com Redlefty

    Arg!

    /seppuku

  • Tammy Lubbers

    "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind"

  • Geoffrey Miller

    "To Geoffrey’s second comment: Didn’t you just make my original point?"

    No, because the real motive was gaining land and power, you know, the usual empire building stuff.

    "'Because [Sam] Harris is a careless writer, lurching from baseless assertion to errant conclusion with all the elegance of a drunken orangutan …' is a ridiculously sophomoric thing to say."

    It's not if you've read one of Sam Harris' books. In any case, it's Mr. Day's writing style, and he chose that style intentionally to satire the tone of the atheist literature he's critiquing.

    But might I add that you didn't address any of the points made in the chapter, nor in the rest of the book. "Argumentum ad sophomorum" does not refute a point. Saying, "I'm a history major" means very little to me. I'm a mathematician. I eat people in the humanities for breakfast. I've studied plenty of history too, in depth. I don't see religion being a primary cause of violence anywhere; honestly, I don't. And unless you present a compelling, logically sound argument to the contrary, I won't.

  • Geoffrey Miller

    No one was claiming intellectual arrogance here until you brought it up. Now it's on, Mr. Shore.

  • Geoffrey Miller

    First of all, we must agree on the definition of a religious war. I propose the following:

    1) The conflict must be between two, well-established, organized religious institutions.

    2) It must be carried out explicitly in the name of God(s).

    3) The motives for its declaration must be unambiguously and primarily religious. Princes using religion to bolster troop morale or justify a conflict set in motion for other reasons does not count; that's just standard Machiavellian war etiquette.

    4) Crazy, psychopathic individuals thinking they're God and going around shooting stuff doesn't count. Hong Xiuquan is out, so is Hitler, so is Stalin, so is Mao. God or no god, they were just insane and really didn't give a hoot about the belief systems for which they claimed to hold the banner.

    5) Horizontal "religions" such as Communism don't count. Violence caused by those things is related to purely earthly quibbles about political power and who should rule whom.

    We shall decide the question of whether "people fight over nothing with the fury they do religion" by tallying up the ratio of religious wars to all wars and the body count due to religious wars to the body count due to all wars. Conservative estimates shall be used in each case, and from trusted authorities (authors or editors holding graduate degrees in the relevant fields).

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    What are you, twelve?

  • Geoffrey Miller

    First, before we go any further Mr. Shore, can we reconcile concerning the harsh tone we've taken toward each other? I confess my presentation of the source I drew my information from was tinged with not a little arrogance, and it shouldn't have been. Such things are uncalled for among Christian brothers. Please accept my apology.

  • Geoffrey Miller

    "What are you, twelve?"

    22. My apologies, once more, for insinuating you were somehow unlearned in history when I made my first post. The snarkiness was uncalled for.

    It's just that I hear the claim that religion is the primary source of conflict in the world all the time, and I am very firmly convinced to the contrary. Sometimes, my confidence gets out of hand and I assume, against Christian standards of behavior, that my opponent doesn't know what he's talking about. I regret this.

    Moving on though, I would be glad to have a nice, civil conversation about this. I've lurked on your blog a long time, and I enjoy your writing style. The topic at hand is a very weighty matter, and the whole crux of your thoughts on the issue rest upon establishing the fact that religion really is such a divisive thing, which I question.

    What is your response?

  • http://megaloi.blogspot.com Redlefty

    I'm not sure about religion, but I think we've established that history is a divisive topic!

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    My first response to what you've written is that I was off one year on guessing your age. I guessed you were twenty-one.

    Listen, I appreciate your apology. Gracious of you. And I certainly understand your point about religion not being the only reason people fight wars.

    Beyond that—as in playing Dueling Encyclopedias with you–and I can't even imagine having that much time. Thanks for the offer, though.

    (And for the record, I did read "The End of Faith" [which came out when you were ... what, fifteen?]—and the first half of the other one …. "Letter to a Xtian Nation." I also showed my high regard for Mr. Harris in this post here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2007/09/18/repost-of-extra-e… )

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    "In the search for how we can truly be at peace with others not being Christian, we Christians might begin with the commandment Christ himself called the greatest, most comprehensive law of all: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”"

    Though I share your view and urgency, I must wonder if it can happen. Tolerance is often intrupted as accepting the others' faith which drives some Christians nuts. Much too often "Love they neighbor as yourself' is put in action as: 'And show this love by telling them how desperately they need OUR faith and thus telling them their faith is all wrong." This pretty much solves nothing and results in perpetrating the divide.

    How to reconcile the two…..?

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    Case in point; just minutes after posting my reply above comes a knocking at my door with two elderly folks carring a bible and tracks; 'Do you know Jesus?" Sorry, but I gotta leave for work in a few, I say.

    Just how does Christian tolerance (just for an example now) look in action….?

    Just curious…

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Julia: My book "I'm OK-You're Not" is specifically about how to in every last way reconcile the two. And I'm afraid I don't understand your second comment, insofar as I don't get how you telling two proselytizers at your door hat you have to leave for work illustrates anything about the problem of religious tolerance.

  • http://www.brianswriting.com Brian Shields

    I'll just repeat my point from the previous thread. Christians KNOW they're right. Muslims KNOW they're right. I am skeptical than anyone is right.

    However I concur with what I think John is suggesting. That if we all live today as if all of us are right and humbly wait to find out who (if anyone) is proven correct in the afterlife (if there is one), the world would be a better place.

  • http://living3dfaith.blogspot.com/ Tim

    When I examine the claims of Christ in the New Testament as compared to those of Muhammad in the Koran, I see a distinction that makes the difference for tolerance…at least in my life. Of the three big monotheistic faiths, only one promotes the notion of God's spiritual indwelling (as we allow) that overcomes the flesh [that Satan uses as the sieve to sift our souls]. Without the personal belief in the power of Christ's atoning blood to cleanse our sins, we are without the Comforter that brings to life, the active power penetrating soul and spirit, joint and marrow…judging the thoughts and attitudes of our own hearts. Unfortunately too often, we allow our flesh to reign. We fail to police ourself and others of our faith.

    Do I see the Muslim or anyone else as OK? No. But I try to treat them as though they are. Am I OK? No. But by accepting Christ's atonement for my sins, I believe God treats me as though I am.

    Blessings

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    "We have a choice. Either religious people find, within the tenets of their religion, every last reason to have true, deep, and lasting respect for the religion of others, or those of us who are religious acknowledge that our failure to do so guarantees that eventually the whole race of us will probably kill each other off (insofar as people fight over nothing with the fury they do religion)."

    John, again even though I wholeheartedly agree with you I just dont see it happening. The couple yesterday was just an example. Just look at some of the comments here the last few days. How can you respect someone's faith while insisting they need yours? Again, often 'tolerance' is taken as having to accept your neighbor's non Big 3 faith as perfectly fine with God; which is blatantly against what the God(s)of the Big 3 preaches. You're talking about a major shift in viewing God and religion and getting beyond thousands of years of prejudices. Such an overall gigantic leap in viewpoint is not going to happen over night. Probably not even in our life times. I just dont see it happening. In fact, I see it getting worse. Much worse.

    Maybe our kids can make it happen; if we dont destroy ourselves before they have a chance.

    But, then again, some of them are carbon copies of their parents and, well, there here we are again…

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    “Har! It’d be 2007, actually. And I haven’t been posting these latest ones there at all.”

    John, I think you should post it. Maybe make it a poll of your brethren to see how many are thinking along the same lines (or not).

    Would be curious to see the replies….

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      No; I already know what the folks who run and read Crosswalk think of opinions such as this. I don't want to post things like this there for the same reason I don't say things in people's homes that I know they'll find offensive: it's rude.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    "A child could see that that's true."

    Was that meant to be sarcastic? 'Cause, frankly, I'm unconvinced of its veracity. Sure, a child taught to see things a certain way might say that this is true, but if you're implying that perspective is somehow innate, I must humbly disagree.

    I for one was told the Biblical creation story and was also well aware of the theory of evolution and the Big Bang, and never saw them as in conflict until I observed people around me acting like they were (which was something my parents never did). I just saw them as different modes of thinking about it. I saw what look like the same words not necessarily having the same meaning when used in different contexts, as I learned at a very young age is very often the case in the English language.

    As another example, my wife was born in the atheist USSR, to a mother from a Russian Orthodox family (at least nominally) and a father from a Muslim family (again, at least as far as they're concerned, though not exceedingly devout). The different rituals of religions just seemed to her as different games, and the atheism she knew was faith with the word "God" substituted by words like "good" or "destiny".

    Perhaps if you asked many young children in America, their reply would actually be something along the lines of "What's a Muslim?"—because until we truly understand that, how can we know in fact that they can't both be right?

    [To answer up front a possible objection from an interpretation of Acts 4:12 that can seem quite natural given the way we look at things today, which has a few significant differences from the perspective Peter's original audience brought to bear on his oration: If in knowing Him by name are we saved, then I fear most Christians in America today are doomed. He wasn't called "Jesus Christ" but "Moshiach Yehoshua" (or some variant thereof). But a name is merely a word; the True Word is veritably ineffable to man!]


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