Religion Prof: The Blog of James F. McGrath
The Blog of Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis
The above infographic seemed relevant in connection with my previous post. HT Hemant Mehta.
What a pointless study. The study doesn’t demonstrate a double standard, unless the moral claims of both religions are the same (which is clearly false). I suspect that people from Egypt wouldn’t answer *too* much differently from people in the U.S.
But a Muslim in Indonesia may have a different response entirely
Are you saying that the moral claims of Christianity are true and the moral claims of Islam are false? The moral claims of which Christians? Which Muslims?
Even if Egyptian Muslims answered the survey the same way in reverse – the point is still quite relevant: we would have simply found out that both religious groups carry a double standard. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
@google-ccab71d7f599e94f2fe37ba3eb85654f:disqus – Of course I’m saying no such thing. I’m simply pointing out that different religions have different beliefs, and it’s to be expected that different religions will adopt different positions about what is a mandated or tolerable level of violence. The only way that you could expect the survey results to be equivalent is if you presuppose that both religions have equivalent doctrines about violence, and there is no warrant for presupposing such a thing.Look at it this way. Suppose that you survey self-identified Hindus in India, and ask them about a person who wantonly tears apart animal flesh for eating purposes. I bet you’ll find that only 13% of Hindus would say that person is “really a Hindu”, but more than 50% would agree that the person is “really a Christian”.
Is that a double standard? No. It’s just logic. It’s just an admission that different religions believe different things.
JSA – Thanks for making your position a little clearer.
Here is what the study actually says:
“More than 8-in-10 (83 percent) Americans say that self-proclaimed Christians who commit acts 0f violence in the name of Christianity are not really Christians, compared to only 13 percent who say that these perpetrators really are Christians. In contrast, less than half (48 percent) of Americans say that self proclaimed Muslims who commit acts of violence in the name of Islam are not really Muslims, compared to 44 percent who say that these perpetrators really are
Muslims.”Note that the American responders are comparing self-proclaimed Christians and Muslims who commit violent acts in the name of their respective religions. Do you really think that American Christians are making an unbiased “logical” assessment of Muslim beliefs, when Christians can’t even agree among themselves about their own belief systems?Whether a religious belief system supports violence is not a matter of logic. It’s a matter of interpretation. Historically, both Islam and Christianity have supported great violence in the world (not to mention poor logic).
@ccab71d7f599e94f2fe37ba3eb85654f:disqus I think my position was quite clear. Thanks for taking the time to read it more carefully
Do you really think that American Christians are making an unbiased “logical” assessment of Muslim beliefs
Again, you’re totally missing the point. The Christians *might* be applying a double standard. Instead, they might be operating out of ignorance or delusion. They might even be operating on a clear understanding of the facts. The point is that the study gives no way of determining what the cause is.
It would have been easy to design a survey to determine if Christians apply a double standard on this issue. But that’s not what this survey is. The study is completely worthless for drawing conclusions about double standards — simple logic.
I think we’re arguing semantics here.
Consider the logic. The surveyed Americans had limited information: two groups of people commit acts of violence in the name of their religious beliefs. One group is Christian, the other is Muslim.
Since more survey participants believe that the violent Muslims are “really Muslims” and that the violent Christians are “not really Christians”, they clearly use a different standard to make this determination for Muslims than they use for Christians.
You say that “instead” of applying a double standard, they might be operating out of ignorance, delusion, or a clear understanding of the facts. There is no “instead”. All standards – good and bad – are based on something. Double standards can be derived from ignorance, delusion, or a clear understanding of the facts.
But regardless of the basis for their standard. The standard is different for Christians and Muslims — simple logic.
Here’s the complete survey:
Perhaps, after reviewing the study, you could help them further their research by sending them of few tips on how it would be easy to design a survey to determine if Christians apply a double standard on this issue.
I think you’re trying to turn this into a matter of semantics, but it’s not one.
A “double standard” is “the unjust application of different sets of principles for similar situations”.
Now, the study results could be consistent with a double standard, or they could be perfectly consistent with people applying that exact same standard and simply finding that both religions have different teachings about violence.
In fact, the most plausible explanation of the survey results is that Americans believe that Islam has different teachings about violence compared to Christianity. That’s the hypothesis that the study would have to falsify in order to conclude “double standard”.
Per your confused logic, the Hindu who concluded that meat-eaters are good Christians and bad Hindus, would be applying a double standard. He wouldn’t be applying a “double standard”, or even a “slightly different” standard.
Again, I have no idea whether Christians apply double standards in this case. What I am certain of, is that this study doesn’t help answer that question, at all. It provides conclusive proof that Americans believe that Islam has different doctrines about religion, but doesn’t even try to determine if there is a double standard involved.
In that case, might it be said that Americans have a double standard about whether Christianity vs. Islam can ever advocate violence/terrorism and still be Christianity/Islam? I wonder whether the two of you disagree about whether there might be a double standard present, or about what the double standard relates to, or both.
@jamesfmcgrath:disqus – It’s possible that such a double standard exists, and it would be easy to test for such a double standard. That’s certainly not what the referenced survey tested, though.To show that Americans have a double standard in interpreting the respective religions’ permissiveness toward violence, we would have to show that American’s interpretations are skewed from what the religions actually teach. Otherwise, the simplest explanation for the survey results would be that the religions actually are different in permissiveness for violence, and Americans are just reflecting that understanding.
I’m not even saying that’s the case, just pointing out that the study is worthless for deciding. Unless you presuppose from the outset that Americans apply a double standard, you can’t use the survey results as evidence of a double standard. It might just be evidence that Americans are aware of legitimate differences.
JSA, the way you put it seems to suggest that there is such a thing as “what the religions actually teach” and that it is uniform in both cases. Since the mainstream view of adherents of both religions is similar, namely that violence is justifiable in self defense, in a just war, and in capital punishment, but not in aggression or a war motivated purely by conquest or gain, and harming civilians is unacceptable, then I don’t see why the data provided here would not be evidence of a double standard. On the other hand, if one is comparing Mennonite policy as repenting Christianity and the policy of Moghul ruler Aurangzeb as representing Islam, then one is going to come across as inherently violent and the other not. But would not even the choice of representatives in such a case be evidence of a double standard and/or bias?
JSA, the way you put it seems to suggest that there is such a thing as “what the religions actually teach” and that it is uniform in both cases.
I’m suggesting no such thing. I can’t imagine where you would even get that.
What I’m saying is pretty simple. If people come to different conclusions about what a “good muslim” is, versus a “good Christian”, there are two possibilities: 1) They are reasonable to conclude that the religions are not equivalent in what a “good” adherent does, or 2) the person is applying a double standard.
Unless you presuppose from the onset that it is unreasonable to conclude that the two religions are different, you don’t have evidence of a double standard.
Since the mainstream view of adherents of both religions is similar, namely that violence is justifiable in self defense, in a just war,
Hold on. A recent Pew poll of Egyptians showed that 82 percent believe adulterers should be stoned, and 77 percent said that thieves should have their hands cut off. A full 85 percent believe that people who abandon Islam should be executed. Egypt is in one of the most secular muslim countries — Egypt has a far greater proportion of Christians than “secular” Turkey.
If you asked Egyptians whether someone can kill apostates and be a good Christian, I bet that far less than 85 percent say yes. If you ask Egyptians whether Christians can bomb abortion clinics and be good Christians, I bet that fewer than 44 percent say yes. That’s not a “double standard”, it’s just being honest about the differences between the religions. In any survey that I’ve seen, both Christians and muslims agree that Islam is more permissive of violence. If anything, the Americans in the survey seem to be applying a double standard in favor of Islam.
Thanks for your reply. I think it illustrates well some of the complexities I had in mind. When you compare views on stoning adulterers vs. views on bombing abortion clinics, is the comparison between Egyptian Muslims and American Christians going to tell us about something inherent to the religions or something about particular cultural expressions of those religions? What would happen if we compared American Muslims with American Christians, and Nigerian Muslims with Nigerian Christians, and so on?
I still think that one of the things the graph illustrates is precisely the assumption that one tradition is inherently violent and the other not. And that assumption is certainly open to challenge in both directions based on historical, contemporary global and comparative Scriptural evidence. And so I don’t see how we get at an assessment of “what each religion really teaches” and, without that, the data collected can only be assessing what people perceive, how they perceive the familiar vs. the unfamiliar.
is the comparison between Egyptian Muslims and American Christians going to tell us about something inherent to the religions or something about particular cultural expressions of those religions?
Why would it need to say anything “inherent in the religions”, whatever that means? I assume that the survey was measuring the participants’ perceptions of the current cultural expression of each religion.
If someone asked me, “Can you stone adulterers and be a good Muslim?”, I wouldn’t be thinking about some abstract concept of what is “inherent in Islam”. I would be thinking about the odds that a random Imam would accept the action; the percentage of Muslims worldwide who would consider the person to be a “good Muslim”, and so on.
Why would you assume that the survey respondents would be interpreting the question any differently than I am?
I still think that one of the things the graph illustrates is precisely the assumption that one tradition is inherently violent and the other not.
That’s why it’s a worthless study. The results are consistent with multiple contradictory hypotheses, which leaves the results open to “interpretation” by any self-appointed expert with a pet theory.
This isn’t an issue like mythicism, where we’re stuck with a paucity of evidence and no choice other than to speculate and “interpret”. This is an issue that would be incredibly easy to settle empirically. The study could have been constructed to tell whether your theory is correct or not, but it wasn’t.
the data collected can only be assessing what people perceive, how they perceive the familiar vs. the unfamiliar.
Again, this is speculation with nothing in the survey to back it up. I highly doubt that this is an issue of “familiar vs. unfamiliar”. Again, the survey could have been constructed to confirm or disconfirm this hypothesis, but it wasn’t.
When a study’s results are consistent with multiple contradictory hypotheses, the proper response isn’t to blithely argue for your own interpretations (no matter how implausible they may be). The proper response is to toss out the study and run a study that actually discriminates between the contradictory hypotheses.
I don’t think the comparison with mythicism does anything other than undermine your point, but we can leave that to one side.
I may have been misunderstanding where you were coming from, but unless there is some way to evaluate whether one religion is in some objective sense inherently more positive towards violence than the other, then I don’t see why you would dispute that the results illustrate a tendency to assume different things about Christianity and Islam, and about Christians and Muslims, which are not (and perhaps cannot be) grounded in solid evidence.
in the survey is stated that “More than 8-in-10 Americans in all major Christian groups say that Christians who commit violence in the name of their religion are not really Christian”..
When the next survey in wich we could know if for American Muslims a self identified Muslim who commit violence is really Muslim?
@b5afa9d94e5c71ac45fd5cb58a6a6848:disqus , that would be a good question to ask. We have evidence such as the Islamic Society of North America having issued a fatwa declaring Osama bin Laden an apostate from Islam because of his teachings and his violence towards civilians (to say nothing of other Muslims). But it would still be useful to know how widespread various views are.
Sign up for free newsletters and special offers
Follow Patheos on