Monday, February 4, 2013

Islam and the Secret of Monotheism

The major Western religions are monotheistic, at least in principle, but in both theory and practice Islam is the world’s purest form of monotheism. However, I believe monotheists keep a secret about their God from others and also from themselves. They worship one supreme God, or at least they claim they do, but they don’t think through the psychological implications of any theology that holds as axiomatic God’s oneness and supremacy. Most monotheists, then, find themselves exotericists, meaning that their understanding of monotheistic teachings is superficial. The esoteric meaning of monotheism, which I’ve laid out elsewhere (see here and here), was unraveled by a German philosopher, Philipp Mainlander, and by Gnostics before him. The inner meaning of monotheistic religions is mostly forgotten, ignored, or misunderstood, because when you put the implications into words you can’t help but thereby say the worst thing that can ever be communicated. The secret of monotheism is darker than a black hole; it’s blacker than black, the worst, most depressing thing you can imagine, and for that reason we should test our mettle and our reserves of creativity, by conceiving of ways of sublimating the horror stirred up by this secret. Even if there is no God, atheists can benefit, in the Nietzschean manner, from contemplating monotheism as a challenging work of fiction.

In what follows, though, I’d like to test my hypothesis, if you will, by analyzing the basic distinguishing features of Islam, since if any religion offers clues that monotheists generally repress the meaning of the idea that there’s just one God, that religion is Islam. I’ll summarize first the forgotten secret, then the basics of Islam, and then I’ll show how Islam whispers the secret to those heroic or twisted enough to want to hear it.

The Dark Secret

Monotheism is the idea that if there are many gods or at least impersonal forces, one god reigns over them all and this is the only god worth worshipping. This god is The God, and because this supreme deity stands alone, God transcends our comprehension. For example, since God isn’t part of any society or lineage, having no parents, children, or lovers, God is neither male nor female. God is the creator and sustainer of all natural kinds and thus is supernatural. So far, monotheism is consistent with the sort of mysticism that in turn is consistent with atheism. Where monotheists depart from mysticism, and where they construct an exoteric worldview that allows most people to live happily, albeit with existential inauthenticity, is by nevertheless personalizing and idealizing this transcendent source of everything we can know. Thus, God is supposed to be good, mighty, wise, just, and merciful. The familiar contradictions follow, and these have been laid bare by skeptics at least as far back as Xenophanes.

But the secret of monotheism isn’t that this idea of God is incoherent. No, the secret is that if we accept the idea that this transcendent source of nature is somehow personal, or at least best thought of by us as such, and we apply some rudimentary psychological analysis of any person in that divine position, the finding must be that God is the most horrible monster and that the main theme of monotheism is one of destruction, not creation. You can read a sketch of the analysis through the above links, but the gist is that an almighty God would become corrupted by his concentration of power as well insane by his isolation. The upshot is that if we entertain monotheism, we’re thinking of a tyrant that hopefully would have destroyed himself--perhaps precisely by turning himself into the natural universe and so “creating” it--even if by doing so this God would have doomed us all to our existential predicament.

The Principles of Islam

Now to Islam: “Islam” means peace through submission to God. What distinguishes this religion, though, is its explicitness in laying out a legal framework to apply strictly monotheistic principles to every aspect of human life. Judaism, too, has the Talmud, a great body of commentary on Jewish scripture, the Torah, addressing the minutest questions of theological interpretation. But as even the Torah shows, Jews haven’t always been so monotheistic. When ordinary Jews were not worshipping golden calves, Pharisees idolized Jewish law. The Essenes and Christian monastic orders likewise had strict, all-encompassing codes of conduct, but the Essenes were ascetics and, according to Muslims (and commonsense), Christianity is much less monotheistic than Judaism. So Islam distinguishes itself by systematically applying the principles of monotheism to all aspects of everyday life. This system of laws is called Sharia, derived from the Koran and the Hadith (traditional accounts of the prophet Muhammad’s life), and the Muslim way of life is called, in the opening of the Koran, the straight path. Westerners have come to separate politics and the public sphere from religion, because Westerners succumbed to greed; specifically, Westerners saw the opportunity for progress in the form mainly of material advancement thanks to the Scientific Revolution, and so enshrined the principles of individual autonomy and of private property in Europe and North America. Muslims see this separation as obviously sinful and, from a theistic viewpoint, their judgment here is impeccable. If you’re a genuine monotheist, you should think first and foremost about submitting to God in all aspects of your life and not just in superficial, verbal ways. Thus, society should be regulated by monotheistic principles, with no compromises made to atheists or agnostics who are preoccupied with the prospect for mere human-made progress in nature.

I’ll come back to this point about submission, but returning to the basics of Islam, I should add that Muslims affirm the exoteric principles of monotheism, as summarized above, and maintain that Muhammad was God’s last prophet. Muhammad is believed to have been helped by an angelic messenger to have written the Koran, and so the Koran is Islam’s central scripture. What I’ve just said amounts to the Islamic creed, which is the first of five pillars of Islam. The remaining four are mainly ways of applying that creed. Thus, Muslims are obliged to pray often, to give charity to those in need, to fast during the month of Ramadan, and to make a pilgrimage at least once to Mecca. Constant prayer means frequent interruptions to secular preoccupations, reminding the Muslim that only God is worthy of being worshipped and that we, God’s lowly creatures, are not divine and are thus imperfect and liable to sin. For example, we often err in deifying ourselves or our creations, and so constant prayer is meant to put us in our place. Only the one God, creator of the universe, is worthy of being worshipped and our main task in life is to worship God by submitting to God’s will as revealed by all of the prophets but most practically by Muhammad.

Likewise, charity is meant to prevent us from worshipping idols; we should curb our greed and apply the main lesson of Christianity, which is the Golden Rule. Now in authentic Christianity, which has been mostly extinct since the time of Constantine, charity was just the tip of the iceberg of asceticism on which Jesus stood. Authentic monotheism is quite subversive from a secular humanistic perspective, because submitting to God entails that we detach ourselves from the many distractions in nature, such as our jobs, our earthly families and friends, and our sinful desires and animal instincts. The average Muslim is much more ascetic and thus authentically Christian than the average Christian, and charity is only part of that detachment from natural concerns. As I said, the Muslim fasts for a whole month every year, but also abstains from gambling and intoxication. Finally, pilgrimage to Mecca shows Muslims their equality, since there Muslims exchange their clothes and thus their status symbols with humble uniforms and pray with equal submissiveness.   

Now, because the Muslim subscribes to the exoteric notion of God’s identity and character, according to which God is (for no good reason) preoccupied with morality, God is expected to judge our actions after the last human-made social orders, in which we’re free to live outside of the straight path, end in apocalypse. Thus, the Muslim takes seriously the metaphor that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, meaning that God knows everything we do and has the power to reward or punish us as we deserve. Simultaneously, the Muslim affirms that humans have freewill, so that it makes sense to speak of morality and of God’s interest in it in the first place. Again, the familiar contradictions follow (how can we be free to act against God’s will if God has power over everything?), but these are of little consequence from the esoteric perspective, according to which this picture of God is just a metaphor and is indeed a fiction in the full sense.

Echoes of the Dark Secret

So what are some connections between Islam and the hidden implications of monotheism? A detective looking for clues of a secret unconsciously kept by Muslims might well begin with the meanings of “Islam”: submission and peace. Muslims believe that submitting to the will of Allah is our highest obligation, and indeed that our submission should be systematic. Now, in Muhammad’s time, Arabia was barbaric and polytheistic, and so historically the point of emphasizing the need to submit only to one, true God was surely to improve that society. By downgrading those many gods and by declaring that there’s an all-powerful God rather than just limited desert demons (jinn), Muhammad was effectively scaring the population into adopting a moral perspective. You can scare off jinn by wearing an amulet, but there’s no escape from Allah.

Nevertheless, the Muslim’s obsession with submitting to God is suspicious. As a moral crusader, Muhammad would have found monotheism and the fear of an almighty God socially useful, but skeptics have long appreciated the strangeness of the idea that such a deity would want or need to be worshipped. The desire to be praised stems from character flaws, such as a lack of self-confidence or shame and the need to cover up your failings. If God is all-knowing, he knows he’s supreme so he clearly wouldn’t need anyone else to inform him of that fact, let alone a creature as comparatively inferior as any of us. The Muslim must say, then, that submission to God is for our sake alone, not God’s. We’re the ones who need to submit to prevent us from sinning out of hubris. This is the pragmatic aspect of Islam which I’ll come to in a moment. But first, I just want to point out the obvious: the injunction to systematically submit to God is consistent with the idea that God is an insane tyrant, and this idea follows from the most plausible psychological analysis of God’s character.

If you think through the conventional notion of God’s personality, you’ll realize pretty quickly that the notion is incoherent. If God is all-knowing and benevolent rather than evil, he wouldn’t have made creatures that could find peace rather than eternal hellfire only by sacrificing themselves as slaves to God as their master. Just imagine that scientists eventually create intelligent life and they arrange circumstances so that these artificial creatures either suffer forever as a punishment for their misdeeds or find happiness only by worshipping their makers as slaves. Mind you, these creatures would have the potential to guide themselves according to their limited abilities, but would have to choose to forsake their individuality. What would we think of the character of such scientists? Surely, they’d be closer to deranged sadists rather than benevolent parents. And the freewill defense doesn’t rescue monotheism from this incoherence. A good God wouldn’t gamble by creating free creatures in the first place, knowing that the gamble wouldn’t pay off for many of them who would choose poor life paths and suffer forever for those choices.

Islam is supposed to respect our individuality; indeed, Muslims affirm that each person has an immortal, free soul, and that this soul is highly valuable. But John Stuart Mill’s writings on liberty are relevant here: what’s valuable about free individuals is their potential for a variety of actions as long as those actions don’t prevent other individuals from likewise expressing themselves. Thus, when freedom is socially prized, we should expect to see some idiosyncratic, eccentric behaviour. So if God implanted in us the power to choose how we should act, why would God punish us for exercising that freedom by acting contrary to God’s preference for how we should live? Presumably, the answer is that we tend to abuse our freedom; we violate Mill’s principle and become so proud of our self-control that we set ourselves up as gods and try to rule over others. But this is to concede that individuality is not so valuable after all and that God erred in creating such free beings if the only way to save us is for us to pretend that we’re not free, after all, and to live as slaves to Allah, training ourselves to eliminate any trace of pride in our individuality, for fear that the flaw in God’s creation--the potential for free creatures to deify themselves and create chaos--would bode ill for God’s worthiness of being worshipped.

No, the dark secret of monotheism offers the best way out of this mess. God would have created free creatures because God himself would be insane and tyrannical, and if we’re liable to misuse our freedom and turn on each other, acting as tyrants ourselves, that only indicates that God indeed would have made us in his image. Just as we tend to misuse our freedom, so God would eventually misuse his independence. Just as any free creature becomes alienated and terrified by the power that comes with freedom, such as the power to take a person’s life, so too God would be horrified by the lack of any constraint on his actions. The difference is just that God’s alienation would be inescapable because his freedom and power would be infinite and unmatched. Free creatures are relatively equal and so there’s at least the possibility of deterring each other with the threat of punishment. No one could threaten to punish God, so his freedom would be unlimited. As I point out elsewhere, this means that our best models for understanding God’s character are the infant and the dictator. The infant holds its parents hostage to its whims and the dictator likewise commands obedience, because the dictator is paranoid and sadistic, thrilling to each opportunity to degrade his minions by having them debase themselves. This implication of monotheism would tend to find its way into any insistent form of this religion, and so we have the Islamic fixation on our need to submit to God.

What of the second meaning of “Islam,” peace? At first, you might think this is a harmless and indeed laudable goal for any religion. What could be wrong with seeking inner and outer peace, meaning peace within and between us? But notice that peace is not the same as happiness. Peace is a kind of stillness which might remind you of the Buddhist idea of nirvana. Inner peace is the death of the self. And permanent peace between individuals and nations likewise signals an absence of life in the form of what Nietzsche called the will to power, the interest in pursuing your unique vision even if this entails conflict with competing visions. Were there global peace, this would mean erasing the divisions between nations and so outer peace would reduce to the inner kind; that is, everyone would effectively be clones of each other, with the same goals, and so peace between individuals or nations would be trivially impossible, since there would be just one type of character or nation in question.

Inner peace, then, would amount to psychological or cultural inactivity, as in Buddhism; peace would require detachment from the flow of thoughts, a carefreeness due to a lack of egoistic ambition, a renunciation of your natural self. As I say elsewhere, the theist’s notion of eternal life is actually based on a conception of deathliness, the opposite of liveliness. Likewise, the peace of the Muslim’s soul, as found through servitude to God, is a form of death; what dies is the Muslim’s independence as an individual. By pointing out what’s theologically obvious, that each of us would be metaphysically dependent on God, since God could destroy everything if he wished and thus chooses to sustain our being, the Muslim goes several steps further and demands such psychological dependence that our individuality is annihilated when we function as God’s slaves. Inner peace for the Muslim must be the feeling of this loss of individual identity.

So the esoteric meaning of “Islam” is that submitting to God’s plan brings us a deathly peace, that God plans for our destruction. As we’ll see in the next two sections, death would lie even at the end of all Creation, because an eventual peace of nonbeing would be nature’s purpose. The creation of nature would have been God’s way of systematically annihilating himself, transducing his infinite being into a multiverse of material bodies that could be destroyed in a heat death or in a Big Rip at the end of time. The mass death in question is precisely one of perfect peace: the stillness of nonbeing, the erasure of the absurdity of an almighty God who becomes a monster that needs to be put down. God’s suicide is the secret of monotheism and you can read this secret in the very name of Islam.

Apocalypse and the Death of God

Buttressing this interpretation is the Muslim’s exoteric view of history, according to which there will be an apocalyptic Judgment Day at history’s end, when God will finally reveal himself and give everyone their due, establishing the divine kingdom after wiping out our upstart civilizations. This linear, apocalyptic conception of history is a nod to Eastern dualism, according to which the present reality is relatively insignificant and at any rate illusory compared to God’s transcendent reality. Were God’s hand to break into nature at the end of all things and take full, direct control over Creation, the implication is that this would confirm the irony of Jesus’ ascetic, anti-nature message that those who are first will be last and those who are last will be first.

But the idea of an apocalyptic, once-and-for-all end of history is very strange. Why would God be confined to just one attempt at Creation? Why couldn’t God create an infinite variety of universes, letting each take its course? Obviously, we’d be most concerned about the fate of our world, but the point is that the End Time is only subjectively apocalyptic. Our world might end on some Judgment Day, but why think this particular day is so important to God? Perhaps God’s presided over trillions of other Judgment Days, sending untold alien sinners to their equivalent hells. There’s no hint of any such downgrading of the importance of our Judgment Day, however, the assumption being that the time of our reckoning will be just as important to God as it is to us.

I see this monotheistic talk of the end of days, then, as a garbled telling of the dark secret: what will end is not just human reign over our particular planet, but God’s reign too. At the end of all things, God himself will be no more; more precisely, the truth at the heart of the monotheistic myth is that such a God would be so horrible that he ought to die, and so hopefully in some transcendent dimension he’s somehow done away with himself, since no one else could slay that dragon. That’s the apocalyptic event, the death of God, and that’s why monotheists assume that God is so concerned with that End Time. On the one hand, then, Islam is about the peace of death through strict adherence to God’s plan, and on the other, there’s this dark cloud hanging over monotheists, an expectation of some barely imaginable catastrophe that God’s planned all along. What ends is the life of God for all its intolerability and what comes after is the absurd decay of God’s undead corpse, which is the self-transformation of the cosmos. And after that, perhaps: total extinction so that no one will be the wiser.

Algorithms of Islamic Law

Finally, I’d like to return to the explicitness and practicality of Islam. Surely, it’s no accident that the algorithm was invented by a Muslim, al-Khwarizmi--and soon after Muhammad, in the ninth century CE. Muhammad’s Koran and the applications in Sharia had already laid the groundwork for this idea of a step-by-step procedure leading to an inevitable result, by designing a religion as precisely a set of such explicit procedures for pleasing God and avoiding hell. The explicitness of these procedures in Islamic law virtually presupposes the idea of the algorithm, of a program in the technical sense that’s central now to computer programming. In his book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett identifies natural selection as an algorithm in the sense that the evolution of life is a formal, mindless process that has a guaranteed result (the design of species that fit their environments). At the most general level, an algorithm is any mechanical process and so any natural process qualifies, even those whose results don’t interest us.

Now, by submitting so systematically to God’s will, the Muslim turns herself into a robotic slave, following an established procedure that belittles and ultimately eliminates her individuality: she prays constantly and applies every detail of Islamic law to her life. A Muslim won’t even shrink from the coldbloodedness and obsoleteness of many of these laws, such as the law that a thief should have his arm amputated. If we draw back in horror from such laws, we merely betray our pride in our independent judgment which of course is folly compared to Allah’s. Moreover, the function of Islamic law is to set the Muslim on the straight path, to turn an independent sinner and pseudo-god into a drone that follows God’s program, the end point of which is the peace of nonbeing.

Why the Islamic obsession with practicality? Muslims assume there’s such a thing as God’s will for each of us, that there’s a program we’re meant to follow and that if only we follow it, we’ll be guaranteed peace in the deathly afterlife in which everything loses its value because change then is nonexistent or illusory. (When a virgin woman in heaven is enjoyed by a recreated man, does she grow her virginity back? What happens, then, to the meaning of “virgin”?) But if the idea of the algorithm is implicit in Islamic law, and as Dennett argues, an algorithm is substrate neutral, meaning that any process that can be formalized counts as algorithmic, nature is full of algorithms. In this case, if the end of nature is the Big Rip or some other cosmic catastrophe, there’s a formal level of explanation--tantamount to a teleological level--according to which all natural processes are mindless steps in the securing of that endstate.

The algorithm, then, is at the heart of nature’s undeadness. As I’ve argued elsewhere, nature is best intuited as being neither living nor dead but undead, meaning that natural processes aren’t caused or infused by any mind, but neither are they inert and lifeless: instead, these processes are simulations of mental labours. The universe creates forms in an orderly fashion that allows for scientific explanation, but there’s no mind at the bottom of those creations. The cosmic body of nature is a corpse, but an animated one, and so nature is comparable to a zombie. This phony rationality in nature is explainable in terms of the algorithm: there’s a formal, mindless process that can perform any task a mind might just as well perform. But this algorithmic level of explanation reintroduces teleology and is thus part of the scientific re-enchantment of nature.

As far as I know, scientific theories of the end of our universe predict tragedy for all forms of life, which is to be expected if the universe wasn’t designed with life in anyone’s mind. But if natural laws imply algorithms at work everywhere in nature, this raises the philosophical (nonscientific) question of whether the guaranteed ultimate end of all of these programs was at some point intended by an intelligent designer. I don’t think the concept of a natural algorithm requires this theistic interpretation, but I do think the most aesthetically satisfying interpretation of this formal description of natural order is the theistic one--at least for imperfectly rational mammals such as us. (Scientific explanations are confined to nature, whereas the foregoing teleological question is of some supernatural purpose of nature about which we can only speculate with stories. Even if the universe was intelligently designed, the best explanation of that process is to assume that God created nature by destroying himself, so at most this myth of nature’s undeadness would be deistic.) So if the end of nature entails the peace of everyone’s death, monotheism implies that this end was chosen by God, that God created nature as a colossal mechanism for carrying out the extinction of all life and perhaps also the destruction of everything whatsoever.

Natural selection is a process of filtering those species that can thrive in an environment, but any such process is ambiguous: what looks like a process that favours some configuration of traits, by selecting for it, could just as well be thought of as disfavouring it by trying out the species only so that it can be discarded, making room for a new configuration. Natural selection looks like the ultimate disposal service for some anti-life purpose: each possible species is likely created somewhere in the multiverse and each is eventually extinguished in its turn. And if all natural processes implement algorithms, again natural regularities in general look like methods of disposing of quantum possibilities. If the catastrophic end of nature is a deathly peace, as implied by Islam and predicted by modern cosmologists, and quantum mechanics tells us that a multiverse of actual universes brings into being infinite quantum possibilities, this amounts to saying that nature is a system for disposing of infinite being by actualizing quantum possibilities in finite forms that can play themselves out to some deathly state or other, such as heat death or the Big Rip. Perhaps there’s some lucky universe in which life has the last laugh by creating an actual timeless heaven, but for the most part organisms are unable to survive the termination of their universe.

And so Islam’s explicitness and practicality call to mind the destructive purpose behind all of Creation. The exoteric conceit is that God is a generous, benevolent creator, whereas the esoteric reality is that the opposite would be true (on the monotheistic assumption that there’s a God at all). God’s apparent creativity would be a means of systematic destruction, and Islamic monotheism alludes to this with its naturalization of God’s will: Islam is the detailed program for psychologically killing ourselves, for turning ambitious, curious mammals into neutered slaves, which is what Allah is supposed to want, and likewise all of nature can be thought of as a giant, self-destructive machine. The destruction proceeds by the converting of all timeless possibilities into finite actualities so that those possibilities can be ended in some suitable dimensions. Allah would be bent ultimately on destruction because monotheism is so absurd, and anyone put in the position of being the one true, almighty God ought to put herself out of her misery.

22 comments:

  1. A lot to think about here. Fascinating stuff, especially for a "misotheist" who is predisposed to accept the concept of an insane, evil deity.

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    1. Thanks. I hadn't heard of that term before, "misotheism." Would you identify as such a theist?

      I'm pondering writing an article on Satanism from the Gnostic perspective, because one of the implications of the secret of monotheism is surely that Satan, the rebel against the necessarily tyrannical monotheistic God, seems to have been the first unfairly demonized character. Of course, Satanists too can get caught up in the demonization and think that existential rebellion is all about unchecked liberty. I'd go as far as to connect American Tea Party libertarianism, which is symptomatic of a decline of the West in Spengler's sense, with what we might call exoteric Satanism. Anyway, this is just something I'm thinking about at the moment.

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    2. There is alot to think about here if you are an aithiest...As a Muslim convert I can say that a thief just gets his HANDS chopped off and not his whole arm lol. God is also not a baby or dictator, He is God. In Islam, you should know that we are the only religion that doesnt say, "if you follow us, you will be guaranteed Paradise". We say that if you follow us, we guarantee you WILL GO TO HELL as nowhere in the Quran does it say that you will go anywhere but hell unless you die as a martyr. Or if Allah deems you worthy. For Allah throws into the fire whom He wills and without Allah, then protect yourself from the fire. After all, who can save you from the wrath of Allah except Allah? That is why we start every prayer with the words Aooza billahi mina Shaytan a rajeem. (I seek refuge with Allah from Shaytan the accursed. Satan is one of Allahs creations just as is the hellfire and therefore the way he punishes you is the fire, whos fuel is men and stones. Without the men, there would be no fuel for the fire and hence no punishment. So Allah has created most of us for the soul purpose of throwing into the fire for fuel. So we pray every day to die a martyr. That said, if you blow yourself up as so many misguided Muslims do, you also go to hell. So, you must be murdered, (the only crime being commited is being a Muslim) to be a martyr, thereby going to Heaven. For believing women it is very easy to get there however, you just have to do 4 things. 1, pray 5 times a day, 2.fast the month of Ramadan, 3. obey your husband and 4. guard your chastity.(it is ok if you are raped, as long as you fight back) We Muslims also never said that God is benevolent. In fact we are taught to fear Him so much that nothing on this planet scares us. ie, we do not fear the creation, but FEAR the CREATOR.Your questions of why would God only do this whole thing once is one I have asked and it can easily be answered by saying yes, it is possible that there is a "multiverse" or even aliens if you will, all with their own Qur'an and Kabaa etc... anything is possible with Allah.This is getting a little long winded for me as I am not paying attention to grammar or punctuation as I meant this a a quick note.I will end by quoting Allah as He describes the end(oh yeah, that reminds me, who says he hasnt done this before and made and destroyed infinite ammounts of universes before us?) Everything and anything is possible with Allah...The only thing we fear is Allah and here is a taste of why...

      Allah says...
      When the sun is overthrown.
      When the stars fall.
      When the mountains vanish.
      When the camels big with young abandoned.
      When the wild beasts are herded together.
      When the seas rise.
      When the souls are sorted.
      When the female infant who was buried alive asks for what crime she was killed.
      When the books are opened.
      When the sky is ripped away.
      Then, every soul shall know what it has done.

      Salaam alaikum and may Allah have mercy on us all Ameen.

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    3. PS, I forgot to mention...I dont want anyone to get the wrong idea that we pray for death all day long, as we can still be accepted by Allahs Raheem or mercy however slim the chances.Muhammad pbuh himself said even he didnt know what is to become of himself...Allah only knows. So if the Prophet will be afraid for his own soul, where does that leave us normal people who are constant sinners? He sent Muhammad pbuh as a mercy for all mankind to warn us about Allahs wrath and at the end of the day it is not Him who is puishing you by throwing you into the fire but it is yourself by doing bad deeds. (like the aforementioned misguided terrorists who blowthemselves up, or those vermin who carried out the boston bombings recently) but even aithiests blowthemselves up like in the Vietnam war they had "sappers" and Japan had "kamikazies" There is a scale called meezan or the scale of deeds. If your bad deeds outwiegh the good, then you go to hell. The problem is that some deeds are worth more than others, so you do not really know if you are one of the chosen ones or not. Which I believe is a good thing because if we knew we were guaranteed Paradise like the Jews believe we would just do whatever we wanted to. It keeps us from evil and therefore believe in the golden rule. as well as that if you dont want for your fellow man what you want for yourself, then you arent a Muslim.
      Salaam alaikum

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    4. Thanks for your comments. I must say that the baby and dictator metaphors strike me as ideal ways of understanding the sort of character you describe in your first paragraph. You say that Allah sends everyone but martyrs into hell, where martyrs are those who are killed for being a Muslim. You emphasize that we should fear nothing in the created world, since all our fear should be felt for Allah the Creator. You say hellfire is fueled by our souls and that Allah has created most of us for the sole purpose of fueling hellfire.

      If hell is a place where souls are tortured eternally, then Allah is obviously best pictured as a sadistic, misanthropic, petty demon. Sorry, but there's just no way around it. And that's where the baby and dictator metaphors come in. Allah would be both like a self-consumed, irrational, whining infant and like a power-corrupted, sadistic, sociopathic, monstrous dictator. That's just a fact. There's no better analogy to go along with your own description of Allah's alleged deeds. Now, you can say that Allah is beyond our ability to understand with metaphors, but then you'd have to live with that mystical perspective and stop cherry-picking intuitions and analogies as they suit you. For example, it would make no sense to say that Allah says anything at all, since Allah would have no mouth. Allah would be a force, not a person, and so mystical Muslims would effectively be atheists, just like the Jews who don't take seriously any metaphorical comparisons with God.

      If hell is a place where souls are destroyed rather than tortured, Allah wouldn't be sadistic but neither would he be our loving parent. Allah would be like an artist who creates many artworks and discards them at will. We don't fear artists, though. Instead, we respect their creative genius but we pity them for their restlessness. Think of a poor, starving artist who must churn out artworks at all hours of the day just for bread and water. The artist can never rest to enjoy his works. That's why Allah wouldn't keep us around, because he'd have to shift his attention to his next art project. He'd be like a restless, starving artist, a most pathetic figure. For Allah to be worthy of our fear, he'd have to be like a monstrous dictator in the way I've explained.

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    5. You are wrong, He is much much worse than that as He resembles none of His creations, but he is also 98 other things. Maybe its like stockholm syndrome. Sadist or not, we fear Him enough to worship Him at least 5 times every day.. He can do whatever He wants. He doesnt destroy souls in the fire, but he recreates you as Adam was. 33 Feet tall with skin 3 inches thick like the nephelim skeletons That were supposed found... lol. Anyways, as your flesh burns off He causes new flesh to be made upon you. (we now know that pain nerves are in the skin) He is also mercyfull as he has the mercy to send Muhammad as a final warner to us all. He is just as brutal as he is in the old testament and torah. He is the same God.Like I said too, how do you know he hasnt destroyed zillions of universes before this? Allah only knows...The word dictator doesnt even come close man...lol. That is why we fear nothing on this planet and embrace death the way you embrace life. Why would someone want to follow this debasing religion? READ THE QUR'AN...You will realize it was not written by any man. Look into the scientific miricles that we are still finding in it. They say there is at least one scientific miracle n every chapter. For more information on these check out http://www.thekeytoislam.com/ it is a great handbook to understanding the Qur'an explaining how the book that 1 in 5 humans on planet earth have accepted as truth from the Lord thy God Allahu Subhannah Wa Ta ala.
      Let me know if you have any more questions. I am not an apologist nor will I smear the truth like so many "moderate " Muslims do today. The Qur'an teaches us that next to comiting shirk (ascribing partners to Allah) lying is the worst sin imaginable in His eyes. "When a man lies, he murderes a part of the world." (Cliff Burton from Metallica) Someone I used to admire from my infidel days....Anyways, thatnks for the reply and feel free to ask any more questions. Asalaam alaikum Sister. May Allah guide you to the straight path and save your soul....Ameen.

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    6. What a monstrous being this Allah is. Why should we pay it any mind at all, because it is so utterly inhuman, so without compassion, so utterly incomprehensible? Even if your beleifs are true and Allah is as you describe Him, rejection and disgust are the only possible emotions we as flawed, limited human beings can have. What difference does it make, as Allah may just decide on a childish whim to destroy us all.

      Benjamin: This follower of Allah illsutrates perfectly your original point. What a chilling religion, the ultimate religion, actually.

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    7. Well, I too was struck not just by how well Anon's description of Allah fit my infant and dictator analogies, but also by how Anon somehow manages not to appreciate that fact. I don't think he quite understands the point I'm trying to make about Islam. The more terrible Allah is, the more he seems worthy of worship to the Mulsim, because that which is most terrifying is that which we understand the least. So God's alienness is a sign of his really being God. This is just the mystic's point that God is transcendent and not any immanent, created thing, of course. But instead of going with the mystic and refusing to take any literal description of God seriously, the Muslim is stuck with the Koran, which leans on some metaphors more than others.

      Anyway, my point stands that once we choose to personify the transcendent, the most plausible psychological profile of God is the dark one that runs quite contrary to the politically correct view of God as loving and just. At least Muslims take the dark view to heart, even if they don't appreciate the implications.

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  2. More of an "agnostic" or atheist in identification, but the accusation by many theists that "atheists hate God" would definitely apply to me. I confess to the sin. I think Lucifer was right to rebel.

    Your essay contains many ideas which have been bubbling below the surface for me.

    (I'm linking this essay to other sites I hang out at. It's that good, man!)

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    1. Thanks. I think this essay's only the warmup, though. The one I'm planning to write in a couple of weeks, pulling together Gnosticism, Satanism, and libertarianism is going to be a real doozie. The question is to what extent Satan is an existential hero. If Satan's been literally demonized, given monotheism's dark secret, which the Gnostics were onto long ago, what does that say about mainstream monotheistic religions? Whose side are those theists really on?

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  3. I always think of various creatures in social groups, particularly monkeys, who kowtow to the alpha male of the group. With the expansion of our intellect, so too does the powers of the alpha male need to be expansive, on order to be worthy of kowtowing to.

    I mean, would they pray to a god they thought unworthy of their prayer?

    So their god has to be defined by what they think is worthy of them.

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    1. Yes, I think this is ultimately why the appearance of evil in the world is so problematic for the monotheist. If there's only one god to choose from, as you naturalize most forces and downgrade them at best to idols, that one remaining God needs to be perfect to be worthy of worship. But evil, sin, our freewill, etc are evidence that God's not perfect, that he's not all-powerful or that his plan is wonky. It's not just theism but monotheism that generates this conflict. If there are multiple gods, you can have conflict between them and that can explain the world's lack of perfection.

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  4. Such superficial arguments about Islam. Many logical fallacies here. Also many things from Christian theology mixed and labelled as Islamic theology. But you sure are a good writer. I would like to write a refutation when I get the chance. I hope you check out lectures and debates by Hamza Tzortzis. Also the website: OneReason.org

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    1. I'm sure my summary here of the principles of Islam is superficial. I know much less about Islam than I do about Christianity. I'm absolutely certain there's more to Islam than the basics that I summarize, but the question is whether the limits of my summary make for a misrepresentation of the religion. Just because I haven't considered all interpretations of the religion is neither here nor there, since theological or otherwise poetic language admits of infinite interpretations.

      I'd be interested in reading a criticism of this article, but be sure not to lump this article in with the standard New Atheistic works. Although I am an atheist, I argue here only that Islam is suspiciously consistent with what I call the esoteric meaning of monotheism, given by the German philosopher Philipp Mainlander. So I'm not arguing here that Islam is false. Instead, I'm analyzing monotheism and finding that the popular, comforting notions about God's character are psychologically dubious. See here for the more plausible interpretation of the monotheistic God:

      http://rantswithintheundeadgod.blogspot.com/2012/09/divine-creation-as-gods-self-destruction.html

      I will check out some of those lectures and debates.

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  5. I have made my some of my own observations concerning faiths like Islam.

    I don't look to orthodox monotheism for creeds that are worth following or internal consistency.

    I'm mostly interested in their use as social tools that make one society competitive over another.

    I admire how Islam understands that daily habits have to match professed ideal, a pragmatic reality Christians have forgotten.

    From this perspective, I watch the growth of religions such as Mormonism with great interest.

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    1. I think Muslims speak of the matching of their ideals and daily practice in terms of a submission to God. So it's not a unity as much as it's an extension of the idea of a power hierarchy. God's the transcendent alpha male.

      I take a Nietzschean as opposed to a pragmatic perspective on myths. I look at myths not just in terms of their utility, since I'm interested in their aesthetic value, and I distinguish between esoteric and exoteric interpretations of myths (or of any artwork, myths being nothing but fictions). This amounts to the distinction between aesthetic evaluations deriving from those with good or with bad taste in art. So fundamentalists who interpret their myths as literal truths have horrible, Philistine taste, because they unconsciously adopt the modern, science-centered viewpoint, reading fictions as if they were quasi-scientific theories.

      The best way to deal with art is to be original, to create the values that determine your interpretation, based on your life experience, your character, your artistic vision, and so forth. In this regard, literalistic (exoteric) monotheists are currently just hacks, although some centuries ago it was indeed original to think of myths as mere theories of the facts as opposed to having mythopoeic functions.

      In any case, I think we might agree that it's amusing to stand outside of the game and to speculate on what's really going on.

      By the way, I like your blog's literal map of your ideas.

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    2. Yes, people respect power on a visceral level, so daily practice helps keep the rank and file obedient to the ideal. It's a pragmatic approach that works.

      Nietzsche saw mass religions as a lower sort of morality, less sophisticated, based heavily on displays of dominance and appeals to fear.(Hence a "slave morality")
      But he also understood their functional utility and even their necessity.

      He acknowledges that the normal religions fit the needs of normal people.
      People who need something more are the odd ones by definition, vastly in the minority.

      So someone gravitating towards a higher system of values, one not based on simplistic absolute rules, visceral appeals to dominance and fear stands outside the game but can still appreciate its workings.

      Literalist monotheists appeal to the needs of normal people who just want to feel comfortable and secure in an uncertain world and have some simple rules set in stone that tell them what's true and what's not, what's right and what's wrong.
      People who want something more go elsewhere.

      Wow! I wasn't sure if anyone read the 'Heretic' blog anymore let alone looked at the map of ideas!
      In retrospect I think the map probably just confused people even more...to the extent they looked at it.
      I'm amazed and glad that you got some value from it.
      It does give a bigger picture of my philosophical world without having to read through 100s of articles I've written over the last 5-6 years.

      I formulated a lot of my ideas on the 'Heretic' blog, but dialogues with myself didn't prove to be digestible to other people.
      Nevertheless, the ideas I arrived at have seeped into all my other writings in forms more tailored to the needs of others.

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    3. I think you're leaving out part of Nietzsche's take on monotheism. Nietzsche condemned that sort of religion as poison, as something that sickens its practitioners, and as something founded on resentment against strong-willed people. This kind of religion is a weapon used by the opposite of manly men, by devious, back-stabbing, unheroic weaklings (roughly speaking, omegas) who wouldn't win against alphas in a fair fight and so they resort to rhetoric and lies about the afterlife. What really pissed off Nietzsche is monotheism's devaluation of nature compared to some transcendent, supernatural reality. Nietzsche preferred that we work on the virtues needed to live heroically in nature, which requires that we accept and creatively overcome harsh truths, including atheism.

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    4. I'm not even certain that Islam's functionality is a given. How "successful" are Islamic states today, espcially those states that lack major oil revenue?

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    5. I think we might be assuming different senses of "functional." You seem to be thinking of a function that works well; that is, you're assuming the distinction between function and malfunction. But the kind of functionality I see in Islam has more to do with the idea of following a rigorous plan, regardless of whether the plan is worthwhile or even remotely sane. So I have in mind the comparison of Islamic law with the algorithm, but I'm setting aside the question of whether the laws' endpoint is good.

      Anyway, a defender of Islam would say the basket-case Muslim countries aren't really Islamic or that the laws weren't meant to deal with modern (especially American) interventions. Moreover, I was thinking more of individual Muslims, although I'm sure you're right that the laws were meant to ensure a well-functioning society too. Muslims and modernists will disagree about what counts as that sort of society.

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  6. Fairly good article though i think some of your presuppositions are flawed.

    Mainly two:
    1) The conception that monotheistic religions assume a truly personal god.
    :Both Christianity and Islam explicitly posit a Trans-personal deity (Christianity in its conception of the trinity and Islam it its explicit aversion to anthropomorphising Allah. Assuming that a Trans-personal deity has the same psychological construction as a human is the same as assuming that they posses limbs, fingers, toes, and a neurologically based brain. In this context God could no more go insane as he could break his arm.

    2) The assumption that the perception of Linear Time is valid and that that perception is assumed by monotheistic religions.

    In the Abrahamic faiths God is explicitly Atemporal. And scientifically the notion of linear time is linked with the progression of Entropy, essentially this means that our frame of perception is inherently tied to the progression of natural destruction. Ironically this could be seen as a endorsement for the "Zen" state of religious detachment, that unless one removes themselves from the local athro-centric frame of reference all one can see is destruction and death. If for example the universe is viewed extra-deminsionally/temporaly it appears as a finite and stable expression of an infinite mutli-verse that may not be alone.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. The problem is there's no such thing as Christianity or Islam. There are only the sects and then also the split between theism for the elites and for the masses. The masses personalize God and the religious practices make no sense unless you assume God is personal. If God is impersonal, the religions become pseudosciences. In practice, only the Catholics take the Trinity seriously, and that's because the concept of the Trinity was worked out in the heat of internecine conflict between the early Christian sects. The concept of the Trinity is what engineers call a kludge, a messy compromise that makes no sense but it worked in this case by ending the conflict. Catholics take this especially seriously because of their idea of the Holy Spirit working through Church history. This notion that God is concerned mainly with human beings or with a special group of humans implies that God is personal.

      Indeed, neither Jews nor Muslims like anthropomorphic conceptions of God. I'm talking here about an implicit, underlying esoteric meaning of Islam and of monotheism, that meaning being cosmicism and Mainlander's horrible theology. Islamic practices (submission to God, trust in heavenly destination of the soul as a reward, prophet of God revealing God's plan) entail that God is personal, and the personalization of God leads to Mainlander's psychology of God.

      I agree with your naturalistic conception of time. But even if God is timeless, the will of God, which is God's immanent presence in the universe, is temporal, since it works through human history. Indeed, the will of God is supposedly expressed precisely in the history of certain chosen tribes. So just as a story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end, God's interaction with us would have that same temporal structure. This is why monotheistic religions are so concerned with eschatology. Again, I see Mainlanderian implications of the apocalyptic end time. It doesn't matter so much what monotheists explicitly say, since here I'm reading a dark esoteric meaning into their theologies.

      I grant you the point, though, that Mainlander's theology makes no sense if you assume the mystic's impersonal concept of God. I see Mainlander's psychology of God as a reductio ad absurdum argument working on exoteric monotheism, according to which God can indeed be understood as personal and thus as having some peudo-temporal aspect. Once you think God is personal, you're stuck with Mainlander and thus with a very subversive worldview.

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