December 26

Trigger Warning: Christianity vs. Islam

So I have been writing for a local youth blog for the past few months, and have subsequently neglected to post anything on this page. However, four months of lavishing in the internet fame that accompanies blogging for a website with readers in the double figures has caused me to realize the true, modest beauty of a site on which I can post something, absolutely anything, and be passive-aggressively confident that no-one will read it.

To be fair, I constantly test the limits of what I can get away with on this other, rather “vanilla” youth webpage, and am yet to see one of my articles rejected- it’s a game of chicken I seem to be losing consistently, and thus I will begin to discuss some of the more “controversial” topics on this forum, as to avoid further personal embarrassment. Basically, I am opting to perform for my stuffed animals instead of a live audience. To flirt with the mirror, instead of doing something reminiscent of flirting with an actual person. I’m opting for literary masturbation.

Now that I’ve got you excited about the idea, I’ll bring you back down to “comfortably confused and offended.”

Disclaimer: I barely know anything, my views are likely an exaggeration of actual truths, and I will probably make stark generalizations about such intimate things as God, faith, and religion. But here I go anyhow, clambering on with my highly problematic opinion. Well, here it is: on a practical level, I think that there are more similarities between Catholicism and Islam than there are between Catholicism and Protestant Christianity.

Let me try to explain; I attend a Catholic school, and have a deep, albeit objective, respect for Catholic practices and teachings. And obviously, as far as monotheistic religions go, there is one HUGE difference between Islam and other Christian religions, and that is, well, Christ. Muslims view Jesus as another prophet, while he is regarded in Catholicism and Protestantism as not only God’s son, but God. That’s another thing that Muslims don’t understand about Christianity- which I think is pretty understandable. At first, the concept of the Trinity actually appears rather blasphemous.

“So you pray to… three gods? And you call yourself a monotheistic religion? Oh, okay, so one God. Three gods… but just the one.”

However, I think that a lot of us don’t realize how similar Christianity is to the Islamic doctrine. I certainly didn’t, until, fed up with people who had probably never once spoken to a Muslim person about Islam quoting the Quran, grossly out of context, to support their misguided prejudices, I decided to read this Islamic book of faith. Here are a few of the things that surprised me-

1. It’s the same God. Maybe this isn’t a surprise to people who grew up in a non-Christian environment, but I went to a Christian private school where we were taught about Islam as if it was a weird and alien practice.  A lot of people seem to think that because Muslims say “Allah” and we as Christians say “God” or “Yahweh” that the God of Islam is somehow different from ours, and that praying to him is blasphemous. I think that this uninformed idea is further propagated by the fact that Middle Eastern culture is just so different from our North American experience, and thus a lot of the traditions that have developed around these two religions make them appear even more different on the outside.

2. Muslims believe in the Bible. Much like Judaism, they actively follow the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. But instead of completely disregarding the New Testament, as in Jewish tradition, Muslims simply believe that certain parts of it have been mistranslated or corrupted over time, similarly to Mormons.

3.  Islam is far more accepting of other belief systems than Catholicism. Feel free to dispute this, but despite what people like to believe about Muslims wanting to “do away” with the infidels, the Quran explains that Jews, Catholics, and people from all other God-seeking religions will go to heaven. And the different levels of heaven in their theology have nothing to do with what religion one follows- only with righteousness and closeness to God. (To me, their belief in multiple levels of heaven is somewhat reminiscent of the Catholic doctrine of purgatory.)

As far as Catholicism is concerned, the church has been historically unaccepting of other religions. Until Vatican II in 1964, the official church teaching was that only Catholics could go to heaven. And I know what you’re thinking: “There are no radical Catholic terrorist attacks! It must be a far more peaceful religion.” But anyone who feels that Islam is the only religion that can be twisted to promote violence obviously doesn’t remember the crusades.

4. The Quran barely mentions anything about women wearing a niqab. Here is the verse that is often cited in support of the niqab:

     “You who Believe, do not enter the prophet’s apartments for a meal unless you are given permission to do so; do not linger until [a meal] is ready. When you are invited, go in; then, when you have taken your meal, leave. Do not stay on and talk, for that would offend the prophet, though he would shrink from asking you to leave. Allah does not shrink from the truth. When you ask his wives for something, do so from behind a barrier: that is purer for your hearts and theirs. It is not right for you to offend Allah’s messenger, just as you should never marry his wives after him: that would be grievous in Allah’s eyes. Allah has full knowledge of all things, whether you reveal them or not.” (Qur’an 33:53-54).

Obviously, I don’t have the historical or religious context to accurately interpret such a passage, but it seems like it could be applied in any number of ways. Actually, it seems that the Islamic practice of wearing of a niqab has come about more as a result of social and cultural factors than of any actual religious teaching. And while there are definitely verses in the Quran that refer to women as “lesser” than men, it’s important to remember that we’re talking about a book that was published in 632 CE.

And here are a few parallels to Catholicism that I was not expecting to find:

  • Unlike Protestantism, both Catholicism and Islam believe that good deeds, not just faith in God, are necessary to enter into heaven. (But at the same time, true faith is accompanied by works; it’s a tricky subject, and people from every denomination tend to be divided on it. So, on that note, never mind.)
  • Islam believes in a prophet and Imams to whom God continues to reveal important truths that affect Islamic teaching; the Catholic pope is said to have similar divine authority.
  • In both Islam and Catholicism, there are many acts and rituals that must be performed. Catholics are expected to follow the 7 sacraments. They must take communion at least once every year to become intrinsically united with Jesus Christ. Muslims follow the 5 pillars of Islam. They must fast during the month of Ramadan, and pray to God 5 times a day facing Mecca.

Of course, there are many fundamental differences between the two belief systems. Obviously, I am picking and choosing verses and teachings that help to support my opinion, and someone with enough writing prowess could probably write an equally biased yet equally compelling article comparing tiny armadillos to Joseph Stalin. And if it helps, this is probably offensive to everybody- Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, AND atheists- so you may all proceed to slam me in the comments.

All zero of you.

 

-297

September 6

First Day of School!

As the new school year begins, I am gratefully reminded of the sanity of my fellow high school students. Remember when one’s school status was determined exclusively by the words that rhymed with their name? Some parents legitimately set their children up for failure from day 1. Remember Maddy? Me either. “Fatty” rings a bell, though. How about good ol’ Cooper the Pooper Scooper? Hairy Harry? God forbid any of you went to school with a boy named “Dick.”

As for my experience, elementary-level word association extended so far as to christen me “Avery Slavery.” Now, none of the other kids seemed to mind that “slavery” is many parts more a concept than a specific noun, or even an action verb. This truth resonated with no-one, it seemed, as they shouted “slavery on Avery!” inviting every 1st grader within a 100-ft radius to pile on top of me. Nor did it stop my ascension to the top of the list of beneficiaries from her fellow pupils unloading their colouring books and glue sticks onto her for transport between classes. If kindergarten had superlatives, I definitely would have made “Class Slave.”

For the first time since my mother left her teaching job to stay at home with my brother and me, both of my parents were working on the first day of school. This meant that the event received no greater accentuation than any other day in the calendar year; we had left over butter chicken in the fridge and extra hamburger buns on the counter, and from this we hastily crafted what my dad now refers to as “Sloppy Raheeds.” We did go for a family walk after dinner, but turned back before we had gone half a mile in order to finish up homework and teaching prep before it got dark. At least, it gave us a chance to share about our days.

My highlight was the Catholic School Welcome Assembly. I was seated next to a young man who was stoned out of his mind. It’s actually hilarious, the disparity between the strict religious kids and the “wild” partygoers at my school. It’s binary. Sort of like apartheid, with a lot less social tension. The pot-smokers hang out in certain hallways, take certain classes, and the more studious youth group-goers stick to their own parts of the school. Having friends in both circles, I almost have to inconspicuously flip on a beanie to go from one to the other. I think that the problem is the occasional radical in both groups; the guy that comes to math with red eyes and dilating pupils, and the girl who asked me just yesterday, “What’s your favourite secular band?” I sometimes wonder what would happen if two such people were stuck on a desert island together. It would probably explode.

What was it like at your high school? Any culture-shock experiences similar to mine at the welcome assembly, or were you the one who was doing the shocking? ;)

Bye for now,

Avery

 

-415

July 14

To Be, or Not to Be

“Things can either ‘be’, or ‘not be’. Things cannot always ‘be’. Therefore, things that are at some time or other were not. If they were not, it is evident that things that are not cannot generate another thing, or themselves. Thus, there has to be something that is necessary for everything else to ‘be.'”

I thought this explanation of the Catholic faith, as found in my religious studies notes, to be particularly ambiguous. It is impressive that it should stand out for its ambiguity, considering the already massive haze of religious vagueness in which it is competing. I don’t know about you, but I counted 5 “be”‘s and 7 “thing”‘s…

Or how about this perfectly balanced statement?

“Some things are greater than others. Whatever is great gets its greatness from that which is greatest. There is a source of greatness.”

It’s like I am back in the third grade looking up words for English class, investing a good 5 minutes I could be spending eating glue or giving myself a bowl cut with safety scissors hunched over the “T” section in the dictionary. Once I finally find the word “terrorize”, I look and find this definition: “To create terror.” It’s like Noah Webster is personally punching me in the face. Catholicism, you simply cannot circumvent a kid like that.

Based on these sentiments, it may seem as though I am anti-religion or atheistic, when in fact I am a total Jesus freak. I simply feel that the church is not doing itself a favour by answering people’s legitimate concerns about faith with more open-ended questions, especially in an age of scientific discovery. However, I do not want to prattle on blindly about a concept which my limited life experience grants me practically no insight into. So I’ll leave it at that.

Bye for now,

Avery

-496