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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • One of the wisest things I've heard on this subject has been told to me by a muslim. As you may know, the first of the five Pillars of Islam is the shahada : a muslim must claim his faith by the means of the following sentence : There is no other god than God, and Muhammad is His prophet. The theological importance of the first part of the sentence is enormous : the other religions have the same God -- but different prophets. Muhammad -- from a muslim point of view -- happens to be a better prophet because
    • the other religions have the same God [as Islam]...

      I have heard this argument before. And, interestingly, it's usually atheists who make it.

      Well, it's bogus. I'm sure that from an atheist's point of view, a logical identity relation exists between all religions that have the quality "Num_Gods==1". But that's silly. If anything, an atheist should be more inclined to distinguish between various purported all-being entities, since they're all fictitious!

      In any case, it is fallacious to draw an identity
      • I'm sure that from an atheist's point of view, a logical identity relation exists between all religions that have the quality "Num_Gods==1".
        I don't know a religion where Num_Gods != 1. All religions present a first cause to all effects; this cause is essentially indivisible. For so-called polytheisms, there's often the "god behind the gods" (the "unknown god" of one of the Epistles -- perhaps II Corinthians -- I'll have to look this up).

        For incompatible characteristics of gods in different religions, I see that TeeJay already quoted the relevant excerpt of the Upanishads. If you read carefully the Bible you'll find similar ideas. (The book of Job or the Qohelet come to mind.)

        And as a post-scriptum : as an atheist I don't deny that religious experiences are valuable. As I mentioned before I'm interested in history of religions and in mythologies. (That's also why I don't like the Silmarillion that much : faked mythology without religious content.) As far as I can tell, the only difference between an atheist and someone who has a religion (or who is simply an agnostic) is that the atheist supposes that the source of the human genius is somewhere in the very human beings, not in another sacred space or time. But this is also a belief. Call it "faith in humanity". And sometimes I feel blessed too. (My wife, who is catholic, says that our kids are truly gifts from God. Honestly I have to agree, even if I prefer to replace God by Chance.) (I'm sorry if I did hurt you, this wasn't on purpose.)

        • I don't know a religion where Num_Gods != 1.

          Actually, in human history monotheism is a late development. And certainly many polytheistic religions survive.

          An argument could also be made that the nonexistence of God is a religious belief (like your "faith in humanity") no differently than other religions, and that therefore religions in which Num_Gods==0 also exist.

          For so-called polytheisms, there's often the "god behind the gods"

          Even granted your "often", it is not always, and that leaves true poly