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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
      • In any case, it is fallacious to draw an identity between Allah and the Christian god, for the simple reason that they have different, incompatible, characteristics.

        By the same, argument, it seems to be incorrect to refer to the Christian god then. Some people think that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (the People of the Book) share a god because of the shared ancestry of the religions. But if you reject that idea, should you not also reject the idea that all Christians share a god because their reli

        • In principle, yes, I would say that is the case.

          In particular, some "Christian" sects (which I'd rather not name here) contend that, for example, Christ has already Come Again, and is, as we speak, Reigning Over the Earth. Others say that Jesus of Nazareth was not divine, or was not born of a virgin, or did not rise from the dead. Some Christian sects hold that God is not triune. Some hold that all of humanity shall be saved, sooner or later, regardless of anything (including whether or not they Take Jesus as their Lord and Savior). In some sects, they believe that their salvation can be secured through leading a life of pious selfless love; in others, that the list of who shall be saved was immutably writ at the beginning of time.

          Clearly they can't all be right.

          But it's not just a matter of one (at most) religion being the True Religion. All of these belief systems are theologically founded; they all depend on a precise characterization of the deity. In short, they all have (perhaps subtlely) different gods.

          Perhaps the god of Jerry Falwell is more like the god of Osama bin Laden than it is like the god of some other Christians.

          I see your point, but I would caution you that that is a provocative, even offensive, thing to say. I don't believe that Falwell has advocated violence against infidels, or anyone else. (Except maybe abortionists... not sure about that one.) Don't believe Falwell has ever told his followers that if they kill in the name of Christ, a place for them in paradise is guaranteed.
          • Well, I did say "more like", not "identical to". I was mainly thinking of the shared idea of a God who smites the United States for its sins, though admittedly Falwell doesn't seek to actively help God do the smiting, and is sorrowful rather than joyful about it.

            Still, it was a bit over the top.