Monday, October 13, 2008

The various forms of apostasy

If you haven't been following my meanderings in FriendFeed, let me update you.

True Discernment reproduced an article from the Telegraph that included the following:

Rashin Soodmand is a 29-year-old Iranian Christian. Her father, Hossein Soodmand, was the last man to be executed in Iran for apostasy, the "crime" of abandoning one's religion. He had converted from Islam to Christianity in 1960, when he was 13 years old. Thirty years later, he was hanged by the Iranian authorities for that decision.

The reason that the article was written was because of the fate of Rashin's brother, Ramtin. Ramtin was arrested on August 21. Although technically not an apostate (he was born a Christian), there are fears that Ramtin Soodmand may be punished under a recently passed Iranian law anyway.

A month ago, the Iranian parliament voted in favour of a draft bill, entitled "Islamic Penal Code", which would codify the death penalty for any male Iranian who leaves his Islamic faith. Women would get life imprisonment. The majority in favour of the new law was overwhelming: 196 votes for, with just seven against.

While people may get made when you reject their views, they REALLY get mad when you accept them, and THEN reject them. Apostasy is one of the worst religious and political crimes that there is. (We'll get to political apostates later.)

Let's start with some examples of religious apostasy that I've previously cited in this here blog. We'll begin with Harold Camping:

(quoting) According to the broadcaster, all churches -- Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Pentecostal, you name it -- have been taken over by Satan. "Certainly something strange is happening," begins Camping's manifesto, Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End? "On the one hand we see churches everywhere becoming more and more apostate. Yet on the other hand we see a ministry like Family Radio becoming more and more useful to the Lord in sending the true Gospel into the world."


(quoting) Harold Camping may not be the Watchtower Tract and Bible Society, but he builds on the same wrongheaded interpretations of Scripture, the same date-setting, the same recalculations, the same accusations of universal apostasy, and the same claim to be the last true channel of God's Word. Despite the differences, both are heretical and schismatic, tearing apart Christ's church.

In a later post, I noted that True Discernment itself has used the term:

I have to say that even with all the apostasy that is going on in Evangelical Christianity today, I am still stunned at the mass abandonment of those who call themselves Christians from even basic Christian values in this upcoming Presidential Election. The seeming scramble by those who call themselves Christian leaders to endorse those who openly deny the very basics of Christian teaching is just staggering.

Shifting to Islam, I again addressed apostasy in my Paul McCartney post, when I quoted from the 2004 fatwa issued by Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad.

Nobody can argue about the animosity of the disbelievers towards the believers, and their plot against them, except the ignorant i.e. those whose opinions are meaningless. However, what is surprising is to see Muslims going astray having been misled by those who are impressed with the disbelievers and their plots, and surely nobody is impressed by the disbelievers but the ignorant.

Part of the ignorance and apostasy we see is that Muslims ally with the disbelievers and join their forces, and then call themselves "British Muslim" as members of the British army. They travel long distances, not to liberate places like Jerusalem, but rather in order to stand with the disbelievers and harm Muslims in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Palestine etc.

And then there's India:

[The Global Council of Indian Christians] alleged that the Hindu priests were angry that Mandloi had become a Christian after falling victim to alcohol abuse and a failed marriage. According to the advocacy group, Mandloi transformed to a very devoted Christian and even supported the churches and evangelists in the locality.

"The ‘goddess’ Kali is a bloodthirsty ‘goddess’ and she is even given human sacrifice," said George, “so it is suspected that the priests found this an opportune time to kill the evangelist as they were already upset with his decision of accepting Christ.”

And there is another religion that exhibits extreme intolerance at times:

Religion is fast growing incompatible with the emergence of a global, civil society. Religious faith — faith that there is a God who cares what name he is called, that one of our books is infallible, that Jesus is coming back to earth to judge the living and the dead, that Muslim martyrs go straight to Paradise, etc. — is on the wrong side of an escalating war of ideas. The difference between science and religion is the difference between a genuine openness to fruits of human inquiry in the 21st century, and a premature closure to such inquiry as a matter of principle. I believe that the antagonism between reason and faith will only grow more pervasive and intractable in the coming years. Iron Age beliefs — about God, the soul, sin, free will, etc. — continue to impede medical research and distort public policy. The possibility that we could elect a U.S. President who takes biblical prophesy seriously is real and terrifying; the likelihood that we will one day confront Islamists armed with nuclear or biological weapons is also terrifying, and it is increasing by the day. We are doing very little, at the level of our intellectual discourse, to prevent such possibilities....

I am hopeful that the necessary transformation in our thinking will come about as our scientific understanding of ourselves matures. When we find reliable ways to make human beings more loving, less fearful, and genuinely enraptured by the fact of our appearance in the cosmos, we will have no need for divisive religious myths. Only then will the practice of raising our children to believe that they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu be broadly recognized as the ludicrous obscenity that it is. And only then will we stand a chance of healing the deepest and most dangerous fractures in our world.

The title of Sam Harris' article? "Science Must Destroy Religion." And to some, this level of intolerance is acceptable.

But you don't only find intolerance in the religious realm. If it wasn't for objections to political apostasy, my hero Gerald Ford would not have become the 38th President of the United States. Ford was not Nixon's first choice for Vice President:

When Spiro T. Agnew was forced to resign in 1973 because of bribery charges, President Richard M. Nixon told aides that his choice to fill the vacancy would be John B. Connally, the former Texas governor who had served as Treasury secretary.

But when word of Nixon's intention reached Capitol Hill, there was a rebellion.

Democrats regarded Connally as a turncoat who had left their party to support Nixon and serve in his administration. Republicans also regarded him as an interloper, much like his mentor, Lyndon B. Johnson.

With backstage help from Bryce Harlow, the influential White House aide, Laird and others orchestrated a series of visits to the president. Leading congressional Democrats and Republicans told Nixon that Connally was unacceptable to them, while Ford would be easily confirmed by both the House and Senate, as the 25th Amendment required.

Nixon cursed in frustration but ultimately yielded, and Ford became vice president. That in turn made him Nixon's successor when Nixon was forced to resign after Watergate.

I speak of other political apostates here. (And I'm sure that there are business apostates all over the place - the person who left Pepsi to join Coca-Cola or whatever.)

But Alan M. Wald's description of the reaction to a political apostate describes why there is such a deep feeling against apostates:

I tremble to use the word, renegade. But what term better describes a man who reneged on his earlier, more fundamental commitment to social justice?

So the big thing about apostasy is that the apostate had the wisdom - the same wisdom that I believe in - and ultimately rejected that wisdom. Rather than shaking my own faith, it has strengthened it, along with implanting a strong feeling that the apostate is wrong.

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