In light of Cordoba House (the WTC Mosque debate) and today’s open dialog about Islam I am about to embark on a multi-post discussion of Ideology vs. Religion. I have already looked into the topic and find it difficult to properly present, but will attempt to do so. At the same time I encourage Comments that elaborate and assist in clarifying this issue for today’s thinking. My focus is on both the generic topic or definitions of Ideology and Religion, but also whether Islam is more one that the other. Is Islam being abused to the benefit of totalitarian leaders, even scholars, Imam’s, Abdullah’s, and local clan or tribal authorities by advocating the religion, a love of Allah, to keep at bay dissenters, those oppressed, the poor, even women, so they may garner control, wealth and maintain a superior position using civil laws claimed to be Quranic as tools of punishment. Is idolatry being imposed hiding behind the flag of faith of Muslims?
We will begin with definitions.
Religion defined (Merriam-Webster Dictionary):
- the service and worship of God or the supernatural
- commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
- a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
Ideology defined (Merriam-Webster Dictionary):
- a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture
- a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture
- the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program
One obvious distinction is God, worship, a commitment to the supernatural, or divine. This clearly points to Allah in Islam, God for the Jews and the Trinity (3 in 1) as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for the Christian – God’s Oneness presented in three forms. For Religion a devotion to God is paramount in any consideration. As to regulations to be imposed, consideration must be given to source and judgment. For Islam the source is the Quran (the Quran looks to the Bible and all the Prophets). For Jews the Old Testament. For Christians the Old and the New Testament, however the New Testament is presented as a New Covenant embodied in the presence of God incarnate (Jesus). The legal system of the Old Testament, the Laws, are to be honored, but Christ provided a pathway to salvation. Salvation was no longer considered something to be earned. No matter the acts of man, their good far exceeding evil, salvation is not possible – as it is impossible to live a life without sin. Salvation cannot be achieved by man, but is only provided by the Lord. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9). Observing the law will not suffice. No one can take credit for their salvation. Man cannot substitute himself as judge in Religion.
When it comes to human life or culture then Ideology takes hold. Civil laws are the effective mechanism for providing security, safety and a structure for citizens living in a domain controlled by an appointed, or elected government. ‘Appointed’ can include self-appointed, or a revolutionary means to assume governance of a people. Clear examples of an Ideological oversight of nations would be Communism, Nazism and fascism. In the Muslim world consideration must be given to the leadership in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt as an imposition on the residents of those Countries of something more than Religion, more an Ideology imposed by humans. What is be applied is the mechanism to impose a desired way of thinking with dissent overtly resisted by the most horrific means, as necessary.
In Ideology we see the introduction of a structure by humans employing their personal thinking, or interpretation of a social order, to be used for the benefit of a few more than the benefit of all. Today’s poster child for Ideology could well be Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez. His Ideology is without Religion or the presence of God; it is purely selfish. The Ideology for controlling their people we see in Iran or Saudi Arabia, even Egypt, have God in the name of Allah in the equation. Liberal use of the Quran, the regulations, the laws, and the punishments outlined are used to regulate the masses. But judgment has been removed from Allah and accepted instead by humans. Can they replace God in making such decisions, seeing into the heart of the believer, even making judgment on a non-believer as God or Allah would.
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Thus we have a beginning. Many questions will be raised and further discussion will ensue. May the Grace of God, the love of the Lord and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with everyone. Grace and Peace.
2 thoughts on “Understanding Islam – Post 53 – Ideology vs. Religion-1”
On Religion, I agree it can be a confusing term, such as simply a community of believers in something – even Atheism as a religion of no God. But using the Merriam-Webster definition which pointed towards God, and thinking the God of the Abrahamic faiths, I took it as a start. My focus too encompasses Religion as having a relationship with God.
A to an Ideology becoming ‘absolute’, when does that happen? What is the threshold of differenciation?
On spirituality and way of life, you are so correct and I am thankful for your input.
Daniel Pipes is an active writer on issues related to Islam. On this topic he recently wrote in an email ‘blast’, “…my allies often fail to distinguish between Islam (a faith) and Islamism (a radical utopian ideology aiming to implement Islamic laws in their totality). This amounts not just to an intellectual error but a policy dead-end. Targeting all Muslims conflicts with basic Western notions, lumps friends with foes, and ignores the inescapable fact that Muslims alone can offer an antidote to Islamism. As I often note, radical Islam is the problem and moderate Islam is the solution.”
D. Pipes uses the term ‘faith’ vs. Religion, and often connects the Ideology of Islam (Islamism) to a ‘way-of-life.’
Thanks again and your thoughts will be considered in my future efforts.
Grace and Peace,
Add Capitalism – a Western ideolgy.
Individualism and Community are also ideolgies when they become absolutes.
Jews would not refer to their sacred writings as “Old” Testament.
They have Torah, Prophets, Writings, etc. I usually now refer to the Bible as containing the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament.
You will need to make a disctinction between religion, spirituality, way of life, etc. Though I am not uncomfortable with the term “religion,” it can be seen as referring to the trappings of one’s faith, i.e., ritual, rules, dogmas, rather than the living out of one’s relationship with God.