One sign of a cult is the way it keeps its adherents in the dark about other faiths. I doubt whether Muslims today know much about the message of Jesus and his gospel. They know only what they have been told by their religious teachers. How accurate would we expect this information to be?
To make it even worse, there is a general misunderstanding of what Christianity is. One misconception, for example, is that the ‘West’ is Christian and that America is a Christian nation.
But all that goes by the name of Christian is not Christian. To grasp what is the true essence of Jesus’ teachings, we must examine the primary source, the Bible.
What about the Crusades?
Muslims often ask: ‘What about the Crusades?’ The intention of this question is often to deflect attention from the violence and oppression displayed by Muslims worldwide in the name of Allah.
Yes, there were the Crusades, and historians debate the complex tangle of religion and politics that gave rise to them. The power-hungry medieval Roman Catholic Church had a big part in the Crusades, to be sure.
But this same organisation persecuted Jews and Protestants also. This same medieval church persecuted to the death those who believed the truths that I, as a Christian today, hold precious.
Is it therefore accurate for Muslims to blame all that goes by the name Christian for the Crusades? Would it not be fairer and wiser to discriminate amongst Christians? After all, most people do not blame all Muslims for the actions of some extremists.
Women in Islam
Another cultic aspect of Islam is the oppression of women in countries under Islamic rule. It is shocking, deviant and evil.
Why is this frightful treatment tolerated? Why is there such an exaggerated fear and mistrust of women? Islamic spokesmen say the women are merely being protected. The women themselves generally resent their treatment and lowly status, but are seemingly powerless to bring about change.
The plight of young men and women in Islamic countries is sad indeed. Their isolation from one another distorts normal social relationships between the sexes. Wealthy (and usually older) men can have four wives and as many concubines as they can afford, while younger, poorer men, are deprived. This deplorable situation stems directly from the nature and traditions of Islam itself.
Women are denied education in countries ruled by strict Islamic law. Why? Is it to keep women in their place? Why must women cover themselves so that not even an ankle can be seen in public? These are twisted gender mores.
Moderate Muslims claim that these practices are only enforced by extremists. The ‘extremists’ claim they are only interpreting Islam in the purest manner possible! Who is right?
Fruit of Islam
Islamic political control has prevented social progress and economic development. For example, does anyone own a car made in an Islamic country? How about a television set, a computer, an alarm clock, an aeroplane, or a boat?
Where do wealthy Muslims send their young people to be educated? To Western countries, for the most part. Why are many Islamic countries among the poorest in the world even while their oil reserves are huge?
One answer is the cultic nature of Islam. In these countries, middle-class wealth would mean an ever-increasing importation of Western ways, and this is feared and condemned by Muslim clerics.
Muslims have undoubtedly contributed to the world’s storehouse of achievements. But if we look at the Islamic nations today we see they are something less than wonderful. Except for Afghanistani refugees trying to enter Pakistan, I haven’t read about people queuing at their borders waiting to get in.
Islam is sometimes described as the ‘beautiful religion’, but where can this beauty be seen? What Islamic country practises Islam in such a way that someone might be motivated to move there?
It is one thing for Muslim leaders to disown the September 11 terrorists as extremists. It is another to demonstrate peaceful moderation and tolerance.
Please understand I am not saying that Muslim people are not as capable, intelligent and worthy as any other people. It is their religious system that is toxic, cultic and repressive.
Muslims are born into a religious heritage they did not choose and cannot walk away from. They are moulded by their environment into dedicated Muslims; there is essentially no choice available for them – they are stuck.
Islam is a religion based on performance, whereas biblical Christianity is grounded on God’s grace. The Islamic deity rewards obedience. Muslim heaven, or paradise, must be earned, either by martyrdom or by carefully keeping rules and regulations.
And since Allah is depicted as remote and detached from the individual Muslim, there is no assurance of salvation, nor any confidence that even the faithful Muslim will achieve paradise.
Works-based religion can and does inspire fear and extremism in those who take it seriously. It is not surprising that some go to extremes to curry the favour of the deity and their religious leaders, especially when a favourable eternity is at stake.
The Qur’an assures ‘martyrs’ that they will attain paradise, and it is this very promise that motivates suicide bombers including, one suspects, those who turned commercial airliners into missiles on September 11.
Biblical Christianity, on the other hand, emphasises grace, which signifies ‘God’s giving’. Through Jesus Christ, God imparts forgiveness and salvation as a free gift, apart from any good work. Salvation is by grace, not by works (Ephesians 2:4-10). Even extreme devotion, sacrifice and obedience will never secure God’s favour.
Furthermore, Christians have assurance of salvation by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, so they are not left in doubt and insecurity (Romans 8:15-17).
Everlasting life with God in heaven is given to the Christian through the work of God the Son. It cannot be lost, since God the Father keeps the believer by his great power (John 10:27-30).
Cults employ mind-bending techniques to induce their followers to be obedient – this has long been understood.
What about the mind-boggling promise of 70 virgins available for the pleasures of every martyred Islamic warrior? Talk about cultic – this is as extreme an example as can be found even in the strangest sects!
Certainly, for poor, young, love-starved men, whose future is clouded at best, the promise of unlimited fleshly pleasure in the hereafter might be an inducement to die for the sake of Allah.
But is this obscene and sexist doctrine true? Moderate Islamic interpreters say no; the sexually oriented promises are unfounded. Yet, this perverse promise is constantly embraced. Many a mind-bent warrior has killed and died to acquire his 70 virgins.
Harassment of Muslims is unacceptable, and this article is not an attempt to bring grief to Muslim people.
However, I would challenge Muslims to examine their religion, indeed, their hearts and minds, and ask themselves these questions.
‘Why am I a Muslim? Is my commitment to Islam based on a free decision, apart from family influences? What is my attitude towards those of other religions, particularly Jews and Christians?
‘Are my attitudes cultic in any way? Do I honestly think that killing Jews and Christians serves Allah? Do I believe it is a Muslim’s duty to defend Islam by martyrdom or suicide?
‘Should I support religious tolerance for people of other faiths in Muslim-dominated countries like Saudi Arabia?’
Many Muslims are seekers after God, and this is good. The Hebrew prophet Jeremiah wrote: ‘You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart’ (Jeremiah 29:13).
Whether Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, nominal Christian, or nothing at all – the challenge is to seek God because he can be found. Jesus said: ‘Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well’ (Matthew 6:33).
Regardless of our religious background, we are created in the image of God. We have been made by and for him, and will never be satisfied until we know him personally. The Creator God sent his Son, Jesus, to break down the walls of separation between men and reconcile all kinds of people to himself (Ephesians 2:14-18).
The challenge is to make up your own mind about Jesus Christ. Learn about him yourself and do not merely accept the opinions and prejudices of others.
Find a New Testament, read the story of his life, and see if you find anything amiss with him. Is there any sin, or anything false, in the one who came from God?
Find an Old Testament and read the prophecies of the Messiah (which is Hebrew for ‘Christ’), passages like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. Are not these passages about Jesus?
If you seek him, he will be found.