By Chet Yarbrough
Lectures By Frank E. Peters
Narrated by Frank E. Peters
Organized religion is a puzzle wrapped in a conundrum. The puzzle lies in a common religious belief that says there is only one God; the conundrum is that the three largest one-God’ religions refuse to peacefully accept their differences and either kill or banish those who do not follow their beliefs. Which among the three have witnesses to the truth?
Frank E. Peters is a 1961 PhD graduate in Islamic Studies from Princeton with a BA and Masters degree in Greek and Latin from St. Louis University. Peters chronologically recounts the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All three religions have text to provide a foundation for their beliefs. Jews rely on the “Torah”, which is a part of the “Old Testament”; Christians rely on the “Old Testament” as modified and expanded by the “New Testament”; Islam relies on the “Quran” which is codified by a Caliph twenty years after the death of Muhammad.
The irony of these texts is that none were written in the time religious events happened. The accuracy of respective texts is based on faith in the accuracy of disciple’s recollections. (Of course, some say it is not a matter of recollection but Divine guidance.) A further irony is that all three religions believe that Abraham is the founding patriarch.
Jews identify Abraham as the founding patriarch in the “Book of Genesis” (one of the first five books in the “Old Testament”); Christians acknowledge the truth of the “Old Testament” as modified and expanded in the “New Testament”; and Islam relies on an oral communication from the spirit of Abraham to Muhammad. Interestingly, Muhammad is the only disciple that cites direct communication with the spirit of Abraham; i.e. communication that is the source of the “Quran”. The “Old Testament” and the “New Testament” are texts of recollections of religious events or documents while the “Quran” is a record of oral revelations to Muhammad by the spirit of Abraham.
All three religions are riven with openings for literal or figurative interpretation. Peters offers the example of some Jews that argue seven days of creation is a figurative construct of unknown periods of time that might allow for evolution; some Christians accept mutability of time in the “Old Testament” without necessarily accepting evolution; and Islam allows changes in Koranic teaching based on chronological interpretation of oral communication by ”lawyerly” investigators of human generations connected to Muhammad; i.e. a “who said that” investigations that search for relationships to Muhammad.
In the case of changing interpretation of the Quran, Peters also gives the example of an early statement in the Quran that accepts other religions and a later statement that says anyone who does not adopt the Islamic faith is an infidel and may be killed. The “who said that” investigation begins with the later of the contradictory statements becoming religious law. If two statements in the Quran seem to be in conflict, the latest chronological statement (the closest to today’s date) is considered the correct one if it meets a “who said that” criteria.
Peters compares histories of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. To be a Jew, one must have a Jewish mother. In contrast, Christianity and Islam are religions of conversion through baptism and/or religious acceptance. Judaism grew through lineage and monarchial rule with teaching and interpretation of religious texts by Rabbinic’ scholars that may have been descendants of pharaohs; Catholicism grew through association with the Roman Empire that endorsed Christianity as a religious hierarchical institution; with Bishops that rise to Pope within the umbrella of a secular empire. Islam grew by becoming the State with Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Medina; i.e. Islam became the State without distinction between secular and religious law; i.e. the Islamic religion is the State.
Peters does not take sides in his lectures on the three major monotheistic religions. However, his presentation reinforces one’s belief that organized religion is a harbinger of death and destruction. All three religions have or have had armies to enforce their religious beliefs. Jews formed an army when Israel became a State; Christians fought the crusades by using nobleman that accepted the faith. The Pope’s peace of 2012 is more a function of social constraint than religious tolerance; Turkish Islamist’s conducted a Jihad that killed thousands of Armenians (some say 1.5 million) in the early 20th century and Iran threatens destruction of Israel today. All three organized religions have blood on their hands.
Even though one may fervently believe in God as the Prime Mover of the universe, organized religion is a 21st century obstacle to the Truth; i.e. a believer that seeks to be a “witness to the truth” can only stand and wait.