This article is part 7 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?
Robert Spencer and other anti-Muslim bigots fear-monger about Islam and Muslims by demonizing the Quran, calling it a “book of violence and war.” This, they argue, is quite unlike other religious scriptures, and is especially unlike the Bible, which is a book of love and good morals.
We threw cold water on this argument by reproducing oodles of violent passages found in the Bible (see parts1, 2, 3, 4, 5 , and 6 of this Series), showing that the Bible is in fact way more more violent than the Quran.
Instead of defending their initial argument (the oft-repeated claim that the Quran is a uniquely violent holy book, far more violent than the Bible) or even their “fall back” argument (the claim that the violent Biblical passages are merely “descriptive” unlike the Quran’s violent passages that are supposedly “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal”–a claim that we refuted in part 6 of this Series), Islamophobes quickly move on to their next “fall back” argument:
Jews and Christians no longer believe in the inerrant nature of the Bible, unlike the Muslims who take the Quran as absolutely accurate. We are told that Jews and Christians have moved beyond the Bible (even “tossed it aside!”), whereas the primitive Muslims continue to follow their archaic holy book. Therefore, the argument goes, invoking the Bible is hardly relevant, since “most Jews and Christians no longer give credence to it.”
This argument is not grounded in fact, however. A poll by Rasmussen Reports found that a majority of all Americans (63%) believe the Bible is literally true and the Word of God, with less than a quarter (24%) disagreeing with this belief. This is quite amazing when one considers that about 20% of Americans are neither Jewish or Christian! The percentage of those who believe in the literal meaning of the Bible jumps to 70% for Protestants, and becomes overwhelming (89%) for Evangelical Christians in specific. Meanwhile, 77% of Republicans believe in the literal truth of the Bible.
A Pew Research poll bore out fairly similar results, with 78% of Americans believing that the Bible is either the actual or inspired Word of God. This view is held by 88% of Protestants, 82% of Catholics, and 91% of other Christian groups. Contrary to the emerging scholarly consensus that the Biblical stories such as Exodus and Conquest are “best regarded as a myth”, only a minority of the public at large (19% of Americans, 11% of Protestants, 16% of Catholics, and 6% of other Christian groups) believe that the Bible is just “ancient fables, history, and legends.”
Quite the opposite of what our opponents claim, most Christian-Americans very much believe in the accuracy of their scriptural texts. This explains, for instance, why only a minority of Christians in America believe in evolution, with “60 percent of Americans who call themselves Evangelical Christians…favor replacing evolution with creationism in schools altogether.”
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As always, our opponents will rely on a “fall back” argument and claim that the case of Europe is different, that the United States is far more religious than the “bastion of atheism” across the pond. The Christians in Europe, we are told, aren’t that serious about their religion.
We will preempt this argument by pointing out that only a quarter of the world’s Christians are in Europe. The other three-quarters are in North and South America, Africa, and Asia. Latin America has as many Christians as Europe does, and they take their religion very seriously. So too is the case in Christian Africa and Asia, which together accounts for far more Christians than in Europe. It is a reasonable assumption that the Christians in Latin America, Africa, and Asia take the Bible very seriously. Therefore, the “but Europe is different!” excuse is of limited utility.
The majority of Christians actually live in the developing world. It is of course expected that our opponents will insist on comparing the minority of Christians in the First World to the Muslims in the Third World.
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The “official view” of the Church reinforces our assertion: “The Christian Church as a whole claims that the Bible is inspired and inerrant.” Both the Catholic Church and mainstream Protestantism (certainly Evangelical Christianity) view the Bible as accurate. This is a doctrinal view that has always been held and continues to be held by “mainstream Christianity”.
Anti-Islam ideologues further misleading arguments when they exaggerate between the views about “inerrancy” between Christians and Muslims. One “mainstream Christian view” posits that the Bible does have some “errors” in it. The anti-Muslim ideologues shrug off the violent verses in the Bible by arguing that “well, we don’t believe that the Bible is without errors, unlike the Muslims!” This deceptive argument implies that the Christians believe that those violent verses are erroneous/inaccurate.
Yet, this “mainstream Christian view” holds that the Bible is “98.5% textually pure” and “the 1.5% that is in question is mainly nothing more than spelling errors and occasional word omissions like the words ‘the,’ ‘but,’ etc.” In fact, none of these errors “affect doctrinal truths.” Certainly, these “errors” do not encompass the violent holy wars that are narrated about the Biblical prophets: “In fact, nothing in ancient history even comes close to the accuracy of the New Testament documents.” Nor do they include the exhortations to violence (“prescriptive, open-ended, and universal” calls to holy war against infidels) found in the Book of Psalms.
What then is the relevance of this argument except to obfuscate the issue? The fact is that only 6-16% of Christians in America recognize the Bible as “ancient fables, history, and legends.” That having been established, we could care less about whether or not the word “the” should have been “a” or the other way around.
Neither is it relevant whether or not one believes the Bible is “literally” the Word of God or the “inspired” Word of God, as both amount to the same thing: a text that is considered accurate by its followers. As one popular Evangelical site, GotQuestions.org, puts it: “Inspiration means the Bible truly is the Word of God…Because the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, we can conclude that they are also inerrant and authoritative…Without a doubt the Bible is what it claims to be—the undeniable, authoritative, Word of God to humanity.”
As long as the majority of Christians don’t believe that the Bible is just “ancient fables, history, and legends” (which they don’t), whether they consider the Bible the literal or inspired word of God is largely inconsequential to the argument at hand.
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Unfortunately, we could not locate any poll about Jewish views towards the accuracy of the Bible. But as far as “official views” go, Orthodox Judaism (the only strand of Judaism recognized by the state of Israel) takes the Hebrew Bible very, very seriously.
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Lastly, it is rather quite telling that the Islamophobes have now fallen back on the argument that “Jews and Christians have tossed the Bible aside”: is this not a sign of surrender and an implicit admission that the Bible glorifies and exhorts violence and that there is no reasonable way of denying this? The need to invoke the argument (or rather, to fall back on it) is an indirect admission that the contrary could not be convincingly argued.
Compare this reaction to Muslims, who instead of needing to rely on the “but we don’t take the Quran seriously” defense, can reasonably argue–using the mitigating verses of the Quran–that the Quran calls for war in self-defense only (Just War Doctrine). Worded another way: the Bible is so violent that it simply can’t be defended, at least not using the same standards the anti-Muslim ideologues employ against the Quran.