From Moses to Moses: Traversing two Maimonides Quotes on Muslims

From Moses to Moses: Traversing two Maimonides Quotes on Muslims

March 30 marks the birthday of Moses Maimonides. As such, it seemed to be a good time to discuss two of his quotes that have been used in discussions of Islam and Islamophobia in part due to the range of views that seem to be expressed in them by the same author.

Original Guest Post

By JustStoppingBy

Recently, Robert Spencer tried to make a distinction between Allah and God, arguing that “even though they may share a name, any examination of the particulars of Christian and Islamic theology reveals that the deities in question are quite different in character.”

Note that Spencer does not say that Christians and Muslims have “different views of the same deity” but discusses “the deities in question.” In doing this, he invites the reader to reach the conclusion that the “Muslim Allah” is not the same as the “Christian God.” Danios has already provided a thorough explanation on the use of the term Allah by Jews and Christians in pre-Islamic times. As Danios points out, a common Islamophobic response is to claim that Muslims appropriated the term Allah while referring to a different entity, perhaps a moon god, but not to the god that Jews and Christians worship.

To further create a distinction between Allah and the Christian God, Spencer has asked whether the hajj is an act of apostasy based on his claims that the rites involved in the hajj are of Hindu origin. Of course, it is widely accepted that polytheists made pilgrimages to Mecca and that the Ka’bah was a pagan shrine that contained idols before the advent of Islam, including a belief that pre-Islamic pilgrims to Mecca, “[w]ith all their polytheism and idolatry, they too used to circle the Ka’bah and kiss the Black Stone.” So, even if Spencer were right, that would not seem to be a particularly Earth-shattering revelation.

Since many who propound this “deities” theory won’t listen to Danios perhaps they will listen to some other views. We can start by moving a little away from the Christian-Muslim deity distinction that Spencer wants to draw and referring to a statement by perhaps the most renowned post-Biblical Jewish scholar, Rabbi Moses Maimonides (Rambam). In Responsa #448, Maimonides writes as follows (ellipses in Wikipedia, bolding added; alternate translation also available):

The Ishmaelites are not at all idolaters; [idolatry] has long been severed from their mouths and hearts; and they attribute to God a proper unity, a unity concerning which there is no doubt. And because they lie about us, and falsely attribute to us the statement that God has a son, is no reason for us to lie about them and say that they are idolaters … And should anyone say that the house that they honor [the Kaaba] is a house of idolatry and an idol is hidden within it, which their ancestors used to worship,then what of it? The hearts of those who bow down toward it today are [directed] only toward Heaven … [Regarding] the Ishmaelites today – idolatry has been severed from the mouths of all of them [including] women and children. Their error and foolishness is in other things which cannot be put into writing because of the renegades and wicked among Israel [i.e., apostates]. But as regards the unity of God they have no error at all.

Maimonides’ life covered various phases of Muslim-Jewish relations. Maimonides was born in Córdoba in 1135, at the tail end of the longest potential extent of the “Golden Age” of Spanish Jewry, which saw the blossoming of Jewish culture and the attainment by individual Jews of high positions in commercial and public life. As a result of the Arab political dominance, Maimonides knew Arabic, read many texts in Arabic, and composed many of his most famous works in Arabic and referred to God as Allah in his Arabic writing.

In 1148, Córdoba was conquered by the Almohads, an Berber-Muslim dynasty that revoked the dhimmi status of Jews. There is, no doubt, much debate about the quality of the life of a dhimmi, but scholars have noted that “in any historical case, these relatively abstract and general provisions of the dhimma could and did materialize as either a tolerant and even liberating arrangement, or at the other extreme, a culturally repressive policy within which religious freedom is a hollow formality.” (María Rosa Monocal, The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain,” p. 73. Garibaldi reviews the book here.) Life for Jews under the Almohads went from the previous tolerant and liberating arrangement to the other extreme, with the result that “[m]any Jews were forced to convert, but due to suspicion by the authorities of fake conversions, the new converts had to wear identifying clothing that set them apart and made them available to public scrutiny with many forced to convert or go into exile.” The point of this is not to dwell on history, but to put Maimonides’ responsa into context. It was written not by someone who had experienced only positive relations between Muslims and Jews, but who had also witnessed among the harshest of relations. And one should note that after fleeing Córdoba, Maimonides eventually again found himself in a place where he could establish good relations with Muslim authorities, becoming court physician to Saladin.

So, what does Maimonides have to say about how Muslims view God? Returning to the quote, we see that Maimonides says that “[idolatry] has long been severed from their mouths and hearts.” This, is in fact the same story told in Islam’s view of its own history: before Muhammad, the Ishmaelites (as Maimonides refers to them) in and around Mecca were idolaters. But, since the advent of Islam, “they attribute to God a proper unity.” The Islamic term for a “proper unity” istawhid, which, in essence, is not just a superficial form of “unity” but a “proper unity” that has an influence on Islamic philosophy and jurisprudence. It is also possible that Maimonides was even distinguishing between the “proper” Jewish and Muslim view of God’s unity and what he would consider the “improper” Christian view of a trinitarian unity. Nowhere does Maimonides even suggest that Muslims are worshiping some different deity or that they do not share the Jewish view of God’s character.

Maimonides further argues that “should anyone say … [the Kaba’a] is a house of idolatry and an idol is hidden within it, which their ancestors used to worship, then what of it? The hearts of those who bow down toward it today are [directed] only toward Heaven.” This can be read as a pre-rebuttal to arguments made by Robert Spencer about the Kaba’a and the hajj based on views, true or not, about their pre-Islamic origins. As Maimonides points out, if Muslims view Allah as the same god Jews view in Heaven and direct their prayers accordingly, pre-Islamic history does not affect their monotheism. Say what you want about any possible idol remnant in the Ka’bah or the etymology of the term Allah, it is clear that the “hearts of [Muslims] today are only toward Heaven.”

Now, why is Maimonides such an interesting person to quote from when countering Spencer’s Islamophobic rhetoric? For one thing, Spencer’s polemical partner Pamela Geller has also quoted from Maimonides, believing that it helps the position that she and Spencer take in general and in her fights about her ads about a choice “between the civilized man and the savage” in particular. Here is a quote she uses, from Maimonides’ Epistle to Yemen:

Let Ye understand, my brothers, the Holy One Blessed HE through the trap created by our iniquities cast us amongst this nation, the people of Ishmael [Muslims] whose oppressiveness is firmly upon us and they connive to do us wrong and despicably downgrade us as the Almighty decreed against us (Deuteronomy 32:31, “Your enemies shall judge you”).

There never came against Israel a more antagonistic nation. They oppress us with the most oppressive measures to lessen our number, reduce us, and make us as despicable as they themselves are [Psalms 120:5].

Geller, misleadingly introduces this quote by saying that Maimonides “said this of Islam.” She further introduces the purely religious term Muslims in brackets where Maimonides referred to the “people of Ishmael,” a term that could have ethnic, political, and/or religious connotations.

On the religious aspect, while Maimonides did not accept Islam, it is clear from the earlier quote that he fully accepted that Muslims, or Ishmaelites, were monotheists whose hearts are directed only toward heaven in prayer. Instead, the conflict he describes is a political one, in particular with the Yemeni Shi’a of the time. Ultimately, “Maimonides interceded with Saladin in Egypt, and shortly thereafter the persecution came to an end.”

There are a few additional points worth noting in this quote from Maimonides. First, the reference to “the people of Ishmael” may sound like a form of generalization today, but no more so than the positive references to Ishmaelites in the first Maimonides quote or his reference to Jews as Israel in the second.

Second, unlike Geller, Maimonides does not attempt to create a picture in which one side is civilized and the other savage. Indeed, Maimonides describes Israel’s exile as a “trap created by our iniquities.” Traditionally, this referred to the “baseless hatred,” or the religious and political disputes, mistakes, violence, and venom that existed at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple and the onset of the Exile. Thus, Maimonides’ approach was not to turn a political dispute or suffering persecution into a basis for misrepresenting the religious views of others. Nor did he argue that those of his religion were pure and those of another religion were not; rather, he pointed out sinful behavior in both. In Maimonides’ view, monotheism was a good quality, and, from the first quote, we see that he was able to acknowledge what he saw as the good in his political opponents rather than feeling the need to suppress any of those qualities or actions as if his entire position would fall apart if his political adversaries had any good side. In addition, when Maimonides corresponded with a community of Jews who were being persecuted by a Muslim majority, he made a point of noting that even the Jews who then felt persecuted should not ignore their group’s own history of hatred and violence, including political mistakes that were part of the reason for their exile.

While there are aspects to the two quotes from Maimonides that one can agree or disagree with, they do reflect an overall attitude that contrasts sharply with those of Spencer and Geller.

While Maimonides had political differences with various Muslim groups, he did not seek to mischaracterize their religion or their religious beliefs. For there can be no true peace with the Other without recognition of the truth of their beliefs and behavior and honest dialogue based on those truths, a sharp contrast to the insidious Spencer/Geller policy of no peace, no truthful recognition, and no honest dialogue. Compare Maimonides’ recognition of Islam’s positive monotheistic quality, even when he disagreed politically with Muslims, with Spencer, who has argued that “the only good Muslim is a bad Muslim,” meaning that in his view, the only morally good Muslim is one who is not an Islamically good Muslim.

In terms of lessons for today, it may be helpful to see how Maimonides separated the political battles he faced from the opportunities to engage in religious prejudice against the beliefs of the Other. This did not mean that he refrained from political activity, as seen by his appeal to Saladin. But, neither did he refrain from standing up for the truth about another group’s religious beliefs. In viewing how Maimonides conducted these two fights, perhaps it can be said that the lesson is that we should fight our political battles as if there were no religious prejudice, and we should fight religious prejudice as if there were no political battles.

Allah as the Best of Deceivers?

I recently published a two-part article (see here and here) comparing the God of the Bible with the God of the Quran, showing that Yahweh of the Bible seems more violent and warlike than Allah of the Quran.

The response from the anti-Muslim critics was minimal.  Three very weak responses were provided by Halal Pork, Farlowe, and Nerses.

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Halal Pork replied as follows:

One of the names of Allah is Al-Mukkar-the Deceiver.Why is that not included in the list

I included the twenty-five most common names used for God in the Quran. The term khayru al-makireen is used in the Quran only twice. That’s why it wasn’t included in the list.

The fact that khayru al-makireen didn’t make the list says a lot.  Consider that God is called Merciful over 300 times in the Quran, and the term khayru al-makireen is used only twice.  I wonder which one Islamophobes will focus on?

Meanwhile, the name Lord of Armies is used in the Bible for God just under 300 times.  The most common descriptive name for God in the Quran revolves around mercy, whereas the most common descriptive name for God in the Bible revolves around armies and war.  This was the main point of my two-part article.

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The term khayru al-makireen is first used in verse 3:54 of the Quran:

And they schemed [against Jesus] and God schemed [against them], but God is the best schemer.

This is alternately translated as “deceiver” or “plotter”–the translation of “deceiver” is preferred by anti-Muslim elements, whereas “plotter” by Muslim apologists.  I’ve chosen the more neutral “schemer.”

The context of this verse can be found in Tafsir Al-Jalalayn, as follows:

God says: And they, the disbelievers among the Children of Israel, schemed, against Jesus, by assigning someone to assassinate him; and God schemed, by casting the likeness of Jesus onto the person who intended to kill him, and so they killed him, while Jesus was raised up into heaven; and God is the best of schemers, most knowledgeable of him [Jesus].

Some killers schemed against Jesus, and so God schemed against the killers to fool them.  God made someone else look like Jesus–a willing martyr, by the way–and the killers murdered him instead (don’t worry, he is promised heaven).

So, that is the context in which God “schemed.”

If Osama bin Ladin tried to kill the President of the United States, but the Secret Service used one of the President’s doubles to “deceive” OBL, would there be anything wrong with this? That’s the exact same situation as appears in the Quran.

The term khayru al-makireen is repeated in verse 8:30, again in the context of those who tried to assassinate one of God’s prophets, in this case Muhammad himself. The leaders of Mecca planned to assassinate him, “scheming” against him by deciding to do the ugly deed altogether as one so that nobody could assign blame to any one single tribe.  This would prevent any possible retaliation. They also planned on killing Muhammad using the cover of darkness.

The Quran says that God “schemed” against these killers, and fooled the killers by making them think Muhammad was in his bed when in fact it was his younger cousin Ali.  When the killers found out it was just Ali, they didn’t kill him since he was just an adolescent.  In the meantime, Muhammad slipped away and fled to another city with his life.

So once again, God’s “scheming” involved fooling killers so that they could not murder.

How one could twist this into something negative, I don’t know…but I guess Islamophobes are very adept at twisting things.

But in any case, the attribute of “scheming” or “deceiving” has nothing to do with the context of war. Therefore, it has nothing to do with the topic of my article and Series, which is about whether Islam is more violent and warlike than Judaism and Christianity. What relevance does “scheming” have to do with that, except maybe that God schemes against killers to prevent them from killing?

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In any case, since this has nothing to with the topic at hand and is mostly a religious discussion more fit for Christian and Muslim apologists, I’ll just link to a Muslim apologist who responds to Christian polemicists:

The Biblical God As a Deceiver, by Bassam Zawadi

In that link, Zawadi notes that the Bible contains numerous verses in it where God “deceives.” Once again, for me the interesting thing about it is the level of pure hypocrisy of anti-Muslim Jews and Christians who vilify Islam and the Quran for what is found in their own religion and holy book.

Zawadi points to the following verse of the Bible, for instance:

Jeremiah 4:10 Then I said, “O Sovereign LORD, the people have been deceived by what you said, for you promised peace for Jerusalem. But the sword is held at their throats!”

Of relevance here is the fact that unlike the two Quranic verses–which show God stopping people from killing by deceiving murderers–the Biblical verse in which God deceives involves him tricking a population into thinking they would have “peace” when in fact “the sword is held at their throats!”  The Bible says:

4:16 “Tell this to the nations, proclaim it to Jerusalem: ‘A besieging army is coming from a distant land, raising a war cry against the cities of Judah.’”

God deceived so that a “besieging army” could carry out its war of conquest.  Similarly, God will delude people in 2 Thessalonians 2:11 so that Jesus can kill and destroy them.

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As for Farlowe’s response, this is perhaps the weakest and most desperate response of all.  He writes:

Yahweh, God of War, yet the Jehovah’s (Yahweh’s) Witnesses (aka Watchtower Society) are a pacifist group who refuse to fight in armed forces in every country they live.

Why on earth would we restrict this to Jehovah’s Witnesses?  All Jews and Christians believe that Yahweh is the name of God.  This seems one last, desperate attempt to obfuscate the issue.  Jehovah’s Witnesses are not even considered to be Christians by our Evangelical opponents; they are condemned as a deviant cult.

Although Christians might use the term “God” more often for God than “Yahweh,” they certainly believe Yahweh of the Bible to be God.  But if one wants to play most common name associations, then Judaism would be most associated with the term Yahweh.  And, traditional and Orthodox Judaism is certainly not pacifist–as my next article in the Series will clearly show.

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Nerses relies on a fall-back argument similar to the trite “But Jews and Christians don’t take the Bible literally like Muslims…!”, which I refuted in part 7.

My next article in the Understanding Jihad Series will be about Jewish law (Halakha) and will address the basic premise of Nerses’ argument.  However, the entirety of his claims will take several articles to thoroughly refute.  Nerses regurgitates the standard lies that are found in Robert Spencer’s book–lies that will be laid to waste over the course of this Series.

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Lastly, I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Muslims shouldn’t vilify other faiths because they have plenty of “tricky issues” in their own religion that they must deal with.  Even if the Islamophobes could prove that the God of the Quran is very deceiving, how would that refute anything I’ve said?  My point is not that Islam has no “tricky issues” to deal with–only that Judaism and Christianity do too (perhaps more so).  Specifically, in the case of war and violence, the Quran pales in comparison to the Bible.

The Bible’s Yahweh, a War-God?: Called “Lord of Armies” Over 280 Times in the Bible and “Lord of Peace” Just Once (II)

Please read The Bible’s Yahweh, a War-God?: Called “Lord of Armies” Over 280 Times in the Bible and “Lord of Peace” Just Once (I) first.

A quick glance at the list of God’s names in the Bible (refer to link above) shows that most of them depict God’s Might and Power (including Lord of Armies, which depicts his might on the battlefield), but only very rarely is God described as loving, peaceful, merciful, forgiving, and beneficent.

Contrast this to God’s names in the Quran.  Here are the twenty-five most frequently used names for God found therein:

Twenty-Five Most Frequently Used Names for God in the Quran

1. God (Allah, Al-Iah): over 2,700 times
2. Lord (Al-Rub): over 950 times
3. The All-Merciful, The Most Merciful (Al-Rahman, Al-Rahim): 306 times, another 4 times as The Most Merciful Among the Merciful (Ar-Hamu Ar-Rahimeen) and 11 times as The Extremely Merciful (Al-Ra’ouf)

4. The All-Knowing (Al-Alim): 162 times
5. The Wise (Al-Hakim): 114 times
6. The Forgiving (Al-Ghafur, Al-Ghaffar, Al-Ghafir): 93 times, another 1 time as The Vast in Forgiveness (Wasi’u Al-Maghfirah)

7. The Mighty (Al-Aziz): 64 times
8. The All-Hearing (Al-Sami’u): 46 times
9.  The All-Seeing (Al-Basir): 46 times
10.  The All-Aware (Al-Khabir): 46 times
11.  The All-Capable (Al-Qadir): 46 times
12.  The Self-Sufficient (Al-Ghaniy): 21 times
13.  The Witness (Al-Shahid): 20 times
14.  The Knower of the Unseen (Alimu Al-Ghaybi, Alimu Al-Ghaybi wa al-Shahada, Allam Al-Ghiyoob): 17 times

15.  The Patron (Al-Wakil): 13 times
16.  The Acceptor of Repentance (Al-Tawwab): 11 times
17.  The All-Able (Al-Qadir): 11 times
18.  The Clement, Forbearer, Forgiver (Al-Halim): 10 times, another 5 times as The Pardoner (Al-’Afuw)

19.  The Praised (Al-Hamid): 10 times
20.  The Truth (Al-Haq): 10 times
21.  The Powerful (Al-Qawiy): 9 times
22.  The Vast (Wasi’u): 9 times
23.  The Creator (Al-Khaliq): 8 times
24.  The Great (Al-Adhim): 8 times
25. The Peace (Al-Salam): 7 times

One immediately notices a theme here: the God of the Quran is The All-Merciful, The Most Merciful,  The Most Merciful Among the Merciful, The Extremely Merciful, The Most Compassionate, The Most Beneficent, The Most Forgiving, The Acceptor of Repentance, The Clement, The Forbearer, The Pardoner, etc.  As Prof.  William Schweiker notes on p.52 of Humanity Before God that “…the Qur’an frequently emphasizes God’s mercy, pardon, and forgiveness…”

Prof. Harold A. Netland writes on p.78 of Dissonant Voices that “the early preaching of the prophet [Muhammad] ‘spoke of God’s power and his goodness to human beings.’”  Prof. Caesar E. Farah writes on p.133 of Islam: Beliefs and Observances:

In the early days of Muhammad’s preachings he stressed rahmah (mercy) and Rahman (the merciful) so much that his listeners believed he was calling upon them to worship a god called al-Rahman

The Qur’an contains numerous revelations on mercy, ending with the words “Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”

In fact, every single chapter of the Quran aside from one starts with a verse calling on God the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful.

This emphasis on Allah’s Mercy is altogether unlike Yahweh’s emergence as Israel’s war-god; the Canaanites came to fear the terror of Yahweh, such that even seeing the Ark struck fear in their hearts.  For example, as Henricus Oort’s Bible for Learners (vol.1, p.337) so presciently notes, Rahab (a Canaanite) cooperates with the Israelite army ”because she feared Yahweh,” as she had seen what Yahweh had done to the surrounding nations.  Indeed, the Israelites benefited from portraying their god as particularly brutal and cruel, which caused Israel’s enemies to be paralyzed by fear.

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Most of the other names of Allah refer to His Power (such as the All-Hearing, All-Seeing, All-Knowing, etc.), but without any association to war.  In fact, not a single name or description of God in the Quran attributes war to God.  Unlike the Bible, one simply cannot find in the Islamic holy book a name of God such as “Lord of Armies,” or a description such as a “man of war” or “warrior.”

There is a reason for this: Allah was never understood to be a “war-god.” Quite simply, there is no “divine warrior god” theme found in the Quran.  Unlike Yahweh who entered the Judeo-Christian tradition as a war-god, Allah was known during Islam’s birth as a creator God.  Writes Prof. Harold A. Netland on p.76 of Dissonant Voices: Religious Pluralism and the Question of Truth:

Above all the gods, distant and remote, was Allah, the God, creator of the world.

As Prof. Jonathan P. Berkey notes on p.42 of The Formation of Islam, Allah “represented a remote creator god.”  Unlike Yahweh, Allah was not thought to march out on the battlefield alongside the soldiers. Instead of Allah, the pagans brought along idols such as Hubal to the battlefront.  Dr. Malise Ruthven writes on p.28 of Islam in the World that “the pagans carried some of [their] idols as standards into battle,” but this was not the case with Allah as there were “no images of Allah” (p.21 of Prof. William E. Phipps’ book Muhammad and Jesus).

In their battle against other tribes or against the Muslims, the pagans of Mecca did not carry with them the “remote, creator God” that was Allah, but instead took with them ”Hubal, a war god” (p.13 of Prof. Matthew S. Gordon’s Islam).  This did not change with the early Muslims, who never believed that Allah was ever physically present on the battlefield.  Instead, the Prophet Muhammad and early Muslims would point upwards to the sky when they referred to Allah.  Whether or not this meant that the Islamic God was literally “above the heavens” or merely otherworldly  (a matter of intense debate among Muslims today), the fact is that Allah was never thought to reside on earth, an idea that has always been considered blasphemous to Muslims.

In other words, the Israelites acquired a war-god, whereas the early Muslims acquired a creator god.  Yahweh, a war-god, later acquired the ability to create; Allah, a creator god, later acquired the ability to assist in wars.  But, there is a difference between being a war-god and being a god that can assist in wars.  The former defines the god’s primary role to be war, whereas the latter holds war to be one function of many.  It is the difference between being a chef by occupation and being a journalist who sometimes cooks.  Stated another way: Yahweh was principally a war-god, whereas Allah was principally a creator god who also had the capability to assist in wars.

Additionally, it should be noted that although Allah did come to assist the early Muslims in wars, He only did so through divine agents.  It was believed that He dispatched an army of angels to fight for the faithful.  Nowhere does God Himself become a “divine warrior” and march out onto the battlefield.  This is an important difference, and one that explains why Allah is not understood to be a “warrior god” like Yahweh.

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As noted in my disclaimer to this Series, nowhere is this information meant to be used to vilify Judaism or Christianity.  Suffice to say, there are plenty of “tricky issues” in the Islamic faith that should make the Muslim believer think twice before lobbing polemical grenades against people of other religions.  There is almost nothing I find more odious than adherents of a religion viciously attacking other religions.

Yet, it is completely appropriate in our very specific and particular context–in which Muslims and Islam are vilified by the majoritarian religious group–to chop anti-Muslim demagogues down to size.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to subject their own religion to the standards that they themselves foist upon Islam.  When this is done, what can they do but choke on their own medicine?

The Bible’s Yahweh, a War-God?: Called “Lord of Armies” Over 280 Times in the Bible and “Lord of Peace” Just Once (I)

*This piece was first published on Aug, 23.

This article is the conclusion to part 9 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?

Islamophobes argue that the holy book of Islam, the Quran, is uniquely violent as compared to other religious scriptures–certainly more so than the “peace-loving Bible.”  Similarly, they argue that the the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, was uniquely violent as far as prophets go–certainly more so than the religious figures of the Judeo-Christian faith.

These reassuring platitudes were shattered in LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series, (see parts 1234567, and 8).  Clearly, the Bible is more violent than the Quran, and the Biblical prophets were more violent than the Islamic prophet.

But what about the Islamic God?  How does He compare to the Judeo-Christian God?  Is it true that Allah of the Quran is uniquely warlike and violent as the anti-Muslim camp claims?

We previously came to the conclusion (see here, here, here, here and here) that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God–however, whereas the God of the Bible and the God of the Quran are essentially the same, they differ somewhat in their details.  In other words, they have slightly differing qualities and characteristics.  For example, Christians would argue that their God is Trinitarian, whereas the Islamic God is Unitarian.

Anti-Muslim Jews and Christians often try to portray the Islamic God as uniquely warlike and violent, as opposed to the supposedly loving and peaceful God of the Bible.  However, I will argue (quite convincingly) that in fact the Quranic God is no more warlike and violent than the Biblical one.  Indeed, we might even be able to say the opposite: Yahweh of the Bible, unlike Allah of the Quran, is a war-god.

Yahweh originated from a war-god tradition.  Dr. Lloyd M. Barre writes:

The earliest Yahwistic traditions reveal that Yahweh was a bedouin war god from the deserts of Edom and of the surrounding regions. His essentially warlike characteristics are demonstated by his name, by cultic celebrations of his mighty deeds, and by his ark.

Prof. Mark S. Smith notes on p.144 of The Origins of Biblical Monotheism that Yahweh was introduced to the Israelites as a “divine warrior [god] from the south.”  Indeed, “Yahweh and Baal co-existed and later competed as warrior-gods” (Ibid., p.33).  This motif continued in the Israelite tradition: the tribal warrior-god Yahweh went to war against competing gods and nations on behalf of Israel.

Although Yahweh, the God the Israelites adopted, would one day become the supreme God of the land and eliminate his competition, initially he was just one of many competing “war and storm-gods;” as Prof. Erhard S. Gerstenberger writes on p.151 of Theologies of the Old Testament (emphasis added):

Yahweh was not always God in Israel and at every social level.  Rather, initially he belongs only to the storm and war gods like Baal, Anath, Hadad, Resheph and Chemosh…His original homeland was the southern regions of present-day Palestine and Jordan.  Thus the regional and functional, cultural and social limitations of Yahweh should be beyond all doubt.  The elaboration of ideas about Yahweh, e.g. as a guarantor of fertility, personal good fortune, head of a pantheon, creator of the world, judge of the world, etc. is gradual and only fully unfolds in the exilic/post-exilic age, always in connection with social and historical changes.

In other words, Yahweh started out as a “storm and war god,” and only later acquired other functions now commonly associated with God, including for example the ability to create.

Prof. Corrine Carvalho writes on p.79 of Encountering Ancient Voices: A Guide to Reading the Old Testament that “Yahweh was first and foremost a warrior God.”  From the very beginning, “God appeared to the ancient people as a warrior…’armed in military attire, to contend with all the forces of his foes’” (p.19 of God is a Warrior by Professor Tremper Longman).  This is a reflection of God being introduced to the Hebrews in a time of persecution and war, as Moses defeats Pharaoh’s forces and then leads his people to war against the Canaanites in the Promised Land.

As we shall see later, herein lies a major difference between Yahweh of Judaism and Allah of Islam; the very first introduction of Yahweh to the believers was in the war-god role, not as the creator of all things; as Robert Wright writes in The Evolution of God:

…If you go back to the poems that most scholars consider the oldest pieces of the Bible, there’s no mention of God creating anything. He seems more interested in destroying; he is in large part a warrior god. What some believe to be the oldest piece of all, Exodus 15, is an ode to Yahweh for drowning Eygpt’s army in the Red Sea. It begins, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea…the Lord is a warrior.”

He notes:

The part about creating stars and the moon and the sun and light itself–the story in the first chapter of Genesis–seems to have been added later. In the beginning, so far as we can tell, Yahweh was not yet a cosmic creator.

Biblical scholar Prof. J.M.P. Smith writes in Religion and War in Israel published in The American Journal of Theology (emphasis added):

Among the functions of Yahweh called into play by Israel’s needs, the leading place in the earlier times was held by warHence, Yahweh is constantly represented as a war-god. He it is who marches at the head of Israel’s armies (Deut. 33:27); his right arm brings victory to Israel’s banners (Exod. 15:6); Israel’s wars are “the wars of Yahweh” himself (Num. 21:14; I Sam. 18:17, 25:28); Israel’s obligation is to “come to the help of Yahweh, to the help of Yahweh against the mighty” (Judg. 5:23); Israel’s enemies are Yahweh’s enemies (Judg. 5:31; I Sam. 30:26); Yawheh is Israel’s sword and shield (Deut. 33:29); yea, he is a “a man of war” (Exod. 15:3) As the leader of a nation of war, Yahweh was credited with the military practices of the day.  He shrank not from drastic and cruel measures. Indeed, he lent his name and influence to the perpetration of such deeds of barbarity…Yahweh orders the total extermination of clans and towns, including man, woman, and child (I Sam. 15:3; Josh 6:17 f.).

In line with the customary belief in ancient times, the warrior-god of Israel did not just lend his help from afar or through divine agents but was thought to literally accompany the soldiers on the battlefield. Professor Sa-Moon Kang of Hebrew University of Jerusalem writes on p.224 of Divine War in the Old Testament and in the Ancient Near East (emphasis added):

YHWH was understood as the divine warrior…YHWH intervened not only to help the army on the battlefield but He also marched in front of the king and soldiers…The victory after the battles was given to YHWH, and the spoils obtained were dedicated to YHWH and His treasures.

In Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism, winner of the 2005 National Jewish Book Award, Howard Schwartz writes (emphasis added):

40. The Warrior God

Yahweh is a mighty warrior who defeated Pharaoh at the Red Sea…God appeared to Pharaoh as a mighty warrior, carrying a fiery bow, with a sword of lightning, traveling through the heavens in a chariot…God took a cherub from His Throne fo Glory and rode upon it, waging war against Pharaoh and Egypt, as it is said, He mounted a cherub and flew (Ps. 18:11). Leaping from one wing to another, God taunted Pharaoh, “O evil one, do you have a cherub? Can you do this?”

When the angels saw that God was waging war against the Egyptians on the sea, they came to His aid. Some came carrying swords and others carrying bows or lances. God said to them, “I do not need your aid, for when I go to battle, I go alone.” That is why it is said that Yahweh is a man of war (Exod. 15:3).

Notice here that Yahweh does not merely engage in fighting via divine or worldly agents.  Instead, he is literally on the battlefield itself, fighting as a warrior god.  Schwartz goes on:

In addition to Exodus 15:3, Yahweh is a man of war, God is described as a warrior in Psalm 24: Who is the King of glory–Yahweh, mighty and valiant, Yahweh, valiant in battle (Ps. 24:8).  Frank Moore Cross finds in this passage a strong echo of the Canaanite pattern, in which both El and Ba’al are described as warrior gods.

Prof. F.E. Peters writes on p.272 of The Monotheists:

Yahweh was a warrior God (Exod. 5:3, Isa. 42:13)…The Israelites, quite like the pre-Islamic Arabs, even carried their God with them into conflict on occasion (Num. 10:35-36).

Eventually, the Ark became associated with the presence of God Himself, and was brought to the battle front.  Prof. Reuven Fireston writes in an article entitled Holy War Idea in the Hebrew Bible:

The Ark of the Covenant is the symbol and banner of God’s presence in battle (1 Sam. 4:4, 2 Sam. 11:11), and this connection between the Ark and the presence of God in war is made already in the desert in Num.10:35: “When the Ark was to set out, Moses would say: Advance O Lord!  May your enemies be scattered and may your foes flee before you!”  The Ark is like a battle station from which God fights for Israel and, although not mentioned in every battle, probably went forth often and is referred to in passing as a regular part of the battle array (Jud. 4:14).  The Philistine army was terrified of the Ark itself and related to the Ark as if it were the very appearance of God (1 Sam. 4:5-8)

On pp.16-17 of God Is a Warrior, Longman et al. trace the “the divine warrior theme,” dividing it into ”five stages:”

The first stage is God’s appearance as a warrior who fights on behalf of his people Israel against their flesh-and-blood enemies.  The second stage overlaps with the first, yet culminates Israel’s independent political history as God fights in judgment against Israel itself.  The Old Testament period ends during the third stage as Israel’s prophets look to the future and proclaim the advent of a powerful divine warrior.  While many studies of the divine warrior are restricted to the Old Testament, we will show its development into the New Testament.  The Gospels and letters reflect a fourth stage, Christ’s earthly ministry as the work of a conqueror, though they also look forward to the next stage.  The fifth and final stage is anticipated by the church as it awaits the return of the divine warrior who will judge the spiritual and human enemies of God.

The divine warrior theme is one of the basic motifs of the Bible, and can be seen from the very start of the Biblical narrative with Moses defeating the Egyptians all the way to the end of with it with the triumphant return of the divine warrior conqueror Jesus Christ.  The genocide against the infidels begins with Moses and comes to its completion with Jesus (refer to parts 1234567, and 8 of the Understanding Jihad Series).

*  *  *  *  *

That Yahweh, the God of the Bible, is a war-god is clearly written in the text itself:

Exodus 15:3 The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is His Name.

Of note aside from the obvious “man of war” appellation is that Yahweh is depicted as a man who is actually physically on the battlefield as a warrior, instead of merely helping from afar. “The Lord will fight for you” (Ex. 14:14) is meant to be taken very literally.

Says the Bible elsewhere:

Isaiah 42:13 The Lord will march forward like a warrior.  He will arouse His zeal like a man of war.  He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry.  He will prevail against all His enemies.

God was not just any warrior, but the best of them–victorious in battle:

Psalm 24:8 Who is the King of Glory?  The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.

He would prove his might in battle by crushing the heads of his enemies:

68:21 Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies.

Indeed, the God of the Bible would order his people to do more than that, commanding them to ethnically cleanse and commit genocide against infidel populations (again, refer to parts 1234567, and 8 of the Understanding Jihad Series).

*  *  *  *  *

That Yahweh was a warrior-god can be ascertained from the choice of name itself. A longer name for Yahweh is found in the Bible: Yahweh Tzevaot or Yahweh Sabaoth, which is translated as “Lord of hosts” or “Lord of armies.”  Prof. Corrine L. Carvalho writes on p.79 of Encountering Ancient Voices: A Guide to Reading the Old Testament:

In other passages in the Bible, a longer version of the name, the Lord of hosts, could also be translated as “the one who created the heavenly armies.” This would suggest that Yahweh was first and foremost a warrior God.

Biblical scholar Jonathan Kirsch writes in God Against the Gods:

Among the many titles and honorifics used to describe the God of Israel is Elohim Yahweh Sabaoth, which is usually translated as “Lord of Hosts” but also means “Yahweh, the God of Armies.”

This name, Lord of Hosts (Armies)–which defines God’s function as the war-God (or warrior God)–is used well over two-hundred times in the Bible.  Stephen D. Renn notes on p.440 of the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words:

This title, translated “Lord of hosts,” occurs around two hundred times [in the Bible], mainly in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the postexilic prophets. It is found occassionally in the Former Prophets, Chronicles, and Psalms.

Biblical scholar David Noel Freedman writes on page 1402 of Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible:

Yahweh is linked with seba’ot (“armies/hosts”) 284 times in the Hebrew Bible.

Jehovah is another way to spell Yahweh in English.  BlueLetterBible.org says of Jehovah Sabaoth (the Lord of Armies):

Use in the Bible: Jehovah and Elohim occur with Sabaoth over 285 times. It is most frequently used in Jeremiah and Isaiah. Jehovah Sabaoth is first used in 1Sa 1:3.

Interestingly, if you scroll up just one entry above, you find the following entry for Jehovah-Shalom (the Lord of Peace):

Use in the Bible: In the Old Testament Jehovah-Shalom occurs only once in Jdg 6:24.

In other words, God is the Lord of Armies over 280 times in the Bible, but Lord of Peace only once.  Based on this, would you say that the emphasis of God’s nature is on his warlike nature or his peaceful side?

*  *  *  *  *

To make matters worse, the one time that the Lord of Peace is used, the passage isn’t that peaceful at all.  As noted above, the name Yahweh Shalom is found in Judges 6, in which God orders an Israelite man named Gideon to ethnically cleanse the indigenous population of Midian, reassuring him that “you will strike down all the Midianites together” (Jdg 6:16).

Gideon expresses some doubt about his ability to do this “great task,” and he wants to make sure it’s really God who said that (reasonable enough, right?).  Gideon asks God to prove that it’s really Him, so God reveals an angel to him.  The angel burns up some meat and bread, which are both completely incinerated.  The meat and bread represent the Midianites, who are to be “utterly destroyed.”

Once Gideon realizes it’s an angel in front of him, he panics and thinks that God is angry with him for asking for proof.  Gideon is worried that God might kill him for that.  That’s when God reassures him that He’s not going to kill him (Gideon, that is), whereupon Gideon breathes a huge sigh of relief and calls God the Lord of Peace for not killing him.  Gideon decides to build an altar at that place which he calls “The Lord is Peace” and then God tells him to build an altar by destroying the altar built for the pagan god Baal.

Then, the Bible goes on to tell how God helps Gideon destroy the Midianites.  Of note too is the fact the name Gideon is a Hebrew name that means “he that bruises or breaks; a destroyer,” as well as “mighty warrior.”  So, The Destroyer built an altar called The Lord is Peace by destroying an altar to another god, in thanks to God for sending him proof that He is the one who asked him to destroy the heathen Midianites.  Not very peaceful at all.

*  *  *  *  *

Indeed, “‘Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of hosts’ is one of the frequent titles or names of God in the Old Testament.”  In fact, using BlueLetterBible.org I compiled a list of the most frequently used names in the Bible, and Yahweh Sabaoth is God’s fourth most frequently used name in the Bible:

Most Frequently Used Names for God in the Bible

1.  Yahweh (Lord): 6,519 times
2.  El, Elohim (God): over 2,000 times
3.  Adonai (Lord): 434 times
4.  Yahweh Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts/Armies): over 285 times
5.  El Elyon (The Most High God): 28 times
6.  El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty): 7 times
7.  Qanna (Jealous): 6 times
8.  El Olam (The Everlasting God): 4 times
9.  Yahweh-Raah (The Lord is My Shepherd): 4 times
10.  Yahweh Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness): 2 times
11.  Yahweh Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You): 2 times
12.  Yahweh Nissi (The Lord My Banner): 1 time
13.  Yahweh-Rapha (The Lord That Heals): 1 time
14.  Yahweh Shammah (The Lord is There): 1 time
15.  Yahweh Jireh (The Lord Will Provide): 1 time
16.  Yahweh-Shalom (The Lord is Peace): 1 time

(This list seems consistent with that provided by Agape Bible Study.)

This would mean that not only is Lord of Hosts/Armies the fourth most common name of God, it would mean that it is the first most frequently used descriptive name of God in the Bible, behind only generic names such as Yahweh (Lord), El/Elohim (God), and Adonai (Lord).  Sabaoth is certainly the most common descriptor following Yahweh, with Raah (as in Yahweh-Raah) a very distant second place.

*  *  *  *  *

Having thus understood the warlike and violent origin and nature of the Judeo-Christian God, one would wonder why it would be something necessary for Muslims to prove that they worship the same deity.  If it is agreed–as is only reasonable–that Muslims worship the same God as Jews and Christians but that their conception and understanding of God differs–I argue that the Judeo-Christian conception and understanding of God is not very desirable in the first place.  That the Islamic view of God differs in regard to war and violence is a good thing.

Stay tuned for the next page, in which we contrast the Islamic conception and understanding of God with the Judeo-Christian one…

Update I: Check out The Bible’s Yahweh, a War-God?: Called “Lord of Armies” Over 280 Times in the Bible and “Lord of Peace” Just Once (II) which was just published.

My God is Better Than Yours (III): Yoel Natan, Author of Moon-O-Theism, Believes Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth with Humans

This is page III of My God is Better Than Yours.  (Read page I and II first.)

Yoel Natan is author of the cleverly titled book Moon-O-Theism: Religion of a War and Moon God Prophet.  His book is frequently cited by Islamophobes to prove the “Allah is the Moon-God” claim.  Indeed, Natan himself recognizes this, saying:

Evidently, my moon-god book is making the “Allah was a moon-god” theory more respectable, since before the issue was ignored or sneered at.

Is Yoel Natan a “respectable” scholar or academic whose book could give any respectability to the moon-god theory which was previously “ignored or sneered at?”  This is a legitimate question, and it is therefore licit to determine whether or not Yoel Natan is a credible source to cite, at least on an academic or scholarly level.

Our research indicates that Yoel Natan is an anonymous blogger operating under a pseudonym.  Although there is nothing wrong with this, we can gauge his level of seriousness and sophistication (or rather, lack thereof) by glancing at his blog.  We can tell much about Yoel Natan by what he has said over the years.  In fact, we can tell a whole lot from this.  All the evidence indicates that he not only lacks seriousness or sophistication but is in fact a kooky loon.

Yoel Natan is a fervent pro-Creationist anti-Evolutionist who seems to have delusions of grandeur that make Robert Morey’s fraudulent credentials seem tame in comparison.  Natan routinely speaks of himself in the third person on his blog, posting articles with such grandiose titles:

Yoel Natan Solves Another Longtime Creationist Mystery–Mammoths

Yoel Natan Solves Yet Another Ice Age Mystery: Mass Extinctions

Yoel Natan solves the mystery of deep sea guyots and reefs

Yoel Natan solves why C14 dates are older than young earth scientists might expect

Yoel Natan solves the mystery of the flood waters rising and receding

etc. etc.

You may think that these are titles made in jest.  They are not.  They are meant to be taken 100% seriously.  And to be clear: this is not a group blog.  It is his personal blog site, and Yoel Natan is referring to himself in the royal third person here.

To understand how great Yoel Natan’s delusions of grandeur are, one only needs to look at this article in which he seems to say that the publication of his two books (The Jewish Trinity and Moon-O-Theism) were responsible for the global drop in Christians converting to Judaism and the global drop in Jews converting to Islam.

Yoel Natan’s bloated sense of self is also indicated in his choice of pen name.  Natan himself explains on his website what his pseudonym means: “Yo-el means ‘Yah[veh] is God (El). Natan[ael or iel] means ‘Gift [of God (El)].”  So, Yoel Natan is a gift of God to humanity.  After all, he solved so many scientific mysteries!

No wonder then that such a delusional person could somehow blame mall and school shooting on Darwinism (or as he says, Darwinists).  Natan somehow imagines that the various mall and school shooters wore “T-shirts with evolution slogans”:

Most of the school shooters and mass-shooters are on the left, and even wear T-shirts with evolution slogans, proclaiming that their cull is a form of natural selection and supports the survival of the fittest (more like survival of the luckiest).

Natan is not an academic or scholar at all; in fact, he is anti-academicanti-science and certainly anti-scientist, complaining that “scientists [are] bound by their models and presumptions.”  Yoel Natan, on the other hand, is not bound by scientific method or facts.  He argues in another postthat the “Smithsonian natural history museum should be called a fiction museum.” Yoel Natan rejects global warming, and says “evolution is a hoax” and “evolution [is] one big straw man argument”.

Worse yet, Natan claims that carbon-dating would prove that dinosaurs were alive just a few thousand years ago (!!!) instead of millions of years ago as accepted by scientists, saying:

Evolutionists continue to refuse to C14 date fresh dinosaur tissues for fear that it will show young date–in the thousands of years before present (kilo-annum – ka BP).

Natan links back to AnswersInGenesis.org, which says that “the world is about 6,000 years old”, a view that he defends himself on his website. Yoel Natan seems to believe that “man and dinosaurs lived at the same time” just like in the Flintstones.  Natan’s blog has an entire section about dinosaurs, which makes for a good laugh.

In another kooky post, Yoel Natan explains “why evolutionists were largely responsible for the Holocaust”.  On that note, Yoel Natan is no exception to the rule that every kook needs to invoke Nazi references.  He links liberals to Nazis.  He also links evolutionists to Nazism, arguing that “Hitler said he fully supported the goals of evolution” and that World War II was in fact a war against “Darwinists” and “evolutionists”.

Likewise, the Cold War was not between capitalists and communists, but between “atheism versus religion”–against the atheistic evolutionists in the Soviet Union.  Then, in true Glenn Beck fashion, Natan links evolution to every form of fascism and communism he possibly can: “…Whenever evolutionist [sic] do have a semblance of absolute authority, evolution springs into action a al Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc.”

Yoel Natan also dabbles in good old-fashioned Antisemitism, arguing that Jewish-American reluctance to accept government involvement in religion is “an example of US Jewish supremacist thinking”.  Natan also posted a random article that seems to imply that Jewish-Americans are irreligious and basically godless.  Worse, he links Jews to the evil of Communism, arguing that persecution of Jews could be partially explained by this.

And of course, the Holocaust was due to evolutionists (damn those evolutionists; they are always guilty of everything!); says Natan: “evolution was not a sufficient cause for the Holocaust, but it was a necessary cause.”

Natan says: “…Jewish support for abortion is the primary cause as to why the Jews never truly recovered from the Holocaust”.  (He prefaces his argument by saying that Richard Baehr, a Jewish-American, said this.  However, Baehr didn’t really say this, and it seems to be Natan’s own view.)

Yoel Natan’s book The Jewish Trinity: When Rabbis Believed in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a conspiracy-laden book.  Its basic thesis is that, contrary to scholarly consensus and the well-accepted historical narrative, Jews in fact believed in the Trinity (the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit) and the divinity of the Messiah.  This is a conspiracy theory of the highest order, one that is not accepted even by Evangelical scholars.

A few people have left very positive feedback of his book, possibly his friends but definitely Evangelical Christians (no surprise there); other, more neutral reviewers, have more accurate feedback, with one calling his book “a poor excuse for Bible scholarship” and another referring to it as “conspiracy theory pseudo-scholarship” and “not a serious piece of theology or Bible interpretation.”  The latter review summarizes his book and puts it in the proper light:

The author believes, incredibly, and against all Bible translators and historical theologians – Christian and not, trinitarian and not – that the ancient Jews were trinitarians, and that this important fact was deliberately hidden by a cabal of dastardly “unitarian” Jews in the inter-testamental period. This is literally a conspiracy theory book.

There is no end to the level of kookiness on Yoel Natan’s blog.  For example, in another article he argues that “very few Christians d[ied] in [the] tsunami and earthquake” that ravaged Indonesia: God killed the infidels and saved the God-fearing Christians, something which “the skeptics don’t believe.”  In fact, not only were the Christians saved but the Sharia-abiding Muslims were killed: “place where tsunami hit worst was 100 percent Sharia Law.” These atrocious comments are reminiscent of those made by Pat Robertson, another loony Evangelical, who claimed that Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake due to a pact made with the devil.

Of course, Yoel Natan’s most atrocious comments are reserved for Muslims.  He is a veritable Islamophobe.  Natan argues that Muslims are “the enemy”, a fact that evolutionists deny.  Natan subscribes to the Eurabia conspiracy theory, the fallacious claim that Muslims and Islam will soon reign supreme in Europe–and that eventually Muslim immigrants in Europe will subjugate Europeans to “dhimmitude”, a state of servitude.

Natan relies on Islamophobic loons such as Bat Ye’or, a pseudoscholar who believes in all sorts of fantastic conspiracy theories.  Natan routinely relies on anti-Muslim hatemongers and unreliable sources such as Robert Spencer and JihadWatchMichelle MalkinWorldNetDailyDaniel Pipes,Alan Keyes, etc. etc.  Clearly, Yoel Natan has a strong bias against Islam.  This is undeniable, and as such, can the anti-Muslim proponents of the “Allah is the moon-god theory” cite a real contemporary scholar and scholarly work that affirms the theory?

*  *  *  *  *

What is quite interesting and telling is this post here, which Yoel Natan entitles “Yoel Natan is mentioned in blog, book that are a focus of national news.” First, his usage of the third person to refer to himself is quite comical, especially since it is his personal blog and not a group blog with multiple contributors, editors, staff, etc.  Second, he seems very pleased with himself that he was mentioned in a “blog, book that are a focus of national news.”  Third (and most amusing), it is worthwhile to note in what context he was mentioned.  Natan quotes Alec Rawls in the Crescent of Betrayal:

In a blog comment, Yoel Natan tipped me off to the fact that every mosque is built around a Mecca-direction indicator, called a mihrab, which often has a crescent shape.

Yoel Natan is so beside himself that someone read a comment he made on a blog and then reproduced it!  It would be the equivalent of someone boasting that Glenn Greenwald mentioned one of the comments left under one of his Salon articles in one of his books!

Fourth, it is also amusing that Natan then emailed Alec Rawls asking him to change it to “author Yoel Nathan”:

In case your wondering, yes, I emailed him today asking him to change that to “author Yoel Natan (yoel.info),” and I told him very briefly about my books.

And no, I was not wondering.  This of course answers the question: Yoel Nathan is not a scholar or academic.  His greatest and proudest claim is to be an “author”, publishing two conspiracy-laden books.  Again, nothing wrong with that in and of itself (well, aside from the conspiracy-theorist part).

However, he is not a credible source to cite for a theory such as the moon-god theory.  Indeed, he is a Christian fundamentalist, Bible-thumper, and loony Creationist who believes that the earth is only 6,000 years old, that dinosaurs lived with humans like in the Flintstones, and that evolution and global warming are fake.  He is also at least a little bit Antisemitic and a whole lot Islamophobic.  All in all, Yoel Natan is a poor source to cite.

*  *  *  *  *

Having thus established that the source of the moon-god theory–including Robert Morey (originator of the theory) and Yoel Natan (responsible for giving the theory a second wind)–are wholly unreliable, we now turn our attention to the substance of the theory itself.

My God is Better Than Yours (II): Robert Morey, The Fake Doctor Behind the “Allah is the Moon-God” Theory

This is page II of My God is Better Than Yours.  (Read page I first.)

In recent times, a common claim furthered by anti-Muslim Christians is that Muslims worship the moon.  It is said that “Allah” refers to the moon-god.  Prof. Judith Mendelsohn Rood notes that this “theory” is slowly becoming “mainstream” in Evangelical circles:

Christian apologists are claiming that Allah is the “moon god” of a pagan religion–a pernicious idea that is making its way increasingly into mainstream evangelical culture.

This moon-god lie originated from “Dr.” Robert Morey, a Christian Evangelist and professional Islamophobe.  Says Morey:

Islam’s origins have been traced back by scholars to the ancient fertility religion of the worship of the moon god which was always the dominant religion of Arabia. The moon god was worshipped by praying toward Mecca several times a day, making an annual pilgrimage to the Kabah which was a temple of the moon god, running around the Kabah seven times, caressing an idol of a black stone set in the wall of the Kabah, running between two hills, making animal sacrifices, gathering on Fridays for prayers, giving alms to the poor, etc.. These were pagan rites practised by the Arabs long before Muhammad was born.

He goes on:

What religion today practices the pagan rites of the moon god? Islam! This explains why the crescent moon is the symbol of Islam. It is placed on top of mosques and minarets and displayed on hats, flags, rugs, amulets and even jewellery. Every time you see the Muslim symbol of a crescent moon, you are seeing the ancient symbol of the moon god.

Morey claims that to defeat Islam, the Judeo-Christian West must nuke the Kaaba in Mecca, saying:

First, as I wrote in my book, How to Win the War Against Radical Islam, the war against the Muslim Jihadists will be long and costly and will not be won until we bomb the Kabah in Mecca.  Islam is based on a brick and mortar building that can be destroyed. They pray to that building five times a day, make a pilgrimage to it, run around it, kiss a black rock on the wall, then run between two hills and finally throw rocks at a pillar. What if that building, the Kabah, was destroyed? They could not pray to it or make a pilgrimage to it. The old pagan temple of the moon-god, al-ilah, is the Achilles’ heel of Islam. Destroy it and you destroy Islam’s soul.

Initially, we had decided that it was not worth our time to refute this silly “Allah is the moon-god” canard: Robert Morey is clearly a loon, and who would take him seriously?  Unfortunately, as we found out, a lot of people.  Indeed, anti-Muslim Christians regularly invoke the moon-god theory, such that it makes it impossible not to deal with this issue.

It would behoove us to first question the source of this moon-god theory: who is Robert Morey?  Is he a credible scholar?  The answer is an emphatic no.  He is a Christian Evangelist and anti-Muslim polemicist: it seems fairly obvious that he has a strong bias.  As is the case with other pro-Christian anti-Muslim ideologues who claim to be “scholars on Islam” (such as Robert Spencer), Morey possesses absolutely no credible academic qualifications on the subject of Islam.

Worse than this, Morey is a quack, claiming credentials that are outright fake: on his website, he claims that he has an honorary doctor of divinity (D.D.) in Islamic Studies from the Faith Theological Seminary located in Pakistan.  Firstly, it should be noted that an “honorary degree” would mean that he never actually attended the school at all.

But if this wasn’t bad enough, the degree itself is fraudulent.  When the Faith Theological Seminary found out Morey was claiming to have a degree from their school, they categorically denied that they had ever issued such a degree to him and ordered him to remove the claim from his site or face criminal charges.  The school referred to Morey’s “degree” as an “illegal and fake degree”.  (Morey did not remove it from his site and continues to claim the degree.)

Robert Morey also claims a PhD in Islamic Studies from the Louisiana Baptist University (LBU).  This is an unaccredited institution that is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).  LBU is a “distance learning program” (teaching via the internet), with one alumnus boasting that “the LBU program may be completed 100% via distance learning”, while noting that “I did spend one week on campus”.  In other words, the PhD is “earned” over the internet, not the classroom.

LBU is listed in Steve Levicoff’s Name It and Frame It?: New Opportunities in Adult Education and How to Avoid Being Ripped Off by “Christian” Degree Mills as a “degree mill”, a term used to refer to groups that issue bogus degrees for a fee.  Outside his book, Levicoff put it bluntly: “LBU is a joke.”  Perhaps LBU’s website words it best: “LBU has both the experience and reliability to provide an efficient quality degree program tailored to your needs.”  Indeed!  This is a case of “Phd-for-a-fee or your money back.”

In 1998, the Louisiana Board of Regents (a government agency responsible for overseeing higher education) issued a unanimous ruling to deny LBU an operating license for its business education programs, and ordered the school to cease admitting students and cease advertising.  LBU was later exempted based on the religious institution exemption and was allowed to operate as a religious institution.

Once again, things go from bad to worse for Morey when the matter is investigated further.  Morey claims on his bio that he has obtained a PhD degree in “Islamic Studies”.  The only problem?  LBU does not offer any such degree.  As the OC Weekly noted:

Morey also claims to have received a doctorate from Louisiana Baptist University. Two problems: LBU is unaccredited by the United States government, which means no serious academy would recognize it. Then there’s this: LBU doesn’t offer a Ph.D. in Islamic studies.

The paper is absolutely correct: LBU does not offer any such degree.  When OC Weekly asked him to comment on this “fib”, he altered his story:

When told LBU offers no program in Islamic studies, Morrey corrected himself and said his doctorate is in theology, with an emphasis on Islam.

Yet, Morey’s website and bio to this day continue to claim that he obtained a PhD in Islamic studies. Worse yet, LBU doesn’t even offer a doctorate in theology with an emphasis on Islam.  Graduate degrees that the school does offer include “degrees of Doctor of Philosophy in Biblical Studies, Psychology and Christian Counseling, and Christian Education.” As the OC Weekly sarcastically quipped about Morey’s imaginary degree: “He’s the first and only student to receive such a degree from the school.”

To put the nail in the coffin, there is no way Robert Morey could have studied any degree at LBU with an “emphasis on Islam” because a look at the school’s course catalog reveals that it does not offer a single course having anything to do with Islam.  It is a school that offers courses about Christianity, not Islam.

The fact that Morey had to lie about having an “honorary degree” on the one hand and an online degree from a degree mill on the other hand shows how desperate Robert Morey is that people call him “doctor”. The only other degree Robert Morey could hang his hat on for the title of “doctor” is the “D.Min.” (Doctor of Ministry) in Apologetics that he claims he earned from the Westminster Theological Seminary.

However, it should be noted that the degree of “Doctor of Ministry” can be considered  a “fluff” degreethat is no way, shape, or form equivalent to or even comparable to a real PhD.  As one astute bloggerworded it:

It’s a match made in heaven.

On one side: a pastor who…needs respect and money and position.

On the other side: floundering seminaries struggling to stay financially afloat in a world of tight budgets and harsher spreadsheets.  These seminaries accept (almost indiscriminately) anyone willing to put down the tuition money, no matter what their moral or intellectual character…

Welcome to the Doctor of Ministry degree. After three quick, easy, study-lite years, the pastor has attained his Doctor of Ministry degree. His doctorate degree.  That degree gives the pastor a tremendous amount of respect now.  He is Dr. Pastor now, a real somebody.  More importantly, there is tremendous upside attached to his new title, and the ceiling on his earning potential has just been lifted.  Dr. Pastor has clout now, or Dr. Rev. Pastor, if you will.   Suffix Suffice it to say, he has respect, money, and position.

Following a familiar pattern, we find that the situation gets worse for “Dr.” Robert Morey when we find out that the Westminster Theological Seminary does not seem to offer a D.Min. in “Apologetics”. It is difficult to determine which of his “credentials” is more impressive: an “illegal or fake degree” from a real university or a fake degree from a fake university or a fake degree from a real university offering fluff degrees?

In any case, Morey quickly transitioned from being the receiver of fake degrees to the one giving them out, and founded the California Biblical University and Seminary, another unaccredited money-making “university”and degree mill.  The “school’s” faculty page listed him as the only faculty member.  Due to reasons that are unclear to us now (legal action?), the school has now disappeared…no doubt after Morey fleeced enough students of their hard-earned cash.

Robert Morey also served as a pastor at the Faith Community Church in California, where members of his church accused him of illegal and immoral behavior, including using church money for his personal expenses.  Consequently, the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.) had “Robert Morey Thrown Out Of His Denomination” and forcibly resigned him in a unanimous vote by board officials, declaring that he had “abused his pastoral authority.”

Moriel Ministries stated that Morey was guilty of “gross and habitual financial impropriety” and “academic fraud with a bogus doctorate in Islam”, and mocked him for his outrageous claim that he has “read everything in the US Library of Congress on Islam”, which Moriel astutely points out would mean “over 7,000 volumes, monograms etc. to say nothing of the fact he cannot read Arabic.”  His claim that he has read all of the books on Islam in the U.S. Library of Congress is reminiscent of Sarah Palin’s remark that she “reads all of them”, referring to newspapers.

After closing down his degree mill “university” and being thrown out of his ministry, Robert Morey seems to have in recent years fled the limelight to live away from the public eye.  Nonetheless, his moon-god theory lives on, and has in fact been given a “second wind” thanks to the surge of Islamophobia in the last decade and due to the tireless efforts of a dedicated anti-Muslim contingent trolling the internet.  All of them repeat the same lie that originates from Robert Morey, a fake doctor and quack.

Questioning Robert Morey’s credentials is not mere muckraking; rather, it is important for us to ascertain the unreliable originator of the moon-god theory.  He is not just academically defunct and wholly unreliable; he is an intellectual huckster and fraudster of the highest order.

None of this is to say that Robert Morey is not considered a well-respected author, scholar, and authority in right-wing circles.  Like other self-proclaimed “experts on Islam” used by the right-wing, Morey has no actual academic qualifications or credentials.  This fact, however, does not stop the anti-Muslim bigots from relying on him and others like him.  It is hoped, however, that more neutral minds will not be fooled.

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Before we begin dissecting Morey’s theory, a word might also be said of Yoel Natan, author of the cleverly titled book Moon-O-Theism. Natan’s book helped give the moon-god theory a second wind.  It is on page III that we will turn to this topic.