Reza Aslan has drawn a lot of heat from Christians over the years, but I’m trying not to come to his recent article on CNN as a Christian specifically. I am a Christian, and I do not believe that Islam is true, but that is not my point in writing this article. Rather, I’m coming to his article as one who embraces the law of non-contradiction.
His article which is entitled, “Why I Am a Muslim,” comes to a very odd conclusion.
“My goal -- as a scholar, as a person of faith, and now as the host of ‘Believer’ -- is to be the linguist, to demonstrate that, while we may speak in different religions, we are, more often than not, often expressing the same faith.”
Let me define some terms for you from the article.
“Faith is mysterious and ineffable. It is an emotional, not necessarily a rational, experience… Faith is nothing more or less than a choice.”
“Beyond the doctrines and dogma, the do's and the don't's, religion is simply a framework for thinking about the existential questions we all struggle with as human beings.”
For something that is virtually impossible to understand, it is interesting that Aslan is very confident in asserting that faith is a choice. If it is really that mysterious, then I don’t know how he can come to the conclusion that it is simply a choice. This seems to be contradiction number one.
However, moving beyond that basic problem, Aslan is correct in speaking about how religions are frameworks for thinking about the supernatural and what impact that has on our world. However, because they are frameworks, they have fundamental pillars to explain the way the world is. For example, Aslan is a Muslim, and I am not an expert on Islam but any means, but I do know that there is a very important teaching at the center of the entire religion. In fact, it is the first pillar of Islam.
There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah.
According to Religion Facts, in order to join the Muslim community, the statement must be sincerely recited before at least two other people. Because he is a Muslim, I assume that Aslan had recited this statement. It would be difficult to be a Muslim if you did not affirm the first core teaching of the religion that you plan to follow.
The problem is that this is a truth claim. If this is a central belief of Islam, then in order for it to be true, there must be no other god but Allah, and Mohammed must indeed be a prophet of Allah. If either one of those things are false, then a central belief of Islam is not true.
This is similar to when we as Christians say that Jesus must have rose from the dead or our faith is in vain as the apostle Paul asserted in 1 Corinthians 12-17. If Jesus Christ is still dead and buried in the ground, being a Christian would really not be viable because a central truth would not be true.
Aslan believes in a religion that makes truth claims at its most fundamental level, but he seems to deny that the truth of those claims even matters.
He goes on to say, “Let me be clear, I am Muslim not because I think Islam is ‘truer’ than other religions (it isn't), but because Islam provides me with the "language" I feel most comfortable with in expressing my faith. It provides me with certain symbols and metaphors for thinking about God that I find useful in making sense of the universe and my place in it.”
I am left with one of two conclusions here.
If he is not a Muslim who affirms the first pillar of Islam and does not believe that there is no god but Allah, then of course this statement can be true. After all, if he doesn’t believe this, then presumably he believes that Islam is false, and of course it would be no truer than any other religion. That makes sense. The article title would not make sense, but at least his view would make sense.
On the other hand, if he really is a Muslim as he claims to be, then how can he say that Islam is no truer than Hinduism for example? Again, I come back to this first pillar of Islam. This is a fundamental belief if you are a Muslim. I don’t know that you can be a Muslim without accepting this first tenet although perhaps that is the loophole Aslan would try to jump through. Perhaps he is only a four pillar Muslim, but I don’t know that there is such a thing.
Think about the enormous contradiction between a religion that says that there is no god but Allah and a polytheistic religion like Hinduism that affirms the reality of literally thousands of deities. Both of these frameworks believe that the world operates in a certain way, but it cannot be simultaneously true that there is only one god and there are thousands of God. That is mathematically and logically impossible. It is a contradiction that is truly incomprehensible.
Aslan’s approach is literally a huge contradiction that is so typical of the relativism embraced by many in our society today. At the risk of offending anyone, we are very quick to say that nobody is wrong. Instead, we are all equally right but simply different in our perspective. The popular illustration claims that we are all climbing up different sides of the same mountain; they claim that every religion is pointing to the same generic higher power.
This is blatantly logically false, and it is a shame that a website like CNN that is read by hundreds of thousands of people would be so eager to publish a piece with multiple logical inconsistencies. We don’t need to settle for errors of logic just to appease people. That’s not an intellectual pursuit.