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Understanding World Religions

Religion is the driving force behind much of what happens in the world today -- particularly when it comes to the "big three" religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Religious differences have and continue to spark wars, create nations, and spawn ongoing conflict down through the centuries. No matter what religion you adhere to (or even if you claim that you don't adhere to any religion at all), you need to have a basic understanding of the world's religions in order to understand what is happening in the world today so that you can be better informed and a more useful citizen of your nation and of the world. Without some knowledge of religion, you will not understand the underpinnings of what is happening in an increasingly global society.
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Apr 9, 2015

Our quote for today is from David C. Hill. He said, "Debating theological niceties is fine, and even useful, but if it distracts us from the Greatest Commandments, then we're doing something wrong."

In this podcast, we are making our way through Garry R. Morgan's book, "Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day." 

Our Understanding World Religions topic for today is, "The Beliefs of Islam." 

In addition to the Five Pillars, Muslims are obliged to hold other beliefs. First among these is that, unlike Judaism, wherein a person can be an atheist and still be considered Jewish, a Muslim must believe in God. 

For other monotheistic faiths, and especially Judaism and Christianity, a common question is whether Muslims worship the same God. For American Christians, the frequent question "Is Allah God?" creates confusion. Because Islam is so closely tied to Arabic language and culture, many people think Allah is a special Muslim name for God or refers specifically to the God of Islam. Again, however, Allah is the generic Arabic word for God (like the Greek “Theos”, Spanish “Dios”, or Hebrew “Elohim”). Allah is used in the Arabic Bible (there are millions of Arabic-speaking Christians in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, and elsewhere). The wording of the question likewise assumes that the English word God refers exclusively to the God of the Bible, but English-speaking followers of any religion use that word to refer to their deity.

So the question should be "Is the God revealed in the Qur'an the same God revealed in the Bible?" Muslims believe they worship the God of Abraham, and thus, the same God as Jews and Christians. While there is a real historical connection, along with some similarities in beliefs about God's attributes, there are many significant theological differences as to God's nature and relationship to humans. In the Bible, God reveals himself to Moses as Yahweh; in Islam, God's name is unknown. Muslims refer to the ninety-nine names of God, but the actual or correct name is a mystery. 

 

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