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Religions Unite or Divide?

Message Muhammad A Hussain

Daisy Khan, a prominent blogger at Newsweek/Washington Post, claims that the best religions, such as Christianity and Islam, reject the ‘Us vs. Them’ and ‘High vs. Low’ notions of division of humankind, quite contradicting the obvious reality.

Undeniably, the human race stepped on to the earth simply as human beings. According to Abrahamic creeds (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), God had sent the first humans—Adam and Eve—to the world without a Scripture in their hands (e.g. without religion). They and their posterity were supposed to be only human beings and nothing else.

According to science, human beings evolved from a common human-chimp ancestor. A recent study estimates that the lineage of human beings diverged from chimpanzees—our closest relatives—about 4.1 million years ago. In this case, too, human beings appeared on earth as a single community without division of any kind, whatsoever.

The divisions of humankind—such as along religious, cultural, and national lines—are undeniably later human creations. Among them, religious divisions have historically been one of the most tragic to mankind.

Therefore, the innovation of religions did not reject or abolish the ‘Us vs. Them’ notion; but instead, created it. Religions have divided the singular human race into many religious denominations, many of whom have aggressively and violently fought against others throughout history, causing terrible deaths, destruction and suffering to the human society.

To demonstrate that religions united, not divided, humankind, Daisy Khan has cited verses from the Quran (i.e. 23:53, 49:13) and the Bible (i.e. Gal 3:28).

Firstly, these verses do not quite tell the same story as intended. If Quranic verse 23:53 is read in conjunction with preceding and subsequent verses (23:52-56), the Islamic God clearly demands that all human beings must abandon their divisions of all kinds and come under his new religion, i.e. Islam. He threatens or admonishes those who would not do so. Motivated by such desire of Allah, the Muslim faithful has, throughout history, inflicted immense brutality and misery on those who rejected the Islamic creed.

Regarding Christianity, Gal 3:28 expresses a desire that all humans—Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female—should submit to Christ alone. The Christian faithful has shed so much human blood for realizing this central desire, inherent in the Christian faith.

Secondly, these verses do not tell the whole story about these two religions’ position on the division of human beings along ‘Us vs. Them’ and ‘High vs. Low’ notions. For example, opposed to equality of human beings, Allah recognizes the Arabs as higher over rest of the human race [Quran 3:110]:

“Ye (Arabs) are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah…”

Allah divides humankind into the free (masters) and the dumb and useless ones (slaves) [Quran 16:76]:

“Allah sets forth (another) Parable of two men: one of them dumb, with no power of any sort; a wearisome burden is he to his master; whichever way be directs him, he brings no good: is such a man equal with one who commands Justice, and is on a Straight Way?”

Similarly, Gal 3:28 recognizes the division of human beings into free ones and slaves, while wanting both to submit to Christ. Other verses of Jesus and St. Paul also recognize human beings as unequal entities, namely slaves and masters. Jesus instructed the people in debt to sell themselves and their family members into slavery for paying up [Mat 18:25]:

"But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made."

A number of St. Paul’s verses (Eph 6:5-9, Cor 12:13, and Col 3:11) also recognize bonded (slave) and the free man.

In fine, religions do not reject, but instead, create ‘Us vs. Them’ division among the otherwise singular human race—a reality we obviously live with today. Neither do religions abolish, but instead recognize and promote, the high-and-low, free-and-slave distinctions among otherwise equal human beings.

The notion of equality of all humans that some in our society believe in and aspire to attain is obviously not rooted in ancient religious scriptures or doctrines. Instead, it is a fruit of rational thoughts of earthly human beings. Denying this most obvious fact does not elevate, but instead degrades, our sense of honesty and dignity.

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Muhammad Hussain is a researcher and freelance writer.
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