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Thread: Reza Aslan, and identifying with a religion whose truth claims you don't believe

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    Reza Aslan, and identifying with a religion whose truth claims you don't believe

    I came across religion scholar Reza Aslan's essay explaining why he was a Muslim today. The essay didn't really answer the question.

    Essentially, Aslan seems to believe that all religions essentially have the same message. He freely admitted that he did not subscribe to the truth claims of Islam and simply found the language of Islam to provide helpful metaphors for the supernatural.

    It may be the way my mind works (largely binary) but I have a hard time understanding the mindset of identifying with a religion that makes specific truth claims while rejecting these truth claims. At the same time, this seems to be common with a lot of people. It might make more sense with a religion like Buddhism that doesn't make such specific and strong truth claims, but many people do it with Christianity as well. Aslan is a smart guy and has probably forgotten more about religion than I will ever know, but I simply don't get his stance. Can somebody help me make sense of this approach?
    Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
    For it is not wise to ask such questions. - Ecclesiastes 7:10

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    tWebber
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    ...in his words....

    "...I take very seriously the Sufi notion that religion is an external shell that has to be shattered in order for the individual to be able to unite with the divine. The path that you take is irrelevant; the destination is what’s important. That affects not only my scholarship and my writing about religion, but my own spirituality as well. I think of myself as a person of faith; I believe that there is a reality beyond the material realm, and I want to commune with that reality. But what I’m talking about is so ineffable that I need a language of symbols and metaphors in order to make sense of it to myself and to communicate those ideas to other people. The difference between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is the same as the difference between French, German, and Spanish. They’re different languages to describe identical sentiments. For me, the language, the symbols, and the metaphors that make the most sense are those provided by Islam: the notion of the oneness of God, the conception of divine unity. These make sense to me in a way that the symbol of the suffering servant on the cross does not, in a way that the symbol of the void in Hinduism does not, and in a way that the symbol of the wheel of rebirth in Buddhism does not. I value those other symbols and languages, and, indeed, I’m literate in them, just as I can communicate in French and Arabic. But I think in English. And I feel my spirituality in the language of Islam."
    http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2010/05/27...n-gone-global/

    Aslan follows Sufism---which is different from mainstream Islam because it is more inclusive and mystical. (though the foundations are the same)
    I don't know which type of Sufism he follows---there is a "western" Sufism which I heard is very shallow and apparently they do a lot of dancing and singing without much context.
    The other type of Sufism is a "path" in which you are trained by a mystic to follow the path.

    Sufis feel that "Truth" is one but expressed in many ways and in many languages---its only that a particular language suits a partucular person more than another---that is why God created diversity....

  3. Amen guacamole amen'd this post.
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    tWebber guacamole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by siam View Post
    ...in his words....

    "...I take very seriously the Sufi notion that religion is an external shell that has to be shattered in order for the individual to be able to unite with the divine. The path that you take is irrelevant; the destination is what’s important. That affects not only my scholarship and my writing about religion, but my own spirituality as well. I think of myself as a person of faith; I believe that there is a reality beyond the material realm, and I want to commune with that reality. But what I’m talking about is so ineffable that I need a language of symbols and metaphors in order to make sense of it to myself and to communicate those ideas to other people. The difference between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is the same as the difference between French, German, and Spanish. They’re different languages to describe identical sentiments. For me, the language, the symbols, and the metaphors that make the most sense are those provided by Islam: the notion of the oneness of God, the conception of divine unity. These make sense to me in a way that the symbol of the suffering servant on the cross does not, in a way that the symbol of the void in Hinduism does not, and in a way that the symbol of the wheel of rebirth in Buddhism does not. I value those other symbols and languages, and, indeed, I’m literate in them, just as I can communicate in French and Arabic. But I think in English. And I feel my spirituality in the language of Islam."
    http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2010/05/27...n-gone-global/

    Aslan follows Sufism---which is different from mainstream Islam because it is more inclusive and mystical. (though the foundations are the same)
    I don't know which type of Sufism he follows---there is a "western" Sufism which I heard is very shallow and apparently they do a lot of dancing and singing without much context.
    The other type of Sufism is a "path" in which you are trained by a mystic to follow the path.

    Sufis feel that "Truth" is one but expressed in many ways and in many languages---its only that a particular language suits a partucular person more than another---that is why God created diversity....
    That was a helpful post. Thank you.
    "Shall we mourn here deedless forever, a shadow-folk, mist-haunting, dropping vain tears in the
    thankless sea?"

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    tWebber shunyadragon's Avatar
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    The strength of an emotional investment, and the desire of a 'sense of belonging' are strong forces that over ride rational considerations to 'believe what we do not believe is true.'
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

  6. Amen Rushing Jaws amen'd this post.
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    tWebber Rushing Jaws's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingsGambit View Post
    I came across religion scholar Reza Aslan's essay explaining why he was a Muslim today. The essay didn't really answer the question.

    Essentially, Aslan seems to believe that all religions essentially have the same message. He freely admitted that he did not subscribe to the truth claims of Islam and simply found the language of Islam to provide helpful metaphors for the supernatural.

    It may be the way my mind works (largely binary) but I have a hard time understanding the mindset of identifying with a religion that makes specific truth claims while rejecting these truth claims. At the same time, this seems to be common with a lot of people. It might make more sense with a religion like Buddhism that doesn't make such specific and strong truth claims, but many people do it with Christianity as well. Aslan is a smart guy and has probably forgotten more about religion than I will ever know, but I simply don't get his stance. Can somebody help me make sense of this approach?
    It seems to me that this approach to religion that makes a great deal of sense, given that the USA used to pride itself on being Most Protestant Country Evah. Given the very strong emphasis on the right of private judgement, and the strong tendency in Protestantism to discount established authorities exercised by human beings, and to favour interior religious authenticity over external forms (including doctrines, creeds, and even the Bible), the position taken by Aslan seems to be typical of a certain way of being religious in the US - especially in the questioning, sceptical, cynical climate of today. The stress in Protestantism on inwardness and authenticity and liberty has triumphed over Protestant external forms and doctrines. Unintentional from the POV of the magisterial wing of the Reformation, but logical enough in its own way.

    IMHO, Aslan’s approach is secular, and not religious at all. But it is also a very widespread approach - so widespread, that freely subjecting oneself to a transcendent and unaccountable authority is what is now found to need explaining. It sounds as though he is using something that claims authority over him (the tradition of Islam, that exalts the Koran, that claims to be a Divine revelation) as a lucky-bag from which to pick whatever elements may meet with his approval.

    ”I feel that my spirituality is the spirituality of Islam” ?

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